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30 Coolest Classic Mustangs Ford Ever Made

Vukasin Herbez October 13, 2018

For over 50 years, Mustang has been one of the biggest legends of the American car industry and the most valuable nameplate in Ford’s portfolio. The original pony car is approximately half a century old, but in its sixth generation, it feels as young as ever. The secret of the everlasting Mustang appeal is simple. Despite changes in design, appearance, engines, and power outputs, the Mustang always retained its cool style.

It still has the allure of an affordable yet exciting sports car. Ford has sold over nine million Mustangs since 1964. There were numerous versions, special editions, and models, all of which added to the timeless charm of this car. We looked at the 30 coolest classic Mustangs of all time. These cars are the most interesting Mustangs and Shelbys from the Mustang’s long history of over 56 years. So buckle up your seatbelt and read on to go on a Mustang-themed cruise.

30. Ford Mustang 289 HiPo

Most of the market was fascinated when they first saw the Mustang in 1964. They had compact, sporty looks, long hoods, and short decks at an affordable price, which seemed unreal at the time. But there was a small portion of knowledgeable car enthusiasts who were disappointed due to the technology and engine choices. The Mustang shared modest underpinnings with the economical Falcon. Its engine lineup included mild versions of the inline-six and small V8 units.

The power output was nothing special and performance was somewhat below expectations. Ford responded by hiring Carroll Shelby to produce the almost race-ready GT 350 in 1965. But for those who didn’t want a screaming 306 HP 289 V8 engine in the GT 350, Ford prepared an engine called the K-Code. The K-Code was the 289 V8, but with a milder, more street-friendly tune and 271 HP. This was more than enough for the solid performance Mustang fans asked for.

With the optional GT package that included a stiffer suspension, better equipment, and lots of exterior details, the 289 High Power (HiPo) was the choice of real car fans. Ford introduced the HiPo in 1965, and it was available until 1967. It was the first Mustang that ran as well as it looked, especially if you ordered it in the gorgeous Fastback body style.

29. Shelby GT 350 R

As you may already know, Shelby started building fire-breathing Mustangs in 1965. They were the cars that brought Ford much needed recognition and performance credentials. But the cars responsible for racing success were the 34 “R” models only produced in 1965. Also, they sold them primarily to privateers and racing teams all over America and the world.

These cars were not street legal and were purely for racing purposes, something they did extremely well. The GT350 R had numerous modifications, so it was lighter, faster, and sharper than the regular GT350. The R version had the same 289 V8 as the Shelby GT350, but it had close to 400 HP and numerous racing modifications.

The car was light and well balanced and proved extremely fast, winning numerous races in America as well as in Europe and South America. Each example had many wins under its belt. Car historians consider every R model to be an extremely valuable piece of Mustang and racing history.

28. Shelby GT 500

Although the Mustang had some performance versions like the GT with 289 HiPo V8 engine or Shelby GT 350 in 1965, the first true performance Mustang with a big block engine and respectable 0 to 60 mph times was the 1967 Shelby GT 500. Bigger and more powerful than before, the 1967 GT 500 featured a new design, modified front and rear end, and a big 427 V8 engine with 335 HP and 420 lb-ft of torque.

In those days, Ford was notorious for underrating the power output of their engines and 335 HP sounded too little for the big 427. Car enthusiasts claim the real power was closer to the 400 HP range and its performance figures backed that claim. The 0 to 60 mph time was 6.5 seconds, strong for the day. And thanks to suspension modifications, the GT 500 could handle the curves well too.

27. Ford Mustang 390 GT

Mustang got its first redesign in 1967 and Ford introduced a slightly bigger, more luxurious model. The design was more elegant, and the list of options was longer than ever. Performance lovers finally got a big block option in the 390 FE V8 engine that produced 325 HP. However, if you’re thinking this was a crazy fast Mustang that burned rubber in any gear, you are mistaken.

