(first posted 8/25/2014) Where does one even begin when describing the top of the line, final Mustang II? The car is already somewhat polarizing, and then one must deal with the Trans-Am knock-off “Screaming Cobra.” It looks fast but really isn’t, although it introduced a famous badge that still carries weight today. It is a pristine example of a car that few people restore. Many enigmas surround this ’78 King Cobra, but could it be the most appropriate sendoff for this flawed yet timely iteration of what is perhaps Ford’s most storied vehicle?
Certainly, there have been many discussions on CC about the relative merits and demerits of the Mustang II. Like the brochure said, it was probably “the right car at the right time,” but largely because of an well-timed (for Ford) oil crisis. On the other hand, the current Mustang’s sales have not approached Mustang II levels in years, so maybe Ford had the right idea regardless of the political climate. In some manner, however, Ford realized that one of the remaining “traditional” ponycars, the Trans-Am, was also a better idea, so they decided to emulate it, with mixed results.
Thus, we have the King Cobra. In many ways, the Mustang II was ill-equipped to be a Trans-Am copy. Its 302 was somewhat underwhelming compared to the Trans Am’s available Pontiac 400, and the Mustang II just didn’t have the beefy stance of the larger Trans-Am. The King Cobra looked almost clownish, hulking over a smallish set of 13-inch tires, which were rubber bands compared to the generous rubber on the Trans-Am.
The difference in visual effect is striking, but the above two photos also highlight how badly Ford was attempting to emulate the wildly successful Trans Am. Both vehicles have available T-Tops, garish hood decals, wild colors, and prominent front air dam/rear spoiler combinations. Ford even attempted a hood scoop that was a weak copy of the Trans-Am’s shaker (which was, to be fair, a copy of the ’69 Mach 1’s shaker). Wait a minute…where are the fender scoops on the Mustang? Tsk, tsk Ford.
Ford also sold its version of the Firebird Formula, the Cobra II. Unlike the King Cobra and its standard 5.0, the Cobra II carried a standard 2.3 four-cylinder, which hardly warrants the driving gloves that the above-pictured gentleman is donning. The Cobra II may or may not have been more tasteful in ’78, as it wore one-year-only billboard graphics on the side that diverged from the Shelby-like rocker stripes of earlier Cobra IIs.
My intent, however, is not to create a Mustang II bashing session. Dave Skinner’s ’74 Mach 1 is an attractive, tasteful version of this somewhat maligned ponycar. And as gaudy as the King Cobra is to modern sensibilities, the version above is in immaculate condition, quite possibly the finest King Cobra in the world.
Dave Skinner’s 1974 Mustang II Mach 1
The bare bones of the Mustang II hatchback are, to me, not unattractive at all, and some of the add-ons work. The two tailpipes, as fake as the are, create a bit of a sporting image, as does the rear spoiler and quarter window slats. The wheelwell flares, however, demand a tire size that Ford just did not offer on the Mustang II.
The interior, of course, is ’70s wild, and I love it. The orange seats and stripes harmonize well with the Cobra’s white paint, and the seat pattern might be tacky in every way imaginable, but it’s perfect for this car. The laminated Mustang II brochure is a nice touch, and reminds me how well-done Ford brochures of this time period were. In many ways, the brochures’ dusky settings and cool light were far more exciting than the cars they portrayed. Maybe not in this case.
No complaints about the dashboard. It has a combination of gauges and warning lights, and the aluminum applique suits this car much better than some sort of fake woodgrain. This example has an automatic rather than the standard four-speed, which may be my only real knock against this particular example. The three-spoke steering wheel is just right, and evokes images of the original Mustang’s wheel (which had fake spoke holes compared to the real ones on this ’78).
Appropriately, and barely visible in this photograph, this King Cobra was parked next to a ’78 Trans Am. The hood cobra is an obvious homage to the Trans-Am’s screaming chicken, but what is more interesting is the “5.0” nomenclature on the hood scoop. As far as I know, this is the first use of the 5.0 moniker, one that still adorns the fenders of new Mustang GTs, and created a sterling reputation on the streets of America in the 1980s.
While the Mustang II King Cobra might have been a miss as far as creating a Trans-Am competitor was concerned, Ford would take a few solid steps toward getting in the game with the ’79 Mustang, which was a totally different concept with totally different execution. The King Cobra, however, was a wild goodbye for a car that doesn’t get much respect today, but sold well for Ford through much of the 1970s.
Related reading (if you dare): CC 1976 Mustang II Cobra II – Ford’s Deadly Sin II (by PN)
As a long time Mustang fan the Trans Am wins this time.Ford weren’t going to splash out too much money on a car in it’s final year.I’ve got more interest now in the go faster striped “muscle cars” of the late 70s than when they were new thanks to my brother snapping a Volare Roadrunner on his holidays.It wouldn’t take too much effort to liven up these cars to make them go like they look.Another nice find Aaron thanks
Any info on that beautiful 56 Mercury please?
