The launch of the 1994 model year of the Ford Mustang was arguably the moment that the vehicle propelled itself into the era of “modern cars.” After years of anticipation that had fans eagerly awaiting the next generation, the fourth generation, internally known by the code SN95, finally debuted. The shift away from the boxiness of the Fox Body, definitively a product of the 1980s, marked a deliberate transformation into contemporary design.
And yet, despite this, the Mustang seemed as true to its heritage as ever, with unmistakably distinct lines. The iconic running horse had even returned to the grille after more than a decade’s absence. With modern safety features offered, like optional ABS and standard dual airbags, the technology backed up the promises of the newly-revised exterior.
The name “SN95” applies to all Mustangs in the fourth generation, from 1994-2004. This internal code refers to the Sporty (or Speciality) segment, North American market, and the project number 95 sequentially in Ford’s queue. It’s worth noting that the “95” does not in any way refer to the year 1995.
The 1999 model year brought about a mid-cycle refresh just in time for the new millennium. The 1999-2004 Mustangs are referred to as “New Edge,” which was Ford’s global design language during that time period. Though still technically SN95 models, some refer to them solely as such. Debuting with the European city car, the Ford Ka, in 1996, the smooth, aerodynamic styling was unmistakable and used across much of the lineup for the next decade.
Everything started in 1993 at the American International Auto Show in Detroit. The public got their first glimpse of a 2-seater concept car called the Mustang Mach III, which was speculated to be a major hint of what the next Mustangs would look like. Those hints became reality in 1994, when the Fox Body Mustang was retired after 15 years and the all-new SN95 Mustang debuted, with more power and vastly transformed styling.
Code named SN95 by Ford, this updated Mustang was a heavily revised version of the Fox Body platform. The new, dramatically different design was designed by Patrick Schiavone.
Did you know: Schiavone had designed trucks, SUVs, and CUVs for Ford Motor Company throughout the years. He is also credited with designing the best-selling truck in the world, the Ford F-150. Also, Ford paid $700 million to improve the Fox platform for the 1994 Mustang. The cost was meant to help the car’s handling, noise, and vibrations.
A Laundry List of New Features
The new 1994 Mustang's base model featured a 3.8L OHV V6 engine with the option of a 5-speed manual transmission or an AODE 4-speed automatic transmission. The V6 engine produced 145 horsepower at 4000 rpm and 215 lbs per foot of torque at 2,500 RPM. The front suspension was reconstructed with new lower control arms, new spindles, and anti-roll bars. In the rear of the Mustang, a four-bar like solid axle was used. The standard rear axle ratio was 2.73:1 which was later changed to 3.27:1. All Mustangs had standard four-wheel disc brakes, while anti-lock brakes were optional. This new Mustang incorporated numerous retro styling cues; this would include: a running horse in the grille, simulated side scoops ahead of the rear wheels, triple-element tail lamps, and the beautiful long-hood/short-deck proportions. This Mustang had a conventional trunk lid and a slant back roof, faintly resembling the 1965-66 fastback's 2+2 arrangement.
Engineers worked day and night to increase the Mustang's structural strength without adding weight, and they succeeded. Against the previous notchback, the SN95 coupe was 56 percent more rigid, which meant much greater flex resistance in the horizontal plane. It was also made 44 percent stiffer in the torsional (lateral) plane. This was great news, but it also brought further challenges that had to be addressed. The team then had to perform numerous alterations to improve crash performance, as well as resistance to squeaks and rattles. Once again, they made it happen.
The 1994 Mustang's radically revised exterior styling was matched inside the cabin as well. The Mustang's new interior featured a dual-cockpit layout that was overwhelmed with contours and sweeping curves. These curves were similar in style to those in Ford Thunderbirds.
Ford also included power windows, mirrors, door locks, remote keyless entry, air conditioning, cruise control, and a cargo net in the trunk, as well as the 230-watt multi-speaker sound system with a CD player as standard features. To keep up with safety laws, there were dual front airbags and it received the standard three-point seat belts.
SN95 Special and Unique Variants
- Mach 1
- 35th Anniversary
- 40th Anniversary
- Bullitt (2001)
- Saleen S351
- SVT Cobra
- SVT Cobra R
- Steeda Q400
- 1995 Cobra Hardtop Convertible
- Pony Edition
- Ford 100th Anniversary
GTS: A Moderately Rare Pony with Lukewarm Reception
In 1995, the Mustang would be just about identical to the 1994 models. However, a new GTS trim was added in the line-up, slotting in between the base model and GT. It proved to be not very popular with consumers, with only 6,370 being produced.
