Worst and Greatest Ford Mustangs

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Automobile and Driver

Because the seventh-generation Mustang seems on the horizon, nearly to make its debut in Detroit, our editors could not assist having a look again at 57 years and 6 Mustang generations to commemorate their favourite and least favourite variations. Learn on for the Worst and Greatest:

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Gen 1 (1965–1973) Worst: Base Mannequin

We do not like poser automobiles. Sorry, however the early-production base mannequin of the first-generation Mustang was one. Sporty-looking but meek, it was little greater than the Falcon economic system automobile that it was primarily based on. The entry-level Mustang slow-walked by life courtesy of a sleepy 170-cubic-inch, 101-hp inline-six and a three-speed guide transmission that lacked the comfort of synchromesh on first gear—making for a gear-crunching wince fest when driving within the metropolis. Its comfortable suspension, gradual and heavy steering, and weak drum brakes had been finest suited to trundling right down to the native A&W for burgers slightly carving up again roads or difficult Pontiac GTOs at stoplights. However not less than it seemed cool. —Rich Ceppos

It could be straightforward to say that each first-generation Mustang was the most effective Mustang as a result of America fell onerous for the unique pony automobile the second it was launched on April 17, 1964, on the New York World’s Honest. Greater than 418,000 Mustangs had been offered within the first 12 months of manufacturing. Two variations, nonetheless, reared again and bucked their means into the hearts of fans. The primary was the high-performance mannequin outfitted with the Ok-code hi-po 289-cubic-inch V-8, which made 271 horsepower at a lofty 6000 rpm. It got here solely with a four-speed guide transmission, a particular dealing with package deal, and 15-inch wheels—which had been means cool as a result of they had been painted black and had been freed from hubcaps. Past the hi-po, there was the opposite finest first-gen Mustang: the close-to-a-race car GT350 (pictured), a fastback Stang muscled up by Shelby American with a stiff suspension, sticky tires, alloy wheels, and a model of the 289 that bellowed out a claimed 306 horsepower.—Rich Ceppos

Gen 2 (1974–1978) Worst: Mustang II

I wrote this over Labor Day weekend, with a gaggle of car-loving pals consuming beer within the room whereas I labored. When requested, “What is the worst Mustang II?” a number of shouted out, “All of them.” One mentioned, “What’s a Mustang II?” after which, on wanting it up, mentioned, “Oh man, that is a horrible automobile.” I am going to try to mount a protection once we get to Greatest, however for worst, let’s say, the 1974 four-cylinder coupe, picked due to its mixture of poor street presence—actually, the coupes appear like they’re sagging straight off the dealership ground, Ghia designed or not—and tacky 87-hp efficiency. Principally, although, I am selecting the primary yr as a result of it launched a era of Mustang that, whereas financially good for Ford, was spiritually dangerous for the horse’s shallowness. Additionally, 1974 was the one yr the Mustang was ever provided with out a V-8 choice, and that was simply improper. —Elana Scherr

Greatest: Mustang II King Cobra (1978)

Lee Iacocca had a dilemma in 1973: Continue to grow the Mustang, which by that time was already approaching mid-size-car territory, or shrink it again down and provide one thing that addressed client fears about gas mileage and the rising price of residing. The Mustang II is a superb disappointment to performance-loving Ford followers, however Mustang is the one one of many pony automobiles to brag an unbroken line from introduction to current day, which it couldn’t have performed if it had stored rising and gasoline guzzling just like the Challenger and the Camaro. The Mustang II can be helpful as a supply of straightforward, light-weight unbiased entrance suspension and rack-and-pinion steering for customized automobile builds, and plenty of a show-winning Deuce or road rod benefited from Ford’s chassis decisions. In terms of finest, I’ll go along with the 1978 King Cobra Mustang II. It was nonetheless gradual, taking greater than 10 seconds to get to 60 mph, nevertheless it got here with a V-8, has a number of the wildest hood graphics of any automobile save the Trans Am, and, maybe better of all, signaled the top of its era. —Elana Scherr

Gen 3 (1979–1993) Worst: 4.2-Liter V-8

It was the most effective of instances, it was the . . . no, it was simply the worst. Amid the second gas disaster of the Nineteen Seventies, producers did all they may to stretch a gallon of gasoline. For the Mustang, this meant a shrunken V-8. For the 1980 mannequin yr, Ford decreased the bore diameter of the 4.9-liter V-8 (extra generally known as the 5.0) to create the 4.2-liter. The horsepower output was so repulsive that Ford wouldn’t embrace it within the press supplies. The 4.2-liter produced 118 horsepower, making it the least highly effective V-8 Mustang ever to be produced. We by no means had the chance to check one, however relaxation assured, it wouldn’t have been spectacular. —David Beard

The final of the Fox-bodies and the primary automobile from the Particular Car Group (SVT) is arguably the most effective of the bunch, and with simply 107 Vibrant Pink hatchbacks constructed, it’s one of many rarest fashions conceived. (The one proven right here was listed for auction on Carry a Trailer in 2021.) The 1993 Ford Mustang Cobra R was powered by a 235-hp 4.9-liter V-8, and SVT ensured measures had been taken to make it a devoted monitor automobile. The Cobra R made do with out a radio, air-con, a rear seat, and gutted the rear carpet and sound deadening materials. It additionally had guide home windows, door locks, and mirrors. The bucket seats from the Mustang LX had been used rather than the heavier Cobra seats, and when it was all mentioned and performed, a claimed 450 kilos had been eliminated. However many of the weight can be added again in with strategic {hardware} similar to bigger brake rotors, strut tower and subframe bracing, stiffer springs, adjustable dampers, a bigger radiator, and an influence steering and engine oil cooler. The Cobra R would spawn once more in 1995 and for the ultimate time in 2000. —David Beard

