We here in North America love our American-made sports and muscle cars. There is a reason that the names Charger, Viper, and Mustang are world famous. Each evokes the thought of gigantic V8 engines with tons of grunt down low, manual 5 or 6 speed gearboxes with positive engagement actions, and the smell of burning rubber as the rear wheels are spun up for a burnout. While the other names may be known to many, it is the name Mustang that everyone knows.
Many of us will, in our lifetimes, be able to own and drive a Ford Mustang, as it is an achievable dream car, no matter if it’s the lower end turbocharged I4 or the top of the line Super Snake. However, for those that live in the UK, the EU, Asia, and the like, while Ford does ship our favorite car overseas, it is usually hit with a variety of import, gas, and value added taxes that makes it more of a toy for the track than an everyday car. For those people, it is through video games and simulators that they can get their pony car fix.
While many racing games exist, of every level from arcade racers to full blown simulations like iRacing and Assetto Corsa Competitizione, some of the most popular and best selling “mostly simulation” games are in the Forza Motorsport and Forza Horizon series. Forza itself has a storied history, emerging in 2005 for the original Xbox console, and was one of the poster games for the still new Xbox Live online multiplayer service.
It can be openly said, as the head of development, Kiki Wolfkill, stated, “the intention is to target Gran Turismo (for the Playstation) with this game on Xbox. [. . .] We have a lot of respect for Gran Turismo, which helps drives that desire to beat them.”
From those humble beginnings, dropping their hat into the ring against the Godzilla racing game of the time, Forza has expanded to include seven main series titles (with an eighth in development for the Xbox Series X and PC), and five open-world, always-online roaming games with multiple drop-in, drop-out challenges on their virtual streets.
Throughout it all, the Ford Mustang has been in every single game in one form or another, and it is with this in mind that we searched through the cars of all the games to find the special ones that stood out the most.
Note: This list is in no particular order.
Forza Horizon: 1995 Ford Mustang SVT Cobra R
Before there was Ford Performance and Shelby taking on the higher end of the Mustang model list, there were three letters that denoted that the car you were buying was special. Those letters were SVT, which stood for Special Vehicles Team.
Formed in 1991 as the in-house tuning division for the Ford Motor Company, the cars that this team played around with became some of the most well known and desired cars throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, with their crowning jewel being the 1995 Ford Mustang SVT Cobra R.
In-game, the SVT Cobra R is available to purchase after clearing the first few challenges of the game, as it comes in at a C-rank car. However, its low rank hides the fact that in drag race challenges, the Cobra R is a hidden monster, which is one thing the game does replicate about the real car very well.
Both the real 1995 Mustang SVT Cobra R and the in-game one have the 5.8L Windsor 351 V8, which pushes 300 HP and, more importantly, 365 lbs-ft of torque passing through a special Tremec 3550 5-speed to the rear wheels.
As the car was designed from the outset to be a racing car, to buy one, you had to hold a valid NHRA or SCCA competition license, or own a team that intended to use the car. Because of this design, there were no rear seats, the fuel tank was replaced with a 22 US gallon kevlar reinforced fuel cell, and most of the bodywork and interior was fiberglass.
The result? A special version of the SVT Cobra that could blitz most factory tuned muscle cars down the drag strip, and was surprisingly competent on road courses as well—if your pit crew and mechanics could dial it in. Only 250 Cobra R’s were made in 1995, and all sold except for the prototype and production model #1, which are kept at the Henry Ford Museum.
Forza Motorsport: 1968 Ford Shelby Mustang GT500KR
It is only fitting that in the first game of a series that has become legendary, a legendary Ford Mustang was included. By the late 1960s, Shelby American and the Ford Motor Company were doing amazing things together, not the least of which was the development and success of the Ford GT40 race car. For the common man, the Shelby GT500 was the peak of Mustang style and power, and was already a “modern classic” for those that were saving up to buy one.
It was in 1968, however, that Ford decided to up the ante and make the GT500 not just a muscle car, but the muscle car. Development had been underway for some time on a new engine for the GT500, and while the base model already came with a 428 ci V8 that was used in Ford’s Police Interceptor Mustangs, halfway through 1968, the 428 ci Cobra Jet V8 was unveiled.
If you bought your GT500 with the Cobra Jet, one of the ultimate classic power V8’s to come from Ford, your GT500 was known as a GT500KR, or “King of the Road.”
In Forza Motorsport, the first title of the series and the only one made for the original Xbox, the 1968 Ford Shelby Mustang GT500KR was a B-tier car, with immense power and torque that made it a monster down the straights—but, as with the real car, a little tricky in the corners. This was because the game simulated the solid rear axle design of the real car, and without a limited slip differential, the rears could light up during cornering if you weren’t gentle on the throttle.
Officially, the GT500KR had 335 HP and 440 lbs-ft of torque, but almost every Mustang enthusiast knows that this was mostly to keep the pencil pushers in Washington happy by making it “not too powerful.” In reality, the Cobra Jet 428 was easily pushing out over 400 HP, with some estimates placing it in the 430+ HP range. We’ll never know, “officially.”
Forza Motorsport 7: 2018 Ford Mustang RTR Spec 5 & 2018 Mustang RTR Formula Drift
The last of the Motorsport series for the Xbox One, Forza Motorsport 7 brought not one, but two versions of the Mustang that have been fettled by RTR Vehicles. We chose two Mustangs for this entry because they are very similar to each other, with the exception that one is a road course car and the other is meant for the drifting mode introduced in FM7.
