Tom Shaw
March 10, 2016

With all the great Mustangs built over the years, which is the fastest? 428? 289 Hi-Po? Boss 429? Boss 302 A fine can of worms it is, and one we’re happy to open up. But rather than relying on the opinions of polls, old magazine road tests, or learned sages, we’re going to let actual data do the talking—data from the Pure Stock Drags, a terrific race for very original, restored muscle cars (see sidebar for details) held every September in central Michigan for over 20 years. We’ve sifted through the official results, culled the best elapsed times from participating Mustangs, and compiled the top 10 here for your amusement and outrage.

First, a couple of things. Not every configuration of Mustang has run at the Pure Stock Drags, so there are some holes in the data. For example, there are no Boss 429s on this list because none have participated. Not one in 21 years of racing. Early Shelbys are considered batch-built too; 1968s and later may be allowed, but so far the question has not come up. Crazy, yes, but that’s the situation.

Speaking of reality, these e.t.’s are real. The race results here have not been doctored, dinked with, massaged, tweaked, optimized, adjusted, or any of that hanky-panky. Every car gets a tech inspection, and the cars run what they run, for better or worse. Every e.t. is 100 percent legit.

A few critics complain that the cars at the Pure Stock Drags are too modified. The rulebook allows for reasonable overbores, low-restriction air cleaners, contemporary mufflers (but they must be original oval style with inlet and outlet in the OEM location), and a few similar but minor nods to modern reality. Like race founder Dan Jensen said, “This isn’t 1970 anymore.” Almost every engine has had a rebuild and cylinder service—there are very few standard-bore blocks around anymore. But the Pure Stock Drags requires factory-sized street tires, and that’s the great equalizer. Even the most powerful cars have to work through OEM-sized tires. The bottom line: Almost nothing is totally stock anymore, but the Pure Stock Drags is very close—the closest we know of.

So with the pregame out of the way, here are the 10 Fastest Mustangs taken from 21 years of action at the Pure Stock Drags.


10: 1972 SportsRoof, 14.87 @ 95.66 (2009)

Owner: Dale Wells
Engine: 351 4V
Horsepower: 266 @ 5,400
Torque: 301 @ 3,600
Transmission: 4-speed
Axle: 4.11:1
Weight: 3600 lb

Dale Wells is a Detroit-area guy who goes way back with Ford. As a young enthusiast, he used to sneak into the Ford proving grounds because they’d escort him out through the garage where the experimental cars were stored. Wells makes the Top 10 with his 351-powered 1972 SportsRoof, which cracked the 15-second barrier thanks in part to digger gears and some sharp shifting on the four-speed. Surprised? Here’s more. The 266hp 351 is not even the top option, and his timeslips show that another two- or three-tenths could probably be trimmed from his 60-foot times. With some tuning and practice behind the wheel, even the plain, low-compression, SportsRoof Mustangs can get it done on the dragstrip.


9: 1966 fastback, 14.61 @ 94.08 (2013)

Owner: Mark Weymouth
Engine: 289 High Performance
Horsepower: 271 @ 6,000
Torque: 312 @ 3,400
Transmission: 4-speed
Axle: 3.89:1
Weight: (car not weighed)

Mark Weymouth is a regular at the Pure Stock Drags and has extensive experience with many types of muscle cars. In 2013 he brought this sharp 1966 fastback with the High-Performance 289, a horsepower engine compared to the torque engines that power most of the cars at the Pure Stock Drags, and put together a superb 14.61 e.t. with a trap speed of 94.08. Weymouth gets the nimble fastback off the line well and revs it hard in each gear. That’s where the Hi-Po loves to make power—enough to challenge or surpass the performance of some big-name big-blocks and nail down the ninth spot in this 10 Fastest list.


8: 1970 Mach 1, 14.57 @ 97.22 (2005)

Owner: Michael Cannon
Engine: 428 Cobra Jet
Horsepower: 335 @ 5,200
Torque: 440 @ 3,400
Transmission: 4-speed
Axle: 4.30:1
Weight: 3700 lb

Michael Cannon showed up in 2005 with this 1970 Mach 1 and landed in the eighth spot on the 10 Fastest list with a 14.57 blast, giving the list its first taste of 428 Cobra Jet power. Equipped with steep 4.30:1 gears and a heavy-duty Top-Loader four-speed, Cannon’s Bright Yellow Mach 1 was well configured for maximum acceleration. It is common practice among Pure Stock Drags racers to make big strides in improving their e.t.’s as they return year after year, which makes us wonder why Cannon was a one-year-only guy. As we ponder that, we also tip our hat to a first-timer who stepped up and made his mark.


7: 1971 SportsRoof, 13.52 @ 103.95 (2009)

Owner: Bob Lovell
Engine: 429 CJ-R
Horsepower: 375 @ 5,400
Torque: 450 @ 3,400
Transmission: automatic
Axle: 4.11:1
Weight: 3,672 lb

Now we take a giant-sized jump—more than a full second—and land smack in the middle of the 13-second range, courtesy of Bob Lovell and his high-powered 1971 SportsRoof. The 429 wedge forever lives in the shadow of the exotic Boss 429, but you’ll notice that our 10 Fastest list has multiple 429 wedges and zipiddy-zero Boss 429s. So let’s show the 429 wedge some love, huh?

