I finally got Drive on DVD. It was a surprisingly good film, much better than I expected. The Mustang/300 chase scene got me thinking about Ford’s iconic coupe and how it has developed over the years. It’s been a rather amazing evolution.
It seems preposterous now, but some 25-odd years ago, Ford was set to put down its venerable pony. Citing poor sales and a soft performance car market, the Mustang of the mid-80s just didn’t make sense to the corporate bean counters. Thankfully, a consumer letter-writing campaign got the attention of someone high up the food chain that recognized the folly of this decision and took corrective action before the accountants totally fucked things up.
I’m glad they did, because Gosling would have looked just plain silly trying to outrun that big Chrysler in a Probe.
5 - 1964- 1/2 Mustang
No Top Mustang List can be complete without discussing the origin of the breed. True, the humble little ’64 was not particularly quick nor was it as good-looking as those models that would follow. That said, you simply cannot ignore the tremendous impact this car had on the domestic auto industry. Its success proved that the market was ready for a sporty, reasonably priced car, and Ford simply built the right car at the right time.
4 - 1987 Mustang GT
Laugh if you must, but this car started a revolution. The Fox body 5.0 had already been around for several years, mostly to the indifference of gear heads everywhere. EFI had become standard a year earlier, but when combined with a 25-horsepower bump, a bold nose job, some questionable body cladding, and a ridiculous pair of taillight covers, the GT was suddenly very much in demand. For the numbers conscious, the 5-liter LX was the way to go: Less weight, lower ETs and less dough. Either way, the 5.0 pumped out 225 horsepower and the most shit-eating grins for the buck in a long, long time.
3 - 1969 Boss 302
The 1969 mega-motor Boss 429 received the majority of the hype this year but it mostly didn’t deliver on the streets and therefore flopped on the sales floor. The Boss 302, however, flat-out performed. Conceived to conquer the SCCA Trans-Am series, it fell short in its first year of competition, but won the series championship with Parnelli Jones at the wheel in 1970. Designer Larry Shinoda ensured the production cars had the flash to match the dash. Built for just two model years, these are among best-looking and performing Mustangs of all time.
2 - 2007 Shelby GT500
Though the Cobra moniker had been ushered out with the fourth-generation’s final model year in 2004, SVT had no shortage of big ideas for the new fifth-generation Mustang. The GT500 was the most powerful Mustang built to date, and was loaded with performance and luxury equipment. All that extra crap is heavy and even though the car had 500 horses under the hood, it was a bit of a lumbering beast and so wasn’t quite the performer everyone expected. That’s okay, because it is the car that launched the initiative that led to the GT500KR and 2013’s rumored 650-horsepower monster.
1 - 2000 Cobra R
Ford didn’t build any Mustang Cobras in 2000. The fanatics at SVT took no notice of this detail and jumped in with both feet to build a lightweight, raucous, thoroughbred. Gutted of all superfluous equipment such as air conditioning, stereo system and rear seats, weight reduction was clearly a priority. Unequalled performance was the objective and the 5.4-liter DOHC V-8 churned out (wink, wink) 385 horsepower. The real number was on the happy side of 400. In the finest Ford tradition, the ’00 Cobra R was available in any color you like, so long as it was Performance Red. Just 300 copies of this no-compromise machine were minted.