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Buying a Used Ford Mustang: Everything You Need to Know

Why Buy a Used Ford Mustang?

The lure of the Mustang is strong for car enthusiasts of all stripes. One of the oldest continuously produced models in automotive history, the 50-year-old nameplate carries a rich history of trendsetting style and evocative lineage that’s challenged by few rivals, including the Chevrolet Corvette and Porsche 911. The instantly recognizable Mustang has left an indelible mark on culture, playing memorable roles in films and television shows including “Bullitt,” “Charlie’s Angels” and “Gone in 60 Seconds. They also represent a level of attainability that eludes their aforementioned higher-priced competitors. Spare parts are readily available for all but the rarest of limited edition models, and maintenance is relatively affordable given the model’s potent levels of performance. With a wide variety of flavors, styles and generations available, the only question is where to begin your quest for a secondhand ‘Stang.

A Brief History of the Ford Mustang

Nearly 10 million Mustangs have been sold since the model debuted as a 1964 1/2 vehicle. Initially unveiled as a car that “has generated more advance interest than any new product in the Ford Division’s 15-year history,” the Mustang was championed by now-legendary executive Lee Iacocca, who debuted the car at the New York World’s Fair. The Mustang was aimed at young buyers with the target of being priced under $2,500 and weighing less than 2,500 pounds. It may not have sounded promising, but the new sports car made a massive splash, selling 22,000 units on opening day and a staggering one million vehicles in its first 2 years on the market.

The Mustang started with a $2,300 sticker price and a 170-cu-in V8, with a 260-cu-in V8 available as an option. Since that first model, the Mustang has seen no fewer than 10 generations, which are most easily distinguished by their platforms:

  • 1964 1/2-1973 Mustangs were built on the Falcon platform, and among the most collectible early models is the ’65 Shelby 350, which packed a 306 horsepower 289-cu-in V8. The latter part of this period saw a dramatic increase in size, weight and engine displacement, exemplified by the 1971 Boss 351, which was available with the rare 429 Super Cobra Jet engine. Find a first-generation Ford Mustang for sale
  • The 1974-1978 Mustang II was created as a reaction to the fuel crisis. These small-bodied cars were based on the unloved Pinto platform, and are considered among the least desirable Mustangs in history. Find a second-generation Ford Mustang for sale
  • 1979-1993 Mustangs saw a resurgence of crowd-pleasing power and were built on Ford’s Fox platform, which was shared by myriad models including the Fairmont, the Thunderbird and the Granada. This era saw the debut of the fabled 5.0 engine designation, as well as the Special Vehicles Operation (SVO) version, which was powered by an unorthodox turbocharged 4-cylinder. Find a third-generation Ford Mustang for sale
  • 1994-2004 Mustangs enjoyed a major redesign, and during this period, Ford celebrated its 300 millionth vehicle in the form of a 2004 Mustang GT Convertible 40th Anniversary Edition. This time frame also saw the demise of the Mustang’s closest competitors: the Pontiac Firebird and Chevrolet Camaro — the latter eventually returning after a 7-year retirement. Find a fourth-generation Ford Mustang for sale
  • 2005-2014 Mustangs enjoyed significant refinements and more spin-off models than ever, epitomized by the Shelby GT500KR and the Boss 302.  Find a fifth-generation Ford Mustang for sale
  • The 2015 Mustang reflects the most dramatic mechanical upgrades to date, namely the introduction of an independent rear suspension (replacing the solid, or “live,” rear axle) that dramatically changes the car’s road manner and brings new levels of refinement. Though the SVT Cobra model featured an independent rear setup 14 years earlier, that was a limited edition model that proved to be the exception, not the rule, until 2015 rolled around. In 2018 a mid-cycle refresh included updated exterior styling, a new transmission, improved suspension, and the discontinuation of the V6 engine. 2019 brought the stylish Bullitt edition with a special appearance package and a slightly more powerful V8 and a California Special package. In 2020, the mighty Shelby GT500 model was introduced plus a High Performance package and an EcoBoost Handling package. Early cars from this generation can already be found at an affordable price point of under $20,000 for EcoBoost and V6 models.  Find a sixth-generation Ford Mustang for sale

Which Ford Mustang Is Right For Me?

The attraction to particular older Mustangs will likely depend on your aesthetic tastes — whether you prefer the classic, unadorned shapes of the early cars, the bulky muscularity of the ’70s, the boxiness of the ’80s, the rounded edges of the ’90s or the retro-inspired designs of the mid-2000s. Then there’s the question of power, which almost invariably highlights the Shelby variants named after the late, great tuning legend Carroll Shelby. Standouts from Shelby include the GT350 (’65 and ’15) and GT500 (’67 and various subsequent years), many of which have become 6-figure collectibles.

The Ford Mustang has had its share of ups and downs, with power peaking, plateauing and dipping depending on global petroleum supplies. Convertible models have also ebbed and flowed. In 1973 there was an absence for as long as a decade when Mustang IIs, the least desirable ‘Stangs, were produced.

While the new 2015 Mustang is a world-class sports car that shows Ford’s ability to refine and perfect its icon, there’s no shortage of historic Mustangs to satisfy buyers seeking classic American muscle. Find a Ford Mustang for sale

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  1. I had a 68 289 V-8 with 3 speed on the floor and my friend had a 289 straight 6 with 3 speed on the floor. When I was teenager and my first experience driving in Seattle in that 68 Mustang… I loves the hills in down town seattle… I could catch air…. or racing a porsche 911 on westlake and going into a four wheel drift around the corners. The porsche won due to the fact I had to lock it up into a sideways skid stop because people in the cross walk, the porsche just grabbed another gear since they had just stepped out of his way. I think when I left seattle to go back to eastern washington I got a police escort until I lost them…. lol

    • Um Doug? I think you mis printed something…You stated that your friend had a “289 straight 6″…just think about what you just said…

  2. I LOVE my 2004 Mustang GT Convertible, & my 2006 Mustang Special Edition “Bumble Bee”, a former Hertz Rental Car. My GT has only 57,000 on it. I’ve owned a 2000 Camaro Z-28 Convertible, & a 2002 Pontiac Trans Am, but they BOTH had continual issues & visits to the dealers.

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