|The last version of the original Mustang arrived in September of 1970. By this time, it was clear that performance was being pushed out of the marketplace through economics (insurance premiums) and regulation (safety and fuel requirements). An exciting and unique chapter in American automotive history was coming to an end.
The new Mustang was hardly recognizable next to the original version. Like almost all cars of the day it grew longer, lower, and especially wider and heavier. Where the first Mustang looked light and cheerful, this one looked heavy and sullen.
As per the Mustang way, three body styles were available: hardtop, fastback (also known as a sportsroof), and convertible. Base models started with a 250ci inline six making 145hp. A three speed manual on the floor was your standard transmission. A 302ci 2bbl V8 rated at 210hp was your first engine option, and most base Mustangs come with this motor hooked up to the optional 3-speed C4 automatic.
There was little flash to a base Mustang. Chrome was sparse on the outside and the interior was downright cold and spartan. In typical Detroit fashion, however, both conditions could be remedied simply by looking to the option sheet to spruce things up.
The luxury version of the Mustang, the Grande, was added to the line in 1969, and returned for 1971. It features a richer, fancier interior (available as the Interior Decor option on other models), and unique trim and identification badges. A clock residing in the console was also standard.
Next up the ladder was the performance oriented model, the Mach 1 fastback. The Mach 1 had its own visual cues, including stripes and graphics, special grille with amber driving lights, unique rear panel treatment, and pop-open gas cap. Interestingly, the interior of the Mach 1 has the same taxi cab look of the base model--right down to the idiot lights. If you want proper gauges you’ll have to look for a car with the optional gauge pack in the center console and a tachometer to the left.
Mechanical bits for the Mach 1 included an uprated, heavy duty suspension with stabilizer bars and wider 14-inch tires. Standard wheel treatment is the smooth hubcaps and bright trim rings, with the commonly seen Magnum 500’s optional. A dual scoop hood was standard on 351 and 429 Mach 1’s and a no-cost option for the 302. The scoops could be made functional at extra cost via vacuum-operation. This option also got you twist locks for the hood.
The 302 was the Mach 1’s base motor, but hardly worthy of the performance image. Most Mach 1’s have the optional 240hp, 351-2V motor, itself not exactly a pavement ripper. After those, things got interesting. First up was a 4-bbl version of the 351, rated at 285hp. This is a nice, balanced powerplant with plenty of oomph for most. This engine was available on the base and Grande models, too.
Part of the reason the new models were so big was so they could easily accommodate Ford's biggest engine, the 429ci Cobra Jet V8. Rated at 370hp, these were a handful. But not the biggest handful. A ram air version, the CJ-R unofficially churned out another 15 or so horsepower. These were backed up by either a close-ratio 4-speed “top-loader” manual or the stout C6 automatic. Add the Drag Pack option and your CJ became a SCJ. You got internal engine upgrades and a 3.91:1 Traction Lok or 4.11:1 Detroit Locker rear axle. These were neck snappers! Interestingly, these potent drivetrains were available in any Mustang model and body style.
At the top of the Mustang hierarchy was the Boss 351. Another fastback-only model, this one was special indeed. It started with an exclusive solid lifter 351-4V motor. With Ram Air, big valves, an 11.7:1 compression ratio and a 750cfm Holley carb, it was one quick pony. It featured a competition suspension with staggered rear shocks, 15-inch wheels and tires, power disc brakes, full instrumentation and a close ratio 4-speed manual. The whole thing was good for sub 14-second quarters right out of the box. An automatic was not available.
All this was gone after one year. 1972 saw the end of the Boss and the 429. What was left saw few changes. One addition was a new Sprint option. Available on all body styles, it was white with twin blue stripes on the hood and the same blue was found on the lower body. The interior was an attractive and bold blue and white. An extended Sprint “B” package added 15-inch Magnum 500 wheels and a heavy duty suspension.
1973 brought little change, as the Mustang was in a holding pattern until the all-new, smaller Mustang II arrived for ‘74.