Market Spotlight

Collectors are focusing on the wrong Mustangs

by Rob Sass
8 September 2022 3 min read
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Photo by Bring a Trailer | SWVintage

Full disclosure, the closest I’ve come to owning a Mustang was tossing out a lowball offer on a fairly nice ’86 SVO, the Mustang that “Mustang people” despise. I’m clearly an outsider with an outsider’s perspective on the desirability/collectibility of post-1973 Mustangs. I must confess, I just don’t get the cash that 1979–93 Foxbody Mustangs attract at the moment, especially not when 2005–2009 (S197) Mustangs can be had for less money.

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I mean no disrespect. As a Gen-X child of the 80s, I appreciate the huge role the ‘Stang had in tapering the Malaise Era; it was big news in 1985 when the V-8 Mustang’s rated horsepower (in SAE net, no less) again climbed above the 200 waterline. And, the styling certainly warps you back to that time and place, although I’d have to say designer Jack Telnack’s big moment was the 1986 Taurus, not the 1979 Mustang. As a bonus, Fox ‘Stangs are stupendously easy to modify and can be made stupid powerful on the cheap.

Except now they’re no longer cheap. Even a stock GT in good condition sets you back close to $15k these days, and exceptionally cared for examples can go for close to $50k. How about those coveted tuner models, like the 1993 Ford Saleen Mustang SC Convertible? Forget about it.

Look instead at the 2005-2009 model years of the fifth-gen S197 Mustang, a “retro-styled” car that is now becoming vintage in its own right. It’s a Mustang that looks like an actual Mustang—and it goes like hell in almost every iteration. Even in today’s white hot market, fifth-generation cars strike me as the place where savvy Mustang buyers should be looking.

Right around the time the SN-95 (fourth-gen Mustang) was running its course with a fairly handsome “New Edge” facelift, I started thinking about the possibility of a rebooted Mustang that recalled the ’65 Fastback. (For the record, I also called the deftly re-booted James Bond franchise that happened a year after the new Mustang went on sale, but I digress.) The concept car previewing the S197 debuted in Detroit at the 2003 North American International Auto Show, and was in most respects a production car.

It was probably the most successful piece of automotive retro-futurism attempted up to that point. Designer Sid Ramnarace—working under the supervision of J Mays—succeeded where others had failed, capturing the essence of an iconic car without veering into caricature. Praise was almost universal. Car and Driver editor John Phillips joked that for model year 2005, Mr. Ed had turned into Secretariat. You could quibble about the quality and finish of some of the interior materials and the retained live rear axle, but it worked just fine; composure was so contemporaneously impressive, the aforementioned C&D first drive concluded that “the GT exhibits a blend of compliance and response worthy of a BMW. Nice job guys.”

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While there’s nothing particularly hateful about the base V-6 cars—and in fact they make more power than many of the Fox-body-era GTs—you don’t need me to tell you that it’s the V-8 that you want. The 4.6L three-valve, SOHC Modular V-8 in the standard GT cranks out 300 hp and 320 lb. ft. of torque, significantly brawnier than even the hottest non-Saleen Fox-body variant, the SVT Cobra R from 1993. Of course, things got even better in 2010 with the second coming of 5.0-liter V-8 power. That said, those late-model Mustangs seem to have exited their depreciation cycle early and are already creeping out of fun-money territory.

Not so for those 2004–2009 Mustangs. Like all used cars, their values are up, but a quick look at ads for Mustang GTs wearing under 100,000 miles reveal prices in the low-to-mid teens, which corresponds to the Hagerty Price Guide’s current value for one in #3 Condition. In comparison, nice Fox-body cars seem to start exclusively in the high teens, and climb quickly into the twenties for cars with better equipment and lower mileage. Manual S197s bring a premium, as do the California Special and the Bullitt versions, but not huge ones.

