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Ford Mustangs

Ford Mustangs Published: 13th Nov 2018 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Ford Mustangs
Ford Mustangs
Ford Mustangs
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Why not own a...? Ford Mustang

We bet that even those who hate American cars make exceptions for the Mustang.The original Pony car, it remains the fastest selling car of all time the car and was a landmark in marketing slickness because essentially all it was a re-bodied Ford Falcon saloon (hardly the most advanced car of its time) that even led to our own Capri. Still used in many of today’s TV adverts to promote just about anything, what made the Mustang (and so the Capri) so popular was that there was a model to suit everybody either side of the pond where its restrained tasteful appearance and nature has made it the only Yank Tank many UK buyers would even remotely contemplate. Including you?

Model choice

There’s been six generations and 10 million made and while, for most, it’s the original 1964-74 that holds all the appeal, all have their merits. The first generation is wanted for its purity of style although as these cars are now some 45 years old most don’t drive as their looks and legend (Cobra excepted) suggests, but all can be improved easily.

Engine options ranged from a straight-six to V8’s of 289ci (the solid-lifter High Performance K-motor) up to a 390ci. Changes weren’t many.

The GT and Shelby Cobra (GT350) arrived in the mid 60s while a slight re-skin for the fastback gave it a fresher face for ’67.

Cars with the 289ci Hi-Po motor with manual shift and GT package are among the most sought after. The 1967-1968 Fastbacks with 390ci motors are also highly rated. A few cars sported 427ci power. There’ s an excellent choice with convertible, coupé and fastback body styles to choose from so take your pick. Perhaps the most practical thing about owning a 1964-1968 Mustang is that it’s a compact and will fit in your garage, unlike many other period Yanks although last of the line cars became a bit podgy.

The replacement was without doubt a let down. Mustang II emerged as a ‘compact’ once more, and almost unbelievably for sporting types a V8 didn’t bolster to 2.3 Pinto ‘four’ range until 1975. The King Cobra of 1978 jazzed things up a tad with body decals, stripes, spoilers, scoops, Rallye handling package, alloy wheels and raised white letter tyres, but it was more of a cosmetic exercise, rather than performance. Mustang IIs are without question, the least collectable, but definitely the most affordable.

The third stab at the Mustang in 1979 was based upon what’s known as the Fox platform which spawned many other desirables from the likes of Lincoln and Mercury, the latter even marketing a ‘Capri’. The Fox-bodied Mustang was based upon a 100.4in wheelbase and the availability of a 140bhp 2.3 turbo (again Pinto derived) engine. To cater for the new TRX Michelin radials specified, Ford devised a dedicated TRX suspension package to suit and for 1980, a 302 Cobra GT with a 165bhp V6 was offered. The range ran up to 1993 by which time the wick had been turned up to over 225bhp. All are vastly better cars than the II.

SVO was an upmarket offshoot that ran from 1984-86 to compete in the US against the likes of Porsche 944s. The Pinto engine kicked out between 175-205bhp and the car was retuned all round with a five-speed gearbox, all round discs and Koni damping – an impressive spec sheet and rare too as less than 10,000 were sold. It says much about the integrity and design of the basic Fox platform, that it was effectively retained and lived on with the introduction of the fourth generation car (SN95) in 1994, albeit vastly uprated, which saw some pleasing styling and pace, especially the Cobra R, even with only 250 built with a 351ci 5.8-litre 300bhp motor. In 1999 there was a 35th Anniversary model with revised styling and special badging and so on.

