25 Mustang facts that every enthusiast should know

When Lee Iacocca stood at the podium at the New York World’s Fair on April 13, 1964, he began by saying, ”Good morning, ladies and gentlemen, welcome to one of the proudest moments of our lives.”

Ford’s General Division Manager was about to introduce the world to the first Ford Mustang and he knew he had a hit on his hands. Although badged with horses, the new model was named for the World War II fighter plane and Ford sold more than 400,000 the first year, sending other automakers scrambling to conceive competition. The Mustang was such a smash it catapulted Iacocca to the Presidency of Ford later that year.

Since that famous press conference, the Mustang has become part of America’s culture, and Ford has sold over 10 million in the last 55 years. It’s a story that continues with the powerful Mustang ever, the 2020 Shelby GT500, hitting dealers in just a few months.

Here are 25 Mustang facts every enthusiast should know:

First Mustang with 300+ hp

1965 Shelby GT350
1965 Shelby GT350 Mecum

When the Mustang debuted in 1964, the hottest engine from Ford was the K-code 271-horsepower Hi-Po 289. Then Carroll Shelby stepped in at the request of Iacocca and created the Shelby GT350 Mustang, modifying the fastbacks at his facility in Los Angeles. The engines were hopped up with a larger 715-cfm Holley carburetor, an aluminum “Cobra hi-riser” intake manifold, headers, exhaust that exited in front of the Mustang’s rear tires and a larger, baffled Cobra aluminum oil pan. The cars were rated 306 hp at 4200 rpm. Just 522 street cars were built.

First Mustang with 500+ hp

We’re not sure how it happened, but Ford built the first 500-hp Mustang four years before the first 400-hp version. In 2007 the Supercharged 5.4-liter in the Shelby GT500 was rated 500 hp at 6000 rpm and 480 lb-ft of torque at 4500 rpm. It was the quickest and most powerful Mustang ever, at the time they were all built at Ford’s Flat Rock, Michigan, assembly plant. The 412-hp Coyote-powered Mustang GT didn’t arrive until 2011.

First Mustang with 600+ hp

In 2013, now with competition from the Chevy Camaro and Dodge Challenger, Ford cranked things up considerably and built the first Mustang with over 600 hp. It was again the supercharged Shelby GT500, now with 5.8 liters and power ratings of 662 hp at 6250 rpm and 631 lb-ft of torque at 4000 rpm. That was more horsepower than the Corvette ZR1 and it made the GT500 America’s most powerful muscle car ever. In a Car and Driver test that year, the GT500 accelerated from 0–60 mph in just 3.5 seconds. This was also the first Mustang Ford said could touch 200 mph.

First Mustang with 700+ hp

2020 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500
2020 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 Ford

At the Detroit Auto Show in January, Ford unveiled the most powerful and best performing Mustang ever, the 2020 Shelby GT500. To fight off Dodge’s 717-hp Challenger Hellcat and 797-hp Challenger Redeye, Ford has developed a new supercharged DOHC 5.2-liter V-8 that it says will make “700-plus” horsepower. That’s considerably more power than Ford has ever put in its GT supercars, and it’s more than twice the power of a 1968 428 CJ Mustang. This will also be the first Shelby Mustang only offered with an automatic transmission. The GT500 will use a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic sourced from Tremec.  

First Mustang with sequential turn signals

Although today’s Ford Mustang has sequential turn signals and many associate the cool feature with the model, the feature wasn’t really a Mustang thing until Ford added the feature in 2010. It was first introduced on Ford’s Thunderbird in 1964 and then the Mercury Cougar in ’67. They lasted on the T-Bird until 1970 and the Cougar until ’72. The first Mustang with sequential turn signals was the 1968 Shelby GT350 and GT500, because they were fitted with Thunderbird taillights. The lights remained on those models in 1969–70. Just 4450 Shelby Mustangs were built in 1968, while only 3751 were sold in 1969 and ’70.

First Mustang with four cylinders

Introduced in 1974, the downsized Mustang II was the first Mustang with just four cylinders. It was a 2.3-liter SOHC unit shared with the Ford Pinto. A 2.8-liter V-6 was optional. No V-8s were offered for the first time. In the Mustang, the four-banger was rated 88 hp. Yes, it’s the Mustang few want to remember, but the car was extremely popular at the time. Ford sold almost 386,000 the first year and it remained a hot seller until the Fox-body finally arrived in 1979.

