Machine Design

2005 Ford Mustang GT

It's hard to impress upon younger generations what an impact the Mustang had when first introduced in 1964.

It was out of the ordinary and cool. There was nothing like it on the road. Most every high-school kid wanted one. I bought mine after leaving the U.S. Air Force in 1969. My father welcomed me home with the offer to pay for half the cost of new car. We looked around a bit and found a used candy-apple red 1966 Mustang with an I-6-cylinder engine and threeonthe floor for $1,200. What a great car to jump back into civilian life with.

The 2005 Mustang stirred those fond memories because it looks so much like it's granddaddy. And it still conjures dreams and draws a crowd. As I was packing the car for a weekend drive, five boys 7 to 13 years old from the neighborhood came over to ogle it. "Is that yours? How much horsepower does it have? How fast will it go? Can you pop the hood?" They wouldn't quit and they loved It. Of the dozens of test-drive cars I've brought home, no other has gotten such a reception. So I asked them, "If this car did not have that nameplate on the side, would you know it's a Mustang?" All heads nodded.

For extra coolness, the GT was a convertible. One switch puts the top up or down. Later that day, we pulled into a gas station and another wide-eyed kid shouted from his dad's truck, "You got a V8 in that?" He ignored the BMW convertible that came in shortly thereafter. Other cars just disappear when the GT convertible is around.

Of course there are few upgrades since the original. The GT has a 4.6-liter V8 with three-valves-per cylinder, and variable cam timing. It pumps out 300 hp. That's more than 1 hp/in. 3 A timing adjuster allows up to 50° of cam variation in relation to the crankshaft angle. Ford engineers say a coil-on-plug ignition with center-mounted sparkplugs help combustion by producing a symmetrical flame. The engine uses an aluminum block and head to cut 75 lb off equivalent cast-iron designs, and liquid-filled engine mounts quell unwanted vibration.

The result is an engine that rumbles beautifully. The perfect throb and roar. In second gear it begs, it really begs you to hit the gas and let it loose. On a couple occasions I did let it run, and what a ride. There is no hint of uncertainty anywhere. Over bumps, there is still traction. In turns, it goes exactly where you point it.

Although the rear axle is solid, it's a rather complex assembly that includes a stabilizer bar, and a Panhard rod for side-to-side axle control in cornering, steering, and stability. An upper control arm on the differential limits axle wind up. The GT brakes use 12.4 disc rotors in the front with twin piston calipers and 11.8-in.-diameter discs on the rear. The interior, like the exterior, looks like a Mustang modern and comfortable with styling cues from past models. The trim is real aluminum, not plastic. One curious feature is a color configurable instrument cluster. It lets driver choose from six or seven basic colors or customize the lighting into one of 125 possible shades. The back seat is also just like the original cramped. It's only fit for kids and those willing to sit sideways.

A hydraulic clutch helps smoothly engage the 315 lb-ft of torque (max) and throws on the five-speed shift lever are short and precise. There is so much torque, in fact, we slowed at times to 35 mph in fifth gear yet accelerated back to highways speed without downshifting or complaints from the engine.

But would I buy one? Yes. Probably the hardtop with a V6 (19/25 mpg with the five speed). Although it's a blast to drive, the V8 GT is EPA rated for 17/25 mpg, actually not bad considering the performance. The base GT convertible is $30,550. Options such as Shaker 1000 audio system, active antitheft system, and front-seat side air bags, push the list price to $33,905.

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