When the Mustang hit the market in the Spring of 1964, it was an automotive phenomenon that is difficult to appreciate in today's world. America was truly captivated by the sporty, cute and affordable vehicle, and we bought it in record numbers. It is one of the few times when one manufacturer created a large new market and caught everyone else napping.
Susceptible to the tin worm
A sea of clones
The Mustang roamed free for over two years before any real competition was fielded. Over at Plymouth there was a Valiant variant called Barracuda, but this was no real problem for Ford. Then, in the fall of 1966, the folks over at Chevrolet responded with its "pony" car (the market segment was, of course, named after the Mustang) the Camaro, while Pontiac fielded a similar new model called Firebird. At the same time, Ford's cousin Mercury let the cat out of the bag with the new Cougar. Despite all this new competition, the Mustang continued to walk away with the sales crown each year, albeit at lower levels than before.
For 1969, the third generation of the Mustang hit the streets and the boys at Ford had decided to release several surprises that would meet the competition head-on in both styling and performance. Since the fall of 1964, Mustang had been offered in three basic body styles: coupe, convertible and fastback. These three varieties returned for the 1969 model year, and would act as the basis for some of the most spectacular Mustangs ever produced.
The base Mustang this year started with a 200ci/115hp in-line six cylinder engine, three-speed fully synchronized manual transmission and new sheet metal design and with quad headlights. All Mustangs this year were mounted on a 108" wheelbase and had an overall length of 187.4", a bit of an expansion over the previous season. The coupe got a new decor package, the Grande. Included in with this model was a more sound insulation, softer rear suspension, wire wheel covers, body color racing style outside rear view mirrors, wheel lip and rocker panel moldings plus "elegant interior appointments." De-emphasized from the Mustang line-up was the GT package; it was available in watered down form for '69, then replaced by several performance and trim packages that more than made up for the loss.
1969 also brought an expanded family of engines to the 'Stang, both big and small block. Optionally available in all base Mustangs was a new, bigger six-cylinder engine with 250 cubic inches and 155 horses. Most Mustang buyers wanted a V8,however, and there were plenty of choices to choose from. Introduced during the 1968 model year was an enlarged version of the small-block V8, the new 302. For 1969, this compact engine was available equipped with two-barrel intake and rated at 220 horsepower, or as a "hi-po" unit available only in the mid-year Boss 302 model. It pumped out a conservatively rated 290 horsepower due to a hi-rise intake manifold topped by a Holley 780 four-barrel carburetor and other performance modifications. Totally new for 1969 was another derivative of the small block, the 351. Basically a 302 with a longer stroke, it was what would to become known as the Windsor V8. It was rated at 250 horses with a two-barrel carb, or 290 horses with four-barrel.
For those who needed the twist that only a big block can deliver, a 300 horse 390ci V8 or the legendary 428ci V8 could be ordered in any model. In its base form, this seven-litre powerplant was rated at 335 horses, and was the same engine that came standard in the 1969 Fairlane based Cobra hardtops. For the ultimate in horsepower (not advertised but estimated to be in the 350hp range) was the Ram-Air option with its active hood scoop with vacuum operated inlet valve.
Also new for '69 was a new model in the Mustang stable, the Mach 1. Named, of course, after the designation for the speed of sound, it was technically an option package only available on the fastback "Sportsroof" model. Distinctive exterior touches included a simulated air scoop with concealed turn signals, hood lock pins, two color-keyed "racing" mirrors, E70 x 14 white wall fiberglass tires mounted on GT style wheels, special stripe package and several other distinctive features. On the inside, high-back bucket seats, simulated teakwood appointments, deluxe "rim-blow" steering wheel and a clock were part of the deal, as well as an additional 55 pounds of sound insulation. Standard under the hood was the two-barrel 351 "Windsor" V8, backed by the three-speed manual transmission.
At the same time as the early 1969 introduction of a four-barrel 302 V8 came another sporty edition of the Mustang, one that made a clear statement about its status in the ponycar world, the Boss 302. Featuring many of the appointments of the Mach 1, the Boss 302 was the only model available with the new 290hp version of this small block, which required a manual four-speed transmission. Styling cues were lent to the project by Larry Shinoda, the man credited with giving the world the Corvette Stingray.