First turbocharged Mustang

That naturally aspirated four-cylinder remained the Mustang’s standard engine until 1982, but in 1979 things were looking up, and the redesigned Fox-body Mustang got the model’s first turbocharged engine. It was that same 2.3-liter motor fitted with a Garrett AiResearch turbo, which drove its horsepower up from 118 to 132—pretty close to the 5.0-liter V-8’s output of 150 hp. In a Car and Driver test that year, a new Mustang Turbo with a four-speed manual hit 60 mph in 9.1 seconds and ran the quarter in 17.4 seconds at 82 mph. In the U.S., this engine lasted until 1982.

First supercharged Mustang

1966 Shelby GT350 with Paxton supercharger
1966 Shelby GT350 with Paxton supercharger Barrett-Jackson

In 1966, Carroll Shelby also created the first supercharged Ford Mustang. He built 11 GT350 fastbacks fitted with a Paxton Supercharger, which shoved boost through the factory 460-cfm carburetor. Shelby claimed the blower increased the power of the Ford’s Hi-Po 289 by 46 percent, taking it from 271 to 395 hp. Shelby considered making the blown GT350 a separate model, but ultimately it became a $670 option ($5300 in today’s money) that Shelby would add to the car at a customer’s request. The package included additional instrumentation. Shelby also sold the superchargers over the counter and he installed a handful on GT350s in 1967.

First 5.0-liter Mustang

Most people associate the 5.0-liter Mustang with the 1980s, while others point to today’s Coyote-powered Mustang GT. But the first Mustang with a 302-cubic-inch V-8 was introduced in 1968. Although high-performance versions of the engine would go on to power the Boss 302 Mustangs in 1969 and ’70, the three versions offered in 1968 were quite mild. The 302 was rated just 220 hp with a two-barrel carburetor and 230 hp with a four-barrel. In the 1968 Shelby GT350, the engine got a larger 600-cfm Holley and an aluminum intake to make 250 hp at 4800 rpm and 310 lb-ft of torque at 2800 rpm.

First Mustang with 15-inch wheels

Shelby’s 1965 GT350 was also the first Mustang with 15-inch wheels and tires. Stamped steel wheels were standard, but mags were optional. The GT350 tested by Car and Driver that year wore five-spoke versions from Kelsey-Hayes. Standard Mustangs rolled on 14s.

First Mustang with 16-inch wheels

1985 Ford Mustang SVO
1985 Ford Mustang SVO (Ford Motor)

In 1984, the turbocharged Mustang SVO, with its weird but cool dual plane rear spoiler, became the first Mustang to get 16-inch wheels. The Chevy’s Camaro and Pontiac Firebird didn’t get 16-inch wheels until 1985.

First Mustang with 17-inch wheels

The last of the Fox-body Mustangs was the first with 17-inch wheels and tires. The 1993 Ford Mustang Cobra wore 17×7.5-inch aluminum wheels wrapped in 245/45ZR17 Goodyears.

Least-powerful Mustang of all-time

The weakest of the breed is the 1975 Mustang II. That year the standard four-cylinder lost one horsepower from the year before, dropping to 87 hp.

First Cobra R Mustang

1993 Ford Mustang SVT Cobra R
1993 Ford Mustang SVT Cobra R

The first of three Cobra R Mustang models was also released in 1993. These cars also rode on 17-inch wheels and tires, but they were set up for road racing, with suspension modifications including Koni shocks, and Ford ditched the A/C, radio, insulation, and back seat to save weight. The engine remained the 235-hp 5.0-liter. Ford built just 107 and said the Cobra R could hit 60 mph in 5.7 seconds. One recently sold at Barrett-Jackson for $132,000, making it the most expensive Fox-body of all time.

Largest-engine Mustang of all-time

The largest-displacement engine ever offered in a Ford Mustang was 429 cubic inches. There were actually two very different engines offered with that displacement. The first was the Boss 429, installed by Kar Kraft in 1357 Mustangs in 1969 and ’70 to homologate the semi-hemi for NASCAR racing. This engine was rated 375 hp. Then, in 1971, Ford offered the more conventional 429 V-8 from the Torino. In the Mustang it was offered as the 370-hp 429 CJ and the 429 SCJ, which got more compression, a solid lifer camshaft, an aluminum intake, a larger 780 cfm Holley, and other goodies. Like the Boss 429, it was rated 375 hp.

