1 Feb 2001
By CHRIS HARRIS
FORD’S reintroduction of the Mustang brand 35 years after the original was last sold in Australia misfired badly.
In 1964 and 1965 Ford Australia the American ‘pony’ car as an image-lifting exercise for the company that was attempting to sell the XM (and then XP) Falcon against the all-mighty EH Holden. The 161 resulting Mustangs were also employed to publicise the second-generation XR Falcon from 1966, which was promoted as the “Mustang-bred Falcon.”A generation later the floundering AU Falcon needed the same type of help (as did its FTE performance brand) against the VT Commodore/HSV onslaught, so Ford imported and reengineered several hundred Mustangs for right-hand drive.
But while the ’64 original was breathtaking in its iconic design, the 2001-2003 edition was a pale imitation, branded with an unsophisticated drivetrain, dreadfully poor packaging and limp styling resulting from its 1978-era Fox platform limitations.
Two two-door shapes were offered – a coupe and a convertible, both with four-seater capability.
Driving the rear wheels was a 240kW/430Nm 4.6-litre DOHC 32-valve Romeo V8 – far and away the best thing about the Mustang – mated to a long and heavy five-speed manual gearbox.
Anti-lock brakes, traction control, alloy wheels, dual airbags, leather seats (power adjusted at the front), air-conditioning, CD stacker, cruise control and remote central locking are standard.
The convertible roof raises or lowers electrically and incorporates a glass rear window. Coupes are fitted with a standard spoiler.
Sales were painfully slow, with around half of the intended 250 annual sales rate recorded in ’01 and ’02.
Ridiculously high pricing ($85,000-plus) and a lack of automatic for the ageing Baby Boomers targeted didn’t help either – particularly as Holden’s reborn Monaro from late ’01 did virtually everything better for almost half the ask.
But at least the Mustang Cobra did sound great, and carried that evocative badge.