The Ford Mustang’s fourth generation, internally coded as the SN95 generation, started in 1994 and ran through 2004. In 1999, this Mustang got a significant redesign, dividing the generation into Early SN95 and New Edge designations.
Many feel that this generation was when Ford propelled the Mustang into the era of “modern cars,” as they shifted away from the boxy design of the Fox Body. Despite this modern shift, the SN95 stays true to its heritage. If anything, style choices like returning the iconic running pony grille emblem signified a decision to hold true to the Mustang’s roots, even while incorporating modern safety features like ABS and dual airbags.
Where does the SN95 name come from?
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.
What about the New Edge name?
The “New Edge” name attached to 1999-2004 Mustangs also comes directly from Ford. Starting in the late ‘90s Ford started applying the “New Edge” design to several vehicles, including the Puma, Focus, and Explorer. The New Edge aesthetic added crisp lines and angles to the curvy designs of the vehicles themselves. The New York Times described the style as a “combination of straight lines, curves, and planes.”
SN95 Launch and Design
In 1984, Ford had first started working on the design for the fourth generation of Mustang. Heavily informed by the 1979 energy crisis, Ford partnered with Mazda to create a new FWD vehicle to replace the Mustang, known as ST-16.
In 1987, AutoWeek magazine revealed the existence of the ST-16 Mustang to the public, who were not at all excited. Ford was flooded with letters from Mustang enthusiasts, letting them know how disappointed they were with the new concept for the Mustang.
But some of the strongest opposition came from internal sources. John Coletti, best known for his work as director of the SVT team, said he would have rather gotten rid of the Mustang entirely than allowed it to become the ST-16.
Instead of debuting in 1989, Ford allowed Coletti’s team to revamp the Fox platform. The ST-16 would become known as the Ford Probe. The Probe was actually a success in its own right, and people didn’t hate it when it wasn’t replacing the Mustang.
Ford spent several years and 700 million dollars redesigning the Mustang. Most of that investment was in reducing the noise, vibration, and harshness of the existing Fox platform.
A Better Reception
In 1993, Ford unveiled their 2-seater Mustang concept car, called the Mustang Mach III. Though concept cars are always pretty far removed from actual production models, the public liked what it saw. Ford breathed a sigh of relief, and the Fox Body Mustang was finally allowed to retire after 15 years.
The SN95 Mustang’s debut was marked with major increases in horsepower and totally transformed styling.
The SN95 used the same Fox Body platform as the previous generation, but the bold new look was created by Patrick Shiavone
Schiavone designed trucks, SUVs, and CUVs for Ford. He’s credited with designing the F-150 as well.
The Mustang’s styling is part of what has made it a legend. Ford worked hard to incorporate features that referenced the Mustang’s storied history while still letting the SN95 be its own thing.
The grille brought back the running pony emblem which had been missing through the Fox’s 15 years. The design team also brought back the triple-element taillights.
These are ultimately small design pieces. The biggest thing the SN95 has that makes it look like a Mustang is its body shape. The long hood. The short deck. The slantback roof, which looks just enough like the classic Mustang’s fastback style to make them clear relatives. They also brought back simulated side scoops as quarter panel ornamentation.
Differences Between SN95 and New Edge Mustangs
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.
The SN95 generation came in a wide variety of colors. Some of the ones that weren’t popular at the time they were made have become highly desirable since.
Rare options, like Bright Tangerine, were often only offered for a single year. In 1995, only 829 Bright Tangerine GTs were made, making it a rare find.
Other one-year-only and limited edition colors were:
- Iris: 1994
- Silver Frost: 1995
- Sapphire Blue: 1995
- Bright Tangerine: 1996
- Mystic: 1996
- Aztec Gold: 1997
- Autumn Orange:1997
- Sunburst Gold: 2000
- Highland Green: 2001
- Crimson Red: 2004
- Mystichrome: 2004
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.
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.
