What do these three pop culture luminaries from the 1980s and 1990s have in common: John Rambo, Bruce Jenner, and Arnold Schwarzenegger? One is a famous Olympic athlete who won the Decathlon. One is a famous actor and former governor of California. The other is the protagonist in several movies played by actor Sylvester Stallone. In addition to being well-known celebrities, they were all selected as code names by designers at the Ford Motor Company for three different concept cars for the upcoming 4th generation Mustang (a.k.a. SN95 or Fox-4). The John Rambo, the Arnold Schwarzenegger, and the Bruce Jenner were all concept cars leading up to the release of the 1994-2004 SN95 Mustang.
Prologue: How the SN95 Mustang Almost Became a Front Wheel Drive Economy Car
In the late 1980's, Ford had initially planned to transform the Ford Mustang into a front-wheel-drive car due to the oil crisis of the time and high fuel prices. Ford had a partial ownership stake with Japanese car company Mazda and was collaborating with the company to develop the FWD vehicle. In 1987, prototypes of the FWD car were spotted driving around Dearborn, MI, where Ford's corporate headquarters and proving grounds are located. Autoweek magazine learned about Ford's plans and published an article titled "The Next Mustang," detailing Ford's scheme of transforming the RWD pony car into a fuel-sipping FWD economy car.
Above: The 1989 Ford Probe was supposed to be the replacement for the legendary Ford Mustang. Thankfully, things didn't go as planned, and the Mustang lived on as a RWD pony car.
What ensued was hundreds of thousands of letters mailed (via post... before email) to Ford's corporate headquarters from angry Mustang enthusiasts complaining about Ford's scheme and convincing Ford to keep the RWD Mustang. Since Ford had already sunk a boatload of money into the development of the FWD Mustang, they decided instead to name the car the Ford Probe and to introduce the car alongside the 1988 3rd generation Fox Body Mustang.
Above: This 1995 SN95 Mustang Saleen S351 Convertible is equipped with a Ford 351-cubic inch Windsor V8 engine and backed by a Tremec quick-ratio five-speed manual transmission. Limited production Saleen Mustang convertibles and fastbacks also have race car driver/Saleen auto business owner/builder Steve Saleen specially tuned suspensions, Saleen body ground effects kits, and enhanced Saleen interior items that enable the already awesome pony car to go faster, handle better, and look the business as well.
Ford execs predicted that the all-new Probe would outsell the 10-year-old designed Fox Body Mustang in dealer showrooms. All those pony car enthusiasts spoke loudly with the monetary contents of their pocketbooks, wallets, checking accounts, bank loans, and credit cards. The long in the tooth designed, gas guzzling RWD Mustang beat out the Probe in sales every year that the Probe was produced (1988-1997). Giddy up!
Ford Mustang vs. Ford Probe Yearly Units Sold
Internal Project Code SN95 - New Mustang Design Mandated in 1989
The 1989 sales figures for the Mustang vs. the Probe didn't lie. A mandate for a new Mustang design came from the top of FMC. The challenge was that there wasn't much design money in the budget, as much had already been spent on the fledgling Probe and even more on the FWD Ford Taurus sedan. There was just 700 million left in the coffers to begin developing the 4th gen Mustang, so the designers had to get creative. A shortened Thunderbird chassis, that had an independent rear suspension system was entertained but deemed too-expensive for the design and engineering teams' paltry budget.
Instead, John Coletti, the Mustang design/engineering teams' Program Manager had his colleagues rework the RWD Fox chassis with 80% new and modified components and had them envision a completely new body. The team renamed the new Fox chassis the Fox 4, but most of us remember it today as the SN95 Mustang.
Above: This 1994 SN95 Mustang Cobra is a beautiful example of the beginning of the SN95 line. Its styling blended elegant curves with aggressive angles, and we'd say it has aged quite gracefully.
The vast majority of the design and engineering focus was on a RWD gen 4 Mustang at this point, though there was one remaining Ford Escort FWD study based on Ford's code named CT-20 FWD platform, but that was abandoned by the end of 1990, as it was deemed unfeasible. Perhaps the CT-20 design/engineering team didn't wish to be buried alive by all those Mustang enthusiasts protest letters.
SN95 Mustang Concept Car: Front Wheel Drive "CT-20"
Above and below: The only FWD 4th gen Mustang concept that was rendered in clay was this baby. Notice that the galloping pony @ the grille's center is headed to the East Coast, unlike any other Ford Mustang in history. The passenger side of this Mustang concept has a rear decklid with styling influences from the 1994 Thunderbird.
SN95 Mustang Concept Car: "Bruce Jenner"
Above: The Bruce Jenner design had rounded contours and softer design lines. The overall shape of this concept would later be incorporated into the 1996 Ford Taurus, as it was considered too conservative and boring, it was rejected from being the 4th gen pony car.
SN95 Mustang Concept Car: "John Rambo"
Above: The John Rambo, or more specifically, the Rambo design took the other extreme. The FMC team rejected this concept, as it was considered too aggressive in appearance. The front spoiler looks more like a snake's fangs than a pony car's buck teeth, not that any Mustang pony cars front ends looked like they had buck teeth.
SN95 Mustang Concept Car: "Arnold Schwarzenegger"
Above: The Arnold Schwarzenegger SN95 Mustang concept was considered the best of both worlds, sort of in between the conservatively styled Jenner and the radical Rambo concept. The Schwarzenegger still had broad shoulders and muscular styling and it better evoked earlier generation Mustang iterations. The galloping pony emblem was still present in the middle of the grille opening, and it was headed left towards the Wild, Wild West of the U.S. as with the three previous Mustang generations. It also still sported the scalloped sides with the faux brake cooling openings in front of the rear wheels. A long hood, short decklid, and fastback roof line completed the look of the 4th gen Schwarzenegger. The lead photo is of a 2003 Mustang Cobra SVT and is provided courtesy of Mecum Auctions. The concept photos are provided courtesy of the Ford Media Center.
SN95 Mustang: Mach III Concept (The Terminator?)
Above: The Mustang Mach III concept was built in 1993, right before the SN95 4th gen Mustang premiered in 1994. Given this fact, it's not likely that this two seat roadster (without windows) and with a cutdown speedster windscreen, would have debuted as the all-new Mustang. Nevertheless, several design themes from this vehicle made it into production with the gen 4. The side scoops, the general dual pod dashboard layout, and the basic shape of the headlights are found on the SN95. The engine in the Mach III concept, a DOHC 4.6-liter V8 mill topped with an Eaton supercharger that produces 450-horsepower, backed by a Tremec T56 six-speed manual transmission, and the independent rear suspension from the Lincoln MkVIII, eventually made its way into the 2003/2004 Mustang Cobra SVT with its blown "Terminator" (Arnold Schwarzenegger's alter ego) engine, trans, and IRS. Perhaps the Mustang Mach III two-seater could have been intended as an additional pony car to add to the Mustang paddock. We'll never know...
Classic Industries Has the 1994-2004 SN95 Mustang Parts You Need
One thing is abundantly clear: Classic Industries offers a broad and vast array of 1994-2004 Mustang components for your SN95 Mustang. Whether your daily driver pony car needs a few items or you're renewing your Mustang from the ground up, you can shop online here. You can also order a free catalog from CI by clicking the Mustang catalog button just below.
More Classic Car History Articles
If you enjoyed this look back at the 1994-2004 4th Generation SN95 Mustang, check out some of our other classic car history articles below: