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K.A.R.'s Top 10 Mustang Picks
home » buying & selling » K.A.R.'s top 10 Mustang picks
As America’s largest classic Mustang dealer we are constantly asked which are the most desirable Mustangs – or – which are the most collectible or most likely to appreciate. Sales volume by specific year and model cannot accurately answer this question because sales volume for any given year or model is directly related to a dealer’s inventory and ability to stock the most frequently requested Mustangs or Shelbys in the most popular colors with the most desirable options.

We believe a more accurate measurement is the number of phone inquiries we receive for any year and model. Using phone inquiries as a guide, adjusted utilizing our experience as to whether or not the inquirer can really step up and acquire the Mustang/Shelby he or she covets, results in a “true demand index.”

The marketplace has changed dramatically in both types of Mustangs sought and their values since this list was first created seven or eight years ago. We have not seen such shifts since we began selling classic Mustangs over 27 years ago. The classic Mustang market is being driven by external factors that were not prevalent in the past. Some of these factors are as follows:
  • MORE BUYERS AND, THEREFORE, MORE DEMAND THAN EVER BEFORE -- The emergence of the “baby boomers” into the classic car market has had a huge impact. These hobbyists, typically in the 50 to 60 year old range, have seen their children finish college, thus freeing up discretionary income, and enabling this group to finally reward themselves with the “toy” they always wanted. In many instances this toy is the car they had in high school, or the car they coveted when they were younger and could not afford. Recent published statistics also reveal that this very same age group will inherit over $18 billion over the next 10 years from parents and other relatives. Newly available discretionary income, inheritances, and the yearning for that magical car of their youth have enabled this buying group to enter the market in a formidable way.

  • MEDIA INFLUENCES – People who watch television regularly will see many commercials with a classic car in them. Often times, these cars are classic Mustangs. NFL players, county and western singers, and movie and TV stars are frequently seen in commercials sitting in or driving a classic Mustang. Even cellular service providers have shown classic cars in their commercials.

    Popular movies, such as “Gone in 60 Seconds” and “Bullitt” have also created enormous interest in classic Mustangs. Then there are popular TV shows, such as “American Hot Rod” and “Overhaulin’” that create interest. Classic cars are frequently seen on the Discovery Channel and, of course, the Speed Channel. No doubt, the media has created renewed interest in classic cars in general and classic Mustangs, in particular.

  • AUTOMOBILE MANUFACTURERS – The big three U.S. auto manufacturers have certainly recognized America’s nostalgic romance with the classic car era. Chrysler’s P.T. Cruiser, Viper, and Prowler all have ties to the 1960s classic, hot rod, and muscle car era. GM’s SSR pickup is certainly a throw back to the 1950s and 1960s. Of course, Ford Motor Company’s Thunderbird, new Ford 500, and the redesigned Mustang all have ties to 1950s and 1960s. U.S. auto manufacturers certainly recognize America’s love affair with classic and muscle cars. Chrysler, GM, and Ford have all shown classic cars in their ads.

  • AFTERMARKET TECHNOLOGY – Many people who are interested in classic Mustangs and love their ageless design features, also are concerned about these cars’ ability to compete from a safety perspective on today’s crowded highways. We are also spoiled by the creature comforts routinely available on today’s modern cars. Simply stated, we want the safety and creature comfort features of a modern car and the appearance and ageless styling of the classic cars. The automotive aftermarket has seen to it that we can have our cake and eat it too. Today upgrades, such as tilt steering columns, rack and pinion steering, power disc brakes, overdrive transmissions, fuel injection, air conditioning and many, many more are readily available for the classic Mustang. Even 3-point shoulder belts and adjustable headrests are now readily available. Classic Mustang enthusiasts have learned that they can own a classic Mustang that virtually drives and handles like a new car.

  • STREET ROD INFLUENCE – The Street Rod hobby has been around for many years. We believe the Street Rod segment of the automotive aftermarket to be far greater than the classic car segment. Street Rodders are innovative people. For years they have been building “old cars” with completely modern drivelines, suspensions, and interiors. Tilt columns, in-dash air conditioning, independent suspension, 4-wheel power disc brakes, and electronic fuel injection were commonplace on Street Rods long before classic Mustang hobbyists began to consider them. State-of-the-art technology is a way of life with Street Rodders.

