Ford Mustang (Mk4)

For nearly 30 years, countless of American car lovers has been debating whether Mustang or Camaro / Firebird is the best pony car. When talk about the history of Mustang, about how to modify the suspensions and brakes, how they put a 400hp V8 into the Chevy, American always get excited. Just visit any newsgroup about the pony cars and you'll know how much this society fall in love with Mustang and Camaro / Firebird. Who knows everybody outside the North America are simply not interested in these cars ! 

Even American themselves know the pony car fever is fading. Since the sales no. is declining every year, GM is expected to let this generation's Camaro and Firebird die without replacement. Even the Holden division could offer a new rear-wheel-drive platform, the company still think the poor sales won't justify the development cost. Ford, as we know, is going to hang on with at least another generation. Once the only rival has gone, Mustang is likely to survive longer. 

In fact, the Mustang survives because it always outsold the GM's rivals. During the first 10 months of 1998, Ford sold 120,901 Mustangs against Camaro and Firebird's combined 69,389. This enable Ford to revamp Mustang in Autumn 1998. 

The first new feature of the '99 Mustang is more power. The best selling 3.8 V6 gained 40 more horses to 190hp, while Mustang GT's sohc V8 improved from 225hp to 260hp. The Cobra version will be updated later, hopefully have a new independent rear suspension. 

Here we concentrate on the Mustang GT. The extra power is achieved by means of revised intake manifold, lower back pressure exhaust, camshafts with sportier timing and higher lift, bigger valves and ignition with individual coils on spark plugs. Although the power output and torque (300lbft) is still no match with Camaro Z28's 305hp / 335lbft, it is already a big step forward. Remember the LS1 engine displaces a full 1 litre more.  

The '99 Mustang gains 1.4 inches rear track to improve stability. Rear suspensions travel was also increased to deal with criticism about poor ride in the old car. Nevertheless, people used to European sports cars can easily point out its shortage : excessive understeer, stiff gearshift, poor position of brake and throttle pedal which makes heel-and-toe action difficult, cheap and unsupportive seats. In the end, the improved rear suspension is still a non-independent live axle. 

Compare a Mustang against a TVR Chimaera would have been very interesting. However, Mustang (or any pony cars) was not designed to deliver European kind of handling. Instead of handling, straight line performance, the performance / price ratio and upgradability are more important to their customers. People always amuse how they modify the pony cars to 350hp for a few hundred dollars, and how they smoke their tyres during the illegal quarter mile street races. 

Coming back to the questions raised in the beginning of this article - which is the best pony car ? Judging from straight line acceleration and top speed, Camaro Z28 is (by far) the faster car. Judging from handling, Camaro is also better. However, there must be some advantage about price, packaging, equipment, accommodation etc. on the Mustang side, otherwise it wouldn't have continued to outsold the GM rivals. 
 

The above report was last updated on 17 Feb 99. All Rights Reserved.
 

Mustang - the first Pony car

In the 60's, Ford's top executive Lee Iacocca created a new kind of cars called "Pony cars" by launching the first generation Ford Mustang. The idea is to make a cheap sports coupe by using mass-producing V8s and other shared components. Besides, a long lists of options including engines, equipments and decorations are available so that the customers can tailor-make their cars according to their taste.  

Mustang became a huge success, not only earned Iacocca a CEO position in Chrysler, but also made itself being the first and only sports car exceeded 1 million units production. Meanwhile, General Motor responded with Pontiac Firebird and Chevrolet Camaro, which continue to rival with Mustang in today. 
 

The above report was last updated in 1998. All Rights Reserved.
 

SVT Mustang Cobra

Since Mustang's launch in 1964, all pony cars rode on live axle rear suspensions. 35 years later, Ford finally introduced the first independent rear suspension to the forthcoming Mustang Cobra. The SVT Cobra has the 4.6 V8's power improved to 320hp and 317lbft (from 305 and 300) via using new induction manifold and reshaped combustion chamber. However, the most significant improvement is still the IRS.  

Since the chassis is basically the same as the normal Mustang, the new IRS incorporates a steel tube subframe which supports the entire structure, including cast aluminium lower control arms and steering knuckles, iron upper control arms, tie rods and the aluminium-cased differential. The whole self-contained unit is bolted to the chassis at the same pickup points as the old live axle. Therefore assembly can be taken place alongside the normal, mass-production Mustang. 

