The Ford Mustang has introduced numerous trim levels throughout its 55-year history. I’ve owned a Mustang GT and there is nothing wrong with the base V8 model. In fact, the one I had was supercharged with tons of add-ons. The other day I got to thinking that if I bought a Mustang again I would spend a little extra to get one of the more exclusive trim levels. While not as many trim levels as the current day Porsche 911, Ford has offered some pretty cool trim levels over the years. Ford has also teamed with tuner companies such as Roush to offer unique offerings to their customers. Read on to see a list of some of my favorite Ford Mustang trim levels.
When most people think of rental cars they think of a beige Nissan Versa that’s terrible in every way. The GT350 H is not one of those cars. In a unique partnership between Ford and Hertz, they offered 1,000 1966 Ford Mustang Shelby GT350’s with a stick shift and special gold striped GT350 H livery. Any collaboration between Shelby and Ford is noteworthy by itself but add in the fact that you can rent one with special paint bumps it up another level. The rarity also pushes the value of these cars well over the $100,000 mark according to Hagerty. The 289 pushed out a still potent 300+ hp making these just slightly more fun than the Versa you got on your last business trip.
The Boss 302 is a trim level introduced in 1969 to meet Trans Am homologation requirements. The car featured a unique 5.0L that served as the testing bed for what would later become the 351 Cleveland. There were also unique suspension and aerodynamic components to the car. Those included the removal of the non-functional side scoop and the first front spoiler fitted to a production car. Suspension enhancements including a lowered ride height and larger sway bars. The Boss 302 also received unique hockey stick side graphics along with the signature black slate shades over the rear window. The Boss 302 hits many of the marks of a great Mustang trim level, cool graphics, upgraded suspension, and a connection to racing.
The Mach 1 is yet another iconic Ford Mustang trim level. Available in 1969, the Mach 1 only came in a fastback; no convertible was available. This trim level included a matte black hood, hood pins, black window louvers, and an optional shaker hood. Say what you will, shaker hoods are cool. The smallest engine available was the 351 and the largest was the legendary 428 Cobra Jet.
The Mach 1’s also had a Ford 9” rear with 3.91 or 4.30 rear gears. We will skip the 2nd and 3rd generation Mach 1’s of the 1970’s and fast forward to the 4th generation Mach 1 available in 2003. This featured lowered suspension, upgraded Brembo brakes, and an upgraded 4.6L featuring better flow heads and a higher redline making just over 300 hp. The looks were a throwback to the 1st generation Mach 1’s and even featured the shaker hood.
The Bullitt Mustang was named after the famous dark green 69 fastback that Steve McQueen drove in the movie Bullitt. First available in 2001, the Bullitt edition was built to look as close to the movie car as possible. It was also lowered with upgraded suspension, intake, and exhaust. Although you could get the car in two other colors, the only one that makes sense is Dark Highland Green. My favorite part about these cars is the blacked out front grill with the black rims. Steve McQueen is often considered the grandfather of cool and these cars continue to look cool to this day. Even the new 2020 Bullitt Mustangs continue this coolness offering a great looking car with a manual transmission only.
Roush Stage III
While I debated whether or not to include tuner companies, I ultimately decided that I should. For one, they are available at Ford dealerships. Two, they often come with a warranty. The Roush Stage III is one of these cars. My cousin had a yellow Roush mustang and the new stage III’s are absolutely incredible. Roush Mustangs come in three variants with I being the mildest and III being the wildest. The current stage III is a tour-de-force making 700hp with an upgraded suspension pulling nearly 1.1 g’s in the turns. The best part, it comes with a 5-year, 60,000 mil powertrain warranty. The cars look pretty cool too featuring some traditional Mustang stripes along with their own Roush logo.
The first thing that hits you when you see the Cobra R is its giant rear wing. The Cobra R was introduced in 1993 and produced only 107, all in red. The Cobra R model strips all the non-necessary equipment to save weight. The weight savings were substantial with the 2000 Cobra R weighing in at just over 3,500 lbs. They also featured race brakes and suspension and are meant for the track despite being street-legal. The Cobra R was lowered 1.5” in the front and 1” in the back. The 2000 Cobra R had the 5.4L making 385hp and propelling the car to 177 mph. They also had sweet side exhaust and a V6 bumper with no exhaust cutouts. I have been lucky enough to see one in the wild which means I have seen one of the rarest cars of all-time.
The GT350 fairly or unfairly makes this list twice and there is only one real reason for this, flat-plane crank. The new GT350 features a 5.2 L with a flat plane crank that allows the Mustang to rev to a ridiculous 8,200 RPMs. This is Porsche 911 territory not typically big American V8 territory. This pushes the naturally aspirated motor to 526 hp, well below the top of the line GT500 but with a very unique sound. The car has a low 4 second 0-60 and the GT350R breaks into the 3 second territory. The GT350R drops air conditioning and rear seats truly earning the R moniker by coming in at just over 3,600 lbs. The stiffer suspension and lightweight carbon fiber wheels make this an incredible performer. If you think this is great but you need more power, don’t worry, there is one more model yet to cover.
The mack daddy, top of the line, king of the road. The GT500 is the pinnacle of Mustang trim levels. The new GT500 was confirmed to make over 750 hp putting it on par with some of the best out there. The first GT5000 was introduced after the GT350 in 1967 with a 427 cu in engine producing 355 hp. The next year Ford would introduce the GT500 KR featuring the new 427 Cobra Jet producing less horsepower at 335 but a monster 440 lb. ft. of torque. The KR moniker would return again in 2008 producing 50 more horsepower than the standard GT500 and with loads of carbon fiber pieces to make it extra special. Here’s to hoping we see an 800+ GT500 KR soon!