Robert Bowen
Robert Bowen
6/11/15 3:27 p.m.

The Ford Mustang was looking pretty tired by 2004. Sure, it had some interesting visual cues, but overall it lacked the distinctiveness many Mustang enthusiasts thought it should have. The car’s performance was also starting to suffer in comparison to its competitors, mostly imports like the reborn Nissan Z-car.

In short, the Mustang was showing the strain of being Ford’s sports flagship. After all, the car had gone largely unchanged for a decade. Buyers agreed that the old Mustang had lost its edge, and they stayed away in large numbers as it petered out into anonymity.

The 1995-2004 Mustang—known by its SN95 chassis code—had its moments. Check out the various Cobra and Cobra R models for examples of just how fast, attractive and downright aggressive one could be. Of course, that vibrance didn’t last.

It didn’t help that the cool automotive vibe in 2004 was straight-up retro: The PT Cruiser, Chrysler 300C and various throwback products—including Ford’s own Thunderbird—proved that nostalgia sells. Every concept, particularly from the Big Three, reflected the styling values of an earlier time, when consumers were younger and the American car was dominant. A backward-looking Mustang would probably do very well, and Ford knew it.

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