Aimed at the International Sedan Racing Class -- and the performance-orientated driver -- the new Boss was more than just an appearance package. Standard features for the Boss 302 read like a performance junkie's wish list: four-speed transmission with high capacity clutch, F-60 x 15 tires on 7" rims, power front disc brakes, dual-exhaust, "competition" suspension with a "Daytona" 3.50:1 rear axle, quick ratio steering, a fully functional front spoiler, as well as a whole shopping cart of other features. Created to compete directly with the Camaro Z-28s of the day, it was a close match in nearly every way, from displacement to horsepower to price.
As if all that wasn't enough, Ford had one more trick up its sleeve. In mid-January 1969, arguably the most powerful pony car ever was unleashed: the mighty Boss 429. Like the Mach-1 and Boss 302, the Sportsroof hardtop was the base for this performance model. Stuffed under the hood was the race-car bred Boss 429 V8. Created in part so that Ford could put into competition this unique engine, production was very limited and Ford easily sold the needed 500 units. So special were these Mustangs that they were pulled off the assembly line and sent to an outside contractor, Kar Kraft in Dearborn, who completed the hardware modifications that went into each of these cars, including structural bracing and a lowered and strengthened suspension.
The centerpiece of the package was the engine: the Boss 429 V8. It featured aluminum "semi-hemi" heads, a driver controlled ram-air intake, and was officially rated for 375 horses at 5200 rpm, providing 450 foot-pounds of torque at 3400 rpm. These were the "advertised" ratings of this engine, somewhat conservative so as not to drive insurance rates to the level of the Apollo astronauts on the way to the moon at the time. Real horsepower ratings are a bit elusive as over time legend, lore and fact have tended to blend together and have resulted in some rather fanciful estimates. It's a safe bet, however, that the number was over 400hp. Helping make this engine all the more special was a large 8-quart oil capacity with oil cooler, five main bearings supporting the statically and dynamically balanced crankshaft, solid lifters and a 735 cfm Holley four-barrel carburetor.
A number of mandatory extra cost options were also part of the Boss 429 package, including the close-ratio four-speed transmission, heavy-duty suspension, sway bars and staggered Gabriel rear shock absorbers, trunk mounted battery, plus the nine-inch 31-spline 3.91:1 Traction-Lok rear axle. Front duo-servo self adjusting disk brakes with extra-duty rear drums were including while a quick ratio "Fluidic Control" power steering system that coasted to keep the feel of the road (well, that was the intent anyway!) at the driver's hand. Mounted on Magnum 500 chrome plated steel wheels were wide-oval fiberglass belted F60 x 15 raised white-letter tires that were supplied to Ford by Goodyear.
Despite the success with its racing programs and new restyling program, Mustang production fell by 3.4% compared to the 1968 model year figures, to 299,824 units. Prices ranged from $2,690 for a base coupe to well over the $5,000 mark for the Boss 429 Sportsroof edition.
For 1970, a number of subtle appearance changes and updates were incorporated. Starting at the front of the car, a return to a single headlight arrangement was accomplished with simulated front fender air intakes mounted to the outside of the grille position. Rear end styling was also revised, with now recessed taillights mounted in a flush rear panel. The interior received only minor tweaking.
Returning were the same three basic body styles and model configurations. Changes to the Mach 1 included a new stripe and decal design, wide dark accented aluminum rocker panel molding with the series name added, and die-cast lettering to the rear of the car. Also available was a rear deck-lid wing and the new "Cleveland" 351 V8.
The new Cleveland replaced the four-barrel version of the Windsor V8, which was a direct descendant of the 302 small block family. The Cleveland still used thin-wall casting, but carried a larger molded in timing chain cover up front, used revised heads, and four bolt main bearing caps. Among the many other features of this new V8 was improved engine cooling, heads with canted valves, and positive stop rocker arms used to eliminate "valve float". Rated at 300 horses at 5,400 rpm, this robust engine would prove to be one of the most popular performance options in Fords for the next quarter century.
The Boss 302 package returned equipped virtually identically to the 1969 version, with the exception of the basic Mustang changes. Available in eleven different colors, including three bright "Grabber" hues of orange, blue and green, the Boss 302 looked like a million bucks. One popular option for the Boss 302, as well as other Sportsroof models, was the Sports Slats rear window louvers. This feature provided better air-flow over the car, and offered a bit of shade to the passenger compartment without hindering the rear-view for the driver.
Also returning, again in very limited numbers, was the Boss 429. As with the previous season, these were special cars that weren't for the faint of heart. Colors were somewhat limited and exterior marking was kept to the bare minimum with the performance package noted on the front fenders with either black or white decals, dependent upon the base color of the car.
