Is Ford Taking the Muscle out of the Mustang?

67 Ford Shelby Mustang. Photo credit: Flickr/Motor74

The 1967 Ford Shelby Mustang GT500 has been labeled by some as the greatest muscle car of all time. With a 428-cubic-inch Police Interceptor engine, which packed 355 horsepower, its power was an instant hit with customers, and it remains a classic to this day. Over the years Ford (NYSE: F  ) has made many modifications and updates to that classic car, however, it has always remained its iconic muscle car.

That is until the 2015 Mustang rolls out, which is rumored to be bringing the car into the 21st century as a lighter, faster sports car. That car is said to be shedding about 400 pounds from its 3,523 pound frame and will be doing so by using more aluminum. That's great news for aluminum giant Alcoa (NYSE: AA  ) , which expects to triple its sales of aluminum sheets to automakers by 2015. However, should Ford enthusiasts be equally as enthused to see the Mustang using a less muscular metal?

Let's face it, aluminum just doesn't speak of strength. We can crush an aluminum soda can without breaking a sweat. Superman is known as the "Man of Steel" while the closest thing aluminum has is the "Tin Man" from the Wizard of Oz. It just doesn't suggest the makings of a muscle car. But, that's just because we really don't give aluminum the credit it deserves.

Aluminum actually absorbs two times the energy in a crash when compared to steel. What that means is that car manufacturers can replace steel with lighter weight aluminum, which increases the car's performance and fuel economy, without sacrificing any safety. It's one reason why the all-aluminum, all-electric Tesla (NASDAQ: TSLA  ) Model S was recently awarded one of the highest safety ratings ever. Given that part of the allure of owning a muscle car is the distinct combination of safety and performance, aluminum really is the best metal for the job.

Speaking of performance, because of the lighter weight, vehicles made with aluminum tend to accelerate faster, brake quicker and handle better. Again, Tesla has used aluminum as the base for a car that won Car of the Year, not just because electric cars are cool these days, but because that car flat out performed. This is why it might be easier to think of a muscle car built with more aluminum as one being in the Muhammed Ali mode in that it floats like a butterfly, but stings like a bee.

Ford might be cutting the weight of its classic muscle car by replacing heavier steel with lighter weight aluminum, but don't let the lighter weight fool you. Pound-for-pound aluminum packs more muscle than steel making it the perfect choice for Ford's iconic muscle car. Bottom line, Ford isn't taking any muscle out of the Mustang, instead, it's toning it up to keep fighting off the competition. 

The big question is if consumers will respond to this change, or if it will crush Ford instead. Ford appears to be betting big on aluminum in an effort to zoom past its rivals. In fact, this little secret to its success could make you a lot of money. To learn Ford's other secrets, and how they could make Ford the most valuable automaker in the world, The Motley Fool would like to share with you a free report entitled, "5 Secrets to Ford's Future." Inside that report we give put you on the inside track to benefit from Ford's future success. To access the report click here now.


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  • Report this Comment On September 02, 2013, at 9:26 AM, Jimza1Skeptic wrote:

    Not to be "that guy" who is into the facts, but it just jumps out. The tin man was not made of aluminum. He rusted in the forest and had to be oiled up to get going. By the way, tin does not rust, so I also have a bone to pick with L. Frank Baum as well.

  • Report this Comment On September 02, 2013, at 9:39 AM, TMFmd19 wrote:

    @jimza1Skeptic - yeah, I know. But it was the closest thing I could find :)

    Matt

  • Report this Comment On September 02, 2013, at 9:58 AM, lmalino wrote:

    Carroll Shelby used plenty of fiberglass to lighten his cars and his Cobras were all aluminum and they set the standard for muscle.

  • Report this Comment On September 02, 2013, at 10:01 AM, Michael3333333 wrote:

    I am confused. I thought the term muscle was indicative of the power of the engine, not what the car was made of. I thought this article was going to discuss Ford's potential for using a V-6 over a V-8 , though they claim the V-8 will still be an option.

  • Report this Comment On September 02, 2013, at 10:05 AM, Daytona8398 wrote:

    The crapstang getting down graded, now even more women will buy one. The crapstang was always made for women now it will just have less power.

