By on November 27, 2019

2016 Ford Mustang GT convertible

I’ve been writing at TTAC for nearly eight years now, longer than just about anybody here, save for Sajeev and Murilee. I’ve seen a lot of trends come and go in that time, but one thing is consistent: y’all love Mustangs. My very first post was about my own Mustang, and since then, I’ve come to realize that if I want a guaranteed click winner, I can just put the word “Mustang” in the title. (Another sure winner? Anything about Accords, and not the type that were signed in Sokovia.)

As such, today’s Ask Bark feels a little like throwing a wounded hemophiliac into the Shark Encounter tank at Sea World. Nevertheless, here we go.

Our dear friend Luke writes:

Hi Bark,

I want a Mustang. I’ve had Camaros, I’ve had a Challenger, I’ve had other muscle cars and sports cars. But I’ve never had a Mustang and I want one.
It has to have a V8. I’d like for my wife to drive and enjoy it too, so it probably has to have an automatic transmission. That’s okay.
It will be used for some amount of commuting during the non-snow months, weekend back road drives, and maybe one to three track events per year. Not competition, just open lapping or driving schools.
It will be stored during the winter. This will be a third car.
I have a nice garage, tools, and some level of wrenching skill so I’m comfortable doing maintenance “bolt-on” type mechanical upgrades if necessary. This seems important in the Mustang world.
The budget is $25K for the car itself. A little less would be better but $25k is the top.
I’m reaching out because when I go on the web there are just so, so many used options. So many variations in trim and equipment. The car has changed a lot very quickly and I haven’t really kept up. So I put it to you…for my $25K which Mustang is best Mustang?
I have thoughts.

$25K buys you so. much. Mustang. There are used S550 GTs available all day long at $25k, many with super low mileage. We are still a couple of years away from being able to get a Performance Pack at that price, but honestly, I don’t think that you want the PP. The stiffer MagneRide suspension won’t make for a fun daily driver, especially on longer trips. I don’t know anything about your wife, so I don’t know if she is the type to enjoy a stiffer ride (I promise that is not a double-entendre), but I haven’t encountered many of the fairer sex who like that level of roughness. God, I’m making it worse. Let’s move on.

You’re saying that the car will be used at one to three track events per year, so if you really mean that, you’ll need to make some upgrades to the brakes if you plan to push the car at all. No stock brakes on any Mustang under $25K are capable of handling the sort of pace that the S197 and S550 can achieve at your local track, even with “upgraded” Brembos. So you may want to look at a car more around the $20-22k range and budget for upgraded calipers, pads, and rotors.

Don’t worry about power mods or bolt-ons — the Coyote makes more than enough power for mere mortals, and most people make Mustangs worse with modifications. Unless you are an absolute pro driver, you won’t need any more thrust from the engine.

As far as the actual model you want? I think the independent rear suspension S550 will be a bonus for you over the S197, but at that price point you’ll be looking at a more spartan interior with the S550 — might be difficult to find a leather interior or upgraded stereo. If you want something that’s nicer to drive every day, an S197 GT Premium would probably be the way to go, especially for your stated consideration set.

However, here’s my out-of-left-field recommendation: get yourself a nice, higher-mileage S550 convertible. Oh, here’s one. The enjoyment you’ll get out of the convertible as a summer car will outstrip the one to three days a year (which, let’s be honest, might never materialize) that you’ll be at the track. (I wouldn’t recommend tracking a ‘vert without a rollbar, but some organizations will let you.) The Mrs. will probably like to be able to put the top down on pleasant days, too. And the Coyote makes the same nasty sounds and straight line speed with the soft-top.

I have spoken.

[Image: Ford]

If you also want terrible advice, write to Bark and he’ll respond to you, either publicly or privately, at his earliest convenience.

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36 Comments on “Ask Bark: Which Used Mustang Is Best Used Mustang?...”

  • avatar
    R Henry

    $25k will get you a really nice first generation (1964-68) restored Mustang V8 coupe. If you want a car that appreciates while you own it, a really nice first generation Mustang might be your ticket. A S550, while a great car, will be depreciating asset for a long time.