This was a fast and powerful car indeed, but it was more of a Grand Tourer than a muscle car. The reason was that the engine was from the Thunderbird, so it was more suited for effortless cruising than drag racing. With bigger dimensions for the 1967 to 68 Mustang and updated equipment, this was the perfect engine for making a compact luxury coupe.

The legendary Steve McQueen immortalized the 390 GT Mustang when it appeared as a co-star of the famous detective flick ‘Bullitt,’ in 1968. The Highland Green 390 Fastback made history with one of the best car chases ever, making the 390 engine infamous.

26. Ford Mustang 428 Cobra Jet

Ford introduced the legendary 428 Cobra Jet in 1968 and immediately put it in the Mustang. The Mustang 428 CJ was a mid-year introduction intended for drag racing. That’s why it was sold in modest numbers.

But it was a true beast of a car with a 390 HP engine, a light body, and four-speed close-ratio manual transmission. With 0 to 60 mph time of just 5.4 seconds, it was the fastest, purest stock car of the era. Now, it’s a valuable collector’s item.

25. Ford Mustang Boss 302

The third redesign of the Mustang appeared in the 1969 model year and the car grew once again. Ford changed the engine choices as well as the equipment list. They concentrated the Mustang lineup in two main directions. One was luxury with the new Grande notchback model and the other was pure muscle with three new models, the Mach I, Boss 429, and Boss 302.

Also, Ford introduced the legendary 428 Cobra Jet engine as a regular production option. which put the Mustang among the fastest muscle cars of the era. But for most Mustang fans, the Boss 302 is the most important model. Ford produced it for only two years in 1969 and 1970. The Boss 302 featured 302 V8 engine, which they conservatively rated at 290 HP. The real output was closer to the 350 HP mark.

The Boss 302 was a model Ford intended to race in the Trans-Am championship. Apart from its blackout hood, spoiler, and other details, it featured a stiff, track-tuned suspension, close-ratio gearbox, and high-revving engine. The car was light without any unnecessary luxuries.

This model is on this list because it was a perfectly balanced car with great performance and driving dynamics. It was a muscle car, obviously, but its handling characteristics, high-revving engine, and overall feel made it a sports car with racing success. The Boss is the best of both worlds and a unique model in Mustang’s long history.

24. Ford Mustang Boss 429

The mythical Mustang Boss 429 is a proper muscle car legend too. Ford conceived it in 1969 as a pure racing engine for use in the NASCAR championship. The Boss 429 featured a totally different engine architecture than the rest of Ford’s big blocks. First, the Boss 429 was much wider and had semi-Hemi combustion chambers. This helped achieve higher revs and better flow inside the head as well as more power and torque.

Factory rated at 375 HP, this unit produced over 500 HP, but even more in race trim. Ford decided to put this engine into the Mustang, creating a limited-production Boss 429. But then NASCAR decided not to homologate it since they only accepted intermediate or full-size cars. The Mustang was a pony car model.

So Ford homologated the Torino Talladega as the body and Boss 429 as the engine. It participated in 1969 season with Torinos and Mercury Cyclones powered by Boss 429 engines. Those cars proved successful, winning 30 out of 54 races that year. The secret was the engine.They designed the Boss 429 to run at high RPMs for long periods and achieve its peak power high in the RPM range. That is why the Mustang Boss 429 never fulfilled its street racing potential. This mighty engine needed long superspeedway tracks to show its true power rather than short quarter-mile stretches.

23. Ford Mustang Mach I

Ford introduced the original Mach I as an affordable performance version of the Mustang Sportsroof in 1969. It featured a long list of options and three engines. The base was 302 V8, then the 351 V8 and the top of the line model – the mighty 428 Cobra Jet. Although Ford built over 20,000 Mach Is in 1969, only a small number had the Cobra Jet engine. But the Cobra Jet engine was the definitive option to have.

