By on August 10, 2011

TTAC’s personal window into the CAW, mikey writes:

Sajeev, as spring approached our frozen north, I couldn’t face another summer sans convertible. As a proud, retired UAW and CAW member, my choice was limited to domestics. What to buy?

The Sebring? No way. New is out of my reach, so rule out a 5th gen Camaro. Having owned a 4th gen F-body…one was enough. Did I really say that? A Solstice or Sky, maybe?  Can a 50 something couple pack up and go for two days? I couldn’t find a place to store a cell phone, never mind two suit cases, and a Beer cooler.

I looked at a used “Pontiac G6” hardtop convertible. Wow! all that mechanical stuff that runs the retract? Hmmmm, lets put it this way: too many years on the assembly floor, tells me to give that baby a wide berth. Draw your own conclusions.

So today we find ourselves the proud owners of a 2008 Mustang convertible. In my way of thinking, knowedge rules, and I have zero experience with Fords, except a 1969 Marquis that was a POS when I bought it, 35 years ago. So I need to update. So I’m asking the B&B to help me out.

Its not a Fox body, so what is it? What other Fords, if any, share the same platform? It’s a 4 litre automatic, without a lot of options. So I guess it’s a base model? Were Pirelli tires standard equipment? How about the “Shaker 500”,it can’t really be 500 watts? Why the phone button on the radio? I don’t think its got Bluetooth, or does it?

So it’s a 4 litre sohc? Where’s the camshaft? Does it have push rods? Why three valves? Two intake one, exhaust? 210 HP, is it me, or why do I feel that my old Firebird 3800 had a lot more cookies?

In all, the Mustang is far more comfortable, for a couple our age. It’s roomier, and quieter than the Firebird. It certainly has less rattles, and squeaks. That being said, I don’t find the Mustang as much fun to drive. That might change with time eh.

So any input/knowledge, negative, or positive, from you guys would be welcome.

Sajeev answers:

As much as I hated the 4th Gen F-bodies, I gotta admit they were a ton of fun and better than the 5th Gen in so many ways.  Plus, your particular Firebird was one of our first Piston Slaps, so pardon me for my nostalgia.

While Wikipedia has most of your answers, let’s try to put a more interesting spin on the facts. Yes it’s an D2C (a.k.a. S197) platform, and while it is the most authentic platform in Ford’s passenger car lineup, they chose to run the Volvo-D3 platform for their premium sedan and crossover offerings.  This platform is an evolutionary dead end…for now.  But could you imagine if Ford came out with a “foxtrot” lineup?  Can you imagine the sweetness of a 5.0L coyote powered Ford Flex or Lincoln MKS?

The Cologne V6 in your Mustang also has a well-documented wiki page, and Pirelli tires were indeed standard equipment: not so surprisingly, the timing of the Ford-Pirelli deal was soon after the Firestone tire debacle.  I haven’t seen the rubber on the new Mustangs, but many new Fords roll on Hankook donuts.  Not that I put much faith in a tire’s brand name, but some brands go for more green…and sometimes damage control is very important. More to the point, lucky you: you got yourself some fancy eye-talian tires, man!

The rest of your questions are good fodder for the B&B. If they don’t answer ‘em all, owner’s manuals are rather cheap on eBay.  If you have a manual but didn’t read it, well, shame on you and RTFM!

One last thing, if you feel the Mustang doesn’t have the balls of your old Firebird, remember that V6 Mustangs (except the latest model with the performance pack) are tuned for softness in throttle response, power delivery and overall suspension mushiness.  That whole “Mustangs are secretary’s cars” thing from the 1960s never really left.  Luckily, an SCT tune is pretty cheap and easy, people with Mustang GT’s dump their stock sway bars on a regular basis, and shock upgrades are plentiful. If you really care.

Send your queries to [email protected]. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry.

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28 Comments on “Piston Slap: It’s Not A Fox Body… So What Is It?...”

  • avatar

    If you need a manual for any fairly recent FoMoCo product the Motorcraft Service site has you covered: clicky

    Pirellis are stock on a lot of current Ford products, as are Goodyears, Michelins, Generals, and yes, even Hankooks.

    The ‘Phone’ button on non-Sync equipped vehicles (which is all Mustangs pre-2010) just results in a ‘No Phone’ message appearing on your screen. Ford did offer an accessory bluetooth kit called the ‘Mobile-Ease’ that I think can somehow integrate with that button, but every time I inquired about adding it to a vehicle through my parts department they told me the system was a huge headache and wasn’t worth it – if you want Bluetooth in a ’08 Mustang go to a reputable car audio shop and have them install a Parrot system.

    There’s a Ford Racing kit for the 4.0 V6 Mustangs, here’s a link. We had it installed on a couple at the dealership and it does give the car a lot more go.

  • avatar

    “Having owned a 4th gen F-body…one was enough. Did I really say that?”

    Um, yes. Yes, you did… Though I wonder why. Unless you owned a base 6 cylinder version I have to say I don’t agree with that assessment of the F bodies. I’ve also owned a fourth-gen F body, (’96 Camaro SS) and loved it to pieces. Incredible power, great looks, excellent fuel economy and compliments everywhere it went. The fourth gen was better than the Mustang in so many ways I would reconsider that car as your next toy. Maybe a 1998-2002 V8 model?

