Every year, the MM&FF staff toils over which cars should be chosen for the Top 10.
We consider cars that we've featured over the past year, race cars or show cars that have been influential or dominant, new cars from Ford, and newly released specialty Stangs. With such a wide array to choose from, it's always a difficult list to narrow down.
But there's one thing about the list that happens every year -- there's always a mix of just about every genre, style, and generation of Mustang. And that's not because we make special slots for those cars. Rather, it's a testament to the flexibility of the Mustang's platform; the ingenuity and dedication of manufacturers, builders, owners, and drivers; and the strength and potential of the Mustang community.
As Mustang enthusiasts, we take pride in the running horse logo, whether it's slathered down the side of a tricked-out show Pony, pointing to the sky from the grille of a purpose-built drag car, or racing down the straightaway toward the next turn. We may not all desire to own an 8-second Cobra Jet, a supercharged V-6 road-race S197, or a 1,000-rwhp street car; but we can all appreciate the time, effort, and ingenuity that goes into each of those. So here is our list of best Mustangs of 2012.
Ford 2013 Shelby GT500
If this was a list of baddest production Mustangs of all time, there's no doubt the '13 GT500 would be Number 1. And for that reason, and many others, it lands the Number 1 spot on our list as well. At 662 horsepower (612 rwhp as tested), a full factory warranty, no gas-guzzler tax, and a top speed of over 200 mph, nothing compares to the GT500 -- especially at under $60,000. The 100-plus-horsepower improvement, to our pleasant surprise, had no ill effect on the refinement of Ford's top-tier Mustang. The engineers at SVT methodically improved systems and components to allow all 662 horsepower to be harnessed, and enjoyed, by just about anyone who could reach the pedals. With Launch Control and Track Apps, driving the new GT500 on the track is now just as much interactive as it is exhilarating.
Matt Glover '88 Mustang GT
If we could sketch out the ultimate Fox-body, the result would look something like Matt Glover's '88 GT. It has everything a Fox-lover could ever want--flawless paint; clean, black interior; a gorgeous engine bay; slick wheels; and a killer stance. But beyond good looks, this show-worthy hatchback packs an arsenal of performance tricks. Between the smoothed-out inner fenders sits a 363ci fortified powerplant with 9:1 compression. It is fed 20 psi of boost by a Vortech YSi-Trim centrifugal super- charger. Suspension components from PA Racing, Strange, and Lakewood help Matt pilot his Fox into the 9s in the quarter-mile.
Mike Murillo '93 Mustang LX
Unarguably the most decorated Mustang drag racer of all time, San Antonio, Texas' Mike Murillo has been racing Mustangs since 1994. Even with 12 world-champion titles under his belt, Murillo is not slowing down. After winning both the NMRA and NMCA titles in Pro Outlaw 10.5 in 2011, he's on track to defend both titles this year. His SCT Performance-sponsored '93 coupe has been 6.49 at 232 mph in the quarter-mile, a record for both NMRA and NMCA. Powering Murillo's coupe is a 541ci big-block with Trick Flow Specialties heads and twin-88mm Precision turbos. He credits his success to his wife, Lisa.
Roush Performance '13 Roush Stage 3
In the world of specialty Mustangs, the Roush Stage 3 (RS3) stands alone. As the pinnacle of performance for the Roush Perormance brand, the RS3 achieves 565 horsepower and 505 lb-ft of torque with the help of a Roush TVS 2300 supercharger kit atop the stock 5.0L Coyote. Cooper RS3 tires, 20-inch wheels, big brakes, unrivaled styling, and impressive performance mesh to create the RS3 -- and you get a full 3-year, 36,000-mile warranty. A bone-stock (except for tires required) RS3 carried editor Smith and hot shoe Jeff Lacina during the TireRack.com One Lap of America in May. The pair won the SSGT2 Big Bore class by a ton, validating the RS3's place both on the track and street.
Tim Matherly '10 Mustang GT
Georgia's Tim Matherly began racing a '69 Mach 1 in 1982. By 1987, he was fixing wrecked Mustangs, and ended up with an '87 GT. Fast-forward to 2012, and his '10 GT has gone a best of 8.70 with a single power-adder and a stick. When Matherly's class, NMRA Real Street, was eliminated, he moved to the quicker EFI Renegade. Unrattled by being at the back of the pack, he kept getting quicker as the season progressed. Though he has yet to earn a title in EFI Renegade, his perseverance is to be commended, and certainly look for him at the front of the pack next season.