  • Report this Comment On September 02, 2013, at 10:10 AM, sabebrush6 wrote:

    The Mustang is/was a very cool "muscle car" but it is not a sports car. Different class altogether. It is what it is and has done a great job of holding that title. Don't call it something it's not.

  • Report this Comment On September 02, 2013, at 10:11 AM, hawkhell wrote:

    Being heavy is what people consider muscle? The muscle car concept was putting a big motor in a small light car. Lol does every metal have to have a hero named after it to be considered good?

  • Report this Comment On September 02, 2013, at 10:15 AM, ZAP1ROWSDOWER wrote:

    I wish Chevy would get on the ball and use more aluminum to the Camaro's frame. It would be a hell of a lot quicker with less weight.

  • Report this Comment On September 02, 2013, at 10:16 AM, jroc734 wrote:

    If Ford drops 400 lbs off the Mustang and retains a V8 then they are kicking ass. What people need to understand is that a Mustang is a sport cars. I know all the douche bag haters like to say that it's not a sport car, but a Muscle car, or a Pony car, but no this isn't 1969 anymore and the car isn't packing some all iron BB motor in a platform sprung softer than a Crown Vic. Ford has released several models of Mustang that will pull over 1 G on a skidpad, and lap a track like Laguna Sega in less than 1:40. These are sport car type #'s. Even a current GT will embarrass a lot of higherend "Sport Cars" on a road course. I'm a Ford/Mustang person and people need to quit trying to denign this because they are just talking chit to make them feel better about the car they are a fan of. A Mustang might not be a sport car in the same since that a Miata is a sport car, but a Miata isn't a sport car in the same sense that a GTR is a sport car, and a GTR isn't a sport car in the same sense that a Ferrari is a sport car, but they are all performance sport cars.

    The reason I'm saying this is you take a performance car already as good as the 11+ Mustang GT, and you drop 400 lbs and use a better chassis/suspension setup, and retain, or possibly add a little power then we're highly likely going to get a car that's capable or running well into the 11's stock, all while being very impressive around most road courses. If so then props to Ford.

  • Report this Comment On September 02, 2013, at 10:20 AM, LoveMyTesla wrote:

    The Mustangs of the late 70's and early 80's weren't muscle cars...they were crap. Sounds like they are trying to compete with new Corvette, which the new model is also more sleak and much more like a sports car than a muscle car.

  • Report this Comment On September 02, 2013, at 10:22 AM, degjoe wrote:

    Isn't GM implementing more aluminum into the chassis and other parts of the 2014 Corvette Stingray? So nothing new I guess

  • Report this Comment On September 02, 2013, at 10:23 AM, saabhubby wrote:

    Going to all aluminum won't make a difference the perception the consumer has about the car. It is the styling and whats under the hood that counts. Remember the Probe? It was supposed to be the new Mustang. Ford wanted to go to a more Euro style sport car and get away from the "muscle" car with a 6 cylinder engine instead of the V8. Buyers rebelled and they re-badged it the Probe. This won't happen if the go to aluminum. However, there will be a price to pay. Insurance rates will go up as it becomes more expensive to repair even simple dings as aluminum doesn't spring back into shape like steel does.

  • Report this Comment On September 02, 2013, at 10:38 AM, wallace9200 wrote:

    Ford has the habit and history of destroying cars with class and turning out C@$p.

  • Report this Comment On September 02, 2013, at 10:40 AM, wallace9200 wrote:

    Shelby made the mustang better, Ford will opt for a 2.3 liter just to be with run of the mill crowd.

  • Report this Comment On September 02, 2013, at 10:57 AM, oscar1711 wrote:

    This article goes from some notion that body material is the definition of 'muscle' in a car and that aluminum bodywork is a sign of weak performance, to a report about Motley Fool's CEO. This is a stupid and self serving example of internet pablum.

  • Report this Comment On September 02, 2013, at 11:09 AM, cityperson wrote:

    Ford has to stay up with the market rtend. But, I think ford will make a mistake, unless Ford along with Alcoa comup with a better product in the aluminum materials.

  • Report this Comment On September 02, 2013, at 11:15 AM, LungsOfSteel wrote:

    No muscle car expert worth his salt would ever call the 1967 Shelby GT500 "the greatest muscle car of all time." So who are "some" people?

