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1973 Mustang1971 Mustang

1971- 73    Ford Mustang

The last version of the original Mustang arrived in September of 1970. By this time, it was clear that performance was being pushed out of the marketplace through economics (insurance premiums) and regulation (safety and fuel requirements). An exciting and unique chapter in American automotive history was coming to an end.

The new Mustang was hardly recognizable next to the original version. Like almost all cars of the day it grew longer, lower, and especially wider and heavier. Where the first Mustang looked light and cheerful, this one looked heavy and sullen.

As per the Mustang way, three body styles were available: hardtop, fastback (also known as a sportsroof), and convertible. Base models started with a 250ci inline six making 145hp. A three speed manual on the floor was your standard transmission. A 302ci 2bbl V8 rated at 210hp was your first engine option, and most base Mustangs come with this motor hooked up to the optional 3-speed C4 automatic.

There was little flash to a base Mustang. Chrome was sparse on the outside and the interior was downright cold and spartan. In typical Detroit fashion, however, both conditions could be remedied simply by looking to the option sheet to spruce things up.

The luxury version of the Mustang, the Grande, was added to the line in 1969, and returned for 1971. It features a richer, fancier interior (available as the Interior Decor option on other models), and unique trim and identification badges. A clock residing in the console was also standard.

Next up the ladder was the performance oriented model, the Mach 1 fastback. The Mach 1 had its own visual cues, including stripes and graphics, special grille with amber driving lights, unique rear panel treatment, and pop-open gas cap. Interestingly, the interior of the Mach 1 has the same taxi cab look of the base model--right down to the idiot lights. If you want proper gauges you’ll have to look for a car with the optional gauge pack in the center console and a tachometer to the left.

Mechanical bits for the Mach 1 included an uprated, heavy duty suspension with stabilizer bars and wider 14-inch tires. Standard wheel treatment is the smooth hubcaps and bright trim rings, with the commonly seen Magnum 500’s optional.  A dual scoop hood was standard on 351 and 429 Mach 1’s and a no-cost option for the 302. The scoops could be made functional at extra cost via vacuum-operation. This option also got you twist locks for the hood.

73 Mustang Grande
72 Mustang convertible
73 Mustang Dash

Top: The big Mustang still looked great in both hardtop and convertible form.  Bottom: The deluxe dash for ‘73 looks more at home in a luxury car than a pony car.

The 302 was the Mach 1’s base motor, but hardly worthy of the performance image. Most Mach 1’s have the optional 240hp, 351-2V motor, itself not exactly a pavement ripper. After those, things got interesting. First up was a 4-bbl version of the 351, rated at 285hp. This is a nice, balanced powerplant with plenty of oomph for most. This engine was available on the base and Grande models, too.

Part of the reason the new models were so big was so they could easily accommodate Ford's biggest engine, the 429ci Cobra Jet V8.  Rated at 370hp, these were a handful. But not the biggest handful. A ram air version, the CJ-R unofficially churned out another 15 or so horsepower. These were backed up by either a close-ratio 4-speed “top-loader” manual or the stout C6 automatic. Add the Drag Pack option and your CJ became a SCJ.  You got internal engine upgrades and a 3.91:1 Traction Lok or 4.11:1 Detroit Locker rear axle. These were neck snappers!  Interestingly, these potent drivetrains were available in any Mustang model and body style.

At the top of the Mustang hierarchy was the Boss 351. Another fastback-only model, this one was special indeed.  It started with an exclusive solid lifter 351-4V motor.  With Ram Air, big valves, an 11.7:1 compression ratio and a 750cfm Holley carb, it was one quick pony. It featured a competition suspension with staggered rear shocks, 15-inch wheels and tires, power disc brakes, full instrumentation and a close ratio 4-speed manual. The whole thing was good for sub 14-second quarters right out of the box. An automatic was not available.

All this was gone after one year. 1972 saw the end of the Boss and the 429. What was left saw few changes. One addition was a new Sprint option. Available on all body styles, it was white with twin blue stripes on the hood and the same blue was found on the lower body. The interior was an attractive and bold blue and white. An extended Sprint “B” package added 15-inch Magnum 500 wheels and a heavy duty suspension.

1973 brought little change, as the Mustang was in a holding pattern until the all-new, smaller Mustang II arrived for ‘74.

The Market Today
For years, this version of the Mustang went neglected and mostly unrecognized in the collector car market. This even applied, though to a lesser extent, to the Boss and CJ models. They never fully participated in the first postwar collector car boom of the eighties, laying largely dormant through the nineties but coming to life with some very strong percentage gains the last couple of years. In fact, they’ve enjoyed some of the biggest value gains on a percentage basis of any Mustang. How big? Well over 100% for the Boss 351, and over 150% for the 429’s. Mach 1’s with the lesser, but still respectable Q-code 4-bbl 351 have shot up in value, too. Not to be left out, convertibles, Grandes and even base hardtops have risen smartly.

71-73 Mustang price trends

These are now all collectible, but as an investment we would look to the Boss 351 or the 429 cars. Their production is limited, and they have top-shelf muscle car credentials. Right now a Boss can bring over $50,000, while the 429CJ is over $60,000. A full on Drag Pack CJ-R is another 15%. The rarest of the rare is a CJ convertible, and these are into six figure territory now.

A nice, but not show, Mach 1 with a 351 can still be bought under 20 grand and offers a lot of style for the money. A convertible with options also falls into the safe category. We also like a fully optioned Grande with the 351, air, power windows (a first for Mustangs), and as many options as possible.
As the last of the baby boomer generation trickles into the collector car market, these later Mustangs could continue to rise in value even while the market as whole takes a breath.

No question, the last Mustang is finally getting some respect.

Current Values

Mustang Spirit of America 71 Mustang Boss 351
The Sprint Option for 1972 was bold in looks only. It was available on all body styles. The '71 Boss 351, on the other hand, was not to be taken lightly by anyone -- big blocks included.

 

 
Year One
 
AutoKrafters
 
Tony Branda
National Parts Depot
 

Sales Channel Supply

Availability by Sales Channel

Classifieds are the lopsided winner here. We were surprised to find so many for say. Dealers seem to hold a healthy number of Boss and CJ models. The other models were mostly private party. Auction participation was surprisingly healthy, as there were lots of Mach 1’s on the block. The Boss and CJ have really taken off, but look to cool off a bit now.
 

Mustang Production Year Changes

1971
• Introduced September, 1970
• Biggest Mustang ever, a foot longer, six inches wider and almost 575lbs heavier than the original version
• Different grill for all Sportsroof models
• First Mustang to offer power windows
• New Boss 351 replaced previous years’ Boss 302 and Boss 429

Production: Base htp: 65,696 • Base cnv: 6,121 • Base fstbk: 22,150 • Grande: 17,406 • Mach 1: 36,499 • Boss 351: 1,806 • 429CJ: 1255 • 429SCJ-R: 610

1972
• Very minor trim changes
• 429 dropped
• Boss 351 dropped
• Wheel arch and rocker panel chrome moldings now standard on Base model.
• New Sprint option
• Power ratings go to net horsepower

Production: Base htp: 57,350 • Base Cnv: 6,401 • Base fstbk: 15,622 • Grande: 18,045 • Mach 1: 27,675

1973
• Front chrome bumper gone
• Last year for original concept Mustang

Production: Base htp: 51,480 • Base fstbk: 10,820 • Base conv: 11,853 • Grande: 25,274 • Mach 1: 35,440