The cars we loved.
The 1993 Mustang represented the end of the line for the popular Fox based platform car that debuted in late 1978 as a 79 model. 1994 marked the 30th anniversary of the Mustang and what better way to mark the occasion than with an all new car. Although new, more than 500 components from the old car carried over. Unseen items like the floor pan were carried over, but nearly everything else visible was new. The Mustang design Team was said to be holed up in an old abandoned Montgomery Ward warehouse south of Dearborn Michigan for three years, working on the successor to America’s most popular pony car. In some ways, the guys over at Chevy beat them to the punch by a year when they managed to let their next generation pony car out the gate first. The year wait was worth the difference, as the Mustang was more modern than the Camaro and arguably as much fun. It certainly was less controversial looking.
The look had been carefully focus grouped and a design was chosen that was firmly in the middle of a trio of proposals ranging from all out aggressive brute to a softer themed car. In a further attempt to connect with Mustangs of the past the new car’s aerodynamic styling took cues from 60’s era cars like the scalloped sides and three slant tail light lenses. The link to the 60’s continued inside with twin pod like dash styling wrapping around a spartan but modern interior. Ford worked with Mustang car clubs to roll out a campaign that linked the two era Mustangs together with the advertising tagline: “It is what it was”.
The model lineup became simplified, while the options list grew significantly. The 94 Mustang was offered in either convertible or coupe, with a small trunk. The hatchback had become a thing of the past. Base Mustangs no longer used the small 4 cylinder engines of previous cars. Now with a 145 hp 3.8L V6, owning a base LX Mustang was not as embarrassing as it once was (but could be dusted by Ford’s own Probe GT). The V8 5.0 liter carried on, but was good for 215 hp. Thanks to tighter emissions controls, the 94 GT had less power than the 93, but still kept 0 to 60 times in the mid six second range. Unlike the previous generation car, no sleeper versions of the LX with GT power were ever introduced from the factory. With its big wheel wells able to support something much larger, the standard 15′ wheels looked too small on the base and LX cars, making them look cheap and weak. Base cars were often dressed up by dealers with decals and rear spoilers in an effort to pad the profits, but these add-on did nothing to improve performance (or often looks).
V8s were exclusive to the GT model with its 16 in wheels and dual exhaust. In a nod to the Probe, the standard GT wheels were a three spoke design similar to those on the almost Mustang replacement. GT buyers had the option of moving up to more aggressive looking 17 in wheels and for the first time ever, all Mustangs came standard with four-wheel disc brakes all around. The 94-96 Cobra models offered more power and were the most attractive yet, with distinctive round fog lights and standard 17’ wheels.
The redesign was a success. Sales of the 94 were very good but nowhere near the 65 models, but Ford managed to sell more than 123,000 units. That was better than the Camaro, so that was all that mattered. The V6 Mustang coupe became the most popular version. With many of the body flex problems and crudeness of the third generation car fix, the Mustang was poised to go head to head with the Camaro/Firebird in the modern pony car wars of the 90’s and beyond. Today the Mustang is the longest running continuously produced pony car and judging by sales numbers is no doubt still Americas favorite, even in the wake of reborn Camaros and Challengers.
The last of the Fox platform Mustangs are still quite common and represent a good value as a cheap, easy to maintain and fun to drive car. The 94 through 96 models represent the original “new” design with 97 to 2003 cars representing the less attractive squared angular look. These cars are not as polished or refined as some of the Japanese competition, but Mustangs (and all American pony cars for that matter) were in a class by themselves anyway.