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20 Mustangs That Stirred Controversy In The Auto World

Vukasin HerbezFebruary 14, 2020

For over 50 years, the iconic Ford Mustang has been an integral part of the automotive mainstream. It is the best-selling sports/muscle car of all time. Ford presented a vehicle that drivers universally loved, even in other parts of the globe. From the beginning in 1964, the Mustang has been an affordable performance car for the masses.

However, some controversial Mustangs have sparked public debate and divided communities. While some of them managed to get to production status, many remained concepts or one-off cars. Read on to find out about the 20 most controversial Mustang legends that remain valuable pieces of Ford history.

20. Tokyo Drift Mustang

The 1967 Mustang Fastback is a gorgeous car often appearing in movies and music videos. However, when they featured it in the movie Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift, it caused outrage from the Mustang faithful. That was because they fitted a barn-sourced ’67 Fastback with a 2.6-liter RB26DETT twin-turbo Skyline GT-R engine. Mustang fans considered that heresy.

Mustang traditionalists hated seeing their favorite car with anything other than a Ford V8, especially a Japanese-made twin-turbo straight-six. Even though it’s an exciting combo infamous for brutal performance, it’s still a controversial Mustang.

19. Monroe Handler

Few people know what the Monroe Handler is. But back in the late ’70s, the Mustang was a disgrace due to a serious lack of performance and power. However, Hot Rod Magazine thought that underneath it was a cool, little performance car. So with the help of Monroe, a manufacturer of shock absorbers, they built the Monroe Handler. It turned out to be the only real-performing Mustang II.

Thanks to a long list of modifications, the Monroe Handler came with a 400 HP engine and a racing suspension. Monroe added an extensive body kit and a long list of other upgrades. Although it was a show car, the Handler proved the Mustang II had potential, so they started producing kits for the public.

18. Ford Mustang EcoBoost

Mustang purists dismiss the 2.3-liter turbocharged model. However, most remember the early ’80s Fox Mustangs with similar engines and decent performance. Back then, turbocharging was state-of-the-art technology. So 30 years later, it’s exciting to see a small four-cylinder engine produce such big power. Ford was the first major car manufacturer to introduce the downsized and turbocharged engine during the global economic recession.

Turbocharging proved to be a good business move. Now, a significant part of the Ford global engine lineup is turbocharged. When Ford presented its latest generation, the 2.3-liter EcoBoost was in the engine lineup. The engine could accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in just 5.1 seconds with a top speed of around 150 mph. The affordable price and great performance proved popular, making the EcoBoost Mustang a global bestseller.

17. Ford Mustang SVO

The third-generation Ford Mustang appeared in 1979. It added modernization to the Mustang range in design and in technology. The new Fox-body Mustang was sleeker, more modern, and more aerodynamic. It was also somewhat lighter and nimbler, which reflected in its performance.

However, the biggest news was the introduction of the turbo engine, a modern device for the time. The Ford Special Vehicle Operations (SVO) department introduced the Mustang SVO for 1984. It featured a 2.3-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that produced 175 HP, which was big power for a small engine. As a light car, the ’84 Mustang SVO was faster than the 5.0 V8 version. But with a turbo engine, muscle car traditionalists never accepted it.

16. Ford Mustang 4×4

In 1965, the Mustang was already one of the hottest coupes on the global market. However, in England, Ferguson, a well-established manufacturer of farm machinery and all-wheel-drive systems decided to convert regular V8-powered Mustangs into all-wheel-drive coupes.

Ford shipped several cars to England to get fitted with Ferguson all-wheel-drive systems with Ford’s standard V8 engines and transmissions. Those prototype AWD Mustangs had excellent handling and superb traction in any conditions. The downsides were the added weight and cost. Ford sent a few Mustang 4x4s to the states for testing, but eventually shelved the project.

15. Ford Mustang Boss 10.1-Liter

The Mustang Boss Concept from 1995 was one of the craziest machines Mustangs ever produced. It had a Boss 429 motor from the late ’60s they bored and stroked to almost 10-liters of displacement and with 855 HP on tap. The results were astonishing since the red Boss 10.1 could accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in just 1.9 seconds.

