The SVE Mustang King Cobra (1994) and the SVE Super Stallion (1997) were two Ford engineering exercises built to explore modernization of the SN95 platform by the addition of state-of-the-art SLA (short-long arm) and IRS (independent rear) front and rear suspensions. Ford knew that the SN95 platform, with architecture originally designed in the mid-seventies for the 1978 Fairmont, couldn’t remain competitive or leading edge in the market for very much longer, much less meet upcoming Federal safety (gas tank location) or crash (structural integrity) standards. The SN95 platform itself was simply was an update of the original FOX platform (an all-new platform designed for the 1978 Fairmont and 1979 Mustang, later used for the Thunderbird, LTD 2, Lincoln Mark VII, and several other cars). The SN95 is so closely related to the FOX platform that most SN95 parts easily bolt onto earlier FOX Mustangs.
Why is the story of the King Cobra and Super Stallion story important? Because these two cars, along with the MN12 based Mustang production prototype, the FR500 showcar, and doubtless other lost engineering exercises, are an important part of the history of the Mustang. They show that Ford had a much greater vision for the Mustang than what we eventually received in production. They also show that Ford’s budget – as well as the vision and acceptance of the top Executives, was the constraining factor (with the exception of Jacques Nasser, who personally sponsored both the 1999 Cobra and the 2003 Cobra – and said at the time of the 1999 introduction “Isn’t it about time we offered an IRS on the Mustang…!”). Those constraining factors continue to this day, and in the case of the current Mustang originally cost it use of the full DEW platform and then before production an IRS suspension developed for the (dumbed-down DEW) S197 platform.
Ford’s Special Vehicles Engineering (SVE) organization was at the time the internal engineering arm of the Ford Special Vehicles Team (SVT). SVT was purely a marketing organization at the time, and as of this date is a shell of its former self with basic engineering and testing carried out by the platform teams rather than a separate organization such as SVE. This change was introduced (with some internal controversy) because of the severe engineering and quality issues introduced by SVE re-engineering the cars as they saw fit, with much less rigorous engineering and testing before production release. Warranty issues were first seen in the 1994 Cobra (magnesium seat brackets and front suspension bushings, differing from the standard parts) and (as the SVT products further differentiated their engineering from the base products) in the 1999 Cobra horsepower and cooling recall. Clearly a “post-engineering re-engineering” methodology had to stop and Ford eventually put an end to it. But before that, the two SVE cars shown here were examples of just that type of “band-aid” engineering. Only the supercharged 4.6 DOHC engine persevered, and it had more than its share of severe quality and warranty issues (perhaps the worst ever for SVT) as well (as this author personally suffered thru).
Let’s review the King Cobra and Super Stallion (from our Ford Motor Company concepts, prototypes,. and show cars section – with over 150 examples), along with images from the time:
SVE Mustang King Cobra
The SVE Mustang King Cobra came first, almost at the same time the production 1994 Mustang was being introduced. Due to cost constraints, the 1994 Mustang was introduced with ye olde iron pushrod 4.9 liter OHV engine. This was not what was originally intended when the SN95 platform was conceived (which itself was only a last-minute substitution for an MN12-based Mustang originally intended for the 1991 timeframe). Ford had planned to use the “modular” 4.6 liter engines from the start, including the 4.6 DOHC engine introduced 1993 Lincoln Mark VIIII. However cost constraints held Ford back, so the old engine would have to suffice for the time being. Meanwhile, the future of the Mustang was being examined internally with the King Cobra. Images of the King Cobra - and it’s very existence – have never been released or discussed by Ford. It was purely an internal prototype of the originally intended SVT Mustang Cobra – a plan that was considerably dumbed down (and delayed) before final production in 2003.
The supercharged 4.6 is related to that of the Mustang Mach III, with changes suitable for production use. You’ll note that the layout below is very close to that of the 2003-04 Cobra.
Elements of the 1996 Mustang 4.6 V-8 (SOHC U& DOHC) can be seen here including the use of the Hydroboost braking system, the pre-production air filter, and the placement of the fuse box and other underhood elements.
Many of the engineering elements of the future 2003 SVT Cobra can also be seen here – from the supercharger placement (although not the same supercharger), to the expansion tank for the intercooler, to the shape and location of the MAF, air filter, and air inlet. The battery, however, is located in the trunk – something that would prove impossible for the eventual production car. Note that the power steering reservoir is located where the battery would normally be found and that would also change by necessity.
There was also an emphasis on building in anti-lift geometry in the rear suspension. It was apparent that this car would have a very heavy engine up front, and this architecture was necessary for handling and braking ability. Anti-lift would be an important benefit of the final production 1999 SVT Mustang Cobra IRS suspension as well.