Only 428 CJ-equipped Mach Is had true performance potential and could beat other muscle cars on the street. They rated the 428 Cobra Jet at 335 HP, but everybody knew it produced more than 400 HP. With a four-speed manual transmission and a skilled driver, the 428 Mach I could accelerate from 0 to 60 in just 5.5 seconds. At the time, this was a fantastic number that still demands respect today.

22. Ford Mustang Boss 351

In 1971, Mustang received another thorough restyle that would be the final one for the first generation. The car again grew in size and weight, featuring a new, sharper look with a much wider track. Unfortunately, the Boss 302 and Boss 429 versions were gone, but the Grande and Mach I stayed, although with lower power ratings.



However, there was one interesting model Ford introduced in 1971 and that was the Boss 351. They made it for one year only, but the 1971 Mustang Boss 351 was one of the rarest Mustangs ever with only 1,800 in production. It included a highly tuned version of the 351 V8 engine with around 330 HP. It was fast, good-looking, and more expensive than the Mach 1 version of the same model year.

But today, it is a true collector’s item. Also, this was one of the quickest muscle cars of the period and one of the quickest classic Mustangs ever. The powerful 351 V8 managed to launch the Boss 351 to 60 mph in 5.8 seconds. This was and still is fast for an analog muscle car from the early 1970s.

21. Ford Mustang II King Cobra

The second generation of Ford Mustang debuted in 1974 and was on the market for four years until 1978. Despite the fact it was the subject of so many jokes and bad press, the Mustang II was an important model. The downsizing of the whole Mustang range, the introduction of economical four-cylinder engines and parts sharing with other Ford models helped Mustangs survive the recession of the 1970s and the death of the muscle car movement.

But that doesn’t mean there weren’t any interesting Mustangs between 1974 and 1978. They just were slow. There was one particularly interesting model and it was the special edition King Cobra model. Ford knew their 5.0 V8 engine made only 140 HP in the Mustang II, but they also knew by dressing up the car, they could attract buyers.

King Cobra Mustang II

So, they introduced the King Cobra. With a flaming snake on the hood, front and rear spoilers, and full body kit, the King Cobra was a typical 70’s factory custom car. They mated the 5.0 V8 to a four-speed manual transmission to make a performance car. Performance wasn’t great, but the outrageous body kit stole the show. Today, the King Cobra is a collector’s item.

20. Ford Mustang SVO

The third generation of Ford Mustangs appeared as 1979 models. They brought some much-needed modernization to the Mustang range, not only in design but in technology, as well. The new so-called fox-body Mustang was sleeker, more modern and aerodynamic. It was also somewhat lighter and nimbler, which reflected the performance.

However, the biggest news was the introduction of the turbo engine. It was a modern device for the time. Ford’s Special Vehicle Operations (SVO) department introduced a special Mustang SVO for 1984. It featured a 2.3-liter turbocharged four-cylinder with 175 HP. That was quite the power output for such a small engine.

As a light car, the 1984 Mustang SVO was hot at that time. The package included four-wheel disc brakes, a stiffer suspension and sharper steering. This transformed the little Mustang into quite the capable sports car. For 1985, SVO upped the power to an impressive 205 HP, which turned the eyes of the motoring public to third-generation Mustangs.

19. Ford Mustang Cobra R

The coolest-looking fourth-generation Mustang is undoubtedly the 2000 SVT Cobra R. Again, this is a limited-edition model with “R” designation Ford produced in only 300 copies for racing drivers and teams. Compared to other regular Mustangs, the Cobra R featured many improvements and enhancements.

First and foremost was the engine, the 5.4-liter V8 with 385 HP and 385 lb-ft of torque. Second, was the body kit with front and rear spoilers and side skirts. Third, there was the stiff suspension and a few chassis modifications. Ford intended the car for performance. And the buyers got exactly that when they pressed the gas pedal.

