The legendary 428 Cobra Jet was introduced in 1968. And Ford immediately put it in the Mustang GT. The Mustang 428 CJ was a mid-year introduction (via Hemmings), and it was mostly intended for drag racing. That was why it was sold in modest numbers.
But it was a true beast of a car with a 390 hp engine, light body, and four-speed close-ratio manual transmission. With 0 to 60 mph time of just 5.4 seconds, this was the fastest, purest stock car of the era. This GT remains a very valuable collector’s item today.
This special version was one of the most famous and desirable for Mustang collectors. Ford presented the California Special in 1968. It was a special model for dealers in California to boost sales of the Mustang in that state. The California Special was based on a GT model with a V8 engine. Ford decided to make the California Special a more upscale model. First, the CS came only with V8 engines and its equipment level was high. Second, the California Special featured a different rear end that was Carroll Shelby’s work. Also, it had a rear deck spoiler, Cougar taillights, and CS badges.
Third, the CS had a vinyl roof, side decals, and fake side scoops. Despite the fact the California Special sold in 4,325 examples, it failed to meet Ford’s sales goal (via Motor Trend). In fact, at the end of the 1968 model year, lots of unsold CS models were still on car lots. California dealers had a problem. So they contacted Ford dealers from Colorado with the request to take over those unsold cars. That’s how the ’68 High Country Special Mustang model was born. In fact, 251 ex-California Specials became Colorado cars.
Ford’s best-selling pony car Mustang got its third restyling for 1969 and grew in size. The new body was bigger and wider. However, the wheelbase stayed the same. All three body styles were present, and buyers could choose between the elegant convertible, standard coupe, and sporty-looking Sportsroof fastback. The Cobra Jet 428 was available in all three body styles and with the GT package (via Mustang Attitude).
As expected, most were installed in coupes of Sportsroofs. But 122 people ordered the mighty Cobra Jets and Super Cobra Jets in convertible body style. Out of that number, the rarest is the Q-code Super Cobra Jet without the GT package with a manual transmission. Only five of these were built. Ford noticed that the GT package was losing its appeal since, at that moment, there were several much more attractive models in its lineup. Newly introduced Mach I, Shelby, and Boss models stole the spotlight from the GT. After 1969, the GT was gone.
Ambitiously marketed with the slogan “The Boss is Back,” the 1982 Mustang GT 5.0 proved to be a big step forward for the Foxbody breed. First, it was the first GT model in 13 years, and second, it was one of the hottest US cars of 1982. Ford discontinued the GT model in 1969 to concentrate on other performance variants. But in 1982 with the introduction of 5.0-liter with 157 HP on tap, they decided to reintroduce it.
The 1982 GT was significantly faster than other Foxbody Mustangs, had redesigned front end, spoiler, and hood scoop as well as suspension modifications. Even though its power output was models, the 1982 GT marked the beginning of Mustang’s performance renaissance (via Motor Trend).
Common knowledge tells us that all Mustang GTs through the years were V8-powered. But for two short years from 1983-84, Ford offered a turbocharged 2.3-liter Mustang GT with four cylinders (via Bangshift). It had performance similar to its V8 cousin. Back in those days, Ford was experimenting with small-displacement turbo engines and had one in Thunderbird Turbo Coupe and also in Mustang SVO.
With just 145 and 180 lb-ft of torque, Mustang GT Turbo wasn’t fast or powerful, and it was also more expensive than its V8 model. That’s why it wasn’t very well received. Ford managed to sell only 483 examples.
Even though the 1986 Mustang GT will always remain in the shadow of the 1987-93 models, it was a very important piece of the puzzle. What makes it historically relevant is the fact that it was the first year for an electronic fuel injection system in a Mustang. This was a big deal in the mid-’80s. It was also the last year of the characteristic “four-eye” body style.
The 5.0-liter V8 EFI delivered 200 hp and 285 lb-ft, very respectable numbers for the day. The car had sub-seven-second 0-60 times. It also introduced the Mustang community to new technology and secured its future (via Old Cars Weekly). The best was yet to come for the Mustang GT.
The rise in power of domestic cars during the ’80s brought the first real performance to the Mustang range in nearly 20 years. The Fox-body Mustang grew more and 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 which translated to some solid 0 to 60 mph times.
The Mustang was once again an affordable performance car with cool styling, lots of options, and enough power to spin the rear wheels in any gear. This car marked a return to the roots with a strong V8 engine and exciting performance. Also, the late ’80s Fox-body GT was very popular, so they are plentiful today. This makes them a great choice for entry-level collectors (via LMR). On the other hand, the aftermarket for those cars is enormous, so you can modify and make your Fox-body GT even faster for an affordable price.
Although we witnessed a recent rise in prices, the Fox-body Mustang Cobra flew under the radar of mainstream collectors for a long while. Most people tend to dismiss it as another Fox-body Mustang, but this Cobra is much more than that. It is a proper performance car, blurring the line between classic muscle car and sports coupe.It was produced for one year only – 1993 – and marked the end of the Fox-body Mustang generation.
