Muscle Mustangs & Fast FordsHow To Paint Body
Top 14 Mustang Styling Trends
Building Character: Blurring the Line Between Form and Function
If there's anything that late-model Mustang owners have in common, it is our desire to customize our Stangs. We wait for payday so we can place another order for more go-fast goodies or eye candy. We want people to see our car and know, without question, that it is ours. But finding the right mixture of mods to give our Pony a look that fits the current Mustang styling trends, while developing a sense of character or personality, can be a difficult task—oftentimes ongoing and never-ending.
A one-word definition of the word trend is fad. And the one thing that we know best about fads is that they come and go. Something that was cool 20 years ago may now be seen as weird or tacky, and things that were cool 40 years ago may be cool again. Still, most of us strive to conform to the trends, yet find ways to be unique in the process.
The styles that seem to stick around the longest are the ones that blend both form and function, achieving supremacy over fads, becoming mainstays. Due to this, the parts or mods that achieve both of these tend to stick around longer—usually forever. We've compiled a list of 14 main styling trends that you can use to customize your Stang or fast Ford. Please don't use them all, but you can choose a few. Just remember, there's a fine line between radical and ridiculous. Before taking a huge step, flip through MM&FF and take a look at some of our feature cars. You can also visit www.semadigital.com and search for Mustang to see all of the latest trends on upwards of 100 SEMA Stangs.
We obviously couldn't include everything, so don't limit yourself to this list.
Aftermarket engine hoods are iconic in the Mustang world. A 4- or 5-inch cowl-induction fiberglass hood (unpainted white) on an otherwise-stock Fox-body is something we've all seen, or done. But with the selection of hoods in today's market, it's hard to choose which one to pick. You can get aluminum, fiberglass, or even carbon fiber.
What are standard across the board (mostly) are the benefits to aftermarket hoods. Weight savings is probably the most obvious benefit. Also, if you've installed a bigger engine, a supercharger, or higher intake manifold, an aftermarket hood may be necessary. Furthermore, most provide heat extraction of some sort, allowing engine heat to escape, which can help performance and/or longevity.
"Cervini's Ram Air hoods increase your engine's air intake in order to increase horsepower and upgrade your appearance at the same time," says Jim Frey of Cervini's.
2. Spoilers and Wings
Originally designed and used in racing applications to increase down force, spoilers (and wings) made their way onto street cars in a big way during the '60s and '70s. Today, most production cars offer a package that includes a spoiler, even sedans. But the stock piece usually isn't enough to keep us happy, because almost everyone has them.
You could just make a wing out of plywood and two-by-fours, or you could turn to the aftermarket. There are numerous choices of aftermarket spoilers, depending on what look you're going for. If you desire street performance with an open-track look, then a taller wing might be your choice. Or, you may want a drag-race-inspired look, and you can do a sheet-metal wing. Either way, they're functional, which makes them even cooler.
3. Body Kits
We've mentioned hoods and wings, but a body kit is more encompassing. Usually sold as a package, body kits include front and rear fascias, side mouldings, and sometimes a hood or spoiler. If one thing is going to transform your car into a completely different car, this is it.
Beyond looking mean or unique, body kits are also functional. Many improve engine cooling by utilizing larger or multiple grille openings. Most offer a lower stance, reducing turbulence caused by air rushing under the car, especially at speed. Some provide large round holes in the front fascia, allowing for the installation of either foglights or brake cooling ducts, and may incorporate splitters, which increase downforce at speed, aiding in braking and turning.
4. Custom Paint and Airbrushing
Nothing screams all-out custom like a custom paint job. Whether it's candy and shiny, or flat black or white, custom paint is cool. There are a few rules that must be followed, though, when going that route. Always use high-quality paint, a reputable painter, and for the love of all things holy, disassemble the car first. Nothing looks worse than a paint job that continues onto the window mouldings or emblems.
As far as color, this is your opportunity to get crazy. Sure Grabber Blue or Competition Orange are cool colors that look amazing on almost all Mustangs, but you can also be creative.
Airbrushing is another way to add a unique look to your Stang, and it doesn't take very much to be very effective.
5. Stripes and Decals
LeMans stripes are standard on the Shelby GT500, and to mimic it, many people do the stripe upgrade. Some are painted on and some are stuck on with adhesive. Either way, stripes can and will give your Pony a flashier, racy look. No, there aren't any performance improvements to be had by installing stripes, or any other graphic for that matter, but they sure look cool, especially when paired with a body kit.
Generally speaking, stock wheels are lame. There are exceptions, but they are few and far between. Stock wheels must meet rigorous manufacturer requirements, and in turn, are pretty plain.
