Long time fox owner looking into s197 need advice - Ford Mustang Forums : Corral.net Mustang Forum
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post #1 of 22 Old 10-05-2019, 10:29 AM Thread Starter
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Long time fox owner looking into s197 need advice

Hey guys I am an old school guy that has always had foxes. I am looking into getting an s197 and want to see if you guys can give me some advice. I have been doing a good bit of research myself to gather my own info. From my research it looks as if the earlier (2005-2007) cars had alot of trouble with spark plugs. I also read that if you soak them down with penatrating oil and work them back and fourth you should be ok. This seem correct? Unfortunately buying used I have no idea about previous maintenance.

Also have read about timing chain guide issues resulting in major head repairs. What is needed to remedy this problem? I assume thats a pretty involved job to replace them.

How do these cars respond to mods? Exhaust, nitrous, gears etc?? What are some of the most popular bang for buck mods?

It seems like they are night and day as far as comfort and joy of driving compared to the older foxes.

What are some things I need to look out for when buying used that would keep me from having repairs down the road? Appreciate any and all advice you guys can give.

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post #2 of 22 Old 10-05-2019, 11:15 AM
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had a s197 for 10 years

I recommend you skip that and go to s550, unless you plan to make it a dedicated drag strip car.


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post #3 of 22 Old 10-05-2019, 11:49 AM
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If you're in love with the quasi retro bodystyle of the 05-09 model, go for it. I'd recommend the 09 model because it has all the TSB fixes that were recommended on the earlier models, and it also has the more reliable Denso alternator.
The 3V engines are pretty bulletproof. Cam phasers can fail with repeated sustained forays above 6000 rpm, and timing chain guides can fail if oil changes are neglected but if you treat the engine right, it'll do a 1/4 million miles no bother.
They respond well to N/A bolt on performance mods but if you want 400+rwhp, you'll need forced induction. The 05-09 manual GT typically dynos at 255-275rwhp & 275-295rwtq stock. Divide by 0.88 to get approximate numbers at the crank.

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post #4 of 22 Old 10-05-2019, 12:50 PM
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I was a longtime foxbody driver too.
Sold out and bought a 2014 gt 5.0 manual. Did all th basic mods, ran mid 11s at 120.

The cars a BORING A.F. ... not at all like a fox.

I eventually procharged it, getting up to 650rwhp....

Made the car useless on the street.

Parted-out, sold the car.

Bought a super clean 93 lx with a dart block stroker and a vortech.

The newer cars just don't have the "oh ####" factor.
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post #5 of 22 Old 10-06-2019, 08:37 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks for the feedback guys. I definitely dont want a dedicated drag car. Just a weekend car to cruise around and have some fun. I assume that the newer cars are probably "boring" because they are more "refined". Would that be an accurate description?? There is definitely something more "raw" about driving a foxbody. The biggest reason at looking at these years is budget. I would love to have a newer one but dont want a payment. Looking for something to buy outright.
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post #6 of 22 Old 10-07-2019, 12:08 AM
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Originally Posted by cbibb View Post
Thanks for the feedback guys. I definitely dont want a dedicated drag car. Just a weekend car to cruise around and have some fun. I assume that the newer cars are probably "boring" because they are more "refined". Would that be an accurate description?? There is definitely something more "raw" about driving a foxbody. The biggest reason at looking at these years is budget. I would love to have a newer one but dont want a payment. Looking for something to buy outright.
I could have written your post myself. I am a long time original owner of a 1989 LX 5.0 that I modified heavily over the years centered around a Kenne Bell Flowzilla/Blowzilla blower. A few years ago I started thinking about getting a newer Mustang from the 2005 and later models. I was not looking for something really fast or something to spend a lot of time and money modding. I also wasn't looking to spend a wad of cash. I just wanted a Mustang that I could enjoy driving that delivered a decent, reliable level of performance. Then I stumbled across a 2007 Steeda Q335 Mustang with a little over 54k miles for $9.5k and it took a Carfax report, one test drive and then a quick once over to check for problems to know this was the car I was looking for. I have had it for three months and can't say enough about how well I like the car. It handles incredibly well and has plenty of power (around 300 rwhp) to put a smile on my face. My days of wanting 400-500 rwhp are long gone.

This car has given me a lot of respect for the 2005-2009 models. They keep a lot of the characteristics of my '89 LX while having a much more refined delivery of performance. The Steeda mods make this car incredibly rigid and responsive regarding handling. It puts a grin on my face every time I drive it. I like it so much I plan to sell the '89 as I really don't see me driving it much at all.

