2001 Ford Mustang GT
2001 Ford Mustang GT. Click image to enlarge

By Jeremy Cato

Ford gave its Mustang muscle car a significant upgrade for 1999, although it wasn’t a complete and thorough makeover. That comes for the 2005 model year.

For now, it seems appropriate to look back at the last package of significant improvements Ford made to its famous Pony car. (Let the record show that prior to 1999, Ford gave the Mustang a significant makeover for 1994).

Okay, then. The 1999 Mustang was given a faster launch off the line and both the V6 and V8 versions were made more muscular. Handling was improved slightly, stops were made quicker and the overall ride quality made more comfortable. The stylists gave this version of the Mustang a sharper edge – something then called New Edge styling.

The evolutionary changes for ’99 make it a better used choice than a ’98-or-older car. The quality has been quite decent. But that should be expected. The Mustang’s basic rear-drive architecture has remained unchanged for decades, dating back to the Ford Fairmont.

On the downside, the ’99 car’s cabin still sports tiny and very dated radio controls that are hard to operate, along with instruments that are small enough to strain 20-20 vision if the lighting is bad. The bucket seats lack sideways support, too.

The ’99 car’s looks are aggressive, with plenty of creases, side scoops, sharp body character lines and larger taillights compared to the ’98 car. On a more practical vein, the ’99 car has a wider track (36 mm or 1.4 in.) and the designers teamed with engineers to make the whole package slightly lower.

All three engine choices were beefed up, too. The basic 3.8-litre Mustang V6 had 190 horsepower in ’99 and is rated at 193 horsepower today (versus 150 in the ’98 car). Ford’s engineers devised an all-new intake system to squeeze out the extra 40 horsepower. (You might be interested to know the standard six-cylinder engine in the 1964 Mustang had a rating of 101 horsepower)

Mustangs with the 4.6-litre V8 jumped 35 horsepower to 260 from 225, where the horsepower rating remains today. New intake valves, new camshafts and a new ignition system with individual coils firing each spark accounted for the energy boost. Ford’s engineers played with the gearing, however, to give their Mustang lots of giddy-up. Of course, Ford also has produced various special versions of the Mustang. The 2001 Mustang SVT Cobra is rated at 320 horsepower and the recent Mach 1 has 305 horsepower.

Ford’s engineers, working on a relatively tight budget, improved the ’99 car’s ride comfort and overall ease of control, as well as making the steering quicker. Small but important suspension refinements made the car’s manners more predictable and forgiving in aggressive, emergency-like manoeuvres. To make the parking lot shuffle easier, the engineers took about one metre out of the turning radius of the new car.

If you’re looking at an older Mustang, something from 1999 or 2000 is a pretty good value. Yes, there have been a few service issues and safety recalls, but if the car checks out with your mechanic, you’d be hard pressed to find more fun for the buck.

Used vehicle prices vary depending on factors such as general condition, odometer reading, usage history and options fitted. Always have a used vehicle checked by an experienced auto technician before you buy.

For information on recalls, see Transport Canada’s web-site, www.tc.gc.ca, or the U.S. National Highway Transportation Administration (NHTSA)web-site, www.nhtsa.dot.gov.

For information on vehicle service bulletins issued by the manufacturer, visit www.nhtsa.dot.gov.

For information on consumer complaints about specific models, see www.lemonaidcars.com.

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