What Would You Buy If Starting From Scratch?

Bubba Gump

New Member
Aug 11, 2013
I am new to mustangs. I have had some hot rods in the past but that was years ago. They were fast but not really comfortable.

I have a company car as a daily driver but the mustang I am wanting to buy will be be my primary personal vehicle. I can use the company car for whatever and my wife has her own car so I will not really be relying on the mustang for transportation but I want something nice with AC etc that the wife will want to ride in and we could take on weekend trips or whatever. I am not an avid racer or anything but I want it to be fast. My last hot rod ran high 11's. I don't necessarily need to be that fast (but it would be nice) but I don't want a slug either.

I have always liked the looks of the SN-95's but doing some searching and reading they are not that fast stock unless you are talking about a terminator or something. It doesn't look like it is very cheap to make them fast either. I know nothing about these mod motors though so I may be wrong. I know the 94&5 had the pushrod motors so that is an option but I don't know which is better. The newer cars with the coyote seem pretty dang appealing with 400 hp out of the box and creature comforts also.

With my background in mind what would you buy if you were starting from scratch? I don't mind doing work myself but I don't want to sink a ton of money into something that I will never get back.

Lets say what would you buy with a 5k budget, 10k, 20k?

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For creature comforts, a nice ride, cruisability, and some good power, I think I would probably pick and S197 of the three valve variety or later.

You can find some really nice deals in the 10-20k region and if you want more, a reliable supercharger package to top it off with.

Power can be had from earlier Mustangs as well but you're either going to spend a lot of coin or time wrenching under the hood, to get there.
I just went from a 2000 GT to a 2013 5.0 Premium so I thought I'd offer my experience. Granted, I bought a new S-197 5.0, but there are used ones out there.

The 2000 GT was a great car. If it hadn't been so high in miles and that I depended on it for my daily commute and business travel, I'd still be driving it. It was still going strong at nearly 180,000 trouble-free miles (other than a new fuel pump at 150,000) when I traded it in. It was getting old and I decided to quit while I was ahead!

The '00 wasn't the fastest thing on the road in recent years, but for 2000, it was no slouch. And the styling is one of my favorite Mustangs ever. If you find a good, clean, low-mileage one for under 10k, you could do quite well with a New Edge SN-95 and spend the difference vs. a newer GT on mods. If you're really lucky, some good ones, albeit probably higher mileage examples, are even more towards your $5k mark. I was actually looking for an under-50,000-mile '99-'04 when I finally figured out it was going to be hard to find exactly what I wanted with lower miles (black, 5-speed, loaded), and I decided to go with a new one. Even if you're not as particular, I think the main drawback now, since most SN-95 cars have some mileage on them, is crossing your fingers on who owned it before you and how they treated it.

That said, there are some other areas besides power you may want to improve with an SN-95 that are more of a non-issue with the newer cars. There's the better interior in the S-197 (no need to spend lots of $$ on trim pieces, esp. with the Premium package, if that's your thing), overall stiffness (no real compelling need for chassis bracing for a daily driver S-197 coupe), gear ratios (even the base 3.31s are comparable to a 2-valve with 3.73s when combined with the MT82 transmission), etc. The SN-95 base brakes were also weak (I installed the Cobra/Mach/Bullitt front calipers/rotors in my '00 to compensate). The newer car also handles a lot better, even as mine is optioned out, without the Brembo or Track pack. Overall, in all of these areas, a decade of improved design and technology makes an enormous difference.

So you either spend your $20,000+ on a decent used 5.0 or spend the same getting a New Edge up to speed.

I ended up with a new one because I wanted a 2013-2014, and given all of the Ford rebates right now, the difference between a new one and a slightly used 2013 example wasn't all that large.

Sorry this is so long but I hope this helps.
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So you either spend your $20,000+ on a decent used 5.0 or spend the same getting a New Edge up to speed.

This is kind of what I was thinking. I have seen some 2011's for close to 20k. Nice clean SN-95's are 5-10k and it seems you will spend at least 10k souping them up to equal a newer one performance wise.

I have some buddies that are mustang nuts and they keep telling me to buy an older one and fix it up which I am not really opposed to I just am not sure if that is the best route.
Probably, yes, and I think you'll be happy either way. FYI I am mid-career and have kids so I need to pay someone to do all my work (I just can't have my commuter car offline without a loaner for days on end). So if you buy an SN-95 and spin your own wrenches you could probably do it for somewhat less.

