Ford Mustang: Does Ford Really Have a Better Idea?Posted 3/2/2009
By Craig Van Batenburg, AAM
I remember going to a Ford dealership with my dad - a Ford man - in 1964 to see the new Mustang. I was a teenager at the time. It was magical; that car was just plain cool. That was more than 40 years ago, and it is still a very trendy car. Ford created a new segment called the pony car. It was affordable and got great gas mileage - if you bought the in-line six-cylinder, which offered just a bit more than 100 hp. What a car!
I owned a ragtop 1987 Mustang for a short time. It was traded in at my used car lot (part of Van Batenburg's Garage from 1977 to 2004), and I remember it as an unsophisticated brute. Everything about it was only OK as it accelerated, turned corners, braked and went about its business of hauling me around. The frame was very flexible. After the newness of a convertible and the marque of a Mustang wore off, I was happy to see it go. My romance was short-lived. I will not let the fact that my father was strictly a Ford man influence my evaluation of the Mustang I owned 10 years ago.
This year, we continue our series on redesigned cars, trucks, vans and SUVs. Ford will now go under the technician microscope as I compare the 2004 3.8 liter Mustang to the 2009 4.0 to see if it is easier to service or a step back in time.
2004 Mustang 3.8
Let's set the stage by looking back at the 2004 Ford Mustang 3.8L. It was a best seller - as it was affordable - and with a V-6 it was not as thirsty as the V-8's bigger brother. Using a multi-point injection fuel system and a 15.7- gallon fuel tank, its fuel economy (according to the old Environmental Protection Agency formula) was 29 mpg highway and 20 mpg city. Most likely it really got 24 and 16. Power was rated at 144 kW or 193 hp SAE at 5,500 rpm and 225 pound feet of torque or 305 Nm at 2,800 rpm. These are respectable numbers but also achievable with a 2.4 four cylinder if equipped with more valves, overhead cams and direct injection. Remember: Fewer cylinders equals better miles per gallon.
As time went on, the newer Mustangs looked even more like the original. Prior to the redesigned Mustang's launch, a concept called the Mustang Mach III was unveiled at the 1993 Detroit International Auto Show and hinted at what the new Mustang might look like. The production Mustang resembled the Mach III concept with its sweeping curves, though the production car's styling wasn't as radical.
Interestingly, I wrote this article while I was in the Motor City in January attending the Auto Show. You would never know how bad things were at Ford as their display unveiled the new Fusion hybrid and other fuel-efficient vehicles. Looking back is good for history's lessons but not for what technology to use.
Problems with the 2004 Model
Ford has two technical service bulletins (TSBs) about the 2004 Mustang steering wheel. More bulletins were issued for creaks, leaks (both A/C and exhaust) and gear crunching. All four recalls had to do with parts that don't fit correctly or, in the case of headlights, reflectors missing.
According to Identifix, among problems that have been discovered since 2004 is a refueling issue. The nozzle may click off repeatedly or the tank may be slow to fill on some early-built 2005 cars, and is corrected with a revised fuel tank. Noise from the rear suspension on some 2005 to 2006 Mustangs in really cold weather (below 15 degrees F) requires revised shock absorbers. The limited slip differential in M/Y 2004 may chatter on slow turns, for which there are improved clutch packs. A whining or humming from the rear of a 2005 or 2006 when accelerating, decelerating or cruising with either the 7.5-inch or 8.8-inch ring gear is corrected with a
2009 Mustang 4.0
The 2009 Mustang is available as a coupe or convertible. The Mustang V-6 is the most popular model but the Mustang GT is why the Mustang is a legend.
Front side airbags come standard on all Mustangs, and high-intensity discharge headlights and interior ambient lighting are newly available.
Even though it is a true "retro" in looks, the Mustang is a thoroughly modern car. Redesigned for M/Y 2005, the current Mustangs are faster and cleaner than any past Mustangs. They are also smoother and quieter and better built than older models. The Ford Mustang is an American icon. It holds true to an ideal that cars can be fun and affordable and appeal to people of all ages.
As is common on some other Ford models, there is no transmission dipstick to check the automatic transmission fluid level. One must use a fluid adapter fill tool (Ford P/N 307-437) and a transporter/evacuator (Ford P/N 307-D465) to service these automatics or at least check the automatic's fluid level. According to Steve Ferron, a
There is only one recall - NHTSA Campaign No. 08V082000 - and it is sexist in nature. It states that during an airbag deployment, if a small "female" in the front passenger seat is not wearing the safety belt and has the seat in the full forward position, there may be an increased potential for a neck injury. I added the quotation marks. How did this get through our politically correct system? I have male friends smaller than me (it says 5 feet 5 inches tall on my driver's license, but I know I am at least 5 feet 6 inches tall). Good thing they are watching out for small people.
The wheelbase is six inches longer than the previous generation (pre-2005), and that makes a difference in terms of ride quality. The rear suspension uses coil springs and a lightweight three-link design with a Panhard bar to keep all motion under control. If you have ever driven an older Mustang on bumpy roads, this new setup does a good job of controlling skipping and bouncing at the back of the car.
The 4.0-liter V-6 engine is a solid performer. The five-speed automatic's gear ratios seem well matched to the available torque. When the automatic gets into overdrive fifth gear, the engine goes quietly into economy
Those are the 2009 fuel economy estimates - using the EPA's new, more realistic testing methods - resulting in numbers much lower than the old EPA calculations, although no changes have been made to the vehicles.
Jim Cravens from Atchinson Ford in Belleville, Mich., helped with the fact-finding part of this article.
To summarize these two models, in some ways they are still technically behind with push rods and ignition wires, but it still has a $20 fuel filter you can replace easily. Access is good overall. Most techs I spoke to said, "They are relatively easy to work on."
2009 Mustang's Ups - Quality is good; owners like their cars. Very few TSBs on this car. Still has an external fuel filter. Easy to service.
2009 Mustang's Downs - The spark plugs are located under the exhaust manifolds, which gets hot and can cause burned fingers if you are in a rush or the car has not had a chance to cool off.
Overall rating: The new Mustang is a good car to service. With few exceptions, a steady diet of Mustangs would not make you want to quit your job.
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