This Mustang performed and handled as good as it looked and was powered by a 282ci V8. You see a fair number of these in the UK and they make good bets and by far the best of the Fox family. Ford went almost full circle when it launched the fith family of Mustangs a decade ago, going back to its roots for that classic style although the mechanical layout was mostly new, featuring V6 or V8 engines plus a Tremec gearbox for the sportier models. The iconic Shelby name made welcome return in 2006, too. The Mk5 could be your ideal Mustang as it combines those great retro looks with modern day performance and conveniences. Given the original’s cult status Ford got it spot on with this car and, apart from the Mk6, it’s the fastest and best handling Mustang yet. The Shelby GT-H, a modern day version of the GT350 Hertz Rent-a-Racer re-emerged, with a limited edition of 500 cars distributed to Hertz rental locations. In 2007 the Shelby GT and GT500 returned with 4.6-litre 310bhp and 5.4 500bhp supercharged engines respectively. Other Mustang ‘specials’ included the Shelby GT500KR “King of the Road”, and the iconic Bullitt model returned with a limited edition run of 7700 cars.
As you can see, there’s a model for everybody so it’s best is sift through the permutations before first deciding – we’d speak to a Mustang expert as a first port of call but the rule is the later the car, the more modern they feel – our choice, apart from the original is a Mk5.

Behind the wheel

The later the car the better of course but it depends what you want to use your Mustang for. Yes, in standard spec, the handling, across the board, is softer than European drivers expect and only recently with the Mk6 has the Mustang sported a rear coil sprung suspension – you can say that Mustangs feel Cortina or Capri like in this respect. Likewise, the brakes are nothing special with drum brakes featuring on many original versions, easily converted to discs if you desire. As a drivers’ car only real strides were wrought by the Mk5 but this doesn’t detract from the Mustang experience as a whole.

Almost 75 per cent of the original cars were fitted with V8 engines and a lot more have been so converted but as one UK specialist once put it to us: “When you’re doing 70 in top, does it matter what gearbox you have?”, the implication being you don’t automatically need a mighty V8; ditto three-speeds manual or an automatic. Indeed, the wide ratios employed (as you’d find in say a Mk2 Zodiac) here means that second is like having an auto when you feel like it.

In fact, their novelty and rarity may come to fore as the years roll on. Besides only the initial V8s were the power houses because subsequent emission controls saps performance on all; even so, as an example, a 289ci V8 is only on par with a Capri 2.8 injection the straight six 2.8 (101bhp) similar to a Mk3 Zodiac in terms of thrust. Again, it’s best to speak to a Mustang specialist and try as many as you can but we can tell you that the Fox chassis is superior to the earlier type and that new Mk6, while not in BMW territory, is a whole lot more fun to own than the German!

Much roomier than a Capri, Mustangs can be well equipped for their respective era (some rare Mk1 could even sport a bench front seat!) and are fairly comfortable – just ripe for some cruising. Incidentally air conditioning was available soon after launch and Ford did market RHD cars for a couple of years.

Making one better

Surfing the associated websites will give you a much better idea of what can be done, chiefly to the Mk1 and Mk5. Rack-and-pinion steering is becoming more the done thing, as it improves the ship-at-sea tiller – but costs some £2000. More modern brakes are available, while the simple suspension (a known wear point) can be stiffened by using uprated springs and dampers and a thicker front anti roll bar.

Actually, this spec apes the Special Handling Package option which was offered when new. Adding an export brace will improve handling corners, and fitting a booster to drum brake (preferably along with better linings) cars will vastly improve braking without a need to go discs if you don’t intend to emulate Bullitt.

V8, has great potential, starting with ported and polished cylinder heads; with the right mods it’s possible to extract over 400bhp. Tuning gear for the ‘six’ limited although, for ’65, the engine was boosted to some 120bhp and Ford Australia built 250ci sixes with a crossflow head (from 1976) and variable valve timing for local built cars; so consider this route. If you want a V8, buy one as you won’t make a six as good without a lot of detail work.

Two good mods for any Mustang are electronic ignition and an uprated radiator. Interestingly, although the car looks made for big boots, it’s generally accepted that there’s little to gain going wider or lower than normal 195 x 14. Installing a five-speeder is popular using ’box from later 1983-95 generation. Fitting is simple, using readily available parts from specialists. Kits are also marketed in the US to use Renault and Audi transmissions. A kit is also available to drop in an automatic overdrive gearbox (AOD), prices start around £2000.

