(first posted 3/9/2013) The Wikipedia synopsis of John Steinbeck’s final novel, The Winter of My Discontent, reads: “Feeling the pressure from his family and acquaintances to achieve more than his current station, Ethan considers letting his normally high standards of conduct take a brief respite in order to attain a better social and economic position.”
What better description could there be for the Ford Mustang II Cobra II?
Paul has already recognized Henry Ford II’s (well, he was CEO at that time) Mustang II Cobra II as a “Deadliest Sin II,” which will save me at least an hour’s worth of writing. You can go read it now—I’ll wait until you’re back, but don’t take too long—the tin worm has already set in pretty firmly on this car, and it won’t last forever.
Okay then, you’re back! The Mustang II was introduced in 1974, as Ford’s response to two (II) stimuli: First, the first-generation Mustang had grown to such ponderous proportions during its first decade that customers were beginning to
choke on balk at the size. Second, the oil embargo and general economy had had dire effects on the domestic car market, and the Big Three were now competing in earnest with solid import entries like the Toyota Celica, Datsun 240Z and even Ford’s own European-sourced Capri.
The Cobra II was introduced in 1976, its name, of course, lifted from the Shelby Cobra (my, how the mighty have fallen). Ford owned the Cobra name, and although Shelby’s name appears nowhere on the car, his likeness was used in advertising. One source I referenced indicated that Shelby was paid $5.00 for each car sold, possibly to alleviate any potential issues regarding use of the Cobra name. Interestingly, 1976 and early 1977 Cobra IIs were converted off-site, at Jim Wanger’s Motortown, which also did the Pontiac 455 Super Duty Trans Am and Lil’ Wide Track Astre conversions among others. Ford moved conversions in-house for the latter part of the production run—only minor differences exist between cars done at Motortown vs. ex-factory.
Despite popular (mis)conception, the Mustang II shared only about 10% of its parts content with the Ford Pinto. Sadly, that included the venerable 2.3-liter engine with its 88 “ridden hard and put up wet” ponies. Due to the lack of a V8 option, 1974 boasts the lowest Mustang top horsepower of any model year to date. A 302 cu in. (5.0-liter) V8 was available as of the 1975 model year, but even it made only 140 hp and, as Paul pointed out, was not much of a match for its contemporaries in the ‘pony express’ department. Our subject car might or might not have the 5.0 lurking under the hood; Ford (ex-factory) did not apply a V8 badge to the front fender on 1978 Cobra IIs, although dealers may have added them to some cars in order to help their sales.
It is not uncommon to run across Mustang IIs that have been converted to Cobra II or King Cobra cars. Our subject, however, sports the right patina on the exterior graphics, as well as the correct-for-1978 red interior with brushed- aluminum dash insert and “pony” badges on the interior door panels, so it’s almost certainly the real deal.
By the late mid-1970s, the oil crisis was a faded memory, and despite the “cheapening of the brand” that occurred with both the Mustang and Cobra names, Ford arguably had a hit on their hands. Sales of all Mustang II models had dropped from a first-year high of 296,041 in 1974, to 179,039 by 1978—which was still nothing to sneeze at. Out of that 1978 total (the final year for the Mustang II), only 8,009 Cobra IIs were sold, which makes this a fairly rare car.
Ford, like Steinbeck’s protagonist, then finally came to its senses, and set out to redeem itself with the introduction of the “Fox” platform Mustangs.
Shakespeare once said that “past is prologue” history influences the present. Well no more example of that is the Mustang II. It has been easy recently to quickly dismiss this car as a mistake, and no doubt that there will be many comments below that will do just that for reasons real or perceived, but one has to measure a car in terms of it’s success in achieving it’s goal. What was the Mustang II’s goal? Well what was the Mustang’s goal by 1973? By then the regular Mustang was much like Elvis Presley who had grown fat and lethargic in his later years to die an inglorious death.
So we have a disappearing pony car market, uncertain energy conditions (although that wasn’t a major issue in the car’s development), rise of smaller import sporty cars, and the distinct lack of identity of a Mustang that was beginning to drift (Mustang Grande anyone?). Yes the 4 cylinder was nothing special in that car, but then again, Ford continued to use a 4 cylinder as the base power plant until the 1994 redesign. Sixes were available, and as the article says a V8 by 1975, so you were able to get a car that resembled something a lot closer to 1964 than 1973. Of course the OPEC crisis of 1973 was almost timed right for this car, and timing is often one of the most important yet least controllable factors in car design, and it made more sense to the buying public.
I am not a fan of the extreme flash of some of these models like the represented car or the King Cobra, I prefer my cars to be seen not heard, like good children. Then again, at the same time, the Firebird was wearing a life sized chicken on it’s hood and Chrysler used it’s share of tape. With that said, I think I will give the lowly Mustang II more credit than many will do simply because it filled a role during a time that the original Mustang clearly was unable to. Who knows, without the Mustang II, there might not be a Mustang today. Of course, in the end, like with all products, sales tell the truth and despite all the supposed flaws, the car did sell, and well, almost matching the original’s impressive debut.
One could make the argument that the Mustang II and derivatives like this car were actually what *saved* the Mustang… Maybe a stretch to do so, but then again, given how popular the car was, and properly viewed in context, maybe not.
Not a stretch at all. I have no doubt that if the II had not been developed, the Mustang would have either disappeared entirely (as the Barracuda, Challenger and Javelin did) or the name would have been affixed to the mid-size platform (what became the Elite), as was done with the Cougar.
I am looking to buy a 1978 cobra 2 exactly like the one in your article. white with red stripes if anyone knows where I can find one please let me know.
