Chairman and CEO of Ford Motor Company Bill Ford Jr. steps from the 2005 Ford Mustang Sunday January 4, 2004 at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Michigan. By Garner Tam Many automobile manufacturers are looking to the past for styling inspiration, and we've seen plenty of "retro" designed models surface on the auto show circuit, many of which have filtered down to the production level: the Chrysler PT Cruiser, Prowler, Ford Thunderbird, Mini Cooper, and Chevy SSR for example. Enter the Mustang. Last updated in 1999, the Mustang can trace its roots back through 40 years of muscle car lineage. Although the last two models followed a fairly modern design continuum, the 2005 Mustang is a flashback, or perhaps a tribute, to older times. Blending retro styling with modern technology, this new Mustang definitely hits a high note. Most striking is the exterior styling. Completely overhauled from the last generation, the new skin is what hearkens back to earlier days. To create the classic muscle car look, a long hood and short rear deck have been utilized, and the nose and front end on the 2005 model create a wedge shape that is forward-leaning and aggressive. Naturally, a galloping pony can be found nestled in the middle of the black grill. The Mustang features round headlights set in trapezoidal housings and an extra set of round driving lights in the grille (on the GT version). C-scoops in the side body panels along with flared fenders over the wheels draw the eye down when looking at this car from the side and help give it a very powerful stance. Triple sectioned taillights with sequential turn signals complete the trip down memory lane, and are the main focus of the beefy rear end. Of course, being a 2005, there are modern touches such as the new window in the C pillar that should clear any previous blind spot issues for drivers. The blend of old and new is carried further into the interior where you'll find classic design married with modern touches. A symmetrical, eyebrow-shaped dash provides a classic look and an optional interior appearance package includes a contemporary aluminum finish across the span of the dashboard. Chrome ringed vents and gauges are present, but both the speedometer and tachometer feature numbers in classic Mustang font. Other metallic finishes such as the shift knob, accents in the door panels and sills, and the 3-spoke steering wheel help give the Mustang's interior added flash and style. Even the front bucket seats and rear bench feature 60's-style ribbed seating surfaces and retro-design. Possibly the most interesting modern advancement is the ability to customize the instrument panel lighting, through the combination of green, red, and blue LED's (light emitting diodes). According to Ford, over 125 different colour backgrounds are possible depending on the driver's taste. At one colour per day, you could have a new look to your panel for over 4 months! In keeping with a car of this caliber, Ford has included a host of standard features: power doors and windows with one-touch up and down features, keyless entry, power mirrors, intermittent wipers, and cruise control. Three audio options are available - from the standard 80 watt, four-speaker CD player system to a window rattling (that is, the windows of the car next to you) 1,000 watt Shaker Audiophile system that surrounds you with four high powered subwoofers. For improved crash safety, the new Mustang's body structure is stiffer by 31%. Ford's new Personal Safety System uses weight sensors in the seats to determine if there is an occupant, and if so, what type (adult vs. child). In the event of an accident, it will determine whether or not airbags are fully or partially deployed, or not at all. It also includes a more advanced seatbelt pretensioner system. Ultimately though, what is a Mustang without what's under the hood? The 2005 Mustang comes with a choice of a 4.0 litre SOHC V6 (replacing the 3.8 litre pushrod V6) or 4.6 litre SOHC V8 engine now with three valves per cylinder and variable camshaft timing. The 4.0 litre V6 offers 202 horsepower and 235 foot pounds of torque, gains of 9 horsepower and 10 foot-pounds of torque respectively. The revised 4.6 litre V8 pumps out 300 horsepower and 315 ft. lbs. of torque, 40 more horsepower and 13 foot-pounds more than the previous 4.6 litre V8 in the GT. The 2004 Mustang Mach 1 and Mustang Cobra SVT still beat the '05 Mustang in term of horsepower and torque, but it's quite likely we'll see Cobra and SVT versions of the '05 model in due course. The 2005 Mustang GT's new aluminum MOD (modular) V8 is a single overhead cam design using three valves (2 intake, 1 exhaust) per cylinder. Incorporated in this new engine is Ford's VCT or variable camshaft timing, which is their version of a concept that has been used successfully by Japanese automakers for years. It essentially allows for variation of the overall valve timing and can optimize power output over a wider engine RPM range. Although not as sophisticated as some other systems out there, Ford states that their VCT is far less complex and lighter than others. Transferring that power to the rear wheels is a choice of a 5-speed Tremec manual gearbox or a new-for-the-Mustang 5 speed automatic transmission that is used on the Lincoln LS, Jaguar S-Type, and Ford Thunderbird. With the extra "gear" on the automatic, better acceleration is the reward as well as improved fuel economy while cruising on the highway. The 5-speed manual transmission is said to have improved shift quality and a new shift linkage that makes the throws less notchy. Also, a boosted hydraulic clutch allows for easier clutch play, while still offering a performance feel. Keeping the Mustang planted on the road is a new suspension utilizing MacPherson struts and a reverse "L" lower control arm on the front end. Customary for Mustangs, a solid rear axle can be found in the rear. According to Ford's research, most Mustang and muscle car enthusiasts favour a solid rear axle for its strength and help in controlling body roll. The new rear-end also makes use of a Panhard rod that attaches the axle to the body further stabilizing the rear end. GT models come with 17" x 8" wheels shod with meaty P235/55ZR-17 inch tires, while V6 models offer standard 16" x 7" wheels and P215/65R-16 inch tires. To rein in the new ponies, both V6 and GT models get four-wheel disc brakes. Up front, twin piston calipers grab 12.4 inch ventilated discs on the GT, 11.4 inchers for the V6 model. Rear discs on both the GT and V6 are vented. Oddly enough for this day and age, ABS is still an option and is bundled with a traction control system. Of course, for times when a smoke show is in order, the traction control can be turned off. An optional anti-theft package includes a host of security features that stops just short of a security guard sitting in the passenger seat. A sensational blend of old and new, classic design and modern technology, power and refined style, the 2005 Mustang will be sure to take previous Mustang owners back to the hay days of their first pony. And it promises to be the first Mustang, of perhaps many, for novices to the galloping pony. The first 2005 Mustangs are expected to arrive in Canadian showrooms at the end of November.