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The Mustang has been one of the best-selling cars since its release in 1965. It’s gone through several iterations, variants, models, ups, and downs. It was a titan until the mid-1970s then met a low point until the late 1980s. Since then it’s only gotten better and is now faster than ever. Simplicity has been kind to it. The engine is in the front, transmission in the middle, and differential at the back. 

The Mustang is more of a sports car now than it ever was, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t carry the same muscle spirit it was born with. Many times the fastest Mustangs have the word “Shelby” tacked on, but there have been plenty of impressive Mustangs, without the Shelby emblem.

1995 SVT Cobra R: only for the track

1995 Ford Mustang Cobra driving on track.
1995 Ford Mustang Cobra | Ford

This may sound overkill, but even though this car was street legal, Ford didn’t want you driving it down the strip. Ford only made 250 of the 1995 SVT Cobra R, and you had to present a racing license to Ford whilst promising to drive it only on the track. It used a 300-hp 5.8-liter V8 derived from the Ford SVT Lightning, the high-powered F-150. Other than the engine, the car was basically the same as a GT, just with retuned parts. Car and Driver tested the Cobra R at 151 mph, though some sources claim 160.

The supercharged SVT Cobra

2004 Ford Mustang SVT Cobra drifting
2004 Ford Mustang SVT Cobra | Ford

Right before Ford closed the book on its SN95 Mustang chassis, its Special Vehicles Team (SVT) created the Terminator. The 2003-04 Cobra used a supercharged cast-iron variant of its Modular 4.6-liter V8. In the GT the V8 had 16 valves, but the Cobra had 32 and dual overhead camshafts. It had a low compression to contend with the supercharger, Bilstein suspension, a new T-56 transmission. All of this helped the car hit 60 mph in 4.9 seconds, and a 155 mph top speed.

2012 Boss 302: the dark horse

Ford Mustang Boss 302 at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca
Ford Mustang Boss 302 at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca | Photo by Allan Hamilton/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

By the time the Boss rolled around in 2012, the Mustang GTs were using the Coyote, an all-aluminum 5.0-liter V8 with dual overhead camshafts. The Boss got revised heads, camshafts, and an intake, totaling its horsepower output at 444. The result was the car reaching 60 mph in 4.3 seconds and topping out at 157 mph, which is still fast today. The Boss seemed to live a quiet life and then faded away.

S550 Bullitt: the fast homage

2018 Ford Mustang Bullitt on display
2018 Ford Mustang Bullitt on display | Boris Roessler/picture alliance via Getty Images

Way back in 1968, Steve McQueen starred in a San Francisco-based detective thriller called Bullitt. In this film, McQueen drove a dark green 1968 Mustang. This car became famous, and since then there have been three “Bullitt” editions of the Mustang to commemorate its legacy. The fastest of these came in the S550 chassis, to the tune of 480 horsepower (up 20 from the stock GT). Ford achieved this number with a new exhaust and a new open-air induction system along with the Shelby GT350 intake. It also got new throttle bodies and its powertrain control module was recalibrated. All this helped the Bullitt reach 163 mph. Unfortunately, the Bullitt’s life was short-lived.

The 2000 Cobra R was rare and formidable

2000 Ford Mustang SVT Cobra R driving on track
2000 Ford Mustang SVT Cobra R | Getty Images

At the time the 2000 SVT Mustang Cobra R was the fastest Mustang ever built. It used a 5.4-liter supercharged V8 that made 385 horsepower. With that, it could hit 60 mph in just 4.4 seconds (MotorTrend), and top out at 170 mph. It used Bilstein suspension, independent rear suspension, Brembo brakes, and only 300 were made, only as coupes. The SVT Cobra R from 2000 is certainly a future classic.

The Mustang is only getting faster and crazier. It’s unique in that when it was released it already had a legacy. Even during the hard times, the Mustang has demonstrated that it can thrive and impress. 


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