Ford Mustang Grande

24 Rare Mustang Models That Surprised Everyone

The Ford Mustang is one of the most recognizable automobiles in the world. The iconic muscle car has been around for generations and is now entering a new phase in its life.

Yet even though we think we know everything about the Mustang, one or two versions have slipped under the radar.

This list details some of those lesser-known Mustangs. Examples of the muscle car that surprised us when they were first launched still surprise us today.

1980 Ford Mustang McLaren M81

1980 Ford Mustang McLaren M81
Image Credit: Mecum Auctions.

Of all the obscure Mustangs, the 1980 McLaren M81 version is one of the most unusual. Ford partnered with the McLaren Engines team in Michigan to develop this papaya beast.

McLaren Engines was the US division of the famous Formula 1 team. What started life as a regular Fox-Body Mustang would gain wide IMSA-style wheel arches, a new hood bulge, and an upgraded engine. McLaren tore it apart, and the 2.3-liter turbocharged engine produced 174 hp. McLaren and Ford made just ten M81 Mustangs.

2006 Ford Mustang Guigiaro

2006 Ford Mustang Guigiaro
Image Credit: kxmik/Flickr.

One of the most unusual yet incredible Mustangs is the 2006 Mustang Guigiaro. As the name suggests, this was a Mustang designed by famous Italian designer Guigiaro Giorgetto of Ital Design, using the S197 Mustang as the basis.

Unlike many other concepts, this one did run, and it had a 500 hp 4.6-liter supercharged V8 under the hood. Inspiration for the Mustang Guigiaro came from the 1966 Mustang Mach 1. Despite the prototype being road-legal and offering a fresh take on the muscle car’s design, Ford and Giorgetto decided not to pursue it beyond the concept stage.

1965 Bertone Mustang

1965 Ford Mustang Bertone
Image Credit: Nathan Ramos/Pinterest.

The Bertone Mustang is one of the most remarkable Mustang variants. Its lower and sleeker appearance made an instant impression upon its appearance at the 1965 New York Motor Show.

The 289 fastback Mustang had new body panels and a glasshouse canopy, but after its appearance in New York, the Mustang disappeared. To this day, nobody knows what happened to the car after it did its rounds at various motor shows, but the belief is that the car still exists somewhere. Where that somewhere is, however, people have yet to learn.

1968 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 Green Hornet

1968 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 Green Hornet
Image Credit: Barrett-Jackson/Youtube.

The iconic Green Hornet is a unique one-off built by Shelby in 1968. Barrett-Jackson recently restored it completely. The Green Hornet GT500 was originally a prototype for the California Special Mustang, one of just two notchback prototypes produced by Ford and Shelby.

The car was famous for its innovative features, such as the independent rear suspension, four-wheel disc brakes, and an experimental Conelec fuel injection system. It’s now one of the most valuable Mustangs on the planet.

2000 Ford Mustang SVT Cobra R

2000 Ford Mustang SVT Cobra R
Image Credit: WikiCommons.

The New Edge version of the Ford Mustang could have had a better start, but the 2000 SVT Cobra R put many wrongs right. The 2000 model could go toe-to-toe with even the best European supercars, thanks to its 5.4-liter V8 producing 385 hp and 385 lb-ft of torque.

That allowed the SVT Cobra R to run the 1/4 mile in just 13.2 seconds, and it was equally at home in the corners thanks to the Eibach springs and lower ride height. Ford produced just 300 of these epics Mustangs, making them one of the most obscure and rarest of the lot.

1968 Rainbow of Colors Mustang

1968 Sierra Blue Rainbow of Colors Mustang
Image Credit: Pinterest.

Ford regularly ran many promotions for the Mustang, one of the most notable being in 1968. This saw Ford introduce the Rainbow of Colors Mustang, which Ford promoted from February to June.

The promotion ran for certain West Coast districts, including Salt Lake City in Utah, Honolulu in Hawaii, and Los Angeles in California. All these Mustangs were available in 13 special order colors, including Whipped Cream and Beatnkik Blue. The Rainbow Mustangs were available in various forms, including the base six-cylinder model and the sportier GT fastback.

