April 17th, 1999. Call it serendipity, synchronicity, or just plain dumb luck. It's a perfect, bright, sunny spring day, and I'm driving a new Mustang GT. It's the most appropriate car for this day, not because of the weather but because the Mustang is 35 years old today. Happy Birthday!
When the Mustang made its debut on April 17, 1964, it was a new type of car for the American automotive market. Although little changed from a Ford Falcon underneath, the two-door Mustang had European-influenced long hood/short rear deck style and a sporty flair unheard of in American cars of the day. The first V8-powered versions hit the streets a few months later, and made good on the performance promised by the looks. Competitors soon followed, but the class was known by the name of its leader: "pony cars." The Mustang also gained a following that few other cars have matched.
The Mustang's 35 years haven't all been easy, but it has survived and prospered. 1999 looks to be a vintage year. As previously, V6 base-model, V8 GT, and high-performance SVT V8 Cobra models are offered in coupe and convertible body styles. Too say all have important changes is serious understatement. All have been restyled, with a more defined "New Edge" look. The V6 and V8 engines have more power, and the chassis structure has been stiffened to handle it. The high-performance SVT Cobra has independent rear suspension for improved handling, a segment first.
A week with a new Mustang GT showed it to have plenty of all-American V8 character and attitude in an easy-to-live-with package. It's comfortable for two, with room for occasional rear passengers. If it isn't the fastest Mustang ever, it's not exactly slow. It is a well-balanced, thoroughly enjoyable car with an attractive price. The Mustang GT is no weekend toy.
APPEARANCE: Something old, something new...Ford's stylists have done a great job on the 1999 Mustang. Although the size and long hood-short rear deck proportions are the same, the rounded lines of the 1994 through '98 car have been replaced by angular "New Edge" styling that echoes the knife-edged look of the original 1964 Mustang. The new hood and side scoops and chromed "pony in the corral" also pay homage to the original Mustang, as do the triple vertical taillight lenses. The new Mustang looks considerably better in the flesh than in photos, and is one of the few cars on which the rear spoiler does not spoil the looks. All 1999 Mustangs have special "35th Anniversary" emblems on their flanks.
COMFORT: There are some useful improvements to the 1999 Mustang's interior. A longer seat track and 6-way instead of 4-way optional power-adjustment of the driver's seat add comfort, especially for taller drivers. The basic layout is unchanged, but trim and seating materials are new. The Mustang's interior styling is handsome and functional. Instruments are easily read, and controls simple to use. Supportive bucket seats (with special anniversary trim), a thick- rimmed, leather-trimmed, tilt-adjustable steering wheel, and a well- placed shift knob add to driving control and pleasure. The Mustang is a sports coupe, not a family sedan. The rear seat is best used by people under five and a half feet tall, and for short distances, but the seatback folds 50/50 to add capacity to the usefully-large trunk.
SAFETY: Four-wheel disc brakes with optional antilock and available all-speed traction control are among the safety features of the 1999 Ford Mustang.
ROADABILITY: Improvements to the chassis and suspension travel have helped the Mustang's handling. It is also quieter this year, and has a reduced turning circle for better real-world maneuverability. Available traction control can help keep it in line in slippery conditions. Although the base Mustang and GT have a solid axle in the rear, that axle is mounted and controlled well. Axle tramp is minimal, and the Mustang GT is one of the best-handling solid-axle cars available. The suspension calibration is firm, but not harsh. The Mustang GT is an easy car to live with on a daily basis.
PERFORMANCE: All Mustang engines get more power this year. The 3.8-liter V6 gets 40 additional horsepower, and the 4.6-liter single overhead cam V8 has an increase of 35 for 260 hp. Even the Cobra gets an extra 11, for 316. Those extra ponies make themselves felt, but not in the manner of the old 5.0-liter pushrod engine. The GT's SOHC V8 makes more sound than fury below 3500 rpm. Above that, however, it gets very healthy, with little fade at redline. It makes beautiful V8 music, too - sounds like an in-car soundtrack from Mark Martin's car during a NASCAR race. The 5-speed transmission has a fast, short-throw shift linkage and good selection of ratios. Fifth gear is a fuel-economy overdrive, with 2000 rpm showing on the tach at 70 mph.
CONCLUSIONS: The Ford Mustang has survived and prospered. The 1999 GT is no relic from the past. It combines muscular performance, handling, and looks with modern efficiency.
SPECIFICATIONS Base Price $ 20,870 Price As Tested $ 23,665 Engine Type V8, single overhead cam, 16 valves Engine Size 4.6 liters / 280 cu. in. Horsepower 260 @ 5250 Torque (lb-ft) 302 @ 4000 Transmission 5 speed manual Wheelbase / Length 103.1 in. / 183.2 in. Curb Weight 3242 lbs. Pounds Per Horsepower 12.5 Fuel Capacity 15.7 gal. Fuel Requirement unleaded regular Tires P245/45 ZR17 Goodyear Eagle ZR45 Brakes, front/rear vented disc / solid disc, antilock optional Suspension, front/rear independent modified MacPherson strut / 4-bar link solid axle Drivetrain front engine, rear-wheel drive PERFORMANCE EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon city / highway / observed 17 / 24 / 20 0 to 60 mph 5.5 sec 1/4 mile (E.T.) 14.1 sec OPTIONS AND CHARGES All-speed traction control $ 230 MACH 460 AM/FM/cassette audio system $ 395 17-inch forged aluminum wheels $ 500 Dual illuminated visor mirrors $ 95 Leather bucket seats $ 500 Convenience group - includes: front floor mats, power driver's seat, speed control, rear window defroster $ 550 Destination charge $ 525