While the Fox’s first few years were marred by underwhelming engines, the SN95 didn’t share that struggle. Instead, it came onto the scene with a base V6 and a GT V8 option. The V6 produced 145 hp and the GT 215 hp. The horsepower only grew throughout the course of the generation.
The SN95 generation’s engines were where some significant changes were made year to year. While the V6 would maintain an overhead valve configuration, the GT transitioned to an overhead cam in 1996.
In addition to the V8 used in the GT, new more powerful engines would be introduced for special editions like the Cobra and Mach 1. These engines often used a dual overhead cam engine configuration, to generate more power than the single cam V8 could.
The front suspension was revamped with new lower control arms, spindles, and anti-roll bars. The rear axle came with a 2.73:1 rear gear ratio that was later changed to 3.27:1.
Most importantly, they increased the chassis rigidity of the SN95. The Fox Body generation is notorious for chassis flex. But the SN95 is 56% more rigid horizontally and 44% stiffer in the lateral plane. All without gaining weight.
The SN95 debuted with the same T-5 manual transmission that had been in use since 1983. While the GT began to use the T-45 Transmission in 1998, the V6 Mustang used the T-5 through this generation and into the next.
Automatic transmissions are a slightly more interesting story. The SN95 generation premiered with the AODE 4-speed automatic transmission, one of the shortest-lived transmissions in Ford history.
In 1996, the AODE would be replaced in favor of the 4R70, which would carry through the generation.
The most exciting of the available transmissions though was the Tremec T-56 trans used in the 2000 Cobra R and the 2003-2004 Cobra models. The six-gear manual transmission features two overdrive gears and shorty, notchy throws. This makes it a popular transmission upgrade today.
SN95 Special and Unique Variants
The SN95 generation had no shortage of special and limited editions. In addition to the factory options, tuners like Saleen and Roush were eager to add performance features to the Mustang. There were even Boss Shinoda Mustangs, a homage to Larry Shinoda, the designer of the Boss Mustangs.
This is a short list of some of the most memorable factory special editions.
The GTS was a trim that was offered for just one year in 1995. While the GTS kept the performance features of the GT, it was able to offer a lower price point. This made it similar to the 5.0 LX model from the Fox Body generation.
The GTS lacked the GT’s rear decklid spoiler, wheels, and front air dam. But kept the Traction-Lok differential and the V8 engine.
Unfortunately, this wasn’t a very popular option. Only 6,370 were produced.
The GTS’ have the GT Logo on the rear bumper cover and GT badging on the front fender.
In 1996, Ford replaced the GTS with the 248A option package, which was very comparable to the GTS.
SN95 Mustang Cobras
The SN95 Cobra launched in 1994, along with the rest of the generation. While the GT could produce a respectable 215 hp, the Cobra could produce 240 horsepower. It also was equipped with numerous styling and performance upgrades.
In 1995, hardtop Cobra convertibles were available. This was the only year for this option, and only 499 were produced. That makes this one of the rarest SN95 Mustangs.
In 1996, Ford offered a special Mystic paint color for the Cobra. When viewed from different angles, the Mystic paint color appeared to change from green, to purple, and to a light gold. The “Mystic Cobra” is still a highly sought-after collectible today.
Mystic Paint Creation
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.
The 1996 and 1997 Mustangs represented the peak of popularity. More than 10,000 were created each of the two years.
New Edge Cobras
While the Cobra models continued into the New Edge portion of the generation, things got off to a rocky start.
The 1999 Cobra failed to produce the horsepower promised, leading to a recall of all 8,000 produced. Because of this, the 2000 Cobra never launched. In 2001, the Cobra returned, but was mostly a fixed version of the 1999.
Disappointed with performance, the SVT team canceled the 2002 Cobra model. But with the time, they made the 2003-2004 Cobra. Better known as the Terminator Cobra.
The Terminator Cobra represents the pinnacle of what New Edge Mustangs are capable of and remains a highly sought-after collectible.