If you are still interested I have one just like the picture for sale! Email me an offer and maybe we can work out a deal!
The fundamental problem of the MII was its bad proportions; almost clown-like. By cheapening out and not stretching the Pinto platform, and then trying to drape that with a body that was too long and big for it, the MII ends up looking like a poorly made toy model of a proper car.
Its front overhang and huge rear haunches overpower the little 13″ Pinto wheels. Here’s a comparison with the Camaro.
Given the popularity of the MII, it only serves to underscore the saying “you can’t buy good taste.”
I can well see why the MII was so popular, for a number of reasons. Its timing in terms of the energy crisis was perfect. But it just happens to have very poor proportions. And it had dynamic shortcomings too.
Almost every girl of the era loved the car, and Charlie’s Angels didn’t hurt. But what a shame. It really wouldn’t have taken much to turn this into a really decent car.
In one aspect the Mustang II did follow the successful formula of the original. It was a “secretary’s car.” Don’t forget Mary Richards drove a ’70 hardtop in the opening credits (even though she wasn’t a secretary). If the original Mustang only appealed to pimply-faced boys, it would not have sold in the numbers it did. And as a secretary’s car, the Mustang II was fairly serviceable.
That doesn’t excuse the Cobra version, especially when a real performance model was available from the Chevy dealer down the street. This reflects the dark side of Iacocca’s genius. He thought with enough filigree he could make any car desirable, no matter how awful it was under the skin.
“Should a single girl buy a Mustang?”
You hit the nail on the head c5karl with that assessment. The original Mustang design 65-66 appealed to a broad group of people, including a lot of women, who wanted something sporting yet economical and simple. When the Camaro came out in 67 and the Charger was redesign in 68, the race was on and the power zealots took over. I suspect that by the time the original Mustang was retired in 1973, a much higher percentage of men were buying than women. The 74 redesign brought that percentage back in line probably somewhere in where it was originally maybe even more women.
So in the end, you have to judge a car for what it was meant to be and appeal to. The power zealots will never accept the car as a real Mustang, but then again, at least for 74-78, the car really wasn’t meant to be bought by the same people who bought an Eleanor.
I really can’t believe a man would buy the Mustang II – even in 1975.
The Mustang II actually had a 2.2 inch longer wheelbase than the Pinto. It weighed far more than the Pinto too. Looking at other Ford designs of the era, I think they wanted to maximize front overhang for whatever reason. Just look at the Lincolns of the day.
The massive overhang almost gives it the profile of most modern FWD cars, with the front wheels positioned well back of the nose, almost to the firewall.
Really? Give us some examples, most cars today (last 10-15 years) have been designed largely on the ‘cab forward’ principle that has pushed the wheels out to the corners.
The only FWD cars that I can think of like that were the big GM E cars in the late 60s and 70s but of course they were full size personal luxury coupes.
Wasn’t just FoMoCo! 73 Charger? Matador coupe? Just to name two.
I agree that it is not the most balanced car, but I suppose depends on the look at you want. Now a days, the ‘cab forward’ philosophy of extreme corners have taken over, and IMO, has gone too far. Today’s smaller cars look like golf carts, especially the two doors. The Pacer of the day was the opposite and equally if not more distasteful.
A lot of people upgraded to 14″ wheels. What is interesting, is that the Fox Mustange used 4 bolt wheels through the third generation design and I have seen more than one, the latest one in 2010 at Pinks in Charlotte, break off the wheel from the axle. Only full size cars and certain police/fleet vehicles got 15 inch wheels back in the day even Camaros made do with 14 inch. It was crazy times how tall and skinny tires were, even on performance cars.
Most of the hard-core Mustang II haters (as opposed to people who generally dislike 70s cars as a whole) are ones that really got into the muscle aspect of the car and not necessarily interested in even the earliest classic Mustangs. I tend to look at cars in light of the backdrop of their time and their influence (good or bad) on those times and future times.
The Camaro almost went by the way of the dodo when these IIs came out, probably GM would not have done the same thing since they had other vehicles to fill the role but yes it would have been interesting to see what would have happened if the Camaro would have died.
Son Number Two has for a daily driver an ’84 Mustang L coupe (base model with the 2.3L), and despite its roughness in *all* respects, I kind of like it. It’s basically the same thing as my first car, a ’71 Vega.
I think the proportions of the Vega are far better than those of the MII or Fox Mustangs, though. The original ‘64.5-’66 Mustang proportions are still very pleasing to the eye.
It could always be worse, Paul.
Don’t remind me…strange times (and cars).
And here’s our “improved” MII (photoshop by geozinger). Note the extended front wheelbase and larger wheels. Makes it look so much more like a genuine grown-up car.
We covered this in greater detail here: https://www.curbsideclassic.com/blog/what-if-cc-builds-a-better-mustang-ii/
The larger wheels and wheel openings themselves alone help quite a bit. Shortening the overhang really isn’t all that necessary with those upsized.
Plus there’s a lot more questionable MII styling aspects than just the straight side profile. In fact it’s probably the most pleasing.
quick re-edit of geozinger’s edit:
My effervescent sister in law had one of these bought new, or one or two years old. Quite a sexy car for a sexy lady.
The feature car should be fixed up a bit. Probably too far gone for a restoration. The tassels on the mirror suggest a current young owner. Even in its present state, it’s a neat car for a young person.
Ah, decals; the finest performance enhancement available during much of the ’70s.
That plus fake hood scoops and a glasspack muffler.
