Although the Mustang looked sporty and cool, it shared modest underpinnings with the economy Falcon. Its engine lineup included mild versions of inline-six and small V8 units. Its power output was nothing special and the performance was somewhat below the expectations. Ford responded with an interesting engine called the K-Code.
The K-Code was the 289 V8 but with the milder, more street-friendly tune and 271 HP, which was more than enough for the decent performance Mustang fans asked for and 0 to 60 mph in the 6.8-second range. Introduced in 1965 and available until 1967, the 289 HiPo was the first Mustang that ran as well as it looked, especially when drivers ordered it in gorgeous Fastback body style.
Even though Mustang had some performance versions like the GT with a 289 HiPo V8 engine or the Shelby GT 350 in 1965, the first true performance Mustang with a big-block engine and respectable 0 to 60 mph acceleration times was the 1967 Shelby GT 500. Bigger and more powerful than before, the 1967 GT 500 featured a new design, a 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 a big 427. Mustang enthusiasts claim the real power was closer to the 400 HP mark, and the performance figures backed that claim. The 0 to 60 mph time was 6.5 seconds, fast for the day. Thanks to Ford’s suspension modifications, the GT 500 could handle curves well too.
The third redesign of the Mustang appeared for the 1969 model year and the car grew in size once again. Among the many performance options, the Boss 302 is the most important model. Produced for only two years, 1969 and 1970, the Boss 302 featured the 302 V8 engine which was conservatively rated at 290 HP.
But the real output was closer to the 350 HP mark and the 0 to 60 mph took only six seconds. The Boss 302 was intended for racing in the Trans-Am championship with its blackout hood, spoiler on the trunk, and other details. Also, it featured a stiff track-tuned suspension, close-ratio gearbox, and a high-revving engine.
Made for one year only, the 1971 Mustang Boss 351 was one of the rarest Mustangs Ford ever produced with only 1,800 made. A highly-tuned version of the 351 V8 engine with around 330 HP powered it. It was fast, good-looking, and more expensive than the Mach 1 version of the same model year. Today, it’s a true collector’s item.
Also, this was one of the quickest muscle cars of the time as well as one of the quickest Mustangs ever. The powerful 351 V8 managed to launch the Boss 351 to 60 mph in 5.8 seconds, which was and still is quite fast for an analog muscle car from the early 1970s.
The third-generation Ford Mustang arrived in 1978 and Ford discontinued it in 1993. It was an important model for the breed. Not only was it the first modern and great-looking Mustang in years, but it also marked the return to great performance with bigger, more powerful engines. Mustang fans remember the venerable 5.0 H.O. engine as one of the best engines in Mustang’s history, but the quickest version was the mighty SVT Cobra R from 1993.
It was a tuned version of the 5.0-liter V8 engine, which was actually a 4.9-liter, but they called it 5.0. The SVT Cobra delivered 235 HP. Although it doesn’t sound like much, it was a hefty number for 1993. Not only that, the SVT Cobra R was a lightweight car. That helped it make a 0 to 60 mph time of 5.7 seconds and secured its place on this list.
The early 2000s saw the redesign of the fourth-generation Mustang and the introduction of some, particularly interesting and powerful versions. One of those is the Mach I, which featured a retro-inspired graphics package, new colors, and an upgraded engine and exhaust. The Mach I from 2003 was a living homage to the fire-breathing Mach I from the late ’60s and early ’70s.
They tuned the 4.6-liter V8 engine to deliver 305 HP and 320 lb-ft of torque, which went to the rear wheels over a six-speed manual gearbox. The 0 to 60 time was a swift 5.6 seconds. The coolest details were those gorgeous retro-inspired five-spoke wheels. The â03 Mach I was a one-year model Ford produced from 2003 to 2004. The total production number was exactly 6,500 cars, which makes it a collector’s item and quite possibly a valuable Mustang in the future.