1970 Mustang Grabber

1970 Ford Mustang Grabber
Image Credit: Alan/flickr.

The Ford Maverick Grabber is well known, but the Mustang Grabber is a more obscure version of the muscle car. All Mustang Rabbers were promotional “special value package” versions in various colors. The colors selected were Grabber Blue, Grabber Orange, Grabber Green, Vermilion, or Bright Yellow.

Each Mustang Rabber was a SportsRoof fastback, and the package also included the 302 ci two-barrel V8 under the hood. Striping inspired by the 1969 Boss 302 appeared on the Mustangs. Ford would produce just 5,100 of these exceptional muscle cars. Ford documents at the time stated the aim was “to capitalize on Camaro introduction and generate traffic for Ford dealers by merchandising appealing, low-priced vehicles with unique product content.”

1967 Ford Mustang 289 HiPo 

1967 Ford Mustang 289 HiPo 
Image Credit: WikiCommons.

The 1967 model year saw the first significant redesign of the Mustang. Ford made the muscle car longer and broader and upgraded the interior. Ford produced 472,000 Mustangs for the 1967 model year. However, only a handful of them were of the 289 HiPo variety.

The HiPo refers to the engine under the hood. These Mustangs had the 289 ci V8 engine producing 271 hp. Of the over 470,000 made in 1967, only 489 Mustangs were of the HiPo variety. Even rarer are the convertible versions. Ford produced just 50 of those, 21 of which had the “special competition suspension” option, and just one had the triple-black interior, exterior, top, and deluxe interior.

1964 Indy Pace Car Replica Mustang

1964½ Mustang Indy Pace Car Replica
Image Credit: Robert Knight/flickr.

In 1964, the honor went to the Ford Mustang to pace the field at that year’s Indianapolis 500. The Blue Oval produced just three 1964 Mustang convertibles to pace the race and another 35 to drive around during the pre-race festivities.

Ford then produced 180 Pace car replicas, all hardtops with Pace Car White paint and a white interior with blue appointments. Under the hood was a 260 ci V8 engine with the Cruise-O-Matic transmission. The Pace Car replicas were for Ford dealer contests, whereby those with the biggest sales increases would get free replica Pace Cars.

2011 Ford Mustang Shelby 1000

2014 Ford Mustang Shelby 1000
Image Credit: Mecum.

As the name suggests, this was one of the most potent versions of the Ford Mustang. Shelby further developed the GT500 to create the S197 Shelby 1000. Shelby upgraded the 5.4-liter supercharged V8 to 1,000 hp, although the engine could only handle the full 1,000 in short bursts.

Shelby’s website lists the full extent of the modifications, yet the car still retains the six-speed manual transmission and live rear axle. The Shelby 1000 is a monster on the drag strip, and the fabled tuner produced just 23 examples.

1970 Ford Mustang Mach 1 Twister Special

1970 Ford Mustang Mach 1 Twister Special
Image Credit: T & L Automobile Photography/Flickr.

The Mach 1 Twister Specials are some of the most obscure and rare versions of the Mach 1 Mustang. The Twister was one of the regional specials of the Mach 1 offered to various regions of the United States. For example, the High Country and Ski Country specials were for the Colorado market.

Ford named the Twister Special after the tornadoes seen in Kansas City, Missouri. They received the Mustang for their Total Performance Day even in November 1969, and Ford would produce just 96 Twister specials. They are now highly sought after, and one with a 428 ci Super Cobra Jet engine sold for $130,000 in 2022.

1971 Ford Mustang Shelby Europa

1971 Ford Mustang Shelby Europa
Image Credit:
Pamela Hirschhorn/Youtube.

Ford only sold the Mustang on the North American market for several years. It took until the S550 for it to become a global muscle car. Before that, a Belgian Shelby dealer owned by Claude Dubois secured 14 examples of the Mach 1 Mustangs.

These Mustangs had the 351 ci or 428 ci V8s under the hood, producing 360 to 400 hp and 370 to 450 lb-ft of torque. Two of the cars were convertibles, now some of the most valuable Mustangs. Unsurprisingly, Dubois’s dealership sold the Mustangs pretty quickly.

