|This nice. clean example sports a chromed set of original 17 in. wheels.|
There are still lots of cars like this out there.
I never really thought of it as a throw away car, but it seemed that way when I tried to sell it a couple of years ago. I guess that the car was too old for a young guy with a decent job, but not old enough for a guy looking for a classic Mustang project.
"Throw away car" is a pretty cruel term, so I guess that I should define my use of it. As I pointed out above, my '97 was caught in the middle: too new and common to be of interest, and too old to be desirable or prestigious to a working guy with a decent job. So these are not usually cars that are cared for and preserved, they usually are treated to abuse and neglect. The intention is to keep it running for a year or so while the driver can save up a down payment on a new car. These are not cars that will be properly repaired after sustaining collision damage. The fender will be pounded out until there is tire clearance, a broken headlamp might be sloppily replaced and secured with duct tape, and drywall screws might well be used to re -attach a broken plastic bumper cover. Contrast that to a young guy's dream car. That might carry several different color body panels with numerous patches of bondo and primer. But that kid is planning on fixing his!
Of course routine maintenance is usually out of the question, just keep topping up the oil and adding another can of stop leak!
This generation of Mustang GT carried the classic 5.0 liter V8 during it's first two years of production, 1994 and 1995. There is some collector interest in these cars, although I suspect that most would be picked clean for their mechanical and suspension parts. The '96 and newer models carried the SOHC 4.6 V8 which has resulted in most Classic Mustang enthusiasts responding with a protracted yawn. However power levels were raised in 1999 when the "New Edge" version was introduced. Pity the poor six cylinder models. These come equipped with their skinny little 15 inch wheels. They can provide practical transportation, but are not likely to light an enthusiast's fire. Even I passed on those!
I lucked out in finding my car. It had been owned by the seller's Father who had babied and cared for it. When he passed away his Daughter inherited the car, but she really needed an SUV to haul her kids around so she put it up for sale. The car had 150,000 miles on it but the body and interior were in very good condition and it was completely stock. Well except for the FlowMasters, which I have become quite found of!
I was always kind of conflicted when these cars came out. For the most part I wasn't impressed, since I didn't see anything that was really "Mustang" about them. At the time these cars were new I was driving my '94 Cadillac Seville STS and didn't really care about Mustangs at all.
I had really liked the last of the Fox body cars, especially the aggressive GTs with their flared body kits, louvered tail lamps, faired in headlamps and grill less front end. Quite a few of the young guys at work had them at the time.
|Nice, Nice Baby!|
While the Fox bodied cars really didn't look anything like the "traditional" Mustangs of yore, due to their long production life of 15 years, (1979-1993) they redefined the idea of Mustang"ness" for an entire generation.
From somewhat of a rocky start they underwent an evolution into the 5.0 models that have become a modern legend.
A little more history:
The last of the true first gen Mustangs of 1971-1973 had received a lukewarm response in the market. They had grown so much bigger and longer. The chassis had been widened to accommodate the big block motors that the enthusiast press was demanding. It seems that the buying public was looking for something else entirely.
Lee Iacocca had a new idea up his sleeve. "If the original Mustang could be based on the Falcon, why not base the next one on the Pinto?"
|Mustang II, Boredom Zero!|
The Mustang II is currently reviled, but was very well accepted at the time. It was a sales success. It was the right car for the times. And the times wanted a four cylinder economy car. While the original Mustang had been an affordable, practical, car the Mustang II went the whole way. The styling was based upon the original themes, but was just shrunken and smoothed over into almost "toy car" like lines.
You have to give Iaccoca some credit. A V6 powered Mach One was initially offered, and a Cobra II followed with a 302 V8 shoehorned in under the hood.
The introduction of the Fox series of cars was a complete break from the retro theme of the Mustang II.
While the "II " resembled someone's pudgy little brother, the Fox resembled a trim and athletic middle sibling. By the time Ford crowed "the Boss is back!" they were right. The fuel injected 5.0 was the King of the Streets.
Times change and new standards have to be met. The roll out of the SN95 series in 1994 started out with the good old 5.0. A new body with an old heart.
The styling was not immediately accepted. Although it took some of the cues from the first series, it was chunkier and sleeker. Some even said that it looked like a Toyota Celica. I think that it was an evolutionary design of the classic Mustang concept after the totally new and non traditional Fox series.
There were lots of real improvements incorporated into the design. The structure was much stiffer and did not require the aftermarket subframe connectors.
The biggest change came in 1996 with the introduction of the 4.6 SOHC Modular V8. The Mustang version rang up 215 horses, the same amount as the outgoing 5.0. It was the strongest version of this motor that Ford offered at the time. But it did it differently. It made it's power higher up on the rpm band.
|Ford did have a better idea.|
Personally I love the way the motor looks. It is really wide with the alternator in the middle of the V. The twin coils and the neatly routed ignition wires combine with the lack of an engine mounted fan to make for a very nice presentation.