For some reason the ’56 didn’t really attract my attention that day. It’s kind of weird, but I’ll almost like different cars on different days. Of course, the King Cobra was too odd to pass up.
I’m another one whose eyes went straight to the 56 Merc, completely overlooking some Mustang II in the foreground….
1st thing that comes to mind as I look at that photo …..
the gurgling V8 within the Merc.
I dropped a few grand on my ’78 mustangII and with a 331 stroker pumping out 355 ponies and a new T5 trans the car will blow the doors off most of your trans ams.(Handles well also).
Oviously a built mustang against a stock Trans-Am, I can see how you might win. Lets compare apples to apples and put your Cobe against my Firebird with an Olds, Mondello built 455. Oh, and it handles amazing. 🙂
As a fan of the Mustang II, perhaps Ford should not have marketed the Mustang King Cobra, much less the Cobra II as Ford’s answer to the Trans Am. If they wanted to compete against the Firebird, Ford should’ve put a bigger engine, maybe a 5.7 litre V8 engine under the hood, beef up the suspension and brakes. It takes way more than just splashing the car with a poisonous cobra to make it look like a Trans Am competitor.
The King Cobra was a quick, easy, and cheap shot at scarfing up some folks who wanted the Trans Am look, but didn’t want to pay the price at the pump. It didn’t really work, but I can’t blame Ford for giving it a try.
OTOH, a much more sedate Mustang II without all the gee-gaws ‘did’ work, at least at first, and I suspect the reason is quite simple and exactly the same as with the original ’64: there was no competition. By 1974, every other ponycar had gotten big and fat. As stated in the article, Iacocca won the lottery (a second time) with the timing of the Mustang II exactly when oil prices went ballistic. A sporty, much smaller Mustang almost identical to the first was perfect, even if it was derived from the Pinto.
It really would be interesting to know how the Mustang II might have sold if the price of gas hadn’t been so expensive (relatively speaking) when it was introduced. I suspect sales wouldn’t be even half (although that still wouldn’t be so bad).
There were oil shocks in 73-74 and in 79 after the taking of the hostages. It wasn’t so much the price of gas that sent people panicking and buying smaller cars it was the availability and thought of rationing. By 78 that had passed and the MII had its second best sales year.
If you want to stick to the price of gas, let’s compare the MII to the Chevy Monza which was not there in 74. In 78 the ancient MII demolished Monza sales, even though both gave the same MPG.
Point is it wasn’t just good fuel economy or that perception that made the MII a success. The design, size and concept all hit the bulls-eye and that was Iacocca’s doing. Talent not luck.
The sales stats of any given car are indisputable facts. There’s no point of debate. But a good selling car isn’t necessarily a good car. And that’s what we’re here for: to debate the merits and deficits of cars, for better or for worse.
I can assure you that the MII wasn’t the first time a mediocre car sold well. there’s a sucker born every minute…
The Vega, Citation, Pacer, and a whole lot of mediocre cars sold very well in there first year. And yes, the MII continued to sell fairly well in subsequent years, although not nearly as well. And it wasn’t a “lemon”, per se.
But the evidence from period tests, anecdotal and personal experience all confirms what I and many others have felt and known since 1974: The MII was a mediocre car.
In every respect of comparison to the Capri, it lost except for perhaps quietness, which a bit of sound deadening would have easily fixed. The Capri was a better sporty coupe than the MII; I’ve been saying that since 1974, and I will keep saying it, regardless of the sales stats.
Never underestimate the power of the name “Mustang”.
The Monza was at least as good a car, possibly a bit better . . . . but most people who wanted a GM pony car in the 70’s wanted the real thing. Camaro. Sales would have probably been a lot closer if GM had dropped the F body Camaro and put the name on the Monza. Fortunately, they didn’t.
The Capri was a better car, most definitely. However, it wasn’t a Mustang, and it was sold in dealerships where the sales staff were probably wondering what it was doing there.
Sales ARE the indication of success. But sales aren’t everything. If they were, we’d absolutely know that The Monkees were a much better band the Cream. After all, they outsold them.
Well, even without oil shocks, compact segment was still growing and imports were taking younger buyers. Toyota Celica for one was getting former domestic car owners who wanted to save a few bucks.
Lee I. planned the M-II to compete with import coupes, and it would have still been a hit, with the shift to smaller cars starting with the VW Bug. The Gas Crunch just tilted the scales more.
Aaron65 – where did you shoot these photos? Were you in Grand Rapids, Michigan this weekend? I shot the very same car on Saturday morning. I posted pix of it to the CC Cohort yesterday…
I shot them in Clare…
It was part of the US27 cruise, so the owner must have been returning from that. I think they ended up in Cheboygan or something.
