Is the S550 the first export Mustang? No, not even close.
2015 marked a significant year for Ford’s money printing machine, the Mustang. A Muscle Car for export markets? It was certainly an interesting proposition, especially after the Camaro and Chrysler 300C Hemi are on record as some of the worst selling mainstream cars in Europe of the 21st century. At its peak in 2008, there were less than 1000 Hemi powered 300Cs in the UK. The Camaro? As of 2017 there is a grand total of 853 registered for road use in the UK across ALL generations from 1969 to now, with just as few roaming around continental Europe. Let that sink in a moment. More imported Challengers exist than officially sold Camaros.
The Mustang, however, has been a roaring sales success and is now the world’s most popular sports car. Though, just like Jaguar “forgetting” the existence of the X-Type, Ford “forgot” the existence of the original export Mustang when they announced the S550, the T5.
Those with knowledge of Mustang history will know that the T5 was the original development code-name for the first generation, as well as the model name for a 5-speed overdrive transmission people love to swap into older generations.
The T5 car, though, is more unicorn than common horse. Introduced in Germany (and only in Germany) in 1965, the T5 sold in very limited numbers before being withdrawn from the market in 1971. Low sales numbers and the release of the smaller, more affordable and just as fast (when equipped with the V6) Capri of 1969 made the T5 a redundant car in Ford’s lineup.
The T5 is near identical to the Mustang, but with extra chassis bracing (that would later be used on the GT350, but never on the standard Mustang GT), heavier duty suspension and the quasi-luxury woodgrain interior as standard equipment. American cars back in the 1960s (heck, even now to some degree) were seen as prestigious and fancy, so the T5 had to have the dynamics and appearance to back it up. Any Mustang badges were removed from the car, including on the steering wheel centre cap, and replaced with a Shield or Bar emblem. The reason for the name change? German truck company Krupp copyrighted the name in the 1950s. Interestingly, the running pony badge remained.
As Ford didn’t bother giving T5s different model codes compared its domestic market counterpart, it is near impossible to tell if a Mustang was originally a T5 once the badges have been swapped. Likewise, it’s near impossible to tell if an original Mustang has been badge swapped to look like a T5 in order to swindle you out of a lot of money at auction.
Since many T5s were sold to American servicemen stationed in Germany, and then imported back to the states once their service had ended, very few T5s actually remain in Europe. Of the 300-and-change T5s sold in 1970, only 24 have been found. Only ten of all 1970 T5s were Mach 1, and only three of those ten were four-on-the-floor manuals. A restored (and more importantly, confirmed genuine) 1970 T5 Mach 1 with a manual and 351ci engine sold at a 2017 auction in Arizona for a whopping $110,000. A 428 Cobra Jet Mustang, fully restored, sold at the same auction in 2018 for less than half of that ($51,700), making the T5 one of the most expensive Mustangs for a collector in bone-stock form.
The T5 is certainly an oddity. Heck, I’m surprised no one in Europe has put T5 badges on their S550 Mustang, as a little bit of a wink-and-nod to the original export model of the 1960s. Maybe someone could convince Ford to make a limited edition “T5” for Europe.