The 0 to 60 mph sprint was achievable in just 4.4 seconds and its top speed was around 150 mph. These numbers were impressive for the day. It’s too bad Ford built only 300 of those thoroughbreds, which are impossible to find today.

18. Ford Mustang SVT Cobra R

Ford’s Special Vehicle Team (SVT) department was responsible for some of the fastest muscle cars of the last 25 years. And in 1995, they presented another Cobra R. This time they produced in 250 cars, selling them only to individuals with a racing license or private teams. Under the hood was a tuned 5.8-liter V8 engine that delivered 300 HP and 356 lb-ft of torque.

Even though this kind of power is not impressive today, it was a hefty number for 1995. And since the Cobra R was a light car, the performance was good. The 0 to 60 mph time took 5.2 seconds, making it the fastest accelerating American production model at the time. The Cobra R was available only in white. This model was just the start of the SVT division turning ordinary Mustangs into land rockets.

17. Ford Mustang SVT Cobra

Inspired by the wild SVT Cobra Rs from the 90’s, the 2003 model was not named R since it wasn’t in limited production. It was available to the public rather than just racing drivers and private teams. However, this SVT Cobra was an interesting, important model for the Mustang dynasty since it featured two firsts. One was the first factory supercharged engine, while the other was the independent rear suspension.

SVT took the standard 4.6-liter block and mounted different heads and supercharger to get 390 HP and 390 lb-ft of torque. They named the engine the “Terminator,” and 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 like the first Ford GT. This helped maintain stability at high speeds and hard launches, making this Mustang handle like a dream.

The 0 to 60 mph time took only 4.7 seconds, making the SVT Cobra a drag strip terror. Ford offered this model in 2003 and 2004 making around 20,000 of them in coupe and convertible form. Despite being almost 15 years old, those cars still hold high prices on the used car market.

16. 1964 Mustang

One of the coolest classic Mustangs must be the first one Ford introduced in 1964. The Mustang took the automotive world by storm and introduced a fresh new look with a sporty performance and low price.

Henry Ford II with the 1964 Mustang Ford

For just $2,300 in 1964, you could be the owner of one of the hottest new cars. But for that kind of money, you would only get a 120 HP straight six, three-speed manual transmission and no optional extras. Those Mustangs may have looked cool, but they were rather slow.

15. 1967 GT Mustang

If you optioned for the GT package in 1967, you would get a competent machine with a four-barrel 289 V8 engine, GT trim and fully equipped interior. Ford knew most customers couldn’t afford a Shelby, so they offered a balance of power and style in GT package.

1967 Ford Mustang GT fastback

Since the Mustang came with a long list of options, it is hard to find two identical cars from this period. And you could really dress up your car with numerous dealer installed options, as well.

14. 1968 Convertible Mustang

The 1968 model year was full of great Mustangs like the Cobra Jet, Shelby and 390 GT, just to name a few. But for most car fans, the coolest of them all was the 1968 Convertible GT.

If you chose this body style, you would get one of the coolest cruisers available with engine choices including the new 302 V8 to replace the 289. If you had a time machine, you could go back and ordered one just like in the picture, but with the 390 engine and a sports suspension.

13. 1969 Mustang Q Code

The performance Mustang fans had a field day in 1969 with the Mach I, Boss 302 and 429 models. But there is one forgotten version that is even cooler and that is the Q Code 428. The Q Code is the Cobra Jet Mustang but in a plain coupe body.

Ford Mustang GT Cobra Jet Convertible

Customers could even order it without the hood scoop, making it a perfect street weapon and unassuming car. Since the Q Code got its power from a 335 HP engine which Ford underrated, it could go fast once you hit the accelerator pedal.

12. 1969/70 Shelby GT 500

The last years for those classic Shelby Mustangs were 1969 and 1970. Although they left the cars unchanged, they looked better than ever. Carroll Shelby backed out from the deal with Ford to produce the Mustang.