The 1993 Cobra was visually and mechanically based on the outgoing GT 5.0 model (via LMR). Under the hood was SVT prepared 5.0-liter HO engine with trick GT40 heads and various other upgrades. The 0 to 60 mph time was well under six seconds. Ford made just 4993 examples in 1993. The Fox-body Mustang generation ended production in 1993, and this was a perfect way to send the GT model off to history.
Although the fourth-generation Mustang GT was introduced in late 1993 as a 1994 model, it had the old 5.0-liter V8 as the only engine option. However, in 1996, Ford introduced a brand-new modular V8 with 4.6-liter displacement and a very slight power upgrade from the previous year’s model. The 4.6-liter delivered 215 hp and 285 lb-ft of torque.
The critics say that this engine wasn’t very powerful in stock form, and it didn’t respond well to modifications. But it was well-loved by customers and was also a solid performer on the street compared to other muscle cars of the period (via Motor Trend).
The ghost of Mustang’s glorious past haunted Ford in the early 2000s. Not only that Mach I was re-introduced, but the legendary Bullitt Mustang was offered as a special model in 2001. Bullitt was a 1968 movie with Steve McQueen as Det. 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 the Mustang fans, the image of a green Fastback has a cult status.
That is why Ford decided to introduce the Bullitt version, which featured a blacked-out grille, Highland Green paint job, and American Racing wheels. The 4.6-liter engine was slightly upgraded 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 (via Road and Track). The Bullitt Mustang was somewhat more expensive than the regular GT model, and fewer than 6000 were built.
The early 2000s saw the redesign of the fourth-generation Mustang and the introduction of some 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 (via Ford Performance). Clearly, the Mach I from 2003 was a loving homage to the fire-breathing Mach I from the late ’60s and early ’70s. The 4.6-liter V8 engine was tuned to deliver 305 hp and 320 lb-ft of torque sent to rear wheels over a six-speed manual gearbox.
The 0 to 60 time was swift at 5.6 seconds, and the coolest details were those gorgeous retro-inspired five-spoke wheels. The ’03 Mach I was a one-year model produced from 2003 to 2004, and the total production number was exactly 6500 cars, which makes it a collector’s item and quite possibly a very valuable Mustang in the future.
The car world was stunned when Ford introduced the fifth generation of the Mustang in late 2004 as a 2005 model. The retro-futuristic design was perfect for the times. It not only captured the essence of the legendary first generation, but presented a very elegant and sporty shape that is still modern even 15 years after its unveiling (via Car and Driver). The new Mustang featured a lot of new technology but still a somewhat old platform with a live rear axle. Nonetheless, buyers went crazy for the car. During its 10-year market life, Ford introduced numerous special versions and extremely powerful Shelby models. But the sweet spot in the range was always the regular GT model.
With a 4.6-liter 300 hp V8 engine at first and a 5.0-liter 412 hp V8 engine from 2011 to the 2014 model year, the ’05 GT was a very capable car. It was fast, it handled well, and it looked cool in any color. Its affordable price means it is quite common, and its simple mechanics means it is cheap to maintain. The soundtrack from the V8 engine is second to none, and the looks are still fresh. If you are looking for a V8-powered Mustang with performance and loads of attitude on a budget, this is the car for you.
The 2005 Mustang GTR was soon forgotten, but its legacy lives on in numerous modern Mustangs. First, it was a prototype of a track-ready Mustang with fantastic design and cool race tech. Second, it featured a then-new 5.0-liter Cammer crate V8 with 440 hp, which was later available to the general public.
Third, it showcased many Ford Performance parts and components (via CJ Pony Parts) that can still be bought today and are an integral part of building a modern Mustang for a track day.
With the retro-looking car came the return of legendary Mustang special versions like Shelby GT-H. Back in 1966, Shelby offered its GT350 model as a rental car through the Hertz network. The cars were painted black with gold stripes and GT350-H model designation. Exactly 40 years later, Ford did exactly that with 2006 Mustangs which were turned to Shelby spec and named GT-H (via Motor Trend).
The cars were regular GTs with a 19 hp power increase, new front end, some details, and of course, black paint with gold stripes. Once again, Shelby GT-H was offered as a rental car on selected locations, and after the use, all examples were sold to the general public as used cars. If you want a cool piece of modern Mustang history, search the classified ads for a Shelby GT-H in nice condition.
When the retro-looking masterpiece of design saw the light of day embodied in the 2005 Mustang, fans of the legendary pony car were ecstatic. The new car looked not only fabulous but also introduced new levels of power and performance. However, its retro look opened the doors for numerous special editions which mimicked the fantastic Mustangs from the past (via Mustang Specs).
