1997 Mustangs were nearly identical to the 1996 Mustangs. ‘96 was a huge year for internal changes, and ‘99 brought the mid-cycle refresh facelift, so it makes sense that the years in between were primarily about perfecting rather than reinventing.
Though there were few changes made to the Mustang between 1996 and 1997, there were new colors offered this year, as well as a few unique special editions.
1997 Ford Mustang Specs
|4.6L V8 (SVT Cobra)
||Adj. 2019 Inflation
Production Numbers and Curb Weight
Production Numbers by Color
|Deep Forest Green
Interior Trim Colors
1997 Mustang Performance
Though it may at first glance seem like the Cobra and GT had the same engine because of its identical displacement, don’t let that fool you. Despite their identical displacements, the Cobra puts out an extra 90 horsepower by being a dual overhead cam configuration while the GT was a single cam. This makes a huge difference in terms of overall performance, though naturally, the Cobra had additional upgrades that helped give it a little extra kick in the pants.
The V6 Mustang for 1997 was still using an overhead valve configuration. There are substantial differences between overhead valve and overhead cam engines, and you’ll find people who will make an argument for both configurations. Thanks to the innovations in engine design during this time period, this was one of the years where the Mustang came in an overhead-valve, single overhead cam, and dual overhead cam configuration.
The GT and the Cobra both were equipped with a T-45 transmission. There are only a couple of practical differences between the two transmissions. The first is that the Cobra has a seven-tooth speedometer gear while the GT has an eight tooth. Also, the cross member is located farther towards the rear of the car in the Cobra, which necessitated moderately different tail housing.
Those are really the only differences between the two transmissions. Subsequently, if you have a 1997 GT and are considering purchasing the Cobra’s T-45 as an upgrade, it really isn’t worth it. On the other hand, if you’re just looking for a cheap replacement, it will bolt in with only a few modifications.
An easy way to upgrade your existing T-45 transmission is simply to change the input shaft to a 26-spline version which will improve the transmission’s performance.
Regardless of which T-45 you have, neither will work with a pushrod or overhead valve engine.
The V6 Mustang came with a T-5 transmission.
1997 Transmission Specifications
|Transmission||First Gear||Second Gear||Third Gear||Fourth Gear
||Fifth Gear||Reverse||Torque Capacity
1997 Mustang Colors and Exterior Changes
There weren’t any exterior changes for the 1997 or 1998 Mustangs, but this year did see a few really interesting paint options.
1997 Mustang GTs had the option of two one-year-only paint options: Aztec Gold and Autumn Orange. Considering how few cars are made with warm toned ultra-saturated color choices (other than red of course), both of these were a breath of fresh air. Unfortunately, they were both retired after a very short run and neither color was offered on non-GT Mustangs.
Aztec Gold and Autumn Orange
Deep Violet, Moonlight Blue, and Deep Forest Green were also retired after this year. Deep Violet and Moonlight Blue were only available for 1996 and 1997.
Deep Violet, Moonlight Blue, and Deep Forest Green
1997 Special Edition Mustangs
The only real difference between the 1996 and 1997 Cobra was that the 1996 Cobra had a honeycomb grille, which was removed to allow for greater airflow. They also improved the air conditioning condenser. The Cobra was still available in four colors, but true to their word, Ford only kept the Mystic paint option for the 1996 year. For 1997 you could select Rio Red, Pacific Green, Black, or Crystal White. Black and Saddle interior trim colors were available in either cloth or leather.
Because of how many options there were, each individual option combination has become exceedingly rare. For example, only one Crystal White Cobra convertible with a black cloth interior was produced in 1997. A Black Cobra coupe with Black leather seats, however, is the most common combination, with roughly 1,641 having been produced.
SVO Woodward Dream Cruise
In 1995, a small group formed together to create a special one-day Woodward Avenue Dream Cruise, a trip from Detroit to Pontiac. They decided to make it a yearly event. In order to commemorate the Dream Cruise, Ford decided to make a very, very limited edition Mustang. 58 of the SVO Woodward Dream Cruise Mustangs were produced. All of them are white, with blue Shelby-style stripes, each is individually numbered, and they all have a placard on the dash and special side badging.
These are some of the rarest production Fords ever made even though it is primarily an aesthetic package.
Ford Dreamers Ad
SVO Woodward Dream Cruise Mustang
Saleen Extreme Rainbow Mustang
If 58 produced isn’t quite rare enough for you, here’s a pony that’s one of a kind. Saleen’s 281-Cs are already rare. Only around 20 were produced in an average year, but even fewer than that received the Extreme Rainbow Paint option. Rarer than Mystic Cobras, or Mystichrome Cobras, this paint works off of a similar concept. Tiny aluminum flakes catch and reflect the light, creating a color shifting effect that makes the Saleen Extreme Rainbow stunning, with a color shift that varies wildly in hue.
Out of the very few Saleen-281-C’s that received the Extreme Rainbow treatment, exactly one of them was a 1997 Cobra. This makes the Extreme Rainbow Cobra an exceptionally rare Mustang.
Extreme Rainbow Saleen
Common Modifications for 1997 Mustangs
1997 Mustangs are great candidates for a Coyote Swap, but smaller modifications also serve them well. Before beginning any major modifications, it’s important to think about the torque capacity of your transmission and update that accordingly. By altering the input shaft to a 26-spline or by simply replacing the transmission with one of the ones readily available today, you can increase the torque capacity of your transmission.
Tremec began producing high-grade T-5 transmissions that can withstand an impressive amount of torque for pretty much exactly this purpose, and even though it’s not a straight bolt-on, it’s a great upgrade that will give you plenty of room to increase the power output of your engine without worrying about giving your transmission way too much torque.
Headlights are another common modification that upgrades not only the overall appearance of your Mustang but also improves your safety when you’re driving at night or inclement weather.
The style of these Mustangs lends itself to a variety of body modifications as well, including some incredibly attractive spoilers.
One area that people tend to forget about is the interior of their Mustang, but if you’re purchasing a used Mustang, buying a new steering wheel is just a smart move. In the two decades that your Mustang has been on the earth, it has undoubtedly encountered some less than clean hands and could use a shifter and steering wheel swap out for your health.
1997 Mustang Overview
The 1997 Mustang was largely a continuation of the 1996 year. Very little changed in terms of either external details or internal components. This is great because with several years all very close together the aftermarket scene for these cars is fantastic, with plenty of part upgrades and performance modifications available.
The discontinuation of some of the brighter colors following this year was a disappointment, and there’s little doubt that this year had some of the most interesting and diverse color palettes available. Though there weren’t many special editions, Saleen, Roush, and Shinoda Performance all continued to offer performance and appearance upgrades for Mustangs, allowing for a high degree of personalization. For more personalization today, check out CJ's selection of 1997 Mustang parts.
Want to compare these specs to another SN95 Mustang? Check out our pages for the 1995 Mustang Specs, 1996 Mustang Specs, 1998 Mustang Specs, 1999 Mustang Specs, 2000 Mustang Specs, 2001 Mustang Specs, 2002 Mustang Specs, and 2003 Mustang Specs. You can also check out our comprehensive SN95 Mustang horsepower guide for stats on each model year and ideas for getting more power out of your pony.
Image Credit: Mustang Attitude, Automanager, The Mustang Source