2012 Ford Mustang Boss 302 and the 10 Greatest Mustangs Ever

October 27, 2010
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Given how enthusiastically Ford has mined the Mustang's rich history, it was only a matter of time before we would see the Boss nameplate again. Well, the time has come: Ford rolled out the new Mustang Boss 302 (for static display only) at the historic races at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in California. The car will rumble into dealerships next spring as a 2012 model.
2012 Mustang Gt Boss 302 Front Three Quarters
The corral of high-performance Mustangs is getting crowded. After all, the Mustang GT is newly fortified with 412 hp from its recently introduced 5.0-liter engine, and the Mustang Shelby GT500 pounds out 550 hp from its supercharged 5.4-liter V-8. So one might reasonably wonder where the Boss 302 fits in.
The short answer is: between the two, in both price and performance. But the more in-depth answer is that this car isn't supposed to be merely an intermediate step in a hierarchy of hopped-up Mustangs; it's actually something racier, more hard-core, and really, really cool.
Like its 1969 namesake-which was essentially a street version of the SCCA Trans-Am race car-the new Boss 302 was designed with an eye toward the track. That's particularly true of the Boss 302 Laguna Seca edition, a limited-production, streetable track version that tosses out the back seats in favor of additional body stiffeners and features an even more extreme chassis setup.
Both the standard Boss 302 and the Laguna Seca move the Mustang away from a traditional, Detroit-style muscle car that is focused on 0-to-60-mph performance first and handling second. Instead, the dictum with the Boss was to create "the best-handling Mustang ever." Mustang engineers also aimed to increase power output not with a heavy-though effective-supercharger, but instead by getting the 5.0-liter V-8 to rev more freely. They also wanted to give it more power in the upper rev ranges, consistent with how the Boss will likely be used on a track.
Thus, changes to the 5.0-liter V-8 were not just to increase its output but also to alter its nature. Not surprisingly, the modifications are extensive. There's a new intake manifold and ported cylinder heads for better breathing. An engine oil cooler, a lighter-weight valvetrain, forged (rather than cast) aluminum pistons, and forged connecting rods are designed to handle higher engine speeds. Ford engineers used the Boss 302R racing car as a development test bed, and, based on their experience at the track, they revised the road car's radiator to improve engine cooling and added baffles to the oil pan to prevent oil starvation. The net result of all these changes is an engine redline that has been raised by 500 rpm to 7500 rpm and an increase in power output from 412 hp to 440 hp at 7500 rpm-at a cost of 10 lb-ft of peak torque, with the Boss 302's V-8 rated at 380 lb-ft at 4500 rpm.
2012 Mustang Gt Boss 302 Wheels
One of the more interesting aspects of the Boss engine is its exhaust system. Supplementing the standard Mustang GT's dual exhausts are two additional pipes that exit just ahead of the rear wheels. These side exhaust outlets incorporate metal discs that keep the sound at legal levels-but they are removable, should the owner want something louder. The Boss is plenty vocal even with the discs in place, as the induction sound tube has been retuned and eleven pounds of sound deadening have been stripped out.
The engine sends power rearward via an upgraded clutch with a steel-backed disc and a short-throw, close-ratio six-speed manual (no automatic is available). Whereas the Mustang GT has a 3.31:1 final-drive ratio, the Boss gets a 3.73:1 unit, with carbon-fiber friction plates in its limited slip; a Torsen rear axle is standard on the Laguna Seca model and is optional (bundled with Recaro seats) on the regular Boss 302.
Any car expecting to see racetrack duty needs serious brakes, and so the Boss upgrades from the Mustang GT's 13.2-inch front discs to the GT500's fourteen-inch vented front discs and four-piston Brembo calipers. The GT's standard 11.8-inch rear rotors are retained, but the pad material is upgraded. Brake lines have been stiffened to improve pedal feel. The Laguna Seca additionally receives front brake-cooling ducts-they're available as an accessory for the standard Boss 302.
