Ford rediscovered its pony car mojo with the 2004 Mustang and quickly gained interested beyond its usual North American fans. As a result, plenty of this S197 generation – 2004 to 2014 – have found homes in the UK and elsewhere. That makes them a viable alternative to other performance coupes and four-seat convertibles from the period.
Ford didn’t officially import this Mustang to the UK, nor was it ever built in right-hand drive, though some cars have been converted. Unless you really can’t cope with a left-hooker in the UK, there’s little to be gained from this conversion and it’s not reflected in stronger prices. The first S197 cars arrived in 2004 with either a 210hp 4.0-litre V6 or a 4.6-litre V8 with 300hp. You could choose from five-speed manual or automatic gearboxes and Ford added the Convertible to the range in 2005. The drop-top is a decent four-seater, though rear leg room is a little restricted for adults.
While some road tests at the time pointed out the solid rear axle seemed antiquated, this Mustang was built on a purpose-designed platform and handled well. As with all Mustangs, there’s a wealth of tuning and modifying options out there to improve the handling, braking and performance. Most will have had some upgrades carried out, so choosing the right car for you comes down to taste.
If you can’t find the right car already in the UK, it’s still worth looking to the USA as the choice there is huge. Importing a car is relatively simple and can be handled by an agent, including the IVA (Individual Vehicle Approval) test to make it road legal.
In 2009, Ford increased the V8’s power to 325hp with the GT model, while a facelift in 2010 brought LED rear lights and moved the front indicators into the headlight units. For 2011, the transmissions gained a sixth gear and the V6 was replaced with a 3.7-litre unit with 309hp, while the V8 was now the Coyote 5.0-litre motor with 418hp. Ford also offered the Boss 302 model with a 440hp version of the V8 and a supercharged GT500 with 550hp from a 5.4-litre unit.
Thanks to dimensions much the same as a current BMW 3 Series saloon, the S197 Mustang is easily capable of daily duties, helped by combined fuel economy of up to 33.6mpg. Prices start at around £10,000 for V6 or V8 models and rise to £40,000 for a Shelby GT500.
Bodywork and interior
Check all of the lights work properly as they are operated through a computer. Some may have been bodged to get the car through SVA (Single Vehicle Approval) or IVA (Individual Vehicle Approval) depending on when it was imported. Also make sure the cruise control works as some cars will have had the brake light wire cut to pass IVA but cruise needs this to operate properly.
Make sure the windows drop and rise when you open and close the doors.
Failed door seals can let water into the front footwells and short circuit the electronic control board on the passenger side.
Look for rust on the bonnet’s leading edge where it’s double-skinned and can trap water.
Standard radio will not tune in to all UK stations and won’t pick up traffic announcements, so don’t be surprised if an aftermarket stereo is fitted.
Engine and transmission
Spark plugs are in two sections in cars made from 2004-08. They can snap when being removed, so a special tool is needed to extract them safely. There’s an improved plug made by Champion to solve this issue. Some lower mileage early cars may still the original plugs fitted though.
Alternator diode can fail and cause the engine to hesitate at low revs. A new alternator costs from £160.
Second gear can crunch on manual gearboxes when cold due to a worn synchromesh.
Look for any leaks from the rear axle pinion seal, which is a cheap part to replace but pricey as it’s a full day’s labour.
Ford states the engines should run on 5W/20 oil but most owners prefer 5W/30 and change the oil every 5,000 miles, which is easily managed at home. Replacement filters are inexpensive and easy to source.
Most aftermarket cold air intake conversions require the engine to be remapped, so check this has been done by a recognised tuning firm.
Suspension and steering
Rear lower control arm bushes wear and give sloppy handling. New items are inexpensive, but you might as well upgrade; polybushed items cost from £88. Adjustable Eibach arms are also available from £166, while a complete SR Performance coil-over kit is £650.
Wheels, tyres and brakes
Uprated brakes will be needed for track days or lots of fast road driving. Better front discs and pads are widely available, cheap and easy to fit.
Traction control is fitted but is slow to react, so check rear tyres for wear.