The Ford Mustang will always be an American icon. With a reputation for being fast, stylish and affordable, the Mustang is the embodiment of the American dream in many respects. Although the retro-inspired looks of the current generation Mustang attempt to relive the car’s glory days, the 1999-2004 models had styling that took the Mustang into the 21st Century and performance that put it back on top of the pony car hill. In this guide we’ll point out important things to look for when shopping for a used 1999-2004 Ford Mustang.
The first thing you must do is determine what model year and trim level you want. The Mustang was available as either a coupe or convertible and had several trim levels throughout the years, including the standard V6 model, GT and Cobra. In addition, there were many special edition models like the 35th anniversary GT, Bullitt, Mach 1 and the coveted Cobra R. The standard 3.8-liter V6 models made 190-193 horsepower and were equipped with both manual and automatic transmissions. Horsepower was dramatically increased for 1999-2004 GTs with 260 horsepower compared to 225 horsepower for the 1998 model. Cobras from 1999-2001 had 320 horsepower, while the 2003-2004 Cobras (appropriately dubbed the “Terminators”) had an incredible 390 horsepower thanks to their Eaton superchargers and air-to-water intercoolers. All 1999-2004 Cobras had independent rear suspensions, giving them better handling capabilities over other Mustangs of this generation.
There was a recall for 1999 Cobras to fix the lower-than-advertised horsepower output. If you’re looking at a ’99 Cobra and this recall has been done, then you shouldn’t have anything to worry about. The safer bet though is to hold out for a 2001 Cobra which will definitely have the advertised 320 horsepower.
The SOHC 4.6-liter V8s in the Mustang GTs had a flaw in the intake manifold design which made them prone to cracking over time. Apparently, Ford has been inconsistent about reimbursing owners who’ve experienced this problem. Be sure to thoroughly check the service history of any GT as well as inspect the manifold itself.
If you’re looking for a late model Cobra (2003-2004), try to get as much information about the car from the seller as possible. Find out what weight of motor oil they used. These cars require a very thin grade of oil for the tight clearances of the engine. A car that’s used 0W-30 or 5W-30 all its life will likely be in good shape internally. If the seller has done any dyno-tuning, see if they have data regarding the air-fuel mixture. A lean condition can be potentially dangerous for these cars and should be addressed immediately by the seller before you purchase.
By following these tips, you’ll be able to pick out for yourself the very best of this great installment of the Mustang legacy.