As cheap Mustangs go, these are the 5 to corral
People like to poop on Mustangs for all sorts of reasons, but one popular refrain is that they’re a dime a dozen. Sure, fine, they’re not rare cars, and by August 2018 Ford had built 10 million of the things. But there’s something to be said for democratizing performance, and anyone who has ever mashed the throttle of a V-8 Mustang has done so gladly and with a smile on their face.
Over the years there have been plenty of rare variants, and those tend to bring big bucks and occasionally make headlines when they come up for sale. No Mustang has brought bigger bucks than the 1968 Highland Green 390 fastback from the movie Bullitt, which sold for $3.74 million in January 2020. But it’s the run-of-the-mill Mustangs that make for easy access and touch the lives of the most people. And while Mustang ownership is technically easiest with a slushbox-shifting base-model with as few cylinders as possible, enthusiasts are after a bit of V-8 kick and they’re willing to fork over a few extra dollars to get it.
Still keeping both V-8 and value in mind, here are the cheapest eight-cylinder Mustangs by generation (we price the first through fifth gens) and #2 condition (Excellent), value in the Hagerty Price Guide.
First gen (1965–73): 1970 Mustang Coupe, $18,100
With a few minor updates (notably a return to single headlights), the 1970 Mustang was largely a carryover from ’69, and Ford built nearly 191,000 of them for the model year. Nine different engines were offered, including a pair of sixes, 428- and 429-cubic-inch big-blocks, and the new 351 Cleveland V-8, a $48 option. The base V-8 coupe, however, with its two-barrel 302 making 220 horsepower, slots in as the most affordable V-8 of the bunch today. Cars equipped with an automatic offer a slight discount, but then where’s the fun in that?
Second gen (1974–78): 1975 Mustang II Coupe, $14,100
Many enthusiasts view the Mustang II as a dim, dim light in the Dark Ages of American performance cars. One of the more generous views is that it was “the right car at the right time.” It was a car, alright, but in those post-performance years, this pioneering pony car served a different master: economy.
As such, the II was smaller than its predecessor in every way. Little changed inside or outside the car during its production run but, mercifully, a 5.0-liter V-8 joined the 2.8-liter V-6 and 2.3-liter four on the spec sheet for 1975. With 8.0:1 compression and 122 horsepower, it was nothing to write home about even in the mid-1970s, and we’re pretty certain no one ever did. For a very long time, these were $5500 cars, but since late 2020, values have skyrocketed, relatively speaking. Still, the V-8 Mustang II coupe slots in as the most affordable of the era.
Third gen (1979–93): 1987 Mustang 5.0 LX Coupe, $16,600
What a trooper the Fox-body Mustang was. Few cars soldier on for so long yet still sell like gangbusters. In fact, by the time production ended after that 15-year run, about 2.7 million of them had hit the road—that’s a Fox-body Mustang for every citizen of Botswana.
As for the ’87 model, there were big changes. For starters, the Mercury Capri went away, as did the turbocharged SVO Mustang, as did the V-6 option, which left only LX and GT Mustangs with four (yuck!) or eight (yay!) cylinders. Front and rear fascias were updated, aero-look headlights showed the way, and lower bodyside moldings framed the Mustang in a more Euro fashion. An LX will always lack the cachet of a GT, so it’s no surprise they are the cheaper option among enthusiasts today. But—spoiler alert!—you still get a five-speed manual and that great 5.0 with its 225 hp and 300 lb-ft of torque, so we’d hardly call this a loss.
Fourth gen (1994–2004): 1996 Mustang GT, $11,800
The venerable 5.0 V-8 soldiered on in the first couple years of production of the Mustang’s SN95 generation, but it was replaced with Ford’s new overhead cam 4.6-liter Modular unit for 1996. Despite being smaller, the more refined engine made the same power while delivering better fuel economy and reduced emissions. The change made plenty of people grumpy, which may account for the ’96 slotting in as not only the cheapest Mustang of the generation, but the cheapest V-8 Mustang overall.
For how long is anyone’s guess; values have been flat for a decade but that could mean an opportunity for collectors in the near future. In a model year that offered the potent Cobra and the crazy Mystic paint job, this regular old GT may seem pretty plain, but it’ll still put a smile on your face.
Fifth Gen (2005–14): 2005 Mustang GT, $22,700
The Mustang got a ground-up redo for 2005, with a new chassis, throwback styling, and an all-aluminum 4.6-liter V-8 featuring variable camshaft timing and making a quite respectable 300 hp and 320 lb-ft—enough to propel the car to 60 mph in 5.1 seconds. To the surprise of many, Ford kept the Mustang’s solid rear axle but vastly upgraded the ancient four-link way it had been tended to, with improved shocks, softer springs, and control arms that benefited from the addition of a Panhard rod. In short, the new Mustang was fast and it handled itself well. If those things are important to you, it’s probably well worth your time to seek one out, especially because values have been on the rise for the last 24 months.