Despite enormous interest from the fans, this was the only Boss 10.1-Liter Ford ever produced. This Mustang was controversial because it proved that late ’60s technology was still relevant even 30 years later.

14. 1974 Ford Mustang

The second generation of the Ford Mustang debuted in 1974 and was on the market until 1978. Although it received many jokes and bad press, the Mustang II was a fundamental model. The downsizing of the Mustang range, the introduction of economical four-cylinder engines, and part sharing with other Ford models helped it survive the recession of the ’70s and the death of muscle cars.

Unfortunately, the hideous 1974 model didn’t come with the V8 engine. The 2.3-liter straight-four was the base engine with 2.8-liter V6 an optional power plant, making it no faster than an import economy car. The V8 would arrive a year-and-a-half later in 1975 with low-power and compression. This was one of the most controversial decisions in Mustang history, and almost killed the Mustang legacy.

13. Ford Mustang Boss 429 Concept

This Mustang prototype didn’t appear on the show circuit in the late ’60s, yet it still caused a lot of controversy. Ford moved the 1969 Boss 429 engine to the trunk and extensively tested it to see if this conversion had an advantage over the standard layout.

They placed the engine longitudinally in the trunk, connecting it to the rear wheels over a C6 automatic transmission unit. Ford turned the rear glass into a hatchback door for better access to the engine. This Boss 429 had a 40/60 weight balance and enough weight over the rear axle to launch it off the line and reduce wheel spin. But when Ford realized there weren’t any significant performance improvements, the company halted the project.

12. Ford Mustang Mach E

For almost six decades, the Ford Mustang was a sports/muscle coupe or convertible, powered by gasoline engines and with a rear-wheel-drivetrain. However, for the 2021 model year, Ford will introduce the Mustang Mach E, a fully-electric, five-door SUV model with Mustang-like styling but technology from the Tesla Model X.

To millions of Mustang fans, this is an attack on the Holy legacy of the Mustang as a proper muscle car. Although some people think it is a joke, you can reserve one now. Right now, nobody knows how this model will affect the Mustang lineup in the future.

11. Ford Mustang by Siemens

Modern technology in the automotive industry doesn’t only affect the current models. Even the classic Mustang has been converted to an electric drive car with a hybrid powertrain. However, the worst example is the Siemens 1965 Mustang autonomous drive car. Two years ago, Siemens introduced a concept car based on the 1965 Mustang coupe featuring an autonomous drive system.

Siemens wanted to showcase this system by taking it to the Goodwood Festival of Speed in the UK. Apparently, the car didn’t even finish the course, crashing into the barrier with a jammed autonomous driving system. It was an embarrassing moment for Siemens, Goodwood, and Mustang.

10. Ford Mustang Wagon

In 1976, Ford played around with the idea of a Mustang wagon. They decided to base it on the Mustang II platform and equip it with a roof rack and woodgrain inserts on the sides. In those days, Chevrolet had the Vega three-door station wagon, so Ford wanted to compete in that market segment, as well.

However, this car never went beyond the concept stage since a Mustang station wagon would kill all the sporty characteristics this model had. Although some companies in the ’60s converted Mustangs into three-door wagons, Ford felt it was better to leave this idea alone.

9. Matt Farah Fox-Body

For decades, the Fox-body Mustang was an excellent platform for modifications. Most Fox-body shops made them into speedy drag racers or resto-modded them. However, Matt Farah, the famous host of The Smoking Tire had a different vision.

Farah turned an old SSP Mustang into a proper all-around sports car with minimal aesthetics, but with maximum performance, mechanics efficiency and handling precision. His old black Mustang made Fox-body Mustangs the talk of the community and showed this generation wasn’t just a one-trick pony.

8. The Hoonicorn

What exactly are the Hoonicorn and Gymkhana, and why are they so controversial? In short, it is a series of videos featuring the famous racecar driver Ken Block. He performs the most insane car stunts ever caught on camera, but to make them work, he needs special cars. So, in Gymkhana 7, this special car was a crazy 1965 Mustang with all-wheel-drive.

The Gymkhana 7 video features Ken Block whipping the extremely powerful Mustang through the streets of Los Angeles performing insane stunts. He raced several cars with power ranging from 845 to 1,400 HP, featuring special AWD systems and sequential gearboxes, as well as race-style brakes and suspensions.