  • avatar

    I was going to say a newer car with higher miles, but of course in good condition, would probably be the smart way to go. It doesn’t sound like it will rack up a lot of miles during Luke’s ownership, so in a few years it will be a avg or low mile car.

    Personally I’d go for the convertible, much better to hear the Coyote’s song and enjoy that weekend drive.

  • avatar

    “I don’t think that you want the PP. The stiffer MagneRide suspension won’t make for a fun daily driver”

    Does the Mustang have a tour or soft setting? I have mag-ride on my Z51 C7 ‘Vette and it is amazing – perfect for a daily driver or highway cruising when in tour mode and yet with the twist of a knob it becomes ratcheted down, on-rails-stiff for track days.

    I really don’t see how I can own another sports car without mag-ride – its honestly that good. The main reason I got rid of my 350Z was ride quality, it was brutal for daily driving, to the point where my wife wouldn’t even get in the thing for a quick dinner or movie date.

    • 0 avatar

      If its magnaride then yes it does and its more comfortable than a car with traditional shocks. Not surprised the author didn’t know that, he didn’t even answer the guys question – Ford builds the exact car for his wants and he recommends a high mile vert. FAIL.

      • 0 avatar

        The author knows that. The author drove the S550 with the MagneRide many times. The author tracked the S550 with the MagneRide many times. The author owned a Boss 302.

        Go back to Jalopnik.

        • 0 avatar

          So is the author saying the MR setup on the Ford is not good? Or is the soft setting still too stiff?

          I test drove a base C7 and it rides somewhere between Tour and Sport on a mag-ride equipped car. Now for me Tour is downright plush, but once again my reference point was a rock hard 350Z with stiff aftermarket sway bars. This aligns with my C7 set to Track mode (as expected).

          • 0 avatar

            It’s still too stiff for most drivers on a daily basis. I wouldn’t recommend it if you don’t want the sport setting for frequent track/autocross usage.

            My Focus RS has multiple shock settings, too, but even the softest one is like sitting in a paint shaker.

          • 0 avatar

            As someone who has never driven a MR Mustang but has driven MR-equipped GM products, this surprises me. The ride of a MR-equipped SS set to “comfort” is quite a bit smoother than the ride of a G8 GXP. I would have expected one setting that was daily-driver livable.

        • 0 avatar

          This is probably the best author response I’ve read.

  • avatar

    My used Mustang is best Mustang because I know what I have. No lowballers!

  • avatar

    Do I go new LeBanon Mustang or 2yr old GT350?

  • avatar

    Darn shame it has to be an automatic but I understand the reasoning. I haven’t driven a 5th or current generation GT but the reason my wife won’t drive our ’02 GT isn’t because she can’t drive stick but rather because of the stiff clutch.

    I assume the S197 and S550 are better in that regard. Maybe let her try one first before you dismiss 3 pedals entirely.

  • avatar


    Just find a crossover you like and put Mustang badges on it.

  • avatar

    “Track days”

    If it must be a convertible then good judgement (and most track rules) requires a roll cage, helmet and 5 point restraints. Insurance can be problematic. Check auto and health insurance policies carefully for possible exclusions.

    Back in the day the V8 mustang coupe which I drove on a track required internal roll bar, 5 point restraint, helmet, nomex, upgraded brakes and overall frame/suspension stiffening. It appears that requirements for coupes have relaxed since then. Perhaps newer vehicle standard roll over protection is better than pre 2000.

    That roll bar takes up significant cabin room (even more with cushioning) and really doesn’t look good with the top down. There are bolt in roll bar (cages) that can be removed when not at the track.

    My suggestion is follow Barth’s advice (that looked like a nice convertible) and find a track the will rent you a ride for the 1-3 days a year you race. Cost of the car for the day probably no more than insurance supplement and tires and brake wear on your own car.

  • avatar

    If you want the best, go for the King.

  • avatar

    ’04 Cobra. Still a Fox chassis, New Edge contemporary style, except IRS, Tremec 6-speed (sorry no automatics), supercharged DOHC 4.6 V8, overbuilt, all forged internals, and 500+ HP is just a pulley and tune away.

  • avatar

    …having owned camaros, a challenger, and other muscle cars…….

    You lived the life I wanted!