- IRS with special attention paid to achieving low unsprung weight and anti-lift geometry
- SLA front suspension
- PBR fr/rr brakes w/specifically-tuned ABS
- Torsen differential
- Unique body components – hood for clearance, and functional side scoop to cool rear suspension
- Unique interior trim
The Mustang King Cobra shows that SVE had in mind a demonstration of its suspension ngineering capabilities. As we know, none of these major engineering elements made it to production. Nor has Ford been able to actually offer such a front and rear suspension on a production Mustang. It’s a shame that SVE and Ford fell so far after showing what they were capable of here, and again later on with the FR500.
|0-60 mph||4.9 seconds||(estimated)|
|60-0 mph||130 ft.||(estimated)|
|1/4 mile||13.0 @ 105 mph|
|200 ft radial skidpad||0.87g||(estimated)|
|600 ft slalom||65 mph||(estimated)|
SVE program managers included Al Suydam and Steve Anderson. Team members included Ron Smith and Eric Tseng.
A number of issues were encountered in the development of this car (and the related show car Super Stallion – which perhaps was one and the same car underneath?). The chief problem was excessive heat in the shocks – pushrod operated, and located in a “tray” in the trunk. The side vents cooled those shocks, but only to a degree.
Also, of course, was the entire issue of cost: since the SN95 hadn’t been engineered for an SLA up front and an IRS in the rear, production costs would be excessively high – especially for a short run of 8-10,000 cars per year. As it turned out, as we now know for the 2003 Cobra, the SLA front suspension was dropped, the IRS was totally redesigned to make it considerably more production-friendly, and the supercharged engine would continue in development for a few more years before finally appearing in 2003.
SVE Mustang Super Stallion
While the SVE Mustang King Cobra was originally an exploration of intended things to come, the Super Stallion was nothing more than a show car (introduced at the 1997 SEMA show). However, it did reveal to the public for the first time the front SLA and rear IRS development work that had been done. Several magazine articles of the time showed detailed photos of the front and rear suspension. Unfortunately, none of these unique suspension pieces would ever be seen again, much less in production. However, the improved 4-valve cylinder heads, the T-56 (previously seen in the Mustang Mach III show car), and the use of front Brembo brakes were an early indication of things to come on future SN95-based Mustangs.
The bodywork of the Super Stallion takes a step forward from the King Cobra by providing proper room for much-needed larger wheels and tires. Custom front and rear fenders provide extra width and opening size. The King Cobra, given the standard early SN95 fender wells, was left at a strange angle in order to get the needed wheels and tires under the car.
Possibly this car was simply the King Cobra underneath, with the new engine added. In any case, when the car was revealed, the production 1999 SVT Mustang Cobra with it’s entirely different IRS suspension was already well in the pipeline and would be shown to the press 6 months later. The reworked 1999 Mustang was the result of a 750-million dollar (over-)budget project, led by Janine Bay, including the cost of the design and production prep of the IRS that was used in production.
This car, and the King Cobra, showed that Ford engineers were trying to give the Mustang a world-class suspension, despite the desperately outdated and unbalanced platform – and the intent to replace it with an entirely new platform after the turn of the century (delayed until 2005). A prior “last shot” at improving the FOX platform had been seen in the FR500, although that car was never (despite press releases to the contrary) intended as anything other than a show car.
- 5.4L “modular” V8 with improved 4V cylinder heads and 16 injectors
- Flex fuel compatible
- Dual MAF and throttle body assemblies
- Garrett (Allied Signal) Positive Displacement Supercharger w/Cockpit Controlled Disengagement Clutch
- Garrett Air to Water Intercooler
- Borg Warner T56 6-speed
- Front: SLA Front Suspension w/Koni DA shocks
- Rear: SLA IRS w/pushrod actuated Koni DA coil over shocks mounted in the truck
- Front: Brembo 4 Piston w / 13″ x 1.25″ cross drilled and slotted rotors
- Rear: stock Cobra rear calipers w / 12″ x 1.0″ cross drilled rotors
- Speedline 3 Piece Racing Wheels (18″ x 8.5″ Front / 18″ x 9.5″ Rear)
- Goodyear 265/40ZR18 Eagle F1-GS Fiorano Tires
|545 HP @ 6000 RPM (101 HP/Liter)||590 HP @ 6000|
|497 Lbs-Ft @ 4750 (84% of Max Torque at 2000 RPM)||536 Lbs-Ft @ 4750 RPM|
Development Team Members
- Steve Anderson – Program Manager
- Bill Lane, Kevin Lambert, Dave May, Primo Goffi, Al Oslapas, John Moore
Mustang Super Stallion – technology with attitude
LAS VEGAS, Nev., November 3, 1997 – Roaring down the Las Vegas strip, the Mustang Super Stallion technology concept makes its debut at the Specialty Equipment Market Association Show.
“The Super Stallion is a showcase of the innovative high-performance technology that Ford has up its sleeves,” said John Coletti, manager, Special Vehicle Engineering (SVE). “We’ve enhanced some of the already great Mustang features and added a few new twists to make this car every performance enthusiast’s dream.”
Leading the way in innovative powertrain and chassis technology while developing exciting, high-performance cars and trucks is the focus of Ford’s SVE group.
Super Stallion serves as a test bed for new engineering processes in addition to reinforcing Ford’s product passion. While Super Stallion is not intended for production, many of its technologies may be considered for mainstream application in the future.
