Top 10 Ford Mustangs of All Time

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Top 10 Ford Mustangs of All Time

The Ford Mustang may be the most iconic American car in history. It bleeds red, white and blue and is built out of liberty, pride and freedom. With a snarling V8 and sexy good looks, the Mustang has enjoyed decades of success, creating a following more loyal than Charles Manson’s minions.

The Mustang has only been available in a limited number of countries, but people around the world not only know what a Mustang is, but also wish they could own one.

SEE ALSO: 2015 Ford Mustang GT vs. 2015 Nissan 370Z NISMO

Part of the reason for its legendary status has to do with the various special edition models Ford has created over the years. Designed for the street, drag strip or track, these low-volume, high performance specials have set people’s souls on fire.

Here are 10 of the best Mustang specials to ever roll off the showroom floor:


Ford-Mustang-II-King-Cobra

10. Ford Mustang II King Cobra

The poor Mustang II is regarded by pretty much everyone as the worst Mustang generation ever created. But it’s not the car’s fault. The Mustang II was a byproduct of its era, one that saw gas prices skyrocket and big beefy performance cars fall out of favor.

Even if the outright performance was gone, Ford did make a few second-generation Mustangs that did their best to pretend they were just like the muscle cars from a decade earlier. King amongst these was the King Cobra that had a V8 soundtrack and all the right exterior upgrades to look like a proper muscle car. Just ignore the fact it only had 139 hp and took around 10 seconds to reach 60 mph.


Ford-Mustang-California-Special

9. Ford Mustang California Special

In 1968, California auto dealers convinced Ford to create a special version of the Mustang for their state only. Called the GT/CS (California Special), the car borrowedFord-Mustang-California-Special-1 a lot of styling elements from the Shelby Mustangs to look sportier and faster. Although performance was unchanged, the car has a unique look that splits the difference between a regular ‘Stang and a Shelby.

Since so few of these cars were produced, the original California Specials are in high demand today with collectors. In 2007, Ford began selling the GT/CS as an exterior upgrade package on the Mustang once again. Since then, many different iterations of the GT/CS have been offered and for 2016, the GT/CS will return once again.


Ford-Mustang-SVO

8. Ford Mustang SVO

Turbocharged four-cylinder engines in a Mustang aren’t anything new and even when the Mustang SVO showed up, Ford had been doing it for years. Although early turbo-four Mustangs were a bit anemic, when the SVO was introduced in 1984, power was up to 175 hp. By the end of the SVO’s run, power had been bumped up to 200 hp and even 205 hp for a few lucky customers.

But the Mustang SVO was about more than just its engine. The brakes, steering, transmission and suspension were all upgraded as well. The rear end came standard with a limited slip differential and the car wore distinct aerodynamic body work.


Ford-Mustang-Bullitt

7. Ford Mustang Bullitt

The first Bullitt Mustang wasn’t actually called a Bullitt, but earned that nickname due to its iconic role starring alongside Steve McQueen in a movie called, you guessed it, Bullitt. A dark green 1968 Mustang Fastback with a 390 engine, the car looked unsuspecting but packed plenty of punch.Ford-Mustang-Bullitt-1

SEE ALSO: 2015 Ford Mustang GT Convertible Review

In 2001, Ford released an official Bullitt Mustang to commemorate the legendary 1968 car. With upgraded mechanics, including a bump in engine power, the new Bullitt wore retro-inspired wheels and could, of course, come in dark green. For the 2008-2009 model years, Ford once again introduced a special edition Bullitt Mustang that stripped off unnecessary exterior dressing to better resemble Steve McQueen’s 1968 Mustang. Again, mechanics were upgraded and it included a bump in engine power.


1964-Ford-Mustang

6. Original 1964 ¼ Ford Mustang 289

OK, so this isn’t an official model, but the original Ford Mustang is what started it all. Specifically, it was Mustangs equipped with the 289 V8 that really captured the imagination of the public. With V8 power and sound in a relatively small body, the Mustang was fast, agile and, of course, gorgeous.

The car would kick off the so-called Pony Car craze that is still alive and well to this day.


Ford-Mustang-Mach-1-1

5. Ford Mustang Mach 1

No, this Mustang couldn’t actually reach speeds of Mach 1, but like the ambitious name alludes, these are some very fast ‘Stangs. First introduced in the 1969, the Mach 1 was a performance version of the Mustang. It could be had with a trio of beefy V8s, including the ridiculous 428 cubic inch Cobra Jet.Ford-Mustang-Mach-1

1971 would see the introduction of the second Mach 1 that once again could be had with a trio of V8 engines. The Mach 1 trim level would continue through the entire run of the Mustang II and sadly came with a V6 engine in 1975 (which ironically was its best sales year).

After a long hiatus, Ford brought the Mach 1 trim level back in 2003, complete with a high output V8 that produced 305 hp. The new Mach 1 was given a full exterior makeover to mimic the original Machs from the 1960s.


