The introduction of the SN95 platform in 1994 was the first major Mustang rework since the late 1970s. The Fox Body Mustang had lingered on for 14 years—way past the normal life span of any particular model. To be honest, as aged as it was, the Fox Mustang was a tough act to follow.
In fact, it almost died. Well, in a manner of speaking; the name was going to live on, but Ford was entertaining ideas of a front wheel drive, 4-cylinder, sporty coupe to take over the mantle of the horse. After much public outrage, a writing campaign, and actual evidence of Henry Ford literally spinning in his grave, Ford relented and relabeled the car as the Probe. With that disaster averted, Ford concentrated their efforts on designing a front engine, rear drive platform capable of housing a V8.
What followed was ten years of further development of the venerable Fox platform. Yes, the SN95 was still technically Fox-based, (which is why so many suspension pieces will bolt on to your ’88 Notchback!), and was more than enough to keep Ford fans buzzing until the S197 platform in 2005.
A few significant things happened with the SN95 Mustang—much of which Fox owners felt SHOULD have happened sooner. Like the switch from the dreaded 4-lug hub design to a more respectable 5-lug wheel design. Additionally, the SN95 received standard rear disc brakes; something that only made it to the ’93 Cobra. Also, the introduction of the IRS for the Cobra, and most significantly, dropping the pushrod engines in favor of overhead cam engines in 1996. The SN95 was a revolutionary vehicle for Mustangs!
Just like we did with the Fox Mustang, BOM has compiled a list of the top ten SN95 Mustangs. As before, we’re taking into consideration performance level, fun factor, collectability, and significance. What do you think? Does this line up with what you think the top ten are? Here we go!
10: 1998 SVT Super Stallion Concept
There are actually two concept cars on this list—both the brainchild of John Coletti. This car was neat in two ways. First, it foreshadowed the production IRS with a form of its own independent pushrod style rear suspension. Second, it showcased a completely awesome, supercharged, dual fuel, 5.4L DOHC V8 beast that made 545hp on pump gas, and 590 on E85.
It was 100-percent street legal, sported 13-inch Brembo brakes, a plush leather interior, and a one of a kind paint job that you won’t soon forget. It was backed by a McLeod clutch sporting Tremec T-56 and 18×9.5-inch Speedline Aliseo three-piece aluminum wheels.
John Coletti was quoted by Motor Trend saying that, “This car is the ultimate-aspiration street Mustang. You couldn’t want it to have anything else; cause there’s really nothing else to want.”
9: 1995 SVT Cobra R
Let’s face it; you’re going to hear a lot from SVT in this list, because Ford used them as their performance arm during this time. The 1995 Cobra R was the hot rodder’s engine swap dream. Basically, it took a “normal” Cobra, and turned the dial up to 11. More power, upgraded brakes, beefier suspension and less curb weight.
First, a 351 Windsor was stuffed between the strut towers in place of the 240hp 5-liter, for a 300 horsepower pony car (the most ever for a Mustang at the time). The car was also put on a diet; no rear seat, no A/C and no stereo. Fog lights were also omitted from the recipe and on when a fiberglass hood for even more weight savings. Oh, and you needed an SCCA racing license to buy one.
It was significant in that it was the last hurrah for the pushrod V8 in Mustangs, and the iconic five-spoke Cobra R wheel was introduced to the public, so that every Fox owner could get a set for their pre-94 Mustangs. They looked great, to boot! Only 250 R-code Cobras would be built for ’95, and you could have ordered them in any color you wanted, as long as it was white!
8: 2000 SVT Cobra R
While not a concept car, this is ultra-rare Mustang is truly a legend. Ford built 300 of these Performance Red ponies for the track, stripped to the bare bones; no radio, no heater, no back seat — not even sound deadening. The side-exiting exhaust was loud and obnoxious, while under the hood lied a 385hp naturally-aspirated 5.4L DOHC V8.
It was the textbook definition of raw, and it was as raw as you could get for a production car. With the unique bodywork and huge (functional) rear wing, this Mustang looked fast standing still.
The foglights were eliminated to help cool the brakes and drop a few pounds, the standard Cobra hood was ditched in favor of a unique fiberglass piece with heat extractors, a V6 rear bumper sealed the standard Cobra’s exhaust cutouts out back and a fiberglass chin spoiler was taken onto the front for increased downforce.
The 2000 R also introduced us to the smoked headlights that would go on to become standard SN95 fair for all Mustangs through the end of the production run. This car was very potent, and would give a C5 Corvette Z06 a run for its money!
7: 1996 SVT Cobra DOHC
Getting into the more widely produced cars, the ’96 Cobra represented the Mustang leaving the pushrod V8 engines behind, and embracing the overhead cam Romeo, or modular engine. It was an awfully huge risk taken by Ford, especially since GM and Chrysler both introduced newly designed V8 engines that employed pushrods. However, Ford stuck to their guns, and I believe it’s safe to say that we’re all glad that they did!
The brand-new-for-1996 DOHC 4.6L engine pumped out 305hp and the same amount in lb/ft of torque. This potent pony held its own in the streets against the LS1, and responded quite well to power adders like centrifugal superchargers.
Independent rear suspension would later make its production debut for the ’99 model year, and while the IRS certainly improved handling and ride comfort, many Mustang owners complained about hard launching at the track, at least when boost or heavy modifications were applied. Naturally, the aftermarket handled these issues accordingly, and we have a very affordable, and collectible performance Mustang to appreciate today.
6: 2003-04 Mach 1
The Mach 1 can be easy to forget, simply because it didn’t really dazzle with the performance, but with the looks. It’s significant because it was a nice nod to the first generation Mach 1 Mustangs. With a similar paint scheme, a set of trick Magnum 500-looking wheels, chin spoiler, and a Shaker hood scoop, the Mach 1 stayed faithful to the original—right down to the Comfort-weave seats!
