The Historical Significance
of the Mystichrome Cobra
Making Good with Lessons Learned
Initially, there was speculative talk from both Ford and its enthusiast community that the next-generation, retro-styled Mustang would debut as a 2004 model, but delays and other issues pushed the redesigned model to 2005. And it’s a good thing because the Terminator Cobra could have ended up being produced only for 2003, and our beloved Mystichrome Cobra may have never materialized!
By this time, no other ponycar or muscle car still existed on the market. In 2002, General Motors pulled the plug on its Chevy Camaro and Pontiac Firebird. (The Camaro made an eventual comeback for the 2010 model year, but now GM has confirmed that it will be discontinued after 2023 due to lagging sales.) The last Buick and Oldsmobile “muscle-car” offerings were the turbo V6-powered 1984–1987 Grand National/GNX and 1985–1987 Cutlass 4-4-2, respectively. (As a side note, GM brought over the Holden Commodore from Australia and marketed it first as the 2004–2006 Pontiac GTO coupe and then as the 2008–2009 Pontiac G8 sedan, and both cars were Pontiac’s last performance stand before the brand’s extinction in 2009.) Over at Chrysler, the last Dodges with muscle-car performance were the 1970 Charger and 1974 Challenger, both of which succumbed to the energy crisis and safety and emissions regulations; Plymouth fared worse due to Chrysler’s financial woes, killing off the Hemi ’Cuda after 1971 and eventually becoming defunct in 2001. (Today, the reborn Dodge Charger since 2006 and Challenger since 2008 have become worthy opponents on the streets and dragstrips with their recent SRT Hellcat and Demon versions.) The venerable Ford Mustang was the sole survivor during the ’00s due to a highly organized network of local and national clubs, grassroots enthusiasm and fan base, and generally favorable corporate management of their assets and the Mustang brand.
Below: The General bid farewell to its fourth-generation Chevrolet Camaro with the 35th Anniversary SS limited edition.
In 2003, the automotive world was abuzz over the forthcoming, retro 2005 Mustang. There was much celebration in the Ford camp as the Mustang’s rival breathed its last as production of the Camaro and Firebird ended. For the first time in its history, the Mustang was all alone in its segment. (The Mustang always had some form of competition. Before the 1967 Camaro/Firebird duo debuted, it was the Plymouth Barracuda and, to some extent, the Chevy Corvair.) Although the 2004 Mustang models across the board were essentially carryovers from 2003, in order to keep the Pony’s fans’ momentum and enthusiasm up, Ford decided to commemorate the Mustang’s 40th anniversary during the 2004 model year and continue celebrating this milestone throughout the 2004 calendar year right up through the official introduction of the 2005 Mustang. Thus, Ford offered the 40th Anniversary Limited Edition Package on both V6 and GT models, on both coupe and convertible body styles.
Paint choices for the special edition included Ebony Clearcoat, Oxford White Clearcoat, and exclusive 40th Anniversary Crimson Red Clearcoat Metallic, which was actually the same Merlot Clearcoat Metallic that was offered on various Fords, Lincolns, and Mercurys between 2002 and 2008. Arizona Beige Metallic tape stripes were placed on the hood, body sides, and decklid; convertibles were fitted with parchment tops made of the same canvas-cloth material found on open-top Terminator Cobras, the 2002–2005 Thunderbird, and the Jaguar XK8/XKR convertibles. The Medium Parchment interior sourced from regular-production Mustangs featured the Interior Upgrade Package with leather seats and Cobra-style, adjustable headrests; center console surround and shifter bezel painted in metallic gray; door handles, shift boot trim ring, and sport pedals in brushed aluminum; special running pony and “Fortieth Anniversary” embroidered floor mats; and a brushed aluminum plaque inscribed with the same running pony and “Fortieth Anniversary” on the center stack. Rounding out the package were body-color, Cobra-style, folding side mirrors and model-specific wheels with Arizona Beige Metallic accents: 16-inch machined aluminum wheels with accent-painted pockets on V6 models, and 17-inch accent-painted American Racing Torq-Thrust “Bullitt” wheels on GT models. Built between October and December 2003, Ford produced 5,700 special editions, and on November 18, 2003, a crimson-red example had the honor of being the 300,000,000th vehicle produced since the company’s founding one hundred years earlier.
Below: On November 18, 2003, CEO William Clay Ford, Jr., officially rolls off the assembly line at Dearborn Assembly Plant the 300,000,000th Ford vehicle produced in the company’s illustrious, 100-year history.
Above: Throughout 2003, the automotive press and the show circuit were abuzz with excitement over the forthcoming, retro-styled 2005 Ford Mustang.
For a time, the Ford Mustang was
the only contender in the ponycar segment
during the first decade of the 21st century.
Below: At this point in time, the Mustang’s last true competition was the Chevy Camaro and Pontiac Firebird before their demise in 2002. Some of the last muscle offerings from other brands were the 1974 Dodge Challenger (with the last Hemi engine built in 1971) and the 1987 Buick GNX (along with the 1984–1987 Buick Grand National and the 1985–1987 Oldsmobile Cutlass 4-4-2, which were all powered by a turbocharged V6).
Below: The 2004 40th Anniversary Limited Edition Mustangs were a testament to Ford’s commitment to the vehicle and its following. The official press release photo shows the special-edition GT coupe and V6 convertible with a 1965 GT convertible and a P-51 Mustang from World War II. All 5,700 vehicles received tasteful, console-mounted plaques that proclaimed their special status.
Continue to Chapter 4 >