And an 8-track player with “6x9s” in the rear parcel shelf!
Dont forget long spring shackles for that dragster stance.
Wait…is that a Cobra or is it a regular Stang? If only Ford could have made the graphics a little BIGGER, maybe it would be easy to tell. Hehehe
PS: nice Hoffmeister kinks added to the rear windows in the mid-cycle refresh. Looks just like a BMW now, which makes sense considering that the Grenade 2-door looked exactly like a 450SLC….
No V8 callout on 1978 Cobra IIs? Are you sure about that? I know the regular versions had them. As soon as the V8 became available in 1975, our local dealer ordered them that way exclusively. This was a small city in western Canada. 4 and 6 cyl versions, even bare bones base models, were almost unheard of in my neck of the woods
That was the consensus on a MII / Cobra II restoration forum I read through… You’re correct that the regular MIIs had the badge, just not the Cobra. The King Cobra had a 5L decal on the hood scoop, IIRC.
Perhaps Ford wanted to hide the fact the Cobra II could be purchased with four or six cylinde power. The buyers of these lesser Cobras could just smile if anyone asked if it had a V-8, and without the badging, no one is the wiser (until it’s time to drive away…)..
Only the ’76 and ’77 Cobra IIs *did* have the V8 badges… the speculation on the restoration site I read was that Ford was possibly going to put 5.0L decals on the hood scoop (which they did do on the King Cobra), but for whatever reason, it never happened, and of course the MII was gone after ’78.
I see a lot of Ford Capri in the looks.As a Ford/Mercury fan my choice then would be an F body!.These cars are from a forgotten era of Detroit iron,were go faster stripes and once proud names were the way to go.Anyone remember the Volare Duster/Superbee and are any still left?
Interestingly modern yet classic interior proportions, with the large console, locking compartment and low-mounted radio. I wish they’d kept this interior treatment in the Fox.
Despite it’s flaws, I’ve always had a soft spot for these. Maybe it was just because I was 16 in 1980 and Cobras and ‘stang IIs were beginning to fill the lower tier used car lots in Hot Springs, Arkansas. Lower tier meant affordable – no way was I going to get a new car from my folks, so I had to prowl the buy here-pay here lots.
Cobras promised a modicum of style and reasonable fuel economy, they were on my go-to list of cars I wanted when my license finally granted me the freedom to drive without adult supervision. The second oil crisis and the 55mph speed limit pretty much cemented a preference for fuel efficient cars in me, after all if I can’t regularly explore the outer limits of my cars performance envelope without fear of being ticketed during the daily grind then why do I need it? That same attitude refuses to let me consider anything larger than a 250cc motorcycle.
Besides, major hottie Jaclyn Smith (growl) drove one in Charlie’s Angels:
Farrah Fawcett actually drove that car, followed by Cheryl Ladd. Jaclyn Smith drove a Ghia or formal coupe (I don’t know which) Mustang II that looked something like this.
And they were each “too much woman” for those dinkly little ‘stangs. They should have been driving T’birds or XR7’s.
I wonder how embarrassed (desperate?) the fine folks at the Ghia design house were with their emblem pasted on almost every Ford product in the 70s.
If you go to youtube there is a video of that car blowing up on Charlie’s Angels. They actually used an older car- probably from the 60’s – when it exploded. Check it out – it is really cool!!!
And to think – they could have kept the 60s car and blown up the Mustang II – the world would be a better place. 🙂
Marc, I agree exactly. After 27 years of driving, I’ve finally come to the realization about your exploring the outer limits comment. Really, I could get ticketed in a Yugo for God’s sake .( Well, if I could find one, or one that’ll start and actually run). I have an ’06 Mustang GT, had it since it was new, that I finally put back to stock, and took the “day two” aftermarket go fast goodies off of it. Ya know, I just enjoy the car more now for what it is, while driving like a civilized, law abiding human being! And its a smooth, trouble free, running car,I love it just the way it is ( came from the factory). A certain degree of performance is always welcome, but unless you’re hitting the racetrack, to me, its a waste. After a while, theres a fine line between street car and race car….Anyway, as a Mustang fan, only recently have I come around and enjoyed the II’s for what they are, considering the times in which they were designed and built. I do see a future downsizing and power plant downsizing of Mustangs in the future. Ford has been talking about offering a 4 cyl again in the near future.
Are those wheels specific to the Cobra? They resemble Torino wheels, though they’re 4-bolts.
That’s a very common styled steel wheel, used throughout the seventies on Ford products. The four bolt versions were used on higher trim level Mustang II and Pintos. I believe this was the base wheel for both the Cobra II and Mach I trim levels on the Mustang II, with an addiitonal alloy wheel upgrade.
When this was on the drawing board, gas was still cheap and as I recall there were no indications the price was going to change beyond adjusting for inflation.
But there were enough other indicators – from environmental concerns to skyrocketing insurance rates for anything perceived as a “muscle” car – to justify Ford’s reboot. The Arab Oil Embargo was just icing on the cake.
It is widely believed that the Mustang II was a personal reaction by Iacocca (newly named President in late 1970) to the drift of the Mustang and to Bunkie Knudson who was particularly involved in the development of the 1971 model to accomodate the large V8. Iacocca was the main force behind the Pinto and the Maverick all smaller nimble efficient “sport” coupes.
Another way to say this was that the Mustang II bore the same relation to the Pinto that the original Mustang did to the Falcon.
The 1969 Mustangs’ bays were stretched to get 428/429 motors, before ’71. Bunkie made the 1971 Stangs bigger to compete with GM’s mid size 1968’s and the `70 F’s.