I say go for it and if you are looking for a good deal there is no better model run to find one than the 2005-2009 models. I would also recommend looking at some of the specialty models like Steeda, Roush, Saleen etc. as they deliver tremendous performance if the price is right. Otherwise, you can buy one with the typical mods already done but make sure to check and see that the mods were done properly. Or even buying a well taken care of bone stock GT will give you tons of fun for little money. Plus, and I know this is personal preference, I think the 2005-2009 are the best looking models since the retro restyle was done in 2005 and the best looking model since the second gen cars. The later styling iterations after 2009 look busy to me. I also like the more simple purpose driven interior design of these cars. If speed is what you want then the 5.0 2011+ models are the way to go. Otherwise, the best value deals, IMO, are found with the 2005-2009 models.
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post #7 of 22 Old 10-07-2019, 12:11 AM
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'budget' does not exist, do it cheap, and you will do it twice

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post #8 of 22 Old 10-07-2019, 01:30 AM
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The great thing about the s197s is there is not a lot that goes wrong with them. They have been very reliable other than the 3v spark plugs being a PITA.
The 3v can be made to have one of the best sounding motors ford ever did. Since the 3v has all but been forgotten since the all mighty coyote they can be had for an amazing bargain.
Aftermarket options are near limitless so making it your own is pretty easy. Right about now the price of a clean, well done fox body is higher than a clean S197.
I say go for it.
Oh and the spark plugs are a 50 50 on weather or not they come out in one piece. The Lisle tool to remove the broken plugs is about $100 if I remeber right and it's easy to use. You can even rent them.
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post #9 of 22 Old 10-07-2019, 04:02 AM
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I stumbled across a 2007 Steeda Q335 Mustang with a little over 54k miles for $9.5k and it took a Carfax report, one test drive and then a quick once over to check for problems to know this was the car I was looking for. I have had it for three months and can't say enough about how well I like the car. It handles incredibly well and has plenty of power (around 300 rwhp) to put a smile on my face.
That was a great find.

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post #10 of 22 Old 10-07-2019, 08:44 AM Thread Starter
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Emmjay, thanks for taking the time to respond as well as the other guys. When I say "budget" I dont mean going cheap, I mean NOT wanting a car payment, that it all. I am not looking to set the world on fire with a race car. I have a motorcycle that I drag race that takes care of my "speed fix". Most likely all I would do to the car would be gears, exhaust, shifter suspension. I was just asking about mods in case there is a possibility down the road of wanting more, I dont want a ticking time bomb (like the stock block 302). With that said, is there a power level these motors are good for to stay safe? Again, not that I want to build a race car just asking for possible future mods.

I want something me and the wife can jump into and cruise our back country roads that handles well, has pretty good power, cold a/c, nice stereo etc. It sounds like the s197 would fit the bill perfectly.

I have a fox coupe that i am in the middle of building with a stout little engine/tremec 3550 etc. and I have kind of lost interest due to some medical reasons. My entire lumbar spine was fused (no disc at all in my lower back) and it just took the fun out of building it being in pain all the time. Thinking of selling the coupe and picking up a s197 that is done (pretty much done).

Again thanks for taking the time guys, much appreciated.

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post #11 of 22 Old 10-07-2019, 02:05 PM
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is there a power level these motors are good for to stay safe?
The weakest link in the 3V engine are the stock powdered metal connecting rods. They're fine for high revving N/A applications and will survive up to 7500rpm, but they can bend/break if there's detonation or excessive cylinder pressure (too much boost) in a forced induction application. A safe target for an internally stock engine is 450rwhp, though some have gone as high as 500rwhp but that's like playing Russian roulette.

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post #12 of 22 Old 10-07-2019, 07:20 PM Thread Starter
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The weakest link in the 3V engine are the stock powdered metal connecting rods. They're fine for high revving N/A applications and will survive up to 7500rpm, but they can bend/break if there's detonation or excessive cylinder pressure (too much boost) in a forced induction application. A safe target for an internally stock engine is 450rwhp, though some have gone as high as 500rwhp but that's like playing Russian roulette.
Thank you. How is the trans on these cars? Are they weak like the t5? I honestly dont see going more than 400 at the most. Just not what Im looking to do with the car, at least at this point.
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post #13 of 22 Old 10-07-2019, 10:26 PM
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A great car and a buyers market. Mine is supercharged with the older eaton m90. Not as efficient as the newer ones but makes copious amounts of whine. I love the sound along with the exhaust note. Even with 305 nittos it will bust the tires loose anywhere in 1st gear. Hung it sideways leaving McDonalds today to make light at the next intersection. It just doesn't get any better then that. My s550 buddies are constantly fighting wheel hop.

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post #14 of 22 Old 10-07-2019, 10:31 PM
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Thank you. How is the trans on these cars? Are they weak like the t5? I honestly dont see going more than 400 at the most. Just not what Im looking to do with the car, at least at this point.
The manual trans in the early S197 were actually pretty good. They took a good beating. The Autos 5r55 were very good as well. Neither trans were indestructible but they certainly held up well to built up NA and mild boost.

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post #15 of 22 Old 10-08-2019, 04:52 AM
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How is the trans on these cars?
The TR3650 manual is rated to 390lbft at the input shaft, and that's about the maximum torque you'd get with full N/A upgrades on a 4.6 3V.
Forced induction would get you over that threshold so the tranny's survival would then depend on how hard you drive the car. Powershifting will certainly shorten tranny life and damage the synchros. The TR6060 and T56 Magnum XL 6-speed manuals are popular swaps for FI applications as they are rated to 600lbft.

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post #16 of 22 Old 10-08-2019, 10:22 AM
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The 5R55 is junk for anything other than stock and it's suspect for that. They cannot handle long term real power. I would avoid an automatic S197 at all costs.