Benefit to handling is obvious : greatly reduce bump steer, making the Mustang Cobra more neutral and predictable at cornering limit. Although the new suspensions cannot be described as the result of elegant engineering, the improvement can still be easily felt. Now throttle oversteer can be implemented with great confidence. Other improvement include better off-center steering response and reduced rear lift under braking. It also has 19 mm more travel while reduces unsprung weight by 57 kg. As a result, ride comfort has been improved.  

Although the whole unit adds 32kg to the car, engineers reduce 23kg from other parts thus actually improves the front / rear weight distribution from 57 / 43 to 55 /45. 
 

The above report was last updated on 2 May 99. All Rights Reserved.
 

SVT Mustang Cobra R

Let's look at the price tag first. At US$ 54K, it's doubled from the standard Mustang Cobra, more than doubled from the Camaro SS (our favourite pony car until now), 30% dearer than a Corvette and 10% more than a Porsche Boxster S. That sounds crazy enough for a Ford.  

Even though it is a limited run of 300 cars, I'm still not convinced about the price, especially is that the Cobra R looks more like a tuner's car than a factory one. Basically, the Mustang is never a good basis for high performance sports car, so SVT has to compromise. The biggest compromise is the engine, where the original 4.6-litre 32-valver has little upgradability. Adding supercharger may be too complicated and costly. Increasing displacement is also infeasible, as SVT cannot afford casting a new block. (that's why I said it's more like tuner's work) Instead, they use the bigger iron block from Ford's Triton truck V8, couple to the original dohc cylinder heads with 4 valves per cylinder. The new block displaces 5409 c.c., accompany with improved breathing (that is, higher flow intake manifolds and exhaust ports), new cam profile, higher valve lift, forged aluminium pistons and new crankshaft, maximum power and torque are increased from 320 hp to 385 hp and 317 lbft to 385 lbft respectively.  

Nevertheless, the Triton cast iron block is much heavier than the original aluminium block, thus deteriorating front-rear weight distribution from 55:45 to 57:43. Another disadvantage is the height of the engine, despite a lower engine mount, it requires a huge power dome in the bonnet, thus blocking visibility somewhat.  

Exhaust is another compromise. Because the self-contained independent rear suspension and fuel tank block the way for a proper rear exhaust, the twin-pipe exhaust is routed to the side, in front of the rear wheel. 

Other modifications are predictable: 6-speed manual instead of 5-speed, hydro-mechanical rear LSD, stiffened suspensions, lower ride height, 265/40ZR18 tyres, uprated brakes, racing-style air dam and rear spoiler etc. etc.  

The Cobra R is very heavy - 1637 kg, or some 160 kg in-excess of a Corvette. Even so, it has no air-con, no radio, no rear seats and virtually no sound deadening material. However, with the new found power and (especially) torque, it accelerates from rest to 60 mph in 4.8 seconds, to 100 mph in 10.9 seconds, both are marginally quicker than the Vette.  

Handling on race track is faultless, thanks to rock-solid suspension and huge grip. In other words, it rides poor on rough surfaces. As its look suggest, Cobra R is a track-biased road car. 
 

The above report was last updated on 30 Apr 2000. All Rights Reserved.

Mustang Bullit GT

Bullit is named after a Steve McQueen's film in 1968, in which the Hollywood star drove a special Mustang fastback. Today, when Ford is spending all R&D money in SUV projects, perhaps the Bullit linkage is a good idea to boost sales at the lowest investment. That said, the new Bullit Mustang is no more than a mildly facelifted, mildly tuned standard Mustang. It is even based on the regular GT rather than the 4-valve SVT, so it is not exactly the most exotic Mustang. 

The conversion is simple: to reassemble the look of the 1968 car, the roof panel around the C-pillar has been revised, hence looking a little bit more like a fastback. Then a set of wheels mirroring the old car is fitted. The suspensions are set slightly stiffer while ride height is dropped by 25mm. In the engine compartment, intake and exhaust breathing has been smoothened to deliver a touch more output - 5 horsepower and 3 pound-foot means little, but now the power comes lower at the rev. Throttle response is sharpened as well. 