RM Sotheby’s

You’ll still likely pay less for a 2008-2009 Bullitt Mustang with a manual than you would for a really nice Fox-body LX or GT. And that’s perfectly OK. If 80s nostalgia is your jam, by all means, go for the Fox. But if it were me, I’d be stocking up on every low-mileage, manual Dark Highland Green Bullitt I could find. With cold-air induction, a higher redline, an extra 15 horsepower, and a specially tuned exhaust, they’re undeniably special cars. 

The all-new 7th generation Mustang is about to break cover in a week or so. It will undoubtedly be significantly faster, but larger, probably heavier, and far less traditional looking than the fifth-gen car, which might just be remembered as the last right-sized, analog Mustang—a worthy successor to the original from 1964. 


Rob Sass is the Editor-in-Chief of Porsche Panorama, the official publication of the Porsche Club of America. The opinions stated are his, and not necessarily those of the Club. 

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Comments

  • Dan Herrala says:

    I have a 2005 mustang gt. Screaming yellow with Mach 1 black striping and on hood with real shaker hood scoop. Black chin spoiler in front, black painted in-between back tail lites. 18×9 deep dish chrome torch thrust rims, yellow closed rear quarter window covers. Complete stock. 91,000 well maintained. But part I like is when your at a lite person next to you says nice car, you say we’ll thank you.Than they say what year looks new , than you say no it’s a 2005 than there chin hits there upper chest. GOOD times PRICELESS….

  • Cameron says:

    Typo. 2011 was the coyote launch. Not 2010 as stated in the article

  • JZ408 says:

    The svo is one of the rarest mustangs regardless of the fact that it dont have a V8 in it. Ive always thought it was one of the best looking ones by far.

  • Stephen Disney says:

    Hi I have just read your article about the mustang s197 as I’m in the UK and have a s197 2005 mustang gt in sonic blue thank you for the insight

  • Marlis Brown says:

    I have a 2006 Windveil Blue Mustang GT & I have loved this car from the moment I drove it off the lot. I still have it & it has won awards at car shows this summer. Best body style Ford ever made. Thank you for the article.

  • Joe Z says:

    I think the car to have now is the SN95 94-95 Cobra if you can find one that’s been taken care of. The last of the great pushrod 5.0 and iconic sound. Easy to make fast and the 5.0 was extremely reliable.

  • Rick McCarty says:

    I completely agree. I never thought much of the Fox body Mustang because it did not look like a Mustang. Even the hated Mustang II looks more like a ‘Stang then the Fox.

  • Rick L. says:

    I already have a Fox Body (84 20th Anniversary bought new) and have a MB 87 560SL that I should sell and buy one of the later Mustangs (convertible) in the long run probably cost me less than the MB in the long run and get better gas mileage. You have got me thinking. hmmm.

  • Miguel says:

    Couldn’t agree more.i had a 2006 GT convertible and boy was it good looking. I now own a 2019 Bullit and although I love it, the styling seems a bit more forced and consensual than the 2006 GT.

  • james b wiseman says:

    I`ve always thought that that Mustang was a attractive ride . It , to me , has had a special look that. Very pleasing !

  • Dan B says:

    Nice article, I have 2 09 GTs, love them both. One comment 2010 didn’t get the 5.0, still 4.6. 11 got the Gen 1 coyote…

  • Patrick H Plankenhorn says:

    I’m now on my 5th Mustang. My latest is a 2008 S281 Saleen supercharged. It’s stupid fast, with timeless design and it turns heads and starts conversations wherever I take it. I’ve never owned a Fox Body and wouldn’t have one in my garage if you gave it to me.

  • David w says:

    I believe the 96 to 98 cobras are way underrated and pretty cheap for a whole lot of fun. They are truly the underrated sn 95,s

  • Bostwick9 says:

    ‘It was probably the most successful piece of automotive retro-futurism attempted up to that point. Designer Sid Ramnarace—working under the supervision of J Mays—succeeded where others had failed, capturing the essence of an iconic car without veering into caricature.’

    Caricature….like the ’71-73, 74-78 and the current model.

    “The all-new 7th generation Mustang is about to break cover in a week or so. It will undoubtedly be significantly faster, but larger, probably heavier, ”

    Larger. Heavier. Yes, that will do it.