Maybe this car gets around, as it were. It looks like it’s making the rounds of all of the summer car shows…
It was a real time capsule. I don’t think I’ve seen a King Cobra since the early 80’s.
I think that by 1978 everyone but the biggest Ford fanboys knew that while the Mustang II may have been a lot of thing, it was not a muscle car. But we have to award Ford points for effort.
JP, I try to see something positive in just about everything, but nothing is redeeming here. This was not one of Ford’s better ideas. OK, they did realize that something had to be done about the bloated previous generation, but Paul’s characterization of the II as “a pathetic little toad” in his earlier CC was not far off the mark. It rightly earned its deadly sin status. Sales were OK the first year (1974 – 385,000), then fell off a cliff and never topped 200,000 again.
I had a friend who had a ’69 Mach 1 (351-4bbl) that was stolen in ’74. Being a Ford guy through and through he replaced it with a new ’74 Mach 1. Talk about a shock. It’s like the two cars weren’t from the same planet. The Fox body to come was far better, but why did they let this POS go on for 5 years? The 70’s was a decade Hank the Deuce would like to forget.
Because that POS sold 1,107,718 in 5 years time. If we compare the Mustang II’s 5 year life span and its production figures with the 75-80 Chevy Monza(which actually was MII’s biggest competitor), we see that even though Monza had 6 years of production life, it only sold 731,504 which is 376,214 less then MII
If we compare MII with it’s former Pony Car competition from GM for those years we see the following
1974-1978 Chevy Camaro- 971,221
1974-1978 Pontiac Firebird- 611,488
If taken separately, the Mustang II beat the Camaro of those years by 136,497
It also beat out the firebird by 496,230
If you roll the Camaro and Firebird sales into one then the Mustang is beaten.
In essence the Mustang II did all Ford asked of it and that was to generate sales in the dark 1970’s. Ford banked on the fact that folks would flock to buy a sporty looking car that got good gas mileage and would be willing to give up horsepower and they were right as over 1.1 million of them found homes.
I agree with most folks, the Mustang II was a horrible car and it did drag the Mustang name in the mud(though not as bad as GM did with the sainted Olds 442 name by sticking it on a lack luster 1983 Cutlass with a Olds 307 in it) but I cannot fail to give it it’s dues as a big seller of the time nor can I not admit that it came closer to the original 64 1/2- 1965 Mustang then the 1973 Bloatstang did. The original idea behind the Mustang was to offer a affordable sporty looking car that would not cost somebody their first born child.
(repeat comment from another thread): The sales stats of any given car are indisputable facts. There’s no point of debate. But a good selling car isn’t necessarily a good car. And that’s what we’re here for: to debate the merits and deficits of cars, for better or for worse.
I can assure you that the MII wasn’t the first time a mediocre car sold well. there’s a sucker born every minute…
The evidence from period tests, anecdotal and personal experience all confirms what I and many others have felt and known since 1974: The MII was a mediocre car.
In every respect of comparison to the Capri, it lost except for perhaps quietness, which a bit of sound deadening would have easily fixed. The Capri was a better sporty coupe than the MII; I’ve been saying that since 1974, and I will keep saying it, regardless of the sales stats.
It was not meant to be a muscle car and it was not meant to compete with the Camaro or Firebird (flying snake withstanding) the Mustang II was set to compete with the following cars originally:
Datsun Z car
Later on when GM released the Monza, Starfire and Skyhawk it competed with them. it was meant as a sporty affordable gas friendly car.
With the exception of the Datsun Z (much more a true sports car at the time), I agree wholeheartedly. Iacocca was incredibly keen on reading trends in the marketplace, and there is historical evidence of this. Quotes from an Anna Muccioli, at a Ford stockholder meeting in 1968: “Why can’t you just leave a small car small? You keep blowing them up and starting another little one, Blow that one up, and start another one”. Believe it or not, Knudsen had the ’74 Mustang on track to be even bigger than the outgoing ’73 cars. One of the first things Iacocca did once Knudsen was sacked was redirect the Mustang’s course, and Ford certainly benefited from it. Ford of Europe’s own sporty Capri was doing exceptionally well from the get go (not to mention the Pinto and Maverick), so where else would a smaller Mustang go within that context? As unfashionable as some may say the II is today, that mini-luxury route they played up was the perfect formula for the times. The original Mustang was no street machine, but nobody seems to hold that fact against it…
My sister bought one of the first Mustang II’s, a Ghia “coupe” that was loaded to the roof…literally. Mechanically it was okay but just about every “feature” broke or malfunctioned within weeks or months.
In 1976 I found a new Mustang II at the dealer I really wanted. It was a fastback in pale yellow with matching interior. (Yes children, there once was a time when car interiors weren’t light grey or dark grey.) But a youngish girl beat me to it so I settled for a pale blue Pinto hatchback with medium blue interior. The Mustang had an “aluminum” finished dashboard…part of a Pony or MPG package.
