Here Are Some of the Most Powerful Ford Mustangs by Decade

Ford has been producing the venerable Mustang for nearly six decades. During that time, the Mustang has grown, shrank, and turned into a performance car for the ages. However, not all Mustangs were created equal; some were mighty muscle cars. Here are some of the most powerful Ford Mustangs by decade, like the famed Shelby GT500KR and Cobra Jet.

The 1969 Ford Mustang 428 Cobra Jet is one of the most powerful Ford Mustangs of the 1960s

The first generation Mustang changed the face of muscle cars and ushered in the pony car craze. However, they didn’t start getting teeth until vehicles like the Shelby GT350 hit the road. Still, the most significant power figures waited until the end of the decade, with cars like the 1967 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 and1969 Ford Mustang 428 Cobra Jet. According to MotorTrend, the instantly recognizable 1969 Ford Mustang Mach 1 produced 335 horsepower with its 428 cubic inch big block, just a bit less than the GT500’s 355 horsepower. 

The Ford Mustang Cobra Jet packed a big block for serious power.
Ford Mustang Cobra Jet | John Keeble, Getty Images

How much horsepower does a 429 Cobra Jet engine have?

The 429 Cobra Jet engine made as much as 375 horsepower and 450 lb-ft of torque. MotorTrend says the engine makes the 1971 Ford Mustang coupe with the 385-series 429 cubic-inch big block the most powerful first-generation Mustang. Also, even though the 1971 model was at the beginning of the decade, the muscle car era came to a crashing halt in 1973, and the second generation Mustang boasted smaller numbers. 

Is the 1985 Saleen Mustang GT one of the most powerful Ford Mustangs of the 1980s?

The Fox Body Mustang marked a critical benchmark in the Mustang lineage. For the first time since the second-generation Mustang II dropped the horsepower figures precipitously, the pony car was packing power again. Fast Foxes like the 1984 SVO made impressive figures, but one of the most powerful 1980s Mustangs is the Saleen of 1985. With an impressive 370 horsepower, it has some serious grunt. 

The 1999 SVT Cobra was a beast, but was it as beastly as Ford claimed?

In an attempted leap forward for the model, Ford designed an SVT Cobra on the “new edge” SN-95 platform with a 320-horsepower V8. Numbers like that made the SVT Cobra one of the most powerful Ford Mustangs of the decade. Car and Driver claims that the 1999 Cobra is good for a sprint to sixty in just 5.5 seconds, which is still respectable by today’s standards. However, the car reportedly made closer to 285 horsepower in independent testing, leading to some anger in the enthusiast community. 

The 2000s were kind to America’s sweetheart pony car, and we got the 2009 Shelby Mustang GT500KR

The latter half of the decade saw the release of the retro-styled S197 platform, and the car community welcomed it. Better yet, Shelby and Ford produced some rockets on the platform, and the king of the hill is the 2009 Shelby GT500KR. With a monstrous 540 horsepower, the 2009 GT500KR was the most powerful production Ford Mustang in history at the time of its release.

The Ford Mustang Shelby GT500KR is one of the most powerful Ford Mustangs of the decade.
Ford Mustang GT500KR | Jim R. Bounds, Bloomberg via Getty Images

The last decade for Mustang gave us the S550 generation and a Hellcat-slaying sendoff for the S197: the 2013 Ford Mustang GT500

The S550 generation began in 2015 and ends with the upcoming S650 generation car. However, nothing from the S550 age prior to the 2020 Shelby GT500 could hold a horsepower candle to the 2013 and 2014 Shelby GT500. With a sinister supercharged 5.8L V8 engine, the 2013 GT500 produced 662 horsepower, making it one of the most powerful Ford Mustangs ever. Even better, it could hit sixty and run a quarter-mile faster than the newer Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat.

The 2013 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500, like the Cobra Jet of yesteryear, is one of the most powerful Ford Mustangs of its decade.
Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 | Jeff Kowalsky, Bloomberg via Getty Images

What’s next for the Ford Mustang?

The 2020 Ford Mustang set the bar pretty high with the seriously fast and sharp 2020 GT500. However, Ford confirmed the next generation and will continue to have an optional V8 and manual transmission. Some outliers could have made this list of the most powerful Ford Mustangs, like Galpin and Roush-modified Mustangs. However, these are some of the most powerful options you could find with relative ease, and most rolled right off the assembly line ready to rock. 

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