There are few cars in American motoring history as recognizable as the Ford Mustang. First-generation models invoke fond nostalgic thoughts, and today’s powerhouse ‘Stangs can impress with supercar-levels of capability. Yet, one thing has remained constant throughout the Mustang’s six generations, the ability to deliver a lot of cars for the money. While the phrase “bang for the buck” is often overused, it certainly applies here.
The idea of performance and value becomes even more relevant when considering the purchase of a used Mustang. The combination of depreciation with the car’s overall reliability makes this approach an attractive consideration.
With this in mind, we’ll stroll through some Mustang history by way of a review of each generation. And, we’ll dive more deeply into the two most recent generations of Mustang as these models can be the ideal used ones to check out.
When buying a previously owned Mustang, or any sports car for that matter, think about why you are buying it and how you will use it.
Your desire for just a weekend “fun” car may give you greater flexibility in which Mustang you choose. On the other hand, if this Mustang will be your daily driver, you’ll want to consider a good-condition vehicle with lower mileage. Take this all into consideration as you begin your Mustang adventure.
It may be weird seeing a “.5” in a model year, but the April 1964 debut of the Mustang and some planned changes already in the works for the 1965 Mustang made the 1964.5 designations a logical choice. No matter how you label it, the early Mustang was a smashing success. Ford had planned to sell about 100,000 units during the first year. Instead, it sold 20,000 on the first day and more than 400,000 over the initial twelve months. The clever combination of Thunderbird-ish sportiness with mechanicals mostly from the ordinary Falcon has become the stuff of automotive legend.
By today’s standards, the first-gen Mustang is underpowered. But, that applies to most cars of the era. Eventually, power would catch up and produce memorable Mustangs like the Boss 302 and Mach 1, making enthusiasts drool.
Fortunately for Mustang fans, the second-generation Mustang (called the Mustang II) was the shortest-lived. At a time of oil embargos and increasing government emission standards, Ford developed a Mustang that was forgettable, if not embarrassing. Power and muscular bodies were replaced with anemic engines and softly shaped exteriors.
Commonly known as Fox Body Mustangs, the third generation of this pony car remains popular with aficionados. And keep in mind that there hasn’t been a Fox Body on a new car showroom floor in almost thirty years. The all-new third-gen Mustang benefited from a crisp design that was right for times and more angular than its predecessor. Also, engine technology was catching up with the real-world demands for better fuel economy and reduced emissions. This was the generation of Mustang that launched that famous “five-point-o” (5.0) moniker. Other noteworthy models from the Fox Body era include the turbo SVO Mustang and the track-oriented Mustang SVT Cobra R.
Fox Body cars remain popular with Mustang wrenchers thanks to an abundant supply (more than 2.6 million Fox Bodies were built) and straightforward engineering, making for easy mods and affordable repairs.
The original idea for a fourth-generation Mustang was a Mazda-based front-wheel-drive chassis. Mustang lovers found out about the plans and bombarded Ford with complaints. That car went on to be the Ford Probe, and Ford hurriedly developed a new Mustang with Fox Body underpinnings and an all-new exterior. Known as the SN95 (and the New Edge after the 1999 refresh), this generation carried the storied Mustang name into the 21st century. The traditional long hood and short deck design continued, as did engine improvements.
For 1996, the old pushrod V-8 was dropped in favor of a more powerful and efficient overhead valve V-8 (the 4.6-liter Modular engine). It was a controversial move for some Mustang fans, but the complaints quieted down as the engine proved more than capable. Eventually, horsepower for the Mustang GT would cross the 300 thresholds, and the last years of the supercharged SVR Cobra had 390 horsepower (impressive, especially for 20 years ago).
The fifth-generation (or S197 in Ford code) Mustang is the ideal entry point if you’re considering putting one of these Ford pony cars in your garage. It’s the first all-21st century Mustang and benefits from still-current automotive technology. This version of the car also embraces elements of the original Mustang like single headlights, vertical tri-light tail lights, and a non-functioning gas cap in the rear. Toss in the wonders of depreciation and the fifth-gen ‘Stang is a performance bargain.
A base S197 has a SOHC V-6 with 210 horsepower and 240 lb-ft of torque. You won’t burn rubber with this engine, but there’s plenty of get-ups and go for ordinary driving. Stepping up to a GT from this generation gets you the Modular 4.6-liter V-8 making 300 horsepower and 320 lb-ft of torque. If your need for speed is greater, consider a 2007 Mustang Shelby GT500 and its supercharged 5.4L V-8 (500 hp and 480 lb-ft of torque). This special edition would eventually hit 662 horsepower and 631 lb-ft of torque in the later years of the S197.
Keep your eyes open for fifth-generation Mustangs from 2010 and later model years. These benefit from a refreshed exterior with a sleeker front end, revised headlights, and a reworked rear end.
The Mustang then received a refresh under the hood for the 2011 model year. This was big news in the world of pony cars. The Modular 4.6-liter V-8 gets dropped as the 5.0 name returns. But, this time, it’s a sophisticated power plant (the Coyote) with quad overhead cam architecture. The Mustang GT now boasts 412 horsepower and 390 lb-ft of torque. This is indeed “bang for your buck.” Even the base V-6 gets swapped out for a 3.7-liter unit with 305 horsepower and 280 lb-ft of torque. These were unthinkable numbers for any Mustang from just a few years earlier.
The latest Mustang generation (S550) launched with one goal in mind: staying at least one step ahead of the Chevrolet Camaro and the Dodge Challenger. For the last few years, these competitors have been nipping at the heels of the Mustang, and Ford answered back with the S550. This new Mustang marks the return of a fastback body style and a sharper-angled windshield to give the car a more aggressive look. The S550 is lower and wider than any of its predecessors.
Underneath, the sixth-gen Mustang uses an all-new platform that’s 28 percent stiffer due to advanced steel construction, hydroforming, and laser welding. A high-strength aluminum and steel hood and front fenders help keep weight down. All in all, the new Mustang is a sophisticated machine like never before. With international sales launching soon after the S550’s debut, these refinements help make the Mustang the best-selling sports car in the world.
The V-6 and the Coyote V-8 carryover from the previous generation, but the big news is the debut of the four-cylinder EcoBoost power plant. This tiny (relative) but mighty engine actually offers more horsepower (310 vs. 300) than the V-6. The optional High-Performance Pack adds another 20 horsepower. It’s no surprise the V-6 gets dropped after 2017.
If the EcoBoost is not your thing, check out a Mustang GT, which (depending on the year) has up to 460 horsepower and 420 lb-ft of torque. Of course, the S550 generation includes special editions that make the GT appear tame by comparison. You’ll find the Mach 1, Bullitt, the Shelby GT350, the track-focused Shelby GT350R, and the undisputed king of the hill, the Shelby GT500. The beastly GT500 is powered by the supercharged 5.2-liter Voodoo V-8 making 760 horsepower and 625 lb-ft of torque. It’s a supercar without the supercar price tag.
Discover Our Selection of Used Ford Mustangs for Sale Please note that our inventory changes frequently and is subject to prior sales. Be sure to ask us about incoming used Ford Mustang models.
It’s worth checking out the used Ford Mustangs at Trust Auto (even if you’re looking for a Dodge Charger for sale). Whether you’re interested in a Mustang GT, a Mustang Shelby, or a Mustang EcoBoost, we make the entire car-buying process easy. The best-used cars to buy are at our conveniently located dealership in Sykesville, Maryland. Even before your visit, explore our great inventory of used cars online.
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