I think instead of imitating Pontiac, Ford should have come up with an original idea like it’s European arm did…perhaps Mustang RS?
All liveried up, these are great to look at. But not my type of car. That cow catcher on the red KC in the ad is humongous. It’s not the same as the one on your feature car; is that a supersize option?
No idea! I haven’t seen enough King Cobras to say either way definitively, but I do know that the one on the feature car is way more tasteful (if not very tasteful). 🙂
The Trans Am S/E (special edition) made such a huge impact on late 1970’s automotive landscape, aided by the movie Smokey and the Bandit. Even when the S/E package on the Trans Am came out in 1976, it was kind of thought to be gaudy, at least by some. But after the wild success of the T/A S/E in 1977, everyone got on board.
We may find the Snarling Cobra a little odd now, but remember, AMC did the same thing with the Hornet AMX, which seemed to have a very angry insect plastered on the hood of the car. Sadly, the Hornet AMX was another also-ran in this category. IIRC, by 1978 the only motor available in the car was the 258 ci straight six, hardly a competitor for the beastly 400 ci Pontiac. Maybe a fair match for the Cobras, though…
Mopar checked in with the Super Coupe variations that came with the E58 360 V8’s, at least a reasonable attempt to cash in on decal fever. The cars had some gaudy striping, but no stylized insect, snake or bird on the hood. I don’t know if this would count, but there was the Plymouth Fire Arrow (some Mitsubishi model, which I forget which one) that had a pretty gnarly tape stripe and blackout panel arrangement. But that car was even more inappropriate for any competition with the T/A.
By 1978 or 1979 even the T/A’s corporate cousin got tape stripe fever and the Z/28 had a slew of 3M tape all over it. In fact, almost every domestic car had some sort of tape stripe option back then. Decal musclecars, indeed.
We mustn’t forget the Dodge Lil Red Truck, where Chrysler exploited the less stringent emissions regs for trucks and made a real fire breather (by 1978 standards).
The thing I’ve always hated about govt. emissions regs is that while it requires cars to emit less pollutants into the air, unfortunately, it also sacrifices performance and reliability of cars and trucks both built in the USA and imported to the USA. Like anyone who drives a car, I like clean air. But not at the expense of performance and reliability.
Go spend a week in Beijing and tell me that.
Rest of world is much more strict about emissions, economy, displacement than USA. In fact, the German automakers build special performance models primarily for american customers, which don’t sell much at home due to high taxation.
Your comment seems kinda confused, as if you believe a Mustang II is still the state of the art. Modern engines are orders of magnitude more performant and reliable than whatever poor-tolerance crap you seem to be talking about, while demolishing them on pollutants.
There’s a lot of automotive regulation I don’t support(Safety regulation and CAFE to name a few, as they use specious reasoning to continually validate their effectiveness, but I digress), but federal emissions regulations really hasn’t had any real downsides with the exception of the 70s and early 80s where power robbing band-aids were often put into effect to comply without the automakers spending a lot, but ultimately it bred mass production multiport Fuel Injection, which that alone has made cars cleaner, more reliable, cheaper to own and more powerful than anything made prior to the regulations. State emmisions regs? Now those I can go on a long rant about.
I don’t mind automotive regulations if they make sense and are realistic. Unfortunately, those regulations passed in the past 40 yrs are totally unrealistic, and don’t make any sense whatsoever.
Hey, I saw one of these the other day! I didn’t realise they were a real factory truck until I googled it.
The 304 V8 was available on the Hornet, Concord, and ’79 Spirit AMXs. The last-year ’80 Spirit AMX was 258 only.
Perhaps the “angry insect” on the hood was just frustrated by the lack of power.
@1964bler: OK, now I remember. It was the 1980 AMX that was 258 only.
A classmate of mine in HS had a 1978 Hornet AMX with the 258. I seemed to think that was the only engine available, maybe that was why.
According to wiki, AMC also sold the 232 until 1980. Made them side by side and then went all 258 for their six.
I dragged a couple of these in my dad’s 460 Elite and smoked them. They couldn’t believe that a landau-topped luxo cruiser with wire wheel covers had done that to them. I guess that’s not saying much, 460 CID vs 302, but still………
A better comparison was posed by Popular Science: the V8 versions of the Monza & Mustang II; the Monza rated a 5/5 for slalom, the Mustang got 0. And I heard the 302 was too much for the Pinto front suspension, though I have to wonder about the Monza as well.
Cars like these were a sign of desperation, getting performance by putting small-blocks in cars designed for fours.
I’m not a defender of the Mustang II, my personal experience with one was rather poor (base car, the four, automatic with air).
However, I don’t see anything wrong with this. I’m not even sure it is a competitor of the Trans Am as much as an alternative that takes a different approach, which is what the Mustang II was all along. I doubt Ford thought that this package on a fifth and final year car was going to shut down the Trans Am. Instead, it threw a sport / performance bone to the Mustang faithful, made the drivers of base versions with fours feel a little better about the Mustang image, and put a few bucks in the Ford coffers from those willing to shell out for a high end version. In such light, this was a success.