My favorite picture is the second one, with the No. 53 new Beetle in the background. This shot reminds me of a Star Wars convention where the 19 year old kids come dressed as Darth Vader and C3PO.
I hardly know what to say on this car. First, what a cool find. Second, I would never, for even a nanosecond, want to own one. Maybe I am jaded by too much time around a few MIIs owned by friends in the late 70s-early 80s. Sort of like yogurt – I have tried it, don’t care for any more, thanks.
I also see that the snow covering the hood and the roof obscures the additional stripage on the hood and roof. This car may have had a higher proportion of tape to paint of anything ever made. With cars like this, is it any wonder that the most famous hot car of the 70s was really the 60s Charger from the Dukes of Hazzard.
A couple of co-workers are into cosplay (one does Thor, the other does various Star Wars characters, usually Darth Vader – he goes to all the big conventions).
I tease them that I “wear” my cosplay costume every day I drive to work.
I keep running across cars like this that had a connection to Jim Wanger’s Motortown – one of these days, that’s a topic that needs to be written up, as Motortown was responsible for the death of a *lot* of vinyl trees in the 1970s.
The Mustang II was a bad Mustang, but does that, alone, make it a bad car (and a Deadly Sin)? Ford sold a lot of Mustang II’s but, unlike the GM X-body Citation (which also sold a lot), other than performance, I don’t see where the the Mustang II was that bad of a car for the time and warrants all the negativity.
The Pinto, OTOH…
One thing that’s always puzzled me, though, is whether as many Mustang II’s went up in flames in rear-end collisions as the Pinto, considering how similiar the chassis was designed. A comparison of the rear under-carriage of both cars and they look very similiar (especially the hatchbacks).
How does it feel, like a Mustang II!
How does it feel, like a Mustang II!
How does it feel, like you’re some kind of hero!
Score, Mustang II, Boredom: Zero!
On the streets of the mental image of the ’70s I carry around in my head, roam endless streams of avocado-green Oldsmobile Delta 88s, metallic-brown Pontiac LeMans sedans…and Mustang II fastbacks with the louvers over the backlight.
Perverse sort of person that I am, I’ve come to the conclusion that if I were ever to own a vintage Mustang, it would be one of these, or better yet a Ghia notchback with the half-vinyl roof. A million secretaries can’t be wrong, can they?
Or, hell, just the baby blue ’72 Pinto wagon I had back in the day. Deadly Sin or not, at least a few of these things deserve preservation.
“On the streets of the mental image of the ’70s I carry around in my head, roam endless streams of avocado-green Oldsmobile Delta 88s, metallic-brown Pontiac LeMans sedans…and Mustang II fastbacks with the louvers over the backlight.”
Don’t forget the butterscotch-colored Dusters!
And LTD’s. I think every company car from 1972 to 1976 was a 4 door LTD.
Jeeze…there’s STILL a butterscotch-colored Duster a few blocks from here…
It wasn’t like that at all. Lots of 60’s cars were still running, and not all car were green and brown.
And the entire decade was not all “disco, high gas prices, and malaise” as some young hipsters assume.
Stylistically, I prefer the M2 fastback over the notch, whereas I prefer the SLC-like 1st-gen Fox notch over its fastback (too much C pillar). And the M2’s dash design still looks decent.
I heard the 302 was bad news for the M2’s handling & front-end.
I always felt like the Mustang II and the Pinto took a bad rap. I remember being impressed with the high revving and slick shifting pinto that my niece drove for years. My nephew had a II that looked a lot like this and, although I liked my Nova a lot better, I liked it too.
Everything is a comparison and enough of us lived through the period to be able to compare it to the overweight slugs that abounded. I didn’t want any of them then and don’t now. OTOH I would take this or a pinto in a hurry. No vegas need apply.
As I recall, the Pinto did quite well in Showroom Stock racing and of course its engines were used to good effect in stuff like the Escort RS and Mexico. Also, while it wasn’t sold by Ford dealers in the U.S., there was an alternative for buyers who thought the Mustang II was too Broughamy: the V6 Capri.
I’ve always wanted a Top Gear-type show to do an episode featuring the ’78 Mustang KC, ’78 442, and ’78 Concord AMX.
Car and Driver did a comparison in 1976 of the following cars (in results order):
Chevy Corvette L82 350
Dodge Dart Sport 360
Pontiac Firebird Trans Am 455
Chevy C-10 Silverado 454
Ford Mustang II Cobra II 302
It’s not exactly what you’re looking for, but probably as close as it’s going to get.
A fun read – but then any article where a 360 Dart will outrun a 455 Trans Am makes me giggle with glee. I seem to recall that another couple of years later, a Volare Road Runner with the 360 actually did outrun the Vette.
From all the tests I have read over the years, the only thing the Mustang II ever did really well was sell.
That wasn’t very nice 🙁 (lol)
The real low point came in 1980 when the Mustang was only available with the 4.2 V8 which was actually less powerful than the 302, the Corvette came with the 305 in California, and the most you could get out of a Volare was a 318 2bbl, and the vaunted 455 Firebird was down to a 301 with or without the turbo.
Well, I think at least the 442 was back to a 350 for ’80.
Meh. Much ado about nothing, IMO. I see your point Paul, but I also think it was perfectly timed by Ford (through no fault of their own).
I was in HS when the II came out, and in crazy times it made sense. I also believe it greatly helped carry the name forward. I obviously the fox in ’79 was better.
Those of us who survived the 70’s don’t need to be reminded…….
Even the cobra on the grille looks like he’s slightly embarrassed to be there.
