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

At the time, the '79 Mustang Indy Pace Car was the most exotic pony car produced. Two engines were available—a carbureted 2.3L Turbo four or the 302ci two-barrel V-8. Most were 2.3L Turbo equipped. Right off the assembly line, these cars were great fun to drive. Reliability issues with the turbo cars made them used clunkers in short order.

What makes the '79 Indy Pace Car a keeper is its unique position in automotive history—big production numbers with one on every corner, yet quite rare 31 years later. It is the first-class restorations and low-mileage original time capsule cars we see today that make us want one as a cool driveway and car show conversation piece.

7: '78 Mustang II King Cobra— Too Little, Too Late

One year before the all-new '79 Mustang, Ford introduced the '78 Mustang II King Cobra as a last-minute Mustang sales stimulator. We like the '78 King Cobra for its unique features that made it a stand-alone model during a unique chapter in Mustang history. Just 4,971 King Cobras were produced, employing special features like ground effects, rear spoiler, lacy-spoke aluminum wheels, heavy-duty suspension, King Cobra graphics, 5.0L V-8, either four-speed manual or Select-Shift automatic transmission, reversed hoodscoop, and a plush interior with brushed aluminum appointments, full instrumentation, and digital clock. If you've never driven a King Cobra, you don't know what you've been missing because these cars are great fun to drive. Where they fall short is power, like most anything produced in the late 1970s.

6: '86 Mustang SVO— Leading Edge Technology

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For those of us who remember these cars when they were new, the SVO was the most advanced Mustang ever produced when we had them as press vehicles early in 1984. It was surreal because performance cars from Detroit weren't supposed to happen again and here they were—the best handling Mustangs ever, coupled with intercooled, turbo four-cylinder power, bolstered bucket seats with adjustable lumber support, five-speed, four-wheel disc brakes, performance suspension with Quadra-Shock in back, dual-plane rear spoiler, cool ground effects, a unique fascia with fog lamps, and an offset hoodscoop, just to name a few of this limited-production Mustang's great features. We will take Mustang SVO and hit the road for work, play, or vacation. Ford took what it learned from the SVO and put it to practice on the terrific high-performance Mustangs to follow.

5: '69-'70 Mach 1 428 Cobra Jet— Genuine Motown Power

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It is generally accepted that the '69-'70 Mustang with either a Q or R engine code is the honored and widely respected grandfather of Mustang muscle cars. Though the 428 Cobra Jet was introduced on April 1, 1968, it wasn't until the '69 Mustang grew hair on its chest with a slippery SportsRoof body that the CJ had an image to go with its power. Although the Cobra Jet was available in all three body styles, it was the SportsRoof that did this engine justice along with a new name—Mach 1.

Even if we don't have room, we will find space in our garage for this one and the chance to flex its muscle on a Saturday night.

4: '94-'95 GT— What it Was and More…

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When Ford insiders declared the Mustang name all but dead, a tough east Detroiter and Ford executive, John Coletti, stepped up and changed their perception of Ford's flagship nameplate. Coletti convinced them he could save the Mustang and did. With a shoestring budget, key staffers, an old Montgomery Ward auto service center building in Dearborn, and a ton of street tenacity, Coletti and his Team Mustang went to work creating the SN-95 Mustang for '94.

In the fall of 1993, Mustang enthusiasts in more than 100 cities got their first look at the new '94 Mustang. The SN-95 saved the Mustang name and got Mustang its sales numbers back after depressing performance in the early 1990s. When we first drove the SN-95 that fall, we liked the way the car felt—solid, predictable, and void of cowl shake. The convertible was especially pleasing. Some 15 years later, the first Fox redesign remains a personal favorite.