Neil does raise a good point about this car’s intended competition, the Monza V8 is much closer to this car in most respects.
My remarks were really about the impact of the Trans Am S/E’s impact on the automotive psyche of the late 1970’s, more than a direct comparison of the two cars. But they did compete in the same arena. I think they just wanted to cash-in on the trends at the time. Even the Monza (as a more direct competitor) had several tape stripe packages of it’s own, some serious, some not so serious.
This happens in every era, from the tail fin excesses of the 50’s to the “green” or “hybrid” stuff we have today.
I am no fan of the cars of this decade. The II was probably as good as any other 70s car that I owned. However, anything with a screaming chicken on the hood would have been something I avoided.
When someone brings up the Mustang II in a comment thread there are bound to be supporters and detractors. In an article however that doesn’t work so well because there is usually a picture of the car, like in Aaron’s here. Not sure how anyone could say anything negative after seeing that first pic, what a great looking car! T-bar roof in the third pic ruins things though.
I don’t view the decal as much of a copy. It’s a snake and the one on the Trans Am is a bird. Snakes appeared on Shelbys long before birds did on the TAs.
Great point about the “5.0” starting with the MII. Deep down I can tell you are a fan Aaron!
Not sure how anyone could say anything negative after seeing that first pic
I’m quite sure I could 🙂 And have, all too many times here, so there’s no point to repeat myself, except that this King Cobra was just about the ultimate poseur-mobile in its time. Now it’s a quaint period-piece.
I don’t view the decal as much of a copy. It’s a snake and the one on the Trans Am is a bird. Snakes appeared on Shelbys long before birds did on the TAs
Well, yes; if they had put a bird on the KC, it might have been a bit over the top. Seriously, the Shelby snake was a “logo”, and not a giant mural splashed all over the hood of any of their cars before. If this isn’t copying the very successful TA, I must not understand the meaning of the word “copy”. Or one of us doesn’t.
I dunno, the snake on the hood seemed more like a natural occurrence to me…
There was a tradition at Ford to name cars after animals and use a cartoon of the animal as an emblem.
Ford was a pioneer in offering iconic graphic packages from the factory with the Shelby GT350 stripes.
The black-out treatment on the ’69 Mach I popularized decorating the hood beyond scoops.
By the late 60s Plymouth had popularized the turning of an animal emblem into a cartoon decal.
What this leads to is that the “cobra” on the Mustang II would have probably jumped from the grille to the hood and become a decal with or without the TA. It was a natural way of updating the Cobra stripes given Ford history, Cobra history, Mustang history and design trends long before the ’73 TA appeared.
Also there is this… no one overheard a King Cobra owner being asked why there was a snake on his hood. As a kid I can’t tell you how many times I overheard someone looking at a Trans Am and asking why there was a chicken on the hood.
the snake on the hood seemed more like a natural occurrence to me
Me too. There’s just nothing more natural than a giant stylized graphic appearing on the hood of a car. 🙂
And yes, the massive popularity of the TA had absolutely nothing to do with it. Mother nature had always had a plan for the King Cobra, and it was destined to appear naturally in 1978 with a giant winged snake on the hood, regardless of what was going on in popular culture at the time.
Were you on the high school debate team?
Sorta and was therefore hoping no one would bring up the wings! I knew at that point I’d have to throw in the towel and admit some TA influence. I do think the snake would have ended up on the hood with or without the TA. The car looks much better with the King Cobra graphics than it did with the second gen Cobra II graphics. They had to do something to clean it up.
Only in the 70s could you clean something up by putting a very large decal of a winged snake on the hood.
That, and also that I have never seen a big snake with wings like this. 🙂
Unfortunately I can’t think of a comeback on the wings point. OK that was a nod to the TA 🙂
So, lets forget about the screaming worm for a sec… The front and rear fender spoilers, air dam, faux “shaker” hood, and pinstripe placement were all coincidentally identical to the Trans Am SE as well??? 😀
As a car fan, I don’t hate many cars, so in a way, I guess I am a fan of Mustang IIs…………………………..but I wouldn’t buy one. 🙂
My little sister had one of these. A King Cobra in blue over white.
Not a totally bad car. Really. However, I smoked it with my 1978 Honda Civic.
In 1974 Ford had made the right move replacing the Bunkie Knudsen mandated Torino-esq ’71-’73 Mustang with the smaller and lighter Mustang II. GM had even contemplated dropping the F-body but sales stayed just above the level where GM would have done so. 3 years later fuel prices had stabilized, people figured the end of the world was not coming (Disco notwithstanding), and Burt Reynolds showed up in a black Trans Am. The car that was so right in ’74 was now so wrong in ’77. In all fairness, the Mustang II was a good seller throughout its production run, it just didn’t compete well with the traditional muscle/pony car when that style enjoyed a resurgence in popularity. You can only do so much with a Pinto, and an overloaded one at that.
