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Ford Mustang – Muscle Car Review 2020

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Written by Elise

13th October 2020

Ford Mustang – Muscle Car Review 2020
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Ford Mustang – Muscle Car Review 2020

By Chris Williams

Gazing out my window into the drizzle of an English afternoon, I find myself daydreaming about going for a drive. 

Where? One of my favourite European roads, a little-known but wonderful stretch of country highway between Przemyśl and Sanok in southeast Poland. Which car? Today, I feel a familiar hankering for an old classic: the Ford Mustang, usually prompted by sight or sound like a fuel-guzzling KFC. 

But what is it about the Ford Mustang that provokes such strong desire? Throughout its production years, the Mustang has never been the most dynamic, athletic, communicative, agile, or engaging performance car around. However, as this car review will address, it has always had certain characteristics that make it extremely likeable and thus, one of the world’s most productive mobile grin factories.

1964 Ford Mustang Convertible

Ford Mustang – Record-Breaking Sales

Since the Ford Mustang’s conception, it has been a staple of affordable performance. No model of Mustang cemented that point more than the original breed. Proof is in the numbers: in eight-and-a-half years of production (1964-73), Ford sold almost three million Mustangs. No other sports car even came close to matching that, let alone other Mustang models, though the third generation sold 2.6 million during its lifetime in a span of 14 years. 

Even more astoundingly, the Ford Mustang achieved its world-beating sales numbers in the USA alone.   

1964 Ford Mustang Coupe

The Secret Recipe For Success

Ford provided a new type of car with the Mustang. Not just a more compact muscle car, the Mustang was designed and marketed as a jack-of-all-trades, as Ford stated themselves in the 1964 press brochure. 

Described as having “three different personalities”, the Mustang was “an economical car…a high-performance car…or a high-style luxury car” tailored for either economy or performance. No one else had really made a car like this before. Hitherto, cars were either cheap and economical or sporty or luxurious. You could edit the book but not change the genre and that was what was so revolutionary. 

Imagine going to a pet store and the salesperson points to a blob of organic matter in a container, saying that they can create any pet you fancy – a parrot, a wombat, a leopard. Anything. Imagine the sheer possibility! 

Such was the successful and unique appeal of the Mustang. Beyond air conditioning or body colour, you could spec your Mustang so incredibly that you could even determine its personality (and yours – try taking our American Muscle Car Personality Test).

On top of the Free World-leading level of choice, there was the also the factor that made all performance Fords popular: affordability. In 1964, a basic hardtop Mustang started at $2,368. Swap currency and adjust for inflation, that’s about £15,300 in today’s money. Adding luxuries and horsepower increased the price a bit, but imagine buying a new top-spec Mustang for less than a modern-day Focus ST. 

Many Americans wanted a slice of this new national hero – a Teddy Roosevelt with internal combustion at a fair price too. Ford sold 22,000 Mustangs on its first day in the showrooms. 

1969 Ford Mustang Boss 429

But Ford knew that buyers would want an ever-increasing performance from Mustangs. And boy, did they deliver. The late sixties and early seventies saw a number of Mustangs leave the Ford stable fed on dashes of cayenne pepper: Shelby GT350, Shelby GT500, Boss 302, Boss 429

As a Trans-Am homologation model, the Boss 302 was the most track-focused of the lot. The Boss 429 was at the other end of the scale: also a homologation model but for a NASCAR engine, the 1969 Boss 429 was Ford’s road-legal dragster. Thanks to some Carroll Shelby magic, the Ford Mustang GT 350 and GT500 were about in between.

The Iconic Image of the Ford Mustang

Ordinarily, mainstream cars are not trend-setters. There is a reason why Bumblebee was not a Mazda 6 or Kowalski did not tear across Nevada in Austin Maxi; these cars simply didn’t look the part. 

The Mustang, however, was and remains popular enough to be considered mainstream, yet because of Ford’s focus on performance, the Mustang was and is designed to still reflect that. 

Because the Mustang was a good-looking performance car it ended up in two very important places: the movie screen and the race track.

1968 GT390 Ford Mustang Bullitt

Perhaps you thought I’d forgotten it, but no: here is the GT390. 

The GT390 was merely Ford’s standard high-performance Mustang between 1967 and 1969. There was nothing particularly special about it until Mr McQueen manhandled one around the streets of San Francisco in 1968. All of a sudden it was the model to have. 