Again, Ford couldn’t resist, and in 2008, the new Bullitt Mustang was introduced. As before, it was dark green with a blackout grille, American Racing wheels, and a few other modifications. The 4.6-liter V8 engine pumped 315 hp and 325 lb-ft of torque. This was enough to launch this Highland Green Mustang coupe to 5.0-second 0 to 60 mph time. Of course, the 2008 Bullitt Mustang was again produced in limited numbers and had collectors’ car appeal.
The last years of the fifth-generation Ford Mustang were marketed by a cool-looking redesign and new engine. The truly modern 5.0-liter Coyote V8 was a world-class powerhouse that was eventually 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, which are respectable figures (via Automotive Addicts).
Drivers could get this engine in numerous versions, GT, GT Premium, California Special, and so on. And if the engine was stock, the acceleration times were 4.3 seconds which was almost supercar level of the day and for far less money than a comparable Porsche from the period.
Ever since the first retro Mustangs appeared in showrooms across America, Ford fans asked for the return of the Boss 302. For those who don’t know, the Boss 302 was first introduced in 1969 as a racing car homologation special intended for Trans-Am races. 43 years later, Ford revived the Boss 302 with a new 5.0-liter Coyote V8 which delivered 444 hp and 380 lb-ft of torque. Again, this was almost a pure racing car with no back seat, factory-installed roll cage, and a host of other external and internal modifications.
As you’d expect, the performance was better than a regular Mustang GT. The 2012 Boss 302 could accelerate to 60 mph in 3.97 seconds and top 155 mph. Until we see the future version of the Boss 302, the 2012 model is widely considered one of the coolest Mustangs of all time (via Edmunds).
The modern-day GT is truly a world-class sports coupe with muscle car roots and a soundtrack. The S550 platform is finally equipped with independent rear suspension, and a great design with the technology to match it. The S550 Mustang was a truly global car sold worldwide and in right-hand-drive as well (via Motor Trend).
The heart of any GT is its engine. And in 2015 to 2022 Mustang, that heart has 5 liters, 32-valves, direct injection, and lightweight construction, which equals 460 to 480 hp delivered to rear wheels over a six-speed manual or 10-speed automatic transmission.
One of the biggest Mustang legends is Steve McQueen’s Highland Green 1968 Fastback which was used in the shooting of “Bullitt.”. The movie became famous for its chase scene. So for decades, this car represented one of the coolest Mustang GTs in the world. Ford couldn’t resist using it for special versions, and so far, it has released three Bullitt Mustangs. One in 2003, one in 2008, and one in 2018 as a 2019 model.
All Bullitt special versions are based on the GT V8 model and feature special green paint, dark wheels, an upgrade in power, and numerous trim changes (via Motor Trend). Of course, all three are highly collectible and desirable cars and a big part of Mustang’s history. The latest one is a 480 HP street racer dressed in a recognizable dark green color while boasting sub 4 seconds 0 to 60 mph time. With the price tag of $11,000 over the base price of the GT, this Bullitt is definitely not inexpensive. Drivers looking to invest should start saving for a time when it becomes more affordable.
In 2018, Ford unveiled the new GT Performance Pack 2 to properly present this car as it is one of the coolest modern Mustangs for discriminating muscle car fans. So, what exactly is the Mustang GT Performance Pack 2? Well, it’s a GT which means it has a 5.0-liter Coyote V8 with 460 HP and 420 lb-ft of torque mated to a six-speed manual transmission in the best tradition of classic muscle cars.
With the 0 to 60 mph times in the low four-second range, the Performance Pack 2 is definitely fast. But numbers are just half of the story. The essence of the Performance Pack is in handling, braking, less weight, and a whole lot more driving dynamics (via The Truth About Cars). For $6,500 above the price of a regular GT, drivers got chassis and aerodynamic improvements, stiffer springs, performance tires, bigger brakes, racing seats, and more. With this package, the standard Mustang GT is transformed from a great sports car into a fantastic driver’s machine.
Even though 2020 wasn’t the best year in the car industry because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Ford was still able to introduce new products and new designs. That included further expanding the Mustang GT range. One such product was the brand-new 2021 Mustang Mach I. This model marked the return of the legendary Mustang nameplate used periodically from 1969-73 and 2003-04. This Mach I is better than ever and has more power and performance than its predecessors. The 2021 Mach I is envisioned as a step up from the regular S550 Mustang GT and GT Performance Pack II but a step below the Shelby GT350 and GT500.
Interestingly, Ford will discontinue the Shelby GT350 in 2021 since Mach I and Shelby are aimed for the same market and have somewhat similar price tags. Under the hood is the same 5.0-liter Coyote V8 but with a few Shelby and Bullitt parts, resulting in a 480 hp rating. Consumers hoped for a 500 hp rating. But for some reason, Ford decided to keep it 480 hp using already existing components. However, the 2021 Mach I will come with special body parts, a handling package, special paint, decal trim, and a host of unique details (via Guide Auto Web). Since Ford is getting ready to introduce the next-gen Mustang in two years, you can expect that the Mach I will be a limited-production model probably lasting until 2022.