7. Ford Mustang GTP

One of the strangest yet most memorable Mustang race cars is the Zakspeed-built, turbocharged GTP from the early ’80s. In those days, turbocharging was the most popular way of getting power, and Ford’s racing partner, Zakspeed, was one of the pioneers in this field.

So, in 1983, Ford and Zakspeed introduced the Mustang GTP, a fully custom-built race car that only resembled a production car. It was powered by a 1.7-liter heavily-turbocharged four-cylinder engine capable of over 600 HP in a race tune. However, this car didn’t look like any Mustang before it, and it wasn’t successful on the track.

6. Ford Mustang Sedan

When Ford developed the Mustang in the early ’60s, they didn’t just make a new model but also a new class: pony cars. Since there were no pony cars before the Mustang, the Ford development team went in several directions. One of them was the Mustang in a four-door body style.

Although the car retained all the classic Mustang lines and proportions, Ford realized it would cannibalize sales of the Falcon because they based the Mustang on the same platform and with the same engines.

The company decided not to build the Mustang sedan because it would have ruined the sporty appeal of the car and affect the success of the original model. They knew a Mustang in a four-door version would have become just another compact family sedan with no iconic appeal.

5. Ford Mustang FWD

By the late ’80s, Ford decided to kill the Mustang as a rear-wheel-drive car. They wanted to introduce the name on a smaller, more economical front-wheel-drive platform from Mazda. The idea was so controversial that soon, over 100,000 letters asking them to cancel the project came to the Ford headquarters in Dearborn, Michigan.

Fortunately, under that severe public pressure, Ford decided to cancel the FWD Mustang project. Soon, Ford returned the Mustang to its roots with a new design and technology. This is how it might look if it was completed.

4. Ford Mustang I

The Mustang I concept was a big deal when Ford introduced it in late 1962 as a fully-functional concept vehicle. This was the first time the company used the Mustang name. It was clear that the public loved the name, and the connection with Wild West mythology was a great marketing choice.

The Mustang I was a little two-seater roadster with a rear-mounted V4 engine from Ford Europe and a modern wedge-shaped aluminum body. The original idea behind the concept was to develop a small sports car that could compete with European imports like the Triumph TR3 or MG A. Despite the favorable reaction from car enthusiasts, Ford decided to go another way.

3. 2003-4 Ford Mustang SVT Cobra

Inspired by the wild SVT Cobra Rs from the ’90s, Ford decided not to name the 2003 model “R” since it wasn’t in limited production. It was available to the buying public rather than just race drivers and private teams. However, this SVT Cobra featured two first, the first factory supercharged engine, and independent rear suspension. The Ford SVT took a standard 4.6-liter block and mounted different heads and a supercharger to get 390 HP and 390 lb-ft of torque.

The SVT named the engine the “Terminator” and the rumor was that it delivered more than the advertised 390 HP. To handle all that power and torque, Ford equipped the SVT Cobra with an independent rear suspension setup similar to the first Ford GT. This helped stability at high speeds and hard launches, making this Mustang go from 0 to 60 mph in only 4.7 seconds. Ford offered this model in 2003 and 2004, producing around 20,000 of them in coupe and convertible form.

2. Ford Mustang Bertone

Since the Mustang was a hot car in the mid-60s, coachbuilders and design houses tried to improve the design. They were busy introducing their creations based on the Ford bestseller like the 1965 Bertone Mustang.

First presented at the Geneva Motor Show in 1965, the Bertone Mustang was a redesigned car on the Mustang GT platform. Bertone made an aerodynamically-enhanced body, custom interior, and special details. But since Ford wasn’t interested, they only sold this car to a string of owners. No one’s sure where they are today.

1. Ford Mustang Giugiaro

One of the world’s most respected design houses, Italdesign, teamed up with Ford in 2006 to present the gorgeous Mustang Giugiaro. It was a fully re-bodied car with a 4.6-liter V8 engine and a supercharger. It produced 500 HP and was faster than the regular model as well as more luxurious and lighter.

Italdesign had plans for a limited production run of those machines at a higher price aimed at more discriminating buyers, but unfortunately, it never happened.

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