    • 0 avatar

      @ott…. I wanted a 4th gen F for years. I finally got one and it was a nightmare. 2000 Firebird V6 ragtop base model. I keep one of the sheared motor bolts,on my work bench,just to remind me.

      A lot of my problems were self inflicted. I shoudn’t have bought a 6. I should of checked the history a little closer. The Firebird was good looking ,low klms,and the price was right. I should have looked a little closer,maybe done more research.

      Should of,could of, would of,…..didn’t

  • avatar

    Thanks Sajeev..Good advice. Yes I’ve read the owners manual twice cover to cover. Its been three months, and 4000 klms. So far, no problems,….{with one hand on the keyboard,and the other firmly clutching wood}.

  • avatar

    Your Mustang isn’t as much fun to drive as your Firebird because it’s softer, roomier, quieter (how is this a good thing?), and automatic.

    I would suggest a set of Konis, GT sway bars, 4.10s with T-lok, CAI, dual exhaust, and a reflash. If you want to go further, you can lower it and put on some bigger wheels and tires.

    The Shaker 500 does kind of underperform, but there are a million aftermarket audio options out there.

    And be sure you join a Mustang forum.

  • avatar

    @NulloModo….Oh yeah! I’m on a Mustang forum,its just a wealth of info.

    BTW I looked very close at bringing a Stang up from Florida. By the time I had paid the taxes,and air fare, the numbers didn’t work. I was even ready to ask TTAC to contact you. As it turns out I made a great deal with a guy 10 minutes from my front door.

  • avatar

    Oh dear, you’ve got the 4.0L OHC. This is quite literally the worst engine design I’ve ever seen, by far. There are so many things wrong with the design of this engine that it’s hard to put into words what an engineering abortion it really is. If your car has over 60k miles on the original timing chains/chain guides expect it to develop cam/valve noise. Especially on start-up. This engine uses hydraulic cam chain tensioners that only work when the oil pressure is up. Not so good since your engine has 0psi when you start cranking, and the tensioners wear out quickly decreasing their effectiveness. The chain guides play into this as they wear and break prematurely since their shape & design is exceedingly poor and they’re made of plastic, exacerbating the starting noise, reducing MPG’s and overall power. The guides wear quickly because they guide BOTH sides of the chain instead of just the slack side like almost every other engine on the planet, and they fatigue and break from heat cycling.

    This engine uses 3 timing chains in 2wd configuration, one is in the rear of the engine running off of a jackshaft. This means the engine has to come out to replace the chain and tensioner for the left bank, which is the tensioner that breaks first. Expect to pay a good chunk of change to have this done by your mechanic as he’ll probably have to disassemble a large portion of the engine to get all the pieces out (head gasket & pan removal). All of this is done so Ford can save a buck and only make one head casting that fits both sides of the engine and it comes out of your pocket later.

    I may sound overly negative about the engine in your car, but from the troubles and money I’ve seen people go through to keep these engines running close to properly, the absolute best thing you can do is get rid of it before it gets to the point where you can’t sell it until you shell out to fix it.

    • 0 avatar

      @anonymic…Very cool..just the info I’m looking for.

    • 0 avatar

      The OHC is powerful but yes, very very temperamental.

      I’ve got the OHV pushrod version in my 95 Explorer, and aside from coolant leaks, it’s been an underpowered but reliable 300,000 mile engine, that hardly ever uses any oil. I’ll take the slow OHV over the quicker but short-lived OHC in my Ford 4.0

    • 0 avatar

      Yup whether it’s in a Mustang or an Explorer/Mountaineer the 4.6 is waaaaay preferred over the SOHC 4.0, the durability and reliability more than makes up for the loss of only about 1 MPG.

  • avatar

    Correction and clarification:

    I meant Right bank on the one that wears out first. Expect metal in the oil.

    Also, that well documented Wiki page is anything but. It tells you everything about all of the OTHER Cologne engines. This engine uses maybe some of the patterns of the original Cologne block casting and almost none of the mechanical bits, perhaps the crank, rods and pistons are the same/similar. There’s no information there that’s actually useful.

    Get on a Ranger/Exploder forum and search up chain jobs.

    As an insight into Ford’s quality designs: They managed to design a hydraulic lifter for the previous pushrod 4.0L Cologne that has a common failure mode due to contaminants in the oil. Not grit or sand or dirt, but normal blow-by contaminants. When was the last time anyone heard of widespread lifter failure? When I got a new engine to put in a Ranger, I bought 2 so we can keep the truck around for a few more years.

    • 0 avatar

      In my experience with the 4.0, while it does have certain less than desirable quality, most notably fairly low hp/torque per liter and less than stellar fuel economy, reliability has never been a problem I’ve encountered with it. Your insights into the actual design may well be true, but the trend I’ve seen is Explorers with the 4.0 V6 tending to show up with well over 100,000 miles fairly regularly as trades, and the usual problems on those vehicles are related to the rear glass or going back a few bodystyles the steering wheels buttons that fall out.

