The Ford Mustang will receive its first all-new platform since the Carter administration when it moves to Ford Motor Co.'s new global rear-drive chassis in 2003, according to internal documents posted on an independent Web site.
Code-named S197 and due for production in February 2003, the next Mustang will be built on Ford's DEW98 rear-drive platform. The platform currently is used for the 2000 Lincoln LS and Jaguar S-Type sedans and will be used on the future 2001 Thunderbird.
With DEW98, the Mustang will have its first new platform since 1979, when it moved to Ford's Fox platform that it shared with the Ford Fairmont/Mercury Zephyr sedans.
The current Mustang continues to use the Fox in modified form today.
The documents indicate the next Mustang will be powered by both V-6 and V-8 engines.
A 350-plus hp V-8 Cobra version also is in the works, while a six-speed manual transmission may be offered.
The documents were posted on www.blueovalnews.com, a Web site that Ford sued three weeks ago to strip of its internal reports. A Ford spokesman would not comment on the substance of the documents.
The documents indicate that Ford intends to remain in the pony-car business despite declining overall volume.
Except for 1998, sales of the car have dropped every year since the last major redesign in 1994, when the company sold 158,421 Mustangs. Last year Ford sold 144,732 Mustangs.
The Mustang is rebounding this year, however. Sales through eight months were 121,607, up 23 percent from last year.
The drop in popularity of domestic rear-drive sporty cars overall is being blamed for the rumored demise of the Mustang's main competition, the Chevrolet Camaro and Pontiac Firebird.
According to the Canadian Auto Workers, the St. Therese, Quebec, plant that builds the Camaro and Firebird has no vehicle scheduled for it after 2001, and a source inside General Motors' vehicle engineering group says there is no engineering work being conducted on replacements.
In contrast, a source at a supplier to Ford says the engineering work on the next Mustang is gathering steam.
The Mustang's move to DEW98 signals that Ford wants to split the platform into high- and low-cost variations, says a source who consults to Ford.
The source said the Mustang, the Australian Ford Falcon and the Lincoln LS will share the less expensive version of the platform, while the Jaguar S-Type and a new range-topping Lincoln will share the more expensive variant.