1996 Ford Mustang

The great styling and allure of an already amazing generation of vehicles make the 1996 Mustang a favorite among many fans. The 1996 Mustang was available in three models—the base model, GT and Cobra—all of which were wildly popular. Though some complain the 1996 model didn’t experience as many changes as it should have, Ford brought forth another year of great performance and reliable vehicles through a few subtle changes.

Riding on the success of the 1994 and 1995 models, the 1996 Mustang underwent very few changes and its similarity to its predecessors led to a continuation of this success for Ford. Though essentially the same as the 1995 model, the 1996 model did see the addition of upgraded cloth interior for the typical seats. The seats however did lack the side bolstering present in the 1996 GT and Cobra, but still provided comfort and lended a bit of style with leather and cloth interior options. A more noticeable difference was the removal of the sway bar that had been used in previous years to help cut costs.

While not totally unlike the exterior of the GT and Cobra, the base model had certain features that distinguished it from other models in the 1996 lineup. For example, the base model featured a rear bumper stamped with “Mustang,” a single exhaust tip, and was only offered with 15 inch rims. Though it made the base model quite obvious, the single exhaust tip was still attractive, even when compared with the dual exhaust featured on the GT or Cobra.

Featuring a 5 horsepower increase over the previous year, the base model V6 3.8-liter OHV pushrod engine generated plenty of torque in addition to a total of 150 horsepower. The 3.8-liter V6 was offered with either a five-speed manual T-5 or an AOD-E automatic transmission, which was an upgrade over the previous AOD transmission in that it was electronically controlled, as represented by the ‘E’. The base model also featured a 7.5-inch solid rear axle with 2.73 gears.

1996 Mustang GT & Cobra
The 1996 Ford Mustang GT looked much like the model from the previous year on the outside, though it was fitted with fog lights and 16-inch standard rims. More attractive and sporty 17-inch rims were offered as an option, and as an added bonus featured a new split five-spoke design previously unused by Ford. While the interior was much the same with the exception of upgraded seats, the exterior was unmistakably different. Featuring “Mustang GT” on the rear bumper, a black paint job on the bottom trim work, and polished 2.25 inch dual exhaust tips with an attractive sporty look, the car was much more recognizable from the rear.

The 1996 Mustang GT was powered by a 4.6-liter engine with peak torque at 4000 rpm coupled with either a T-45 manual transmission, similar to the previously used T-5, or the AOD-E automatic transmission. Though the rear gears remained the same as the previous year at 2.73 which hurt the performance, upgrade options were offered to remedy the problem.

Having undergone the most visible changes, the Cobra was the highlight of the 1996 model year. While at first glance the Cobra looked similar to the base and GT models, it featured a more aggressive style that gave it the appropriate muscle car look.

The Cobra saw the addition of a sportier front bumper as well as the word “Cobra” stamped on the rear bumper, giving it a more unique look. A few of the other great features that were added in the 1996 model year include round fog lights and the swapping of tag identification for side snake badges which were more representative of the Cobra. The hood of the Cobra was raised to allow the intake clear the side vents, which contributed to the sporty, aggressive look of the Cobra. Ford also altered the rims of the previous years, adding a polished look to the raised surfaces with a darker gray in the recesses.

Not content to change only the look of the car, Ford also changed some of the fundamental hardware. The small 11-inch front brakes received an upgrade to larger 13-inch brakes as well as the addition of dual piston calipers, while the rear brakes were increased from 10 inches to 11 inches. With the new changes and upgrades, the Cobra was a powerful vehicle on both the track and the highways, featuring 305 horsepower and 315 ft/lbs of torque combined with the T-45 transmission. With no shortage of power and torque, the Cobra performed well wherever the driver took it.

In 1996, the higher end Mustangs received a new engine in the form of a 4.6-liter engine with better volumetric efficiency and emissions performance, catering to the wants of customers. The base model still had a 3.8-liter V6 that provided a reasonable amount of horsepower and torque, but not quite enough performance for those who wanted to dazzle.

The GT was powered by a 4.6-liter single overhead cam engine that provided 215 horsepower and 285 foot-pounds of torque, offering almost identical performance to the 5.0-liter while running noticeably smoother and much quieter.

Though the GT had a lot of power, the Cobra was the powerhouse in 1996 with a 4.6-liter V8 engine producing 305 horsepower and 300 foot-pounds of torque, though it was slowed a bit by its rear wheel drive Ford Fairmount Chassis. A suspension revision allowed Ford to match its competitors in power while ensuring as much of that power as possible made it to the rear wheels. Even with all this power under the hood, the Cobra still handled well on and off the track.

The Cobra came standard with anti-lock brakes with upgraded 13 inch vented rotors in front and 11+ inch rotors in the back to provide outstanding performance. The addition of a limited slip differential, a smaller roll bar in front with a larger bar in the rear, some tweaks to the suspension tuning, and standard 17 inch aluminum alloy wheels with high performance tires helped to increase the handling and get more power to the pavement.

Owing to the four-cam V8 engine, the Cobra is not only the most expensive car in the lineup, it is also features the best performance. Unlike the typical V8 engine that runs out of power just as it gets going, the Cobra’s engine offers incredible power right up to the red line, giving the car serious street credit.

Featuring an attractive exterior, all three of the 1996 models were available as either a coupe or convertible. The high quality convertible is relatively light with a glass rear window and an easy-to-install top boot. Though the convertible is a good choice for some, those looking for as much speed and power as possible should opt for the hard top since the convertible picks up about 200 pounds.

The 15 foot exterior features sweeping lengths of sheet metal which make it look much longer, with some stunning paint options available to give it a great look. Many loved the look of the iridescent paint, though the clear coat metallic paint looked just as great. 16-inch rims came standard on the base and GT models, while the Cobra featured more distinguishing 17-inch aluminum alloy wheels. The rear of each model has a unique label as well, with “Mustang” stamped on the base model, “Mustang GT” stamped on the GT, and “Cobra” on the Cobra.

With plenty of track for seat adjustment and ample legroom, tall and short drivers alike find the Mustang to be a very comfortable vehicle. Odd placement of the fog light and headlight switch on the side of the steering wheel as well as the sound system controls right above the shift lever drew criticism. With the console only featuring one cup holder in an awkward position, there is some room for improvement. Offered in both cloth and leather, the front seats are comfortable for most but the rear seats are a little cramped for anyone but children, though it is nice for storage space. The trunk height also allows for a little more storage than one might expect. Overall the interior is fairly small and narrow, with the gearshift and the seat being a little too close together for comfortable shifting. Though the car can technically seat four, it is much more comfortable for two.

The Ford Mustang remained affordable for the 1996 model year despite its power, performance and reliability with retail prices starting at about $21,060 for the base model and going up to about $27,580 for the fully loaded Cobra. However, most consumers agreed that regardless of the model and features, the 1996 Mustang was a great buy.

Though the 1996 Ford Mustang did see a few slight hang ups, it was a widely popular car that appealed too many. Though some of the changes were subtle, while others like those seen on the Cobra were not so subtle, it is clear that some of the changes made in the 1996 model played a part in making the Mustang into what it is today.

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    Posted by on August 15, 2006