Right after purchase I took the car to a mechanic and he replaced: Rear brake pads, calipers, rotors, rear shocks, the left front tie rod, and the valve cover gaskets at 159,033 miles.
Found out car was never taken in for a parking brake recall. Ford dealer did for free at 159,233 miles.
Replaced clutch assembly and pressure plate at 160,280.
Replaced parking brake cables at 160,322.
Replaced intake manifold gasket and spark plugs and wires at 170,693 when the plastic manifold cracked. I later found that this is a common issue with 96-98 Mustang GTs.
Replaced the alternator at 170,706.
Replaced the motor mounts at 171,415.
Mass air flow sensor cleaned after check engine light came on at 171,485.
Replaced idler pulley at 176,967.
Installed new Continental DWS all-season performance tires at 178,300.
Ever since my middle school years, I have fallen in love with the Ford Mustang, and always hoped I would someday be able to have one of my own. Nothing complicated, just a V8 powered GT with a manual transmission (I learned on a manual, and they are more fun to drive). Well, three years ago (2009) I found one on Craigslist and called the owner. After the first guy who was supposed to show up and buy it sight unseen had to cancel, he called me back.
It may have been 13 years old, but it was and is still a beauty. A 1996 Ford Mustang GT, dark laser red with black cloth interior and matching black interior panels. No power options except the side view mirrors, no rear defroster, just a simple hardtop coupe with a manual transmission. He had kept it all stock, except for adding an aftermarket exhaust and a different radio face.
While the miles were high (160K), it still started and ran fine. The paint still looked good too, though it was/is faded, but has faded evenly on the roof, trunk and hood so it doesn't look too bad.
My initial driving impressions were in city driving for the test drive, but it had plenty of power, the exhaust sounded great - not too loud, but enough to remind you that you're driving a V8. The turning circle wasn't the greatest though. After the drive, a day to check insurance, and $3,000 later I was the proud owner of that Mustang.
After three years with the car, I have had to replace quite a few things, which I expected with the high mileage, but my driving impression has improved.
With new tires it rides great on the highway, and city driving is good. The solid rear axle and stiff suspension will cause the car to ride rough over railroad tracks or uneven pavement, but that is to be expected.
The car has great straight line acceleration and passing/merging power. Factory specs state it has 215 hp and 285 lb./ft of torque (torque to body weight is more important than most people think). Its curb weight is around 3100 lbs. It will still do the 0-60 run in about 6.5 seconds. It also tackles curves well enough, not as well as other sports cars, but enough to be fun to drive. Be careful with the accelerator when pulling out of a turn. I have given it too much gas once or twice coming out of a turn, and started to fishtail. Letting off the gas right away straightens the car right out. Fun but scary, and better done on a track or empty lot. While mine doesn't have ABS or traction control, it is still easy to control as you get the feel of it. I have had to make a few emergency stops, and the car still stopped straight and true, even when the brakes locked up once.
Gas mileage is good for a V8. I found the original dealer window sticker for the car in the booklet, even after three owners. The sticker states 18 MPG city and 27 MPG highway. It still gets about these numbers from what I calculate when I fill up. This is probably because fifth gear is geared so high. The engine is only running at 2K RPM at 65 mph.
I have taken this car on a 1000 mile road trip, and the driver's and front passenger seats are fairly comfortable. They have good back support, but it initially took some getting used to, with how the seats lean back. While there is a rear seat, it is better suited for small children, or only for short trips if you are going to take adults back there. Climbing in and out of the back can be a chore, as it usually is with any two door car.
The interior is well laid out, with controls in easy to reach locations. Visibility is good from all angles as well, which I like about this body style. I love how the instrument cluster shows more information than most cars: oil pressure and battery voltage in addition to the regular gas, temperature, speed and tachometer.
The manual transmission has longer throws, and is tilted toward the driver so it takes getting used to, but later becomes second nature. The gearing is well spaced, so there is very little chance of shifting into a wrong gear.
As far as styling, some may think the 94-98 body style isn't muscular, but I think the stance of the car still gives it a muscular feel. I like how it is smaller than other Mustang generation styles, and has a sleek look with how the body lines and curves flow on the car. The looks have held up over the years. Even after 16 years, it will still turn heads. The 09-10 new Hyundai Genesis Coupe kind of reminds me of the same style.
Overall, this has been a very fun car to own. If I didn't live in Ohio, where it can snow quite a bit in the winter, I would drive it year round.
I must say thank you Ford for making an amazing muscle/sports car that the common man can afford, and a thank you in the distant past to Henry Ford for making your engineers make a V8 fit in the everyday man's car, before which was only available in luxury cars for the super rich.
My dream car is all I hoped for, and even if I can't keep it over the years, I am glad to have owned an American icon.