Can you hear it, that royal purr emanating from a V-8 engine waiting to unleash itself all over the open road? It’s a magnificent sound, isn’t it? It harkens back to the days of American automotive glory and muscle. It’s the sound of the true American steed.
The Ford Mustang has made owners feel like knights clad in shining armor for over 50 years. With such a stake in the history of the American muscle car, however, it’s hard to decide which models are the best Mustang models.
We could debate what the best Mustang models are for days and it would turn out to be nothing but a scintillating conversation that winds up right where it started.
We don’t have that much time. For the sake of brevity, here are the best 9 vintage Mustang models. (These are in no particular order. I’ll leave that up to you).
The 1964.5 Ford Mustang (The Original Best Mustang Model)
The nostalgia the 1964.5 Mustang evokes is hard to brush aside. It’s not the most flashy, it’s not the fastest, but it’s where it all began. (Respect your elders).
In 1964, Ford started the T-5 project. Thank stylist David Ash for the designs that eventually gave birth to the Mustang.
The 1964.5 was actually slated for release in 1965. Given a few fundamental differences between the 1965 model, however, it became known as the 1964.5 model. The model knocked up four times the returns it was expected to and was a great indicator of the prosperous times to come for the Mustang.
Regardless of whether you have a base inline 6, or a 289 cubic inch V-8 under the hood, you’ll be riding in style with this pony. Why wouldn’t you want to revitalize the past when it looks that good?
The 1969 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500
The 1969 Ford Shelby Mustang GT 500 was not only a prime muscle car, but it was also a choice grand touring vehicle. With its sleek design and one of a kind appearance, it had all of the looks you would want out of a muscle car plus great functionality. It was the darling of the Mustang models that packed a punch.
At the height of the American muscle car arms’ race, the 1969 Shelby GT500 stands out for its versatility. Carol Shelby and Ford combined in 1965 to start designing the Cobra series. The 1969 Mustang Shelby represents the pinnacle of their efforts together.
Not only is the Shelby a thing of beauty from a sheer aesthetic point of view. Its performance is second to none.
The 1970 Mach 1 Mustang
Vintage Mustangs are great for restoration. But with their scarcity comes a steep incline on price. Enter the 1970 Mach 1 Mustang. At the height of American muscle car production, the Mach 1 sticks out for its affordability. It could make the average consumer feel like a rockstar.
With its V-8 engine and sport suspension, it was still a big boy in terms of its power and performance. The 1970 Mach 1 has the signature Mustang racing stripe, as well. If you want to feel like a true Mustang owner, the stripe is almost a necessity.
The other little detail that I love about the Mach 1’s? Their aesthetically pleasing, but also functional hood scoop. This model looked and acted in the Mustang part beautifully.
The 1986 Mustang SVO
When we think of vintage automobiles, we usually associate it with the ’60s and 70’s cars. However, it is 2019. After a period of emissions regulations and fuel guidelines in the early ’70s rendered traditional muscle cars less than practical, the SVO stands out for its own reasons.
Known as one of the best handling Mustangs ever, the SVO also bolstered its reputation with a turbo 4 cylinder engine, adjustable lumbar support seats, and performance suspension with Quadra shock in the back.
The SVO wasn’t simply a reimagining of earlier Mustangs. It laid the groundwork for the models that were to come in the ’90s and 2000s, some of the best Mustang models.
In a time period generally thought of as a dead period for muscle cars, the SVO is a significant indicator that there never was such a time, making it one of the best Mustang models.
The 1978 Mustang II King Cobra
In 1978, as a last-ditch effort to boost sales in a disappointing year for Mustangs, Ford released the Mustang II King Cobra. While some people decry the time period that the 1978 Mustang II King Cobra came out, its place in the Mustang annals is a unique one.
Much like the 1986 SVO, the King Cobra is valuable due to the fact that there aren’t many models like it. It lacks power but its design and features make up for its lack of ferocity. Its heavy duty suspension, Select-Shift automatic transmission, and plush interior make it a highly fashionable, functional automobile choice.
Unlike some of the other best Mustang models that pride themselves on power, the King Cobra is simply a fun vintage model that looks great on the road. That’s nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, it’s fun to boast about something unique instead of what everyone else praises Mustangs for.
The 1968 Ford Mustang Cobra Jet
Mustangs were already fast in 1968. The Ford Mustang Cobra Jet, however, took that speed to another unreached level. It’s a wonder these things were even street legal.
In 1968, Ford began making Mustang models with 427 CID V-8 engines. Ford’s move was successful, one-upping the Dodge Darts, Barracudas, and Firebirds of the day that were beating Ford in speed. They doubled down on that move with the Cobra Jet.
With larger valve heads and the racer built 427 intake manifold, the Cobra was a bonafide speed demon. If you like going really fast, then the Cobra Jet will deliver as promised.
The 1968 Cobra Jet’s horsepower is widely recognized as being underrated at 335. Hot Rod magazine reportedly pushed one to a 13.56 quarter mile, making it one of, if not the fastest of the best Mustang models in this list.
1965 Mustang Shelby GT350
The 1965 Shelby GT350 marked the beginning of the Mustang as a performance automobile. The two-seater was a faster, more durable Mustang than the 1965 Mustang.
It’s near impossible to conceptualize how Mustangs would look today had the Shelby series never come to fruition. There’s no need to indulge in such negative fancies.
Everyone loves the ’68 Shelby GT500 KR for good reason, but the ’65 GT350 has a purity about it that cannot be recreated. It was released in the prime of muscle car history and its design is what many people imagine when they think of the American muscle car.
The 1965 Mustang Shelby GT350 was the true combination of power and grace that motor companies were trying to achieve, making it one of the best Mustang models ever.
The 1970 Ford Mustang Boss 302
The 1970 Ford Mustang Boss 302 was exactly what it sounds like; a boss. You’ll love this car the moment you set eyes on it. The body of the Boss and its thick wheel frame made it look like the top dog on the block.
By this time, some of the inauthenticity of the earlier versions of this model of Mustang had been shored up. It had lost the fake fender scoops and replaced them with the iconic C-stripes. (When I was a kid I always wanted those on my car.)
But the Boss wasn’t just about looks. underneath the hood was a powerful engine that was dependable. The Boss wasn’t a burner, but it’s a thoroughbred design and affordable price make it one of the best Mustang models ever.
The 1994 Ford Mustang GT
Most of us associate the term “vintage” with something very, very old. But again, it’s 2019, and it’s been 25 years since the Mustang made its return to form in 1994.
This model isn’t as sexy as the others on this list but I thought it deserved a spot because of what it symbolizes: muscle cars will never die.
If any Mustang embodies the model’s resiliency to changing automotive consumer trends, it’s the ’94 Mustang. It had a modern design with just enough of a tinge of retro to remind you what you were buying.
However, it wasn’t merely nostalgia that made the 1994 Mustang one of the best Mustang models ever. The body design, as well as the integrity of the body, makes it a durable choice. The smooth ride it offered was another large plus.
Never Forget The Mustang
The discussion as to what the best Mustang models are will be continuing for decades to come. Ford has continued to issue newer models and they have been improving since the lull of the late ’70s and ’80s.
There’s just something about vintage Mustang models that makes them special, though. It’s not just that they’re older, even though it’s true that “they just don’t make em’ like that anymore.”
The early Mustang models’ design and engineering represent the Golden Age of the American muscle car. You’d be hard pressed to find a model that embodies the American muscle car soul more than the Mustang.
If you’re as passionate about the heart and soul of American motors as we are, and you are thinking of restoring a classic, check out these affordable parts to turn your next project into a reality.