Building on the competition successes of the Mustang, a factory "Drag Pack" was offered all Mustangs which included either the Boss 429's 3.91:1 rear axle or a Detroit "Locker" 4.30 unit, heavy-duty suspension packages, and the availability of either four-speed or Cruise-O-Matic automatic transmissions. Needless to say, this wasn't exactly a "street legal" package and was available only to qualified race teams, sponsors and drivers. But wouldn't you know it, many ended up in the hands of wanna-be street racers. Imagine that.
Prices rose for 1970, with base models starting at $2,721, and again topping the $5,000 mark for the ground-shaking Boss 429 edition. Towards the end of the model year, Ford withdrew from further factory sponsored racing efforts with the Mustang, but only after it had captured the Trans-Am title for 1970, beating out such competitors as Camaro, Firebird, AMX, Charger and 'Cuda.
Sales plummeted this season, dipping to just 190,727 units, a 36% drop from the previous year. All new styling was around the corner for Mustang, but it was clear that its glory days were over. The usual story of emission controls, skyrocketing insurance premiums apply, but often overlooked was a deepening pessimism of the country's mood and the increasing popularity of small, economical Japanese imports among the youth of the day.
In today's market, the 1969 and 1970 Mustangs are strong players. While in base or even Grande form the coupes are generally over looked, they make pleasant driver editions of the sporty Mustang. Just 14,746 convertibles were produced for 1969, and that number was almost sliced in half to 7,673 for 1970. Both numbers are amazingly low considering the numbers of first and second generation Mustang convertibles on the road.
Authentic Mach 1 fastbacks were produced in good numbers, with 72,458 coming off the line in 1969 and 40,970 for the 1970 model year. Identified on the body data plate as style 63C, the 1970 version finds slightly more interest due to the stronger badging of the model and the availability of the 351 Cleveland V8.
Moving to the Boss 302, the 1969 version is relatively rare, with one source placing production at 1,628, while other quotes the number to be 1,934. Identified in the VIN by the letter "G" that represents the exclusive engine installation, they were considered to be a trim package on the base fastback and carry body codes 63A. For 1970, this number was reportedly raised to either 7,013 or 6,318 units, depending on what source you use. With the special engines used on the Boss 302, the car's unit identification number was stamped onto the back of the block in a bossed surface.
The rarest of the breed, the Boss 429, is also easy to identify. Carrying body code 63B for the Deluxe version of the fastback, these cars all have the letter "Z" as the fifth character in the VIN to identify the special 429 under the hood. When Kar Kraft received these cars from Ford, they also assigned each one an internal identification number that was attached via a silver adhesive stripe to the rear face of the driver's door adjacent to the Ford identification tag. Using the letters "KK", the series started at 1201 and ended at 2059 in 1970 which would indicate that only 859 Boss 429s were produced over the two year run. Some sources put that number at 867. As with the Boss 302 engines, the original Boss 429 blocks were also stamped with the full VIN.
Prices for the basic Mustang coupe, convertible or fastback are in the affordable range, with the Grande commanding just a slight premium. The installation of higher performance V8s, appearance, comfort and convenience options can make a huge difference in value. While the Mach 1 fastbacks were produced in strong numbers, actually out numbering the base units, they command a large premium over similarly equipped base models.
Original "Boss 302" fastbacks from either year have consistently grown in value, and today prime restored examples routinely surpass the $25,000 mark and are still rising. Here again, the degree of authenticity on these cars is a major factor with replacement engines or data plate affecting the real value of the car. Despite the plethora of "all original" examples found for sale, truly original cars are very rare, as many of these led hard lives were mechanical meltdowns and blown engines were quite common. Current Boss 302 prices: 1969 1970
Boss 429 buyers tend to be a very well educated lot, and they know these cars inside and out. Given the expense of purchasing one, if you are seriously interested in one of these special vehicles and don't know everything about them, it would be well worth the time and effort to get together with an expert who does. Current Boss 429 Prices: 1969 1970
In recent years we have seen these third generation Mustangs come on very, very strong in the marketplace. CCTM believes that properly optioned, these two model years are already becoming the most desirable of all Mustang production, so get yours today!
(C) Copyright 2003- VMR International, Inc. All rights reserved. This article first appeared in the May 2003 issue of Collector Car & Truck Market Guide.