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2004-2009 Ford Mustang Model Comparison - Jack Of All Trades

After Nearly 50 Years In Production, The Mustang Proves It Truly Is A . . .

By , Photography by And as Credited, , Ford Motor Company

Imagine being a designer on the team tasked with the job of the '05 Mustang redesign. Next to the Chevrolet Corvette, it's the longest continually running model in any American manufacturer's lineup. Gone for good was the Fox platform chassis and its SN-95 derivative, so the company couldn't just do another refresh of the existing model. No, this was a clean-sheet-of-paper design.

This new chassis, designated D2C and known as S197 when underpinning a Mustang, shares some floorpan stampings with the DEW98 chassis, the foundation of the Lincoln LS and '02 Thunderbird, but the suspension architecture more closely resembles Ford's DC1 chassis, a global endeavor developed in conjunction with Mazda and Volvo. The D2C's front MacPherson struts and rear trailing arms use the same attachment points as those found in Mazda 3s and Volvo S40s. While those cars have four-wheel independent suspensions, the decision was made early on to build all versions of the upcoming Mustang with a solid rear axle, to the delight of drag racers and horror of nearly everyone else.

As if it weren't under enough pressure designing the car, the team had to live up to public expectations. Chief engineer Hau Tai-Tang summed it up eloquently in an interview with PBS' Charlie Rose: "The good thing about designing the Mustang is that everyone knows what a Mustang needs to be. The bad thing is that everyone knows what a Mustang needs to be." He knew that if they didn't get the car right, they'd be run out of town on a rail. Ford Motor Co. had a lot riding on the new '05 Mustang and they had to swing for the cheap seats.

In hindsight, we know the car was an instant success. It was arguably a better car in every way over the previous generation, and the public snatched up 160,412 units in 2005, nearly 20,000 more than the '04 models. 2006 sales numbers were even higher than that. (Production numbers courtesy of One could argue that the success of the '05 Mustang is the reason Chrysler and GM resurrected the Challenger and Camaro models and spawned the new high-tech horsepower race we are in the midst of today. Love it or hate it, we owe the S197 Mustang a debt of gratitude.

Mustang GT by the Numbers

2004 2005
Engine: 90-deg. V-8, aluminum block 90-deg. V-8, iron block
Bore/Stroke: 3.55/3.54 inches 3.55/3.54 inches (281 ci/4.6 liters)
Cylinder heads: Aluminum, SOHC two valves/cylinder Aluminum, SOHC three valves/cylinder
Compression ratio: 9.4:1 9.8:1
HP: 260 at 5,250 rpm 300 at 6,000 rpm
Torque: 302 at 4,000 rpm 315 at 4,500 rpm
Length: 183.2 inches 187.6 inches
Width: 73.1 inches 72.1 inches
Wheelbase: 101.3 inches 107.1 inches
Curb weight: 3,273 pounds 3,425 pounds
Weight distribution, F/R: 57/43 52/48
0-60 mph: 5.4 seconds 5.2 seconds
Quarter-mile: 14.0 sec. at 100.2 mph 13.90 sec. at 104 mph
60-0 braking: 135 feet 116 feet
200-ft. skidpad: 0.86 g 0.85 g
Performance figures courtesy of Motor Trend.

Simplicity is the Key to Longevity
Chief engineer Thai-Tang said the team's goal was to build a car that was "fast, fun, and affordable." In the same PBS interview he elaborated on their philosophy. "It is easy to design a great car at $80,000." That wasn't an option for them. "We had to figure out where to spend the money. The value index must be high. We had to optimize what customers are getting for their money." It would seem that they were able to accomplish their goals. The 2005 Mustang was less expensive than its rivals at the time, which were basically limited to the Dodge Charger, Pontiac GTO, and a handful of imports (Nissan 350Z and Honda S2000). Though down on power in comparison to its V-8 rivals, the Mustang relied on its lighter weight to post comparable, if not slightly better, performance numbers, making it an excellent performance car for the money.

What is undeniable, though, is that loyal owners and an exceptionally strong aftermarket have helped keep the Mustang alive even when its competitors went away. It is a well-known fact that Ford has contemplated killing the Mustang several times throughout the 46 years it's been in production. At one point they were planning to release it as a front-wheel-drive model based on a Mazda chassis. Public outcry was so belligerent that they wisely scrapped those plans. The car that was to be the Mustang was released in 1988 as the Ford Probe, while the Mustang soldiered on, V-8 powered and rear wheel drive, on the aging Fox chassis.

Where to Spend
We have heard several owners refer to their cars as a blank canvas. The Mustang's relatively low price fits into most peoples' budgets. They are easy to work on and their simple architecture lends them to customization. And there isn't a part on the car you can't find a replacement or performance version of in the aftermarket. As a result, Mustangs can be found in every genre of motorsport. Want to build a drag car? Build a Mustang. Interested in road racing? Build a Mustang. Autocross? Mustang. Hell, we've even seen Mustangs compete in standing mile, top speed events, hillclimbs, and road rallies. No matter what genre, you can build a Mustang that will be competitive and won't cost you your life's savings in the process.

To illustrate this point, we found two examples of each philosophy. Each car was built on a similar budget, about $10,000, and both are extremely competitive and are challenging and satisfying cars for their owners to drive, yet they are still streetable. First up, the drag car.

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