Evan J. Smith
May 15, 2014

Every Mustang enthusiast has a wish list—I certainly do, and I got up close and personal with many of my dream machines at the recently held Mustang 50th Birthday Celebration in Concord, North Carolina this past April.

Like many of you, I think about Mustangs constantly, and I have my ATF’s (all-time favorites)—you know, the ones you own—or would kill to own (hypothetically speaking, of course). They are named Boss, Shelby, Bullitt, or you might crave a GT, or even a new V6. In the name of fun, the Mustang-360.com editors made up individual Top 10 Mustang lists, but we kept it to Stangs we saw at the Mustang 50th Birthday celebration.

Of the millions and millions of Mustangs Ford has built, this merely narrowed it down to a few thousand. There are so many specialty Mustangs including Boss, classic Shelby, Cobra Jet, Steeda, Saleen, and Roush Stangs, plus the SVT Cobras, new Shelby models and so many more—heck, we’re talking about 50 years of coolness, my friends, that it’s hard to define my 10 favorite.

So, off I went—I roamed the show and vendor areas, and I watched the Mustangs run on track at the Mustang 50th Birthday Celebration and I finally created my Top 10 list. This was no easy task mid you, as there were thousands that got my heart racing.

In addition to seeing so many quality Ford Mustangs, the event brought me back in time, as I saw a Mustang that looked like my first Stang—I also saw a clone of the First Mustang I ever craved. But I also got a glimpse into the future with the 2015 Mustang perched on Ford's rotating display. Aside from the miles of show Mustangs, it was a treat watching the participants roaring around the Charlotte Motor Speedway “roval” race course.

It was great to talk Mustangs with everyone from Ford COO Mark Fields, to Bill Ford Jr. and all the enthusiastic manufacturers and owners. Hearing their stories and learning about their special projects is so important to me and the Mustang-360.com team.

Of course you’re wondering what I liked the best, so here is my Top 10 Mustangs list, along with the accompanying photos I’ve put together for your enjoyment.

10. 1967 Shelby GT500

Of all the early Shelby models, the ’67 GT500 is my favorite. Shelby accessorized the insanely-popular Mustang with racy bodywork, including a shark-like nose with quad lamps, and fire-breathing nostrils in the hood that feed the dual-quad 428 engine. Most Mustang enthusiasts would agree it’s hard to beat a 428-powered GT500, especially in red. If I owned one it would be my weekend cruiser, no doubt about it. I especially liked the patina of this real “driver.” Nothing against 100-point resto show queens, but I’d be racing my Shelby, so it would likely have a few scratches and/or imperfections.

9. 1969 Boss 429

At first, all I heard was the rumble of this nasty black Boss 429—I then snapped my head around to catch a glimpse of this wicked machine. Boss-9 Mustangs were purpose-built so for Ford could receive homologation for the 429 Shotgun Hemi in NASCAR (although they did not race Mustangs in NASCAR). For many, the Boss 429 is the ultimate Mustang, and this one glistened in the sun, the nasty cam loped wildly and I could hear the squeeze and bang of each compression cycle—it was music to my ears—in fact the exhaust note alone was all I needed to add this Boss to my top 10 list.

8. Fox-Body Saleen Mustang

During the late ’80s I worked at Dayton Ford in Central New Jersey, which was a big-time Saleen dealer. I drooled over those bold Saleen Mustangs when they rolled off the truck and I’d take my break “geeking out” in the showroom, looking, dreaming, wanting. I never got the chance to drive one back then, only later, working for MM&FF, did I get behind the wheel of a Saleen Mustang. Fox Saleens ooze with coolness, from the three-spoke steering wheel and Recaro seats, to the low front fascia and whale tail. Saleen has become iconic to Mustang enthusiasts and it all started with the Fox-Body variant.

7. 1985 5.0 LX

During the muscle car era (1964-72) drag racers ordered bare-bones, stripped down models, sans radio, heater and power options—some even came with rubber floor mats in place of a rug. Being a drag racer at heart, I’ve always loved theses “stripper” machines, because they were the most affordable, plus they were meant to be light and go fast. The 1985 5.0 LX fits the bill, especially this perfect low-mileage example I saw at Daniel Carpenter Mustang Reproductions in Concord, North Carolina during my trip the Mustang 50th Birthday Celebration. Seeing this LX is a prime example of why I love American V8 iron. This particular LX it’s a clone to the ’85 Mustang I first saw in Hot Rod magazine back in 1985. That story made me want a Mustang so badly and in 1987 I stepped up and purchased my very own 5.0 LX.

