1996 model year Mustangs continue to to use the SN95 body style, with the biggest changes coming under the hood. Ford replaced the small block 5.0L V8 with a more technologically advanced 4.6L modular V8, which produces the same amount of horsepower as the 1995 5.0L V8, while the SVT Cobra’s Aluminum version of the 4.6L creates 305 hp.
Let’s start with the exterior of the MY 1996 Mustang. The changes were subtle. A retro honeycomb grille was added and the rear tail lights were re-oriented to the original 1960s vertical. The only other significant change was that of one particular paint package available on the SVT Cobras called Mystic. For those of us who grew up in the 90s, this was a paint that color shifted at different angles in the light. It was produced using Chroma Flair pigment which mimics the way light works on soap bubbles, producing a spectrum of reflected color. The interior for the 1996 mustang remained virtually unchanged, which wasn’t really a bad thing, as it was still a fresh looking design.
A total of three engine combinations were available for 1996. The base engine was the same 3.8 liter V6, with its output upped by 10 horsepower to 150. The engine was now built up from the stiffer block of the supercharged 3.8-litre V6 first seen on the Thunderbird Super Coupe. The old Borg-Warner T-5 manual transmission was swapped for the new T-45 5-speed unit that had its bellhousing and transmission case cast as a single unit resulting in a much more robust transmission assembly. The old 4-speed AOD automatic was retired and in its place was Ford’s more sophisticated 4R70W computer controlled transmission.
1996 was the first year for the 4.6L Modular V-8. The tried and true 302 (5.0L) CI engine was replaced in 1996 with this new modular 4.6 liter engine. The 281 cubic inch V8 was better across the board. It had a new sophisticated design and smaller size for same power as well as better gas mileage. The 4.6 L incorporated a chain driven overhead camshaft. The camshaft configuration has the potential for much greater breathing capabilities. Equipped with a 65mm throttle body and an 80mm Mass Air Flow (MAF) sensor, it was rated at 215 hp and 285 ft/lbs torque at 4,400 and 3,500 RPM respectively. The bore/stroke is 3.55×3.54 (almost square) which contributes to low end torque.
The 4.6 was a modern engine and much more advanced than the outgoing 302. Better refinement, cleaner emissions and modern engineering was the initial goal of offering the new V8. To say this engine is new is an understatement. Even the manufacturing processes were a radical departure from the old days.
The move the 4.6L modular V8 was not easy. Old-timers were up in arms as were aftermarket companies who had invested in that engine over the years. The reality though is that time had moved on and the 5.0-litre was outdated and therefore could no longer meet ever tightening emissions regulations without costly modifications. While some lamented the end of the 5.0-litre and had their doubts that the new modular V-8 would be a suitable replacement, others anticipated the change with some excitement. It took time for the aftermarket to catch on, but eventually they came around to love the new 4.6 liter V8.
Again the Mustang used an 8.8 inch straight axle. Gear ratios are 2.73:1 is the standard with an optional 3.27:1 open or limited slip differential. All wheel disc brakes. Front brakes 10.8″ and rear discs were 10.5″. The anti-locking brake system was an option but not standard in 1996. The Mustang also got four wheel disk brake setup.
Special Edition Models & Variants
The GTS model was dropped however an option delete package was made available that echoed the equipment level of the defunct trim level. It was the Option 248A. The big news on the special variant front was the return of the GT and the SVT Cobra, both now powered by the new 4.6 liter V8. The GT model was a SOHC at 215 horsepower, and the Cobra model was a 32-valve DOHC at 305 horsepower.
The 1996 Mustang GT was available as a coupe or convertible bodystyle. The 1996 Mustang GT received a single wing spoiler and fog lamps in the lower front valance. Visually basically unchanged from the 1995. For the first time in history however, the Mustang GT was equipped with a 4.6L modular V8 engine instead of the long used 5.0L V-8.
The 1996 SVT Cobras came in four colors: Laser Red, Crystal White, Black, and Mystic. Mystic was a color-changing paint ($815 option) that anybody who lived during the 90s will remember. its green, purple, or bronze colors depending on the angle and light. The 1996 SVT Cobra was powered by a 32-valve double overhead cam version of the new 4.6 liter V8.
Mustang sales growth stalled in 1996 after two years of growth in prior years. 1996 Mustang sales fell 27% versus 1995, to 135,620 units. To dive into the model and body splits as well as see charts and percentages, check out our 1996 Ford Mustang Production & Sales Numbers deep dive.
% of Total
2 Door - Hardtop V6
2 Door - Hardtop GT
2 Door - Convertible V6
2 Door - Convertible GT
2 Door - Convertible Cobra
2 Door - Hardtop Cobra
Options and Pricing
The base Mustang came in at a still affordable $15,180 while the base convertible price increase by almost $1,000 to $21,060. Want more performance, then a base GT would set you back $17,610 and the Cobra coupe climbs to $24,810. For more detailed options and pricing, please check out our 1996 pricing and options research.
2 Door Hardtop
2 Door Convertible
2 Door GT
2 Door GT Convertible
2 Door Cobra
2 Door Cobra Convertible
Exterior & Interior Colors
A total of 11 colors were available for the 1996 Mustang model year. Bright Tangerine was a limited-run color in 1996 with only 829 were produced, and all were GTs. Mystic was reserved for the Cobra only and was a one year color only, it wasn’t a cheap option either. For detailed colors, color palettes, codes and interior colors please check out our in depth 1996 colors information post.
A total of three engine combinations were available for 1996. The base engine was the same 3.8 liter V6, with its output upped by 5 horsepower to 150. More importantly, Ford replaced the small block 5.0L V8 with a more technologically advanced 4.6L V8, which produced the same amount of horsepower as the 1995 5.0L V8. The SVT Cobra gets an aluminum version of the 4.6L creates 305 hp. For more information on engines for 1996, you can find the information here.
Engine Name & Year
Power (hp @ RPM)
Torque (lb/ft @ RPM)
1996 – 281 Modular V8 (4.6 L)
305 hp @ 5800 RPM
300 lb/ft @ 4800 RPM
1996 – 281 Modular V8 (4.6 L)
215 hp @ 4400 RPM
285 lb/ft @ 3500 RPM
1996 – 232 Ford Essex V6 Engine (3.8 L)
145 hp @ 4000 RPM
215 lb/ft @ 2500 RPM
Below is the performance data for the 1996 Mustangs that we could find. Below we have included 0-60 mph times, 0-100 mph times as well as quarter mile times and top speed where available.