  • avatar
    Art Vandelay

    Fox Body. There, I said it. If you can dream it, somebody makes it to bolt onto a Fox Chassis. If it is a part you need to legally pilot it around a race track, someone has probably made it for 2+ decades. Wan’t a modern Ford motor in it? Someone makes a bolt in K member. Want an LS, someone makes that too. Dont want to screw with that? People have been making crap to make the old school 5.0 fast since long before Van Halen started wearing Spandex.

    Heck now I want one.

    • 0 avatar

      Except for the auto transmission I agree. The 5.0 fox body with the OEM auto is a real slug. If you live a a state where you can swap out the transmission or get an aftermarket auto with different shift point then go for it.

      • 0 avatar
        Art Vandelay

        You can get a 6R80 in one. It isn’t cheap, but then again, 25 grand goes pretty far in a Fox Body. If you want to do anything other than drag race in an auto car, in which case a C4 or built AOD would work, then I’d do that. The AOD is pretty much a blank canvas at this point but yeah, I’ve never been a fan either.

      • 0 avatar
        Art Vandelay

        Just saw TCI also puts a 6 speen in a GM 4L80E case that they sell in kit form for use with Ford Small Blocks. Not any cheaper, but good for 850hp and has multiple options to shift it.

    • 0 avatar

      The original 5.0 is really underrated, before bolt-ons and (mandatory) rear end gear-swap. They make lots of low end torque, but respond to mods like no other, as if the factory de-tuned a monster.

      But once you get to upgrading, the weaknesses of the clutch, shifter, rear-end control arms and bushings, and the flimsy chassis itself become apparent.

      The aftermarket addresses all these things for not much money, plus sweet stroker kits and supercharging/turbos.

      The GTs are cheapest of all (5.0s), but an LX (3-door) conversion can be done for cheap.

  • avatar

    I have a 2015 Mustang GT with the PP. Maybe it’s because I carry around a lot of built-in bottom-end cushioning, but both my wife (who doesn’t have an ounce of extra cushion) and I both find the ride comfort of the Mustang to be softer than either the WRX or BRZ I also own. Whenever the time comes to pick a car for a long trip, it’s always the Mustang over either of the Subaru’s because of the more comfortable ride.

    But then, maybe it’s all relative, and all it might be saying is that the WRX and BRZ both have stiff, harsh rides.

    Bottom line, try out a PP for yourself and see if it suits your own personal bottom.

  • avatar

    I am fond of the 69s.

  • avatar

    Interesting article, Bark. I’m looking at a Mustang for my next car (had a Mercury Capri Black Magic back in the 80’s). Rented a V6 ‘vert for a couple of weeks in Hawai’i 3 years ago. Really liked it.

    Started shopping and found they’re not offering that engine. Is the GT really livable daily? Not looking for hot rods. I did like the ’16 convertible you linked to!

  • avatar

    as a previous owner who tracked his S197GT and was fairly active on the forums at one point I would respectfully disagree about the brakes. track pads and dot4 fluid were plenty sufficient for those who only did 2-4 track days a year (like myself); especially if on street tires. sure, those who got serious soon found them insufficient but it doesn’t sound like that will be an issue in this case.

    the s197gt is a great track car (cheap) and on the track the stick axle is less noticeable; it was the daily driving with the live axle that eventually caused me to sell mine (along with the cheap interior). still, i owned it for 10 years; the longest i’ve owned a car by far.

    having said all that, i wouldn’t recommend that generation (at least in regular GT guise) for anyone but a teenager needing a cheap, fast, reliable sporty car. i might be willing to own a bullitt (as a mcqueen fanboy) or boss version.

  • avatar

    My instinct would be to go for the cleanest, lowest-mileage one that can be found at the $25,000 price point. I figure a V8 Mustang is hugely likely to have a DPO (dumb previous owner) who didn’t treat it well–especially one with an automatic, as in someone who doesn’t know how to drive a manual. The lower the miles, the lower abusive miles.

  • avatar

    My instinct would be to go for the cleanest, lowest-mileage one that can be found at the $25,000 price point. I figure a V8 Mustang is hugely likely to have a DPO (dumb previous owner) who didn’t treat it well–especially one with an automatic, as in someone who doesn’t know how to drive a manual. The lower the miles, the lower the abusive miles.

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