The best Ford Mustangs ever
We take a look at the best Ford Mustangs to celebrate the 10,000,000th example
After 64 years and six generations, Ford this week built the 10,000,000th example of its iconic Mustang.
After all that time and ten million units, the muscle car has become as synonymous with America as fast food chains, bald eagles and the inability to make a good recreation of British sitcoms.
Over that seriously impressive production span, there’s been some good versions and some not so great, but also a few that have been incredible. We take a look at the latter of those…
1964 Ford Mustang
The original Mustang came about as a result of a five-step brief that was handed to Ford’s three design studios – build a “small” car that could seat four people, have bucket seats, have a floor-mounted gear-stick, weigh less than 1,100kg and be no more than 4.57 metres in length. The end result was the icon we all know and love today.
The top-spec V8 engine produced 271bhp and 423Nm of torque – a lot of a car for that era. This performance, combined with the car’s stunning looks and relative practicality made it a huge sales success.
General Motors and other Ford rivals weren’t prepared for the Mustang’s triumph, struggling to make their own pony cars to try and catch up. Some good models did arrive as a result, but none created a legacy quite like the Mustang.
1965 Shelby GT350
Judging by its immediate success, it would have been natural for some people at the time to assume that the Mustang couldn’t get any better. Then Shelby got its hands on it.
Working its tuning magic on the pony car, Shelby created the Mustang GT350 – another name-plate that has survived to this very day.
The 4.7-litre V8 was improved to have an output of 306bhp and the initial 1965 was built without comfort or ease of driving being taken into consideration at all. The updated 1966 model made the GT350 a bit more user-friendly, but it still kept its roots as a full-fat performance version.
1969 Ford Mustang Mach 1
When it came to outright performance, the Mustang found itself a little lacking in comparison with some of its contemporary rivals – namely, the Pontiac Firebird and Chevrolet Camaro. That’s where the Mach 1 comes in, improving the Mustang’s performance in a variety of ways.
The engine bay – designed with space to accommodate a medium-sized cathedral, let alone an engine – found itself assailed by a brace of 5.8-litre V8s and later a monstrous 7-litre unit. Upgraded suspension kept things a little tidier in the corners, but best of all were the visuals – slick, striking, and most importantly – badass.
1978 Ford Mustang King Cobra
Ok, so the second-generation Ford Mustang was pretty shambolic. Not only did it have huge boots to fill in the form of the instant-classic first generation, but it came during America’s malaise era of vehicles — when the oil crisis left manufacturers making huge power cuts, while also competing with the growing threat of European and Japanese usurpers.
It did produce one hit in its mere four-year production run — the King Cobra. It still didn’t boast a whole lot of power, despite a 5.0-litre V8 engine, but it at least brought the looks. Huge scoops came, while sticker packs joined the options list to bring some visual presence back to the car.
Sales proved successful, with over 4,000 sold despite its limited-edition status. Ford quickly jumped on this momentum to introduce a third-generation Mustang later for 1979.
1984 Ford Mustang SVO
The SVO was something of a sacrilegious first for the Ford Mustang — the introduction of a turbocharged four-cylinder engine.
Traditionally, the pony car was known for its roaring V8 engines, or a straight-six for those look for a little more efficiency. Although the oil crisis had just passed, American manufacturers were beginning to turn to small capacity engines to bring better efficiency. Although the 2.3-litre unit produced a mere 175bhp, the SVO had all the capabilities of its GT bredren with handling to outpace it, while returning respectable fuel economy.
It may have taken another 21 years for a turbocharged four-cylinder to become acceptable in a Mustang, but it proved the muscular machine didn’t just need a V8 to be serious fun.
2000 Ford Mustang SVT Cobra R
The last Mustang SVT Cobra R might just be the best of the bunch. With the nameplate originally launching in 1993 for the third-generation Mustang and getting a follow up three years later, it had by this point become a fan favourite.
Just 300 examples were made of the 385bhp machine, which also got a host of handling upgrades. Uprated suspension gave the car serious cornering prowess, while huge brakes meant you wouldn’t find yourself hitting the kitty litter should you go a little too hot around the track.
Oh, and of course, there’s the gargantuan rear wing. Sadly, the Cobra R has yet to make a comeback, but never say never…
2005 Ford Mustang GT
The fourth-generation Ford Mustang had something of a mixed reception to say the least. Fortunately, this was made up for when the fifth-generation model was launched in 2005.
This iteration of the pony car simply did everything right. Not only did it look the part with its epic retro aesthetics, but it had the performance to match. The GT model’s 4.6-litre V8 produced 300bhp and 434Nm of torque and 0-60mph was dealt with in a brisk 5.6 seconds.
Looking back, it’s clear that this is the model that put the Mustang back on track for the 21st century – and we’re damn glad that it did.
2012 Ford Mustang Boss 302 Laguna Seca
While the Ford Mustang may be famous for its raw power, muscular looks and usability as a proper American cruiser — it does also possess the ability to be a seriously competent track car.
Ford proved this in 2012, with the introduction of the Mustang Boss 302 Laguna Seca. While the Shelby GT500 was for those who wanted sheer horsepower, the Boss 302 reduced weight, added a good chunk of handling-focused goodies and — in the case of Laguna Seca car — an aerodynamic body kit to help it stick to the track.
Sure, it was still pretty big and maybe not as agile as European and Japanese rivals, but it showed the world the muscle car had moved on from the days of being all about straight line performance.
2016 Shelby GT350R
While the Mustang has always been a bit of a working class hero, the GT350R really was at the other end of the scale.
Only 37 examples of this hardcore machine were built, with chassis number one selling at auction for $1 million (around £775,000).
The lucky people who did get hold of the keys to the GT350R received a lot of bang for their buck though, with the 5.2-litre V8 producing 526bhp and 581Nm of torque. This particular Mustang was less of a pony and more of a stallion.
2018 Ford Mustang Bullitt
There are some truly iconic movie cars out there – who could forget James Bond’s Aston Martin, the DeLorean from Back to the Future or even Herbie the Love Bug? High up the list, though, has to be the dark green Ford Mustang from the 1968 Steve McQueen movie Bullitt.
Paying tribute to this star of the screen is the 2018 Mustang Bullitt, a limited-run homage based on the current-model Mustang. It’s available debadged and in that iconic shade of green, and packs a serious punch courtesy of its 458bhp V8 engine. It may not be a groundbreaking formula, but this is one of the classiest Mustangs you can get and has just a little of that Bullitt magic about it.
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