The best features of the GTS included the 302 CID pushrod V8 powerplant and a Traction-Lok axle. When you look at the 1995 Mustang GTS's, there are many features absent when compared to the GT. The rear decklid spoiler disappeared, as well as the fog lamps in the front air dam and 16”x7” five-spoke pony rims.
In 1996, Ford replaced the GTS with the 248A option package, which was very comparable to the GTS.
Did you know: The original factory GTs will have the “Mustang GT” logo embossed on the rear bumper cover, where 2.25” stainless steel tailpipes exit the back. There will also be a “Mustang GT” budging on the front fenders.
Bringing Back the Cobra
A new Cobra also launched in 1994 with the rest of the SN95 Mustangs and featured a more powerful version of the 5.0L V8, up to 240 horsepower, along with numerous styling and performance upgrades. This Mustang Cobra was also produced in 1995.
After the huge success of the 1993 Cobra R, Ford decided to build a new version on the SN95 platform. The new 1995 Cobra R offered a 300-hp 5.8L V8 engine and could only be ordered if the buyer had a valid racing license. This limited edition only stuck around for one year, before disappearing again.
In 1996, Ford launched the new modular 4.6L V8 in the GT, which featured a single overhead camshaft design. Ford also produced a more limited dual overhead camshaft version for the 1996-1998 Mustang Cobras. The new engine produced 305 horsepower, which was a nice boost over the standard 4.6L V8 found in the GT. While the majority of the Cobra design remained the same from 1996-1998, the 1996 version offered the Mystic Cobra option, which featured a color-shifting paint. A Mysti-Chrome edition of the Cobra also appeared in 2004 with a similar paint job.
The Cobra remained for 1999 and 2001-2004 with a number of new changes, including an independent rear suspension. The Cobra R returned for a 300 car run in 2000, featuring a 385 horsepower version of the 5.4L V8 found in Ford's trucks.
Did you know: 1995 was the only year someone could purchase a hardtop Cobra convertible, with only 499 models available. Also, that year, the Cobras were only available in three colors; black, white, and red.
Bright tangerine was a major limited-run color in 1995, as there were only 928 were made, which were all GTs. But the SVT Cobras had four colors one could choose from; Laser Red, Crystal White, Black, and the legendary Mystic. The color that really got people's eyes popping was the Mystic color available in 1996, which is a shade that offers some illusionary tricks. Depending on the angle of the light, you could see a beautiful shiny green, a magical purple, or a dark bronze. For 2004 SVT Cobras, a similar color called Mystichrome was offered.
Did you know: The mystic paint was developed by BASF, one of the world’s leading chemical companies. The green they used in the mystic paint is the same green they use to make U.S. paper currency.
What Is the New Edge Mustang?
The SN95 Mustang received a fresh new look for its 35th anniversary in 1999, adopting Ford’s global “New Edge” style. The facelifted New Edge Mustangs were produced for the 1999-2004 model years, with the refresh initially released on December 26, 1998 for the 1999 model year. It was a distinct second iteration within the larger SN95 generation, though some will mistakenly refer to the entire 1994-2004 range as a “New Edge.”
What makes New Edge Mustangs different from their 1994-1998 predecessors primarily resides in the exterior styling. New Edge Mustangs are easily identified by their sharper contours, more angular styling, larger wheel arches, and creases in the bodywork that replaced the soft lines in the previous model. During these years, multiple changes were made not only to the design of the Mustang but also to many aspects of its performance and handling.
The base engine remained the 3.8L OHV Essex V6, which featured a few upgrades. New split-port induction system replaced the single-port inductions, which put out 190 horsepower at 5,250 rpm.
Both the V6 and GT Mustangs wore beautiful “35th Anniversary” fender badges for 1999. Ford also made 4,628 GTs (2,318 coupes and 2,310 convertibles) into limited-edition models to commemorate the Mustang's big birthday! The Limited Edition GTs had raised hood scoops, with a black stripe from the scoop down to the front of the hood. In addition to the hood scoops, there were extended side scoops, a wing-like spoiler, and a black honeycomb insert. But upgrades for the line-up were not limited to just visual components; there were new performance trims as well.
The 1999 Cobra was the first Mustang to offer an independent rear suspension, a performance upgrade so great that it was eventually added to all Mustangs in 2015. The very next year saw the release of the 2000 SVT Cobra R.
Few cars inspire envy the way the Cobra R does. The Cobra R was a primarily track-oriented Mustang with minimal production numbers. There were only 300 of these cars produced. Ford and the SVT Team squeezed a 5.4L free-flowing 385 horsepower V8 under the hood and mated it a Tremec T-56 manual transmission. With specially tuned suspension, no air conditioning, no radio, no cruise control, a 20-gallon fuel cell and much more, the 2000 Cobra R was 110% at home on the track.
