Yes, we know we're straying into dangerous territory when it comes to the subject matter of this particular article. Historically, anytime a magazine tries to identify the "quickest" or "fastest" car of any genre, it's treading on thin ice. To be sure, jaded readers will be looking for a hole in the story, an omission, or a slip-up of any kind, for it's clear that laying a title on any one car is by default identifying all the rest as mere runners-up. With the quickest/fastest claim a matter of considerable pride and passion for many high-performance buffs, we understand the sentiment, yet we are also undeterred.
"As tested, with two men, test gear, and a full tank, all belts tight, air cleaner attached, tire pressure normal, the Mach 1 (428CJ) is the quickest four-place production car ever tested in Car Life." Mar. '69 Car Life
"One of the most explosive cars we've ever driven-the Mach 1 Cobra Jet Mustang." Feb. '69 Super Stock
Clearly we've seen many lists over the years which attempt to rank musclecars according to their quarter-mile performance, some of which were well thought out, others that were of dubious validity. Almost universally, the lists are a compilation of vintage-magazine test results, which-in an age where most owners are resistant to a full-bore thrash-would seem the most valid way to assemble such data. Be that as it may, there's a whole lot more to the story than pure numbers, and more often than not, the compilations are glaringly short on in-depth facts.
Our approach is purposefully different than the typical compilations-for one, proclaiming an out-and-out winner isn't our sole focus. Instead, the thrust here is to identify which vintage steeds have a legitimate shot at the throne, and then thoroughly analyze nearly 40 period tests that are relative to the discussion. In the end, perhaps it will be easier to throw out one or two of the contenders than to declare a winner. We shall see.
Now for some terminology clarification. For years, any number of sources have used-or misused-the term "fastest" as a way to identify the car with the best elapsed time (e.t.) in the quarter-mile-the gold standard for determining the musclecar king of the hill. Technically speaking, the correct term to use here would be "quickest," in that "fastest" really denotes the car with the highest speed at the end of the 1,320, which is sometimes decidedly different than the car with the best e.t. Of course "fastest" can also be properly used to denote top speed, though this isn't a common theme when it comes to musclecars. For what it's worth, most published lists of the musclecar pecking order use the term "fastest," but we'll hold ourselves to a higher standard of accuracy. Just know that in more uninformed circles, the two terms may be used interchangeably.
'69-'70 BOSS 429
'69-'70 BOSS 429
"It is, quite frankly, the best enthusiast car Ford has ever produced." July '69 Car Life
'71 BOSS 351
'71 BOSS 351
"The engineers come off as the real heroes in the development of the Mustang Boss 351. It offers dragstrip performance that most supercars with 100ci more displacement will envy and generates high lateral cornering forces." Feb. '71 Car and Driver
"The Boss 351 performed flawlessly. The engine, rated at a mere 330 horsepower, felt like much, much more, especially when compared to its immediate predecessor"
Mar. '71 Super Stock