In 1968, Americans bought cars that were made here. Audi’s, BMW’s, Jaguar’s. Those were called “fussy foreign jobs”, and it would be several decades before those cars would become mainstream. So, if you wanted a sporty set of wheels in 1968, your choices were GM, Ford, Chrysler or American Motors.
1968 Ford Mustang
Ford’s little pony car had set the world ablaze when it was introduced 4 years earlier. It was small, sporty, and it could be optioned any way you pleased. Air conditioning (called Select-Aire), bucket seats, 8-track, remote controlled side mirror, tilt-away steering wheel, stripes, vinyl roofs, and endless hubcap styles were just some of the upscale options. The 6-cyl Mustang with whitewalls & a vinyl roof was the popular model for the ladies. But the guys usually went for one of the 6 V8 options, with stripes, and white oval tires.
One of those V8’s was the all new 302-cid, making 230-hp. This motor was designed as a replacement for their bread & butter 289 V8, and it would go on to become Ford’s go-to V8 for the next 30 years. It didn’t make a ton of horsepower, but it was reasonably smooth, and it was as reliable as an anvil. So naturally, the 302 found its way into many Mustangs of the period.
Driving a 302-powered 68′ Mustang is like going to a baseball game with a 6-pack of Pabst Blue Ribbon and a pack of Camels. Life has certainly evolved around us, but this old-school way just somehow feels right. From the thinly padded buckets, to the pencil-thin steering wheel and the loosey-goosey handling, the 1968 Mustang is classic Americana. Power steering was a factory option in 1968, but many came without it. Same with power brakes. But either way, the handling depends largely on your skill level.
The Mustang’s chassis was derived from the Ford Falcon, so you have to learn to pitch the car just right into a curve. There’s plenty of feedback, and the car’s limits are easy to learn. But you’ve got to be awake in order to hustle it through a curve at speed. Get it right, and you’ll be grinning like a jackass eatin’ briar’s. Get it wrong, and you’re doing a 180.
As unrefined as these cars are (in stock form), they’re light years better than most cars that came out in 1968. And that’s really not bad, even by today’s standards. Plus, there’s all manner of suspension & engine upgrades on the market. So you can take a stock 1968 Ford Mustang, and bring it up to today’s standards pretty easily. Performance aside, the 1968 Ford Mustang is timelessly cool. Like Aviator sunglasses, and Creedence Clearwater Revival. It doesn’t matter if it’s in gray primer, or a mint 1968 Mustang GT, you’re going to get thumbs up wherever you go.
2011 Ford Mustang
In 2011, foreign cars have become a status symbol. Audi’s, BMW’s and Jaguars are everywhere. And if you’re in the market for a sporty car, you’re probably going to think BMW M3, or Audi S4. Ford….will probably be the last thing on your mind.
But times have changed, and Ford’s famous pony car has managed to change with them. After a thorough styling refresh, the current Ford Mustang looks like a modernized 1968 model. The lines are crisp, and the front end looks menacing. This is what a Mustang should look like.
To go along with the plastic surgery, Ford did a heart transplant as well. Instead of the limp wristed 4.6-liter 8-pot, the 2011 Ford Mustang GT gets an all-new 5.0 liter V8, complete with computer adjustable camshafts, and 412 screaming ponies. While the 5.0 badge may be reminiscent of the old 302, the technology in this engine wouldn’t be out of place on a NASA lunar module.
Underneath, the 2011 Mustang GT gets revised suspension tuning, larger brakes, and…electric power steering. Although attaching the steering wheel to a sensor from Radio Shack isn’t our preferred method of directional control, it does work decently. Making the current Mustang GT one of the best handling pony cars to come from Deerborn (and this is particularly surprising, considering Ford is still using a solid rear axle in the 2011 Mustang).
The 2011 Ford Mustang GT 5.0 is a pretty compelling 21st century muscle car, but it lacks the enduring cool-factor of the 68′. Either way, you can’t go wrong with a 302-powered Ford Mustang.
Also checkout the 1970 Dodge Challenger vs 2011 Dodge Challenger comparison