    Street Rodders who commonly built 1930s and 1940s era cars have begun to discover the potential of “Street Rodding” classic Mustangs. Virtually every month feature articles can be found in every Mustang magazine telling the story of a classic Mustang that has been technically upgraded via Street Rod technology. As more and more Street Rodders discover the viability of classic Mustangs as Street Rods, even more pressure will be exerted on the finite national inventory of classic Mustangs. At the Good Guys Street Rod Nationals in July 2004, where it is estimated that over 5,000 Street Rods participated, a 1965 Mustang convertible finished a close #2 in the best of show award. It is happening!

  • YOUNG BUYERS AND RESTO-MODS – Surprisingly, many younger hobbyists have fallen in love with the classic Mustang. Keeping in mind that many of these younger hobbyists were not yet born when the Mustang was first introduced over 40 years ago. This is an interesting phenomenon. Perhaps many of these hobbyists are the Street Rodders of the future. We have found that many of these younger hobbyists are not at all concerned with maintaining the originality of their classic Mustang. We frequently hear them say, “This is not a show car. I want to build it the way that I want it to be.” We feel that the line between Resto-Mod and Street Rod is becoming more blurred. Many younger hobbyists are selecting the classic Mustang as the car they want to build “their way.”

  • FOREIGN BUYERS – Although the classic Mustang is viewed as an American icon, many foreigners are also in love with these cars. It seems that classic Mustangs are as popular in Australia and New Zealand as they are in the U.S. Europeans and Canadians also have a great appreciation for the classic Mustangs. Do not think for a minute that the Japanese only think about Nissans, Toyotas, Hondas, and Mazdas. The Japanese have a true appreciation for the classic Mustang and many are serious collectors. I remember looking out of my hotel window at the Hotel Okura in Tokyo, 10 years ago, only to see a beautiful 1965 Mustang convertible drive by.

    In recent years the currency of a number of these countries has strengthened versus the U.S. dollar. This has made the classic Mustang more affordable. As an example, in 2004 K.A.R. shipped six classic Mustangs to Canadian hobbyists. In 2002 and 2003 we did not ship a single Mustang to Canada. The stronger Canadian currency made the difference. Foreign buyers have made a significant impact in the market place.

  • INTERNET – Not too many years ago if you had an interest in classic Mustangs you watched the local classifieds and, perhaps the national print ads of the three or four major classic Mustang dealers such as K.A.R. Today, with the emergence of the Internet, a hobbyist can search the world to find the car of his or her choosing. Today, anybody with a classic Mustang for sale can market it nationally or internationally, usually for $50 or less and that includes posting pictures. Obviously, potential buyers now have access to hundreds of Mustangs for sale versus a few previously available in print ads. Of course, extreme caution should be exercised when considering an Internet purchase. Internet fraud is abundant and many people lose thousands of dollars due to fraudulent Internet listings. Simple common sense can help a buyer to steer clear of fraudulent sellers.
  1. 1967-1968 FASTBACKS
    We receive more inquiries for these fastbacks than any other classic Mustang. Movies, such as Bullitt and Gone in 60 Seconds, have dramatically accelerated interest in these Mustangs. These cars have become favorites for Shelby Clones and Eleanor Clones. Of course, many hobbyists simply like their overall appearance versus other Mustangs.
    1. Big block 390 V-8 GT or GTA cars command the greatest premium. Add air conditioning and power disc brakes and you have the ideal car. Although 4-speeds are most frequently requested, automatics are also an easy sell.

    2. Small block fastbacks sell very well. 4-speeds are coveted. Well optioned automatics are an easy sell.

    3. Project fastbacks are in extremely high demand. Even rusty 1967 and 1968 fastbacks sell quickly. The Clone and Resto-Mod market is so hot that it seems hobbyists will buy just about any condition fastback to have a car to work with.