Road & Track found the Bullit nearly as quick as the overrated SVT, reaching 60mph in 5.8 seconds (the SVT is 5.6 while the GT is 6.0 seconds). 1/4 mile is even closer, which is 14.3 seconds, versus SVT's 14.2 and GT's 14.7. Handling is more stable and predictable than the GT, but still no match with the IRS-equipped SVT. 
 

The above report was last updated on 2 Dec 2001. All Rights Reserved.
 

Mustang Mach 1

Mach 1, what a cool name! in the late 60s, it represented a limited production Mustang having a 428 cubic inches (or 7 litres) V8. That was the peak of muscle car era and the whole American motor industry got mad, really mad. Today, Mustang is no longer the car it used to be. It is ugly, cheap and poorly built. Low technology, rough ride, poor steering, crude controls. It is the last breed of dinosaurs. As we know, the next generation Mustang will finally be modernized by the Lincoln LS / Jaguar S-Type platform, but it is not ready yet. How can Ford keep customers interested in the current Mustang until its replacement come? ask design boss J. Mays and his answer is "Living Legend". In my understanding, Ford's "Living Legend" series is purely a marketing tactic. It covers some average machines with retro-style bodies resembling some of the company's legendary cars in the past. This boost sales in the cost of virtually nothing. Mustang Mach 1 is one of them. 

The new Mach 1 does not have a big block V8, of course - the philosophy of "Living Legend" is to keep development cost at minimum. It takes a stock 305hp 4.6-litre dohc 32-valve V8 from the parts pool. If you remember, the previous SVT Mustang Cobra was powered by the same engine. However, Mach 1 is cheaper than the SVT, thus it still rides on the old live-axle suspensions like the mass production Mustang rather than the independent setup of the SVT. In the expense of ride quality, the Mach 1 can keep its price at US$29,000, around the same level as Nissan 350Z. 

With a 305hp V8, Mach 1 can accelerate from 0 to 60mph in around 5.2 seconds, quicker than the single-cam Bullit by 0.6 seconds. Again, nothing else can produce comparable acceleration figures without costing more. However, the chassis of Mach 1 is as outdated as before. Apart from the stronger Brembo brakes, there is hardly anything worth admiring. 

Externally, the Mach 1 really has some resemblance to the legendary car it imitates. The most obvious is the exaggerate power-dome and air scoop over the bonnet. The air scoop imitates a ram air device but is actually cosmetic. But all these just add to the ugliness of the car while blocking driver vision. Poor taste too. 
 

The above report was last updated on 18 Feb 2003. All Rights Reserved.
 

SVT Mustang Cobra (2002)

If you have followed the development of Mustang, you will know the existing car is based on an old Fox platform dated back to 1979. Cobra is the hottest version of Mustang (excluding the limited edition Cobra R), and since 1999 it gets a bolt-on independent rear suspensions instead of the old live axle and a 320hp 32-valve dohc version of the 4.6-litre V8. This sounds sophisticated, and even like rocket science by pony car standard, but the Cobra always lived under the shadow of the push-rod-technology Chevrolet Corvette, because the Vette looks far better, having a far superior chassis and more grunt from its 5.7-litre V8. Worse still, the Cobra was found by customers that it actually produced less than 300hp, that had a damaging effect to the reputation of SVT as well as Ford. 

To outpower Vette while rebuilding image, SVT has upgraded the Cobra with more power and tweaked chassis. The 32-valve V8 is added with an Eaton root-type supercharger to pump out 390 horsepower at 6000rpm and 390 lbft of torque at 3500rpm. This makes the original Cobra seemed a league slower. The new engine also drives through 6-speed manual gearbox instead of 5-speed. Road & Track timed the new Cobra hit 60mph in 4.9 seconds and 100mph in 11.1 seconds, almost as quick as the Cobra R. The most important is that it beats the Vette convincingly.  

The supercharged 4601c.c. V8 retains aluminium head and forged steel crankshaft of the old Cobra, but with kits taken from F-150 Lightning truck such as supercharger, intercooler and forged pistons which allow a lower compression ratio. New forged connecting rods are chosen to withstand higher power and torque, so is cast-iron engine block. Unfortunately, the iron block put more burden to the nose compare with the old aluminium block. While the old Cobra has front to rear weight distribution of 55:45, the new Cobra's is 57:43. The whole car now weighs 1662kg, some 130kg heavier than the old car, even heavier than the Cobra R. 