Scott Hoag '12 Mustang V-6
The 305 horsepower '11-up 3.7L V-6 Mustangs are often overshadowed by their 400-plus horsepower brethren. But for those who don't mind being the underdog, like Scott Hoag, then the V-6 Pony is a great platform on which to start a project. Helping this V-6 race to the next turn is a ProCharger centrifugal supercharger, and underneath is basically one of everything from the H&R catalog, as well as 14-inch Baer brakes. We love this car for its unapologetic stance that it is a V-6, like it or not. The weight savings and best-of-everything configuration help this V-6 make our Top 10.
Don Fezell '08 Cobra Jet
When Ford Racing announced the return of the Cobra Jet, 40 years after the original, racers old and new couldn't wait to get their hands on one (or two). One of those racers was Don Fezell. Racing Stock Eliminator during the NHRA Four-wide Nationals, Fezell went 8.954 at 153.88 mph in AA/S during qualifying on April 13th, 2012 at zMax Dragway in Charlotte. Not only did he qualify First, but with that pass, was the first Stock Eliminator car to ever break into the 8s. Congratulations to Fezell and his stocker.
Performance Autosport '11 RTR Mustang
Perfomance Autosport is a leader in the Mustang performance world. It specializes in building and racing open track cars, and the chief of its stable is the '11 PAS/RTR NASA American Iron car. The now-dominant race car started its life as an '11 Mustang GT, bought right off the lot. Now, with the help of driver Chris Cobetto, it has won 10 of the 12 Mid-Atlantic Regional races in 2012. This feat defended the team's 2011 title, giving it back-to-back championships. A short list of mods include Kenny Brown suspension, Tiger Racing body mods, HRE wheels, and American Racing Headers exhaust.
Chris Cruz '11 Mustang GT/CS
With 1,002 rwhp and 8-second quarter-mile capabilities, and all in street trim, Chris Cruz' '11 Mustang GT/CS is well-deserving of Top 10 status. The bulletproof Coyote is toped by a 4.0L Whipple supercharger pumping out 24 psi of boost. Evolution Performance handled the build, and tuning was handled by John Lund. It even utilizes a Circle D-modded original 6R80 automatic transmission. To date, the Cruz missle has gone a best of 8.99 at 153 mph, and was the first 6R80-equipped Mustang in the 8s.
Eric Burgos '04 SVT Cobra
Terminator Cobras, it seems, are everywhere. Even we get tired of seeing the same old bolt-on '03-'04 Cobras with a Whipple. But every once in a while, along comes one that stands out from the rest. This year, that "one" was this black '04 owned by Eric Burgos. Besides its sinister appearance, it pumps out 676 rwhp and 636 lb-ft of torque on 19 pounds of boost. Burgos enjoys driving his Cobra on the street, but also participates in open-track events in SoCal.
Don Walsh Jr. Pro Stock Mustang
Don Walsh Jr.'s Pro Stock Mustang is epidome of a drag-race Mustang. Walsh began his Mustang racing career in the '90s and made a name for himself in Pro5.0. Today, he takes home Wally's and runs 5.80s in the quarter-mile with his Walsh Motorsports race car -- he even turns wrenches on the car himself. We love the fact that it has a flat hood and a stick.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr Nationwide Series Mustang
Though not a Mustang in the true sense, but Ricky Stenhouse Jr.'s Nationwide Series Mustang represents the running horse well. After taking home the series championship in 2011 by a landslide, Stenhouse is well on his way to his second championship in a row. This run has also landed Stenhouse a ride in the Number 17 Roush Fenway car in NASCAR's premier Sprint Cup Series next year.
Rick Andersen '05 Mustang
Uniqueness can sometimes be taken too far, so most people err on the side of caution. Not Rick Andersen. Much to our pleasure, he nailed the unique retro look on his '05 Mustang. Nothing on the interior was left untouched, and the exterior is just as flashy -- it was even on the cover of our March '12 issue.