There are virtually unlimited choices when it comes to wheels, and icon Weld Racing is one of the leaders in the wheel market. "All of Weld Racing's products fit the form and function definition," says Chris Bovis of Weld Racing. "Our most functional product, the Delta 1, was built around a singular focus on performance, but it's the most recognizable design in the market today. This focus on building the most optimized wheel continues through each product line, from 300-mph drag race wheels to our street lines, the RTS and classic Sport Forged."
Rocket Racing Wheels (shown) also makes wheels that fit both the form and function categories.
Low is cool, whether for drag, open track, or street. The lower center of gravity certainly helps handling capabilities, and almost all Mustangs look better slightly lower than stock.
The easiest way to achieve the stance you want is with lowering springs. A set will costs a few hundred dollars, but the results are totally worth it.
Couple the right stance with a properly sized set of wheels and tires, and you've got yourself a sweet ride, even if the rest of the car is stock. Granted, you may lose a bit of ride quality, but if that's what you're worried about, then you need to trade your Stang for a Grand Marquis.
8. Billet Accessories
Definitely on the form end of the spectrum, billet accessories still are a very popular trend, and for good reason. Companies like UPR Products make billet accessories for interior, exterior, and underhood. It's an easy way to hide or replace black plastic pieces with shiny billet aluminum. Plus, they're not very expensive.
Headlamps, taillamps, and turn signals are all functional components that we tend to overlook. But the aftermarket is filled with a plethora of options to upgrade your lamps. Common upgrades are clear or smoked lenses, but there are a bunch of newer, more unique options available.
Lately, sequential taillamps have become very popular as a retrofit kit. Also, with trickle-down technology, LED and HID lamps have begun to make their way into the aftermarket. AmericanMuscle.com offers Raxiom headlamps and taillamps, and even makes halo-style headlamps like those on the '13-'14 Mustang.
10. Seats and Harnesses
A great way to improve the look and feel of your interior is to change your seats. TMI Products offers an array of upgraded foam, upholstery, and matching trim. If you own a Fox, you can mimic the '03-'04 Mach 1 seats, '03-'04 Cobra seats, or have TMI stitch you a custom color, pattern, or material. It offers packages for almost every model year of Mustangs.
Corbeau offers entire seats geared toward racing. But it also offers street seats as well. There are fixed-back and reclining versions, and like TMI, you can choose your material and color. Corbeau will even sell you extra material so you can have your back seat covered to match.
Even if you're not required to use them by a sanctioning body, safety harnesses look awesome in Mustangs. Combine the right color harnesses with a sporty street seat or racing seat, and completely transform the interior of your Stang with very little effort.
11. Smooth Engine Bay
A mod that has gained much popularity over recent years is the smooth engine bay. No matter how you tackle it, smoothing the engine bay of your Stang or other fast Ford is not quick or easy. You could spend hundreds of hours welding the holes closed, grinding the welds, smoothing it all out with body filler, sanding, priming, and painting the whole thing; or you can buy panels that weld or rivet in.
Latemodel Restoration offers stock replacement inner fender panels that are smooth. You just remove your originals and weld these in. Another option is Scott Rod Fabrications' weld-in steel panels or rivet-in aluminum panels. Either way, you're going to be happy with the results and make your friends jealous in the process.
12. Interior Swaps
Another way to transform your interior is to do a full interior swap. This is a common mod for Fox owners, who often swap in SN-95 interior. We've even seen a full GT500 interior swap in a Fox, though this isn't as common (see photo). Many others swap their full interiors to a more popular color, like dark charcoal or black.
Something we haven't seen, but expect to as time progresses, is ditching the '05-'09 interior for '10-'14 interior.
When you mention gauges to a Stanger, the term "monster tach" immediately comes to mind—with a big, bright shift light. Tachs are still cool, but the gauge market has come a long way over the past 25 years, and it's more than just adding a dinner-plate tach to your dash.
AutoMeter is a leader in the gauge market, and offers a mind-boggling selection of different types, styles, sizes, and colors of gauges. Even if your car is built for the street or show scene, gauges are still cool—especially if they light up in a unique color. A-pillar gauge pods and dash gauge pods are cool, too, if the gauges in them are functional and necessary. It's also cool to find unique spots for your gauges, like the console or center stack.
14. The Minimalist
Finally, our last mod is one we don't mention very often—minimalization. The minimalist approach is one that removes components rather than adding them. Instead of becoming flashier, you become more subdued or restrained. The Bullitt Mustangs of '01 and '08-'09 are great examples of minimalist modifications, though those were done at the factory.
Some of the minimalist mods that we like are the spoiler delete, badge delete, stripe delete, grille delete, and moulding delete. The door- handle delete has its place, but only on highly modified show cars or race cars. The wiper delete looks cool, too, but has obvious drawbacks on street cars.