As expected, the Boss features firmer springs, antiroll bars, and suspension bushings, but the car takes the driver-tunable racing aspect one step further with manually adjustable front and rear dampers. The fronts are accessible from under the hood and the rears from in the trunk; drivers can use a screwdriver to select one of five stiffness settings. Position 1 is equivalent to a GT with the Brembo brake package, while positions 2 through 5 are progressively stiffer. The Laguna Seca's softest setting (1) matches the Boss 302's firmest setting (5). The steering effort is also driver-adjustable. Electric power steering was introduced with the 2011 model year, and as in the Mustang GT, drivers can choose among three effort levels. Similarly, the traction and stability control systems include a competition mode that allows greater drift angles, or they can be shut off entirely.
The tire and wheel package consists of nineteen-inch aluminum alloys for both cars. The Boss 302 wheels, painted black, are nine inches wide in the front and 9.5 inches in the rear and are wrapped in Pirelli PZero rubber; the Laguna Seca wheels are another half-inch wider in back, are finished in orange and silver, and use R-compound PZeros.
2012 Mustang Gt Boss 302 Rear
Ford likes to say that the Boss isn't just a sticker-and-wheel package. True enough, but that doesn't mean that exterior graphics have been ignored. Indeed, the huge C-stripe on the side is an unmistakable homage to the original 1969 Boss. The stripe color (black or white) is repeated on the hood and the roof. Additional exterior design elements include a front splitter, a rear wing, and a grille with blanked-out foglight holes (why not just design a new grille?). Body colors are red, blue, orange, yellow, or white. The Laguna Seca gets red graphics, with additional color splashes on the grille surround and mirror caps. Its base body colors are black or silver only. It also has more extreme aero aids, taken directly from the 302R racing car.
Inside, the Boss's look is subtle-at least in the standard car. (In the Laguna Seca, it's hard to miss the giant X-brace where the back seats used to be.) Recaro front buckets, from the GT500, are standard in the Laguna Seca and optional in the Boss 302. The steering wheel is wrapped in Alcantara, and there's dark metallic trim. The Laguna Seca adds a gauge pack with water temperature, oil pressure, and a multifunction readout for quarter-mile times, lateral g's, and such (the multifunction readout, at least, should be on the regular Boss, too). There's also a new gauge cluster with the tachometer redlined at 7500 rpm and a 180-mph speedometer.
The latter is indicative of the Boss 302's higher top speed-155 mph (same as the GT500), versus 145 mph for the Mustang GT. Ford is otherwise being coy with regard to the car's specific performance capabilities, except to say that the Boss 302 should be good for 1 g of lateral grip and the Laguna Seca capable of 1.03 g. We expect the Boss to shave a fraction of a second off the GT's 0-to-60-mph run, since it weighs about the same but adds another 28 hp. But this car is more about track times than straight-line sprints, and one performance spec that Mustang engineers were not shy about touting was their claim that the Boss 302 can beat a BMW M3 around the Laguna Seca road course. If that proves to be true, they will have created a serious road racer that not only pays homage to the Boss Mustang legend but writes a whole new chapter.
10 Greatest Mustangs, Ever
In any endeavor that's been ongoing for nearly fifty years, there are some highs and some lows. In the case of the Ford Mustang, there definitely have been some low points-the utterly emasculating '74 Mustang II Ghia, the comically garish '78 Mustang II King Cobra, the tragically wimpy '81 'Stang with its 115-hp V-8-but they've been outnumbered by the highs. Herewith are our picks for the top ten Mustangs of all time-a blatantly subjective call, we'll admit. We tried to look at the cars in the context of their era, and thus our list has Mustangs from throughout the model's history. That last point is testament to the fact that, through good sales periods and bad, Ford has never given up on the Mustang. After Ford created the pony car, the Mustang was deluged with competitors, but only the Mustang has been in continuous production right up to the present day, and it is stronger now than ever. That alone is something to celebrate.