    It’s the only thing the industry knows.

    Starting at only $79,000.

    .

  • Oldfordman says:

    Me thinks just to keep my SN95 street racer Cobra that EATS all SN195’s.

  • Paul Girard says:

    “Retained live rear axle”?

  • Nick V says:

    Of the last few decades, the 05-09 Mustang is by far my favorite. Still I’m a huge fox fan, but after that it’s the S197. I have a 05 GT All Black 5spd #3711 off the production line built in September 04. Has only 24k miles and shows it. The 3V 4.6 is only a small batch in the Mustang motor history, however when modded they are nasty power makers. When cammed, to me, they are the best sounding Ford motors.

  • ron fitzgerald says:

    Good article and some great replies. I was able to bag a loaded 2012 GT Premium with a complete GT500 conversion pkg for less than $20k (talk about stupid fast). The S197’s are a fast quality built hot rod for sure (except for the corroding aluminum hood).

  • Ken Sousa says:

    I own a ’69 Mustang convertible and have always liked the S197 Mustangs. They look like Mustangs unlike the Fox Bodies and SN95 versions (tubby toys). I worked for a subsidiary of FoMoCo when the Foxes were introduced and had two in a row as executive lease cars. A metallic gray ’79 Mercury Capri followed by a bright yellow ’80 Mustang with a turbocharged 2.3L 4 cylinder and a 4 speed transmission. My honest impression of both the Foxes was that they were solidly OK. Not that much fun to drive. I actually preferred the ’78 Mustang II fastback I had the year before (Raven Black with a screaming red interior) and the Mercury Capri Snow Cat that preceded them by two years. Much more interesting vehicles that got much more eyeball in public.

  • Paul Oickle says:

    If you haven’t experienced driving An SVO don’t one of those who criticize them I have had the pleasure of driving my brother in laws when he had an 84 and got myself an 85 seven years ago. On a winding stretch of highway there is nothing I have ever driven that compares. For the record that includes a 69 Z28-69 Mach One and 70 Cyclone Spoiler. After all is said and done to each his own enjoy your ride.

  • Steve Felde says:

    We have had 2 Gen-1 Mustangs, 2 Fox Bodied Mustangs, 3 SN95 Mustangs, and one S550 Mustang over the years.
    We currently have one Gen-1 (1965) and two S197 convertibles… A 2010 GT convertible we ordered new from Ford back in the day, and a 2010 Shelby GT500 convertible we picked up earlier this year.

  • 83ragtop50 says:

    Being the original owner of a 1970 Mach 1 and a 1983 GLX convertible I could not agree more with this article. My ’83 looks nothing like a Mustang but it is the first year of the return of the convertible. And the current iteration of the Mustang looks like a squashed 1969 Toyota Mustang wantabe. Does not look like there will be any visual improvement with the 2023 offering. Sad.

  • Bob Drysdale says:

    Great article. My first car after university was a 1970 Mustang fastback coupe, 351 and loved it and the way it drove. No way I can afford one now, let alone bring it back to trustworthy driving condition. The only answer that made sense was to pick up a 2005-2009 body style that didn’t have the rebuild headaches.
    It took some time and kilometres to find a lower mileage car in decent shape – a 2007 coupe base model 4.0/6cylinder/5 speed manual. It drives great, very close to the old 1970. For those that like the way RWD cars drive and corner, the 2007 Mustang brought back all the old memories from before the FWD cars existed. For those that like to really drive, these represent a wonderful era gone by at a reasonable price and great parts availability. If you see my plate, RPLCS70 ahead of you, you know I’m having the time of my life.

  • dan yates says:

    Sorry Rob I think you missed the point when you say “COLLECTORS ARE FOCUSING ON THE WRONG MUSTANG”. Yes the post Foxbody (94 and newer) are faster ,larger and have more modern amenities. But most of us collectors dont hold that as criteria for a Collector car. The Foxbodys are still filling there strength on the auction blocks and probably not near there apex yet. They will do much better appreciation wise over the next years than the newer post-Fox Mustangs. I think You may be mixing up Car collector with car enthusiast . If you want speed and modern conveniences get a Newer Mustang or Hellcat ,tint the windows, turn up the boombox, put your cap on backwards and go fast . But dont call yourself a Collector.

