Concept drawing of the S197 Mustang from the Ford's archives. Design chief J Mays called t
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.
This is the early prototype of the '05 redesign. Known as the Mustang Concept GT, it is a
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 YellowMustangRegistry.com.) 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
||90-deg. V-8, aluminum block
||90-deg. V-8, iron block
||3.55/3.54 inches (281 ci/4.6 liters)
||Aluminum, SOHC two valves/cylinder
||Aluminum, SOHC three valves/cylinder
||260 at 5,250 rpm
||300 at 6,000 rpm
||302 at 4,000 rpm
||315 at 4,500 rpm
|Weight distribution, F/R:
||14.0 sec. at 100.2 mph
||13.90 sec. at 104 mph
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.
Models and Variations
Base price: $19,570
Find one now for: $9,000-don't pay more than that
Pros: Lightest of all models-3,300-pound curb weight, thousands were made, inexpensive to buy now.
Cons: Engine swap will add to cost of build considerably.
Summary: Treat the purchase of a V-6 car as if you were buying a body in white and factor in the cost of an engine and transmission swap.
Base price: $26,900
Find one now for: $11,500-$15,000
Pros: Bulletproof drivetrain, not so special as to command high prices.
Cons: Weak brakes. This is your best option for a new project car. Find one with a decent body and get to work. 3,425-pound curb weight.
'06-'07 Shelby GT-H
Base price: Not sold to the public.
Find one now for: $30,000.
Pros: Lower ride height and a cool appearance package.
Cons: Rental only, only 500 made. Ford and Shelby struck a deal to offer the GT-H Mustang at a few Hertz locations, mostly in the warm weather states.
The cars came only in black with gold stripes, had a unique hood and grille, and were fitted with Ford Racing's Power Pack (cold-air intake, bigger throttle body, tuned ECM, after-cat exhaust) and the Handling Pack (1.5-inch lowering springs, special shocks and sway bars, 3.55:1 axle ratio). The GT-H only came with an automatic transmission. Hertz supposedly sold them off after their time in service was over.
'07-'08 Shelby GT
Base price: $35,000
Find one now for: Mid-$20K
Pros: All the goodness of the GT-H for sale to the general public; automatic and manual transmissions were offered.
Cons: Will always be more expensive to buy than a GT. You may not want to modify it once you own it.
The GT-H was so well received that a consumer version was made available to the public the following year. These cars were available with both automatic and manual transmissions. Engine mods upped the horsepower to 320.
Base price: $31,075
Find one now for: $20,000
Pros: Highland Green paint, cool badge and spoiler-delete, unique interior, lowered ride height, upgraded springs and shocks.
Cons: Limited production-about 10,700 made between '08 and '09.
Ford brought back the Bullitt in 2008. Like the Shelby GT, it got several engine and suspension upgrades from the Ford Racing catalog. The cars got 3.73:1 gears and more aggressive cam timing. This may be the best looking of the '05-'09 models.
Base price: $41,950
Find one now for: $35,000
Pros: Supercharged 5.4 and a TR-6061 transmission.
Cons: Expensive and heavy. Extra weight over front suspension creates more understeer.
The Shelby GT500 was introduced in 2007 as the top of the Mustang lineup. Making 500 hp, it was the most powerful Mustang built to that point. For the drag racer, huge horsepower is a supercharger swap away. Canyon carvers and road racers will need to put this beast on a serious diet-they weigh nearly 4,000 pounds.
Base price ('08): $79,995
Find one now for: Just as much if not more.
Pros: 540 hp, 3.73 gears, cool carbon-fiber hood, 11.92 at 120 mph at the dragstrip.
Cons: Way more money, still too heavy, used in Knight Rider remake.
KR (king of the road) Mustangs are GT500s specially modified to Shelby's specs. They were treated to a supercharger upgrade, as well as better brakes and suspension.
Base Price ('09): the cost of a GT500 plus $28,000
Find one now for: Don't even bother to look.
Pros: Ultraexclusive, 700 plus hp.
Cons: Ultraexpensive, destined to be a collector's car.
This is not exactly a factory car. To get a Super Snake, you had to first buy a GT500, then you had to send to Shelby (along with a substantial amount of ca$h). Your car was rebuilt at Shelby's facilities in Las Vegas with Baer six-piston caliper brakes with cooling ducts, Ford Racing adjustable shocks, headers and free-flowing exhaust, plus a raft of carbon-fiber body parts. The big story, though, was your choice of the supercharger upgrades: either a 600hp version or a 725hp one. Choosing the latter voided the factory warranty. Now that's cool.
'05 Ford Mustang GT
Rob Scinto and Melissa Popham
Simi Valley, CA
Rob and his wife, Melissa, bought this car the third week the 05's were out, and Ron proudly told us they were racing it before they made a single payment. Bone stock (and practically off the showroom floor), it ran 13.81 at 101 mph, but now he clicks off 12.20-second passes at 113 mph through the stock clutch and riding on the stock Pirelli all-season tires. Ron says he's chased down a few GT500s too, and you'd never know the car's been hopped up unless you see under the hood. Even cooler is the fact that his wife still drives the car every day. How do you shave a second-and-a-half off your e.t. and still retain everyday street manners? Ron shared his simple but effective recipe.