      • 0 avatar

        That lack of torque, power and fuel economy is most likely a product of the effective stretch in the chains due to missing/broken chain guides. That missing power is still in the engine, but the cams are too far out of time. Since blow-by and valves aren’t much of a problem in these engines (I have a 200k OHV 4.0 in the garage with zero blow-by) replacing the guides gets it all back.

        If you could take that 100k Exploder and a new one and put them head to head the new one will obviously beat the snot out of the old one. Try the same thing with one that’s just had it’s chains/guides done and your race will come down to transmission wear.

        So you get an engine that drives like it’s had the snot beat out of it, or you pay through the nose to get it running right.

    • 0 avatar

      Great info anonymic. I’d heard about the timing chain issues, but no one has explained it as well as you.

    • 0 avatar

      Interesting anonymic,

      I have the 4.0L V6 in my 1992 Ranger truck and it’s now got 234K+ miles on it and I’ve had it since 2006 when it had 189K or there about on it and it’s still going strong and feels reasonably strong still. I think, but can’t verify that something was redone on this truck and I suspect it was around 126K miles back in 2001. Seems it might’ve been the heads but don’t know as I don’t have paperwork going back before 2005 though the car is local from new however.

      I bought it from my best friend and his Dad and they were the 3rd owners of it and the repair I think was done during the original owner’s time with the truck.

      So far, it’s been a very reliable truck but it’s time to move on though.

      • 0 avatar

        Ciddyguy but you have the old simple pushrod motor with out the crazy timing chain on the back of the engine. So yeah the early 4.0 can got 300k with some maintenance. But the SOHC 4.0 is an entirely different animal. The early 4.0 did have a bout of bad head gaskets so the heads having been off isn’t uncommon for a 92 but chances are they just got a light clean up surfacing on the block side.

      • 0 avatar

        Thanks Scoutdude,

        I knew this old beast has the pushrod version of the V6 and know the conversion was done on these motors around 2003 according to one source on the Ranger trucks that I read several years back.

      • 0 avatar

        You have the pushrod version of this engine, or OHV, Mikey has the OHC version, which is, I’m afraid, completely different.

    • 0 avatar

      It’s the rocker arms that wear out on the 4.0. it’s a bad design on getting oil to the push rods and valve tips.

      This engine oils through the rocker arm shafts instead of though the lifters to oil the top end.

      Mine’s got some worn rockers after 290,000 miles of a steady diet of quality synthetic oil, so when its cold it’ll clatter a bit till it warms up.

  • avatar
    Shane Rimmer

    I had a 2004 Mustang with the Mach 460 radio system. The “phone” button on that radio was a mute/pause button, and nothing more. That’s from a previous generation model, though, so I am not sure how much might have changed.

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    Here’s what I say Mikey. First of all V6 Mustangs are as common as dirt around her in my part of NM. Cheap to buy and our Ford dealer finances just about anybody. If they were crap I’d see a lot more of them sitting in the yard out on the reservation and not driving up and down the highways. Here’s where I’d start with a Mustang or someplace like it.

  • avatar

    FWIW, I had a 2002 Ford Explorer with the 4.0L. While the chain did make noise, especially when it needed an oil change, it was very reliable for over 200k miles of service. We sold it and bought a 2008 with the 4.6L V8 and didn’t suffer a mileage penalty.

    I even saw my old Explorer recently, and I haven’t owned it since 2008. I’m surprised it’s still running. If it’s on the original engine, it has well over 250k on the clock by now.

  • avatar

    I’m a litle concerned with this timing chain thing. However this is the sort of knowledge I was seeking.

    I look at it this way. With wifey’s Jimmy gone, the Mustang has 2nd car status with us. For 5 months its parked in my garage. The primary number one daily driver, is a bullet proof Impala.

    I’ll use American measure here. We might put 7,000 miles on the Mustang a year. I’ll change the oil twice. With 35,000 on the clock now, that puts it at 70,000 in five years,with ten oil changes. I don’t foresee a lot of problems. Though theres always the “s—happens” factor?

    A lot of thing can happen in five years. I might call up the nice people at Ford and order a crated engine. Or, I might sell the Mustang. Maybe I’ll pour a can of Lucas oil treatment in and hope for the best.

    I do casual work for a junk yard, and a few used car lots, I do a little car jockying,parts delivery,detailing..etc. As such, I have connections with mechanics,tow people,parts guys etc. I also got all kinds of time. So getting a car repaired, isn’t the pain in the butt it was,when we both worked.

    Any, what will be, will be.

    Thanks for your input folks, and thanks Sajeev.


  • avatar

    Cheap audio equipment is always rated according to ILS specifications (“if lightning strikes”). If they claim 500 watts and the car has seven speakers – four mids, two tweeters, and a cheap woofer they may call a “sub” – they probably mean that the stereo can put out 70 watts per channel to seven channels, but only one at a time. So the actual total max power output would be 70 watts. But that’s at ridiculous distortion levels. The true max power without audible distortion would be something like 35 watts, or 5 watts per channel with all seven channels driven simultaneously.

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