Under The Hood
Powered by a 5.4-liter four-valve DOHC V-8 engine with a high capacity Garrett supercharger, Super Stallion is capable of 545 horsepower at 6000 rpm and 495 foot-pounds of torque at 4750 rpm. Super Stallion’s engine was built at Ford’s Windsor, Ont., engine plant and was modified by SVE in Allen Park, Mich. The engine modification was made possible by the flexibility of Ford’s modular engine family. The overhead cam engines are easily modified because they share basic architecture, tooling and components.
Out on the track, Super Stallion puts up some impressive numbers with a top speed estimated at 175 mph, a 0-60 mph time well under five seconds and a quarter-mile time of less than 13 seconds at 112 mph.
Specially modified aluminum cylinder heads provide better air flow, while 16 injectors keep fuel pumping through the performance hardware. The engine compression ratio is 8.2:1.
Air enters the engine through twin throttle bodies that are mounted to the high-capacity, clutch-activated, Garrett supercharger. This configuration relieves the engine of the parasitic losses incurred during the normal periods of “non-performance” operation. The end result is a significant improvement in fuel economy.
Shifting into gear is made possible by a multi-disk McLeod clutch system and a Borg-Warner T56 six-speed manual transmission.
Super Stallion’s engine is also equipped for flex-fuel operation. It is capable of running on gasoline, alcohol or any combination of the two. The system’s optical fuel sensor tells the computer the exact composition of the fuel allowing the EEC-V module to make necessary changes automatically. The benefits of having flex-fuel capabilities include cleaner emissions and improved performance, with the ability to achieve 50 more horsepower on E85 fuel.
Super Stallion’s suspension is tuned for optimal performance, ensuring the car will remain stable even under maximum handling conditions.
The front independent short/long arm suspension features an all new SVE design, replacing the standard McPherson strut system, and includes Koni double adjust shock absorbers. This configuration provides more negative camber during maximum turning, for improved cornering performance and anti-dive characteristics.
Another innovative design is the competition-style independent rear suspension. The springs and shocks are part of a unique module that is mounted in the trunk minimizing the unsprung mass while providing exceptional anti-squat during acceleration and anti-lift during hard braking.
The five-spoke, three-piece aluminum wheels from Speedline measure 18 x 8.5-inches in the front and 18 x 9.5-inches in the rear and feature 265/40ZR18 Eagle F1Fiorano Goodyear performance tires. Stopping power is provided by Brembo calipers and 13-inch vented discs on the front. The rear uses 12-inch vented Brembo discs. In addition, hard stops are controlled by electronic ABS. Stopping distance from 60 mph is 116 feet and from 100 mph is 310 feet with exceptional anti-fade characteristics.
The aggressive stance and sleek lines of the production Mustang are enhanced by unique graphics and carbon fiber accents to give the Super Stallion a distinct performance look.
An all-new hood design, with nostril-like openings, allows this beast to breathe a little easier. Improved air-flow into the engine compartment keeps the 5.4-liter V-8 cool under the most intense driving conditions.
The front fascia has been modified to include two large, round driving lights along with integral ducts that feed air to the engine, while the rear fascia features integrated dual exhausts. Both the front and rear treatments as well as the mirrors and scoops are made of carbon fiber to keep weight at a minimum.
The quarter window ducts and quarter panel scoops allow for rear shock and brake cooling, which ensures peak performance of these vital components. The rear decklid and spoiler have been modified to improve the aerodynamics of the car and provide outstanding high-speed stability.
A dramatic exterior graphics package completes Super Stallion’s “street racer” appearance. The car takes on two different personalities with radically different color configurations on each side. The passenger side is painted in a deep metallic blue base color giving the car an unassuming look, disguising its true power. In contrast, the driver’s side is white and stands out to give Super Stallion a menacing look, hinting at its true capabilities.
Super Stallion’s interior features four leather-wrapped ebony bucket seats. The front seats include integrated three-point safety restraints, which improve the rear seat ingress/egress, and dynamic seat bolsters. The seat bolsters are unique in that they articulate to hold the occupants in place during hard cornering. The bolsters retract to make entry and exit of the vehicle more comfortable.
Keeping track of all of Super Stallion’s systems is made possible by an on-board performance diagnostics system mounted in the headliner. In addition, two extra gauges are mounted on the A-pillar to monitor intake manifold vacuum/boost and fuel system pressure. The rest of the performance-oriented white faced gauges are housed in the instrument cluster.
The supercharger is activated with the flip of a switch that is mounted in the center stack area of the console. When the system is on, the “armed” light is illuminated and Super Stallion is performing at its ultimate. Also found in the center stack area is a digital readout that measures the amount of alcohol present in the vehicle’s fuel.
The center console runs the length of the car and houses the leather-wrapped shifter. It also provides extra storage space and cup holders for the rear passengers.
To complete the driving experience, Super Stallion is equipped with a Mach 630 watt sound system from Visteon Automotive Systems. The radio/CD unit is housed in the instrument panel and features two amplifiers, a center image speaker mounted in the dash, 2.5-inch speakers in the A-pillar sails, 5.5 X 7.5-inch woofers in the doors, three sub-woofers and two mid-range tweeters mounted in the package tray.