Gen 4 (1994–2004) Worst: V-6 Coupe

Once we in contrast the base 1994 Mustang in opposition to a recent Camaro, we mentioned that the engine “drones considerably reluctantly” and the shifter’s throws had been “lengthy and ponderous” and that “you’ll be sad to find that the automobile’s reside axle is definitely led astray.” And people had been a number of the nicer sentiments. At present, a base Mustang is a decent efficiency automobile in its personal proper, however in 1994 the V-6 Mustang existed primarily for rental fleets and as an upsell on wheels—drive one and also you’d certainly work out the right way to afford a GT. Its engine’s specs (145 hp at 4000 rpm) learn like they belong to a small diesel slightly than a pony-car V-6, and this automobile wore probably the saddest three-spoke wheels ever foisted on the car-buying public. How dangerous was it? Unhealthy sufficient to lose a comparability check to a V-6 Camaro. However even that automobile might have been worse: It might have been an automated. —Ezra Dyer

Ford despatched out the Fox platform in a supercharged blaze of glory with the 2003 SVT Cobra, which introduced a blown 390-hp V-8 and unbiased rear suspension to the celebration. Though this Mustang nonetheless used a platform relationship to 1979, the brand new {hardware} was good for a 4.5-second zero-to-60-mph time and a 12.9-second quarter-mile at 111 mph—legit numbers even right this moment. The identical goes for its 0.90 g of stick and skill to deal with midcorner bumps with out the rear finish heading for the guardrail. Positive, you smashed your knuckles on the sprint shifting to 3rd, however such is the value of Fox-body greatness. So why is the 2004 mannequin higher than the 2003? Since you might get it in color-shifting Mystichrome paint, the final word early-2000s Mustang flex. —Ezra Dyer

Gen 5 (2005–2014) Worst: Base Mannequin with V-6

Ford lovers rejoiced with the arrival of the fifth-generation Mustang in 2005. The fourth-gen mannequin however, Gen 5 was the primary all-new Mustang since 1979. Based mostly on the brand new D2C platform and with taut styling that concurrently seemed fashionable whereas recalling the horny fastbacks of the Sixties, it was an excellent success. However Ford spent most of its cash on the brand new platform and physique. The engines had been just about carryover, specifically the bottom mannequin’s 4.0-liter V-6, which was borrowed from the Explorer, and traced its heritage to a 2.0-liter German V-6 from 1964. That base mannequin wanted 6.6 seconds to get to 60 mph, ambled by the quarter in 15.3 at 93 mph, and will muster a mere 114 mph, even with a guide. This era received a helpful mid-cycle refresh in 2010, so clearly the worst of the bunch are the pre-refresh automobiles with the hoary V-6. —Csaba Csere

Gen 5 Mustang GTs began out with a carryover V-8, a three-valve, 4.6-liter model of Ford’s “modular” V-8. It had 300 horsepower, which we might have killed for again in Gen 3, however was run-of-the-mill in 2005. However in 2011, the Mustang received the primary “Coyote” V-8. Displacing 5.0 liters and gainfully using double over head cams and 4 valves per cylinder, this jewel of an engine developed 412 horsepower and immediately elevated the GT’s efficiency. A few years later, Ford extracted 444 ponies from the Coyote and plugged it in a mannequin known as the Boss 302, which was a worthy successor to the 1969 authentic. Coupled with the Laguna Seca package deal, which upgraded the chassis, and revving to 7500, the Boss hit 60 in 4.2 seconds, scorched the quarter in 12.7 at 111 mph, and went on to 161 mph. It additionally cornered at 0.96 at stopped from 70 in 150. It’s unquestionably the category of the fifth era. —Csaba Csere

Gen 6 (2015–2023) Worst: “Bullitt” Mustang

Vehicles being so usually good these days, there are not any “worst” Mustangs. Even so, I don’t know why anybody would purchase a Bullitt (pictured) or base EcoBoost. Ford needed nothing to do with the movie Bullitt, making the cartoonish badging, retro wheels, and two colour decisions the least attention-grabbing form of throwback at an uninteresting worth. Re the EcoBoost, its lowball MSRP can’t excuse its featureless and profound dullness, and including sufficient choices to flee the ennui—just like the Excessive Efficiency package deal—places one within the pecuniary orbit of the V-8. Which is the place everybody ought to begin, anyway. —Jonathon Ramsey

The best driver’s automobiles occur when engineers make the most effective compromises throughout improvement. Probably the most thrilling driver’s automobiles for each day use on on a regular basis roads require one compromise: guide transmissions. The Mustang Shelby GT350 was the majestic accumulation of such give-and-take. Ford put the 5.2-liter V-8’s shrieking diablerie proper there within the identify: “Voodoo.” That noise! The circuit suppleness! That Tremec! These brakes! In contrast to the GT500, the GT350 didn’t appear like a menace to kith and kin. And in the event you stepped as much as the 350R, Ford’s blacksmiths shod the horse in carbon-fiber footwear. Even legendary eponymous horse dealer Carroll Shelby would have mentioned, “Nicely, I will be.” We actually did. Greater than as soon as. —Jonathon Ramsey

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