The fifth-gen S197 Mustang doesn’t seem to get a whole lot of love in the track day community. It’s a fixture at car shows and drag strips, but doesn’t seem to have the acclaim Miatas, FWD Hondas, Toyobarus, or even early Porsche Boxsters have achieved for track work. These cars have been raced, but not as much as you might think considering the power-to-price ratio. But the 2004-2014 era Ford Mustang actually has a lot going for it and ought to be reconsidered. West coast racer and driving instructor Nik Romano recently made a video that explains why.

Nik goes into a lot of detail about the Mustang, its ups and downs, and even discusses its suspension design at length. The latter is actually great info and description for any vehicle with such designs in its arches.

The basic benefits are obvious: cheap, RWD, and torque. S197s can be picked up for short money and are not expensive to run. Maintenance is easy, the 4.6-liter modular V8 has been around for almost 30 years, and replacement parts are plentiful. It’s a simple car under its muscular skin, which means easy to work on, and less worrisome to drive hard.

S197 Ford Mustang: Track Day Hero or Jean-Shorts Zero? Insights From A Driving Instructor
Image: Nik Romano (YouTube screenshot)

They’re portly cars, but are still RWD and have a a decent amount of horsepower and torque for their weight. 300 horsepower and 320 pound-feet of torque is nothing to discount, and can surely be bumped up a tad with normal intake and exhaust mods. With everything else being equal, a RWD car will scoot through a course easier and faster than a FWD car, too. Even when it’s an S197 Mustang with arcane rear suspension. Its live rear axle and pivot points were probably all the rage in late-’60s road racing, but is almost agricultural by today’s standards.

Nik goes over everything in great detail and throws in some enjoyable humor to boot. If you’re like me where you’ve watched every piece of track and wrenching content under the sun on YouTube, his execution of both of these are what keep me subscribed and excited for more.

Plus, he gets attacked by an adorable puppy towards the end; what’s not to like?

He also offers a challenge towards the end: who can go sub-two at Buttonwillow for the cheapest amount of money? What this translates to those who aren’t hip to the California track scene jive: who can post a laptime below 2 minutes running on Buttonwillow Raceway Park’s 13CW configuration. This is very difficult to do when factory suspension design isn’t on your side, like the S197.

Nik’s well on his way; he’s picked up some inexpensive aftermarket goodies to help get him there, such as cooling mods, wheels, and suspension/alignment bits. I’m stoked to see how this all pans out!

Check out the video on YouTube: