16 Best Mustangs of All Time

Best Mustangs Ever

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Ford Mustang Mach-E
Ford Media Center

Horse Power

From its growling engine to its unmistakable body, the Mustang is arguably the most iconic car in U.S. history. Spearheaded by the late Lee Iacocca in the early 1960s and entered into America's imagination in 1964, seven generations of Mustangs have rolled off the line in as many decades. Over the years, the brand has had its icons and failures, but one thing has never changed: The Mustang is America's muscle car. (It's also the last remaining passenger car made by Ford for North America.) Here's a roundup of the best Mustangs of all time, including a new and perhaps controversial pick we're saving for last.

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1964 Ford Mustang Convertible
FPG/Getty Images

The Original 1964

In 1964, the automotive world underwent a revolution that would change the history of American automobiles for the next half-century and beyond. That year, the Ford Motor Co. introduced the original Mustang pony car. The run of the original Mustang lasted less than five months, but its impact would endure through the ages. Legendary Ford executive Lee Iacocca, who died in July 2019 at the age of 94, imagined the vehicle — a small and accessible performance car for the everyman — in the wake of the Edsel disaster. On April 16, 1964, the night before the World's Fair, the company bombarded the airwaves with publicity for Iacocca's creation. Ford sold 22,000 Mustangs the very first day at a cost of $2,368 each.

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1965 GT350R
1965 GT350R by Sicnag (CC BY)

Shelby GT350

Pioneering automotive designer and engineer Carroll Shelby made his mark on the Mustang brand a couple years before he would perfect the Shelby model with the GT500. In 1965, Shelby designed a Mustang that was a road car built for racing, and the brand subsequently earned the status of legend in the performance automobile world. A variant of the Mustang Fastback, the Shelby GT350 would become one of Ford's most successful cars under the Mustang brand.

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1967 Shelby Mustang GT500 Fastback
1967 Shelby Mustang GT500 Fastback by Sicnag (CC BY)

Shelby GT500

In terms of both style and performance, the Shelby came of age in 1967. That's the year that the GT500 debuted, and Carroll Shelby himself would later reflect on the car as one of his greatest prides. Based on the same engine that the Shelby racing team used to sweep the top three spots at Le Mans, it was the first of its kind to come with a roll bar.

1968 California Special GT/CS - Front View
1968 California Special GT/CS - Front View by Wiki righter (CC BY-SA)

California Special

One of the earliest limited edition Mustangs, the California Special was Michigan born but 100% West Coast in spirit. First produced in 1968, this beauty was the brainchild of a Southern California sales manager who headed a group of Golden State Mustang dealers who wanted a car to call their own. The prototype for this classic was given the green light by legendary auto man Lee Iacocca himself. 

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The Bullitt
The Bullitt by Brendan Rankin (CC BY-NC-ND)

The Bullitt

The 1968 police thriller "Bullitt" featured Steve McQueen as the lead actor — but the real star of the show was the Mustang he made famous. There were actually two Mustang Fastback models with modified engines featured in the film, but one was so heavily damaged it was beyond repair. The other would forever be known as the Bullitt, one of the most iconic Mustangs in history, and Mustang would give it several reboots decades after the movie dazzled audiences, including the most recent 2020 Bullitt.

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Ford Mustang Boss 302
Ford Mustang Boss 302 by Thomas's Pics (CC BY)

Boss 302

In the history of American muscle cars, few names ring out louder than the Boss 302. Its genesis is legendary. To race a car with its new 302-cubic-inch engine in the Trans-Am series, Mustang had to offer a production version of that car. Mustang's new competitor, the Chevy Camaro, had done just that and won the Trans-Am series in 1968. Not to be outdone, Mustang responded in kind with this roaring model.

1969 Ford Mustang Mach 1 Sportsroof
1969 Ford Mustang Mach 1 Sportsroof by Sicnag (CC BY)

Mach 1

When the world met the 1969 Mustang Mach 1, it fell instantly in love. The grill-heavy beast stayed in production for nearly a decade. Although it offered more performance options than its predecessors, it came standard with a V8 that was capable of generating 250 horsepower. The arrival of the Mach 1 spelled the beginning of the end of the GTs that came before, and it remained nearly unchanged through 1978.