1965 Shelby Gt350 Front Three Quarters
1965 Shelby GT350
Months after launching the Mustang in the spring of 1964, executives had the itch to go racing with their new pony car. Early attempts to field the Mustang in the SCCA's B-Production competition failed, so Carroll Shelby-who was already stuffing Ford engines into his successful Cobra race cars-was called in to help. Shelby's team extensively reworked the chassis. For the front suspension, upper control arms were lowered to improve suspension geometry, and a thicker, one-inch antiroll bar, as well as a one-piece shock-tower brace, were installed. At the rear, new traction bars curbed axle hop. Adjustable Koni dampers all around completed the package. These measures were especially useful since the already potent 289-cubic-inch V-8, which normally churned out 271 hp, was tuned to 306 ponies by means of a new intake manifold, a large Holley four-barrel carb, and tubular headers.
Development work began on the car in August 1964, and production began the week before Christmas. In one week, Shelby American built twelve cars; in two, it had built 100 examples-enough for SCCA officials to sign off on the car. The GT350 quickly became a dominant player in the B-Production class, winning national championships for the next three years and helping establish the Mustang's performance cred.
Base price: $4547
Engine: 289-cubic-inch (4.7L) OHV V-8
306 hp @ 6000 rpm
329 lb-ft @ 4200 rpm
0-60 MPH: 7.0 sec
Total built: 521
1969-70 Mustang Boss 302
After promoting the development of the Camaro Z28 during his tenure at Chevrolet, Ford president (and GM turncoat) Semon "Bunkie" Knudsen insisted Ford needed a Mustang that could go toe-to-toe with his prior creation and compete in Trans-Am racing. Along with a beefier block, Ford's 302-cubic-inch V-8 was treated to forged pistons and a high-rise intake manifold, and enlarged valves helped deliver additional high-end power. Engineers added wider tires, stiffer springs, heavy-duty dampers, and a larger antiroll bar in front (a rear bar was added for 1970), plus a quicker steering box. Designer Larry Shinoda (another GM expatriate) added a blacked-out hood and deck lid, large C-shaped stripes, rear window louvers, and an aggressive chin spoiler.
1969 Mustasng Boss 302 Front End
Ford launched the Boss 302-possibly named for its awesome power, wild looks, or as a nod to Bunkie himself-in the second half of 1969 and sold 1628 examples, more than enough to homologate the car for racing. Ford failed to clinch a Trans-Am title that year (it did in 1970), but Boss 302 customers were the true winners: with a few mild modifications, they owned a factory-built race car-albeit with a complete interior.
Base Price: $3500 (1969)
Engine: 302-cubic-inch (4.9L) OHV V-8
290 hp @ 5800 rpm
290 lb-ft @ 4300 rpm
0-60 MPH: 6.9 sec
total built: 8641
1968 1/2 Mustang 428 Cobra Jet
From the era of glorious muscle-car excess comes the 428 Cobra Jet. Introduced in April of 1968, the 428 CJ was the brainchild of Robert F. Tasca, an influential Ford dealer from Rhode Island. It was a drag-race winner from its first event (the NHRA Winternationals, in February 1968) and is still winning NHRA Stock and Super Stock races today. And it's been a legend on the street since day one. After recording a 13.6-second quarter mile at 107 mph in a test of a Cobra Jet prototype, Hot Rod magazine proclaimed it "probably the fastest regular-production sedan ever built." Under the ram-air hood was a 428-cubic-inch V-8 whose special features included low-rise heads patterned after the 427, a variant of the Police Interceptor intake, and a Holley four-barrel. Ford rated the engine at a demure 335 hp, but the true figure was somewhere north of 400 hp. Power front disc brakes, a nine-inch rear end, and a heavy-duty suspension helped round out the package, which was offered on all three body styles. Honorable mention goes to the '69 Mach 1 with the Super Cobra Jet option and Shaker hood, as it is in our opinion the best-looking Mustang ever and an equal performer to the '681/2.