The ghost of the Mustang’s glorious past haunted Ford in the early 2000s. Not only that, Ford re-introduced the Mach I, but they offered the legendary Bullitt Mustang as a special model in 2001. For those who do not know, Bullitt was a 1968 movie with Steve McQueen as Detective Frank Bullitt who drove a dark green 1968 Ford Mustang. The movie became legendary for its iconic chase scene where the Mustang chased a black Dodge Charger on the streets of San Francisco.
Among Mustang fans, the image of a green Fastback has a cult status. That is why Ford decided to introduce the Bullitt version that featured a blacked-out grille, Highland Green paint job, and American Racing wheels. They upgraded the 4.6-liter engine slightly to 265 HP and 305 lb-ft of torque, but it was still enough to achieve an impressive 5.6-second 0 to 60 mph time. The Bullitt Mustang was somewhat more expensive than the regular GT model, so they built less than 6,000.
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 a 302 V8, but next came the 351 V8, and then the top-of-the-line model in the mighty 428 Cobra Jet. Although Ford built over 20,000 Mach Is in 1969, only a small number had the Cobra Jet engine, which was the definitive option to have.
Only 428 CJ-equipped Mach Is had true performance potential and could beat multiple other muscle cars on the street. They rated the 428 Cobra Jet at 335 HP, but most serious car followers 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. For the time, this was a fantastic number, so the 428 CJ Mach 1 still demands respect today.
Ford presented the legendary 428 Cobra Jet engine to the car world in 1968 and immediately put it in the Mustang. The Mustang 428 CJ was a mid-year introduction and was mostly intended for drag racing, so it sold in modest numbers.
But this was a true beast of a car with a 390 HP engine, a lightweight body, and a four-speed close-ratio manual transmission. With a 0 to 60 mph time of just 5.4 seconds, this was the fastest, purest stock car of the era. It is still a valuable collector’s item today.
Ford’s Special Vehicle Team (SVT) department has been responsible for some of the fastest muscle cars of the last 25 years. In 1995, they introduced another Cobra R. This time, Ford produced 250 of them. They sold them only to those individuals with a racing license or private team. 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 all that impressive today, it was a hefty number for 1995. And since the Cobra R was a light car, the performance numbers were good. The 0 to 60 mph time took 5.2 seconds, which made 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 that turned ordinary Mustangs into land rockets.
You probably thought all the Mustangs on this list would be V8-powered torque monsters capable of turning rear tires into smoke in a matter of seconds. For the most part, you’re right, but there are few cars without V8 power that still post impressive acceleration times. One of those Mustangs is the 2012 V6 powered model. The 4.0-liter V6 with 305 HP and 280 lb-ft of torque was the standard base engine for the 2012 model year.
The power output was almost identical to the V8 models only a decade before, which shows how technology moves forward fast. However, the 2012 V6 Mustang could accelerate to 60 mph in just 5.1 seconds, meaning that it deserves a spot on this list among the fire-breathing V8 monsters from Dearborn.
When a retro-looking masterpiece of design saw the light of the day while embodied in the 2005 Mustang, fans of the legendary pony car were ecstatic. The new car not only looked fabulous, but it also introduced a higher level of power and performance. However, its retro look opened doors for numerous special editions that mimicked the fantastic Mustangs from the past.
Again Ford couldn’t resist, and in 2008, they introduce the new Bullitt Mustang. Just as before, it was dark green, with a blackout grille, American Racing wheels, and a few mechanical modifications. The 4.6-liter V8 engine pumped 315 HP and 325 lb-ft of torque. This was enough to launch the Highland Green Mustang coupe to a 5.0-second 0 to 60 mph time. They offered the 2008 Bullitt Mustang in limited numbers, giving it collector’s car appeal.
Inspired by the wild SVT Cobra R’s from the 1990s, Ford didn’t name the 2003 model “R” since they didn’t limit it in production. In addition, it was available to the public and not just racing drivers or private teams. However, this SVT Cobra was an interesting and important model for the Mustang dynasty since it featured two firsts. One was the first factory supercharged engine and the other was the first independent rear suspension. The SVT took the standard 4.6-liter block and mounted different heads and supercharger to get 390 HP and 390 lb-ft of torque output. The engine was named the Terminator and it was rumored to deliver 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 handle like a dream. The 0 to 60 mph time took only 4.7 seconds, so the SVT Cobra a drag strip terror. Ford offered this model in 2003 and 2004. They built around 20,000 of them in a coupe and convertible form. Despite being almost 15 years old, those cars still hold high prices on the used car market.