  • Mark L Bedel says:

    Ahh, don’t get caught up in the “hindsight” thing of what’s the better Mustang, there is no simple answer and the one you prefer will always be able to holes shot in your choice. You mentioned Car & Driver offering praises for the S197, but as I type this, I’m looking at a poster on my wall of the 1985 Mustang GT H.O. and a quote from the notable Davis E. Davis, Jr. remarking, “This is an enthusiast driver’s car. Stab it and steer it and laugh like a fool when the trees get all blurred.” I purchased, and still own a bright red 1985 GT H.O. and as stated above, I was waiting to purchase one until the tried and true Windsor reached beyond 200 horsepower. Without the benefit of being able to predicting the future…in 1985, this was as good as it was going to get!

  • PD says:

    Ok, I am going to be the one that really starts the assault. I agree that the ‘04-9 Mustangs are for me also among the nicest. They were very retro, considering the Challenger and Camaro attempted to be retro as well. I’ll take a very rare, 07-8 Shelby GT, never understood it not being called a 350, with the Shelby Supercharger. Shelby GT/SC. Beautiful car very much in the likeness of a 66. No spoilers and open rear quarter window.

    Now with that said, consider the 74-78’s that are very important today with the rack and pinion front end set up in many resto mods, the fact that they were introduced with perfect timing
    and in some circles given proper credit for saving the Mustang!!! I’ll take a 74 Mach1 with the 2.8 V6 from Germany and the Capri, a pony interior, a beautifully smooth 4 spd, full gages and Magnum type wheels today as a CHEAP classic that you never see. Great car for the time and built proof!

  • Dale G says:

    I own a 1993 SVT Cobra which was the last year for the fox body and first year for SVT. I love the car and realize most people have no idea what it is in regards to hierarchy for mustangs. I say buy what makes you happy period!!!!!

  • Harold Johnson says:

    No doubt, there have been many beautiful, fast, and special edition Mustangs produced in the last six decades. When it comes to a choice between the Fox body and the retro body style, the retro wins hands down, but none have ever out done the original 1965’s styling. My early 65 convertible isn’t super fast and may not be super rare. It’s original 4 barrel 289 has been bored .040 over, has a slightly hotter than factory cam, true dual exhaust, sounds great, and is the perfect cruising car. Even in it’s slightly faded Vintage Burgundy paint, and with it’s tired original interior, it still turns more heads at cruise ins than most of the other Mustangs parked around it.

  • Jer Gervasi says:

    Also, take note of the 2007-2008 Shelby GT Mustangs (different from the GT500, the Shelby GT was modified pre-title by Shelby American in Las Vegas, and carries a CSM Number).

  • Curtis says:

    These are investing suggestions, not collecting

  • Darrell McKinnon says:

    I agree that the Fox Mustangs have some very positive and appealing characteristics especially after years of the Mustang II disaster. But, I do think that the ‘05’s -‘09’s look and drive so much better and the performance is beyond comparison unless you go wild with modifications on the Fox. I currently own a 2006 Shelby GT-H that was a Hertz rental car for 15,000 miles. Even after the abuse of being a rental it is absolutely awesome. It is so fun to drive and handles light years better than the Fox Mustangs. It only has 17,700 miles on it now and is a garage queen that it part of my collection. And I do think it is worth collecting and only time will tell to see if others agree with me.

  • Juan Manuel Rodríguez says:

    Great article, every day that passes I like my 2012 convertible more, simply because it looks more like the first Mustangs every time a new generation arrives. I live in Madrid and I had to import it from the USA in 2012, I am increasingly happy to have made that import.

  • John M says:

    I just re-bought my beloved 06 GT that I sold over 10 years ago. Saw it for sale and it was still in the same great condition. Pedal to the medal and no looking back!

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