Well ya learn something every day Ive never seen the snake stripe kit in anything but blue and these particular Mustangs are very rare in NZ. Our performance cars were coming from OZ by the time this was released and with the miserable performance package in comparism to the Aussie cars they didnt get a look in, Camaros on the other hand remained popular as they looked right but the Cortina type Mustang just didnt make splash I mean we already had the Capri 4 cylinder coupe or V6 coupe the Mustang fell far short of those in desirability.
What a coincidence… I saw one of these in my neighborhood earlier this week. It was pulling off the main road to a side street, so I only saw it for a moment. It was white with the padded Ghia top but still instantly recognizable as a Mustang II.
I have a special place in my heart for these Mustang II’s as my first car was my sister’s hand-me-down ’77 Mustang II. It was aqua blue with a white full vinyl top and aqua blue vinyl buckets. It was a very basic car – no power steering, AM radio, automatic, 4-cylinder…..but I loved it. It only had about 35,000 miles on it when I got it. True, the engine always idled roughly, it had no power at all and got really bad gas mileage for a 4-cylinder. But I wish I had it today. Back then I put a set of factory wire hubcaps on it and upgraded the tires from the original bias-ply whitewalls to white-lettered radials. What a difference it made to that car!! In 1985 we gave it a new paint job and people used to stop and ask me about it all the time. By the mid eighties these cars were already disappearing from the road. Ours looked like new and you could tell it was well-cared for by me and my Dad. I was approached one day in a parking lot by a gentleman and his son. They said if I was interested that they wanted to buy it so I took their number and decided one day I would sell it. I regret it to this day. Not to mention that the kid destroyed that car in about 6 months. I saw it once in the mall parking lot and couldn’t believe how bad it looked. Smashed all over, hubcaps missing and the interior full of junk. In fact, that was the last time I ever saw it. Funny how 30 years later you can still remember exactly how you felt about something like that.
I find the black stripe below the windows of these particularly intriguing. It must have been done to give the illusion of a larger more european greenhouse (possibly the first and boldest DLO fail ever?), it could have even been intended to foreshadow and ease the transition of the upcoming Fox Mustang’s greenhouse.
This is a II that I really hate seeing rot into the round. These final Cobras were pretty cool in a kitschy sort of way, same with the King Cobra but even those have some (small) following. I always found the earlier Shelby looking stripes prior pretty blasphemous in comparison, the 78 was at least unique.
“I find the black stripe below the windows of these particularly intriguing. It must have been done to give the illusion of a larger more european greenhouse…”
It’s ‘smokey eyes’ for cars!
Remember the EXP?
I actually *LOVE* 1970s cars. I think the 1970s produced the most interesting and unique designs ever. You didn’t mistake one car for another. Today, I passed a car and thought it was a Honda Accord – it turned out to be a Mercedes.
And don’t kill me, but I love the pimptastic brougham-ification of the 1970s cars.
I would love to have many 1970s cars as a 3rd vehicle. Basically anything from 1970, but especially the Mark III or the Eldorado. Or the Riviera from 1971 to 1973. Or any convertible. Or any Cutlass. Or a Cadillac Coupe De Ville D’Elegance.
But, you couldn’t give me on of these. I would drive it once for nostalgia’s sake and then trade it. I would rather be given an AMC Hornet.
To me, it would have been like GM calling the Vega the Camaro II
I’d consider the original Mustang and Camaro/Firebird to be “peers.” GM took the approach of splitting the offering, with the Vega clearly being positioned as an economy car (Pinto being *its* clear ‘peer’).
Ford took the approach with Mustang II of trying to make it be both an economy car *and* a ‘musclecar.’
At surface value, one would think that would never work, but again, in context, it seems to have been exactly what folks wanted… and by the time interest in economy cars was waning again, along came the Fox platform Mustangs, which put them squarely back in the ring with the F-bodies.
I personally have always wondered why ANYONE would have wanted the so-called fox ‘mustang’ . To me it never even came close in looks to ANY other mustang and looks like SpongeBob SquarePants pretending to be sexy ! Lol . But I had never seen a mustang ll until one day driving down a road I saw a black car that made my heart skip a beat and it had a for sale sign in the window for $1000 . 1977 mustang cobra with all it’s louvers , no back bumper , no decals and a hood scoop from a Torino gt ! It had a 351 Windsor , stainless racing exaust and after some tinkering , boy did she run . I was in love and still am , she is waiting for me to restore her now and BTW she will NOT have one of those goofy looking back bumpers on her ever again ! I will restore her to how I found her and love it for the rest of my life , haters be damned ! Lol
I totally agree.
Agreed! Both the MII & the Vega were styled after the equivalent pony cars.
“Mustang II sucks” was long-standing truism that now seems rather silly to hear. People forget that it was the first successful downsized car in history. Or the first to reintroduce a V6 on a high volume car line.
It needed to capture fans of the pony car and also personal coupes, both eager to downsize. It needed to compete with right-sized sport specialty cars from Japan like the Celica.
The M2 managed to do all of that and saved the Mustang name from extinction. To top it all off It went five model years without a facelift in the most style conscious segment. The design has aged well, much better than say a mid-80s Fox Mustang hatchback.
A better-kept, lower mileage version of the feature car would fetch big money these days, more than a similar vintage Corvette in fact.
We may be squarely in the midst of Retro hell but that doesn’t magically make those massive bumpers and awkward proportions work. The Foxes, while not looking like today’s contemporary, still look like a more cohesive and, dare I say, timeless design. Their values rival Vettes of the time as well
The Mustang II styling does remind me of the current generation Mustang though, and that’s not a compliment.
