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.
Losing their stigma
Still not in the same class as earlier 'Stangs
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.
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.
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.
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 (2019) a nice Boss brings over $60,000+, while the 429CJ/SCJ is over $80,000. A full on Drag Pack CJ-R is another 15-20%. The rarest of the rare is a CJ convertible, and these are into six figure territory now.
If you're patient a nice, but not show, Mach 1 with a 351 can be bought for around 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, over the long-term these later Mustangs should continue to steadily rise in value, perhaps even out-performing the market as a whole.
No question, the "last" Mustang is finally getting some respect.
(C) Copyright 2008- VMR International, Inc. All rights reserved. This article first appeared in the September 2008 issue of Collector Car Market Review.