Jim Smart
June 9, 2011
Photos By: Mustang Monthly Archives

Regardless of how we look at nearly a half century of Mustangs, there have always been the ones that we'd like to own and drive. Sometimes they come to mind while working in the garage, taking a shower, or pushing a lawnmower. Other times, it's a gut reaction at a car show or on the freeway. Regardless of how we spot them, they're always prime examples of a great breed we'd like to have nestled neatly beneath the rafters.

What makes us want these Mustangs so badly? Most of the time, it's the way they look or how they're presented. Some of it comes from the way they sound—a throaty roar or the soft chatter of mechanical tappets from a 289 Hi-Po or Boss 302. With others, we are fond of rarity—we just don't see them that often—such as a '65 Shelby GT350 or even an odd-duck six-cylinder California Special. Some are brute powerhouses, like the 428 Cobra Jet Mach 1 or Shelby's newer GT500, especially when decked out as a Super Snake.

You can bet our 10 Best is going to be different than your list because how each of us feels about Mustangs is what makes the world go round. We'd like to hear from you about your 10 Best and see how we compare. Drop us an email at mustang.monthly@sorc.com with "10 Best" as the subject line.

10: '65 Mustang Hardtop—The Original

We couldn't do a 10 Best and leave this one out. There's something about a '65 Mustang hardtop just the way Ford presented it to us on April 17, 1964—absolutely stunning here in Vintage Burgundy. Although Ford's sporty, new Mustang wasn't much on options and appointments that first year, the big attraction was its wonderful simplicity. It's the same today: simple, elegant, and affordable. Twist the key and ease out on the clutch to get that sweet whine of a smooth-shifting Borg-Warner T-10 four-speed coupled with the 289's soft purr through a transverse muffler and stubby tailpipe. The '65 Mustang is an American original. It remains a rush of excitement we'll gladly take home.

9: '03-'04 Mustang Mach 1— Muscle is Back!

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Skeptics said it would never happen. The '03-'04 Mach 1 was the rebirth of a great Mustang name at a time when Ford wasn't sure of what to do with the Mustang. In 2002, Team Mustang decided to tease the public with a concept car called Mach 1, which was spurred by enthusiasm for the limited-edition Bullitt in 2001. When Ford saw how excited people were about the Mach 1 concept, production was dialed in for 2003 and again in 2004 with refinements. The '03-'04 Mach 1 would do its name and legacy justice with a powerful 4.6L 32-valve overhead cam V-8, making it the '69-'70 Cobra Jet Mach 1's equal and more. We will gladly drive this gentlemanly beast home and tuck it in the garage thanks to all the things we like about the reborn Mach: aluminum 4.6L DOHC V-8, 10:1 compression, 265-horsepower, five-speed, 3.55:1 cogs, knitted sport vinyl bucket seats, retro Magnum wheels, and Mach 1 graphics. The '03-'04 Mach 1 is a short-lived chapter in Mustang history but certainly memorable.

8 '79 Indianapolis 500 Pace Car—Keeping the Pace at 15

We picked this one because it was a model year that kept the Mustang name alive. Ford sold 369,336 Mustangs for '79, a sales number that Ford marketing people would give anything to see today. What's more, it was a radically different Mustang penciled out by legendary Ford stylist Jack Telnack. The '79 model year can be considered an irony because you'd think the limited-edition '79 Indy 500 Pace Car would have been produced in more limited numbers. It wasn't. Ford built 10,478 Indy Pace Car units at its Dearborn and San Jose plants, not including the three actual pace cars that appeared at the 1979 Indianapolis 500.