1997 Ford Mustang
Though people have different opinions about Ford’s choice, the Mustang was left unchanged from 1996 to 1997. Some believe the design became stagnant while others believe it was the final years of a great generation of vehicles.
The entry level Mustang was offered with both leather and upgraded cloth interiors, providing for a bit more luxury than in the past. However, the seats lacked side reinforcement found in the Cobra and the GT. The exterior remained unchanged overall, with 15-inch rims, a single exhaust tip and the word “Mustang” printed across the rear bumper.
1997’s model was powered by the same 3.8-liter V6 OHV pushrod motor present in the 1996 version, retaining the horsepower boost from the previous year. Due to head gasket problems in the 1996 model, the engine still had a tarnished reputation despite the reliability of the 1997 model.
Again, the 3.8-liter engine was offered with either a manual five speed T-5 or an AOD-E automatic transmission, both fitted with a 7.5-inch solid rear axle with 2.73 gears minus the sway bar used in previous models.
Though much like the 1996 model, the 1997 GT offered upgraded cloth and leather seats featuring more reinforced stitching than was present in the base model.
Coupled with either a five speed T-45 manual transmission or an AOD-E automatic transmission, the 4.6-liter engine that powered the GT reached peak torque at about 4000rpm. In addition, the standard 2.73 gears on the rear axle could be upgraded to either 3.08 or 3.27. The rear of the car featured the same 8.8 rear Ford fascia along with dual exhaust with 2.25-inch tips.
Due to the major changes the Cobra underwent in 1996, no further changes were made in 1997. Still considered the highest performing Mustang, the 305 horsepower Cobra was only offered with a T-45 manual transmission along with the 13-inch front and 11-inch back brakes upgraded in 1996. The Cobra distinguished itself on and off the road with its unique look, aided by the Cobra side tags, raised hood and “Cobra” on the bumper.
The base model of 1997 is powered by a 3.8-liter V6 providing 150 horsepower and 215 ft/lbs of torque. The middle of the line GT features a 4.6-liter V8 capable of producing 215 horsepower and 285 ft/lbs of torque, and the more powerful Cobra is fitted with a 32-valve version of the GT engine that boasts 305 horsepower. Despite the engine upgrades, the cars still sit on a slightly refined version Mustang chassis used since 1979 fitted with a solid rear axle and a MacPherson strut suspension. While the Cobra was only offered with a five speed manual transmission, the choice of either the manual or AOD-E automatic transmission was offered in the base model and GT.
Measuring just 15 feet long with a wheelbase just over 100 inches, the Mustang is relatively small, though sheet metal work on the sides as well the front and rear bumpers keep it from looking overly so. With a new raised hood, the car looks much more aggressive while fog lights on the GT and Cobra models lend it a more upscale look. Certain GT models have a 4.6 GT badge on them, while the Cobra has the sports snake badges on the side and the base model lacks either. In addition, the rear bumper of the Cobra reads “Cobra, the GT model says “Mustang GT” and the base model just reads “Mustang.” An optional rear spoiler made an appearance in 1997, but at a cost of $200, most consumers skipped it.
Based on the 1964 Mustang, the interior of the 1997 Mustang has two round coves built into the instrument panel which add a sporty look without putting controls too far away. Though the analog controls are easily within reach, the area is fairly narrow and use of certain controls might be odd or uncomfortable.
Upgraded cloth and leather as well as a surplus of room make the front of the 1997 Mustang comfortable, and the GT and the Cobra have more padded seats offering a little more comfort on long trips. However, the backseat is still fairly snug and is more fitting for groceries or storing a few items rather than seating adults.
Though technically not part of the interior, the 1997 Mustang features keyless entry allowing easier access as well as a passive anti-theft system to keep valuables safe.
Though little was changed, the 1997 model year did see some price increases, ranging from $15,355 for the bare bones model and $28,135 for the fully loaded Cobra. The Mustang’s combination of power, performance, affordability and reliability make it a worthy buy with lots of appeal.
In 1997, a very limited number of Mustangs were sold featuring an Aztec Gold finish which was commonly believed to be a custom color. However, it was an OEM Ford color offered only on the 1997 model, and the exact number of cars painted with this rare color is unknown.
Though little was changed in 1997, the lack of mechanical problems helped to restore faith in the Mustang and resulted in a continuation of its wild popularity.