5.0 fans were not impressed then, and I don't blame them. The motor in my '96 Explorer looks pretty fine also. The good ol' 5.0 has plenty of low rpm grunt.
|Looks good and sounds even better.|
Even with a single exhaust.
All interesting, but what did this have to do with me?
Fast forward through my '56 Cadillac/ Riviera/ Datsun Z/ period and I found myself wanting a sporty convertible. In the 1990's that could only mean two cars; the Chrysler Sebring and the Mustang.
I said sporty, so I gave the Sebring about a minutes thought and started looking for a Mustang.
My Son told me not to get a V6 model and this advice was right. For some reason, probably because my last car was a four cylinder Acura, I actually toyed with the idea of a four banger. My son said that that was an even worse idea than the six. After some internet research I had to agree with him.
The 94-95 5.0 models had remained popular and were still cheap so that many were purchased by young gearheads. Many were hacked up, thrashed and amateurishly modified. The 4.6 was much like the early fuel injected models, many home tuners were "frightened" of the high tech system and avoided these models. Response to the initial 4.6 models was similar and they were shunned by many driveway hop up artists. This meant that there were a lot of unmolested, original examples available.
|The 5.0 equipped cars came with this horizontal tail lamp treatment.|
I found a pretty clean example that was stock except for some Cobra replica wheels and FlowMaster exhaust. It came with the tweed sport seat interior and even ABS. It also came with quite a few miles, 150,000 to be exact. It was loaded with all the power and convenience features that I had come to expect in a modern car.
All in all I have found this to be a very satisfying car. It handles well and is plenty fast for me. Power output sounds anemic on paper but is plenty in the real world. I know that I would probably lose in a drag race to a V6 Honda Accord but that doesn't matter. The car will cruise effortlessly at 70 mph turning only 2000 rpms. It will run up to a hundred mph. and sustain that speed easily. Real World Fuel economy is an actual 25 mpg. at 70 mph.
|2002 Mach One.|
Ford released their own special Cobra models based upon the early cars. While there were many tuner models of the early SN95s produced by tuners like Saleen, Stillen, and Kenny Brown. Ford stepped up their specials with the introduction of the New Edge cars in 1999. Besides the Cobras, the Bullitt and Mach One were available. These cars are true high performance specials, and they are already starting to command hefty prices.
A couple of weeks ago I finally replaced the intake manifold, hoses and serpentine belt on my '96. Last year I replaced the lower front suspension arms, tie rod ends, rack bushings, front brakes rotors and hoses. A new set of tires had preceded that work. I have documented all this work in previous blog posts, but I was surprised that in the last year and a half the car had only accumulated a couple of thousand miles! The truth is, that it mostly sat while I morosely pondered whether or not I should even do each of these repairs. I did have other cars to drive, so I did. I had planned to sell the car before that ball joint broke, but there just wasn't much interest from buyers. So I just fixed it, some times you just have to do the work, and I'm glad that I did.
I've been enjoying the heck out of this car these last two weeks. Sometimes I forget that it really is an actual high performance car, not just some old daily driver. Of course it's not like a Porsche Carrera or Shelby or Hell Cat, but so what. It's plenty quick and agile, and sounds really good. It's a scrappy little hot rod of a car. It's true that I've got more invested in it than it's worth, but that's what makes it a real Better Beater. I like and care about the car, and I want it to be reliable and useful. Then I become aware of something kind of strange.
I've noticed people checking out my car at the gas station and while driving around town. A middle aged guy, pan handling at an intersection asked me about my car and then started telling me about his old '91 GT. At the oil change shop the techs were quite interested in the car. One of the guys, close to my age, was telling me that he enjoyed seeing one of these Mustangs in such good shape, since they are now kind of rare. He told me to hold onto it, don't offer it for sale. "Only sell it if someone makes you an offer that you can't turn down."
Maybe these cars are starting to become classics in their own right. They've been around for twenty five years now. Maybe I should take that guy's advice and hold onto what I've got!
You might notice that this post is being made late on a Sunday night. Usually I will post on a Friday or Saturday. I was out of town the last two days. I had to take an unexpected, spur of the moment, trip to Southern California's Inland Empire. It was a quick run; one day down, back the next, 887 miles in total. I drove my Mustang, which ran like a champ and didn't miss a beat. Drove over the Grapevine in the windiest conditions I've ever experienced. Not a single white knuckle on either hand. The odometer is poised to turn over 205,000 miles in the next week. I think that I will hold onto this car for a lot longer. Throw away car? Not in my eyes.