50 Years Of The Mustang 5.0


You know the Mustang 5.0. You love the Mustang 5.0. Maybe you’ve been lucky enough to own one, and you’ve probably been lucky enough to work on one. These icons of road muscle aren’t especially rare, but their value lies in qualities other than scarcity.

Don’t you also love talking about the Mustang 5.0? Let’s talk about the Mustang 5.0.

Mustang 5.0 V1.0: The Windsor 302

Some hard-line old-schoolers say that the days before emissions regulations were the high-water mark for American cars. Giant rumbling monsters of horsepower with bodies of steel and a seemingly bottomless thirst for 30-cent gallons of gasoline roamed the wild frontier, and the 302 cu in (4.9L) Ford Windsor engine was on the wish list of grease monkeys from coast to coast.

The Windsor 302’s time at the top of the food chain was somewhat short-lived, sadly. The car was affordable and the engine was a joy to modify, but the carburetor-fed 302 was severely neutered by the rising tide of exhaust regulations in the ’70s. When fuel injection hit the mass market a decade later, though, things got interesting.

Mustang 5.0 V2.0: The Fox Body

This is what most people think of when you say Mustang 5.0. These Fox body models that rolled off the line in the ’80s and early ’90s were some of the first fuel-injected V8 engines suited to the sort of deep tuning that had been achievable on carbureted machines.

There’s a whole family of tricks that 5.0 enthusiasts can use to kick up horsepower — tweaking the fuel pressure, gapping the plugs, twisting the distributor, etc. — and base power was formidable to start with. A bigger intake, better heads, better valves and a few other factory improvements made it so stock 1987 5.0s were rated at 225 HP and 300 lb/ft of torque. Unmodified! Dragstrips across America didn’t know what hit them.

Mustang 5.0 V3.0: The Future and Beyond

Although the announcement of a new 5.0 Mustang for the 2011 model year was met with furious joy by devotees, the legend’s rebirth was not without its skeptics. Those skeptics, however, were few in number and largely ignored, and Motor Trend named the 2011 5.0 with the “Coyote” engine its top performance car of the year.

If you traveled back in time and talked cars with your dad’s buddies outside the Phillips station, mention of the 2011 Coyote engine would make them think you were crazy. “Wait, 412 horsepower and 390 lb/ft of torque stock? Rumored to be tunable up to one thousand horsepower? The kid’s got a strong imagination.”

This is the future, though. Those numbers are real, and the 2014 GT Premium 5.0 goes even further, pushing a landmark 420 HP, stock, on a tank of premium fuel. Add to that the array of modern aftermarket bonuses and a sticker price approximately the amount of the average car sales transaction, and Ford has got drivers and tuners alike licking their chops.

The 50 years of the 5.0 have seen it through some ups and downs, but general consensus is that the motor icon is back in its best shape yet. Maybe the old days weren’t the best days for American cars after all.


  1. Autotrader Classics, “10 Most Collectible Fords from the 70s,” Huw Evans, http://www.autotraderclassics.com/car-article/10+Most+Collectible+Fords+from+the+’70s-76852.xhtml
  2. American Muscle, “1987 Mustang Parts & Accessories,” Andrew Cilio, 2013, http://www.americanmuscle.com/87.html
  3. Muscle Mustangs & Fast Fords, “Old-school tricks and new-school testing shows solid power gains,” Pete Epple, February 2012, http://www.musclemustangfastfords.com/tech/mmfp_1202_ez_5_0_bolt_ons/
  4. Jalopnik, “The 5.0 Mustang Is Back,” Ben Wojdyla, December 28, 2009, http://jalopnik.com/5434979/the-50-mustang-is-back
  5. Mustang Evolution, Mustang News, “Popular Mechanics Names 2011 Mustang 5.0 Top Performance Car,” Brent Wilson, December 3, 2010, http://www.mustangevolution.com/mustang-news/popular-mechanics-names-2011-mustang-5-0-top-performance-car/
  6. StangTV, “Vortech and Paxton’s 1000HP-Capable Kits for 2011 Mustangs,” Mark Gearheart, November 2, 2010, http://www.stangtv.com/features/sema-coverage/vortech-and-paxtons-1000hp-capable-kits-for-2011-mustangs-2/