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The Ford Mustang has been around as long as the dinosaurs. No, not really.
However, the Mustang has been a model that has not seen a break in production since its inception. Along with that success, however, comes rivalries—and the Mustang has had those in spades.
First, to understand the Mustang’s prowess, we have to analyze what it is. It is the epitome of the sporty coupe—even through the years where its horsepower was as little as 90. A four-seat, 2+2, convertible, hardtop, fastback car that would make friends jealous and, at times, make red-light warriors quake.
But enough about the obvious. Let’s move on to the Mustang’s competitors.
Ford Mustang vs. Chevrolet Camaro
The Camaro was Chevy’s fastest attempt at coming up with something to compete in the same market. It was almost two years late. They did make one heck of an amazing-looking speedster, and it did its best fighting the stallion.
Throughout the muscle car years, the GM (and its big-block battery of weapons) held its own. Most of that era’s muscle cars had similar stats with similar engines.
Throughout the 1970s, the Camaro took over in the performance department as the Mustang II became more of a lawn ornament than a muscle machine. It wasn’t even close. The 1970s Chevy Camaros were also better-looking and comparable in pricing, so it was not a time for Ford fans to brag.
The 80s brought more competition between these two cars, with the Camaro ultimately winning towards the end of the decade. The bigger GM motor and similar body specs eventually made the speed battle one-sided. The next decade was more of the same.
Ford would take almost ten years to come up with horsepower to compete with Chevy again. At one point, the Camaro’s 330hp 5.7 Liter was attacking a measly 260hp Mustang. It was tough to take. The only bright spot was the Cobra R limited production—which bowed to nobody.
But finally, when the Camaro took a hiatus, the Mustang got new hooves. The GT500, GT350, Super Snake, and more would put the Chevy in its place (check out this video of the 2013 Shelby GT500 vs the 2012 Camaro ZL1 to see for yourself). The GT500 had 550hp, the GT350 took cornering to new levels, and the Super Snake was as quick as all but a few cars on the road.
Interestingly, although the Mustang spent years taking a beating when it came to performance, it won EVERY time in the sales department. These were landslide victories as well. The Mustang II that I compared to an ornament sold some 200,000 cars in a single year—sometimes double and triple the sales of the beastly Chevy.
Ford Mustang vs. Pontiac Firebird
A stablemate of the Camaro, the Firebird had much the same run. The muscle days were somewhat back and forth, the 70s belonged to the Firebird (even more so than the Camaro), and it handily won both the 80s and 90s. The big difference between the Firebird and Camaro was that the Camaro is still fighting the good fight—even if its time has about run out.
Ford Mustang vs. Dodge Challenger
A later attendee to the party, the original Dodge Challenger came into the picture in 1970—almost the end of the muscle car era. For the few years they competed, the Challenger was faster than the Mustang. The Hemi reigned king, and there was nothing the prancing pony could do—but this victory was short-lived.
The Challenger soon turned into a car that many would call “economy” and even more wished had never been designed. The Mustang easily outpaced the 2nd generation Challenger and would continue to sell far past its last year.
Then out of the blue, the Challenger resurfaced in 2008 and has since made quite a spectacle. The Challenger GT gave the Mustang fits since it had AWD ability and the Stang did not. The R/T would stand toe-to-toe with the Mustang GT, and the Scat Pack would give the GT500 a run for its money—quite literally, as it was some $9,000 cheaper.
Dodge also renewed its commitment to racing in the form of the Challenger Hellcat. The crazed Hellcat and its 707hp destroyed any chance of the Mustang being king of the drag strip. Mind you, the Hellcat would be utterly useless on a track, and the GT350 is a better everyday car, without question.
The newer Challenger is also one of the few cars that have come close to outselling the Mustang. Things are still in the horse’s favor, but not since the Mustang’s creation has any car been as close in sales.
Ford Mustang vs. Plymouth Barracuda
The Plymouth Barracuda ran the gamut much like the Challenger, but the ‘Cuda started the fight many years earlier. It was put forth in 1964, just days after the Mustang. It sold some 70,000 units, which would have been fantastic—if not for the 500,000 Mustangs sold in the same period.
The Gen-1 Barracuda was a Valiant with a fastback, and the engines showed a lack of care in application. Mustangs were better looking and faster, much to the chagrin of Chrysler. But Gen-2 Barracudas benefitted from 383 and 440 engines, which helped in the struggle and put the combatants on mostly even footing.
Like the Challenger, however, the Gen-3 Cudas all but destroyed the Mustangs in a straight line. Hemis and 440 Six-Pack engines laid waste to anything short of a Boss 429.
Finally, however, the Mustang would have the last whinny. Barracudas stopped production in 1974, and the Mustangs are still going strong today.
Ford Mustang vs. Imports
The other side of the pond has had many contenders to battle the potent pony, and the following are just a few.
The 3-series BMW—specifically, the BMW M3—would be a match for all but the newest Mustangs. It was also far more expensive, however. The Toyota Supra and Nissan 350Z were both sport coupe brethren and would be formidable opponents for the Mustang during their time. The Subaru WRX (and similar Mistubishi Evo) were both 4-door sports coupes but were spirited enough to run with (and past) the Mustangs as well.
In the grand scheme of things, however, the Mustang was cheaper, close when it came to overall performance, easier to live with, cheaper to fix, and in many cases, better to look at. The Mustang has also out-sold all the cars mentioned above—perhaps even put together.
The Ford Mustang Endures
As if it needed to be said again, the Mustang has remained an amazing car throughout the years. Yes, even the Mustang IIs—if for no other reason than how amazingly they sold.
Though the price tag is no longer for the teenager buying his first vehicle, the Mustang is still a value leader, gorgeous to behold, a performance phenom, and still outsells anything in its class. It may have taken a back seat from time to time, but no other sports coupe has been around longer.