To the average person, the car pictured here looks like the later iteration of the fourth-gen Ford Mustang. For the real petrol heads, its specialness shouts from miles away. This is no ordinary pony car, it is a limited edition Roush Mustang.
Before I start talking about the car, lets take in a bit of a history lesson. Jack Roush was always a bit of a wiz. He has a degree in mathematics and scientific mathematics. However, automotive engineering always peaked his interest, so after graduating from the Eastern Michigan University, he got a job at Ford in 1966. After serving four years at the Blue Oval (that’s Ford, folks), plus one year at Chrysler, he left his job to start his own engineering firm.
His concentration was towards racing first, competing in NASCAR and IMSA series races. Thanks to his success on the track, Jack decided to expand his business to road cars.
So, in 1995, Roush Performance was established. Not only would enthusiasts be able to pick go-faster performance parts for their Mustang from the vast Roush catalog, but those with the means could order a complete car from the company also.
Since Roush is listed as a manufacturer, means that these speed machines were not built by Ford, rather by a small team of dedicated performance car engineers at the Roush facility in Livonia, Michigan.
Each year, they build a handful of these special Mustangs, and the one featured here is really rather special. It is a 2002 Roush Mustang Stage 3 supercharged, and it is one of just 44 cars made in this exact spec. The spec is really quite amusing. Using the old Mustang GT’s 4.6L V8 as a base – which developed about 260 hp in stock form – Roush supercharged it, which raised the power output to 360 hp. That is a nice jump in power, and it’s a similar story with torque – while the 2002 Mustang GT from Ford produced 302 lb-ft, this Roush Stage 3 Supercharged developed 375 lb-ft of torque.
The added go power is not the main thing however, it is the all round improvements that help make a bigger difference. It really is as if Roush sent the Mustang to finishing school, and the end result is a car that is far more polished than the Blue Oval original ever was.
The polishing begins with the looks. Roush adds their own front bumper (and in many cases, a unique rear bumper and side skirting, too), a special rear spoiler, unique rims which play host to 13-inch drilled rotors with four-piston calipers from Alcon. The list of improvements are not done with yet. Roush also gave the car their Stage 3 suspension package, so the car has none of the wobbliness at speed that is the biggest flaw in a regular Ford Mustang – so now the car handles as well as it looks. To further improve the driving experience, the manual versions got a lighter aluminum flywheel, plus a short throw shifter for the five-speed manual gearbox. These last two things really transforms this car for me, because this Roush was easy to launch, and every gear change would plant a huge smile to my face – in fact, this car is worth its asking price for the gearbox alone, it’s that good.
Not all is good, however. This Roush Mustang still suffers from some of the factory Ford Mustang’s shortcomings, such as a slightly odd driving position, and a seat that isn’t exactly very supportive. The dashboard and inner door panels are all the same as any other Mustang of this era, which means it is made from the same plastics that your microwave containers are made from.
However, if its the glittery things that matter to you, than this car is not for you. If, however, you’re looking for a car that is quite unique, and also very entertaining, than keep reading.
I picked up the car from Lotus of Oakville – Peninsula Imports – on a sunny day, and headed out to find some back roads. Going through the first series of sweeping corners, and I could sense that this Roush is nicely tuned – in fact, it handles so well, you’d think it has an independent rear suspension set up, although it still has a live axle. There is a reassuring fluidity in its road manners, which eggs you on to go faster.
However, to be honest, tight back roads were not this cars preferred playground – its very light steering and tail happy demeanor made it quite a handful on country roads. Out on the highway, it really shined, where it felt composed at speed.
Piling on speed is quite easy. Just tap into the power reserve and the supercharged motor hurls you forward on to illegal speeds. The sprint from 0 to 100 km/h is over in just 4.4 seconds, and if you have the space to go flat out (not on Canadian roads, please) than the special white-faced Roush speedometer will indicate 264 km/h. Not the fastest car on the planet, but more than fast enough for most of us.
When being pushed, you also get to enjoy the music made by the mechanicals. You hear the supercharger whining over the growling exhaust, which is what you’d want from this kind of car. The best thing is, unlike some cars, the noise is never irritating, and when you’re just cruising, it quietens down to a comfortable hum.
Just as I was getting comfortable, it was – sadly – time to return the beast. If you want to check it out, it is currently on sale at Peninsula Imports, and they are asking $39,995 for this Torch Red example, which has covered just 6,000 km since new. For that money, you can buy the latest 2016 Ford Mustang GT, which has more features, and even more power – but those are a dime a dozen. There were only 44 examples of this Roush Stage 3 Mustang built in 2002 (two plaques on the car indicate its exclusivity), and this is quite possibly the only one in Canada. So, if you’re looking for something that will stand out at car meets, this is the car for you.