Five great Mustangs from its 50-year history

2014-02-07T00:00:00Z Five great Mustangs from its 50-year historyKirk Bell Times Auto Correspondent nwitimes.com
February 07, 2014 12:00 am  • 

As we approach the Ford Mustang's 50th anniversary, it is firmly entrenched in American culture.

It has starred in numerous movies and TV shows, won countless road course and drag races and been the object of desire for generations of car fans.

"It was one of the first muscle cars out there," said Pete Blagojevic general manager at Art Hill Ford in Merrillville. "The Mustang is still a sporty, affordable car, but if you compare the 1964 technology to today's cars the difference is incredible."

Ford stirred up more interest in the Mustang recently by unveiling the 2015 model. Though the looks are an evolution of the current car (why fix what isn't broken?), the new Mustang should be a better car thanks to improved interior materials and a new independent rear suspension that will improve dynamics.

Ford's unveiling of the new Mustang got us thinking about our favorite Mustangs over the years. Here we present five great Mustangs that should tide you over until the new car debuts this spring at Art Hill Ford in Merrillville, Barile Ford in Valparaiso, Lakeshore Ford in Burns Harbor, Paul Heuring Ford in Hobart, Smith Ford in Lowell and Webb Ford in Highland.

1965 Mustang

Ford introduced the Mustang at the New York World's Fair on April 17, 1964. It was based on the compact Ford Falcon, but it was far more stylish, and it offered features usually found in European cars, including bucket seats and a floor shifter.

Hardtop coupe and convertible body styles were offered initially, and a sleek fastback coupe joined the lineup that September. Buyers could choose from two inline six-cylinder and three V8 engines. The combination of V8 power, gorgeous styling, and a compact footprint made it the world's first pony car.

The Mustang was an instant hit, with more than 680,000 sold in its extended first model year, and it spawned a series of competitors within a few years.

1967 Mustang GT-500

The restyled 1967 Mustang grew in size and power, adding its first big-block engine, the 320-horsepower 390-cubic inch V8. Ford's racing and performance partner Carroll Shelby turned up the heat even further, installing the Police Interceptor 428-cubic inch V8, which was conservatively rated at 355 horsepower, to create the GT-500.

The sleek body got even sexier with a fiberglass trunklid and functional scoops on the hood, rear quarter panels, and B-pillars. Power steering and brakes and a roll bar aided handling, but the GT-500 was most impressive in a straight line. In Motor Trend testing, it posted a 6.2-second 0 to 60 mph time and a 15.42-second quater-mile run.

1970 Mustang Boss 429

One of the rarest and most desired Mustangs of all time is the Boss 429. Ford built fewer than 1,400 of them in 1969 and '70. The monster 429-cubic-inch V8 was installed under the hood to help qualify it for use in NASCAR racing. The engine used semi-hemispherical heads, much like Chrysler's 426-cubic-inch Hemi V8, and produced an under-rated 360 horsepower.

Fitting that big engine in a Mustang required widening the front track, modifying the suspension, moving the battery to the trunk, and altering the wheel openings. The Boss 429 was fast, covering the quarter mile in 14.09 seconds, but the engine was meant for high-revving superspeedway duty, not short quarter-mile bursts, so the Mustang Cobra Jet was faster on a dragstrip.

2000 Mustang Cobra R

Ford turned to NASCAR team owner Jack Roush to help build the best performing Mustang to date in 2000. The heart of the Cobra R was a 5.4-liter V8 that cranked out 385 horsepower. It pushed the Cobra R from 0 to 60 mph in less than five seconds on its way to a top speed of 175 mph.

Meant for road course duty, the suspension featured Bilstein shocks and struts and Eibach springs, while the bare bones interior lacked a radio, cruise control, air conditioning, and a back seat. Ford built only 300 of this high-performance Mustang, all in Performance Red with charcoal interiors, and the staggering $54,995 price wouldn't be matched until the 2013 Shelby GT500.

2014 Mustang Shelby GT500

The muscular Mustangs of the 1960s were truly powerful for their day, but none of them approach the performance of the most powerful Mustang of all time, the current Shelby GT500. Introduced for the 2013 model year, the Shelby GT500 was developed by Ford's Special Vehicles Team who created a new 5.8-liter V8 to power it.

This supercharged dual-overhead cam engine spins out 662 horsepower and gives the GT500 ridiculous performance figures: 0 to 60 mph in 3.5 second, 11.8-second quarter-mile time, and a top speed over 200 mph. The GT500 can turn corners, too, thanks to a sport-tuned suspension, Brembo brakes, and an available Performance package with adjustable dampers.

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