Muscle Mustangs & Fast Fords
How To Buy Your First Ford Mustang
Deal or No Deal?
Ford revamped the Fox look after 15 years and called it the Fox-4. Ford continued to use the 5.0L in the first two years of the SN-95, but in 1996 an all-new modular engine made its presence underneath the hood. Aside from the basic 3.8L V6 option, Ford gave consumers two options when wanting a 4.6L V-8. The GT package included a Two-Valve engine, mustering up 225 horsepower, and for the specialty Stang seekers, the 305hp Four-Valve SVT Cobra.
Ford adopted a New Edge body from '99-'04, but still remained on the SN-95 platform. For the later SN-95s, the 4.6L packages remained the same, but the GT models switched to a performance improved (PI) intake and head design, bumping output to 260 horsepower. Specialty vehicles like the Cobra came equipped with an independent rear suspension and 320 horsepower. The Four-Valve Mach 1 also made its introduction in 2003 and ended one year later.
If you are in the market for an SN-95, much of what we said about Fox-bodies applies, however, the modular engines are a bit more technical and can require special tools. SN-95 Mustang are newer in age, so potentially, they can make for a better starting point—if you like the styling. SN-95 Mustangs benefit from five-lug axles (so wheel choices are almost limitless), and they have better braking systems.
Furthermore, with the introduction of the SN-95, Ford now equipped all Mustangs with disc brakes, and a better interior. The modular motors offered better fuel economy and performance over its predecessors in stock trim, however, there are a few things to look out for.
In the earlier SN-95s, the mechanical odometers are known to fail due to a weak plastic gear behind the gauge cluster. Today, aftermarket companies make replacement gears, but it's important to understand when buying an early SN-95, to check and make sure the odometer is recording miles correctly. If it is broken, you can only guess as to the actual mileage. Ford fixed this problem in 1999 by switching to a digital odometer.
Early Two-Valve modular engines with the plastic coolant crossover were known to crack. If a previous owner never noticed the crack in the intake, it is possible the engine could have overheated at one point in time. Check to make sure you don't see coolant leaking anywhere around the intake.
According to Siegel, the anti-lock braking system (ABS) modules are also known to malfunction, as well as the window regulators. "The bad part isn't replacing the part, it's the labor you pay for if you can't fix it yourself," Siegel said. "Most shop rates are between $80 to $105 per hour, and for a basic repair that requires two hours of labor, you are already spending $160 or more."
In both the earlier and later SN-95 platforms, the interiors remained relatively unchanged, however, certain items were known to break. Door panel inserts are infamous for breaking, as well as door panels for cracking. New door panel inserts from latemodelrestoration.com cost $69.99 (PN-LRS-14527A) each. Currently, no aftermarket company makes a remanufactured door panel, and if you need to replace one, your only option is to purchase a used piece. The factory leather seats are also known for wrinkling/cracking and tearing. New seats are available from companies such as TMI Products, but start at $393.95. It's expected for a 8-to-16-year-old Mustang to have some wear, just be aware that parts will need to be replaced ahead of time.
We say don't let the small subtleties steer you away from purchasing a potential winner. Most repairs are relatively inexpensive and can be perfect for someone who is willing to dedicate a little TLC.
Though both the Fox-body and SN-95 Mustangs are older, it is possible to find a very clean and well-kept one. If you are willing to pay more, it is possible to avoid the smaller common problems that come with them. Finding an owner who's kept up with the maintenance duties such as paint, oil changes, and basic tune-ups, could lead to a much more suitable first Stang.