Evaluating a 261,000 Mile 2002 Ford Mustang GT

My recently acquired 261,000-mile 2002 Ford Mustang GT underwent a mild road test. Although the journey was wrought with insufferable traffic, it nevertheless gave me a decent perspective of how the car is now, and how I eventually want it to be. These are some of the highlights I retained from the experience of driving my high-mileage Mustang.

Bouncy Suspension

2002 Ford Mustang GT driver's side view
2002 Ford Mustang GT driver’s side view | Brian Grabianowski

The car has about four inches of clearance between the tires and the fenders, so I knew I was going to lower it. Not for stance, but to help eliminate body roll. Originally I was going to get lowering springs and be done with it, but upon further examination, more drastic steps should be taken.

The Mercedes is a refined experience with smooth and plentiful power delivery and all the grip in the world from 275mm Pirellis at the back. The Mustang, in comparison, is a rough ride. The rear bounces with each divet, and through every corner, the car acts as if it’s trying to use the inside tire to scratch an itch on the outside fender.

With each bounce, the rear end feels like it’s about to give way, make a run for the hillside at the first sign of trouble. The only thing keeping me on the tarmac is the massive tires, and they’re only Sumitomos so I’m not 100-percent confident. Be that as it may, it’s a solid platform. With more experience, understanding of how the car works under certain conditions, I’m getting more comfortable with the car.

Adequate Mustang power

2002 Ford Mustang GT top view
2002 Ford Mustang GT top view | Brian Grabianowski

The engine pulls strong. If it’s the original motor, it doesn’t feel like it’s been running for 261,000 miles. I take it up to redline occasionally, and it doesn’t break a sweat. Coolant temperature stays constant, the revs climb fast, the gas gauge goes down, all is working fluently and as it should. I will probably leave the engine the way it is, and when it explodes I’ll go for something more interesting, like a Mach 1 engine. For now, the 4.6 is doing just fine. Preventative maintenance is key.

Heel-toeing is impossible (for me) at this stage. The gas pedal sits far below the brakes, so my feet physically can’t complete the connection without sacrificing my attention on the road. The pedal isn’t adjustable by design, so I’ll have to get creative. Beyond setting up the pedals for heel-toe, the gas pedal simply doesn’t have enough travel to utilize what the engine has to offer, so the purpose of adjusting it higher is two-fold.

Potential mods for the 2002 Mustang GT

2002 Ford Mustang GT rear end
2002 Ford Mustang GT rear end | Brian Grabianowski

As I said before, the only thing I’ll be changing is the suspension. For that, I’m going to go with a front coilover kit from Maximum Motorsports. With the solid axle, a rear set supposedly isn’t necessary and wouldn’t provide much of a difference. However, I will still get lowering springs and better shocks for the rear.

I’m going to leave the engine as is but may look into replacing the rear end with lower gears, probably a 3.73:1 ratio. It will make the tires spin faster, at the expense of top speed. A new set of gears in the rear will make all the difference in acceleration, without having to touch the engine. It’s a common modification to make, especially on 1990s Mustangs.

Project cars are fun hobbies as long as they don’t induce bankruptcy. Where they fall short sometimes comes down to reliability, but that’s why it helps to have a second car.

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