13 October 2016

The S-Code Mustang is an overlooked value

Frequently overlooked by the scrum chasing mighty Cobra Jets and K-Code 289s is the 390-cid S-Code Mustang, produced with little fanfare in 1967-69. That relative lack of collectors’ attention may well make S-Code Mustangs the market’s unsung hero.

Although the 390-inch V-8 is roughly 165 pounds heavier than the thin-wall 289, its good breathing produced impressive output: up to 325 horsepower and 427 pound-feet of torque. That’s within spitting distance of the 428 Cobra Jet’s 335 hp and 440 lb-ft (spitting distance being 3.7 percent fewer horses and 3.0 percent less torque, assuming Ford’s rating methods for both engines were consistent).

Ford put the S-Code 390 in a good many Mustangs: 28,800 in 1967; 9,228 in ’68; and 10,464 in ’69. Yet their low profile in the market has resulted in values that are steady, less subject to whims of fad and fashion.

The 390 was based on the FE-series V-8s introduced in 1958 for Thunderbirds and Edsels. The FE-series persisted well into the 1970s, installed in everything from pickups to Cammer-powered drag cars and Le Mans-winning GT40s. It began flexing its muscle in the redesigned 1967 Mustang’s wider engine compartment.

Take, for example, an extensively optioned 1967 Mustang GTA notchback coupe built in Ford’s San Jose, Calif., plant. Finished in Sauterne Gold with a Light Ivy Gold vinyl interior, it had an automatic transmission (earning the GTA badge, a one-year-only designation for Mustangs), power steering, power front disc brakes, black vinyl roof, dual exhaust (standard with the 390 engine), GT wheels, BF Goodrich Radial T/A tires, bucket seats with center console, tilt-away steering column, exterior decor with hood scoop turn signal indicators and even factory air-conditioning.

It had been cosmetically restored to unusually high standards with only a few paint chips and rubs, a little patina to the replaced interior trim and upholstery, and a clean, crisp engine compartment.

It also had an auction history that demonstrated the S-Code’s value and consistency, substantiated by two different auction observers on different occasions, each rating it a 2- for condition.

At the Branson Fall auction in 2014 it sold for $37,530, including buyer’s commission. Six months later, at Mecum’s Kansas City auction, it went unsold at a bid of $40,000, then sold a month later at Mecum’s Spring Classic in Indianapolis for $38,340 with commission. At Mecum’s Houston auction in April of 2016 it was bid to $35,000 without selling, but it found a more responsive audience at Mecum’s 2016 Spring Classic, where it hammered sold for $42,900 including commission.

That is a significant value compared, for example, with a 428 cid/335-horse SportsRoof Mach 1, which can bring twice as much in comparable condition. The Hagerty Price Guide assigns a 46.4% premium to the Mach 1 over a 390 GT in 1968, a big difference from the 3.7% and 3.0% premium in horsepower and torque.

Value is subjective, but the fun that a 390 S-Code Mustang provides is on par with its more renowned stable-mates at about half the cost.

13 Reader Comments

  • 1
    Richard Zahnter Lake Hughes, Calif. October 17, 2016 at 16:18
    As a 17 year old, I bought a brand-new 390GT, 4 speed, Highland green, black interior fastback. The Bullit car of the '68 year model. No air, no power steering, but did have a great stero and disc brakes. Couldn't steer it, couldn't stop it,--- but it was sure fun to drive. Paid about $2800 and sold two years later for $1800. Those were the days---!
  • 2
    Paul M Ohio October 17, 2016 at 16:25
    I'm not sure why or how two different year/models are being compared in value but yes, you're obviously going to see a difference between a '69 or '70 Mach 1 428 fastback vs a '68 390 GT fastback (I do own one of the later). The combo of the 428 ci & Mach 1 will do that every time on similar condition cars. BTW, my first car was a '70 Boss 302 (Calypso Coral).
  • 3
    David & Carol Grant Marysville, Washington October 18, 2016 at 01:52
    We own a 68 Ford Mustang, straight six, 200 CC, coupe, meadowlark yellow--original color but not original paint (It has been painted once) Can't find a value for this model. it has 306K miles on it, and the engine has been rebuilt. We just had power steering and power brakes put on it, and have new carpet, front seat covers, and new bumper on it. Otherwise it is stock. can anyone help me find a value for it?
  • 4
    Ron Stanley California October 18, 2016 at 17:52
    I purchased a new 1968 Ford Fairlane 500 hardtop with a 390 ci .cruiseomatic, and a posie rear end that I wish that I had today as it was one of the best/fun to drive cars I have ever owned.
  • 5
    Larry Pack Michigan October 19, 2016 at 07:39
    No question that the S-code cars are overlooked. My son bought a 1967 390 four speed fastback in Alcopuco Blue 10 years ago for 21,500. The car is beautiful and stock. It's docile in traffic but very fast. Even the Paragon Corvette shop owner, Steve Childs, said he had no idea a Mustang could be so quick and fun to drive. The four speed cars command more value now.
  • 6
    Mike GA October 19, 2016 at 20:14
    Nice car but those auctions sales prices seem record #s for a 67 GTA 399 coupe. I'd like to see a Marti report for it. Why does it have GTA stripes and badges AND standard Mustang emblems?
  • 7
    Charles Holzer Lebanon Pa October 22, 2016 at 12:22
    Good to know the values are hopefully steady as I need to sell mine!
  • 8
    Steve Hendersonville NC October 30, 2016 at 20:09
    The 325-335 HP 390's of that era were known to be overrated HP wise, the 335 HP Cobra Jets were thought to put out more like 400 HP. Major underrating. Two different animals.
  • 9
    Andy Jackson Lebanon, NJ November 20, 2016 at 20:22
    Having grown up in that era, the 390''s were considered to be a bit of a dog. They came with truck intake, heads, and cams. They were known for great low end torque (perfect for truck or towing duties) but quickly ran out breath around 4000 rpm. Put a set of ported or better aluminum aftermarket heads on along with a more aggressively lobed cam and matching intake and it's a whole different story.
  • 10
    Ed Cain Atl.Ga. January 15, 2017 at 00:24
    Didn't t HAVE TO ALIUMINIZE THE HEADS TO GET POWER BETTER POWER OUT OF THE 69-70 S CODE 390'S.SIMPLY MILL THE HEADS & ADD PETROMIX DISTR.JUMPS THE H P. UP TO 345-350& CHANGING THE REAR GEARS TO 3.50 -3.70.REALLY HELPED THE GIDDY UP & IF THAT WASN' T ENOUGH, 3X2'S MADE IT ALMOST EQUAL TO A 428,EXCEPT TORQUEWISE.
  • 11
    Bill Osprey Fla February 9, 2017 at 15:22
    I have an S code GTA. Looks and runs like new. Extensive frame off restoration. 1 of 1 as per Marti report. Been offered $52,500 but would need to get a little more before I sold it. Many options including fac air/ decor interior/ overhead console and more
  • 12
    Bill Australia March 18, 2017 at 18:06
    Can anyone tell me the total number of 1968 GT S code Fastbacks were built in Highland Green
  • 13
    Merstrand Denmark March 18, 2017 at 06:42
    I own a 68 S-Code Fastback - restored, in Europe they sell for 60 - 80.000 USD in good condition, and the Bullit hype adds further to that - I have BBM heads stan FPA headers etc. doing 450 HP

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