Jim Smart
January 1, 2000
Photos By: Mustang Monthly Archives

We like to debate the best of the best-the fastest, the most valuable, the rarest, and probably a few others we haven't thought of yet. This month, we're going to pick the 10 best Mustangs based on what we've seen and heard from you-our readers. This time, we're going to try something different. We're going to begin with No. 10 and work our way up to No. 1. Now don't you peek.

10 - '73 Mustang Convertible
Enthusiasts are fond of this one because it represents the end of an era. It also represents the buyer being heard at a time when more attention was being paid to safety, profit, and efficiency issues rather than what buyers wanted. The '73 Mustang convertible was a smashing success because of Ford corporate communications leaks that created a buying frenzy when word hit the streets that there would not be a Mustang convertible after 1973. The convertible swan song generated the sale of thousands more convertibles than were sold in 1972-the Mustang's worst sales year ever.

Original public panic aside, we like the last convertible for its interior space, elongated body, and optional V-8 power. It is the end of an era best remembered for roomy, top-down wonderfulness.

9 - '71 Boss 351
It's hard to hear one of these roll up and not pay attention. The '71 Boss 351 Mustang yields a familiar sound heard from the '69-'70 Boss 302 and earlier Mustangs powered by the 289 Hi-Po V-8. Solid lifters and a throaty dual exhaust system are what make the '71 Boss 351 a winner with us. Turn around for a look and you've got to admit that the '71 SportsRoof body is a ride to die for. Super-short deck, flatback styling, and a long nose fit for the likes of the powerful Cleveland mill inside. Aside from the short-lived '72 R-code 351C H.O. to follow a year later, there has never been anything like the Boss 351.

8 - '86 Mustang SVO
Few of us give the '86 Mustang SVO the credit it deserves. The '84-'86 Mustang SVO led us to more advanced Mustangs to come later on in the '90s. Quad-shock suspension, four-wheel disc brakes, 16-inch wheels and tires, killer seating, nice interior amenities, rear deck spoiler, and more were features the Mustang GT and Cobra would ultimately employ later. For those of you just tuning in, the '84-'86 Mustang SVO was a limited-production, state-of-the-art, four-cylinder, turbocharged Mustang hatchback produced by Ford's Special Vehicle Operations. SVO, as we know it, is gone now, but SVO's futuristic thinking remains. The Mustang SVO was a handler and a snappy performer produced at a time when Detroit was reinventing the factory musclecar. We've chosen the '86 because it was the ultimate refinement of one of the nicest Mustangs ever built. It was a factory testbed for better things to come.

7 - '85 Mustang GT
This one's a favorite because it was chock-full of firsts and lasts. It was the first Mustang GT with quad-shock suspension, roller tappets, huge (at the time) 15-inch cast wheels, and super-comfortable high-back bucket seats with lumbar support and side bolsters. It was also the last Mustang with a four-barrel carburetor. The '85 Mustang GT was a sweet blast from the past with its 5.0L 4V H.O. V-8-yet it was a wave to the future with all the nice features mentioned earlier. It remains an enthusiast's favorite.

6 - '67 Mustang GT390
Enthusiasts like the '67 Mustang GT with 390 Hi-Po power because it was the first of the big-block Mustangs. Granted, it was never much of a threat to the 396 Camaro SS across town, but the 390 Hi-Po V-8 brought Mustang buyers abundant torque for the freeway and did it quietly. Stand by the quad dual exhaust tips of a '67 GT390 and you will hear a soft pulsing that reminds us of a velvet-gloved ironfist. It speaks quietly, but it gets the job done. The '67 GT's wider stance made it a revised Pony for the masses, with big-block power designed to propel all those new accessories available for 1967.

5 - '69 Mach 1
How do you improve on a winner? Try Ford's restyled '69 Mustang Mach 1. Ford's first bold attempt at styling beyond the original Mustang emerged in showrooms everywhere in the fall of '68. The new Mach 1 was the most exciting Mustang ever produced, eclipsing GT sales right out of the chute. It didn't really matter if you ordered the standard 351W V-8 or the optional 428 Cobra Jet stump puller. The Mach 1 looked terrific no matter how it was ordered. It remains so loved because it symbolizes the peak of the musclecar era and a time likely never to be repeated.

4 - '68 1/2 Mustang Cobra Jet
Ford got its bottom spanked in 1967 when it dropped the stodgy 390 big-block into the Mustang. It just wasn't a winner in traffic-light-to-traffic-light performance. Not much respect was had at the dragstrip, either. When Ford went to the parts shelf and began assembling the right combination of parts inside the long-stroked 428ci big-block, bountiful torque was born of the new 428 Cobra Jet. At the '68 Winternationals in Pomona, California, the Bow Tie boys got the shock of their lives when Dyno Don Nicholson and a host of other factory-backed Ford types in Wimbledon White Mustang fastbacks staged and sent them home with their egos in their back pockets.

3 - '93 Mustang Cobra SVT
Of all the high-performance Mustangs built after 1981, the '93 Cobra SVT reigns supreme because it remains popular with enthusiasts long after production ended in the summer of '93. The '93 Cobra weighed less than its '94-and-later venom-stung counterparts. It was less complicated, sporting 5.0L EFI GT-40 pushrod power, and it yielded a clean appearance not seen since in the Mustang camp. What's more, Ford SVT built 107 racing counterparts that have witnessed success on the roundy-round in the years since. Anyway you slice the '93 Cobra, it was a winner from the start and destined to become a modern classic.

2 - '65 Mustang GT Hi-Po Convertible
This one remains America's favorite. It's a design impossible to ignore and a sound that's unmistakable. The '65 Mustang GT convertible is a hands-down favorite, even with people who don't like Fords. The K engine code serial number gets adrenaline flowing for us die-hards. An Autolite starter and the sound of solid lifters gets your motor running. When you get right down to it, the 289 Hi-Po V-8 isn't much more powerful than the 225-hp A-code engine we see in a lot of Mustang GTs. However, it's the sound, the special Hi-Po heads, the open-element air cleaner and chrome valve covers, dual point mechanical distributor, and those cast-iron headers that get a person excited. Wrap these features in a topless classic and life doesn't get much sweeter. Are you ready for the ride?

1 - '70 Boss 302
The '70 Mustang Boss 302 is fondly remembered for the persona that Larry Shinoda created for it. With that slippery SportsRoof body, the shark's mouth grille, low profile, SCCA Trans Am performance reputation, and the sound of solid lifters and throaty exhaust pulses, the youth of the musclecar wars took note. Grab the shifter, ring the canted-valve small-block to six grand, cut the apex, and behold a genuine slice of SCCA on nearly any backroad. The Boss 302 was just that-BOSS!