The new Mustang was based on the D2C platform, which Ford also used on the Thunderbird and Lincoln LS. While the Mustang was still sharing a platform, it was the first new platform for the pony car in 25 years, when Ford launched the Fox platform on the 1979 Mustang. Once the platform was set, Ford Group Vice President, Design, J Mays, was responsible for the first major redesign in over ten years. He had to focus on getting it just perfect, since he knew how important the Mustang was, not only to Ford, but to millions throughout the world.
"This is a "Give-me-a-balls-out muscle car." That's really the only way to say it. And that's what our customer base expects us to deliver. This is not only the most popular muscle car in America, this happens to be the most popular nameplate in America. I keep saying this car is not a car at all. It's a cultural icon up there with the Marlboro man, the Beach Boys," Mays said.
With those lofty expectations, J Mays and his design team worked hard to meet them. The result was a new Mustang with a design that paid homage to the past, yet incorporated modern elements to make it one of the best looking, handling and performing vehicles of its time. The exterior features a big grille and round headlights, reminiscent of the 1967-1969 Mustangs, while other elements recall 1965 Mustangs, like the triangular side windows, fastback roofline and taillights. Inside, the retro cues continue, with the dual-hooded dash and aluminum accent panels, recalling those of the 1967-1968 Mustangs. Big instruments, circular vents and a round steering wheel hub complete the retro look.
Modern cues come into play with the changeable backlighting on the instruments, modern suspension components, bigger brakes and modern engines. The all-new design was unveiled to the public at the 2003 North American Auto Show, which showcased a Redline Red GT convertible and a Tungsten Silver GT coupe, and was labeled the most significant concept of the show. This design wasn't too far from what was launched for the 2005 model year.
In early 2004, the new 2005 Ford Mustang was officially launched. Two models, a V6 and GT, were available, along with numerous trims within each model. The new 2005 Mustang was also available in coupe or convertible formats. The V6 was powered by an all-new 4.0L engine that put out 210 horsepower and 240 ft./lb. of torque, which was a nice increase over the outgoing model's V6 power. Meanwhile, in the GT, the 4.6L V8 was carried over from the previous model, but received a nice power boost as well - up to 300 horsepower and 320 ft./lb. of torque, which really calmed many who lauded the old 4.6L for its weak performance. After all the hype surrounding the launch and the new model, sales increased to over 160,000 for the 2005 model year, which was not a bad start for the first new Mustang in more than 10 years!
While the V6 & GT models would only go through minor updates from 2005-2009, the biggest news was all of the special editions and performance editions that Ford released during this time.
As most Mustang aficionados know, no new Mustang would be complete without a series of special editions that allow owners to get their personalized, unique Mustang. With the new design, no special editions were available for model year 2005, but that changed quickly in 2006. For V6 buyers, the Pony Package became available in 2006. The Pony Package included the suspension from the GT, along with 17-inch wheels with wider tires and a unique grille with fog lamps. It also included a rear spoiler, unique striping and emblems. Later on in the S197's run, the Pony Package added a stainless steel exhaust and a power driver's seat.
At the 2007 SEMA show, Ford launched another special version, just for V6 buyers: The V6 Appearance Package. While the V6 Appearance Package included a number of upgrades to the Mustang's looks, like a billet grille, scoops, a spoiler, a grille with fog lights, interior trim updates and blackout trim treatments, it was also made with some performance modifications. For performance, the suspension was upgraded, the car received Ford Power Pack FR1, a true dual exhaust with X-pipe, a Pro-Cal tuner, a short throw shifter and the FR3 handling package, which included upgraded shocks and struts, front and rear anti-roll bars, lowering springs and a strut tower bar. It became available for 2008 and 2009, only for Mustangs already getting the V6 Premium Package. Limited colors were also available for this package, making it very special for buyers.
The biggest special edition news for 2006 was the return of Carroll Shelby to the Mustang. For 2006, Carroll Shelby International modified 500 Mustangs into 2006 Shelby GT-H models, which were sold to Hertz for the revival of their popular "Rent-A-Racer" program from the 1960s. These Mustangs featured a more powerful version of the 4.6L V8, up to 319 horsepower and 330 ft./lb. of torque, through the use of a Ford Racing intake, a tune, and upgraded exhaust. The 2006 Shelby GT-H also featured a handling package with lowering springs, sway bars, and a strut tower brace, plus 3:55:1 gears. It was painted in Hertz's corporate colors, with black exterior and gold racing stripes, plus a billet aluminum grille, special fascias and hood pins.