  2. 1965-1966 FASTBACKS
    Again, the effects of the Shelby Clone and Resto-Mod market are clearly visible. Hobbyists love the body lines of these fastbacks. Since real 1965-66 Shelbys have skyrocketed to the $60,000 to $100,000 level, depending on year, more and more hobbyists are choosing to do Clones or Resto-Mods. Even people who can easily afford the price tag of a real Shelby often do not want to risk driving a car that cannot be replaced. These fastbacks are also a favorite of the Resto-Mod crowd. This obviously adds to the demand for these fastbacks.
    1. 4-speed fastbacks have substantially greater demand than automatics. 4-speed to 5-speed conversions are popular upgrades.

    2. V-8 fastbacks are by far the most frequently requested. 6-Cylinder fastbacks sell well. These 6-Cylinder cars are less expensive than V-8s and commonly used for Clone or Resto-Mod conversions.

    3. Project fastbacks sell very well. Even rust appears to be tolerable. Talented hobbyists are searching for something to start with.

  3. 1964-1/2-1966 CONVERTIBLES
    These early convertibles continue to be highly sought after cars.
    1. V-8 Mustangs are the most frequently requested.

    2. 6-Cylinder convertibles have grown in popularity for several reasons. First of all, a 6-cylinder convertible can typically be purchased at least 25% less than a V-8 convertible. Secondly, 6-cylinder convertibles are ideal cars to convert to Shelby Clones, Street Rods, or Resto-Mods.

    3. Factory GT’s are rare and in high demand. Factory GT’s are significantly more valuable than Mustangs with dealer installed GT packages or GT clones. Approximately 10% of 1965 and 1966 Mustangs were made into factory GT’s.

    4. Options are important. Buyers want creature comforts such as power steering, power brakes, air conditioning, and pony interior.

    5. Color has become less important. Although red is still the most popular color, just about any color will sell in a #1 or #2 condition car. Vintage burgundy, emberglo, silver blue, dark blue, and black are also popular colors. White sells well, if heavily optioned.

    6. Automatics out sell 4-speeds. Classic Mustang convertibles have become a family experience. Mom, Dad and children all participate in the hobby and drive the car. Dads like to sip on their coffee and talk on their cell phones more than they like to shift gears.

  4. 1969-1970 MACH 1S
    The popularity of these cars continues to grow. Mustang enthusiasts simply love the lines of these Mustangs from the muscle car era. Popularity is evenly divided between 1969 and 1970 model years.
    1. Small block V-8s remain the most frequently requested engines. Small block Mach 1 Mustangs are considerably less expensive than big block versions, perceived to be easier to maintain and produce more than adequate horsepower. 4-barrel carbureted Mach 1s are more popular than 2-barrel cars. Upgrading a 2-barrel Mach 1 to a 4-barrel is a very popular upgrade.

    2. Automatics sell well if they are heavily optioned. Automatics with air conditioning, power steering, and power disc brakes sell quickly and at a premium while automatics without air conditioning are difficult to sell unless they are significantly discounted.

  5. 1967-1968 CONVERTIBLES
    These convertibles are very popular among several market segments. First of all, informed buyers know that these convertibles were the first with dual reservoir brake master cylinders for added safety, first years for integral in-dash air conditioning, first years for the big block 390 V-8 motor (1967) and 428CJ motor (1968), first years with the power disc brake options, a turn signal level that could be depressed to signal lane changes, and even a tilt steering column. Creature comforts became more abundant in the 1967 and 1968 model years.
    1. Power steering is a virtual must.

    2. Power brakes are important but not thought to be essential.

    3. Automatic transmission is most preferred.

    4. Factory air conditioning is the most requested option.

    5. The deluxe interior is nice but not essential.

  6. 1965-1966 COUPES
    These cars are the essence of Mustangs. More of these cars were sold than any other Mustang or any other car for that matter in the early 1960s. They were then and are still today the most affordable of the classic Mustangs. Many find the coupe to be a great Resto-Mod candidate. Coupes are great father/son or father/daughter project cars. Coupe values lag other classic Mustang values simply because there were hundreds of thousands produced versus tens of thousands of other body styles.
    1. V-8s are most popular although “Mustang parents” commonly request 6-cylinder coupes for their new 16 year old drivers.

    2. Pony interiors and rally pacs are very popular. K.A.R. offers a complete pony interior conversion kit and great looking aftermarket rally pacs. Styled steel wheels are also a popular dress-up item.