Last Mustang with a solid-lifter V-8

Mustangs built in 1972 with the 351 H.O. engine were the last Mustangs ever built with solid lifter engines. It’s essentially the same engine used in the 1971 Boss 351 Mustangs, but with a lower compression ratio. The industry had also changed from “gross” horsepower ratings to “net” which, along with the drop in compression, lowered the engine’s power rating from 330 hp in 1971 to 270 hp in 1972. These are rare machines, just 396 1972 Mustangs were built with the 351 H.O.

Last Mustang with a 351 V-8

1995 Ford Mustang SVT Cobra R
1995 Ford Mustang SVT Cobra R Mecum

Although the 1971 Boss 351 was the final Mustang with solid lifters, it wasn’t the final 351-powered pony. In 1995, SVT brought back the 351 to power its second Cobra R model. The engine was fuel injected and featured a 9:1 compression ratio. It made 300 hp, which was considerable at the time, and was backed by a Tremec five-speed. Only 250 were built. Motor Trend tested one, hitting 60 mph in 5.2 seconds.

First Mustang with an OHC V-8

In 1996, after more than 30 years of use, Ford replaced its pushrod 5.0-liter V-8 with a single-overhead cam 4.6-liter unit, part of Ford’s new Modular engine family. This engine, which had just two valves per cylinder, was initially rated at 215 hp, but received a bump to 260 ponies for the 1999 mid-cycle refresh. It would go on to power all Mustang GT models until 2004. From 2005–10, the engine had three-valve heads and made 300+ hp.

First Mustang with DOHC V-8

Also in 1996, the Mustang SVT Cobra became the first Mustang with double overhead camshafts. The DOHC version of the Modular 4.6-liter made 305 hp. The design peaked in 2003 and ’04, when SVT switched to an iron block and added a supercharger. With the blower, the V-8 made 390 hp. Today, the naturally aspirated all-aluminum DOHC 5.0-liter Coyote in a Mustang GT is rated 460 hp.

First Mustang Indy pace car

A Ford Mustang has paced the Indianapolis 500 three times, in 1964, ’79, and ’94. The car that paced the 1964 event was a white convertible with a hopped-up GT40-spec 450-hp 289 and a modified suspension. The car was then used at Sebring International Raceway until 1974, when it was sold to a private buyer. It survives today and was up for sale in 2016. Asking price: $1.1 million. Ford sold 35 pace car convertible replicas and 185 pace car replica hardtops to the public in the Mustang’s first year of production.

Mustang’s best-selling model year

1965 Ford Mustang GT
1965 Ford Mustang GT Mecum

Although the Mustang was released in April 1964, and collectors refer to the first batch of cars as 1964.5 models, all first-year Mustangs are officially 1965 models. And that is Mustang’s best-selling model year, with 680,969 sold. Incredibly, 1966 comes in second with 607,568 sold. In 2018, Ford sold 75,842 Mustangs.

Mustang’s worst-selling model year

In 2009, Ford sold 46,619 Mustangs. Demand was down because everyone knew the all-new retro-styled 2010 Mustang was on the way, as well as the new retro-styled 2010 Camaro. The following year Ford sold 81,508 Mustangs, while Chevy sold 129,405 Camaros.

First Mustang with a functional hood scoop

The first Mustang with an open functional hood scoop was the 1965 Shelby GT350. Shelby added a fiberglass hood to the cars with an open scoop. The Mustang’s first factory-installed functional hood scoop was on the 1968 428 CJ models. Just 1299 were produced. In 1969, Ford began to offer a Shaker scoop on the Mach 1.

Most valuable Mustang

Carroll Shelby built four GT350 Convertibles in 1966, and they are now the most valuable production street Mustangs out there, worth an average of $740,000. One in #1 (Concours) condition is worth $946,000. With an average value of $372,000, the 1965 Shelby GT350 fastback is second, followed by the 1969 and ’70 Boss 429.

The First Mustang to win Motor Trend Car of the Year

You’d think the first Mustang to ever win Motor Trend Car of the Year would have been the 1965 model, or maybe the 1968. Nope, it was the 1974 Mustang II. The Ford would also win the award in 1994. Its rival, the Chevy Camaro, has also won the award twice, in 1982 and 2016.

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