“We’ve taken high-performance technology to a new and exciting level with the Super Stallion,” said Coletti. “It’s the ultimate ride!”
An opportunity to buy an original 2000 Cobra R, still in it’s shipping wrap, doesn’t come along very often. In fact, this may be the last time you’ll ever see such a good deal.
See the eBay auction here: http://cgi.ebay.com/ebaymotors/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=180617080877 (we suggest you “add to watch list” to see when it was sold, and for how much).
We followed the original development of the 2000 Cobra R with great interest, twice saw pre-production prototypes up close and in-person (and once in a snowstorm in Dearborn!), and accumulated what is probably the largest collection of images on the net. Read lots more, view some unique images here: http://www.drivingenthusiast.net/sec-ford/FMC-products/platform-sn95/2000-cobra_r/default.htm
The 2000 Cobra R was the high water mark of the SN95 Cobra, with the most aggressive suspension tuning and certainly the most unique engine. And without the terrible reliability issues of the 2003-2004 supercharged Cobra.
The 2000 Cobra R is without question highly collectible, and the price of $70,000 USD is excellent given it’s original price and the inevitable dealer markup.
Looking at a 2000 model year product from the perspective of 11 years later, in terms of overall driving dynamics an off-the-shelf Camaro SS will easily out-do the 11-year old R. And the upcoming production Boss 302 Mustang will out-do either of these. Sadly, Ford can only seem to deliver special machines like these on a very limited production basis… leaving them in the hands of the (very) few individuals who can afford the ultra-high price and nasty dealer markups. That leaves the great majority of driving enthusiasts shopping elsewhere.
But time marches on, inevitably the manufacturers bring better products to market, and for that we should be thankful.
We were looking at the latest Ariel Atom specs recently and lamenting the fact that we’d heard that it is no longer street legal. GM cut off it’s supply of EcoTec turbo engines (something Jay Leno and Bob Lutz championed) and the Ariel Atom manufacturer lost the only means it had of inexpensively getting thru Federal emissions certification. So now the Ariel Atom is back to the Honda K series engine it was originally designed for – and (except for lack of street legal registration ability) better off for it. But also lost is the attraction of driving one of these on the street, surprising pedestrians, and having a great driving experience on back roads.
Then we were reminded that Ford had once upon a time dreamed about building a sportscar not unlike the Atom in concept and perhaps just a bit more sane (?) in execution. In fact, it pre-dated the Atom and was revealed in 1996. And it was powered by Ford’s own V-12 (which is still used by Aston Martin). Read on for more information.
The Ford Indigo was a concept car, designed with the possibility of limited – and legal – production. Note the windshield, safety bumpers, and full body. It’s inspiration was Formula 1 and Indy Cars. It’s creator was none other than John Coletti of SVT. In a Coletti-typical (and blatantly-orchestrated) bid to convince Ford bean counters that the creation of such an outrageous showcar was justified, and that production would provide benefits that could trickle down to “pedestrian” cars, much was made at the introduction that lessons were learned in this program and that a net contribution to Ford engineering capability was achieved. And remember that Coletti’s very enthusiastic sponsor was none other than Jacques Nasser, who at NAIAS two years later would be seen in a promotional film proclaiming “it’s about time we put an IRS on the Cobra” as he was driving a ’99 Cobra prototype around Ford’s Dearborn test track.
The Indigo was created at the high point of the original SVT organization. Ford management had not yet realized that SVT products were seriously flawed in their engineering and durability testing – and the accounting of the full costs of warranty claims had not yet come to light. They probably missed the recall of the ’96 SVT Cobra and blamed it on the similar recall of the ’96 Mustang GT. They probably accepted the recall of the ’99 Cobra and blamed it on Team Mustang, since that separate organization had responsibility for launch. But they couldn’t miss the disaster of the 2003 Cobra, with it’s flawed tuning and widespread engine replacements. And then came the Ford GT – which at the time was labeled by Ford as “the pace car for the entire company” (an all-too-true prophecy). The production and quality disaster this became - detailed here - was probably the final straw, leading to the virtualization of SVT, the distribution of it’s personnel back into the general workforce, and – very possibly – to the abrupt departure of John Coletti. We’ve talked to some of their former SVT workers who managed to survive, including one unlucky individual who was relegated to suspension design of the stillborn Ford Ranger replacement.
But as a high point, the years that saw the creation of the Boss 604, the Super Stallion, the Indigo, the GT-90, the Tremor Concept (all of which we encountered in press unveilings), and the production Ford GT and Cobra R were probably the all-time high of the former SVT organization. Flaws and aggravation aside, this author bought 4 of them, high speed open-tracked them all to the max, and had great fun with them when they weren’t in the shop getting warranty work.
It’s hard to imagine that Ford would ever have approved the Indigo for production, but if they had it would have made a very unusual and powerful high speed open track ride. A 2300 pound car, with 435 naturally aspirated horsepower and an optimized suspension would have done very well against Corvettes (+1000 pounds, poor suspension), the Ariel Atom (-900 pounds and an even more race-like suspension), and assorted Loti (same weight, great suspension, little buzzy Toyota motor with no torque and it’s own over-heating issues).