A Mystichrome color was available for the Terminator Cobra as well. Just like the Mystic paint color, this paint seems to shift in the light.
New Edge Cobras do have one feature that the SN95 versions can’t offer: Independent rear suspension. Though this feature is standard now in all S550 Mustangs, New Edge Cobras represent the first Mustangs with this suspension style.
Cobra R Mustangs
The Cobra R Mustangs are produced in significantly more limited quantities than Cobras, and required a valid racing license for purchase. (That’s what the R stands for). Much like the difference between GT350s and GT350 Rs, the R version is meant to be race-ready.
Cobra Rs were produced in 1995 and 2000, in extremely limited quantities.
The 2000 Cobra R is especially worth noting. Ford and the SVT Team squeezed a 5.4L 385 horsepower V8 under the hood and mated it to a Tremec T-56 manual transmission. With specially tuned suspension, no air conditioning, no radio, no cruise control, and a 20-gallon fuel tank, the 2000 Cobra R was more at home on the track than on a cruise.
35th Anniversary Edition
In 1999, the Ford Mustang turned 35. While all V6 and GT Mustangs got a 35th-anniversary fender badge, Ford decided to turn 4,628 GTs into limited-edition models to commemorate the occasion.
35th Anniversary Editions had raised hood scoops, with a black central hood stripe. They also got extended side scoops, a rear wing, and a black honeycomb grille insert.
The SN95 Bullitt
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.
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.
The Mach 1 was a favorite package for the classic Mustang. While it brought some of the style elements of the more desirable Boss Mustangs, it came at a pricepoint that was significantly more affordable.
The New Edge Mach 1 introduced in 2003 brought back many of the Mach’s most desirable features. From the shaker hood scoop to the bold satin black hood stripe and spoiler, the Mach 1 is a good-looking Mustang. And, just like the original Mach 1, it came at a price point that was a little more attainable than the Cobras.
The Mach 1s look was completed with a unique ComfortWeave seat design, gauge cluster, and interior accents. More additions include rolled exhaust tips and a new version of the classic Magnum 500 wheel.
The Mach 1’s a Movie Star
Classic Mach 1s looked so much like the Boss Mustangs and were so much more abundant that they’ve been able to play them in movies like John Wick. Unable, or unwilling, to destroy actual Boss 429 Mustangs, Mach 1s were used instead.
Pony Edition Mustang
In 2003, the Pony Edition Mustang, previously a Florida-exclusive, went national. The Pony Package was a popular addition to classic Mustangs, but hadn’t returned since 1966. Unlike the classic Pony Package, which was an interior-only upgrade, the new Pony Package included exterior and interior additions.
The Pony Package could only be added to V6 Mustangs.
The Pony Package included 16” Polished Aluminum wheels, a unique rear fascia, the GT Hood, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. In 2003, a stampeding Mustangs tape stripe also adorned the side, but 2004’s Pony Pack had plain sides.
100th Anniversary Edition
2003 was a big year for Ford. It marked the 100th anniversary of the auto manufacturer. To celebrate, a special package was released for GT Mustangs. The premium package included 17” wheels, anti-lock brakes, 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-disc changer, and “100th Anniversary” badges on the fender, decklid, and embossed on the seats.
10th Anniversary Cobra
Ford may have been celebrating 100 years, but SVT was celebrating an important anniversary as well. The 10th-anniversary Cobra featured very unique 17x9-inch dark argent painted anniversary wheels and red-painted brake calipers. The interior featured bright red leather seating and was trimmed with carbon fiber. SVT 10th Anniversary badges appeared on the floor mats and rear decklid.
Exactly 2,003 of these were produced. They were available in Black, Torch Red, and Silver Metallic.
The End of the SN95 Generation
The retro-modern style of the S197 (right) contrasts with the smooth lines of the New Edge, yet both share the same design language that's 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.