Ford-Mustang-Boss-429

4. Ford Mustang Boss 302/351/429

In 1969, two very special Mustangs came into production using the Boss moniker. Equipped with the smaller engine of the two, the Boss 302 was a near race car for the street, as it was designed to meet SCCA Trans Am regulations in 1969. The exterior removed any unneeded body cladding and added a front lip spoilerFord-Mustang-Boss-302 as well as one on the rear deck lid. Suspension and brakes were upgraded over lesser Mustangs and the 302 cubic inch engine was claimed to make 290 hp, but probably made much more.

The other Boss introduced in 1969 was the Boss 429. As the name would suggest, the engine shoehorned into this Mustang was a 429-cubic-inch big-block V8 with 375 hp and an Olympic-sized pool of torque.

In 2012, Ford revived the Boss 302 name and attached it to a more track-focused version of the Mustang that, once again, was using a 5.0-liter V8 engine. If the great performing Boss 302 wasn’t enough, there was also a Laguna Seca edition that upped the performance ante even further.

Edit – As per readers comments, the limited production 1971 Boss 351 was perhaps the most special of the entire range and regrettably over looked on my part. It must be included when talking about the Boss range of Mustangs.


Ford-Shelby-Mustang-GT500-1

3. Ford Shelby Mustang GT500

In 1967, Shelby decided to add another Mustang variant alongside the company’s Trans-Am ready GT350. Called the GT500, the new Shelby Mustang featured a 428-cubic-inch V8 and various exterior upgrades as well as a few mechanical enhancements. If more power was needed, there was also the Shelby Mustang GT500KR (King of the Road) that came with the higher performance 428 Cobra Jet V8.

Ford-Shelby-Mustang-GT500In 2007, Ford revived the Shelby GT500 trim level by dropping a 500 hp, 5.4-liter supercharged V8 into the Mustang. Once again, there was a GT500KR model available that pumped up power to 540 hp. By 2011, all GT500s were making 550 hp.

SEE ALSO: 2015 Ford Mustang V6 vs Ford Mustang EcoBoost

But Ford wasn’t done there. In 2013, an all-new Shelby Mustang GT500 was introduced, this time with an insane 662 hp, 5.8-liter supercharged V8. Like all modern Shelby GT500s, the 2013 car received significant upgrades to the tires, suspension and brakes, in an effort to control all that power.


Ford-Mustang-SVT-Cobra-R

2. Ford Mustang SVT Cobra R

From 1993 until 2004, the highest performance Mustangs wore the SVT Cobra badge. With more power, better handling and an enhanced driving experience, the Cobras were a step above regular V8 Mustangs. But if even more performance was needed, there were a few special edition track-ready Cobra R models.

The first Cobra R appeared in 1993. Using the Cobra’s 235 hp 5.0-liter V8, the R received upgraded shocks, larger brakes, bigger wheels and extra cooling. Unneeded items for the track, Ford-Mustang-SVT-Cobra-R-1993like the rear seat, air conditioning and the stereo were all removed to save weight.

In 1995, the second Cobra R went on sale. It took things a bit further than the 1993 model by ditching the regular Cobra’s 5.0-liter V8 for a 300 hp 5.8-liter unit. Other track-ready upgrades included a fuel cell, heavy duty springs, thicker stabilizer bars and a front strut tower brace. Weight savings were once again a main focus as the rear seat, power windows, air conditioning and radio were all removed.

The Final Cobra R was introduced in 2000. Sticking to the same formula used in the previous two Cobra R models, the new car included upgraded mechanical components and removed any unnecessary weight. The engine was now a 385 hp 5.4-liter V8 and the body featured race-ready aerodynamics all around, including a massive rear wing.


Ford-Shelby-Mustang-GT350

1. Ford Shelby Mustang GT350

Only a year after the Mustang was introduced, Shelby and Ford created a raw, track-focused version of the car. Using the Mustang’s 289-cubic-inch V8, engineers tweaked the power plant to produce a healthy 306 hp. For 1965, the Shelby only came in white and had the rear seat removed. Ford-Shelby-Mustang-GT-350Destined for Trans Am racing, a few GT350R variants were created to terrorize the track. The GT350 would live on until 1970, but none would be as race ready and raw as the original 1965 model.

For 2016, the GT350 and GT350R nameplates are coming back. Anyone worried that these new cars won’t live up to the legends need not worry. With a 5.2-liter V8 making 526 hp, the new GT350 can scream to over 8,000 rpm. But like the original Shelby GT350, the new car will be about more than just engine power. Expect it to be the best handling factory Mustang ever created.

Discuss this story on our Ford Mustang Forum

  • Rickers

    I want a Cobra R so bad!

  • ColumWood

    I saw one of those Laguna Seca Boss 302s just last week.

  • Cool_Manchu

    Even though I own a 1968 California Special, how can any list of best Mustangs include anything from the Mustang II line, especially the first one you read? It invalidates the list immediately. 🙁

  • Michael Grant

    While the Mustang II was not the best Mustang ever built by a long shot, it did keep the name going until the Fox body came along. It was also a pretty fun car to drive with either the V-8 or the 2.8 V6. It also introduced the world to the Mustang/Pinto rack and pinion steering setup which has become the standard in the car building world for years. I always liked the Mustang II even though a lot of people hated it, but give me a ’78 King Cobra in black and I would be quite happy.