Forced induction is the most popular way Mustang owners pump up their Modular engines, and
According to Rob, the next crucial modification was changing the ring and pinion. He swapp
Last on Rob's must-have list is a stronger pair of rear trailing arms. He was experiencing
The rest of the chassis is stock. He doesn't have subframe connectors-he didn't feel the c
'08 Ford Mustang GT
BDX No. 10
Allan Crocket is a racer, a driving instructor for Redline Time Attack, and the guy behind the Barber Driving Experience. He works out of Barber Ford, a dealership in Ventura, and developed a unique package for Mustang buyers who wanted an emissions-compliant track-ready car straight off the lot. Crocket's goals were to build a car that could run with a Porsche Cayman S (the ultimate track day car for the road race guys) and cost half as much. He came close on both accounts. For a price of $11,000 plus the price of the car, the Barber Driving Experience (BDX) Mustangs will embarrass cars costing a lot more.
"The key is taking an integrated approach in building the car. Every change you make affects something else on the car," he tells us. Where drag racers build horsepower, road racers (and weekend canyon carvers) build cornering speed. What gets you through the corners faster? A better suspension, lighter weight, and better brakes, and Crocket recommends doing all three in that order. He says the S197 Mustangs are great cars to start with and are much better than the Fox-body and SN-95 cars. The chassis is a lot stiffer. He speaks with firsthand knowledge, too, being the owner of a track-only Fox.
This car is BDX No. 10 owned by Todd Anderson of Ventura, and yes, it is a dedicated race car. He added long-tube headers, racing seats, and a fire-suppression system. And while the ride is definitely firmer than stock, the car is still comfortable enough that Todd could drive it to work if he wanted to. If he were to complain about the commute, it would likely be because of the ear-splitting exhaust (it's really loud-110 dB at WOT!) rather than for getting beat up by the ride.
Lighter weight and better brakes are both illustrated in this picture. "The stock wheels weigh 31 pounds, and the Shelby [GT500] wheels weigh 34," Crocket says. These Konig Beyond wheels weigh 20. A Stoptech front brake kit also contributes to the weight loss regimen. Aluminum hats and calipers replace the heavy, cast-iron stock parts and combine to save 21 more pounds per side. They also work way better. Crocket says the stock front brakes were only good for about five hot laps on the track. The stock rear brakes are OK, so he leaves them alone.
The last source of weight savings came courtesy of an aluminum driveshaft. It weighs 22 pounds, compared with the stock one's portly 44 pounds. "In all I was able to save a total of 122 pounds of spinning mass versus a stock GT," Crocket says. That type of weight savings is free horsepower-the engine has to turn less mass to get the car moving.
So what's all this cost? Less than we were expecting, actually. The wheels sell for about $200 each, the brake kit costs $2,995, and the suspension kit costs nearly the same at $2,195. Also be sure to factor in about $550 for an aluminum driveshaft and about that much more for a set of performance tires. Note that the transmission tunnel will need some clearancing to make the driveshaft fit.
Crocket stressed to us the need for adjustability in the suspension, "Track conditions are constantly changing, and the driver needs to be able to adjust his car accordingly." To that end, the components he selected for the BDX cars all have some measure of adjustability. The spring and shock package is from KW Coilovers. The dampers can be tuned for rebound and compression, while the car's ride height is adjustable via a threaded collar under the springs. The sway bars can be tuned to offer more or less roll resistance based on the length of the bar. Three holes are located at the ends of the bars (not seen in this photo). The roll resistance changes depending on which of the three holes are used to attach the bar to the control arms. The Steeda Panhard bar is also adjustable. If the ride height is raised or lowered, the length of the Panhard bar needs to be adjusted to compensate, but the stock bar is not adjustable, and this throws the rear out of true with the front suspension. You need an adjustable Panhard bar if your car is lowered. Similarly, Crocket chose a Steeda adjustable upper control arm that allows the pinion angle to be changed. "Higher road speeds don't like too much negative pinion angle," he says. The lower control arms are stock, front and rear.
Build Your Own
It was our intention to illustrate two things with this article: that the S197 Mustang is an excellent plat-form to build on, and that a few well-chosen modifications can give you competition-spanking performance on a relatively modest budget. Our $10,000 build examples may seem steep, but put that cost into perspective. Spread out over five years, Rob and Melissa's Vortech-supercharged '05 is a very affordable build. Plus, she gets to drive it during the week, and the two of them race it on the weekends. Their car has many years of life left in it, too. Mod motors will easily run over 200,000 miles as long as the owner sticks to the maintenance schedule.
Similarly, when buying a track car, one might question the wisdom of putting $10,000 worth of brake and suspension parts on a Mustang, just so you can hang with a Porsche in the corners. Why not just buy the Porsche? Factor in all the other costs of owning and operating the two cars-from maintenance items (like filters, plugs, and tires) to insurance premiums-and the Mustang is the clear winner. Projected out over several years, Allan's BDX Mustangs will cost their owners far less than half the cost of the Porsche. Plus the Mustang is a lot easier to work on.
In our opinion, the S197 Mustangs represent the best of the breed. They are well built, versatile, and fun cars-truly a blank canvas waiting for you to create your masterpiece. We're already logged on to eBay, what are you waiting for?
1075 North Avenue
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1650 Pacific Avenue
Ford Racing Performance Parts
15021 Commerce Drive S
2900 E. La Jolla
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Redline Time Attack