While Hertz discontinued the program after a one-year run, Shelby rebranded the GT-H into the Shelby GT for 2007 and 2008. While the modifications remained the same as the GT-H, the new Shelby GT was available in numerous colors for both model years, though became best known for it's look in Vista Blue. It became quite popular, too, with more than the planned 6,000 copies being sold.
Also in 2007, Ford reintroduced the California Special edition after a nearly 40 year hiatus. The GT/CS package adds 18-inch wheels, non-functional side scoops and unique striping in lieu of the GT emblem. The GT/CS Mustang also features new front and rear fascias which are lower to the ground than the ones on the standard GT. Interior upgrades include special floor mats and leather options. Despite this being purely an appearance package, it was quite popular and remains available on the Mustang to this day.
For the 2009 model year, Ford was celebrating the 45th anniversary of the Mustang and there was no better way to do that than to create a special edition for GT buyers. While the model was, essentially, a loaded GT, it did include the glass roof option and 45th anniversary badges. Only a limited number of 45th Anniversary Editions were produced.
After a seven year absence, the Bullitt made its return in 2008. The Bullitt was last produced in 2001 and pays tribute to the GT 390 driven by Steve McQueen in the 1968 film. This time around, the Bullitt was manufactured for both the 2008 and 2009 model years, with just over 10,000 being sold across both model years. The Bullitt maintained the look of the original 1968 Mustang, with no exterior badges or a spoiler, a custom Bullitt-only faux gas cap, a custom grille and special Dark Argent Gray 18-inch wheels with matching brake calipers. An upgraded 3.5-inch exhaust tip is added. The Bullitt is only available in Dark Highland Green (like the movie's Mustang), or black.
Under the hood, the 4.6L V8 has been tweaked to produce 315 horsepower and 325 ft./lb. of torque. This was done through improved calibration, a custom cold air intake and a revised exhaust, which was designed to mimic the sound of the original Bullitt. It also features an upgraded suspension, which slightly lowers the Bullitt. A manual transmission was the only gearbox available.
While the Bullitt was only supposed to be made for the 2008 model year, it was hugely popular, so an additional 3,000 units were added for 2009.
After a multi-decade absence, Ford and Shelby again partnered up to bring back the Shelby GT500. It was introduced at the 2005 New York International Auto Show and went on sale in May 2006 as a 2007 model. As a collaboration between Ford's Special Vehicle Team and Shelby, it was produced in limited quantities - about 10,000 annually from 2007-2009.
The Shelby GT500 started with a 5.4L supercharged V8 that produced 500 horsepower and 480 ft./lb. of torque. It also included a Tremec 6-speed manual transmission, custom suspension tuning, a body kit and custom 18-inch wheels.
An even higher performance GT500, the Shelby GT500KR was introduced for the 2008 and 2009 model years. It contained a custom cold air intake and unique tuning, which boosted the power from the 5.4L supercharged V8 to 540 horsepower and 510 ft./lb. of torque. The GT500 "King of the Road" edition was designed to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the original edition and featured several appearance and performance upgrades to set it apart from the GT500. Only 1,000 were made for 2008 and 571 for 2009, with this number matching the original car's 1,571 production.
Not to be outdone, owners could send their already powerful GT500s to Carroll Shelby's plant in Las Vegas where, for an additional $27.995, it can be rebuilt into a Shelby Super Snake. The Super Snake gets either a 605 horsepower version of the 5.4L V8 or a twin-screw supercharged version with over 725 horsepower. It also comes with many other appearance and performance modifications to set it apart from a "standard" GT500. The Super Snake was inspired by the original 1967 version, which Carroll Shelby made custom for Goodyear.
After the big redesign, the 2005-2009 Mustangs served to revive the Mustang's popularity and revitalize the brand. In fact, several of the special editions were some of the most popular and highly demanded cars that Ford's seen in quite some time. However, sales began to drop as 2010 approached, and it was time for Ford to again refresh the S197 to breath new life into the Mustang. See how it changed in our final installment about the 2010-2014 Mustang.
Sources: HowStuffWorks / Wikipedia / TheMustangSource.com / Mustangs Daily