Stiffer Mk5 Mustangs can be further uprated to suit UK tastes
Cabin trim is of the shiny plastic type but is durable
Engine runs best on 5W30 fully synthetic, changed every 10,000 miles
The brakes get worse as they get hotter, so make new discs and pads a priority
Check for oil leak from rear axle pinion seal
Now that right-hand-drive Ford Mustangs are on the market, is there any sense in buying the imported previous model?
You can pick up a used, low-mileage, current-generation Mustang 2.3 Ecoboost from £26,000, or a 5.0 V8 GT manual from £29,000, with the benefit of driving on the correct side of the car. That said, the last-gen model is potentially much cheaper, infinitely tweakable and, well, just so darned charismatic.
Prices begin way lower than £25,000. How about £9000 for a 2008-reg 4.0 V8 Fastback? It’s done 225,000 miles but has a new clutch, control arms and brakes. The work reads like a buyer’s guide of things to look for when buying an S197 (the codename for this fifth-generation Mustang of 2005-2014).
Another thing to look for is proof that all taxes and duties have been paid. The seller of the above car bought it from a US serviceman. They’re allowed to import and register cars on UK plates without paying import taxes but must take it home at tour’s end. However, some sell their cars to UK buyers at knockdown prices without paying the taxes, which is when Customs and Excise comes knocking...
The S197 was a more brutal-looking take on the legendary Mk1 Fastback of 1967. Otherwise, it was bang up to date, sharing nothing apart from some key styling details, including its tri-bar taillights, with its immediate Mk4 predecessor. It sat on a new and much stiffer platform but, even so, UK enthusiasts uprate the suspension for a sharper drive.
It was launched in 2004 in Fastback form with a choice of a 4.0 V6 with 207bhp or a 4.6 V8 with 296bhp, both with five-speed manual or automatic gearboxes. A convertible followed in 2005.
In 2009, the 4.6 V8 GT engine was uprated to 311bhp. A facelift in 2010 brought a redesigned Mustang emblem, indicators within the headlights and LED taillights.
The following year saw a new generation of six-speed manual and automatic gearboxes mated to two new engines: a 301bhp 3.7 V6 that was more efficient than the 4.0 V6 it replaced and, in place of the 4.6,a 406bhp ‘Coyote’ 5.0 V8, which in turn spawned the uprated 438bhp Boss 302. The new GT500 trumped that with a supercharged 5.4 V8 making 542bhp. In 2013, this version grew to 5.8 litres and 653bhp (80mph shows at a cool 1800rpm), while the 5.0 V8 eased up to 414bhp. These cars have HID headlights too.
Talking of which, and regardless of model year, check that all the lights work when buying an S197. They’re controlled by a computer, and bodging them to pass the Individual Vehicle Approval test wreaks havoc– although specialist Nick Haes can help (01902 847848). Watch what you pay for an S197 since they’re starting to look expensive against the S550 Mk6. Bear that in mind and enjoy one of the most charismatic cars you can buy from £9000.
How to get one in you garage:
An expert’s view - MIKE LACEY, MODURSTANG: “In 1982, when I was 19, I moved with my parents to the US, where I fell in love with Mustangs. A few years after returning to the UK, I started my own business servicing and tuning them. The S197 was a fantastic era for the model. You could modify every inch of the car and it kicked aftermarket upgrades to a new level. Like all Mustangs, it holds its value very well. You can pay up to £26,000 for a top- spec 06-reg 4.6 V8 in mint condition, but that’s too much. Most S197s are overpriced, especially when the first current-generation S550s start at around the same money. For just £10k more, you can have a low-mile 16-reg 5.0 V8 GT with everything on it.”
ENGINE - Engine runs best on 5W30 fully synthetic, changed every 10,000 miles. Beware spark plugs on early V8s – they’re in two parts and when loosened can snap, especially when cold. There’s a special tool to extract the remaining part.
TRANSMISSION - Check for oil leak from rear axle pinion seal. It’s a £5 part but a day’s labour to fix.On manual cars, check if second gear crunches on selection when cold.
SUSPENSION AND BRAKES - The brakes get worse as they get hotter, so make new discs and pads (by StopTech, for example) a priority. Rear lower control arms and its end bushes are the same grade regardless of engine, so replace with superior BMR Suspension parts. Same goes for springs and dampers.
BODYWORK - Check for rust on the underside of the bonnet’s leading edge. It’s in two layers and condensation can form between them. Failed door seals let water into the front footwells where, on the passenger side, it can short- circuit the junction board. Check plastic spacer and metal bracket between grille and radiator for crash damage. Check windows drop a fraction when the door is opened.
ELECTRICS - Inexpert brake light and rear indicator mods for the IVA test can cause electrical issues. Check cruise control works – bodgers cut the brake light wire the system relies on. Check if LED brake light bulbs have been replaced with ordinary bulbs.
INTERIOR - Trim looks and feels plasticky but should stay anchored.
Also worth knowing:
If the car is more than four years old, ask for a copy of its C386 customs form that shows import taxes and duties were paid. Cheap cars may owe duty (10%) and VAT (20%). Former US service cars are especially risky.
How much to spend:
Below £14,995 - assortment of cars, most manuals, as low as £9000. Includes early 4.0 V6s, some with over 200k miles, such as one 2008-reg 4.0 V6 with 225k.
£15,000-£19,995 - Mix of 07- to 14-reg 3.7 V6s, 4.6 V8s, 5.0 V8 coupés and convertibles with 35-70k miles. Includes a 2001 5.0 V8 GT with 35k miles for £19,995.
£20,000-£24,995 - Low-mileage 4.6s, and average- mileage, late-plate 5.0 V8s. Next-gen 2.3 Ecoboost from around £26,000.
One we found:
FORD MUSTANG 4.6 V8 GT FASTBACK AUTO, 2007, 55k MILES, £15,995 - Recently shipped in by a specialist claiming to have dealt with all import requirements. Has the Premium pack (switchable traction control, leather trim) and full history, and is ‘rust free’. Loads of Shelby extras including GT Classic apron and grille and louvres.