S197 Ford Mustang Buyer's Guide: The best bang for the buck?

By J.A. Ackley
Mar 20, 2024 | Ford, Ford Mustang, vorshlag, S197 Mustang | Posted in Buyer's Guides | Never miss an article

Photograph Courtesy Voshlag Motorsports

It is, bang for the buck, one of the best cars for the money,” says Terry Fair of Vorshlag. “I compare it with the C5 Corvette, which is a good performer for the money. Unlike the C5 Corvette, it’s much newer and it fits people taller than 5-foot-9. Nothing else compares for that price range.”

If height or money …

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David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
3/20/24 9:28 a.m.

Hey, it’s Terry!

Tom_Spangler (Forum Supporter)
Tom_Spangler (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand UltimaDork
3/20/24 10:31 a.m.

rustomatic HalfDork
3/20/24 10:51 a.m.

Fair is awesome--miss seeing his posts since the demise of the pro-touring movement . . .

Chris Tropea
Chris Tropea Associate Editor
3/20/24 11:32 a.m.

Well I wasn't shopping for S197 Mustangs but now I have a new car to put in my marketplace watch list. I always liked the look of the Boss 302 cars.

BTD Reader
3/20/24 12:47 p.m.

I love S197's - they're one of the best bang for buck cars out there, and they're easily the best option for us tall folk (I'm 6'5"). 

Something that is underrated are how cheap parts are. I bought reman'd S550 6-piston Brembo calipers from Motorcraft for $250 each (seriously - LINK and LINK) - those paired with GT500 rotors gives you MASSIVE brakes for minimal cost. Seriously, look at these things...

Suspension is easy with tons of options, they're modern without being overly tech-y, and frankly, they aren't that heavy compared to other modern cars. 3500lbs these days is nothing out of the ordinary. They fit tons of tire (I was previously running 11" wheels with 305 square tires), and they're really reliable. Mine I turned into an "RS" style build, with Boss 302 Recaros (awesome seats) and the LS rear seat delete. It's the perfect dual duty weekend car that you can occasionally take to the track. 

There's some benefits to the 13-14 over the 11-12, and newer tends to be better if you don't mind the looks. The track pack is better than the Brembo pack on the earlier cars, and the Recaros are some of the best factory seats that I've been in. The S550 is a better car, sure, but for the price, it's tough not to love the S197. 

Biggest downside - the constant Mustang crowd jokes from your friends. 

TL;DR: You should buy an S197

akylekoz UltraDork
3/20/24 1:01 p.m.

I'll add if you are not into being competitive and just want a solid dual purpose road and track car don't overlook the 4.6 cars.  I personally think the 05-09 looks better, they are marginally lighter, reliable and sturdy.

I'm right at that that 330WHP limit of reliable performance with out a supercharger or wild cam.  Added the GT500 brakes, Torsen, springs dampers, bars, etc made a solid and fun ride.  

There are two camps on suspension on these, stiff springs and softer sways or stiff sways and softer springs, I went with the latter for ride comfort.  GT500 wheels are 9.5 wide, relatively light and cheap, next step for me are some 18 x 10 or 11's.

Fair New Reader
3/20/24 1:03 p.m.

In reply to rustomatic :

Did the pro touring movement die? I didn't notice.

We're still doing plenty of S197, S550, and S650 Mustang development these days. :)

Driven5 PowerDork
3/20/24 1:34 p.m.

My 128i was objectively the better car... But I liked, enjoyed, and miss my 4.6 S197 more. I have little interest in any more BMW's, but would definitely be open to getting another S197.

wdrlaw New Reader
3/20/24 2:05 p.m.

Hello Terry!

Always enjoy your posts on TMO. You camber plates are next on my list. Drilled out the shock towers last weekend.

Fair New Reader
3/20/24 2:45 p.m.

My comments about the 4.6L 3V engine come across as a bit harsh. These engines that came in the 2005-10 GT aren't bad, just down 100 hp over the Coyote cars.

With the right mods they can still be competitive. One of my former employees Jon B had this 2006 GT and added MCS coilovers, 18x11" wheels, 315mm tires, and a handful of the other mods we mentioned in JA's article. He dominated CAM-C class locally for an entire season, winning every event in Texas Region SCCA. He even ran well in Optima with it.

This was the same car before the coilovers - with popular lowering springs and the K-branded adjustable dampers. Well after 6 months two shocks were blown and it was a rolly polly mess. The spring rates and soft dampers just killed it.

The spring rate (and damper) change was DRAMATIC - it always is. Even with much more mechanical grip from the 315mm tires the car cornered flatter and didn't do the extreme brake dive thing that stock S197s do. Again - don't throw your 4.6L GT away if you have one, they can still be fun. smiley

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