The Classic S197: Why the 2005-2009 Mustang GT is the Choice for Budget Mustang Performance
Typically an enthusiast car goes through several stages in its life. It starts off being new and fresh with the latest and greatest. Then it becomes a used car option, delivering most of the appeal of a new model but at a lower price.
Then as it gets older, it gets more and more outdated as the newer models leave it behind in performance and features. Its styling may become dated. This is typically when they bottom out in value.
But then at a certain point, maybe 20 years later it begins to be rediscovered. Clean examples are harder to find. Its formerly dated styling may become “classic” and you might begin to appreciate the car a lot more for what it is.
And the key for an enthusiast looking for a budget project with future potential is to find a car that’s in that stage right before it starts to age into being a classic. And one car that currently occupies that space is the 2005-2009 Mustang GT.
Here are a few reasons why the early S197 Mustang GT is one of the best bangs for the buck out there right now.
Compared to today’s V8 muscle cars that put out over 450 horsepower, the 300 horsepower of the 2005 Mustang GT’s 4.6 liter V8 seems quaint. But it’s overall performance is still pretty respectable today—with 0-60 times in the low five-second range and quarter-mile ETs in the high 13s.
Handling is the same story. While well behind newer Mustangs, particular those equipped with factory performance packages, the early S197 is still a very capable car, and still way ahead of the Fox-based chassis Mustangs that came before it.
And best of all, being a Mustang, aftermarket options are limitless. Whether you want more power, better handling, better braking or any other improvement, there’s no shortage of options—and parts are cheap.
At the moment its often cars from the mid to late 2000s that have the most dated-looking styling. Not new enough to look modern, but not old enough to look classic.
The ’05-’09 Mustang is able to skirt past some of that thanks to its heavily retro styling. Yes you can still tell it comes from the 2000s, but its overall look has generally held up pretty well.
The interior is the same story. While not as refined as newer Mustangs inside, Ford’s ‘60s inspired interior still looks attractive by modern standards, and though it’s material quality isn’t great it’s again a lot better than the SN95 cars.
Now we get to the best part about the 2005-2009 Mustang GT. The price. Even in todays inflated car market, these cars still give you a lot for the money.
Depending on the condition, mileage and how original it is—you can expect to pay between $8,000 and $14,000 for an early S197 GT, with the most original versions bringing the highest prices.
Unlike older Mustangs like the Fox Body, they haven’t yet reached collector car status and they are also new enough where you shouldn’t have to do much cosmetic restoration if they’ve been reasonably taken care of.
If you were around back in 2005 when this all-new Mustang came out, you’ll remember how big of a deal these cars were. Yes, Mustang GTs in subsequent generations got lot faster, but there’s no denying the importance of this model.
And as with everything, it takes a while for people to start treating old used cars like emerging classics and for the 2005 to 2009 Mustang it should only be a matter of “when.”
So if you want a modern(ish) V8 muscle car that’s new enough to deliver low maintenance and impressive performance while having the potential to rise in value, now might be your time to strike.
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