Car of the Week: 1994 Ford Mustang GT convertible
This owner keeps coming back to the sleek SN-95 styling of the ‘945 Mustang GT.
You’d think Paul Stewart would have some bad memories of his 1994 Ford Mustang GT convertible. Sure, it was his first new car, and it was a very cool ride for a young car geek to get his hands on. But the car didn’t have a very long life, and its last day on the road was not a pleasant one.
“I bought it brand new in the spring of 1995. It was a dealer demo car, had 6,000 miles on it,” recalls Stewart, a resident of Greendale, Wis. “… It was one of the Indy Pace Car festival cars, so it was one of 1,000 cars that they made just to take celebrities around and what-not during the race an then distributed them to dealerships to sell.”
“I drove it almost 9,000 miles that first summer and fall, and I drove it that entire next summer and I was getting ready to put it into storage and an 84-year-old guy ran a stop sign and T-boned me. He hit me on one side and pushed me into another car. So I got hit by an F-150 on one side and another guy on the other side, so the car was completely totaled out.”
Stewart is a consummate car guy; he figures he’s bought and sold about 40 of them over the years. He’s done meticulous ground-up restorations and resurrected hot MoPars to concours quality. He’s had beaters, drivers, show cars, and everything in between over the years. He’s had several hot Mustangs, too, but he never realized how much he wanted to replace his bright red ’94 Mustang GT convertible a friend told him about one he had seen for sale.
“As you get older you start getting nostalgic and that was my very first car I bought brand new, and it was the first convertible I ever had,” he says. “So finally a friend of mine said, ‘Hey, there is one for sale on Facebook Marketplace, you should check it out.’ So I went and looked at it and the rest is history. I bought it and drove it home.”
“I hadn’t really been looking, that one just came out of the blue. I couldn’t pass it up. It was an original owner car. The guy I bought it from, his mother-in-law bought it brand new. When she couldn’t drive it anymore he took it over from her. It was a small town just east of Indianapolis. It was about a four-hour drive one way to get there. This was in October of 2021. I hadn’t really been looking, but this one was the exact same color combination, same options, everything, as my other one. It just fit the bill perfectly. I got real nostalgic real fast!”
Ironically, Stewart says he wasn’t really looking for a ’94 Mustang GT the first time he bought one, either. Both of them have sort of turned out to be impulse buys.
“I was always in love with those Fox bodies, but when they redesigned this car, it was completely different. I fell in love with it. This was on the lot [back in 1995] when I was going to look at a Fox body that they had, and I looked at both of them together and just fell in love with this. It was ‘Car of the Year’ back in 1994… but it’s completely different from the Fox body, and it drives like a Cadillac.”
The Big 3-0
Automakers don’t often want to “mess with a good thing,” but for 1994, Mustang’s 30th anniversary, FoMoCo decided to end the Fox body’s run and unveil a whole new high-tech pony car.
“Team Mustang,” a group of Ford employees dedicated to the new car’s concept and design, set up camp in an old Montgomery Ward warehouse south of Dearborn late in 1990. While the project was referred to as “SN-95” (sporty, North American market, concept no. 95), the platform on which the new car was designed was known as the Fox-4. Of the SN-95’s 1,850 parts, 1,330 were new. The new bodies were made stiffer in a variety of ways, including bonding the windshield and backlight to their frames with a rigid urethane adhesive and by enlarging certain box sections as the rocker panels and roof rails. On the GT V-8 models, there was a bolt-in brace tying the front strut towers and cowl/firewall together. This was supposed to take the flex out of the car under during hard cornering. The open-air convertible used a thicker gauge of metal in the rocker panels (from 0.8 to 2.3 mm) as well as other stress-bearing panels. To reduce noise, a 25-pound tuned mass damper was installed inside the right front fender well.
The Mustang’s new appearance was not radical in any particular way and the hope was that it would appeal to almost any potential buyer. Aerodynamic headlights sat on either side of a curved grille cavity that, when combined with the smooth bumper cover and integrated air dam, provided a pleasant, smiling face. The sloping hood was in better proportion to the rest of the car, and the curvy top complemented the rounder body. Three-element taillights (lying horizontal on the 1994, unlike the 1965’s vertical units) recalled some of the Mustang’s early heritage and contributed to the impression of great body width when viewed from directly behind. A classic twin-cockpit theme ran throughout the new interior.
The 1994 Mustang measured 2.4 inches longer (181.5 inches bumper-to-bumper) than the first Fox car. Wheelbase increased between the two models by 0.9 inches to a total of 101.3. The most striking dimension change was in the width, wherein the 1994 was a muscular 71.9 inches compared to the slab-sided 1979’s 69.1 inches. The 1994 Mustang’s roofline was 1.4 inches higher than the 1979 at 52.9 inches.
Engines were upgraded slightly, with the four-cylinder now gone, replaced by the same 3.8-liter 145-hp V-6 that was already doing duty in Ford’s Taurus, Thunderbird, and Lincoln Continental. The 5.0-liter H.O. V-8 grew to 215 hp at 4200 rpm thanks to a low-profile intake manifold and lighter pistons.
