The Best Mustangs of All Time

Krystal Smith

Ever since its introduction in 1964, the Ford Mustang has been an automotive icon representing style, performance, and the spirit of the American road. Across nearly six decades, certain iconic Mustang variants stand out as the most significant and coveted pony cars that have cemented their legacy. Here are the greatest Mustangs of all time.

1965 SHELBY GT350

Editorial credit: Gestalt Imagery / Shutterstock.com

Carroll Shelby took the original Mustang fastback to the next level, adding a host of performance upgrades like a 306 hp Windsor V8, improved suspension, and front disc brakes to create the GT350 – an instant legend that established the Mustang’s racing credibility right off the bat. Its unique ingredients included a stripped-out interior, beefed-up underpinnings, and tuned suspension to make it a dominant force on road courses against Corvettes and Jaguars.

1967 SHELBY GT500

Editorial credit: Gestalt Imagery / Shutterstock.com

Carroll Shelby’s follow-up just two years later packed an even bigger punch thanks to a hefty 428 cubic inch “Police Interceptor” big-block V8 pumping out 355 horsepower. Combined with the aggressive fastback styling, the ’67 GT500 became the defining Mustang muscle car of the era. It had the brawn to take on the Corvette and other Detroit muscle and coined the nickname “the Cobra Killer.” Today it remains one of the most valuable and coveted 1960s Mustangs.

1968 CALIFORNIA SPECIAL

Editorial credit: The Image Engine / Shutterstock.com

In an effort to appeal more towards West Coast tastes, Ford commissioned a limited production Mustang aimed at California buyers. The resulting 1968 GT/CS wore unique split side stripes, a Shelby-inspired fiberglass scooped hood, and three-taillight rear panel. Available with either the 302 V8 or 390 big block, the California Special’s unique and stylish appearance helped further cement the Mustang’s place in the hearts of America’s youth. It embodies the mystique of 1960s California car culture.

1969 BOSS 302/429

Editorial credit: RenownedRelaxation / Shutterstock.com

By 1969, Ford was moving the Mustang fully into the performance arena, offering turn-key factory hot rods. The Boss designation signified Ford’s focus on all-out power over comfort. The high-revving Boss 302 V8 delivered for track days with its robust 290 hp output, while the Boss 429 boasted a beastly 375 hp 429 cubic inch V8 for straight line performance. These legends maintain a strong following today for their blending of style and power.

1971 MACH 1

Editorial credit: Steve Lagreca / Shutterstock.com

The third generation Mustang debuted with a more muscular Coke bottle shape based on the models that dominated Trans Am racing at the time. Wearing an optional shaker scoop, matte black hood, bold tape stripe graphics, and rear spoiler, the ’71 Mach 1’s aggressive look matched the output of its optional 385 horsepower Cleveland V8. This is the quintessential early 1970s Mustang performance model that defined an era of muscle.

1978 KING COBRA

Editorial credit: Gestalt Imagery / Shutterstock.com

As the 1975-1978 Mustang II models featured petite dimensions and an underwhelming mix of V6 and V8 engines, Ford still tried to inject some excitement into the lineup. The limited production 1978 King Cobra wore a fiberglass front end with flip-up headlights reminiscent of 1960s Shelby racers along with bold paint schemes. Under the hood a standard 351 Windsor V8 ensured the performance could at least partial match the swagger. Today the King Cobra is one of the most highly valued late ’70s Mustangs.

1979 INDY 500 PACE CAR

Editorial credit: Steve Lagreca / Shutterstock.com

After serving as Official Pace Car for the 1964 Indianapolis 500, Ford commemorated their racing legacy by issuing a limited production 1979 Indy 500 Pace Car edition. These V8-powered fox body Mustangs featured a sleek glass removable roof panel for the first time, helping kick off the long tradition of Mustang pace duty in motorsports. These rare and historically significant ’79s still turn heads at car shows today.

1999 SVT COBRA

Editorial credit: Joseph M. Arseneau / Shutterstock.com

Under Ford’s Special Vehicle Team performance division, the 1999 Cobra represented the pinnacle of performance capability up to that point. The aggressive New Edge styling refresh paired with an independent rear suspension, a 320 hp DOHC 32-valve V8, and 6-speed manual transmission made the ’99 Cobra a Corvette-slaying giant killer. This leather-clad muscle Mustang established modern day cred.

2005-2009 GT

 

Editorial credit: Heinsdorff Jularlak / Shutterstock.com

After a controversial retro-themed redesign in 2005 that ushered in the fifth generation S197 platform, the 300 horsepower aluminum block 4.6 liter three-valve V8 GT models refined the revived muscle car formula. With continuous improvements over this generation, the 2005-2009 Mustang GT with its axle hop-dampening 3-link solid rear axle became the attainable everyman’s muscle car perfected. And one easily modified to produce even greater power.

2013-2014 SHELBY GT500

Editorial credit: betto rodrigues / Shutterstock.com

Carroll Shelby’s legendary name returned from 2006-2010 under Ford’s SVT performance arm. But it was the final 2013-14 GT500 that realized Shelby’s ultimate dream of stuffing a massively powerful engine into the Mustang. Packing an insane 662 horsepower 5.8 liter supercharged V8, the 200 mph-capable GT500 simply dominates in straight line acceleration with a 0-60 mph time under 4 seconds – enough thrust to humble exotic supercars costing 10 times as much. It remains the most powerful production Mustang ever, sounding downright demonic at full throttle.

2015 2.3 ECOBOOST

Editorial credit: Nadezda Murmakova / Shutterstock.com

Yes, a four-cylinder engine lands on this list of best Mustangs. But Ford’s innovative turbocharged 2.3 liter inline-four introduced for the refreshed 2015 Mustang proved a properly tuned smaller engine can deliver excitement while sipping gas. Making an identical 310 horsepower to early S197 V8s, the four-banger turbo ‘Stang appeals to a new generation with its mod-friendly powerband and over 30 mpg capability. The EcoBoost Mustang offers immense performance along with intelligence.

MUSTANG: SIX DECADES OF AFFORDABLE PERFORMANCE AND ICONIC EVOLUTION

Editorial credit: The Image Engine / Shutterstock.com

No matter your favorite generation, the Mustang has defined affordable performance and constantly evolved to set styling trends over nearly 60 years, creating an army of devoted fans always hungry for the next iteration. The milestone models and special editions above represent the pinnacle of each era in terms of technology, performance or historical significance. Here’s to at least 60 more years of Mustang ponies galloping into the future!

10 BEST CARS OF THE 60S

Editorial credit: MM Mukhin / Shutterstock.com

Join us as we take a nostalgic ride through the streets of the ’60s and explore the unforgettable cars that still captivate enthusiasts and collectors today. These timeless classics continue to evoke the spirit of an era when every drive was an adventure, and every car was a symbol of style, freedom, and innovation. 10 Best Cars of the 60s

CLASSIC CARS THAT OUTCLASS TODAY’S TRENDS

Editorial credit: FernandoV / Shutterstock.com

The allure of classic cars transcends time and geography, captivating enthusiasts worldwide. These automotive gems serve as a testament to the ingenuity and vision of their creators, embodying the pinnacle of design and engineering from bygone eras. Their sleek lines, powerful engines, and rich histories have cemented their place in automotive folklore, making them objects of desire and admiration. Classic Cars That Outclass Today’s Trends

Leave a Comment