The chassis also gets some upgrades. Springs of suspensions are stiffened by 20% (front) and 28% (rear). Gas-charged Bilstein dampers are employed. To cope with more power, rear multi-link suspensions receive an addtional cross-brace for reinforcement. Tyres are widened from 245/45ZR17 to 275/40ZR17. Brakes received new pad material.  

So how does it feel to drive? surprisingly, the new Cobra is easier to drive than before despite of its unbalanced chassis. This must thanks to the modifications to suspensions and tyres that SVT done. You still won¤Ô¤±¤Í¤½ compare it with European sports cars, especially for ride quality and refinement, but its handling is not as untidy as imagined. If you are accustomed to American muscle cars, you will find its tail movement very well controlled. Of course, if you want a dramatic tail slide or wheelspin, you can still easily do that with the tremendous reserve of torque.  

Talking about torque, this is still the main reason people buy Mustang. The old Cobra was not famous for torque, thus was not well accepted as a true American muscle car (also because of the opinion against overhead camshaft engine). Now with the most pound-feet at the lowest price (at US$35,000), hopefully the new Cobra will be adored by traditional fans. They won¤Ô¤±¤Í¤½ care about its poor quality packaging, poor refinement, poor ergonomics, poor gearchange, poor ride, ugly look (that¤Ô¤±¤Í¤¼ very subjective)... Ford needs 10,000 such fans every year. But I am sure they won¤Ô¤±¤Í¤½ be readers of AutoZine. 
 

The above report was last updated on 28 July 2002. All Rights Reserved.

Specifications

Model
Mustang GT
Mustang Bullit GT (2001)
Mustang Mach 1 (2003)
Layout
Front-engined, Rwd
Front-engined, Rwd
Front-engined, Rwd
L / W / H / WB (mm)
4653 / 1857 / 1354 / 2573
4653 / 1857 / 1354 / 2573
4653 / 1856 / 1329 / 2573
Engine
V8, sohc, 2v/cyl.
V8, sohc, 2v/cyl.
V8, dohc, 4v/cyl.
Capacity
4605 cc
4605 cc
4605 cc
Power
260 hp
265 hp
305 hp
Torque
302 lbft
305 lbft
320 lbft
Transmission
5M
5M
5M
Suspension (F/R)
strut / live-axle
strut / live-axle
strut / live-axle
Tyres (F/R)
All: 225/55 R16
All: 245/45 ZR17
All: 245/45 ZR17
Weight
1500 kg
1525 kg
1575 kg
Top speed
138 mph**
140 mph (est)
150 mph (est)
0-60 mph
6.0 sec*
5.8 sec*
5.2 sec**
0-100 mph
15.0 sec*
14.5 sec*
N/A
 
Figures tested by: * R&T, ** C&D
 
Model
SVT Mustang Cobra (99)
SVT Mustang Cobra R (00)
SVT Mustang Cobra (02)
Layout
Front-engined, Rwd
Front-engined, Rwd
Front-engined, Rwd
L / W / H / WB (mm)
4661 / 1857 / 1351 / 2573
4661 / 1857 / 1326 / 2573
N/A
Engine
V8, dohc, 4v/cyl.
V8, dohc, 4v/cyl.
V8, dohc, 4v/cyl, 
supercharger
Capacity
4601 cc
5409 cc
4601 cc
Power
320 hp
385 hp
390 hp
Torque
317 lbft
385 lbft
390 lbft
Transmission
5M
6M
6M
Suspension (F/R)
strut / multi-link
strut / multi-link
strut / multi-link
Tyres (F/R)
All: 245/45 ZR17
All: 265/40 ZR18
All: 275/40 ZR17
Weight
1490 kg
1637 kg
1662 kg
Top speed
N/A
N/A
N/A
0-60 mph
5.5 sec*
4.8 sec*
4.9 sec*
0-100 mph
13.8 sec**
10.9 sec*
11.1 sec*
 
Figures tested by: * R&T,  ** C&D
 

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