Base Price: $3110
Engine: 428-cubic-inch (7.0L) OHV V-8
335 hp @ 5400 rpm
440 lb-ft @ 3400 rpm
0-60 mph: 5.5 sec
Total built: 2870
1984-86 Mustang SVO
The Mustang may be an all-American muscle machine, but Ford's Special Vehicle Operations team gave the pony car a European twist for 1984. Electing to improve handling instead of simply adding power, the group made a number of modifications to help the Fox-body Mustang dance, including stiffer springs and bushings, four-wheel disc brakes, and adjustable Koni dampers at each corner. To keep weight balanced, SVO ditched the traditional V-8 in favor of-believe it or not-a 175-hp, 2.3-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, which was paired with a five-speed manual gearbox. Die-hard autocrossers could also spring for the Competition Prep package, which stripped the car of air-conditioning, power windows and locks, and a stereo to shave weight. Car magazines declared the SVO to be the best-handling Mustang ever built, but consumers barely budged, no doubt due to the lack of eight cylinders under the SVO's hood. Ford dropped the price in 1985 and bumped power to 205 hp and 240 lb-ft of torque-nearly equaling the output of the 4.9-liter V-8-but the $6000 premium over a GT still stifled SVO sales. Only 9844 examples were built over three years, far short of the 10,000-unit annual sales rate Ford initially planned.
1984 Mustang SVO Rear In Motion
Base price: $15,585 (1984)
Engine: 2.3L turbocharged SOHC I-4
175-205 hp @ 4000-5000 rpm
210-240 lb-ft @ 3000-3200 rpm
0-60 mph: 7.2 sec
Total built: 9844
1987-93 Mustang LX 5.0
The 302-cubic-inch V-8 made famous by the 1969-70 Mustang Boss 302 lingered through most of the dark years of the 1970s and early '80s, but the powerplant had been severely stifled by emissions controls. For the 1987 model year, however, Ford dutifully reawakened both the Mustang and the 302 (a.k.a. "five-oh") with an aerodynamic face-lift and a 25-hp bump, respectively. The result was the LX 5.0 that countless Mustang fans covet to this day.
Like the purest muscle cars of the '60s, the 5.0 LX had a big engine in a compact, relatively affordable, bare-bones package. It lacked the fancier trim and bodywork of its upmarket GT brother, but it was also quite a bit lighter. True weight watchers, though, ordered their LX 5.0 as a notchback, which was about sixty pounds trimmer than a similar hatchback and a couple hundred pounds lighter than a convertible LX 5.0.
The highest-volume car on our list-and still the king of many a high-school parking lot-is highly modifiable, too. Stock or modified, then or now, the LX 5.0's budget-minded straight-line speed harks back to the Mustang's earliest days.
Base price: $10,156 (1987)
Engine: 4.9L OHV V-8
225 hp @ 4200 rpm
300 lb-ft @ 3200 rpm
0-60 MPH: 6.4 sec
total built: 196,185
1987-93 Mustang LX 5.0
The 302-cubic-inch V-8 made famous by the 1969-70 Mustang Boss 302 lingered through most of the dark years of the 1970s and early '80s, but the powerplant had been severely stifled by emissions controls. For the 1987 model year, however, Ford dutifully reawakened both the Mustang and the 302 (a.k.a. "five-oh") with an aerodynamic face-lift and a 25-hp bump, respectively. The result was the LX 5.0 that countless Mustang fans covet to this day.
1987 Mustang Lx 5 0 Front Three Quarters
Like the purest muscle cars of the '60s, the 5.0 LX had a big engine in a compact, relatively affordable, bare-bones package. It lacked the fancier trim and bodywork of its upmarket GT brother, but it was also quite a bit lighter. True weight watchers, though, ordered their LX 5.0 as a notchback, which was about sixty pounds trimmer than a similar hatchback and a couple hundred pounds lighter than a convertible LX 5.0.
The highest-volume car on our list-and still the king of many a high-school parking lot-is highly modifiable, too. Stock or modified, then or now, the LX 5.0's budget-minded straight-line speed harks back to the Mustang's earliest days.