The coolest-looking fourth-generation Mustang is undoubtedly the 2000 SVT Cobra R. Again, this was a limited edition model with an “R” designation. In fact, Ford produced only 300 copies intended for racing drivers and teams. Compared to other regular Mustangs, the Cobra R featured many improvements and enhancements. First and foremost was the engine, a 5.4-liter V8 with 385 HP and 385 lb-ft of torque. Second, a body kit with front and rear spoilers and side skirts.
The third was the stiff suspension and a few chassis modifications. Ford clearly built this car for performance, and that’s exactly what the buyers got when they pressed the gas pedal. The 0 to 60 mph sprint was achievable in just 4.4 seconds and the top speed was around 150 mph, impressive for the day. It’s too bad Ford built only 300 of those thoroughbreds, making them nearly impossible to find today.
The last years of the fifth generation Ford Mustang were marked by a cool-looking redesign and a new engine. The truly modern 5.0-liter Coyote V8 was a world-class powerhouse that was the basis for almost all performance Mustangs of the era. In base trim, the 5.0 Coyote was capable of 412 HP and 390 lb-ft, respectable figures.
You could get this engine in numerous versions like the GT, GT Premium, California Special, and more. If the engine was stock, the acceleration times were 4.3 seconds, which was almost at a supercar level of the day. For far less money than a comparable Porsche from the period, drivers could own a Mustang monster.
The first Mustang to wear the Shelby name in almost 40 years was the 2007 model. The SVT department conceived it. These were the same folks who delivered the Cobra R models, but the 2007 Shelby GT 500 was something else. It looked mean, had an aggressive design with multiple upgrades, and it also sounded terrifying thanks to the new 5.4-liter supercharged V8 engine with 500 HP and 480 lb-ft of torque. This was the first production Mustang that broke the magic 500 HP barrier and the most powerful muscle car at that time.
With racing stripes on the hood, roof, and trunk, four exhaust pipes, and a scary rumble coming from the massive V8, the 2007 Shelby GT 500 would make Carroll Shelby proud. In addition, the performance was amazing, so the 0 to 60 mph time took only 4.5 seconds. Some experts think this car probably could do better, but the massive torque burned the rear tires if you pushed the pedal too hard.
The current 5.0 GT Mustang is one of the best Mustangs in history. However, Ford waited until 2018 to unveil the new GT Performance Pack 2 properly. It is regarded as one of the greatest modern Mustangs, a true performance model for muscle car fans. So what exactly is the Mustang GT Performance Pack 2? First, it’s a GT, which means it has a 5.0-liter Coyote V8 with 460 HP and 420 lb-ft of torque. Ford mated it with a six-speed manual transmission in the best tradition of classic muscle cars.
With 0 to 60 mph times in the low four-second range (4.3 seconds), the Performance Pack 2 is fast. But those numbers are just half of the story. The essence of the Performance Pack is in handling and braking. For $6,500 above the price of a regular GT, you will get both chassis and aerodynamic improvements, stiffer springs, and beefier anti-roll bars. You’ll also get performance tires, bigger brakes, and racing seats. Some think Ford should’ve named this the Performance Pack 2 Boss 302 since it captures the same idea for the same type of customers. If you can’t afford the Shelby GT350, the Performance Pack 2 is the perfect alternative as it offers almost the same level of performance and handling for a significantly lower price.
One of the biggest Mustang legends is Steve McQueen’s Highland Green 1968 Fastback. It became famous from Bullitt, a cop movie from 1969. The movie itself became famous for its chase scene. And for decades, this car represented one of the coolest Mustangs in the world. Because Ford couldn’t resist using it for special versions and released three Bullitt Mustangs. They presented the first one was in 2003, the second in 2008, and the third in 2018 as a 2019 model.