Though the SVT Cobra R didn't return for 2001, Mustang enthusiasts still had amazing options for the coming years of the New Edge Generation. These would include two major trim levels that stood apart from the rest for the 2003-2004 model years: The Mach 1 and SVT Cobra.
What made the Mach 1 special was that it was the ultimate throwback to the original Mach 1 Mustangs from the late '60s and early '70s. Everything from the Shaker Hood to the seat design, gauge cluster, interior accents, wheels and satin black spoiler - the 2003-2004 Mach 1 was truly a unique New Edge Mustang.
The 2003-2004 SVT Cobra earned the nickname “Terminator” shortly after its release. This was due in part to the supercharged 4.6L V8 under the hood, which pumped out just under 400 horsepower - which was quite a bit for 2003! Combine that with some serious head-turning styling cues and a very vocal supercharger that screamed all the way to redline, and you had one highly desirable Mustang.
Limited Edition: The Mustang Bullitt SN95
In 2001, Ford launched another special edition New Edge package: the Bullitt Mustang. It paid homage to the classic movie of the same name, which starred a 1968 Mustang GT 390 fastback. The Bullitt had a more retro interior theme, from the seat design like in the 1960s to the tall, thin font on the speedometer. There was also a different intake than the GT and a small boost of 5 additional horsepower. It was also only available in three colors: Dark Highland Green (like the original 1968 Bullitt Mustang), True Blue, and Black.
Did you know: Paying homage to the Steve McQueen movie (1968), the Bullitt was named after the character Lt. Frank Bullitt, who got behind the wheel of a Highland Green 1968 GT390 Fastback for what is regarded as one of the best car chases in cinema history.
Major Audio Change
In 2002, Mustang came up with a new idea to make the sound system better in the already amazing cars; the new Visteon Mach 1000 audio system. This system produced more than 1,100 watts of sound power. The system also came with a 60-watt parametrically equalizer amplifier. This also came with six 85-watt subwoofer amplifiers, four 505 X 7.5-inch subwoofer speakers, four midrange tweeters, and two 10-inch truck-mounted acoustic suspension enclosures. If it’s too loud, too bad!
Did you know: In 2002, Roush Performance introduced their supercharger 360-hp 360R; which was available in red with white stripes.
Time to Make it Big
The 2003 model year was a huge deal for the Mustang world. Not only did Ford decide to rev up by supercharging the Cobra and reviving the Mach 1 moniker, but the Pony Edition Mustang was added to the nationwide lineup, and Ford celebrated its 100th anniversary.
The Mach 1 came back with a four-valve DOHC 305-hp V8 engine, under a functional Shaker hood scoop. More additions include rolled exhaust tips, Comfort Weave seats and a new version of the classic Magnum 500 wheel, which were the only option for the 2003 Mach 1.
In June 2003, Ford celebrated its 100th Anniversary. Limited editions of many Ford products were introduced; however, the Mustang GT received the best of the best. The premium package the GT received includes 17” wheels, anti-lock brakes and traction control, and dual exhaust. There was also plenty done with the interior. Ford added a power driver seat with power lumbar support, leather-wrapped steering wheel, Mach 460 AM/FM stereo with a six-disk changer, and “100th Anniversary” badges of the fender, decklid, and embossed on the seats.
Did you know: The Pony Edition Mustang was added to the nationwide line-up after being a Florida only edition in 2001 and 2002.
An Anniversary to Celebrate
In 2003, the special 10th Anniversary 2003 SVT Cobra was introduced. This beauty featured very unique 17x9-inch dark argent painted anniversary wheels and red leather seating. The interior was trimmed with carbon fiber, red-painted brakes calipers, and the SVT 10th Anniversary badges on the floor mats and rear decklid.
The End of the SN95
The retro-modern style of the fifth generation S197 (right) contrasts with the smooth lines of the New Edge SN95 models, yet both share the unmistakable design language that has been present in all Mustangs since 1964.
By 2004, it was time for a refresh. The standard 2-valve V8 engine from the GT trim was only producing as much horsepower as a V6 from cars like the Infiniti G35, hardly indicative of a top-of-the-line muscle car. Having debuted in the 1991 Lincoln Town Car, it was finally time for a big update.
The 4.6-liter modular V8 engine would be transformed for the 2005 Mustang GT, instead using a 3-valve design that would help boost output to 300 hp, in addition to giving it an undeniably great sound.
While the SN95 made its mark and garnered a lot of fans, the S197’s launch ushered in a new generation that included a vastly improved cabin, better performance, and retro-inspired style that harkened back to the original, classic Mustangs of old.