Jim Smart
September 1, 2002
Photos By: Mustang Monthly Archives

When Ford introduced the redesigned 1994 Mustang in the fall of 1993, it aggressively went to market with a retro ride that was clearly a Mustang, yet aerodynamic and very high-tech. People loved the car, buying well over 200,000 units that first year. Then 1995 yielded the same message at over 200,000 units. America's love affair with the Mustang began to slide quickly after 1995, not so much because Ford wasn't offering an exciting car, but because we tend to have a short attention span in America. This gives product planners and bean counters stress issues and repeated visits to therapists. Ford's product planners and stylists went back to work on the Mustang with a fresh approach that was still clearly an American classic.

The '99 Mustang was a refreshing redesign of the SN-95/Fox-4 platform with razor-sharp styling and chassis refinements that clearly made it a better ride. Ford brought us the Mustang's traditional cues while making the breed the best it had ever been in its 35-year history.

Unmistakably Mustang-Unquestionably New"Our visual theme is based on the most stable geometric form-the pyramid," Doug Gaffka, Mustang chief designer at the time, said. He added, "We've also enhanced or revived some classic Mustang styling cues. Everything draws your eyes down the road and leaves an impression of solidity. Mustang is all about being on the ground and driving." Gaffka was describing the '99 Mustang's knife edge lines, common to the original '65 Mustang. Mix that nuance with New Edge styling and you have a masculine, unbeatable design. Gaffka likened it to the GT90 concept car from the early '90s.

The '99 Mustang had all-new wraparound headlamps that made it intimidating head-on. It also employed the use of more composite materials in the body to reduce weight and improve corrosion resistance. Huge wheel arches were filled with 15-, 16-, or 17-inch wheels. Throaty, 3-inch dual exhaust tailpipes on the Mustang GT offered a pulse-quickening sound. As you would expect from the Mustang, the hood was long and the rear deck short. Ford stylists put the classic galloping pony back in the corral where it belonged for 1999. Honeycomb grille accents reminded us of 1965. Three-element taillamps clearly told us this was a Mustang. Abstract side scoops and beltlines also voiced the spirit of Mustangs past.

More Oats!Although the basic powertrain lineup did not change for 1999, it certainly became better, with increases in power and reliability. Bill Koche, Mustang powertrain engineering manager, told us, "We've given more muscle to the Mustang's engines. Mustang enthusiasts will be thrilled when they learn about our across the board enhancements." The standard 3.8L Essex V-6 received split-port induction for a whopping 40hp increase. Snappy? You bet, at 190 horsepower at 5,250 rpm. What's more, the standard six met California's tough Low Emissions Vehicle (LEV) standards.

As in 1996-'98, the Mustang GT came equipped with the 4.6L SOHC V-8 only. Like the standard six shooter, the V-8's power was up some 35 horses to 260 at 5,250 rpm. It offered Mustang GT buyers more torque as well. Both engines were offered standard with a five-speed manual transmission. Optional was the 4R70W automatic overdrive-known to most of us as the AODE. For those of you just tuning in, the AODE is a computer-controlled AOD transmission first used in the Mustang in 1994. Because the AODE is computer controlled, it works hand-in-hand with the engine's power demands, shifting on cue with power requirements. Ford improved the performance picture for both engines by offering one axle ratio-3.27:1.

What powertrain improvements meant to buyers was more low-end grunt: out-of-the-traffic-light torque and twist designed to get you up to speed quickly. The '99 Mustang was more snappy, quicker, and great on the fly. It was terrific for the commute and awesome for the weekend. The '99 Mustang was the best the name had ever been, and we haven't even talked about the redesigned SVT Cobra yet.