I've had Foxes, SN95, New Edge and an S197. The best driving, handle, stopping, most comfortable car was, HANDS DOWN, the S197. Yet it never inspired any passion in me. It was just a nice car. It also felt big and isolated. I sold it and went back to Foxbody.

Take the money you would spend on the S197 and buy the nicest restored/Modified Foxbody you can find. The Foxbody is a pile, but it's a very fun pile to drive. It demands your attention. It's a visceral driving experience.

Also, 400 hp in a S197 is very different than 400 hp in a Foxbody. In the S197, it's very docile. In the Foxbody, it's a loaded weapon ready to go off at any turn or intersection.
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post #17 of 22 Old 10-08-2019, 10:34 AM
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That was a great find.
It was a great find and is #12 in the run for 2007. This was a car Steeda did themselves and was sold by the dealer as new with factory warranty. I figured there was something wrong with it considering the price but the only thing I have found is possibly a slow leak in the heater core. Also, I can't say enough good comments regarding Steeda suspension parts. They work incredibly well on this Mustang. I haven't even come close to testing its handling limits. Plus, the Steeda exhaust sounds fantastic on the 3V motor!
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post #18 of 22 Old 10-08-2019, 10:48 AM
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Emmjay, thanks for taking the time to respond as well as the other guys. When I say "budget" I dont mean going cheap, I mean NOT wanting a car payment, that it all. I am not looking to set the world on fire with a race car. I have a motorcycle that I drag race that takes care of my "speed fix". Most likely all I would do to the car would be gears, exhaust, shifter suspension. I was just asking about mods in case there is a possibility down the road of wanting more, I dont want a ticking time bomb (like the stock block 302). With that said, is there a power level these motors are good for to stay safe? Again, not that I want to build a race car just asking for possible future mods.
After buying my 2007 with numerous mods, I would suggest that you try and find a car with the mods you might want. This way you get them for much less than if you buy the parts and install them. It would have cost me thousands just to buy the Steeda parts that are on mine and installation costs would have been a few thousand more. The added price for the Steeda mods from the Ford dealer that sold it new was over $13k. If you buy a modded car then the previous owner that installed them takes the price hit. Plus, for me at this point in my life, it was nice to buy a car that allowed me to drive it right from the start without having to go through the hassles to get it to the point I would be satisfied with its performance.
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post #19 of 22 Old 10-08-2019, 09:30 PM
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I bought an 07 Shelby GT with 400 miles a few years ago. I really like the car. It came with the 3.55 gears and it was still a dog. Now car has 4.10's, aluminum driveshaft and a Brenspeed tune. It is much more responsive and the cars should have come with 4.10's from Ford to compensate for the low torque down low. The 4.10's with the manual transmission are a perfect match...nothing weird at any gear,rpm or speed. I like the 05-09 retro style a whole lot. Good luck in your search. I recommend finding the lowest mileage original owner car you can find and go from there.
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post #20 of 22 Old Yesterday, 08:38 AM
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....... to compensate for the low torque down low.
This is not true. "The 5.0 pushrod engine has soft low end torque" said nobody........ever. The 4.6 3V has more torque at 2500 than the 5.0 pushrod ever had and it climbs to heights the 302 never reached. It puts almost 40 ft-lbs more the ground and nearly another 100 hp to the ground. But I agree that yes gears are a great addition to the 3V since it likes to rev. I never tuned the one I had, but I always suspected Ford torque managed the poo out of the low end of the 4.6 3V's.

My gripe with the 3V is it's expensive to mod effectively. All mod motors are like this however.
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post #21 of 22 Old Yesterday, 04:21 PM
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My gripe with the 3V is it's expensive to mod effectively. All mod motors are like this however.
The mods I've done were cheap. It's just that the other N/A mods that I haven't done are so expensive, e.g.:

LT headers & offroad midpipe: $750 plus installation (6 hours labor) plus retune
NSR cams & new phaser bolts: $750 plus installation (4 hours labor) plus retune
Ford Performance intake manifold: $650 plus installation (2 hours labor) plus retune
CNC ported heads: $1900 (minimum) plus installation (10 hours labor) & new head bolts/gasket set

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I always suspected Ford torque managed the poo out of the low end of the 4.6 3V's.
Yeah, there's a good 20lbft of torque to be gained at lower rpm just from a proper tune. However even stock, the 4.6 3V produced far more low rpm torque than a stock pushrod 5.0 so that busts a common internet myth.

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post #22 of 22 Old Today, 11:29 AM
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I have no experience with an s197. I did own a 2001 Cobra and still have my '86 Fox chassis, and an s550. Agree that the Fox is far more visceral and what I call "brutal" compared to the New Edge and especially the s550. But if a nice, comfortable driver with power and all the safety is the desire, the newer you go the better. All I've done with the s550 is suspension and exhaust. More than enough power and still gets 27MPG on the highway. It's a joy to drive and far from boring. If I want visceral, well the Fox is sitting next to the s550.

I get the no payment thing, but drive an s550 before you spring for an s197. You might find it well worth the extra money.
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