Jim Smart
August 19, 2007
Photos By: The Mustang Monthly Archives

It's easy to feel deflated when watching Speed Channel reruns of the '07 Barrett-Jackson auction and cruising eBay for Mustang deals. Why bother shopping for one when prices are through the roof? With reports of $240,000 Shelbys and half-million-dollar Boss 429s, it seems everything is priced beyond a modest budget.

Or is it?

The best thing about 43 years of Mustang production is there's a lot to choose from. Don't let anyone fool you: Your dream ride is still within reach. There are plenty of bargains if you're flexible and savvy. Dare to go where no one has before.

The humble Mustang hardtop is what people recall when they think "Mustang." It's the silhouette from April 1964. Hardtops are plentiful and often cheap to purchase, but be prepared-many are overpriced because of what they are. Still, hardtops are among the most negotiable Mustangs.

Enthusiasts have typically ignored '69-'73 Mustang hardtops and '74-'78 Mustang IIs. There weren't many people restoring or modifying these cars 10 years ago. Walk through a large show today and take note of how many there are now. We're seeing more and more 302 hardtops, Grandes, King Cobras, Cobra IIs, and Ghias because the traditionally popular Mustangs-Mach 1s, Bosses, Shelbys, and almost any fastback or convertible-are currently riding a crest of high values, making them less accessible to most enthusiasts. Now people are stepping up and using their imaginations to create exciting Mustangs with less concern for what's popular.

Mustangs that were once ordinary show up in newspaper classifieds, auto traders, the Internet, and estate sales, based on the demographics of people who bought them new. Imagine a low-mileage '72 Grande with its original papers for $6,500 or a first-generation, garage-kept, 48,000-mile, six-cylinder hardtop for $3,500. How about a low-mileage, limited edition Rainbow of Colors '68-'69 Mustang hardtop for $3,000? These Mustangs were purchased by retirement-age professionals on a budget-school teachers, secretaries, government employees, and so on-who wanted something sporty to drive. These people kept their classic Mustangs until they passed away; now some of the cars are being sold cheap by surviving families who want to unload them. They don't always know what the car is worth. That can make them terrific bargains, especially if you happen upon something rare and pristine.

IIs Too
Although '74-'78 Mustang IIs get a lot of negative scrutiny from the classic crowd, it's a bum rap and limited thinking to leave them out. While there's nothing exciting about a base 2.3L four-banger Mustang II MPG with a four-speed, Ford built derivatives that we're fond of to this day. The '76-'78 Cobra II was a looker and a solid performer when outfitted with a 302 and a four-speed. The same goes for the colorful earth-tone Mach 1s of the era. Ford wrapped up Mustang II assembly with the '78 King Cobra, a limited-production package that remains attractive today. Many of them can be had for a bargain, depending on condition. Restored or low-mileage, they're valuable because Ford built so few.

The message here is to watch for pristine, low-mileage Mustang IIs, not the clapped-out throwaways. In most cases, the only ones worth salvaging and restoring include '78 King Cobras, solid Cobra IIs, and Ghias. If it's rusty or missing parts, move on. They're often priced to sell because not many people want them.

Fox In Your Future?
Although it's hard to think of them this way, '79-'93 Mustangs have become classics. They're the same age as '65-'73 Mustangs when interest in them turned around in the late '70s. The '85-'93 Mustang GT is symbolic of Ford performance back then, pav-ing the way for the '05-'07 GT. The carbureted '85 GT is recognized for its roller-tappet technology and simple wonderfulness without a computer-it only had a Ford-engineered Holley carburetor with a dual-snorkel air cleaner and shorty headers.