If you want to ignore the fact the Mustang II’s second best sales year was 1978…
Consumers weren’t as informed in their buying choices as they are today. I think many buyers thought this was the best Detroit was capable of giving them. And many people still didn’t consider the imports yet.
I think the real issue was one of reputation. Although the original ‘Stang was a lightweight, by the late 60’s you could get some pretty stout machinery under the hood. I guess there’s a disconnect that happens when you remember the 1969 Mach I with a 428 ci V8 in it, and you think of the 1974 Mach I with the 173 ci V6 in it. To be a little more fair, let’s recall the 1975 Cobra II with the 302 ci V8 in it. Still, there’s a huge disparity in capacities and capabilities.
Maybe they really shouldn’t have attached the Mustang name to it. Maybe another name should have been attached to the car, so the disconnect wouldn’t be so obvious. In recent times, witness the change in reputation of the name Taurus. Before 1996, that was a solid name. During the early aughties, it was dragged through the mud. Ford has recently tried to resurrect it, but I don’t think the car it’s attached to is doing the job. Much like the MII. It has it’s fans, but not everyone is convinced.
I’ve often thought that if the price of gasoline had stayed at pre-embargo prices, that the initial 1974 run of Mustang II’s wouldn’t have sold as well as they did. Like it or not, the original Mustang evolved into a fire breather and the Mustang II was something of a letdown for fans. At least many of the ones I knew at the time.
I agree with all that. The same disconnect often applies when discussing how heavy and bloated the Mustang got every year from 1967 on, but the reality is, comparing a 6 or 289 equipped 65 or 66 to a GT 390 or 428 Mach 1 doesn’t exactly reflect on the actual gain that lead to the MII blanking the slate. The reality with the weight gain between 66-73 is that a similarly optioned car with the same(or equivalent) drivetrains is only going to amount to maybe 100lbs difference. The overall chassis and bodystructure didn’t actually change all that much in all the “first gen” years, just the exterior sheetmetal, and while there was more of it as the years went on, it’s not a 400+lb difference as is often told.
The reality with the weight gain between 66-73 is that a similarly optioned car with the same(or equivalent) drivetrains is only going to amount to maybe 100lbs difference.
100 lbs?? Let’s not let facts get in the way of our opinions. The actual difference is 457 lbs, to be precise. That’s the difference between a 1965 base Mustang six (2583lbs) and a 1973 base Mustang six (3040lbs). Both with six, stick, manual steering, etc… Those are factory shipping weights; wet weights on the street are some 200lbs more.
The structure changed twice; being widened twice as well as the body being lengthened by a very considerable amount. Although the wheelbase stayed the same, the ’71-73 Mustang was a bigger car in every other way. Kind like comparing a 1960 Falcon and 1971 Torino; same basic chassis, but a lot of growth and changes nevertheless.
Where are those facts from exactly? The 65 Mustang chassis has a lot more in common with a 73 Mustang chassis than a 1960 Falcon does to a 71 Torino, which is much more “Falcon inspired” than Falcon based. The Mustang on the other hand never changed it’s basic structure – the floor pan and cowl structure between 1964-1/2 and 1973 were 100% identical stampings in fact – the 67 gained torque boxes to reinforce the rockers and front frame rails, as well as updated suspension attachment points, and the shock towers changed twice in 67 and 71 to accommodate the FE and 385 series engines respectively, the 71s also got updated attachment points again, likely for the 1″ wheelbase stretch. The only things that got wider and longer in them was in the individual body panels, and I can say with total confidence that there isn’t 80 lbs difference in each widened panel, Ford didn’t widen and lengthen the car with lead and fill in the lengthened overhangs with iron ore.
I will concede that the 100lbs was an exaggeration, but I’ll also say that 457 is as much of a stretch. Realistically the extra sound damping, sheetmetal and steel in the suspension/axle(for the widened tracks) does add up, but more realistically in the 200-300 range at most. I’m going by the Mustangs I’ve seen weighed for the track, and what I’ve personally seen there isn’t a whole lot of variance between the first generation years with similar race prepped setups.
From Ford; their listed official shipping weight, which is a key statistic used and required for a number of official purposes. They’re listed in the Encyclopedia of American Cars along with other factory stats, like production numbers, price, etc. Ford had no reason to lie; and they do have good scales.
Where I grew up in the 70s, anything smaller than a Nova or a Duster just didn’t get a lot of respect amongst high schoolers, and their performance cars. V-8 Monzas and Mustang IIs just wouldn’t get the attention or admiration at my school. And I think my high school was quite typical in Canada. If anything, a Mustang II with a modified engine, a plain exterior, and fat tires would get more respect than this. Teenagers are tough critics, and many would laugh at that cobra decal. Late 70s cars, with their tape stripes and decals, didn’t get the respect that traditional pony cars and mid size cars received.