1965 Ford Mustang Ferguson AWD

1965 Ford Mustang Ferguson AWD
Image Credit: WikiCommons.

The idea of an all-wheel drive Ford Mustang is a recent prospect. Or is it? In 1965, UK-based company Ferguson Research produced the first all-wheel drive system for regular passenger cars.

The system would first appear on the Jensen FF, a four-wheel drive version of the legendary Interceptor. Before that, Ferguson struck a deal with Ford that saw two 1965 Mustangs shipped to the UK to fit the all-wheel drive system. These 289 ci V8 Mustangs saw 63 percent of the torque go to the rear wheels. The system worked brilliantly, but the higher-ups at Ford decided it was too expensive and complicated to implement.

1969 Ford Mustang BOSS 429 LID

1969 Ford Mustang BOSS 429 LID
Image Credit: eduardo lopes/flickr.

The 1969 Mustang BOSS 429 LID is not only one of the rarest of all Mustangs, it’s one that many seem to overlook. The car had a 429 ci V8 under the hood that Ford developed for NASCAR. While it was a powerful engine with 375 hp and 450 lb-ft of torque, the 7.0-liter V8 was heavy.

This badly hurt the Mustang’s handling, so Ford shoved the engine into the car’s rear. This created the 429 LID, and while it did perform better, Ford decided the gains were not enough to make the project work financially.

1965 Ford Mustang GT350R

1965 Ford Mustang Shelby GT350R
Image Credit: Bring a trailer/YouTube

In the mid-1960s, the Chevrolet Corvette dominated the SCCA racing competition, and Ford wanted a piece of that action. This is what led to the GT350 program, which took the fight to the Corvettes and gave them a taste of their own medicine.

Ford produced a pair of prototypes based on the new Mustang, with stripped-down interiors, lightweight metal, and acrylic panels. The second of the prototypes weighed less than 2,500 lbs, and they both had a 289 ci 4.7-liter V8 under the hood, producing over 350 hp. In the hands of legendary racers Ken Miles and Jerry Tutus, the Mustang GT350 won multiple races.

1995 Ford Mustang GTS

1995 Ford Mustang GTS
Image Credit: William Rubano/flickr.

When Ford introduced the SN95 Mustang, the manufacturer ditched the big 5.0-liter V8 from the lineup. But when it launched the GTS Coupe, the Blue Oval quietly brought the large V8 back to the lineup.

The new 5.0-liter V8 produced 215 hp, and the car also borrowed the suspension and brakes from the Mustang GT. Yet from the outside, the clean, subtle exterior made the GTS look just like a baseline Mustang six-cylinder. The Mustang GTS was a true sleeper, and Ford produced just 6,370 of them, with 4,848 boasting five-speed manual transmission.

1979–81 Ford Mustang Cobra

1979 Ford Mustang Cobra
Image Credit: biglinc71/flickr.

Ford introduced the 1979 Mustang Cobra during the first year of the Fox-Body Mustang. A generation that became one of the most loved muscle cars in history. Ford created the Cobra to rival the fearsome Pontiac Trans Am Firebird.

Cosmetically, the Mustang Cobra certainly stood out. However, the 1979 model had an extra unique 5.0-liter V8 under the hood, making it more than just an appearance package. Yet, while it was a massive engine, it only produced 139 hp. However, this was enough power given the lackluster performance of some of its rivals.

1972 Mustang 351 HO

1972 Mustang 351 HO
Image Credit: Bring a Trailer.

In the early 1970s, the Mustang grew in size, defying the typical compact dimensions of the Ford muscle car. Yet they were still pure Mustangs, and the 1972 model year saw a fascinating example in the lineup.

A select few of the 1972 Mustangs had a 275 hp R-Code 351 HO V8 under the hood. This was a low-compression Boss 351 with four-bolt mains, forged rods, and a solid-lifter camshaft, to name just a few of its unique features. The 351 HO was available in various body forms, with 366 Mach 1s, 30 SportsRoofs, 14 hardtops, 13 convertibles, and five Grandes making up the numbers.

1966 Ford Mustang Station Wagon Concept

1966 Ford Mustang Station Wagon
Image Credit: Ford.

The idea of a Mustang Station Wagon might seem like a fantasy. However, in the late 1960s, it gained considerable traction within Ford. It even became a clay model during the early design stages of the muscle car. Thanks to the imagination of Barney Clark, an executive with J. Walter Thompson, Ford’s advertising agency, a prototype Mustang Station Wagon would appear.