    3. Well optioned GT coupes in #1 or #2 condition are easy to sell.

    4. Although only approximately 9% of coupes were produced with power steering it is a frequently requested option today. Many hobbyists even opt for more modern rack and pinion steering.

    5. Although air conditioning seems to be less essential on coupes, its presence broadens its appeal when reselling the car. Sun belt hobbyists frequently request air conditioning.

    6. Coupes sell equally in 4-speeds and automatics. 3-speed manual coupes suffer in retail valuation.

  7. 1969-1970 BOSS-302S
    These Mustangs were pure driving machines. Demand is virtually equal between 1969 and 1970 models. The buyers who demand 1970s typically point to the shaker hood option as their overwhelming reason. Of course, all Boss-302s were 4-speed cars.
    1. Unlike any other Mustang, manual steering is preferred over power steering. These are road cars and buyers want to feel the road.

    2. Deluxe interiors are requested but standard interiors do not kill the sale.

    3. Factory tachs are preferred but not essential to the sale.

    4. “Matching numbers” cars command a substantial premium over cars with replacement engines. Most Boss-302s we encounter do not have their original serial numbered engine. These Mustangs were born to run hard and run hard they did. Many engines were blown and service replacement engines installed. Owners in the 1960s and early 1970s did not have any way of knowing just how valuable these Mustangs would become. Service replacement engines are Boss-302 engines but not the car’s original serial numbered engine.

    5. Air conditioning is not an issue. We know of only one Boss-302 ever produced with factory air conditioning. It is reputed to be a special order “Ford executive” car.

    6. Limited original production and strong demand has driven the values of the Boss-302 to unprecedented levels. Cars in the $30,000 range have become difficult to find. Very nice Boss-302s commonly sell in the $35,000 to $50,000 range. Exceptional examples have seen prices in the mid to high $70,000 range. Even given these valuations demand is still strong for these Mustangs.

    Mustangs with the 289 V-8, 4 barrel, solid lifter, K-Code engine were available in the 1964-1/2, 1965, 1966, and 1967 model years. These 271 horsepower, high performance engines are today commonly referred to as “Hi-Po” engines. The Hi-Po engine was a factory option in coupes, convertibles, and fastbacks. Non-GT and GT Mustangs had this engine available. The 1964-1/2 and 1965 Hi-Po Mustangs were only available with the 4-speed manual transmission. 1966 and 1967 Hi-Po Mustangs were available with either a 4-speed manual or special C-4 automatic.
    1. K-Code Mustangs were approximately ¾ of 1% of 1965 and 1966 production. This included coupes, convertibles, and fastbacks in GT and non-GT versions. It is easy to see just how rare these Mustangs are.

    2. K-Code GT Mustangs can command as much as a 50% premium over A-Code GT Mustangs of the same body style.

    3. Approximately 50% of K-Code engines were serial numbered to the car. However, all engines were date coded and carried a casting number. Matching numbers cars are more valuable cars than K-Code cars without their original K-Code engine.

  9. 1971-1973 MACH 1S
    These Mustangs have really grown in popularity over the past 5 years. Five years ago K.A.R. would not consider stocking a 1971-73 Mach 1. Today we purchase every 1971-73 Mach 1 that meets are rigid selection criteria. Options are important on these Mach 1s. Automatics are the preferred transmission. Factory air conditioning is virtually a must. Since these are bigger and heavier Mustangs power steering and power disc brakes are considered to be essential. Buyers love the way these big Mustangs ride. The 351 V-8 Cleveland engine in the 4-barrel or 2-barrel variety is more than ample horsepower for these Mach 1s. Virtually all callers ask for Magnum 500 wheels and front and rear spoilers.