Also even though I sometimes daydreamed my way through the parts catalogue and magazines, I never seriously considered adding huge power to my 2000, simply because I needed to keep it a daily driver. A few basic bolt-ons (cold-air intake, exhaust, subframe connectors, brakes, shifter) and that was about it. So I am not an authority figure on that, for sure.

As it was, my '00 was a fun car and quite fast enough for a daily ride, but the new one is definitely faster and has a much higher-developed chassis. I loved my old ride and am absolutely thrilled with my new one.

One thing I do recommend, if you haven't already, is to subscribe to one of the magazines, or at least pick up an issue or two. I used to get 5.o ("5.0 Mustang & Super Fords"), which seemed to do a good job of covering everything from the Fox body cars up to the most recent models. And if I recall it was like $12 a year. There's also Muscle Mustangs & Fast Fords. I credit 5.0 with making me conversant in some of this stuff, and it helped me make educated choices on what I could do without hurting day-to-day driveability.

Good luck!
I have about half the money a new 5.0 costs invested in my entire car (car +mods) and it will destroy a stock 5.0

Just saying.....
I have about half the money a new 5.0 costs invested in my entire car (car +mods) and it will destroy a stock 5.0

Just saying.....

Care to elaborate? I don't even know what a new 5.0 costs but I have seen some used ones in the 21-25 range.

Some of the fastest cars I have seen are foxes but I don't think my wife would enjoy riding around in them. The 95's are new enough and nice enough I don't think she would mind and the 197s are even better.

I really do not have a preference either way I just want to get the most for my dollar. I can buy a new 5.0 for around 20 that is nice and newish and has 400 hp stock and room to upgrade from there. If I can get a SN-95 that is nice and build it to similar power for a lot less I will lean that way but if I am going to have spend 20k on the car and building it up to 400 hp then it probably makes sense just to buy a newer one.
my .02...if you are doing it as a hobby and are comfortable with and enjoying wrenching, then go with the SN-95 and spend some time and money making it exactly what you want...if OTOH you just want it done you are probably better off with a newer Mustang.
my .02...if you are doing it as a hobby and are comfortable with and enjoying wrenching, then go with the SN-95 and spend some time and money making it exactly what you want...if OTOH you just want it done you are probably better off with a newer Mustang.

Exactly what I was going to say. Depends on how much YOU want to work on it.

If you're paying someone else, there's no way you can make a 2-valve as fast as a newer 5.0 for less money. But if you're doing it yourself, and don't mind waiting around for some deals, you can do it for a good bit cheaper.

As far as straight line performance goes, you can get a 99-04 GT with relatively low miles and in good condition for around $6k, maybe less. You can easily supercharge it for less than $5k. That alone will have you outrunning stock 5.0s. Exhaust, intakes, gears, etc. are just icing on the cake at that point.

Now when you start talking about other-than-straight-line-performance, things even up quite a bit more on the money point. You'll have to spend at least a couple grand on good suspension parts to even get up to par with the new cars. The better part of a grand on brakes to just get even. Older drive-trains (clutches, transmissions, etc.) won't hold up at 400 hp nearly as long as new ones will. And then there's the simple aspect of how much nicer the new cars are (interior, NVH, etc.). When you add all those together, you're talking spending a solid $15k on an old 2-valve to be able to compete. Still cheaper, but by a much narrower margin, and having to do a lot of work yourself to get to that point (trust me, I know...haha).

If I were starting over fresh right now, I'd go with an 03/04 Terminator. Decent amount of power upfront, nice brakes, nice transmission, engine is good for several hundred extra horsepower, IRS is a nice upgrade, etc. I see nice Terminators going in the $17k range these days, and I only expect them to come down more over the winter with more of the new GT500s hitting the streets. Spend an extra $5k on exhaust, intake, pulleys, blower port, tune, suspension, built rear, etc., and you'll have a 500+ rwhp car that will easily run mid 11s or quicker, take a corner like a champ, and stop on a dime. And to me, they will always look and sound 10x better than the new cars.
I love my SN95 GT but I have spent copious amounts of money just to match the HP of the STOCK cobras. While I have upgraded the suspension, it still cant touch the handling and braking of the cobras either. Would be nice to know how handling and braking compares between the S197 cars and the SN95 cobras. I assume the comfort level is higher in the S197 cars based on their bigger size and different suspension setups.
I wanted to buy a new Mustang, test drove one, and my wife hated everything about it. I could not talk her into it, so I re-calibrated, looked around, and bought an 04 Cobra (she loved the color). The new ones felt big and heavy, but they were very nice otherwise. The Terminator is also very nice...and I'm very happy with it. It should also hold its value better than a newer car.
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