What’s become of the Indigo concept? Ford sold it (along with a lot of other concepts and showcars) to help pay off it’s debts and it’s currently sitting in a private collection. It can’t be licensed for the street, but perhaps it’s new owner will bring it to a Ford enthusiast show someday.
For your consideration, here are the specs of the Indigo, the original press releases, and full size copies of the brochures. We were fortunate enough to attend the original press unveiling, and even have several copies of the original brochures in our library. We remember walking around and looking at details of the car at the unveiling, scarcely believing our eyes. There was nothing like it from GM and Chrysler; they were incapable of such a creation.
Click on the thumbnails below for a full-size image.
The Indigo has been reported to be on display at the Spirit of Ford in Dearborn.
Brochure Copyright Ford Motor Company
Motor Trend’s blog “2010 Ford Mustang: Near Enough is Not Good Enough” talks today about the IRS suspension that was developed for the S195 (2005) Mustang.
They’ve got a couple of points wrong in their article, but by and large it’s right. My own involvement with the IRS Mustang begins in 1999, when I took delivery of the 1st or 2nd IRS-equipped Cobra in Texas. And I took delivery of another in 2003, with the improved IRS (thicker half-shafts, and very much improved bushings). Both cars were so good on the track – especially my 2003 (with 2000 Cobra R springs and shocks) that I swore I’d never do another solid-axle Mustang. I spent some considerable time talking to the lead engineer of the IRS at SVT on several occasions and learned from him what it would take to make it work best on the track (start with doubling the spring rates, for one).
Like Joe over at My Ford Dreams, I hold the current Mustang in complete contempt. But it’s even worse than Joe knows – an IRS for the Mustang wasn’t just stuck in development, it was out being tested on streets and test tracks. So much so that it was encountered on the street and photographed (the exact same car later had a solid axle transplanted into it and became the engineering mule for the Shelby). I have the photo preserved, and put it on my blog years ago. I’ve copied that entire post below (or follow the link below to view *all* my posts about the IRS).
Motor Trend claims the IRS that was finalized for the Mustang came right out of the Australian Falcon. That could be true, although the photo of the IRS doesn’t support it. Trying to build an IRS out of some backwards stamped-steel components on the cheap does not make for a good IRS. Ford knows how to build one, but the eternal cost cutters inside Ford ruined it. If the Australian rumor is true, it’s another example of those types at their worst.
But I don’t think it was from Australia. I spent over a year corresponding with the senior executive inside Ford who was running a project to study the feasibility of the IRS in the Mustang, a few years before the S197 design was finalized. It was his job to figure out how to cost justify it, and it turned into a major political battle against the cost cutters. I won’t mention his name because I was asked to keep it confidential, but from our talks I learned a lot and I hope he did too. I’ve also talked to some of the Ford engineers who worked on the S197 IRS project and every single one of them were mad as hell that they weren’t allowed to put into production what they worked so hard on, and what they believed should be standard in the S197 across the board. Yes, across the board – every single model. Those folks wanted to build the best car they could – not a low common denominator for customers who didn’t know any better. Of those folks, only two are still in the company. One was bounced out of the former SVT group and wound up designing a suspension for a worldwide Ranger replacement that little Billy Ford cut out of the budget years ago.
Lets make sure we all know who the real idiots were in Ford: both Phil Martens who canceled it and especially Hau Thai-Tang (Director, Advanced Product Creation and Special Vehicle Team:) for running around saying it it wasn’t needed anyway. It was Hau Thai-Tang who told the press a couple of statements that made me see red. First, the IRS was “go” as an option. Later it was off and those of us who wanted one were “snobs”. In progression, HTT goes from addressing the requirements of his customers and promising they would be met, to outright insulting them:
- “Drag racers and Ford’s accountants will be pleased at the choice of a live axle out back. Among our customer groups that know and care what sort of rear suspension their car has, a large number of them want a solid rear axle; they’re primarily the core enthusiast drag racers, and they like the durability, reliability, and ease of modification with it, changing axle ratios, etc.,” says Thai-Tang. “There’s another group that wants the sophistication and cornering advantage of an IRS, and we’re going to offer it on the upcoming SVT Cobra. Unlike the last time, when we kind of shoehorned the IRS in [an older platform]; this time, we’ve designed the rear architecture to accommodate both right from the beginning.”
- “Ninety-two percent of (Mustang) Cobra customers wouldn’t have considered a Ford product”
- “We’ll never appease those IRS snobs.”
Note that the IRS was canceled and the Cobra was canceled, Yes, there was a real Cobra – it was a model above the Shelby (which Shelby has nothing to do with developing).