GM downsized cars like the aero 442 was uglier than any Mustang II. Did the Camaro look better? Not the 74 with the ugly bumpers, and I think it’s disingenuous to compare it to the 71 “Custom” Camaro.
I like this M II Cobra. I saw it on Craigslist. With decent “normal” sized tires it makes all the difference in the world. Even with the patina I think it looks cool. Even in CA smog on pre 77 cars isn’t an issue. NOW you make it run like it should have 😉
That blue Cobra II would make a great daily driver. Probably reliable as hell, not too big and can be made fast. Comfortable too, the factory A/C was well integrated and the V8 could handle the load.
It’s a really nice looking car. I agree with the others that the M2 looked best as a fastback and the Fox Mustang as a notchback.
How much were they asking for the CL car, do you remember?
Here’s the details. I copied them just in case! It would make a good restomod IMHO. Not bad looking, light, V8, 4speed, with a few modern tweaks (mostly done) it would be fun and fast and not cost a lot. It would be cool to make it live up to the “Snake” pedigree.
1976 Mustang II Cobra II V-8, 4-speed – $5800 (newberg)
Offering my 1976 Ford Mustang II with the Cobra II option. Factory V8, 4 speed, posi car. Original paint. Straight and solid car. Rebuilt 302, Edelbrock intake, Holley carb. Recent Centerforce clutch. Headers with Flowmasters. 5-lug axles and hubs. Rebuilt front end, recent brakes and shocks. Tons of tread on tires. Loads of new parts. Runs and drives great! Asking $5800. 503-334-6904
Well, it depends how you define downsizing. A lot of big GM cars were trimmed a few inches in 1961 to no ill effect in sales, and of course there was the ’69 Grand Prix, to name one.
Well sorted, complete and just awesome looking. Pretty fair asking price too. Sounds like an Oregon area code – you guys have a lot of nice old cars up there. Thanks for posting!
I like the chrome window trim and bumper inserts on the 1976 Craigslist car more than the black-out treatment on the 1978 white feature car.
I always thought “Cobra” was a dumb name to apply to a limited-edition Mustang. Is the car a horse or a snake? What’s the connection? Picturing a snake-like horse or a horse-like snake is not working for me.
You can thank Carroll Shelby for the connection. When the original Shelby GTs came out in the mid 60s, they were adorned with a Cobra. It sort of went from there, eventually Shelby and Cobra separated and Cobra was applied to Mustangs without Shelby involvement, then they came back together later and we have it now.
Also, Ford wanted to continue using the Cobra name so they wouldn’t risk losing it to another manufacturer.
Even stranger when corralled in the same showroom with another horse and a cow. 🙂
And a really big bird!
Still better than alphanumerics!
By the way, did anyone notice the tires? “Cooper Cobra Radial G/T”
A neighborhood friend bought a brand new 74 Mustang II Mach 1, 2.8 solid lifter Cologne V6, automatic. As I was just 2 years from being of driving age, I liked it.
We make the mistake of looking at this car in 2013 eyes when it really has to be looked at as a result of the times it existed in. In 74, muscle was dead, high compression V-8’s were out. Unleaded gasoline was just around the corner, ready for the catalytic converter era. Emission controls, in their frustrating infancy, were playing havoc on engines designed for the high octane and high compression era. The Arab uprising had made gasoline a political weapon. The results were seen at your local gas station, where long lines of frustrated and angry motorists gave way to odd and even days. Another soon to follow edict was the 55 mph national speed limit. In the used car lots, lots of big block mid year Corvettes, Chevelles, Mopars and Fords languished for a song while buyers flocked to Pintos, Vegas and the upstart Japanese. The Good Ship Detroit, captained by so many huge egos, was too slow to see the icefield of competition and regulation it was steering right into at full speed.
The Mustang II was the perfect car for this imperfect time. And the initial sales indicated that. But soon, it was in competition with not only the Camaro and Firebird, but from competition from the Germans at BMW and VW and the Japanese with the new Toyota Celica. In this age of failing Detroit quality, Americans went elsewhere.
In this era of High Performance Tape Jobs, I loved the Motortown built Mustang II, Cobra II in the traditional GT350 colors of either Blue with white stripes or Wimbledon White with blue striping. It gave a tip of the hat to an era that was long gone and likely never to return. Traditional American racing colors on the international circuit. Ed’s 78 Cobra II had taken High Performance Tape to another level, one that I still can’t fathom. The King Cobra, with it’s Trans Am inspired snake hood decal, spats, flares, spoilers and T tops raised the Volume to 11 when maybe a more subdued volume was required. That reboot came just a year later in the 79 Mustang Cobra, featuring a more layed back Cobra hissing on the hood while underneath it lay coiled a 2.3 turbo 4. Ford had righted itself with the 79 Mustang but none of it would have happened had it not been for the Mustang II….
A little background. I went to the UK in 1969 from Canada for graduate studies and industrial work experience. A year later, my parents came over for a vacation and rented a Ford Escort – we went all over the place for three weeks. Great car.
My parents had zero car sense or knowledge, so as soon as they got back home, they bought a Pinto 2000 automatic. “Just the Canadian version of the Escort” the salesman said. Sure.
So the next fall, I go home for a visit to discover an emerald green POS with no get up and go, lousy ride, an interior unworthy of K Mart. Careful reading of Car and Driver and off I go to the Ford dealer to see if the cambelt had slipped a notch. They didn’t want to look, but I forced them, and Yes, that was the problem! Now the Pinto moved.