1969 Boss 429
1969 Boss 429 by CJ DUB (CC BY-SA)

Boss 429

Like the Boss 302, the Boss 429 was born out of necessity as it pertains to race series entry rules. To compete in NASCAR, Mustang had to build 500 examples of the car it planned to race. Although it never actually competed in NASCAR, the Mustang with the 429-cubic-inch engine, which could crank out 325 horsepower, did go down in history as one of the greatest street cars ever built.

1976 Mustang II Cobra II
1976 Mustang II Cobra II by Michael Rivera (CC BY-SA)

Cobra II

One of the biggest factors in the decline of the Mach 1 was the arrival of the uber-popular Cobra II in 1976. The model reflected changing times in the automotive world. The original Mustang pony cars had been phased out in 1973, which contributed to the decline of the Mustang brand during the rise of Mustang's second-generation line. To stoke a resurgence, and in reaction to energy insecurity in the era of the oil embargo, Ford unleashed the Cobra II, which not only was reminiscent of the early GTs, but also guzzled less gas than its predecessors.

1979 Pace Car
1979 Pace Car by Nick Ares (CC BY-SA)

1979 Pace Car

In 1979, the Mustang was honored as the official pace car for the 63rd Indianapolis 500. Ford debuted a special car for the occasion, and soon after made a nearly exact replica of that Indy Pace Car available to the public at a base price of $9,012. A longtime favorite among drivers and collectors, it remains a cult classic in Mustang world.

1986 Mustang SVO
1986 Mustang SVO by Jim Ramsey (CC BY-SA)


The original prototypes for the 1984 Ford Mustang SVO were built in 1982 under the direction of a collection of gurus from the racing world known as Special Vehicles Operation. Since Ford was interested in launching Mustangs as competition vehicles once again, the SVO was built with a focus on handling, thanks to big wheels, big brakes, and advanced struts and shocks.

SVT Cobra

SVT Cobra

The Cobra is a survivor, and different models of snakes slithered their way through the 1970s, '80s and into the '90s. But it wasn't until 1993 that the Cobra reemerged as a pony car. Built under the direction of Ford's Special Vehicle Team, the division that bears the '93 Cobra's acronym, the SVT Cobra was powerful and limited, built in small quantities that were consumed mostly by racers and collectors.

2003 Ford Mustang Cobra "Terminator" Torch Red Convertible
2003 Ford Mustang Cobra "Terminator" Torch Red Convertible by TJKula (CC BY-SA)

The Terminator (2003 SVT Cobra)

The true name of the Mustang known as the Terminator is the 2003 SVT Cobra. It earned its nickname and its place in history from its raw power and impressive muscle. Its 390-horsepower engine actually tested at 425. The Terminator's engine is among the most powerful in Mustang history, and one of the toughest ever to appear in a mainstream car.

2013 Boss 302
2013 Boss 302 by Sicnag (CC BY)

2013 Boss 302

Mustang is known for breathing life into old favorites, and that's what happened in 2013 when Ford introduced a new, and some would argue improved, Boss 302. There was actually a 2012 model that incorporated the same engine, but the 2013 model featured a host of amazing cosmetic upgrades, not the least of which were reflective racing stripes and a new paint finish.

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2013 Shelby GT500

2013 Shelby GT500

2013 was a banner year for Mustang fans, who witnessed the rebirth of another classic favorite: the Shelby GT500. Thanks to the arrival of giant Hellcat engines, the 2013 model is not the biggest, meanest muscle car on the block — but it's close. The beast puts out an impressive 662 horsepower. 

Mustang Mach-E


Yes, Ford finally made an all-electric Mustang. And there are plenty of Mustang purists who aren't happy with the Mach-E — not just because it's electric, but because its SUV-like body is a far cry from the classic muscle car. But like it or hate it, the Mach-E is no slouch, and the Performance Edition can go from 0 to 60 mph in 3.5 seconds. It recently beat out Tesla for Consumer Reports' top pick in electric vehicles, and it was named the Kelley Blue Book EV Best Buy of 2022 for its easygoing suspension, lack of road noise, interior layout, and ample legroom. Experts there say it's practical and fun to drive, earning it the moniker the "sports car of SUVs." Car and Driver also heaped on the praise, calling it "a transcendent SUV" — even if the name is "sacrilegious." 

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