Base price: $10,156 (1987)
Engine: 4.9L OHV V-8
225 hp @ 4200 rpm
300 lb-ft @ 3200 rpm
0-60 MPH: 6.4 sec
total built: 196,185
1993 Mustang Cobra
The old Fox-chassis Mustangs, which debuted for 1979, weren't known for their sophistication, but the 1993 Mustang Cobra began changing that. The car was developed by the true-blue enthusiasts at SVT (Ford's Special Vehicle Team), who took a holistic approach in moving the Mustang away from its one-dimensional muscle-car identity and making it more of an all-around driver's car. The suspension was actually softened, but it made the handling more progressive and the ride more refined. The steering and the clutch were reworked, the brakes were improved, and the tires-245/45ZR-17s on 7.5-inch wheels-were the largest ever fitted to a Mustang. Roush Engineering massaged the 4.9-liter V-8 engine with GT40 cylinder heads, imbuing it with 235 hp, enough to bring the 0-to-60-mph time down to six seconds flat. And the car's newfound sophistication was reflected on the outside as well, where the SVT team stripped off four fake air scoops, creating the cleanest-looking Mustang of its era. The '93 Mustang Cobra is easily the most collectible Fox-chassis Mustang and was the first real sign of the change in direction for the Mustang that continues to this day.
Base price: $20,747
Engine: 4.9L OHV V-8
235 hp @ 4600 rpm
280 lb-ft @ 3800 rpm
0–60 mph: 6.0 sec
Total built: 4993
1995 Mustang Cobra R
As you may have guessed, the R here is for racing, and although the Cobra R was actually street legal, this car was absolutely intended for track use. Ford was so serious about seeing the Cobra R on the track (rather than in collectors' climate-controlled garages) that it required buyers to have a competition license. The fact that only 250 examples were built did indeed make the Cobra R collector bait, but the fact that the cars were seriously stripped-down machines made them true track stars. A comprehensive chassis upgrade made the Cobra R race ready, and the car was factory-equipped with a fuel cell. In a further testament to its seriousness of purpose, Ford axed the air-conditioning, the radio, the sound insulation, and the back seats. In place of the standard Cobra's 240-hp, 4.9-liter V-8, Ford installed a 5.8-liter-better known as the 351 Windsor-in a Mustang for the first time since 1973. Output was an even 300 hp, along with a healthy 365 lb-ft of torque; the bulging powerplant was topped with a fiberglass hood.
1995 Mustang Cobra R Front Three Quarters In Motion
Reportedly, Ford made more money selling '95 Cobra R fiberglass hoods and Cobra R wheels than it did on the 250 actual cars it produced.
Base price: $34,999
Engine: 5.8L OHV V-8
300 hp @ 4800 rpm
365 lb-ft @ 3750 rpm
0-60 MPH: 5.2 sec
Total build: 250
2000 Mustang Cobra R
Although the exterior styling of the 2000 Mustang Cobra R was questioned by the Mustang faithful, the massive rear wing and the front splitter are something of an icon ten years later. While some people remember the 2000 R for its looks, however, more remember it for its performance.
Under the bulbous hood, Ford shoehorned a monster 5.4-liter DOHC V-8 into an engine bay designed for a 4.6-liter. No forced induction here: the normally aspirated engine featured forged aluminum pistons that bumped the compression ratio up from 8.8:1 to 9.6:1. With modified internals, a larger intake system, and a free-flowing side-exit exhaust, the engine kicked out an impressive 385 hp and 385 lb-ft of torque, which was good enough to rocket this beast to 60 mph in just 4.4 seconds.
The Cobra R also featured a six-speed Tremec manual transmission and deep Recaro bucket seats. In true race-spec form, engineers removed the air-conditioner, stereo, rear seats, and sound-deadening material. Chassis improvements on the new-millennium R included stiffer Eibach springs, Bilstein dampers, revamped bushings, and BFGoodrich performance rubber. Bringing the 3590-pound pony to a halt were Brembo four-piston calipers up front with carbon-fiber cooling ducts. The overall package was exhilarating, and we went as far as calling the 2000 Cobra R "a raw, exciting machine that is easily the best Mustang we've driven" in May 2000. Only 300 units were produced, making the this Cobra R one of the rarest Mustangs ever made.