And, finally, thankfully, Hau Thai-Tang himself was canceled – sent to South America in exile to build a cheap SUV with no future. Straight to hell, where he belongs. And then SVT itself was canceled, at least in it’s original form. The reason for that was simple – every product they brought out on their own got progressively worse and worse from a quality standpoint. The further away the product got from the “base” production vehicle, the worse the quality ended up. Their final product, the 2003 Cobra, has terrible engineering problems in several areas. Many owners suffered thru engine replacements that Ford didn’t want to perform (including myself, who was amazed to find three identical red Cobras like mine all lined up at the dealer for the same purpose – total engine replacement). Finally, the crowing achievement of SVT – the Ford GT – turned into another debacle. What was billed as “the pace car for the entire company” turned into a quality and warranty disaster: http://www.drivingenthusiast.net/sec-blog/?p=726.
I suspect – without evidence- that it was also the final straw for Coletti that forced him into retirement. Great guy as he was, as popular as he was, his products were seriously flawed. And I know, I had 4 of them. The IRS was finally perfected, but the engines got worse and worse. Cooling problems in all of them, and a total lack of engineering and testing process for the final one. And despite it’s great suspension, that car was a worthless POS because of that damned poor engineering.
Somewhere inside Ford, the S197 IRS suspension sits on a shelf ready for production. It’s not too late – it can still be done. Indeed, not one year after the introduction of the 2005, a Ford executive said that they “needed” to offer the IRS as an option. That may have been back-tracking, but it was said. Fast-forward to today, where there is no platform for a Mustang replacement in the pipeline. The Mustang is too big and too heavy (although not anywhere near as bad as it’s competition) for the long term. Ford needs a platform like the Nissan FM platform to build a family of small rear wheel drive cars on. It doesn’t have it (the Australian Falcon is a very poor chassis, and very much out-dated).
The current Mustang will probably be patched up in a few years, like the SN95 Mustang was half-way thru it’s lifespan (as the FOX Mustang was 3 or 4 times). If Ford’s plans to take a few hundred pounds out of each model in it’s lineup works out, it may even last another ten years. But who wants one, when every year that goes by shows how backward it is? Oh yes, we have a “track pack” option – but that is nothing more than something we could have easily done ourselves (and better) and it does little to actually prepare the car for open track weekends. The brakes are still too small, and the cooling is still too poorly done. I remember shaking my head in disgust when in 2006 the demo Mustang brought by Ford to the SVT events kept garking it’s coolant all over the place – and they had retired their Ford GT a year earlier for the same exact reason. The SVT engineers that came with the Mustang told me that they had already totally rebuilt the Ford GT’s engine once and never could make it work on the track. Yes, it’s a pace car for the entire company – the company that went down the drain at the same time.
Here’s the reprint of the article from my site on the S197 IRS.
S197 Mustang IRS Suspension
Many pictures have surfaced of a red engineering prototype of a future high-performance flagship Mustang. What hasn’t been known to date is what rear suspension would be used in the eventual production car – although it’s been repeatedly told to us during the original development of the all-new 2005 Mustang that it would be an IRS. Now we have confirmation of those statements.
A lucky member of the online Mustang fan community, fortuitously equipped with a camera, came across an engineering prototype on the streets of Dearborn recently. His pictures have ended up all over the web, across several sites. The red mule he encountered has an independent rear suspension (IRS). How do we know? Look closely at the photo below and you’ll see a large nut in the center of the hub (in addition to 4-piston Brembo brakes).
Now look at the following picture of the standard solid axle suspension on an ’05 Mustang: note that like all solid axle setups from Ford the center of the hub is just indented – no nut. There is very clearly a significant engineering difference from the car above.
For comparison, let’s look at a stock ’99 Cobra IRS (same as ’99 thru ’04). Notice the nut in the middle the hub.
And here’s how this goes together on the ’99-04 (image from the Ford shop manual) – notice the threaded area on the half-shaft to the upper left, and nut at the lower right. This is typical of all IRS suspensions. The half-shaft has to be bolted to the hub thru the upright.
The large nut is the giveaway: the red engineering car has an IRS. A couple of other observations, based on this low-res spy photo:
- The red mule has 4-piston calipers front and rear. And not just the “baby” Brembos found on the 2002 Cobra R, but much larger “real” Brembos.
- The rear hub on the ’99-04 IRS has the tie rod attachment point located very close to the rotor – resulting on a lot of heat transfer into the tie rod and also the inability to fit larger rotors. It’s located further in on the red mule.
- Its not clear how provision is made for rear parking brakes… they aren’t integral in Brembo calipers. There isn’t a second set of small calipers. Therefore, the system must use small drum brakes within the to the rotor (aka like the Supra, C5/6, Jaguar S-Type R, etc).
- Tire size continues to be much taller than SN95s – the tires are 285/40ZR-18s Goodyear F1s.
Unfortunately, the spy photos are such low-res that we can’t see any further detail… there appears to be an aluminum lower control arm, but the resolution is really too poor to verify the meaning of it’s position or the type of rear suspension.
Reference: this is a Lincoln LS rear suspension, 2002 vintage. It might be logical that this is what will be used to source some of the parts (some, given that the LS uses an 8″ differential)… however there are some fundamental differences in component location. Note that the LS suspension is state of the art… including coilover shocks. The same rear suspension is also used by Jaguar, and of course on the Thunderbird (and on the Mustang GT concepts, which were literally rebodied Thunderbirds using the complete platform including the full SLA/IRS suspension front and rear). Note that on Jaguar R models, Brembos are used along with hub-integral drum parking brakes (Lincoln uses the cheaper version, with conventional iron calipers and caliper-integral parking brakes).