Fast forward a few years, and I returned home and looked for work. I got a job, and my patents bequeathed the rusty Pinto to me, and committed automotive hari kari by buying a ’74 Vega to replace it. Argh …
I took the Pinto to a bodyshop to see if the driver’s door could be remade. The entire bottom of the door was rusted out and missing. A bath towel stuffed into the door provided a ridimentary air seal. The old-time bodyman poked and prodded the car all over. “Nope, not gonna work on it. It’s got cancer up to the waterline”. The waterline was at door handle level. Just four winters.
I also looked into the oil filler hole, and the two cam lobes I could see were squashed, with the cam tips ground off. The famous Pinto engine was as crappy as the body in just 53,000 miles.
As an engineer, I got a good job, and just 6 months later committed my version of car suicide by buying a new Audi 100 LS. Exit Pinto.
My friend from Canadian college days six years previous contacted me, and drove down from Toronto in his Mustang Mach II V6 standard. When he got to Halifax, he was on his seventeenth Firestone 500 radial in 10 months, and fifth or sixth replacement wheel center insert. His first visits upon arrival were to the Ford dealer for a wheel insert, and Firestone for a couple new tires. One had steel cords pushing through the side of the tread. All of a couple thousand miles on them.
The car drove like a bag of s**t, the Cologne V6 having as much sparkle as a newly awoken elderly sleeping dog. My Audi drove rings around it, which explained my friend’s shift to VW a couple years later.
He hated that Mustang. Having read PN’s put down of this Mustang Mach II, I’d have to say he’s absolutely correct. My feeling is, quite frankly, that both the Pinto and this thing were awful vehicles. If you wax nostalgic for either one, then I really think you have not driven or owned a better car, and thus your judgment is warped by either time or sentimentality.
“If you wax nostalgic for either one, then I really think you have not driven or owned a better car, and thus your judgment is warped by either time or sentimentality.”
To each his own, Bill!
To even remember all the cars I’ve owned since 1975 when I had my Mustang II Ghia V6..is tough. Good God I would hope cars have gotten better since then. Nostalgia is a big factor, but so is imagination. I remember going by a speed shop in Minneapolis in my M II, there was a chromed out BOSS motor in the window. Knowing that “I coulda had a V8” that idea has always been in my head: M II + BOSS = ultimate sleeper.
Thanks for reminding me about the Firestone 500s with the separation problem, I almost forgot. I did get a free set of tires. They were fine after that. But I’m pretty sure they gave me DIFFERENT tires! If, after the 2nd set, I would have insisted on it. A negative testimonial from someone who changed to the same tire 17 times would be suspect. Besides it’s the TIRE not the car.
Was the V6 M II slow? Oh yes! LOL I had a Demon 340 before that.
As for the 2000 cc Ford engine, nothing inherently wrong with it, unlike the Vega engine, I’ll link this:
Bill, what would you say if I told you that someone turned a Mustang II into a restomod?
You can learn more about it here:
With the technology available today, I could easily envision this Cobra being powered by a 5.0 Coyote engine backed by a Keisler 5-speed with upgraded suspension front and rear, with a set of custom wheels thrown in for good measure.
It isn’t like it’s a Pacer (no offense to Pacer owners, I like them for what they are!), everything to make it “right” is available to be bolted in from the Ford parts bin…..except for the styling and that’s to each his/her own.
Shave the bumpers, less of everything w/o changing the body……
Yes, a Coyote could certainly be made to work, but since it’s much wider than the 302, you’d have to cut the shock towers to make it fit (even the 302 is a tight fit). Since the shock towers are a major structural element of the unibody, you have to replace that structure with some other structure to keep the front end of the car from caving in. You’d either have to replace the subframe and and add subframe connectors, or add a full frame to keep everything lined up. Since built versions of a 302 can be made to produce nearly the same power as the Coyote with much less work, I’d be inclined to stick with the 302, IMHO. In addition, since the 302 is a variant of the Windsor small-block engine family, you could probably drop in a 351 Windsor for even more power, if you are so inclined.
I bought an automatic MPG model (power nothing and only an alternator to bog down the 2.3) from a guy a mile down the road who let it sit for 8 years. I paid $250 for it, was able to fire it up with some starter fluid, and took it home. I ended up rebuilding the top half of the motor and even tossed in a mild, and I mean mild, cam upgrade. The car ran great, but I decided to sell it. I wish I hadn’t. I always loved these. I plan on having another one day. I really like the car, especially how small it was. Like many of the 70’s cars, it would only take a few upgrades to the V8 models of these to make them a little more respectable.
The 1973 Oil Embargo occured right after the MII was introduced. The car was not, repeat, not designed and built in response to it, as commonly thought.
The Fox based Mustangs would not have existed, if the Mustang II didn’t sell well. Once the MII was a hit, then Ford ordered the Fox based design and the rest is history.
So, MII does deserve some respect.