Under the hood was the 305hp DOHC 4.6L form the ’01 Cobra that packed plenty of punch, but languished in the shadow of its more powerful sibling, the supercharged SVT Cobra of that same year. Having said that, it also was available in both 4-speed automatic and 5-speed manual transmissions, utilized the strong Traction-Loc 8.8 solid rear axle of the then current GT and housed 3.55 gears. The combination was a solid low-13 second car all day long, with plenty of room to grow, thanks to a still strong aftermarket, even today.
It was like Ford stuck an ’01 Cobra, ’03 GT and a ’69 Mach 1 into a blender and this was the result. And the result, was splendid!
5: 2004 Roush 380R
You might have thought the Roush 440A belonged here, but to be honest, there were only 40 produced, while there were 200 380Rs produced. I’ve actually SEEN 380Rs on the street—but I’ve never encountered a 440A. While both are available to the public, good luck finding an affordable 440A. I’ll be happy with a 380R.
Roush’s 380R was all the Mustang you could handle, and more. The GT’s SOHC 4.6 was topped off with an Eaton roots blower and pumped out 379hp. That, plus an aggressive body kit with side pipes, 18×9 inch wheels in the front and 18×10 in the rear wrapped in 265 and 295 rubber, respectively, the 380R was performance oriented, yet offered the driver the best in amenities—and a top speed of 173 mph.
If you’re looking for an SN95 to add to your modern Mustang collection, we would grab one of these if you can can!
4: Saleen S281SC
Saleen has been building Mustangs since 1984, so his experience arguably is comparable to Roush. True, it doesn’t have as much horsepower as the Roush (350 vs 379), but the Eaton-blown S281 can still fry the tires. Not to mention the Saleen wheels that always look fantastic, and the body kit that sets it apart from the rest.
Upgraded suspension, brakes, rolling stock and plenty of aesthetic improvements found throughout the car, it’s certainly a standout amongst mere SN95 Mustangs.
Add the center exhaust and we’re in heaven. Like the 440A mentioned above, the S281E came to mind, but with only four coupes and two convertibles built that year. The S281SC is a great all around Mustang — and there’s still plenty of potential under the hood for more power and performance.
3: 1994 John Coletti Boss Mustang
While I just finished making a big deal on rarity and availability, John Coletti’s 1994 Boss Mustang breaks the rule on the sheer badass-ness of the entire project. Underneath the relatively stock-looking exterior lurked a Roush-built, 610 CID Boss Hemi that cranked out an amazing 855hp and 790lb/ft of torque. That monster of an engine was backed by a modified C6 automatic gearbox.
It went head to head against Chevy’s 572-inch Camaro concept and completely wasted it in the quarter mile with a blistering 10.55 at 135 to the F-body’s 11.01 at 128. It wold ultimately break around Gingerman Raceay but it certainly made a statement on the 1320.’
The graphics were a modern interpretation of those from the heyday, the fiberglass cowl hood was killer and there was certainly no messing around with this car. The side pipes blended into the body and the car would remain a legend even 25 years later!
2: 2001 Mustang Bullitt
Why is the Bullitt here? Because it’s the one that started this whole phenomenon paying tribute to the most highly rated car chase scene of movie history! Ford took a plain ol’ Mustang GT and gave it a little more attitude by lowering it slightly, adding Cobra brakes, a unique exhaust, specific badging and interior appointments, and a SOHC 4.6 that produced 265hp (5 more than stock), and BAM! Lieutenant Frank Bullitt, circa 2001.
It’s a nice gimmick, but it’s still a nice overall package. The intake manifold was a unique piece that was dedicated to the Bullitt, and available over the Ford Performance parts counter at your local dealer or though big-name parts suppliers. It didn’t do much for power in a stock 2V, but with boost, that intake was magic!
Seventeen years later, who would have ever thought that Ford would introduce the third version of this tribute in 2018? From the Dark Highland Green paint (yeah, we know there were other colors) to the Torq-Thrust D-like wheels, the Bullitt Mustang is a pop culture icon and will never fade into history.
1: 2003-04 SVT Mustang Cobra
Was there any doubt that this was the top of the heap, the baddest of the bad, the top dog—er, horse? For 2003, Ford slapped a blower and intercooler onto a DOHC Cobra engine, and the rest is history. Boys and girls, I’m talking about the 2003-04 SVT Mustang Cobra, aka, The Terminator. Let’s run down the list: blown and intercooled 4.6 V8 pumping out a massive 390 horsepower, tied to a Tremec T-56 6-speed manual trans, 13-inch brakes, independent rear suspension, and 12.67 quarter mile times at 110 mph.
The Terminator had so much power potential that it had a reputation for breaking real axles. The whine of the blower became its signature sound over the exhaust note. They take very well to all kinds of mods and can make double their power on the stock long block, and without an extensive amount of work.
This was the last SN95 Mustang Ford produced before the S197 platform, and they definitely took the car out with a bang. These cars are still highly sought after and have held their value extremely well. If there’s any SN95 Mustang to get, this would be the one for me.
So, there you have it. What kind of list would you have? What would be number one on your list?
Living in Richmond, Tx, PJ Rentie has been in the automotive industry for more than 30 years. This former Assistant Editor at Vette Magazine also spent time with companies like NOS, Edelbrock, Hillbank Motorsports, Classic Industries, and was an automotive instructor for Cypress College for ten years. In his spare time, PJ hopes to one day bring his Fox Body Mustang out of the back yard and back onto the street!