Clark teamed up with designer and journalist Robert Cumberford and car enthusiast Jim Licata to ship a 1965 289 ci Mustang over to Construzione Automobili Intermeccanica, the famous coachbuilders in Turin, Italy. The Italian design firm built a fully functioning Mustang Station Wagon prototype, although Ford would end up passing on the project. Sadly, the whereabouts of this prototype are no longer known, and it has been lost to time.

Ford Mustang Grande

Ford Mustang Grande
Image Credit: WikiCommons.

The Ford Mustang Grande is one of the hidden obscurities in the Mustang lineup. It defied nearly all muscle car conventions by offering a more luxurious version of the Mustang for those who wanted more opulence.

As you would expect, the enthusiast sector of the market didn’t take too kindly to the Grande. Plus, it lacked the performance that made the Mustang so epic. However, as a comfortable daily driver, the Grande was a winner, yet their unpopularity made them relatively cheap in the second-hand market.

1977–78 Mustang II Rallye Appearance Package

1977 Mustang II Rallye
Image Credit: Bring a Trailer.

The 1977-78 Mustang II is a version of the second-generation Mustang that made the model a bit cooler. The Rallye Appearance Package added dual bodyside stripes, hood stripes, dual black sports mirrors, and other extras.

The package also included steel wheels; inside, you would find black or white vinyl with gold ribbed velour inserts. Various gold accents were outside the car, such as on the grille. Under the hood, as did the four-speed transmission, the two-barrel 302 ci V8 made this second-gen Mustang more muscular.

1967 Ford Shelby Mustang GT500 Convertible

1967 Ford Shelby Mustang GT500 Convertible
Image Credit: WikiCommons.

Hiding behind its rarity is the gorgeous 1967 Shelby Mustang GT500 convertible. Not only is it rare, but this particular Shelby is also a one-off. The GT500 wasn’t even a streetcar, yet it was initially to go into mass production.

The problem was the styling buck provided to Shelby was badly tweaked. This means that the parts would not fit the production cars that Ford was sending to Shelby. As Shelby had to rework the parts catalog for the 1967 GT500, he halted production. The GT500 Convertible was quietly forgotten about when Ford brought Shelby production in-house.

2012 Ford Mustang Boss 302 Laguna Seca Edition

2012 Ford Mustang Boss 302 Laguna Seca Edition
Image Credit: Bill Cook/flickr.

In 2012, Ford created a tribute version of the Mustang to celebrate the 1969/1970 Mustang Boss 302—one of the most well-known versions of the Blue Oval’s muscle car. 

Ford took a standard 2012 Mustang and boosted the 5.0-liter V8 under the hood to 444 hp. Then came the Laguna Seca edition, with Ford producing just 1,500 examples of this Boss 302. The Laguna Seca took things further thanks to its Recaro sports seats, revised suspension, Torsen limited-slip rear differential, and a larger rear stabilizer.

2009 Ford Mustang Iacocca 45th Anniversary

2009 Ford Mustang Lee Iacocca 45th Anniversary
Image Credit: Ford

While the S197 generation of the Ford Mustang was never the most popular, a few special editions would redeem it. One of the most notable was the Iacocca 45th anniversary Mustang, celebrating 45 years of the muscle car and named after the man responsible for its inception.

This special edition’s 4.5-liter supercharged V8 with 400 hp was under the hood, and Ford produced just 45 of these ultra-rare Mustangs. The interior was virtually the same as the standard S197, but with extra leather to give it a more lavish feel. Both the stock five-speed manual and five-speed automatic transmissions were available.

Henry Kelsall

Author: Henry Kelsall

Title: Writer

Bio:

Henry has freelanced for over eight years now, mostly in automotive matters, but he has also dabbled in other forms of writing too. He has a lot of love for Japanese classics and American muscle cars, in particular the Honda NSX and first-generation Ford Mustang. When not writing, Henry is often found at classic car events or watching motorsports at home, but he also has a curious passion for steam trains.

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