Conclusion: We know the IRS has been under development from the start, and Ford has been talking about it right from the start as being standard on the future “Cobra”. This time out, given the new platform, it’s in integral part of this new platform rather than an afterthought. One of the early spy pictures appeared to have an IRS underneath. In any case, the rear suspension is being brought into the 21st century (at last), and Mustang buyers can now follow along.
History of the Red Mule: A later version of the red mule has a solid axle, as shown in these pics:
Notice the standard brakes, and the standard swaybar hanging down behind the axle. And the lack of the “nut” as shown above. This is a solid axle car – once the decision was made to leave the IRS behind, a standard GT axle was swapped into the car. This is the car ole ‘Shel is shown driving, just before it’s debut at the New York Auto Show (2005). Some early Shelby press material even referred to the larger rear brakes and 4-piston Brembos – this oversight was eventually corrected and removed from that material.
So, the Mustang performance flagship has a solid axle. And as we’ve found out since, the “real” Cobra was cancelled by Ford. In various interviews, we have been told that the “real” Cobra (aka with the IRS, big brakes, and something on described as “more” under the hood) had been cancelled (this decision was made in November 2004). The Cobra moniker was then added to the Shelby, which otherwise was simply a special edition model (like the Mach, et al, used to be). The Shelby was never an “SVT”, although it was engineered by SVE. All that changed when the big shakeup inside SVE/SVT at the end of 2004. The Cobra moniker was then removed and SVT was killed off as a product organization. The remaining SVT engineers are a virtual team split across several development groups.
Will we ever again see a real sporting “SVT Cobra”? Just exactly why did SVE/SVT drop out of product creation? Those are questions for which there are no public answers. Ford’s premier Mustang is dead, replaced by a straight line muscle car.
Will we ever see the IRS? We at least now know that Ford has the suspension… and it’s ready to go.
Industry analysts have described the F-150 as “the wrong truck at the wrong time”. Introduced as full-size truck and SUV sales are dropping like a stone, or like the Titanic to the bottom, the F-150 propagates the impossible financial model that has all but killed off the Big Three. That model is based on huge sales of option-laden (aka hyper-profitable) luxury trucks and SUVs to people who don’t need them and are often drawn in by unsustainably-low interest loans and incentives. And when gas prices go up again (versus the recent lull designed to pander to voters) sales of these kinds of vehicles will again continue their fall.
Yes, it’s a free-market economy and people can buy what they want (as witnessed by Ford Motor Corporation sales dropping another 30% last month). But just like Democracy, there is a certain degree of responsibility to society involved – and propping up irresponsible products that take 2 steps backwards is certainly the wrong move at a very bad time . Handing out $25B “rescue” (on top of another $25B approved last Sept to help automakers transition to more fuel-efficient products) dollars to companies building throwbacks like this is not a responsible use of taxpayers money. It does not contribute to breaking our dependency on foreign oil. It does not contribute to the security needs of our country or to the long-term economic health of our country. It does help to continue to prop up dictators like Chavez, Putin, and Ahmadinejad. Do we want to continue to be held hostage to them for our energy needs?
And that $25B (just like the
$700B for the banks – er, make that $600B for the banks and $100B for pork spending) is all going into the deficit anyway, so we’ll be paying for this rescue package for the next 50 years. So if you are thinking about buying a new full-size truck or SUV with a six-year loan, think about what’s really happening. You’re buying it on a 50-year loan, and we’ll all be paying it off with you.
One of the many public criticisms of SVT was that it didn’t advertise it’s products. That’s not exactly true… although finding vudio advertisements is very tough.
Here’s what’s been billed as an unaired SVT Contour commercial. We don’t believe it was actually intended as a television commercial – for one thing it’s way too long. And we have all of this video in a collection of SVT training videos for dealer sales personnel in our library. So in our opinion it was created as part of dealer training material.
We’re a fan of the SVT Contour and Focus and have extensively driven both of them. An SVT Contour would have made a nice successor to our line of SHOs, and it’s stealthy appearance would have worked well for our driving style. The transmission wasn’t great (although it was a lightyear ahead of the manual in the old SHOs), body roll was a bit much, but suspension compliance and “livability” were very nicely set up for an enthusiast sedan. A pity that Ford has nothing in the way of enthusiast sedans in the US these days… with the death of SVT as a separate & distinct organization we may not see that kind of suspension tuning philosophy here again.
The SVT Contours and Focis (Focuses?) were great accomplishments, although most of the engineering work and budget were courtesy of Ford of Europe, who was and still is committed to their own ”ST” packages. In the end, neither of the North American variants received the continuous improvement they should have had and both fell quickly by the wayside competitively. As we all have seen many times, this is all too typical of Ford of North America.
Reference: our site’s Ford section, with extensive pics of the SVT 2.5l DOHC V-6 and the cancelled SVT Cougar, as well as other unique SVT, SHO, and SVO information.
