Jim Smart
August 1, 2008

Stock or restomod?
Vintage Or Fox-Body?
As incredible as it may seem, we've been doing this nostalgic dance with our readers for 30 years. When Larry Dobbs founded Mustang Monthly 30 years ago in his dining room as the Mustang Exchange Letter, he couldn't have envisioned that Mustang mania would still be alive and well three decades later.

In our publishing infancy, the trend was to restore to factory-original condition regardless of how mainstream the car was. Six-cylinder hardtops with three-speed sticks were right in there with K-GTs, Boss 302s, and Shelbys.

George and Kim Hatcher found this low-mileage, original paint '73 Mach 1 in Annapolis, Maryland. Kim celebrated George's 50th birthday with Magnum 500s, Goodyear Eagle GTs, and rechromed bumpers. These cars are unbeatable values for baby boomers who remember them when they were new.

In the long term, restoring to stock was a good trend because it brought us outstanding restored examples that remain true to factory-original today, preserving the Mustang's legacy. Make no mistake: There's still plenty of room for concours-restored Mustangs because Ford was right on the money with these cars from the beginning. People love them for what they were right off the assembly line.

In the mid '90s, the restomod trend began rumbling through the hobby like a California earthquake because it gave Mustang enthusiasts newfound freedom. Bored with restoring to stock, enthusiasts began investigating what else they could do with a Mustang as long as rarity and value weren't issues.

Danny Banh of D.B. Performance Engineering was one of the first to roar onto the scene with his Canary Yellow '65 Mustang hardtop with fuel-injected 5.0L power, a five-speed, and 16-inch American Torq-Thrust wheels. A short time later, Mustangs Plus introduced us to the Ronster, a hardtop-turned-roadster with 5.0L power, AOD, and incredible amounts of imagination. In time, the Eleanor, the Ring brothers, and others have taken classic Mustangs where they've never been before.

Ford built 5,262 20th Anniversary GT350 hatchbacks and convertibles 24 years ago. Because few people know what these cars are today, value is currently soft. In time, they will become good investments. This '84 20th Anniversary turbo convertible is one of only 104 produced. It recently sold for less than $10,000. We expect these cars to become good investments as Generation X grows older and more nostalgic.

What kind of Mustang should you buy and what should you do with it? There are as many answers as there are cars and enthusiasts. What you do with a Mustang boils down to personal taste, model type, and budget.

The first issue you should address is budget. We know from experience that it takes a lot of money to purchase and restore a classic Mustang. Cost going in depends on what you want. If you have your eyes on a Boss 302, Shelby, or Cobra Jet Mach 1, the car will not come cheap in any condition. If you're comfortable with a 289-2V hardtop, it's easier to get into one for less money.

Right now, we're facing tough economic times, and as a result there are classic Mustangs out there for sale due to economic necessity. People are out of work, at war, in foreclosure, laden with debt, and still grieving over the demise of disco and cheap gasoline. If you're fortunate enough to be standing in high cotton, there are good deals out there. There hasn't been a better time in more than a decade to find and buy the Mustang of your dreams.

Best Buys and Builds
The most affordable deals haven't changed much in 30 years:

  • '65-'73 Hardtops (base six and V-8)
  • '69-'73 SportsRoof and base Mach 1
  • '69-'73 Grande (sleepers are 390 and 351C-4V)
  • '75-'78 Cobra II with V-8
  • '78 King Cobra
  • '84 20th Anniversary Edition GT350
  • '87-'04 Mustang GT and Cobra

Rarity and appeal have a direct effect on price and availability. Then, as now, the most common Mustangs are less expensive than the limited-production cars. As you shop, you must be cognizant of curve balls in the form of outrageous prices for commonplace Mustangs. Just because it's 44 years old with a fresh paint job and new interior doesn't necessarily make it worth more.