6. 1968 Cobra Jets

In 2009 Ford made waves in the NHRA racing world when John Calvert won the NHRA Winternationals (Pomona, California) in a 2008 Cobra Jet Mustang. This was the catalyst for Ford to ramp up its CJ program, which has been a raging success ever since. In fact, not only has every run of 50 cars sold out, there isn’t a factory vehicle on the planet capable of matching the acceleration of the 2014 CJ—it can run 8s and nearly 160 mph! But we must remember the original 1968 428-powered CJ, which also won in it’s first outing at the 1968 Winternationals in Pomona, California. I saw five really awesome CJ examples in Concord, and I’d be glad to own any one of them—from a beautifully done NHRA Super Stocker, to the barn-find I saw on display, which hasn’t run in over 30 years.

5. 1987 Regatta Blue LX

This 1987 5.0 LX makes the list because it’s a near clone to my first Mustang, which I purchased in December of 1987. My ’87 became MM&FF’s Project Stocker, but it started life as a Bright Regatta Blue ’87 5.0 LX five-speed. It has since morphed into a NHRA-winning and record setting 1993 Cobra clone. This weekend race warrior belongs to Kevin Lunn of Maineville, Ohio. In addition to the Bright Regatta Blue paint, it has the Regatta Blue interior and was originally equipped with a stick—just like mine. According to Peter C. Sessler’s Mustang Red Book, Ford produced only 229 Bright Regatta Blue 5.0 LX Mustangs in 1987, making it somewhat rare.

4. 1970 Coyote Swap Mustang

I didn’t care that this particular ’70 Mustang wasn’t a real Boss. It had the exact mods I’d pick if I was building a resto-mod Mustang, and in my eyes, it had the perfect combo of Coyote power, Minilite-style wheels and that classic Grabber Orange paint. It screams out “Trans-Am Racer” just like the one Parnelli Jones drove to the 1970 Trans Am championship. Sign me up!

3. 1993 SVT Cobra

Most Fox-body aficionados agree the 1993 SVT Cobra represents the epitome of the breed. The SVT Cobra had the right stuff, including the 235 hp Cobra engine. Unique features included the Cobra intake, which was engineered after the popular Ford Motorsport GT-40 unit, plus it had a 65mm throttle-body, high-flow iron GT-40 heads and roller rockers. The Cobra packed a Camaro-droping punch, but it also sported a “cleaned-up” nose, side skirts and a raised spoiler. I especially like the Cobra grille insert with running horse, clean side skirts and the SVO-like tail lights. Not surprisingly, clean ’93 Cobras fetch big bucks, especially the rare Cobra R models, of which only 107 were built. I’d gladly take any Cobra in any of the three available colors.

2. 2015 Mustang

Like many of you, I impatiently awaited the arrival of the 2015 Mustang—thankfully I love the finished product. The 2015 Mustang will feature a slathering of electronic capabilities and there will be more performance than we’ve ever seen in a base GT. I’m interested to see the final output figures on the EcoBoost version, but when I buy one it will have a V8. Ford promises the 2015 Mustang will beat the 2012-13 Boss, which makes it an instant winner in my book.

1. 2012-13 Boss 302

Taking the top spot is the 2012-13 Boss 302 Mustang. And it gets the nod for three reasons: styling, engine and all-around performance. The Boss 302 Coyote engine is menacing, packing a 444 hp punch from the factory hot-rodded 5.0 that screams to 7,000 rpm. I love NA power and it has big cams, ported heads and a tuned “tunnel-ram”-style intake. With drag radials and keen powershifts, a Boss will darn near run 11s—put the stock rear rubber back on and go hustle one around any road course with style and grace. Did I mention the sound? Pop out the exhaust baffles and rev out the mill to 7,000 rpm and symphonic goodness will howl from the pipes. Boss 302 Mustangs can also be had in striking colors like Got-To-Have-It Green, Grabber Blue, and Blaze Yellow. If Ford builds a 2016 Boss 302 I’ll be the first one in line.

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