U know there is nothing I hate more than some birdbrain that thinks he knows wat he is talking about if u are going to post something Please Get Ur Facts Straight in the first place There Is No Such Thing As A Mach II its a Mustang II or Mach I # 2 ur crazy Pintos, Mustang II, an the Chevy Vegas were GREAT cars just because u live in an area with a lot of salt in the air or they have to use a lot of de icer is not the fault of the vehicles its the fault of the dealership an the owner for not coating the car for protection of the type of weather it had to be in an # 3 the real fact is the Mustang II was an option in 75 an it came with a V6 an for its time was plenty for that car then an the sales went over so well that Ford made it no longer an option but where u could buy off the lot then ford made it to where u could get the cobra II with a 5.0 so everything ur stating about those little cars are sbsolutely wrong they were great little cars I had 2 pintos in high school an now I’m in my 40’s an own both a 78 ford pinto an a 78 mustang II cobra with t- tops an the original 5.0 the thing about pinto because they would catch fire or blow up when hit in the rear so it gave the pinto a bad name that was bull cause it was due to the gas tank mounting staps an was all corrected hell look how many police officers were killed because the crown vics had probs with gas tanks an that was corrected as well funny the mustang II was such a bad car an bad design all the hot rodders all wanted the mustang II front ends for their hot rods even so much that they reproduced the complete mustang II front ends for hot rod builders to build their hot rods from scratch along with people in drag racing are wanting the all the cars being put down on tjis sight to make race cars out of them it pisses me off when people state wrong facts an put these cars down especially the younger generation that have no idea wat they are even talking about an have never had any of the cars they are putting down Finally if they are such bad vehicles there sure is a lot of people giving good money that want the vehicles pretty badly so get a life talk about something u might have an idea about
The Mustang II coupe is the lightest car Ford offered with a V8, other than an AC Cobra. My Mustang II coupe weighed 2700 lbs stock with a 302. I easily lightened it, using choice pieces from other Ford cars, such as the manual steering rack(35 lbs total loss from the nose) It now weighs in at 2350 lbs. With a 500+ hp 332″ stroker motor and a C4 built by Dynamic racing, and a modern trac loc and 3.10 gears in the stock 1959 Thunderbird rear that was an almost direct bolt in to the car, it will go 170+ mph on fairly straight forward suspension mods, and will light up the tires at 50 mph in 2nd gear. Anyone who doesn’t realize the potential of a built Mustang II isn’t a mechanic, or has never owned and built one. They handle incredibly well, they accelerate incredibly well, and with upgrades that are nearly unlimited for the front end, thanks to the strong aftermarket support, they can support monster brakes, so they will stop incredibly well, even at speeds in excess of 170 mph.
It’s funny, because everyone LOVES Shelby’s AC Cobras,(myself included) and they are revered as a god of performance cars, and yet, they began life as a lowly little British AC Ace, with a tiny pathetic engine and miserable performance. The Mustang II is a much better candidate than the AC Ace, because it already HAS the V8 in it, it just needs simple parts; heads, cam, intake, carb and headers to make 400 hp using even the stock lower end. Who couldn’t do a simple parts swap like that in one afternoon? If you can’t, then you have no business judging cars in the first place, because you’re ignorant. It would be the same as a janitor judging DNA in a lab. You just have no clue. 99.9% of the population has no clue about cars, and thus, the Mustang II has long been overlooked as one of the most cost effective potential performance machines ever made. Most of the remaining .1% of the population that ARE mechanical inclined are biased to and against particular models. Being closed minded will limit yourself.
Open your eyes and see. If you raced my lowly little Mustang II, it would open your eyes for you.
P.S. The car pictured above does not have the original steering wheel on it, the one pictured is a “Stallion” option, just going by the image on the horn button. Someone may have just swapped the horn button, or the whole car could be a mix and match of who knows what parts from the previous owners.
I could see where the Mitsubishi Lancer Celeste got its inspiration from.
The Mustang II was a poorly conceived attempt to return the Mustang to its roots as a compact car that could be all things to all people. Everything from a four-cylinder econobox to a V8 muscle car. The first problem was that early 1970’s emission control technology eliminated most of the muscle, with only 140 horsepower from a 302 V8 breathing through a two-barrel carburetor. The other problem was trying to ask the Pinto platform to support the weight and torque of either the V8 or the Essex 2.8L V6 optional engines, weight it wasn’t ever designed to carry. Either power plant was trying to both bend the unibody into a banana while simultaneously twisting it into a pretzel. Early 1970’s corrosion protection meant that most of them have succumbed to entropy, and returned to the earth as piles of rust, before the were shipped to Japan as scrap metal to be recycled into Toyotas and Hondas.
It wasn’t all bad, though. The Mustang II front suspension, with its rack-and-pinion steering, is still a popular retrofit for all kinds of restomod builds. The turbo 2.3L four cylinder from a Thunderbird Super Coupe or Fox-body Mustang is a near bolt-in upgrade, and there’s always an Ecoboost crate motor good for over 300 horsepower available for those craving more power in a small, lightweight package. Add in widely available bolt-on upgrades to the 302 that unleash its performance potential, such as cylinder heads, headers, intake manifolds and EFI, and you could be looking at more than 350 hp with mild tune and over 500 hp with forged internals and forced induction. Now all you have to do is upgrade the rear end to a Ford nine-inch (9″) and add enough body braces to keep all of that power from tearing the chassis apart, LOL!
Just one more comment. I was a high school Freshman in 1973-74 and my Freshman science teacher bought one brand new the year after I took her class, when I was a Sophomore. It was the Ghia version with the Luxury Decor Option (LDO) and “notchback” roof. She traded it for a Fiat X1/9 when I was a Junior. The scuttlebutt was that her Daddy was rich, which is how a high school science teacher at a Roman Catholic High School could afford to trade her car in every two (2) years. This was long before most people had even heard of car leasing. I will leave any comments about trading the Ford for a Fiat to others, although I can almost hear everybody laughing already!
the Mustang II shared only about 10% of its parts content with the Ford Pinto
That makes it even more embarrassing.
To me, its biggest styling error, shared with the Pinto, is the enormous fender above the front wheel. It makes the whole car top heavy.