I refer, of course, to the film Bullitt. Yet, even before this mammoth of a trendsetter, a convertible Mustang made an appearance in the 1964 James Bond film, Goldfinger. A few years later, a Mach 1 Mustang pulled off one of Hollywood’s famous car stunt bloopers in Diamonds Are Forever in 1971. 

Some more on-screen Mustangs: Gone in Sixty Seconds (both films) as Eleanor, Fast and Furious Tokyo Drift (1967 Mustang Fastback), I Am Legend (2007 GT500), John Wick (1969 Mustang Fastback). 

Ford claim the Mustang has been in over 500 films. If the figure is accurate, the Mustang is a more prolific actor than Michael Caine, Robert Duvall, and Anthony Hopkins combined. 

1964 Mustang Racer

On the racetrack, Ford wasted no time in getting the Mustang race-prepped. In February 1964, Alan Mann Racing was sent a pre-production chassis for evaluation, who secretly tested it at Goodwood. Later that year, the Mustang won its first competition – the Tour de France endurance rally (maybe a slightly hollow victory if all the competitors were on bicycles!). 

On Valentine’s day 1965, a special edition GT350R Shelby Mustang (now the current most expensive Mustang in the world) had its first outing as an American racer at Green Valley Raceway in Texas. At the hands of the famous Ken Miles, the Shelby Mustang took the chequered flag. 

Up until the oil crisis and the flood of safety and emissions regulations in the 1970s, the Mustang took part in ferocious Trans-Am battles with its rivals. The Mustang won in 1967 and again in 1970. Even before the Trans-Am, the Mustang had already won the Australian Touring Car Championship and British Saloon Car Championship in 1965.

2007 Ford Mustang

The Ford Mustang of Today… today!

Today’s Ford Mustang has inherited all of its ancestor’s traits lost during the late twentieth century, when an epidemic swept through the muscle car species, rendering them weak and feeble. Since the arrival of the fifth generation, the Mustang has been hitting not only the gym but also the library: more power and better tech meant that the latest sixth-generation Mustang is not only more likeable than in recent decades but more capable as well. (Perhaps my craving earlier is now explained.)

2020 Shelby GT500 Ford Mustang

If anything, the sixth generation Mustang is even more of a people’s performance car than ever before. 

Since 2015, it has been available in Europe and right-hand drive for the first time. On top of that, the EcoBoost motor along with the V8 engine fulfil the original Mustang’s design ethos of being a car with a range of personalities to suit. 

Carroll Shelby may not be around these days but you can still buy a Mustang that bears his name. You can have an unhinged 750 bhp Shelby GT500 monster, a focussed Shelby GT350 road racer, a comfy but fast GT, or a modern-day Capri of sorts: the EcoBoost. 

On top of what Ford already offers, companies such as Roush, RTR, and Steeda can provide even more choice. That wide range of choice is paying dividends: worldwide, Ford has sold almost 700,000 sixth-generation Mustangs. Although these figures aren’t as handsome as the original, the Mustang still remains the world’s best-selling sports car.

2015 Ford Mustang

Personally, I’m more of a modern Mustang person. The Stage 2 Roush is my pick: a little extra oomph over the standard Mustang but turned into a true sports car with steering and handling upgrades, plus some mean-looking bodywork tweaks. Other modern features also include innovative pedestrian detection, fuel economy and adaptive cruise control. 

The EcoBoost engine I am also a big fan of, particularly because it is polarising (controversy is as much a theme in Mustang history as high performance). It also indicates that Ford now thinks of the Mustang’s handling of genuine sports car quality, having fitted a sports car engine. 

Even more polarising is the Mach E, which as an electric car generates its own controversy, so due to lack of space here I shall let you draw your own judgement. 

Ford Mustang Collection


Still gazing out my window into the drizzle of an English afternoon, I believe this short 2020 review has answered the initial question of the Mustang. It was, and is still, the high-performance car for every person. Many classic car enthusiasts choose other muscle, classic, or sports cars specifically because they aren’t Mustangs, which I can appreciate. 

But equally, I empathise completely why so many do choose first or fifth/sixth generation Mustangs. There are so many things they promise: heritage, sounds, style, community… Above all, they are just very, very cool. 

Author: Chris Williams

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