Good news yesterday from Edmunds Inside Line: Hau Thai-Tang, the director of advanced product creation and the moribund SVT, has left to take over product development for Ford of Brazil.
He’ll be remembered as the person who took the SVT product line from all-around performance vehicles (handling dynamics over power) to the ultimately self-defeating morass of morbidly-obese straight-line ego-driven muscledom. Granted, his budget was repeatedly cut, but he didn’t help his company or retain SVT customers when he carelessly made public product promises followed by defensive retractions such as “We’ll never appease those IRS snobs”. Critical product features were cancelled; entire product product plans were set aside.
So good riddance, and a kick in the ass on the way out.
Now hopefully SVT can get:
- back to it’s roots and core values (since its current mission is nothing more than a virtual team of subject matter specialists)
- budget to build all-around performance cars (handling dynamics over power) that showcase what company engineers are truly capable of accomplishing.
- product testing procedures to ensure future SVT-led products perform well in wider ranges of temperatures across a wider variety of climates (such as what we in Texas consider the norm) and environments (open track events). SVT has had a severe reliability issue that resulted in Cobras and Ford GTs that can’t survive aggressive open track events (SVT On Track’s own Ford GT repeatedly failed and garked it’s fluid on many tracks across the country – in front of many fans – before finally being retired).
And, hopefully, Ford will:
- think twice about putting a defensive self-promoting stooge in charge of a product line that had earned an enthusiast following in both buyers and in the press.
- try (yet again) to understand the value to the company of mature multi-dimensional products designed for driving enthusiasts.
We’ve seen so many “golden ages” of performance products from Ford come and go in the past 20 years:
- Don Peterson and the original Mustang SVO (“form follows function”)
- the (recently terminated) sponsorship of the Bondurant school (and the requirements for Ford Engineers to attend)
- the emphasis on all-around dynamics in the early SVT products (culminating in the promising but flawed 1999 Cobra)
- balanced vehicles such as the SVT Contour and Focus (even though the Focus was market-obsolete before it was delivered)
- the original good intentions behind the fatally flawed Ford GT
Will there ever be a performance product plan inside Ford that can sustain itself? Can Ford learn from it’s mistakes?
Surely Hau Thai-Tang had a hand in this!
Robert Farago hits a home run with a very well written counterpoint about the Shelby GT500. He obviously knows his stuff and is an enthusiastic and experienced driver.
The article starts with “a small bump in the road” – and that says it all. Don’t hit one if you know what is good (and safe) for you. Solid rear axles are an anachronism from the last century (and solid front axles – once commonplace, are now gone from everything but the oldest truck models). And then there is the engineering hangover all-too common in this century: a ponycar that weighs 4000 pounds (morbidly obese). Couple that with the classic SVT engineering “expertiese” (overheating Cobras and Ford GTs that can’t do a serious HPDE without blowing their cooling) and you have a real winner for car nuts who don’t have the experience to backup their (over-)enthusiasm.
Fortunately, SVT has been cancelled from the face of the earth (its engineers split amoungst development teams, the SVT name is that of a virtual organization and not a physical one). The Shelby is all that remains of 11 years of Cobra evolution. It’s intended engine (an all-aluminum 5.4) and IRS (developed and tested) were both cancelled. Then the SVT Cobra itself was cancelled in November 2004. Shelby inherited a few oddments and a cheaper version of the Cobra engine. It’s a shame. And there are just enough gullible people to sell 10k copies a year.
A few traces of SVTs original intentions remain… the Brembo brakes are a big improvement from the last generation, but the rear brakes are a hangover from the Mustang GT (the rear 2-piston Brembos were also cancelled – some Ford Press folks had old press materials and referred to them repeatedly in the first round of Shelby releases). The front splitter and rear aero mods would have been of some value for the cancelled Cobra, and are soley of poseur mods for the straight-line Shelby. The replacement for the infamous T-56 6-speed is a huge improvement… but of course in the Shelby’s new mission only the first 3 gears are ever used. An automatic would have been a better choice.
And more than a few things are missing.
As happens all too often with Ford, the seats appear to have been designed for a very wide and heavy fat guy. No lateral support at all. And this is strange, given the progress that had been made with the 2003/4 Cobra seats (a great example of seat design progress, now abandoned).
The steering wheel is enormous, although this is a feature we’re stuck with from the base car because of the terrible placement of the instruments. SVT coulnd’t have done anything there if they’d wanted to without a major redesign. And this is a shame, especially since the progress that was made in the last Cobra: thicker padding in a well-sized rim, and even thumb placement in some of the last models.
I could go on, but it becomes clear that the real problems are Ford’s budget disaster (starting years ago when the Cobra, er, Shelby was under development), the dominance of the straight-liners and apologists inside the former SVT organization (Hau Thai-Tang is the worst example of making up marketing BS to excuse their sorry work – he should be booted the hell out of there), and the base Mustang itself. It’s enormous, it’s long, it’s wide, it’s heavy, and it’s crude. All of these things conspire together to yield an enormous, long, wide, and crude product that has no sporting value other than poseur appearance.