Buyers of the base V-6 cars received 15-inch steel wheels with plastic covers and 205/65-15 all-season black sidewall Goodyear Eagle GA tires. As an option, those tires could be mounted on three-spoke, 15-inch alloy wheels. Standard GT wheels were five-spoke, 16-inch rims wearing 225/55-16 Firestone Firehawk rubber. An optional upgrade for the GT was a set of three-spoke 17-inchers shod with 245/45-17 Goodyear Eagle GTs. Four-wheel disc brakes were applied to factory Mustangs for the first time in 1994 on both base and GT cars. This piece of standard equipment had been long in coming as far as Mustang fans were concerned. ABS was an extra-cost option.
Convertibles also had a power retractable soft top with a hard convertible top boot, illuminated visor mirrors, power deck lid release, power door locks and power side windows. The 1994 was Ford’s first post-1973 Mustang convertible to be built as a topless car on the factory assembly line; earlier ragtops started life as coupes and had their roofs removed. A glass backlight was standard, with a built-in defroster costing extra. Convertible tops came in black, white, or saddle.
The automotive trend toward bright, vibrant colors was not lost on Ford’s planners. The 1994 Mustang could be ordered in one of 11 eye-catching hues, including Canary Yellow (GT only), Vibrant Red (GT only), Rio Red, Laser Red, Iris, Bright Blue, Deep Forest Green, Teal, Black, Opal Frost, and Crystal White. Interiors were available in five colors: Bright Red, Saddle, Opal Grey, Black, and White (convertible only).
In addition to (or in place of) standard equipment, the GT coupe ($17,270) and convertible ($21,960) had front and rear fascias with GT nomenclature and black finish on the lower rear end; Mustang GT fender badges; fog lamps; a single-wing rear spoiler; 16×7.5-inch wide five-spoke cast aluminum wheels with locks; a 150-mph speedometer; GT bucket seats with cloth trim, cloth head restraints, adjustable cushions, power lumbar support, and a four-way power driver’s seat; a leather-wrapped steering wheel; a Traction-Lok rear axle; handling brace to stiffen the engine compartment (“similar to those utilized by Ford NASCAR teams,” said the brochure); stainless steel dual exhaust system; GT suspension package with variable-rate coil springs, unique-calibrated gas struts and shocks, and Quadra-shock rear suspension with strut lever brace; and illuminated visor mirrors with hard covers.
One option that will be of particular interest to collectors is the short-lived removable hardtop offered to convertible buyers. Supply problems and the high cost of the option killed the company’s enthusiasm and only 499 were delivered—all on the pricier SVT Cobras, and not until the 1995 model year.
The 1994 Mustang was also the first Ford to offer a dealer-installed mini-disc sound system, as well as a new Mach 460 system that used eight speakers to put out 460 peak watts of sound. The all-new Mustang readily won Motor Trend magazine’s “Car of the Year” award, and it became the Indianapolis 500 pace car for the third time since 1964.
The model year closed with a total sales run of 123,198 units. That number included 42,883 base coupes ($13,355), 18,333 base convertibles ($20,150), 30,592 GT coupes ($17,270), 25,381 GT convertibles ($21,950), 5,009 Cobra coupes ($21,300) and 10,000 Cobra convertibles ($25,605).
Return to the ’90s
Stewart’s second 1994 Mustang GT is exactly like his first one, except for the Indy Pace Car graphics — which he never stuck on his first one, anyway. It’s a convertible with an automatic transmission, leather interior, and Mach 460 Sound System. The only change he has made to the car is swapping out the rims and tires.
“The original Tri-Bars were cool back in the day, but they are heavy and kind of clunky, and the tires that were on it were clunky tires, so I definitely thought we needed some new shoes,” he says. “I got all new rotors, calipers, rims and tires. These are larger 19-inch [rims], so it has a little nicer ride, and these tires are much nicer than the ones that were on it. It’s more of a modern Shelby-style rim, that’s why I opted for that.”
Stewart is one of those super-tidy, uber-organized guys who keeps everything squeaky clean. You could eat pancakes off his garage floor. He pretty much treats his red Mustang the same way, and it is in impeccable shape.
“I’m done with it. There is not much more I can do to it,” he laughs. “I’ve got the engine cleaned up, got the interior cleaned up. Buffed the paint really well. It’s looking a heckuva lot nicer than when I got it. Just a lot of cleaning and detailing, that was really all that needed to be done to the car. It’s looking good.”
Stewart has had more than his share of rough, rowdy 1960s and early ’70s muscle cars over the years — cars that you frankly wouldn’t want to drive too long or too far these days. His ’94 Mustang GT is totally different. It’s a car he’s eager to jump in any day there isn’t salt or snow on the road and drive pretty much anywhere.
“It’s so comfortable. You can ride it in all day,” he says. “It’s a beautiful car to drive. They always had a nice sound, and it’s aerodynamic when you are on the freeway with the top down; you don’t get any turbulence in the cabin. It’s just a pleasure to drive.”
Stewart chuckles at the thought that 1990s Mustang GTs, which seemed hot and new not that long ago, have now graduated into the collector car realm. It makes guys like me enjoy them even more — both as hobby toys and regular transportation.
“Now they are getting past 25 years old — once you get to that 25-, 30-year mark you start getting people wanting to relive their old days,” he says. “Back when I was young and single. Young and single, and a fat wallet!”
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