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TANGERINE PRESERVATION Preserving one of 826 Mustangs assembled in 1996

Just two years after ushering in the arrival of Ford’s all-new retro SN-95 Mustang, Ford quickly re-engined this slippery aero body with the marque’s first-ever overhead cam V-8. It would be the first model year in Mustang history without the traditional 90-degree overhead valve 260/289/302ci “Fairlane” V-8. The 4.6-liter overhead cam Mustangs were a new driving experience because Ford’s Modular V-8 was completely different than the overhead valve V-8 engines it replaced.

The Modular V-8 was a high-revving heavy breather that infused new life into the Mustang GT (two-valve) and SVT Cobra (four-valve). Easing out on the clutch was exhilarating as this engine began to take charge of a new Mustang driving experience. It accelerated more aggressively than the classic pushrod V-8s and revved freely to 6,000 rpm. It kicked you in the posterior across a broader torque curve than its predecessors. It wrapped up its temper tantrum around six grand, leading you into the next highest power plateau on the way to six-digit speed. On the open road in overdrive, the Modular offered quiet cruise operation. This exciting new V-8 offered Mustang buyers the best of all worlds.  

What’s more, Ford’s state-of-the-art 4.6 Modular V-8 delivered something Mustang enthusiasts probably didn’t expect—durability. Not only has this engine provided stunning performance in all its incarnations, it has gone the distance without complaint, passing the 200,000-mile mark more often than not since 1996.

When Jean Roos of Evansville, Indiana, went back to work after 17 years of child rearing, she decided to saddle up behind the wheel of a new Bright Tangerine 1996 Mustang GT coupe. The car was immediately a keeper because it was something she sat down and ordered exactly what she wanted. Not many were produced like it. Her order made its way from Southern Indiana to Dearborn, where the car was planned, bucked, serialized, and built on May 17, 1996. Turns out it was the first of many Mustang GTs built that day at the Dearborn Assembly Plant. Of the 826 Bright Tangerine Clearcoat Metallic (Color Code CM) Mustangs built for 1996, just 52 of them were like this GT coupe with the Cloth Sport interior in Medium Graphite with the 4.6L engine and five-speed.

David and Jean cut a patch down a stretch of rural Illinois highway. Early in 1996, Jean ordered this Bright Tangerine Clearcoat Metallic Mustang GT coupe as her commuter car. Wasn’t long before she realized the car’s rarity and put it away for show purposes.

We ran into Jean and husband David at the MCA National Show in Springfield, Illinois, in 2007 when this car was but a year old. Through the years, we’ve seen Jean and David many times on the MCA show circuit as they accumulated show points. For nearly a decade, Jean and David have been fiercely committed to keeping the car showroom new. They have become something of a familiar MCA institution and role models for others who are committed to the SN-95 breed.

When you take the wheel of this uniquely American ride, it offers the fluid precision of Ford’s 4.6-liter SOHC Mustang GT V-8 splined into Tremec’s T-45 five-speed transmission. The 8.8-inch Traction-Lok axle with 3.27:1 cogs gives the Mustang a nice balance of freeway acceleration coupled with cruising comfort. What made the 1994-04 SN-95 more advanced than the 1979-93 Fox-body was the chassis improvements John Coletti’s Team Mustang rolled into the redesigned Fox-4 platform. These refinements made the platform stiffer, eliminating cowl shake and excessive road boom.

Mustang for 1996 got what enthusiasts felt the SN-95 should have had from the beginning—traditional three-element taillights instead of the fluted horizontal types in 1994-95. These taillights are so popular many enthusiasts have converted their 1994-95 Mustangs.

When Jean started using her new Bright Tangerine Mustang for the work commute, she quickly learned just how rare it was in terms of color. So rare, in fact, she elected to stop driving the car to work in order to preserve its originality at just 16,000 miles. That’s when she and David made the decision to buy a 1991 Mustang GT from its original owner. an 88 year-old woman. David tells us, “The 1991 GT became Jean’s daily driver. In fact, our kids learned to drive in it.” It wasn’t long before Jean snapped up a 2003 Mach 1 in Azure Blue, making it clear to all in the family that Jean had it bad for Mustangs. She pulled the Mach 1 into their garage and put a cover on it. The only time it is ever driven is to shows.

The more progressive Mustang GT for 1996 witnessed a subtle revision to the front fender emblem—4.6L SOHC V-8 power spoken here.

It may surprise you to know with all this late-model Mustang iron in the garage Jean also has a Vintage Burgundy 1966 Mustang. Today, Jean and David inventory some six Mustangs in their stable, ranging from classic to late-model, including a 2012 Boss 302. They’re never without a Mustang to drive.

During a recent conversation with David, we learned he and Jean continue to frequent the MCA show circuit in their quest for fresh memories and show points. With that, they’re often seen with this blazing Bright Tangerine Mustang GT. It hasn’t been so much the rewards they have experienced from excellent showmanship, but instead the friends they’ve made and what they’ve learned along the way. 

We like the Cloth Sport Medium Graphite interior in all its newness with a five-speed shifter along with deeply sculpture door panels and the retro twin-pod dashboard. The SN-95 yielded more room inside with a solid feel on the road.

Did You Know?

The song “Tangerine” was first published in 1941 and employed in “The Fleet’s In,” a wartime movie starring William Holden, Dorothy Lamour, Eddie Bracken, Case Daily, and Betty Hutton. Victor L. Schertzinger wrote it with lyrics by Johnny Mercer. Ironically, Schertzinger died the year the song was written. As we understand it, band leader Jimmy Dorsey recorded this popular tune with vocalists Helen O’Connell and Bob Eberly, and put it on Decca Records. It was a smash hit on the charts for 15 weeks. “Tangerine” remains a popular nostalgic tune today and has been performed by untold hundreds of vocalists and instrumentalists since the 1940s. 

The new 4.6-liter SOHC Modular V-8 was a tight fit for SN-95 Mustangs when it arrived for 1996. Although the Modular produced 215 horsepower at 4,400 rpm and 285 lb. ft. of torque at 3,500, making similar numbers to the 5.0-liter small-block it replaced, the 4.6 SOHC was a different animal. It revved higher though it was done at 5000 rpm. The 4.6 Modular V-8 made the Mustang GT smoother with easier-to-manage power.
Because the 4.6L SOHC was such a tight fit, Ford had to go to hydroboost power brakes, which got its pressure from the power steering pump instead of intake manifold vacuum.
We found Jean and David at an MCA National show in Mustang, Oklahoma, a few years back, still fiercely committed to SN-95 preservation and a Mustang they will treasure the rest of their lives.
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