The original pony car has gone through a lot of changes in the 45 years that Ford has been producing it. By and large, the majority of those years have been filled with both a stylish and sporty car that has made the Mustang one of the most popular cars ever (which is why it’s still around, of course). Consequently, narrowing down a list of the best Mustang models of all-time is not easy, but in this compilation of the best Mustangs ever (followed in Part 2 by some of the worst), I present to you the five ‘Stangs that are most deserving of the galloping pony badge.
Since this list is at least partially (OK wildly) subjective anyway, this examination is limited to the mainstream production models at the exclusion of any Shelby, Roush, SVO or SVT variants of the Mustang. Only because it’s our list and if we didn’t this would quickly turn into a “best of” Shelby comparison instead. Besides does anybody really think a 1985 SVO Mustang was an ATTRACTIVE car?
1. 1967 Mustang Fastback
The ’67 Mustang was the first redesign, and for many it is still the standard by which all other Mustangs are judged. It isn’t just a coincidence that the new Mustang looks the way it does you know. Also adding to the 67/68 Stang mystique is Steve McQueen and his movie “Bullitt,” featuring the legendary car chase in a ’68 Highland Green Fastback. With a choice of three body styles (coupe, fastback, convertible) and five engines (excluding the 335 hp Shelby), the Mustang had officially moved into muscle car territory in 1967. Stylistically, the Mustang reflected this changing attitude with a larger grille opening and non-functional side scoops. Price of a Fastback in 1967: $2,692.
2. 1965 Mustang Coupe
It’s hard to deny the importance of being first. Not only was the Mustang the first pony car and widely considered to be the first major force behind the muscle car movement, but consider if the original ’64 1/2 and ’65 Mustangs had fallen on their faces. The last 45 years would have been Mustang-free. The importance of the 1965 coupe can also be measured in sheer volume of cars built. While the convertible and then-new fastback models were successful, the coupe outsold them by a margin of 5 to 1 with roughly 400,000 coupes made in 1965 alone. In comparison to later ‘Stangs, the first models were relatively tame in the performance category. But even by today’s standards a standard V8 Mustang in 1965 came in with a respectable 200 to 271 horses. Price for a Coupe in 1965; $2,320.
3. 1971 Mustang Mach 1
By 1971 the Mustang was beginning to grow increasingly larger and gradually losing some of the Mustang-DNA that it was born with (a warning sign of bad things to come). Still, at that point in 1971 Ford was still able to match the bigger dimensions of the Mustang with an equal amount of big power. While the base Mach 1 engine was a small block 302, the real guts came from the Cobra Jet which provided at least 370 horses of motivation. (Manufacturers consistently underrated horsepower figures) The Mach 1 was also popular in the showroom and was the second highest selling Mustang in 1971 behind the Coupe. With a price of $3,268, it was only $357 more than the standard Mustang.
4. 1969 Mustang Boss 302/429
1969 was the first year for the “Boss,” a designation referring to its high-performance engine. Around 2,500 of which were produced between the Boss 302 and its badass brother, the 429. The latter was capable of 376 horsepower, or (at least on paper) more than the Cobra Jet-R used in the Shelby that year. Often cited as the meanest of all Mustangs, the 429 came at a cost of $4,798, which was also more than a comparable Shelby at the time. Although the car was cool, because the engine was so big, air conditioning was not an option.
5. 2005 Mustang GT
Even with all of the praise the current Mustang gets, one day it will be remembered that the 2005 model returned the Mustang to where it belonged as a part of Americana. To that point the Mustang had only slowly gained momentum back that had been lost during the dark years in the ’70’s and early ’80’s. While there are plenty of deserving performance Mustangs prior to 2005, the redesigned exterior fits into the heritage of the muscle car’s legacy far better than arguably any of the 30 years that preceded it. Under the hood, the GT utilized an all-aluminum 4.6 liter V8 that cranked out a very tidy 300 horses, or 40% more power than the cast iron engine from 2004. Mustangs have always been a performance bargain, and the sticker price for the ’05 GT started at $25,705.
Those are some of the Angels from the Mustang corral. Or should THEY be the Devils? I forget. In any case, check out Part 2 which showcases the other end of the spectrum, and some of the skeletons in the closet of the Mustang’s past.
Next Page: The Worst Mustangs Ever