Maintenance matters

Mustangs are as easy to keep as MGBs and parts supply is brilliant in the US where new shells are also available and support in the UK is very good too. Mechanically, it’s as simple as a Zodiac but tougher although there are more electronic and things on the MkIVs onwards. There’s no shortage of Mustangs on sale and although it’s tempting to look at to Stateside buy, for lower prices, shipping and importing have to be dialled in. And don’t think that all Mustangs originate from ‘Dry States’ either… In terms of condition, the collectablity of Mk1s means that they have been looked after better, unlike most later versions it seems.

The car’s timeline

1964

Launched, based upon the Falcon floorpan with a choice of body styles, trims and engines

1965

Fastback arrives, alternators became standard, the straight six and V8 engines were up-gunned, but biggest news was the introduction of the Shelby cars

1967

Biggest change yet – Mustang grows by two inches, three inches wider as it takes its structure now from the Fairlane. Cobra range was bolstered by the awesome and now coveted 355bhp 428ci GT500

1968

A full fat 390bhp 427ci (seven litres!) tune came on stream. Carol Shelby then launches the GT500KR, standing for ‘King of the Road’

1969

Another restyle put on weight but Boss 302 with 400bhp compensated

1971

Line up saw the car a lot bigger and over 500lb heavier than the original

1973

Mustang II launched, smaller more economy related with Pinto four pot power

1975-77

V8 returns at last, Cobra II launched and Corvette-style T top offered

1979

Mustang III launched with superior Fox-chassis. Choice of Turbo four or 4.2V8 power

1982

Mustang GT with 5-litre V8 goes on sale

1984

Performance SVO offshoot launched along with the Cobra for ’93

1994

S-95 (Fox 4) replacement with new engines, facelifted in ’96

2005

S195 (MkIV) see trad look but new engines and front suspension. Mighty Mustang is 5.8 V8 650+bhp GT500; Bullitt GT for ’08

What to pay…

Cheapest is the II where a few grand suffices but values rising for nice ones or Cobras; ‘S95’ cars are seen on sale in the UK from £6000 depending upon spec while Mk5s can be had for a bit more but under 10K for ordinary models – double this for rarities. A good Mk1 should be attainable for £18K but the very best versions £30K plus, especially roadsters and fastbacks. Five figures for a Shelby if it’s an honest one

Here’s six of the best reasons to buy one

  • A living legend
  • Wide model choice
  • As easy to ownb as our MGB
  • Still in production
  • Can be good value
  • Owner satisfaction

Buying Tips

MGB like to vet or fix but watch for old nags

Check out the Mustang Owners’ Club of Great Britain (www. mocgb.net) who has been supporting the car for almost 40 years and can be found at events nationwide and are invaluable for help, especially verifying the exact model yours purports to be…

Rust can be bad on all (check body regularly) particularly in the rear footwells, sills, chassis legs, boot floor door bottoms – poor past repairs will rust quicker. On convertibles, the sills provide much of the car’s strength. Carry out a bucket of water test on bulkhead by ’screen; can cost £3000 to put right and it maybe wise to find a better car.

However, Ford had made good steps forward for the Mk3, so it wasn’t such a big problem on the Fox-bodied cars as it was on the Mustang II. All the same, look thoroughly.

Engines and transmissions enjoy good longevity and easy to repair, though it’s best to avoid the early problematic 2.3 turbo cars (Mk3). The central fuel injection system on early cars was not as efficient as the later multi-point system which was coupled with a better engine management system.

On Mk1s overheating, especially V8 is common; uprated radiators help so budget around £300 for an aluminium item but blocks can also silt up – plus check rad shroud is still fitted; left out on converted ‘sixes’. Straight six can display rocker shaft rattles and general engine repairs can cost a third dearer than the V8, which can be rebuilt for around £500.

Steering box can be adjusted to remove some slack. Idler and various ball joints also wear out. Otherwise it’s just normal wear and tear, new leaf springs bring huge improvement.

Trim for Mk1s plentiful, although quality varies. New seat covers cost from just £300, dash tops a fraction more, carpets a couple of hundred and a full resto kit for around £700. On later versions where velour ruled, deterioration can be costly and possibly uneconomic on cheap buys.

 

 



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