  • Report this Comment On September 02, 2013, at 11:15 AM, SwK0212 wrote:

    Every tidbit of info I have came across online about the next gen Mustang pretty much all say the same thing. It will have a more rounded front end like a European sports car. People were saying it was going to look like the Mondeo but we now know the Fusion took that title. The one thing that it is supposed to have that will be a plus is independent rear suspension. This could go either way. I feel this car will be embraced by the younger crowd while it will be shunned by the older ones.

  • Report this Comment On September 02, 2013, at 11:26 AM, alsorl wrote:

    What ever they do it will always be better then the new Camero. Which is probably one of the worse drivers cars on the road today. The visibility is just scare, there are more blind spots then open areas to see. This is coming from a guy that sold Pontiac's for 5 years and the Firebird and TransAm was my bread and butter. Except for the new Corvette which is best engineered car outside of a Carrera. The Mustang is the best American made sports car for the money. It's already lighter and easy to drive. But, with more aluminum, its going to be light years ahead of the old man Camaro.

  • Report this Comment On September 02, 2013, at 11:28 AM, axle57 wrote:

    I grew up on fords, chevys, molars, and barleys and I still have a 65 GTO tripower 4spd posi, kick ass car. It weighs in at 3200lbs., has a stroker 400, and modified carbs. That is better than any new car. Mine has been enhanced to handle the newbies. Not knocking mustangs or any other brand of muscle, but I like to build my own version of a nightmare on main street.

  • Report this Comment On September 02, 2013, at 11:30 AM, carguytx wrote:

    This article reminds me of a lot of Yahoo articles about cars written by someone who knows very little about them. As others have posted "Muscle Cars" are all about horsepower and performance-not about the metal from which they are made. Velocity Channel is airing a great series about how cars are made, almost all of the exotic and near exotics are going aluminum and carbon fiber for weight reduction and increased stiffness.

    These articles are goofy

  • Report this Comment On September 02, 2013, at 11:38 AM, soboss wrote:

    The writer is getting Muscle Cars mixed up with another term used with some other Muscle Cars referred to as Heavy Metal Muscle Cars.

    The other thing is that the Mustang was never considered a Muscle Car but rather a Pony Car. For example the Ford Torino was a Muscle Car.

  • Report this Comment On September 02, 2013, at 11:51 AM, xzarterius wrote:

    Using aluminum is a huge improvement over steel. It resists corrosion, is lighter weight and less flexy than steel. I owned a 1998 Audi A8 that was all aluminum and it totally rocked. I'm glad a US car company is finally using a superior element on a vehicle.

  • Report this Comment On September 02, 2013, at 11:53 AM, bjc77 wrote:

    Audi cars are probably crap then, based on this article at least. What a bunch of horse$hyt. People who know nothing about cars and or engineering should not be writing articles and presenting themselves as knowledgeable.

  • Report this Comment On September 02, 2013, at 12:21 PM, newtomotley wrote:

    More raw materials need to be made here in America, like the aluminum and rare earth elements. Stop importing these basic things and invest in our mines and manufacturers. Keep intellectual property at home.

  • Report this Comment On September 02, 2013, at 1:19 PM, ssiever3 wrote:

    I believe that Ford is going in the right direction with the Mustang. I know that there are a lot of "Old School" people that want the big, bulky, steel monster with a monster engine, but that is the way of the dinosaurs. This is a new age. Technology has come a long way, and there are some incredible thing that can be done with chassis and drive trains. They have proven it, as well as many other car companies, with their Ecoboost line. The top of the line engine available in the F150 is a twin turbo V6, with more horse power and torque than their 5.4L V8. As far as the styling, it is time for a major Mustang overhaul. The retro-styling is over with. What other mustang can they style it after? The 73' Stang? (Yuck!) The Mustang II !!?? Um, no! I am excited and pleased about the renderings of the upcoming body style! It is also a good business move, in my opinion. Ford is trying to get the Mustang to appeal to a world market, and that means styling, and power train changes are in order. Not to mention they need to meet new government standards for fuel efficiency. Realistically, it really doesn't matter what Ford does, styling-wise, with the Mustang. As long as the car performs, people will buy it. I will "High Five" Al Mullaly any day and twice on Sunday!