Ford has based all three Bullitt special versions on the GT V8 model. They all feature special green paint and dark wheels. Also, all three are highly collectible and desirable cars and big parts of Mustang history. The latest one is the 480 HP street fighter dressed in the recognizable dark green color. Best of all, it delivers sub-four-second 0 to 60 mph times.
Ever since the first retro Mustangs appeared in showrooms across America, Ford fans have asked for the return of the Boss 302. For those who don’t know, Ford first presented the Boss 302 in 1969 as a racing car homologation special they intended for Trans-Am races. With the 5.0-liter V8 engine, close-ratio gearbox, and low weight, the Boss 302 was a fast car. It was only available for two years in 1969 and 1970 before it roared into muscle car history.
A full 43 years later, Ford revived the Boss 302 with a new 5.0-liter Coyote V8 that delivered 444 HP and 380 lb-ft of torque. Again, this was almost a pure racing car with no back seats, a factory-installed roll cage, and a host of other external and internal modifications. As most people would expect, the performance was better than the regular Mustang GT. The 2012 Boss 302 could accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in 3.97 seconds and topped 155 mph. Until there is another version of the Boss 302, car enthusiasts consider the 2012 model one of the best Mustangs of all-time.
The new, sixth-generation Ford Mustang brought a new Shelby in the form of GT 350. Ford introduced its even more extreme version, the GT 350 R, in late 2014 as a 2015 model. Even though they based the Shelby on the Mustang GT. However, much of the car’s suspension, design, aero package, and engine was new. The biggest single difference was the fantastic Voodoo engine, which had a 5.2-liter displacement, 526 HP, and 429 lb-ft of torque. The main feature of this high-revving powerplant is the flat-plane crank technology that allowed the big V8 to scream to almost 9,000 rpm. It is the same technology exotic manufacturers like Ferrari use, but this is the first time a muscle car has had such an advanced engine.
Ford’s investment in the Shelby GT 350 R paid off because the performance is mind-boggling. It goes from 0 to 60 mph in just 3.9. But the numbers don’t do justice to this car since the Shelby GT 350 R is a pure sports car that delivers fantastic driving dynamics to the driver. It’s much closer to the Porsche GT3 in precision driving and cornering speeds than those humble Mustangs of yesterday. This car is not only one of the fastest Mustangs ever, it’s also one of the best sports cars Ford has made in recent years.
The swan song of the SVT supercharged Mustangs is the 2013 Shelby GT 500. This glorious muscle car had a 5.8-liter supercharged V8 that pumped 662 HP and 631 lb-ft of torque. At the time, it was the most powerful American-made V8 engine. Ford installed it in the rear-wheel-drive (RWD). With a live axle platform, it was a tire smoke generator. But besides its burnout and show potential, it was also a serious performance machine.
A 0 to 60 mph sprint took only 3.5 seconds, so the $50,000 Mustang could embarrass a $250,000 Ferrari at any stoplight drag race. Buyers loved this overpowered Mustang then and they still do today. Even though Ford discontinued it, it’s still is king of the hill among Mustang fans.
After all the talk about electric Mustangs, muscle fans are finally getting the most powerful, quickest, and most expensive Mustang ever – the mighty and glorious Shelby GT500. Drivers have waited a long time for the absolute pinnacle of Mustang performance and this is it. The 2020 Shelby GT500 has a 5.2-liter supercharged V8, which delivers 760 hp and is designed to go against its main rivals, the Dodge Challenger Hellcat and Chevrolet Camaro ZL1. Results are impressive, as the GT500 can reach 60 mph in 3.5 seconds and quarter-mile in 11.0 seconds straight from the box.
However, with an over $70k MSRP and over $18k for the Carbon Fiber Track Package (optional trim level), the new Shelby GT500 is dangerously close to the magical $100,000 figure. Even though the performance and driving dynamics of the 2020 Shelby GT500 is close to exotic cars, we’re not sure the market is ready for this Mustang with the price of an exotic. If you want to own a Mustang, but don’t know which one to buy, this list should be of great help to you. All of these Mustangs deliver the best performance Ford has to offer car fans.