Base price: $53,900
engine: 5.4L DOHC V-8
385 hp @ 5700 rpm
385 lb-ft @ 4500 rpm
0-60 mph: 4.4 sec
Total built: 300
2001 Mustang Bullitt GT
At the 2000 Los Angeles auto show, Ford unveiled a concept version of its recently revised Mustang called the Bullitt, inspired by the 1968 movie of the same name starring Steve McQueen. In our two-page report on the show, we never mentioned the Bullitt, instead devoting ink to the likes of the Daewoo Korando, the Pontiac Aztek, and the Subaru ST-X concept. Thankfully, Mustang fans-both those old enough to remember McQueen's Mustang GT390 dicing with a Dodge Charger through the streets of San Francisco and those younger ones for whom the Bullitt concept served as a cinematic and automotive history lesson-clamored for a production version, and Mustang engineers quickly got to work. We were at the media preview held in-where else?-San Francisco in May 2001 and drove a green Bullitt GT on some of the same streets McQueen had thirty-three years earlier. Although we didn't launch our Bullitt test car to the altitude seen above, the drive route through the city and to Santa Cruz gave us plenty of time to appreciate the advantages the Bullitt had over the stock Mustang GT, and they weren't just cosmetic. The car rode 0.75 inch lower and had Tokico dampers, thicker rear and thinner front antiroll bars, and 13.0-inch front brake rotors from the SVT Cobra. The V-8's output was barely changed, but the torque curve was flatter. A menacing exhaust note completed the picture of the coolest non-SVT Mustang to have come along in years.
2001 Mustang Bullitt GT Front Mid Air
Base price: $26,830
Engine: 4.6L SOHC V-8
265 hp @ 5250 rpm
305 lb-ft @ 4000 rpm
0-60 MPH: 5.6 sec
TOTAL BUILT: 5582
2011 Shelby GT500
The nine other Mustangs on this list have earned their places here-and in the hearts of enthusiasts-with timeless looks and serious capability for their day. Yet no Mustang endears itself to the right foot quite like the 2011 Shelby GT500, the pinnacle of pony performance. With modern engineering and a healthy respect for history, Ford has delivered a car that accelerates, brakes, and turns like no Mustang before while capitalizing on the car's iconic styling.
At the core of the GT500 is a supercharged, 5.4-liter V-8 good for 550 hp with 510 lb-ft of torque available at 4250 rpm (jumps of 50 hp and 30 lb-ft versus the GT500 that debuted for 2007). Channeled through a tight, stiff, six-speed manual, the V-8 reliably churns out 4.2-second runs to 60 mph or two broad black strokes on the pavement-your choice. The arrival of the striped snake is trumpeted through a new exhaust configuration that accents the deep, uneven rumble on acceleration and the sharp cracks on overrun.
Blistering straight-line acceleration from today's most expensive Mustang is a given, but the GT500's best trait is its balance at the limits of adhesion. The new-for-2011 aluminum block strips 102 pounds from the nose, transforming the handling from sensitive to obliging. Yaw can still be readily controlled by throttle or brake application, but the 2011 Shelby GT500 is more forgiving when manhandled and more rewarding when properly massaged.
Ford has lost its way more than once during its forty-six years of building the Mustang. In fact, the original 1967 GT500 was watered down from the first 1965 Shelby. Much of the $1000 premium went toward exterior embellishments rather than mechanical hardware, and the vast majority of the early GT500s were built with automatic transmissions. Thankfully, the modern car is a manual-only affair, and the 2011 Shelby GT500 makes few concessions to no-holds-barred performance. It is the best-driving Mustang yet.