I used to laugh at all the 70s car commercials that showed some guy putting on driving gloves before starting up his ’77 Cougar.
I know plaid interiors were popular at the time, but I’m surprised Ford allowed it to be ordered in what was supposed to be a performance image car. That interior belongs in a Pinto Squire wagon.
I remember Phil Edmunston’s Canadian Lemon-Aid Guide used to point out how carcinogenic a car model’s interior was. I bet this one made the list. lol
Don’t forget the 1980-81 Turbo Trans Am “Thunder chicken” hood bird and the 1979 10th anniversary Trans Am with the bird’s wings brushing the fenders. The Z28’s last year was 1974, until a rebirth in mid-1977. With 1974 being the last chance for a Javelin, Barracuda or Challenger, Chrysler hoped for 200,00 sales of all E-Bodies a year. When they were being designed.
Not much for the youth market, even with low compression, and a general fear of unleaded, gas. One reason people kept driving their regular gas, gross polluters. Some well into the 1980’s. Thanx Chris
That cobra decal is nearly psychedelic, it just needs a few more colors!
These weren’t the only 1978 Ford Cobras either. Meanwhile on the other side of the world… These weren’t ‘proper’ muscle cars though, having the standard emissioned 302C & 351C fitted. Technically they weren’t tape stripes either, as they were 100% painted. The car pictured is about the best you would ever see, with the 1-of-30 ‘Bathurst’ package identifiable by the hood scoop, with a few other bits so the racers would be able to have a better race car.
It was only recently I discovered those wide blue stripes have light blue pinstriped edges.
Now that’s more like it!Could this be the daddy of Australian muscle cars?Very nice
Daddy will always be a Phase III GTHO, Gem.
These were a coupe body runout like the LE Monaro that were shunned by serious GT heads until prices went stupid. Now prices are stupid for these too. Still, they are a nice looking car and Allan Moffat did a crafty 1-2 at Bathurst with the XC coupe.
Those 30 or so Bathurst versions are one of Daddy’s favourite brothers. My personal favourite uncle is the Phase IV.
I never realized the King Cobra was the first Mustang to wear the now legendary 5.0 until now, but you’re totally right! And considering the well known fact that 302ci actually translates closer to 4.9l, the questionable choice of rounding up to 5.0 becomes very clear now knowing it first emerged on the ultimate poser Mustang.
Also, despite the inundation of the metric system at the time, my bet on Ford switching from CI to Liters with this car had a lot to do with the 77+ Trans Am’s iconic “T/A 6.6” designation on the shaker. My Dad has mentioned to me many times he was quite smitten with that particular decal when he had his 78 in the day.
During the years that gave birth to the 5.0 I was pretty pre-occupied so am sure no expert. I do know that I owned a Lincoln TC from 85 that referred to the engine as a 302. I also had one from 86 that referred to the engine as a 5.0. The difference in those two years was TBI vs EFI.
Also I suspect the 302 became a 5.0, not just for bragging rights, but also to easily differentiate it in print from the 300 six which they termed the 4.9. Just as much sales psychology going on. I suspect, as the difference between the prices $199.99 and $200.00. Sometimes it’s just how you say stuff and how you round up as anything else.
I always saw these cars as a cynical joke, playing on Ford brand loyalty. I have driven one of these and they are more accurately pathetic jokes. A V-8 on 13″ tires? Seriously cheap-ola.
You have to give in to the General. They managed to keep the F Body fresh for way longer than they should have. They at least made an effort to make them run well. After 1975 GM cars ran quite well. Ford was so cheap they delayed introducing catalytic converters until they had to, making the 1975 cars without horrid dogs. Until Ford’s excellent EFI came along, GM cars always ran better.
In 1978 a Z-28 was the thing of dreams of many boys my age. Few remained stock once the one year warranty was up. This was also attempted by boys with the Ford, but it couldn’t handle any more power. Heck, it couldn’t handle the V-8 in the first place.
Theres a 302 notch back around here dull green with brown vinyl roof skinny tyres looks quite strange as far as 70s cars go, its original not that it helps its cause must try to get some pics if I ever catch it parked.
Complaints about how big the original Stang got was another reason Lido ordered the smaller II. Story is at a stockholder’s public meeting, someone asked if Ford could “bring back the small sporty 1965?”, so Lido tried.
Also, the II bridged the way to the Fox bodies. If Ford canned the Mustang, as Mopar and AMC, there’d be no Pony cars today. GM may have killed the F’s in 1981.
Quotes from an Anna Muccioli, at a Ford stockholder meeting in 1968: “Why can’t you just leave a small car small? You keep blowing them up and starting another little one, Blow that one up, and start another one”.