So from 1968 to 1970, Ford assembled their Shelby Mustangs in Michigan. Although those years are a bit less collectible, the cars are still fantastic.

11. 1972 Sprint Mustang

In 1972, Ford debuted the Sprint special version for the Mustang, Maverick and Pinto. The cars featured a white color scheme with patriotic red white and blue paint. And the same color combination continued in the interior, so the seats matched the exterior of the car.

1972 Ford Mustang Sprint edition fastback

The Sprint was available with all engines and in all Mustang variants, with the convertible being the rarest with only 50 made. Another interesting detail was the U.S. Olympic team logo on the rear fenders and rear panel between the taillights.

10. Ford Mustang Pace Car

The first Mustang was so successful, it started a new class of cars they called pony cars. But better yet, it entered the history books as one of the best first-year sales of all times. Over the years, Mustang became an automotive symbol of America and one of its finest and most respected products worldwide.

So, what is the secret of the Mustang’s appeal? Well, it is easy, mix a good amount of performance with V8 engine rumble, add a touch of luxury and good looks, and pack it in an affordable package with a long list of options. Of course, don’t forget the image and the legend which was an integral part of the Mustang’s appeal since day one.

9. Ford Mustang 5.0 GT HO

The rise in power of domestic cars during the ‘80s brought the first real performance numbers to the Mustang range in almost 20 years. The Fox-body Mustang grew more powerful with each model year, starting from 175 HP in the 1983 model. By the late ’80s, the venerable 5.0-liter V8 engine was pumping 225 HP and 300 lb-ft of torque.

And that translated to quite competent 0 to 60 mph times. This car marked a return to the Mustang’s roots with a strong V8 engine and exciting performance. Also, the late ’80s Fox-body GT was popular, so they are plentiful today.

And that makes them a great choice for entry-level collectors. On the other hand, the aftermarket for those cars is enormous, too. So you can modify and make your Fox-body GT even faster easily and affordably.

8. Shelby GT350 Convertible

Most muscle car enthusiasts will tell you the first model year for the Shelby Mustang convertible was 1968. But that statement is only partially true. In 1968, Shelby offered a convertible version to the public as a regular production option. However, the first convertibles Carroll Shelby built himself happened in 1966 as a secret project. At the end of the 1966 model year, Shelby decided to produce a limited, secret run of six GT350 convertibles to give to family and friends.

It was a commemorative edition to celebrate the success of the GT350, as well as a prototype for the potential production of GT350 convertibles. Each car received the full list of options like air conditioning and a roll bar. Also, they painted each car a different color and added the GT’s signature white racing stripes.

7. Ford Mustang SSP

One of the biggest automotive legends amongst the law enforcement officers in the USA is the Ford Mustang SSP. This special order package for Fox-body Mustangs was produced from 1982 to 1993 and sold to various agencies and military organizations. The SSP stands for Special Service Package and includes a tuned 5.0-liter V8 engine, heavy-duty suspension, engine cooling, brakes, and lot more.

The SSP package was developed in the early ’80s after the California Highway Patrol realized that their officers are getting outrun by drivers driving Porsches and other fast cars. To catch them, they asked Ford to produce a special package for Mustang, giving it more power, high-speed stability, braking power, and dynamics. Ford responded with the SSP package, and very soon, no Porsche in California could outrun police cars anymore.

6. Ford Mustang Mach I Twister Special

The interesting Mach I Twister Special was a unique version Ford designed for the Kansas City sales district. They based it on the newly introduced Ford Mustang Mach I. The Mach I was a performance version that consumers could buy with three engines, the 302, 351, and the mighty 428 Cobra Jet V8. The initial idea was that all Twister Specials should receive the biggest and most powerful engine, the 428 Cobra Jet.

However, an engine shortage forced Ford to make some changes and produce a few with the 351 V8. All cars had cartoon twister tornado on the rear quarter panel. Ford built a total of 100 Mach I Twister Specials and even some other Ford models like the Torino received the same treatment. Today, just a few Twister Specials are known to survive and they are highly sought after by collectors.