The 2018 Ford Mustang RTR Spec 5 is a real world car that you could order through your local Ford dealership, through their OEM+ initiative. Based on the 6th Generation Mustang GT, the RTR Spec 5 modifications included a new 10-speed RTR tuned automatic sportshift transmission, a widebody kit, black RTR 20-inch wheels, and some engine parts and a retune of the Coyote 5.0L V8 to 460 HP and 420 lbs-ft of torque.
In the game, the RTR Spec 5 is available to buy for 105,000 credits, but is a “chance find”, as it is one of the super rare cars in the game.
The true monster of the game, however, is the 2018 Mustang RTR Formula Drift. For those that have never heard of Formula Drift, it is a highly-regulated competition series that arose from drifting competitions in Japan.
The objective is to score both speed and technical points by staying as close as possible, without touching, to the car you are competing against in showdown events, and artistic and technical points when performing solo drifts. The cars in Formula Drift are extremely specialized, highly tuned, and chuck out some seriously impressive horsepower numbers.
The Mustang RTR Formula Drift, for example, uses a 436 cubic inch, Roush-and-Ford developed, naturally aspirated V8 that uses direct cylinder injection, high flow intakes, and reinforced manifold and cylinder walls to produce an earth shattering 1,000 HP and 740 lbs-ft of torque, or just about enough to reverse the rotation of the Earth. It powers the super-wide rear wheels through a 4-speed manual transmission, and will go sideways around a corner if you so much as breathe at it.
In the game, it is an R-tier (racing) car that was added in the March 2019 update, and can be purchased for 250,000 credits. It is also known to be one of the twitchier FD cars in the game. However, if you can master it, there are few cars that can keep up with it in drifting competitions. Another neat little thing that was added to the game is that if you own both the RTR Spec 5 and the RTR Formula Drift, an option opens up in the RTR Spec 5’s modification page where you can put the 7.2L V8 into the Spec 5—giving you a 1,000 HP road course animal.
Forza Horizon 4 & 5: 1971 Ford Mustang Mach 1
Although the 1971 Ford Mustang Mach 1 first appeared in Forza Motorsport 4, it was fairly lackluster in that game, and was relegated to being a D-tier car in the following Motorsport releases. In Forza Horizon 4 and 5, however, the car is done justice by being elevated to a C-tier muscle car, and feels like it has much more respect.
In Horizon 4, you can buy the Mach 1 from the Autoshow in the central hub of the map for 45,000 credits, if it shows up as one of the cars available for purchase (which, for the non-gamers, is a new random list of cars you can buy immediately when opening the autoshow).
In Horizon 5, however, the Mach 1’s status as a legend is respected, as it is a “hard to find” car, meaning that you either have to complete a series of challenges to get it, or luck out and get it as a reward from a racing series.
In the real world, the 1971 Ford Mustang Mach 1 was the first mild refresh of the model, after being in production for two years already. The 1971 car got a special front grille, only came in the sportroof fastback body style, and was the first version of the Mach 1 that could hold the massive 429SCJ Ford 385 Super Cobra Jet V8.
While the base model of the car came with the 302 Ford Windsor V8, almost all Mach 1’s were ordered with the 429SCJ—or its slightly less powerful version, the 429CJ.
The 429SCJ 385 Super Cobra Jet was an absolute beast of an engine, using 4 down-draft Holley carburetors that took in 780 cubic feet per minute of fresh air through both natural induction and ram-jet effect from the hood scoops. The result was an at-the-time brutal 375 HP and 450 lbs-ft of torque, and the car was able to blitz the quarter mile in under 13.6 seconds.
This is the model that is represented in Horizon 4 and 5 in all its glory, and it should be noted that with the increasing sound quality of the Forza games, the engine sounds for Horizon 4 and 5 were captured from one of the 1,865 1971 Mach 1s that were built.
Its name is derived from the joining of the terms Hooning and Unicorn. Hooning is a beloved pastime of many English and Australian youths, and encompasses the skills of drifting, burnouts, car-modding, and generally being a pain in the ass to the upper establishment—or basically, what the Mustang is all about.
In car terms, if you don’t know what a Unicorn is, it’s the perfect make and model of the car of your dreams—a great example being the GT500 Eleanor in the movie Gone in 60 seconds.
So what Ken Block had made was an all-wheel-drive, 6.7L twin-turbocharged V8 doomsday weapon that puts down over 1,400 HP and generates over 1,200 lbs-ft of torque, while weighing only 2,990 lbs.
There are no cats in the exhaust. The turbochargers are so large that they stick through the hood and literally are direct air intake. In continuing with the unbelievable numbers, the Hoonicorn will not just launch, but absolutely catapult to 60 MPH from a standstill in 1.8 seconds, and will breach 100 MPH in under 3.2 seconds.
In Forza Horizon 3, it costs a fairly steep 1 million credits, although that is no reflection on the real world cost of the Hoonicorn, which is estimated well north of the $2 million USD mark due to everything being custom made. It is, by far, the fastest accelerating car in the entire game, and is only let down by having slightly underpowered brakes, although you can mod in stronger ones.
If the Hoonicorn sounds like a fantasy idea, rest assured that it is an actual, real car. In fact, Chris Harris, he of YouTube and Top Gear fame, has sat in the passenger seat of the car with Ken Block driving, and—well, we’ll link you that video (note: strong language) because the first two words out of his mouth when the engine turns over and the exhausts bark are not publishable. And that’s with the old V8, which had “only” 900 HP and about 800 lbs-ft of torque.