Lovell’s Pewter Silver 1971 has the near-perfect setup for dragstrip domination; automatic trans for consistently strong holeshots, whiplash rear gears, and massive cubic inches. It’s also not weighed down with the Mach 1 extras, which save around 130 pounds according to factory specs. The old racer’s rule of thumb is that 100 pounds changes your e.t. by about a tenth of a second.

One more thing—Lovell’s SportsRoof is also the first on our Fastest Mustangs list to crack the 100 mph terminal speed. Huzzah!


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6: 1971 hardtop, 13.23 @ 106.13 (2014)

Owner: Bill Kulenkamp
Engine: 429 CJ-R
Horsepower: 370 @ 5,400
Torque: 450 @ 3,400
Transmission: automatic
Axle: 3.50:1
Weight: 3,834 lb

On paper, Bill Kulenkamp’s Springtime Special 1971 hardtop shouldn’t be faster than Bob Lovell’s SportsRoof. It has the same factory horsepower rating, but less gear, and 162 more pounds (Pure Stock Drags cars are weighed as-raced, with driver). The hardtop is less aerodynamic. But it is faster. Why? This we know: Kulenkamp is a seasoned pilot of 429 cars, having regularly raced his crazy-rare 1971 Torino 500 Brougham hardtop, also powered by a 429 CJ-R (yes, it’s factory). On top of that, before Kulenkamp installed it, this 429 was carefully tuned on a dyno, where it peaked at 421 hp at 5,300 rpm, and the torque peaked at 457 pound feet at 3,300 rpm. Stout, eh? Could the mighty hardtop shave a few tenths with more gear? Maybe, but for now it’s got the No. 6 spot sewn up tight.


5: 1971 Boss 351, 13.10 @ 108.64 (2011)

Owner: Benoit Holloway
Engine: 351 HO
Horsepower: 330 @ 5,400
Torque: 370 @ 4,000
Transmission: 4-speed manual
Axle: 4.56:1
Weight: 3,640 lb

It’s always an event when Benoit (pronounced ben-WAH) rolls into the burnout box because nobody smokes ’em like Big Ben. Benoit, who hails from Northern Louisiana, is another regular racer who enjoys muscle cars of different brands and seems to excel in all. He knows how to put the spurs to a race horse, making him just the guy to pilot a Boss 351, the midway point in the Boss Mustang trilogy (302/351/429). Packed with free-flowing power and set up with 4.56:1 gears, his 1971 comes off the line like a slingshot, fenders high, and three shifts later breaks the beams with e.t.’s in the very low 13s and trap speed pushing 110 mph—plenty fast to carve up lots of big-inch rivals with lofty reputations.

By the way, what’s the deal with Pewter Silver 1971s? We’ve got a trio of them here, back to back to back.


4: 1970 Boss 302, 12.84 @ 109.07 (2014)

Owner: Mark Weymouth
Engine: Boss 302
Horsepower: 290 @ 5,800
Torque: 290 @ 4,300
Transmission: 4-speed manual
Axle: 4.86:1
Weight: 3,424 lb

Move over, big-blocks, and make way for Mark Weymouth’s ragin’ Boss 302. With just 302 ci, this giant-killer strikes deep into the 12s. You’ve gotta love how it ignores the popular options like slats, rear wing, Magnum 500 wheels, and power assists in favor of concentrating on the Boss 302’s true (and huge) dragstrip potential. A scholar of the quarter-mile who configured this Mustang for acceleration, Weymouth’s a hatchet man on the tree and can get the mighty Boss off the line with 60-foot times under two seconds. From there, he follows the same formula that put his 1966 Hi-Po fastback on the 10 Fastest list: Steer straight and let ’er rev way up into the sweet spot of the powerband, way up there where big-blocks fear to tread.


3: 1969 Mach 1, 12.78 @ 109.28 (2004)

Owner: Tom Artes
Engine: 428 Cobra Jet Ram Air
Horsepower: 335 @ 5,200
Torque: 440 @ 3,400
Transmission: Automatic
Axle: 3.91:1
Weight: 3,595 lb

Here’s a crowd favorite that hit the heights over a decade ago and still holds down the third spot on this 10 Fastest Mustangs list. Tom Artes’ so-fine 1969 Mach 1 is a well-preserved original, still in its factory Candyapple Red enamel. The 428 Cobra Jet engine has never been rebuilt. Artes has a mechanical mind, and has made a few key tweaks to the suspension to better utilize the 428’s whoppin’ torque punch. He was also very careful in putting together the exhaust system joints, and it rewarded him with a 12.78 e.t. that has held up well and made him the fastest Ford for several years. From the No. 3 spot onward, the 10 Fastest Mustangs list belongs to the 428 Cobra Jet power exclusively, and Artes’ mighty Mach 1 shows why.


