Jim Smart
August 1, 2002
Photos By: The Mustang Monthly Archives

Because engine and transmission had to be more cohesive for 1996, Ford tied engine and transmission electronics together for a happier marriage. The AODE became known as the 4R70W automatic overdrive transmission that year. The tried and proven T5 five-speed was sidelined for the new T45. Vacuum assisted power brakes were replaced by a hydro-boosted power brake system because there wasn't enough room underhood for the former.

The news for 1996 wasn't all technology. Ford built some 2000 SVT Cobras painted in BASF's Mystic finish, the same color pigment used on money for quick identification. If you purchased a Mystic Cobra, you had to have the vehicle's serial number in order for a body shop to order the stuff.

Also new, and eagerly accepted for 1996, were the Mustang's redesigned three-element taillamps. They had a more traditional appearance and became a popular swap for those with '94-'95 Mustangs. Classic Design Concepts in Walled Lake, Michigan, developed a sequential turn signal package for the three-element taillamp. It has been great for enthusiasts.

Well after the '96 model year got started, SVT introduced the redesigned Mustang Cobra with DOHC, 32-valve 4.6L V-8 power. It was a terrific awakening because the '96 Cobra was vastly different than its '94-'95 predecessor. At first glance, there wasn't much difference. A long stare revealed a new hood with larger scoops. Where the Cobra was different was underhood. Sit behind the wheel, spin the starter, and it was a whole new world. The double overhead cam Mod V-8 had a caged lion sound to it. It sounded unwieldy and ready to strike. And it had a throaty roar without being noise offensive. For an impressive hole-shot, you had to get the revs up high, dump the clutch and pin the throttle wide open. The engine revved smartly to 6,800 rpm before the computer turned off the fuel and ignition.

Growing Familiar-1997-'98
The redesigned SN-95 Mustang wore out its welcome quickly during the mid-'90s. Buyers who fell in love with the car in 1994 were asking Ford what it had done for them lately. Ford would yield an answer, but not until 1999. Aside from a variety of striking colors in 1997-'98, including a groovy coppertone color that reminded us of Emberglo from 1966, the Mustang didn't change much from 1996-'98. Not even horsepower ratings changed during the period.

Ford, able to read the consumer quite well, realized the Mustang couldn't remain in its present form for long. In the last year of the 20th Century, Ford would come through with a hotter Mustang buyers would be willing to trade their '94 Mustangs in for. Coming next month: the redesigned '99 Mustang.

Mustang Goes To Indy
For the first time since 1979, the Mustang would return to Indy after a 15-year hiatus. Racing great Parnelli Jones, winner of the '63 Indy 500, would drive the official pace car at the running of the '94 Indianapolis 500. To commemorate the Mustang's honor at Indy, Ford produced 1000 identical red SVT Cobra convertibles to be sold to the public through SVT Ford dealers. This limited production drop-top's introduction was also the redesigned, second generation SVT Cobra's introduction as well. Convertibles were available first, then coupes. Some 5,000 coupes would follow.