  • Report this Comment On September 02, 2013, at 2:10 PM, omorin34 wrote:

    Mathew's mother regularly indulged in lead paint chips. One should know something, anything, before writing an article about it.

  • Report this Comment On September 02, 2013, at 3:33 PM, LungsOfSteel wrote:

    Mid-sized car + big engine = muscle car

    Pony car + big engine = muscle car

    A Mustang and a Torino, both with a 428 CJ, are muscle cars.

  • Report this Comment On September 02, 2013, at 4:25 PM, spinod wrote:

    It's sad, even the "true" american cars are turning into giant tincans..... I was in an accident with my older Camaro, flipped the car and the only thing that happened to the body was a small dent where the idiot hit me.

    Imagine doing that in todays cars? The entire thing would just be smashed into the ground......

  • Report this Comment On September 02, 2013, at 5:21 PM, Tonenine wrote:

    Matt, try doing some research then maybe you won't appear an idiot. My Porsche is mostly Aluminum, it's lighter, weight reduction is the easiest may to improve acceleration and gas mileage simultaneously. To think that means the car is less sporty just means you shouldn't be writing about cars.

  • Report this Comment On September 02, 2013, at 5:33 PM, fbwilliams69 wrote:

    Shelby did NOT put a 428PI engine in the Mustang-he used 428CJ and SCJ engines-different heads, cranks, intake and exhaust manifolds. Oh and by the way, they were rated at 335, not 355, horsepower.

  • Report this Comment On September 02, 2013, at 5:47 PM, rdmcdonald48 wrote:

    Ford, do you remember what happen when you introduced the Mustang II? It's called "going to hell in a handbasket" for a reason.

    There is NOTHING wrong with the Mustang as it sits.

    Keeping up with the "Joneses" is how Detroit wound up where it is today. The foreign cars can't compete with Domestic Muscle cars - ever. Quit trying to be a car that everyone will love and be the car that hard core drivers love.

  • Report this Comment On September 02, 2013, at 6:09 PM, MarlboroMan62 wrote:

    Is Ford Taking the Muscle out of the Mustang? That's like asking if Bugatti is taking the fuel efficiency out of the Veyron. It's funny as h3ll.

  • Report this Comment On September 02, 2013, at 6:16 PM, kgsgolf wrote:

    This guy could get a job at Yahoo.

    Mustangs intro engine (a V6) now generates over 300 HP, they are adding a turbo 4 cylinder that will pump out 350ish HP and a 5.7L V8 that spits out a whopping ..... wait for it ..... 600HP and NOT in the uber-expensive Shelby Edition.

    No mention of all that just an offhand reference to the authors ability to crush aluminium cans.

    Talk about cheesy journalism you toss out a headline "IS FORD TAKING THE MUSCLE OUT OF THE MUSTANG?" and then end with "Ford isn't taking any muscle out of the Mustang, instead, it's toning it up to keep fighting off the competition."

    While were at it why not have a headline like "Did Mother Theresa use Sarin gas to reduce Calcutta overcrowding?" and then end the article with "No in fact Mother Theresa was a compassionate caregiver every day of her life"

  • Report this Comment On September 02, 2013, at 7:05 PM, cookiejarraider wrote:

    Wow what a stupid ass thing to say, aluminum is not a strong metal? are you full of the retards today mr writer? for the simple fact aluminum is lightweight and stronger than steel.

  • Report this Comment On September 02, 2013, at 7:10 PM, LungsOfSteel wrote:

    @spingod:

    Are you more interested in your car's safety or your safety? Today's cars protect the occupant and to hell with the body . . . as it should be.

    @fbwilliams:

    The CJ didn't come out till mid-1968, and that was installed only in the GT500KR. The SCJ is merely a CJ with the Drag Pack, and that didn't debut till 1969 on the GT500. Hence, you are wrong wrong wrong!

  • Report this Comment On September 02, 2013, at 7:42 PM, gmoore510 wrote:

    oh know,it's th mid-70s mustang II all over again.back then,it was in response to the oil crises by mixing parts from a regular mustang and the pinto.

