I flew to Nashville today to attend the 1998 Mustang Club of America show in Franklin, TN. Attendance was great with a huge turnout of cars and vendors. The show was held on the lots of the Galleria Mall in Franklin (suburb of Nashville) TN.
As you’ve already seen on www.corral.com and www.fordworldnews.com, Ford premiered the ’99 Mustangs at this show for the first time. Ford placed a yellow GT convertible on display in the show, and a blue base hardtop inside the mall (which had apparently been painted a few different colors, as is typical of these early cars). There was enormous interest in both cars, and like in the Corral, there was about a 60% favorable rating of the new styling amongst the MCA members (which, remember, are in a different demographic than the people on this list). Several people expressed the opinion that if the 94/8 is a retro 64/6, then this one is a retro 71/3.
Unfortunately, Ford didn’t leave anybody from the Mustang group around to answer questions – the display was manned by a contracting company Ford uses to build pre-production models and haul them around the country. They also do developmental prototype work. So nobody could answer too any technical questions about the changes for ’99.
Since ’99 is getting off to a late start for the Mustang (and unfortunately a much later start for the Cobra), Ford is still working out some details. It was revealed at the show that some more horsepower was found over what had been reported earlier by the magazines (from long lead press previews 2-3 months back). Horsepower is 260 instead the earlier report of 250. A contractor also claimed that the torque is now 305, instead of the earlier reports of 290 or 295. Some minor details have changed since some of the early press preview photos as well, including the side mirrors and cowl.
I was able to clear up a couple of new things that weren’t clear in what has been written to date:
- Side mirrors: now include the black plastic trim that runs at the windowline, like the 87-93s did.
- Cowl: now made up of narrow longitudinal slits, instead of the series of round holes as on the 94-98 (and on some of the early official photos of the ’99).
- Wheels: some early official pictures (a red GT) showed the ’98 style wheels. These won’t be used, instead look to the wheels on the yellow car (the one in the mags, and the one at this show). Base model uses 15×7 wheels – no indication of any options. Tires – all GT 16″ tires are now H-rated all seasons. The Yellow GT was wearing the usual Z-rated Eagles (not all-season).
- Side door: no key cylinder on the passenger side’s door!
- Door handles: oddly flared in the middle, instead of flat as on the current cars. Obviously to allow for big fingers or long nails.
- Side scoop – universally unliked, but rumor has it will have some value for the IRS.
- Lower rocker panel flares – not at all as clumsy as on the 94/8. Now integrated right into the lines (aka to 94/8 Saleen). Still plastic, so can be replaced by the aftermarket.
- Hood: plastic, with a 1″ raised trailing edge. Visually, it appears to be a lot higher than the 94/8s. Looks like a lot of additional room underneath. The scoop is so far back that there would be no practical way to make it functional and get the air all the way forward to the MAF (which remains in the stock position). So, like the current SS, it’s a fake.
- Subframes: honest to goodness real subframes on the convertibles. Box tubing connects the front and rear subframes. Very solid. This should allow auto-xers to use the subframes – and even backdate them! The very substantial convertible front K-member brace is still used too.
- Seats: much improved base model seats – much better padding and support. GT seats are re-contoured slightly, and have a running horse embroidered in the seatback. Seats are 6-way power, with fore/aft tilt added.
- Interior: identical, except for the seats and the traction control switch (left of the gearshift). Of course, there may be changes which haven’t been incorporated into these prototypes yet. No adjustable seat belt heights, for instance, so that sore we all have on the sides of our necks will remain.
- Front brakes; 2-piston aluminum calipers on the GT and base model. Rotors appear to be the same diameter. The calipers are very large, these are not cheap. The rear brakes appear to be unchanged, except that a different emergency cable hanger is used (no more spring).
- Front control arms: one of the things I particularly wanted to see. Yes, they are a different shape, the bulge that scrapes the wheels appears to have been straightened. As these are show cars, everything underneath is painted black, so I couldn’t tell anything else -unfortunately. These, if retrofitable to an earlier car, should allow wider wheels to be used.
- Front grill: far larger than on the 94/8s. The running horse can’t be removed, the chrome surround is part of the grill and is not removable. The entire grill could be removed, but would leave a gaping hole in the front end.
- GT catcons: still 6 of them (as in from 95 through now – a precat and a dual bank), but are now housed in two sets per side rather than 3.
- Axle: new housing, which accounts for the 1.4″ track width increase. Or, so I was told by the contractors.
- Rear taillights: each of the 3 sections are staggered apart slightly. Interesting effect.
- Trunk lid: plastic, with an LED 3rd brake light. The license plate area is much better incorporated than before – the holder is under the surface of the lid, rather than the current rounded holder being bolted on from the outside. Both the GT and base model (which is NOT called “LX”) had a spoiler (no indication of whether this is standard or optional) that was fairly large – as deep as a Saleen SR type. Very good-looking.
- Front lights and turn lights: a single piece, instead of separate headlight and turnlight as in 97-98. Much improved fit, and a far better type of headlight too. Lighting will be far improved and much more modern than before.
- Exhaust tips: GT – instead of flaring the pipes (ala Cobra 96-8), there are welded on tips at the end of the approx. 2.25″ pipes. The base model only has one opening and it uses a standard single brushed tip like the 85-98s do. I think the gas tank has been slightly re-contoured, too, but couldn’t tell for sure.
Ford’s display included a set of 4 ’99 Cobra spy pictures – with a big SVT banner pasted over the middle of them. Nonetheless, you could clearly see the back bumper, which was different from either the base or GT’s. It’s got an outwards flare at the base of it, sort of like the 87/93 GT’s – which created such terrible aero problems in its day that it was derisively called “the parachute” and was thankfully eliminated on the ’93 Cobra. I also heard that the ’99 Cobra’s hood has a rear-facing air extractor on it, like the base hood’s scoop reversed. The SVT dealers have already been shown the undisguised Cobra at the recent dealer-only show in Orlando, but they haven’t yet driven them at Bondurant.