“King Cobra” Nah, more a case of “Kiddie Cobra” Full credit to its owners for keeping the timewarp though.
This King Cobra is ours. It is our first year showing it. And yes we have been all over. Over all we have received a good response on it. We attended Mackinaw City’s Mustang Stampede–Old US 27 Motor Tour–Mustang Memories(we received an award plaque from John Clor)–Mustang Alley(they used it as one of their display cars under the timeline)-Woodward Dream Cruise–Roush Automotive Collection Open House–28th St. Metro Cruise–other local shows ( Mt. Pleasant Rods in the Park(top 25)–Westphalia-Greenville(Best Interior)-Perrinton(3rd Place)-Blue Oval Blast(2nd in Class)–Belding(Best Interior).Tomorrow we will be at Uncle John’s Cider Mill show in St. John’s. Not too bad for our first year. We are having fun.
Wow, cool! How much work has it had done to it? It’s in great shape!
It was sold in Las Vegas new and we bought it on ebay from California, Not very much wrong with it. Motor and tran was in the back. My husband stripped it down to the shell,had the motor, trans, seats reupholstered –had the body work and paint done by Old Town Hobbies/Ted Salisbury in Maple Rapids Mi. then he put it all back together.
Well, he did a great job for sure.
I actually saw it again this weekend in Frankenmuth…I assume it was your husband driving. It sounds nice, too! My ’53 Buick was parked over in the ball diamond area.
yes that was us–had a good time. 🙂
I read the whole comment section. A great debate and pretty much covered it all. I can’t add anything new to it.
So I will just say it is a very pretty car to me. So there.
I dig all Mustangs. New ones, old ones, restored ones, beat up ones. I like them all for different reasons, and accept them all as different, because if there were no differentiation through the years, it would get stale and boring.
While there’s no doubt that the 5.0’s of 1978 were anemic, I’d be interested to see what could be improved with some better heads and breathing modifications, as well as some timing and air/ fuel adjustments, plus a limited slip and maybe some 4.10 gears. While the tires and rims are definitely small on these cars, what someone overlooks is that with less diameter and rotation of mass (especially on the outer diameter), it takes much less effort for the engine and drivetrain to spin. Traction would become a major issue at some point, but the whole “drive a slow car fast” thing would be fun in these.
You can do good things with an extrude honing or “claying” of the exhaust manifolds and intake, a little valve work, advancing the cam a few degrees and a 2bbl carb with the bigger venturi (1.21″ 351cfm) from the 351 or 400. The 302 carb had a 1.08″ venturi that flowed 287 cfm.
It would still look completely stock but would run so much better
No doubt! Some good suggestions there. I like working with the existing architecture of an engine to improve what’s already there…..like a super stock thing.
“First one that I bought was a Mustang number 2
Nobody kept em any longer than they kept a pair of shoes
They started showing up at every used car lot in town
A V8 on a go kart, easy terms, no money down”
That Drive-By Truckers song (“Daddy’s Cup”) always pops into my head when I see one of these cars.
Daddy`s Cup Car`s are now worth 13 to 15,000 dollars i have the black king cobra t-tops , ac, automatic with 53,000 miles black with black leather interior , not junk anymore !!!!
Simply from a looks standpoint (ridiculous hood emblem notwithstanding) I like the lines of the MII far better than what the Mustang had become prior. It’s much closer to a 64.5 than the overgrown early 70s cars.
One thing Ford got some what right on these cars was the front suspension. No shock towers or strut towers. I’m not saying the front suspension was perfect, far from it but at least those damn shock/strut towers were gone for five years. What the F happened? Was the genius behind the towers doing 5 years for burglary and then given his job back when he was paroled? Hope the S650 chassis finally gets rid of this junk. Only took them 50 years to get the rear suspension right.
Agreed! Chevy stole the Falcon’s front suspension for the Chevy II from 1962 to 1967. Why couldn’t Ford have stolen the Nova/Camaro/Firebird suspension after that?
I won’t opine on the goodness or badness of the II. However I have long wondered why Ford did not use the Capri as the basis for the II. It would have made so much more sense and would have been a better car. I assume it’s because Ford feared that the Capri was too well known by that point and wanted the II to be more than a rebadged version of its other division. On the other hand I wonder how many II buyers knew they were buying a tricked -up Pinto?
When did “iteration” become a synonym for version? They snuck that one in on me.
What can I say? I like to make things up sometimes.
OK, normally I would try my best to leave this alone because nobody but me cares, but I’m a proud man and I have to defend myself in these cases.
From Mirriam-Webster’s Usage Notes:
What to Know
Iterate and reiterate are synonymous meaning “to repeat or do over again.” Both words have Latin origins so this is not a case of over-correction in English. In usage however, you will mostly see “reiterate” meaning “to repeat” and the noun form of “iterate,” “iteration,” meaning “version.”