2: 1968 GT Fastback, 12.54 @ 108.99 (2007)

Owner: Wayne Nelson
Engine: 428 Cobra Jet Ram Air
Horsepower: 335 @ 5,200
Torque: 440 @ 3,400
Transmission: Automatic
Axle: 3.91:1
Weight: 3,662 lb

You knew a 1968 R-code GT had to be high up on the 10 Fastest Mustangs list, right? Since blowing away the field at the 1968 Winternationals in Pomona, the 428 CJ-powered 1968 GT earns its place at the front of the pack, scoring one of the best power-to-weight ratios in muscle car history.

Wayne Nelson will tell you that there’s no secret to making a 428 Cobra Jet run. Keep it stock, and make sure everything—carb, ignition advance, tire pressure—is set up right and tuned for your track conditions and prevailing weather, then let the engine do its thing. With the 428 CJ, stock is trick. Mid-12s confirm the GT as an all-time heavy-hitter, and consistent 1.9-second 60-footers show its explosive power. Watching Nelson rocket off the line and shut down some of the revered A-list supercars is a thing of beauty forever.


1: 1969 hardtop, 12.51 @ 110.81 (2009)

Owner: Steve Vanderwall
Engine: 428 Cobra Jet Ram Air
Horsepower: 335 @ 5,200
Torque: 440 @ 3,400
Transmission: Automatic
Axle: 4.11:1
Weight: 3,657 lb

At the top of Mustang Mountain is Steve Vanderwall’s austere 1969 Cobra Jet hardtop. Would you have picked this car as your winner? Vanderwall hashad his share of mechanical issues over the years, but he has hung in there. In 2009, he ran the 12.51 during the Pure Stock Drags’ Friday test and tune. Vanderwall sticks to the winning recipe: Start with the lightest body style; go el strippo with no extras; use deep, launch-friendly rear gears; and prevent missed shifts with an automatic transmission. Of the four 428 CJ cars on this 10 Fastest Mustangs list, Vanderwall’s is the only one to break 110 mph. This will likely stand as the 1969’s best e.t., as Vanderwall is planning to debut a 1968 GT of his own this year. Advance info is that sparks will fly and records will fall.

See you at the Pure Stock Drags in September, the second weekend after Labor Day.


What Are the Pure Stock Drags?

Founded in 1994 by Dan Jensen and Bob Boden, the Pure Stock Muscle Car Drag Race (PSMCDR or Pure Stock Drags for short) is a Friday and Saturday event held in Central Michigan at the Mid-Michigan Motorplex, Stanton, Michigan. It is open to American (or Canadian) muscle cars built from 1955 to 1974 and is intended to showcase original and restored muscle cars in stock and very near stock condition. Friday is test and tune, and all runs are averaged. On Saturday, cars are paired with the car running the next-closest elapsed time for a best-two-out-of-three shootout. That way, no matter how fast or slow you are, you’re running your closest competitor. The goal of the family-friendly weekend is to have fun and improve. The pits are fun and open, the racers are happy to talk about how they go fast. There’s plenty of tire-spinning, gear-slamming, high-revvin’ action.

More info can be found at psmcdr.com.

A Call to Mustangers

The Pure Stock Drags has seen some Mustangs over the years, but lately our beloved Mustangs have been underrepresented. So consider this your personal invitation to participate this September. Have some high-octane fun, and let your Mustang get a taste of the track. Turns out that the best car show is actually a race.

What: Pure Stock Muscle Car Drag Race
Where: Mid-Michigan Motorplex, Stanton, Mich.
When: Sept. 16 & 17, 2016
Rules and info: psmcdr.com

Speculation on the Boss 429

The vaunted Boss 429 Mustang is MIA from this 10 Fastest Mustangs, probably because these cars are too valuable to collectors and so much money has been sunk into their restoration efforts that the owners are no doubt completely uninterested in beating on their six-figure Mustangs on the dragstrips and risking dirt, rock chips, broken driveline parts, and, worst of all, hitting the wall and wrinkling all that precious NOS sheetmetal. Nevertheless, we’re curious what those cars ran like when new, void of decades of bench racing memories that often make a car faster with every conversation about it.

The most accurate data we can find that relates to the Pure Stock Drags Mustangs listed in this story is taken from a Motor Trend magazine test in its April 1970 issue, when the editors compared a Mach 1, a Boss 302, and a mighty Boss-9 at the dragstrip. Similar to the Mustangs discussed above, this Boss 429 had been prepped specifically for the dragstrip with a blueprinted engine, different gears, open headers sans mufflers, and perhaps even stickier tires (not mentioned in MT’s story, but if used they would put it at a distinct advantage over any Pure Stock car). The car had been set up for B/Stock racing by Chuck Foulger, former head of Ford’s drag racing activities at the time and owner of a successful Southern California dealership. It ran the quarter in 12.3 at 112 mph. Motor Trend staffer A.B. Shuman ended the story estimating, “As they’re now made, a stock Boss 429 should run high 13s in the quarter as delivered.”