Base price: $49,495
Engine: 5.4L supercharged DOHC V-8
550 hp @ 6200 rpm
510 lb-ft @ 4250 rpm
0-60 mph: 4.2 sec
total planned: 5500
RACING
1968 Mustang GT390 1968 Dodge Charger R Chase
1965, November 28
SCCA divisional champions from all over the country assemble at Daytona International Speedway for the American Road Race of Champions. Seven of the entries in B-Production are R model versions of the Shelby Mustang GT350-factory-built race cars sold through Ford dealerships for $5995. East Coast stud Mark Donohue (in a rare appearance in a Ford)puts his GT350 on the pole, slower only than a full-boat 427 Cobra racing in A-Prod. But he blows a tire in the race and West Coast standard-bearer Jerry Titus gives the Mustang its first national championship. The GT350 romps to two more titles in 1966 and '67. - Preston Lerner
1968, February 4
Five factory-supported Mustangs show up for the Winternationals at Pomona packing brand-new 428 Cobra Jet engines-hi-po versions of the big-blocks found in Police Interceptors. Drag-racing legends Gas Ronda and Don Nicholson lose early, but Al Joniec beats Hubert Platt in an all-Mustang Super Stock Eliminator final while clocking 11.59 seconds at 113.06 mph, then shuts down a Mopar to take the overall Super Stock title. In ad copy, Ford dubs the Cobra Jet "the fastest running pure stock in the history of man." Hyperbole? Maybe, but Cobra Jets are still winning drag races to this day. -Preston Lerner
1970, October 4
The pony car wars achieve their apotheosis during the Trans-Am finale at Riverside International Raceway. With Mustangs campaigned by stock-car legend Bud Moore for Parnelli Jones and George Follmer, Ford has already clinched the manufacturer's title over factory-backed teams from Chevrolet (Camaro), Dodge (Challenger), Plymouth (Barracuda), Pontiac (Firebird), and American Motors (Javelin). In the race, Jones is punted off course by a backmarker while leading. Rejoining the field in ninth place, he careens to a runaway victory in his savaged Mustang and takes the unofficial driver's title from Mark Donohue, driving a Roger Penske- prepared Javelin. - PL
1977, September 5
The two top Ford drag racers of the era face off in the Pro Stock finals at the U.S. Nationals at Indianapolis Raceway Park-twice and future king Bob Glidden in a Pinto and Dyno Don Nicholson in a Mustang II motivated by a 351-cubic-inch Cleveland V-8. Nicholson usually concentrated on match racing; in match-race trim, his Mustang was the first Pro Stocker to dip into seven-second territory. But this year, he's running the full NHRA schedule, and he outpaces Glidden at Indy to secure his only national title. Glidden goes on to win eight more Pro Stock championships-but none in a Mustang. - PL
1981, June 14
After shunning motorsports for a decade, Ford returns to road racing in style. Michael Kranefuss, head of the new Special Vehicle Operations skunk works, imports a turbocharged Zakspeed Capri sedan racer from Germany and reskins it as a Mustang. At Brainerd International Raceway, German hot-shoe Klaus Ludwig torches a pack of Porsche 935s in the IMSA Camel GT race. Five months later, in another tube-frame Mustang at Sears Point-this one with a honking V-8-Tom Gloy gives Ford its first victory in the modern Trans-Am. Three years later, Gloy becomes Ford's first modern Trans-Am champ- ironically driving a Capri. - PL
1997, September 1
On a damp track, Tommy Kendall sticks his Mustang on the pole, clocks the fastest race lap, and leads the most laps at Mosport Park en route to winning his eleventh consecutive Trans-Am race and third consecutive Trans-Am championship. This remarkable performance puts a capstone on the equally impressive road-racing career of former Mustang drag-racer Jack Roush. After campaigning the ex-Zakspeed Capri in 1982, Roush creates a Ford-backed juggernaut that dominates Trans-Am and IMSA GT, scoring nine straight class wins in the 24 Hours of Daytona-usually racing Mustangs-before focusing on more lucrative pastures in NASCAR.
