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.

The Inner WorldAt first glance, the '99 Mustang's interior differed little from 1994-'98. Most apparent was the absence of the dash "wart" with the digital clock mid-dash. The digital clock took up a new residence within the AM/FM stereo unit. A big plus was the 1-inch longer seat track, giving us more leg room in front. Not good news for those in the back seat. A new, optional six-way power driver's seat improved driving comfort. Of course, new fabric, sew patterns, and heavier seat back foam. Ford moved the front seat-belt attachment buckles to the seats themselves for ease of use and comfort.

An All-New SVT CobraThe '99 Mustang SVT Cobra didn't debut until midyear, reaching dealers in the spring. Without a doubt, the '99 Mustang Cobra was a significant step beyond the Cobra Ford introduced in 1996 with 4.6L DOHC V-8 power. The most significant change wasn't so much the updated engine, but fully independent suspension. It was a quantum leap in Mustang suspension technology. For road racers and canyon blasters, the independent suspension was a blessing. For drag racers, the IRS was a curse because axle shafts were vulnerable to failure in drag racing conditions.

The SVT Cobra has been something of an image car for Ford Motor Company. Despite the wide availability of tuner aftermarket Mustangs out there, the SVT Cobra has always been the most respected factory performance Mustang. Respected because the Cobra has always been a conservative ride on the surface. No big fiberglass appointments and graphics. Call it a tasteful factory musclecar that doesn't need to brag. It was a stealthy Dearborn street stormer. Today, it remains a highly respected factory ride that only gets more powerful with time. Call it a very aggressive factory Mustang.

Virtual SamenessThe Mustang hasn't changed much since Ford introduced the redesigned steed for 1999. Aside from color changes, and minor changes in options and standard equipment, the '99-'02 Mustang is a virtual repeat year after year. The SVT Cobra has experienced positive changes in power output, with a supercharging coming for 2003. In fact, it is expected to be a 12-second quarter-mile pocket rocket. We have enjoyed the exciting introduction of the '01 Bullitt edition Mustang. Soon-the '03 Mustang Mach 1. Without any doubt, Team Mustang continues to press ahead with exciting ideas for new car buyers. As they materialize, you will read about them in Mustang Monthly.

Inquiring minds want to know what's coming from Dearborn in 2004-2005. Although it has been widely rumored an all-new Mustang is coming for model year 2004, word is the redesign may get pushed off to 2005, which would still make it a 40th anniversary special. Stay tuned.

She's GoneThe last thing he ever wanted to do was upset her. She was once his pride and joy, light of his life. But somehow with all the things that had gone on in the intervening years they'd lost touch. That visceral feeling of power and strength he'd felt with her was now a memory-faded and stained. In fact she was now just a shell of her former self, a cracked and faded cask that needed something he could not muster up to provide.

When the call came he knew that the jig was up. "They" had spied her and now it was only a matter of time before the government stepped in and took her from him. He looked at her lying there and choked up. She was his baby.

Funny how serendipity works, this fellow had been bugging him about her. For some reason he'd taken it upon himself to rescue her and finally, the owner just couldn't say no any longer. Mostly because "They" were out there waiting like wolves. There had been others but this time he knew he should let her go. He hoped that she'd somehow forgive him, see that he was not just throwing her away but was in fact giving her a new life, a fresh start.

At that moment the truck pulled up with the car carrier. As he looked out he knew it was the right choice.