  • Report this Comment On September 02, 2013, at 10:38 PM, stevenatorr wrote:

    cookiejarraider aluminum is lighter but it is not stronger than steel. i work with aluminum and steel and iron. aluminum won't corrode or rust but it is not stronger. aluminum can be hardened but still not stronger.

  • Report this Comment On September 03, 2013, at 2:39 AM, xgcakasha wrote:

    Ok.... This article makes no sense. Since when does making a car out of a lighter material and shedding 400 pounds in the process equate to losing "muscle"? Have you never heard of power to weight ratio? Race cars are faster than street cars of the same kind not only because they modify the engines to get more power, but also because they do everything they can to lighten up the car. You obviously have very limited knowledge about cars. The iconic Shelby AC Cobra was made out of aluminum... So was the GT-40. The first year Corvette was also aluminum. Maybe you should do a little research before writing an article on cars and having a female have to explain them to you.

  • Report this Comment On September 03, 2013, at 2:49 AM, xgcakasha wrote:

    Newtomotley wrote:

    More raw materials need to be made here in America, like the aluminum and rare earth elements. Stop importing these basic things and invest in our mines and manufacturers. Keep intellectual property at home.

    --------------------

    You do realize of course that most of the rare earth elements in the world are located in China. This is not something that you can just decide to say I want to get this in the US and grow it here. Also mining for these is very hazardous as they are toxic and cause a lot of health problems for people living close to the mines.

  • Report this Comment On September 03, 2013, at 3:02 AM, xgcakasha wrote:

    Spinod said:

    It's sad, even the "true" american cars are turning into giant tincans..... I was in an accident with my older Camaro, flipped the car and the only thing that happened to the body was a small dent where the idiot hit me.

    Imagine doing that in todays cars? The entire thing would just be smashed into the ground......

    -----------

    Sorry but my aluminum body Subaru STi is faster with a 4 cylinder, more agile, has better braking, and is safer than the old Camaros were. How do I know? Because I have owned both. My first car was a 1969 Camaro with a 427 in it. It did not have the acceleration, handling, or the braking ability of the Subaru. Also your last statement is false. Most new cars are still made with steel bodies albeit ligher weight steel with crumple zones meant to absorb impact (means you have less chance of flying through the windshield or snapping your neck from the impact of a body that does not give. While I am not a fan of airbags (added weight and injure just as many people as they save not to mention are not installed in race cars) the modern cars also have a reinforced passenger area that protects the people in the car.

  • Report this Comment On September 03, 2013, at 3:31 AM, dabambz wrote:

    "Let's face it, aluminum just doesn't speak of strength. We can crush an aluminum soda can without breaking a sweat"

    Obviously the writer does not know anything about metallurgy. He speaks of pure aluminium. He forgets that aluminium used in aircraft or boats are aluminium alloys. Which mean they are mixed with other metals like copper or magnesium, and then heat treated to make it stronger and lighter than steel. Steel is also an alloy from iron and carbon. Pure aluminium is very unlikely to be used in the new mustang because it's very soft. They will definitely go with alloy, either copper or magnesium.

  • Report this Comment On September 03, 2013, at 3:37 AM, Connelky wrote:

    Most consumers probably couldn't list advantages and disadvantages of steel vs aluminum, so this is probably a pretty safe move.

  • Report this Comment On September 04, 2013, at 12:24 AM, LungsOfSteel wrote:

    @xgcakasha

    The first Corvette was aluminum?

    Careful about using sexism to make your point - you may get bitten in your Rubenesque butt.

  • Report this Comment On September 04, 2013, at 10:07 AM, WhiteHatBobby wrote:

    The Holden Commodore family sedan in Australia switched from a steel to aluminum hood for 2014, and these cars are sold at Chevrolet dealerships in SS-V Redline trim (6L V8, et al) as a halo car.

    The big thing Ford has been pushing is smaller engine cars. The Mondeo family sedan (they race that in NASCAR) only has four cylinder engines, and most other automakers are making midsize family cars four cylinder only.

    Because of the 54.5 MPG standard, fuel economy standards are pushing for three and four cylinder engines for cars today.

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