2005, February 4
Like the GT350 before it, Ford's latest factory racer-the FR500C-scores a victory right out of the box, in the Grand-Am Cup 200, when Tom Nastasi and Ian James hold off a second Mustang at Daytona International Speedway. The Mustang goes on to win the manufacturer's championship, humbling BMW M3s and Porsche 911s, and then earns another title in 2008. Delivered as a body-in-white, the FR500C inspires a new generation of track-ready, factory-built race cars designed both for road racing (M-FR500-Boss R1) and drag racing (FR500CJ). And the M-FR500-Boss R is now the basis of the one-make Mustang Challenge series. - PL
MOVIES
I Am Legend Movie
Hollywood Horses: The Mustang on Film
Ford's seminal pony car is no stranger to the screen, having appeared in countless TV shows and more than 500 feature films. Credit likely goes as much to the car's instantly recognizable shape as its historic importance. Here are five of the model's most soul-stirring appearances.
Goldfinger (1964): You know it by heart: Pussy Galore, a gold-painted woman, and the world's most famous Aston Martin. The Aston gets all the glory, but Goldfinger was the Mustang's first appearance in a major motion picture. Tania Mallet's Tilly Masterson used a white '64 1/2 convertible to trail Sean Connery's James Bond through the Swiss Alps. Sexy, subtle, and more '60s swagger than a Mad Men martini lunch.
Bullitt (1968): Bullitt's iconic chase scene lasts eight minutes and shows a Steve McQueen-helmed '68 GT390 and a '68 Dodge Charger R/T hammering across San Francisco. McQueen bounces off parked cars, catches air, and generally wreaks steely-eyed, burnout-ridden havoc. Type "coolest movie chase" into YouTube, and this is what you get.
Diamonds Are Forever (1971): Diamonds is the weakest of the early Bond films, a '70s clunker that suffers from phoned-in performances and a predictable plot. Its saving grace comes when Jill St. John (below) and a graying Sean Connery elude the police in a '71 Mach 1. At one point, the car traverses a narrow alley on two wheels, only to defy physics and leave the alley on the other two. Who needs reality-or good acting-when you've got a roaring V-8?
Gone in 60 Seconds (2000): The movie that launched a thousand clones. Retired car thief Nicolas Cage is tasked with stealing fifty cars in twenty-four hours, one of which is an elusive '67 Shelby GT500 known as "Eleanor." The film was a remake of a '70s picture that featured a similar Mustang, but the modern effort offered better eye candy and ferocious, ear-melting sound.
I Am Legend (2007): There is one reason, and one reason only, to see this forgettable Will Smith end-of-days flick: Shortly after we discover that Smith is the last sane man on earth, we see him tear through a deserted Manhattan, foot to the floor, in an '07 Shelby GT500. The supercharged V-8's roar echoes off the island's empty canyons. Chills.
Mustang Reading
Fast Mustangs Book 2
Fast Mustangs
By Alex Gabbard; Gabbard Publications, 1990. Softcover, 192 pages.
Out of print Fast Mustangs is a comprehensive guide to all forms of Mustang racing from 1964 to 1990. This softcover book provides an in-depth look at everything from drag racing to Trans-Am road racing, with designated sections that focus on the Shelby and Boss years. Complete with a full-color section featuring both street and racing Mustangs.
Mustang: Forty Years
By Randy Leffingwell; Motorbooks, 2003. Hardcover, 384 pages. $50
Leffingwell's work features beautiful color photos and a thorough history of the Ford Mustang from its birth through 2003. Focusing mainly on street-legal cars, the book covers all special-edition Mustangs, including pace cars and police units, with great attention to detail.
The Complete Book of Mustang
By Mike Mueller; Motorbooks, 2007. Hardcover, 348 pages. $55
This compilation is good for quick and easy-to-find information and is presented in a magazine-style format. Covering all Mustangs from a 1962 prototype to the 2007 GT500, it features large color photos, a brief what's what about the nameplate, and complete specifications for each model, including original prices.
Ford: The Dust and the Glory, A Racing History
By Leo Levine; SAE International, 2001. Hardcover, 1108 pages (two volumes). $70
The book pictured above is the first of two volumes and revisits Ford's extensive motorsports history from 1901 to 1967 (volume two covers 1968 to 2000). These must-have tomes are known for their coverage of Ford's great successes at Le Mans, but they also cover every form of Mustang racing, from Trans-Am to IMSA to NHRA.

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