  • Michael Grant

    The 1971 Boss 351 was left off the list even though it was considered the most powerful small block at the time and was even faster than a 428 Cobra Jet Mustang. The Boss 351 would also beat both the Boss 302 and Boss 429 in straight liane acceleration

  • Cool_Manchu

    You feel that it deserves to be in the Top 10 though? By your own admission “a lot of people hated it.” Given that, I think it should be stricken from the list. You could make a new list, Top 10 under-appreciated Mustangs…and I could buy in to that. 🙂

  • Lungs_of_Steel

    I think it’s arguable it’s faster than the 428CJ. My money’s on a ’68 CJ or a ’69 SCJ coupe.

  • Lungs_of_Steel

    The California Special was also sold outside of Cali, if I am correct. Additionally, there was the High Country Special out of the Rockies and vicinity.

    And with production over 4,000, they aren’t exactly rare.

  • Mike Schlee

    Correct. It was created by pressure from California dealers, but had to be sold elsewhere as it was a bit of a failure in California.

    4,000 examples out of millions of Mustangs over the years in pretty rare in my books. 😉

  • Mike Schlee

    Yup, completely over looked on my part. I had a few others remind me about it as well and I have updated the post to include it in the Boss range as you’re right, it was quite possibly the best of the classic Boss models.

  • Mike Schlee

    Sales were also strong these years mainly because the looks made people think the cars were still fast.

  • Lungs_of_Steel

    Rarity is not relative.

  • merccougar89

    There is also the Boss 429 which is actually a Hemi but being you could only put 10 up and you wanted something from each generation,I would say you did very well.

  • Danny Compton

    “In 2007, Ford revived the Shelby GT500 trim level by dropping a 500 hp, 5.0-liter supercharged V8 into the Mustang.”

    The horsepower is correct but the engine size is wrong. It was a 5.4L not 5.0L.

  • Mike Schlee

    I swear it said 5.4 L. Can’t believe I made that typo. I’ll fix it ASAP.

  • 5.0Mustang

    Great list!

    I realize this is a list of “specials” so this doesn’t qualify … but I’d love to see a list of the most iconic Mustangs. And I am obviously biased, but I’d put the 5.0 somewhere in the top ten.

    With what other vehicle can you rattle off the engine size and everyone knows exactly what car you’re talking about? E.g. “I have a five-point-oh” …

  • Mike Schlee

    Yeah, the Mustang has always done a good job making sure everyone knows what’s under the hood. 5.0, 302, 351, 428, etc.

  • Chris Daigle

    Don’t forget the Super Cobra Jet Mustangs. The continuation of recent years is the fastest production car from any manufacturer ever to 60mph. Of course, that car doesn’t’t even have a VIN number and cannot be registered for street used like the Boss 302R and Boss 302S road racing cars.

  • timothyhood

    Anyone know a dealer willing to sell a 2016 GT350 at MSRP?

  • Charles Hollier

    The Mustang II was the faint flame that kept the brand alive until the 5.0 Fox body revived it. I was a teenager in that pathetic era and drove a Vega. Car manufactures were used to cheap horsepower using CID to get it. Then along came the oil embargo and federal pollution regulations and it took a while for technology to catch up. Glad to see the GT350 got number one. I owned a 69 GT350 when I was in college in the early 80’s. I loved that car.

  • brente

    owned all three and the 71 boss was by far the fastest of the lot. As an other thought the 69 390gt I owned would have given any of them a run for the money.

  • Lungs_of_Steel

    The 390 was a stone.

  • brente

    Don’t know any stone putting out almost 450hp

  • Lungs_of_Steel

    Oh, so now we’re not talking about factory-stock cars?

  • brente

    even stock it had only 15 horse less then the 428cj

  • Lungs_of_Steel

    You forgot to say “….on paper.”

  • Mike B.

    The Mustang II is arguably one of the most recognized Mustang models! It is so “iconically despised” that it is instantly recognizable to even the least car-savvy person. It ranks up there with “Five-point-oh” on the recognizability scale – you say “Mustang Two” and EVERYONE knows what you are talking about.
    While it may not be one of the top performers, for the time it was one of the top sellers.
    Long live the Mustang II!

  • Mike B.

    I know they can’t all be included, but I think one that is often overlooked is the 2003/2004 Cobra, which is arguably the fore-father of the modern Shelby mustangs.

  • Ricky Godsey

    I agree…Like an ’89 5.0 is one of my favorites

  • Kim Jolicoeur

    Boss 429 for me, thank you.

  • Paul Glas

    Clickbait…they have no idea what they are talking about..KR500? Boss 302 thrown in with the appearance packages? A Pinto II?

  • 2ThinkN_Do2

    Mustang II King Cobra . . . more like this car should be on the list of 10 cars that should never have been . . . the Mustang II was the biggest mustangk in the cars history.