  10. 1971-1973 CONVERTIBLES
    Again, these Mustangs have really taken off in popularity. At K.A.R. we are happy to stock well optioned convertibles of this vintage. Buyers demand options on these Mustangs. The 351 V-8 engines are preferred. Factory air conditioning, power steering, power disc brakes, the ram air hood, and rally stripes are virtual necessities for a quick sale. Options such as power windows, a tilt steering column, and center 3-gauge dash pod really seal the sale.
We at K.A.R. sincerely hope our top 10 list is helpful to you. It is based on our 27+ years of experience heavily skewed to the most recent 5-year period. We are quick to point out that some absolutely fabulous Mustangs and Shelbys are not on our list. We will address these cars separately. They are very rare, limited in availability, and very expensive. Like anything in life, Mustangs/Shelbys being no exceptions, a pricing pyramid exists. As pricing moves higher and higher the availability of buyers diminishes so the pyramid grows narrow. The most expensive cars are at the pinnacle of the pyramid. Let’s discuss these Mustangs and Shelbys.

The ultimate Mustang. We would all love to own a Shelby. Over the five years of Shelby production (1970s were left over 1969s) only 13,822 Shelbys were produced including prototypes and racers. Early on, 1965-1967, Shelbys were brute performance driving machines produced by Shelby American in California. 1968, 1969, and 1970 Shelbys saw the introduction of creature comforts such as air conditioning and tilt steering columns. These Shelbys were produced in Ford’s Eastern U.S. plants. Every Shelby is desirable. Every Shelby is collectible. If Shelbys were inexpensive, they would be on every dealer’s top 10 list at the #1 position. Unfortunately, they are expensive cars and growing in value with each passing year. Most Mustang enthusiasts agree; the ultimate Mustang is a Shelby! We believe that there will always be more buyers for Shelbys than there are Shelby Mustangs available. They will, therefore, continue to appreciate today. The most frequently requested Shelbys at K.A.R. are 1967 GT-350 and GT-500 fastbacks. 1969 convertibles and fastbacks rank second, while 1968 fastbacks and convertibles are close behind. 1968 KR Shelbys have a strong following. 1968 GT-350 fastbacks continue to be the most affordable Shelby.

What a Mustang! This has got to be the ultimate “big block.” 429 cubic inches of Hemi head brute horsepower. Like Shelbys, these are limited production, rare, and very desirable Mustangs. Of course, these are also very expensive Mustangs. It is quite common to see one of these cars fetch $90,000+. We witnessed the sale of a concours Boss-429 at $146,000. These are “trick” cars that must be 100% correct for proper valuation. If you do not know Boss-429s, solicit help before purchasing one. They are great muscle cars but only a handful are completely correct. In 1969, 859 Boss-429s were built and in 1970, 499 Boss-429s were built. Given this very limited production, correct original parts are tough to find yet critical to a car’s true valuation. Purchasing a Boss-429 is not a job for a novice. Mistakes can be very costly.

1971 BOSS-351S
If you study the Mustang Fact Books from 1965 through 1973, the Boss-351 has the fastest quarter mile times for a completely stock Mustang. Many published articles state that the Boss-351 was the quickest quarter mile Mustang ever built. Again, Boss-351s were low production cars. Demand is generally greater than the availability of good cars. Boss-351 engines were serial numbered to the car so “matching numbers” are important to the car’s valuation. These cars are the most valuable of the 1971 through 1973 Mustangs.

1971 MACH 1, 429 COBRA JETS
These are extremely rare Mustangs. This was the last year the Mustang was available with a big block. In addition to big block brute horsepower these Mach 1s could be purchased with creature comforts such as power windows and factory air conditioning. They were available in 4-speed or automatic transmissions. 1,427 429 CJ Mustang sportroofs were manufactured. It is uncertain exactly how many 429 CJ Mach 1s were manufactured. Marti Auto Works would certainly have this information. We do know that there were 594 4-speed 429 CJ sportroofs made and 833 automatic 429 CJ sportroofs made. It is safe to say that most of these had to be Mach 1s. 429 Mach 1s in pristine condition can resale at up to $40,000 today. This is another low production car where there are more buyers than sellers for the really good cars.

If project cars could be considered a class unto itself, it would be the most frequently requested class. There is tremendous interest in Mustang project cars. Hobbyists search for donor cars to build into their special classic Mustang. Project cars span all the classic years and body styles. They become everything from pristine examples of original cars to drag racing or pro-street cars and, of course, Clones and Resto-Mods. It is safe to say that there is more interest in classic Mustangs today than at any other time in this car’s 40+ year history.