5. Shelby Europa

When Shelby introduced its line of powerful Mustangs, European enthusiasts took notice. And soon, these cars were popular on the continent, as well as in the states. Interestingly, one of the first Shelby dealers was the Belgian racing driver, Claude Dubois. After they ceased Shelby’s production in 1970, Dubois approached Carroll Shelby.

He asked him for the rights to produce a special line of European spec 1971 and 1972 Mustangs under the Shelby name. In two years, they only produced approximately 14 cars, which makes the Shelby Europe an incredibly rare muscle car. And although Ford gave most of them the 351 V8 engine, some received the 429 Cobra Jet.

4. Ford Mustang McLaren M81

Ford built this interesting car with the help of the well-known McLaren racing team at their American operations office in Michigan. The whole idea behind the project was to take a 2.3-liter turbo engine from a regular Mustang and transform it into a street racing beast. It came with a race-tuned suspension, a lightweight body and a host of other modifications.

McLaren and Ford installed a tuned turbo engine that produced 190 HP, which was a big number for the day, especially coming from 2.3-liters. And it totally changing the looks of the Fox Mustang. The result was a good performance and driving dynamics, but also a high price tag.

Ford offered the Mustang McLaren M81 for sale at the price of $25,000. And that was roughly three times the price of a regular Mustang. So despite all the interesting extras, Ford installed in the M81, it was a tough seller. Sadly, Ford only sold about 10 of them before they canceled the project.

3. Ford Mustang 41X

No one really knows how many Fox-body Mustangs Ford built with the trim code 41X. And because nobody knows how many are out there, it makes them even more appealing. If you haven’t heard of the 41X, no one can blame you. It is possibly the rarest and most interesting part of Fox-body Mustang history.

25th anniversary model 1990 Ford Mustang convertible via: Car And Driver

The 41X is the trim code for those totally stripped base LX models with 5.0 HO engines and manual gearboxes. When the 5.0 HO became available, serious drag racers wanted even lighter cars for drag strip duty. So, they ordered their base models with top of the line engines and no equipment.

In fact, they removed even the mandatory stuff like sun visors, sound deadening, speakers and seatbelts. So, Ford gave cars delivered this way the 41X trim code. Because they were extremely light, powerful and fast, they mostly used them for racing.

2. Monroe Handler

A very few people know what Monroe Handler is, and we don’t blame if you don’t. Back in the late ’70s, Mustang was a disgrace in terms of performance and power. It was slow, ugly, and underpowered in any way. However, guys from Hot Rod Magazine thought that underneath all this “lameness,” there is a cool, little performance car, so with the help of Monroe (manufacturers of shock absorbers), they built a Monroe Handler, the only real-performing Mustang II.


Thanks to a long list of modifications, Monroe Handler had 400 HP engine, racing suspension, extensive body kits, and a long list of other upgrades. Although intended as a show car, the Handler proved that Mustang II had some potential, and soon after, they produced kits for sale to the general public.

1. Ford Mustang GT350 Anniversary Edition

In 1984, Mustang celebrated its 20th birthday, and Ford introduced a special edition called GT350. The car was available as a coupe or a convertible with all engines but with several unique features, white color and stripes identical to those on `65/66 Shelby GT350. The production was limited to only 5,260 copies, which were sold fast.

However, this car proved to be problematic for Ford since immediately after its release, Carroll Shelby, the man behind the legendary Shelby Mustangs, sued Ford for unauthorized use of the “GT350” name. Apparently, the matter was settled out of the court, and Ford didn’t use the GT350 name until the 2015 model year.

So, what’s your favorite in this list of the 30 coolest classic Mustangs Ford ever made? All of these cars inspired both race teams and everyday drivers to hit the road. Some are rare, while others are quite accessible, but they are all beasts on the roadways.

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