Curbside Classic: 1974 Ford Mustang II Notchback – Mustang II, Recognition Zero

1974 Ford Mustang II, 1

It was a real “Whoa! What’s that?” moment when I spotted this ’74 Mustang II on a Sunday afternoon, six years ago.  I was on my way to play some Euchre (a popular card game in the Midwest) with friends.  I’m not exactly sure why, but the first year of Mustang II holds some genuine intrigue for me, being as it was the purest form of Papa Lido’s “Little Jewel” that was introduced in September of ’73.

1974 Ford Mustang II, 3

After snapping a few pictures but also needing a quick bite, I ducked into the local Subway sandwich shop for a toasted roast beef on wheat.  There was another customer in line in front of me who appeared to be in his early- to mid-twenties.  While I was waiting in line, I kept glancing through the windows across the street at the first street-parked, non-show car Mustang II I had seen in probably twenty years or more.

Having seen me snapping pictures out there, the restaurant’s proprietor, Mr. S., asked about my interest in the car.  I explained I was something of a car fanatic, and that I couldn’t remember when I had last seen a Mustang II like this on the street in such great condition.  I also mentioned I was hoping to get a few more frames of this car before it and its owner disappeared (as in, Please hurry with my sammy!). Part of me had hoped it belonged to Mr. S., so I could get some back story, but he didn’t bite, so I left it alone.

1974 Ford Mustang II, 4

Overhearing our conversation, the customer in front of me exclaimed, “That’s a Mustang??”  Mr. S. went back to making our sandwiches, as I managed to rattle off a few, basic facts about this generation, including the ’74 model’s unique, deeper front grille and the lack of the V8 option.  The guy in front of me just shook his head incredulously.  This was a “Dang, I’m old” moment, for sure.

If I had correctly guessed the other customer’s age, he would have been born in the mid-80’s, at which time our featured car would have been about at least ten years old.  It’s true that most of the second-generation cars had probably disappeared long before he would have easily recognized these as Mustangs, with Fox-body ponies still positively everywhere by the time he would have graduated high school shortly after the turn of the New Millennium.  It does actually make sense to me how the original Mustang styling cues, in their melted, ’70s guise of our featured car, would not shout “Mustang” as strongly to a Millennial as the lean, angular, athletic lines of Jack Telnack’s third-generation model.

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I was seriously lost as to when I had last seen a Mustang II (any Mustang II) that wasn’t at a show, before I remembered having seen a bumper-less, brown notchback parked not far from Eppley International Airport in Omaha, just a couple of months ago.   Before that, though?

I can think of only two such cars, going back to the early 90’s when I was in high school.  My friend, Michelle, had purchased a peach-colored Ghia notchback with a tan vinyl roof.  It had the Cologne 2.8 V6 / three-speed auto combo, so it wasn’t the quickest thing, but it had been advertised by the used car dealership as a “southern car”.  It still ended up rusting badly in short order after just two Michigan winters.

My high school best bud, Fred, had bought a non-running, black ’78 King Cobra with T-tops that sat in his parents’ garage for a year and a half before they made him get rid of it.  His dreams of dropping a modern 5.0 into it came to naught, though he had managed to change the brakes as his only project before the tow truck came.

1974 Ford Mustang II, 2

Shifting back to our featured car, I did manage to get a few more pictures of what I considered to be some of this ’74’s more memorable features: its deeper grille and the standard wheel cover discs (all of which were present and accounted for).  I far prefer the hatchback’s sloping, fastback profile to the notch’s stubby trunk, though I don’t find our white car unattractive.

Hopefully, the past six years have been good to this little, Shetland pony.  Many folks dog these cars now, but as has been said many times before, Ford sold plenty of these and thus kept the “Mustang” name alive.  Let us never forget this, though it is as true of the Ford Mustang as it was said on print ads for Virginia Slims cigarettes from the same era as our featured car: Mustang, you’ve come a long way, Baby.

Wrigleyville, Chicago, Illinois.
Sunday, April 18, 2010.

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