Curbside Classic: A Tale of II Mustangs – What A Difference Five Years Makes

It was a beautiful day yesterday in the Middle West, just the excuse I needed to run a lunch-time errand in Eeyore with the top down. The last of the flood waters are finally receding along the Illinois River, and trees and flowers were blossoming everywhere. It was an awesome day for CC-spotting as well, as I scored not one, but II Ford Mustangs while I was out.

While technically considered “First Generation,” this 1969 Mustang GT is an example of the second major restyle that occurred after the Mustang’s introduction in the mid-1964 model year. Almost 700lb. (318kg.) heavier than the ’64-1/2 model, the ’69-70 Mustangs were quite a bit heftier every way you measured them. Engines ranged from the 120hp 200 c.i. (3.3l) six up to the 335hp (advertised) 428 c.i. (7.0l) Cobra Jet/Super Cobra Jet or the 375hp 429 c.i. Boss V8 engines.

A number of trim levels were available, and 1969 was the last year for the GT as the Mach 1 diverted attention and sales—only 5,396 GTs rolled off the lots that year, making this a fairly rare car.

1970 would bring a minor facelift that had the effect of making the car look less aggressive, perhaps a harbinger of sadder days yet to come (stay with us, gentle reader). As a sidebar, be sure to peruse JCP’s 1969 Mustang CC for a more detailed look at the “in-between years” of 1969-1970.

At this point, the Mustang seemed to be trying to “be all things to all people,” evidenced by the introduction of “brand disconnect” options such as the Mustang E (250 c.i. six with very tall gearing for maximum fuel economy) as well as the Mustang Grande, which offered a pillow-soft ride, more than 50lb. of extra sound deadening material and a deluxe interior with fake wood trim.

The writing was on the wall by the early 1970s, as sales plummeted when buyers began opting for more economy-oriented cars like the Pinto and Vega as well as the venerable VW Beetle, which enjoyed its peak production years from around 1968-1973.

Ford’s response was of course the Mustang II, which is often widely panned (as I’ve done myself). Despite popular misconception, the Mustang II shares fewer parts with the Pinto than the ’64-1/2 Mustang did with the Falcon. Engine options in 1974 were limited to an 88hp 140 c.i. (2.3l) four or the 105hp 171 c.i. (2.8l) V6. 1974 is the only year (to date!) that the Mustang has not been offered with a V8 engine.

Our subject car has a Florida dealer badge over the back bumper, and I can’t help but wonder if it was purchased new by someone in their retirement years who passed it along to a family member after their own demise.

The production numbers for 1974 may offer a clue as to how and why this car survived so well: 385,993 Mustang IIs rolled out of the factories in 1974, within 10% of the 1964-1/2 Mustang production total of 418,812. Despite our tendency to sneer at this ‘pony car wannabe,’ it was actually a huge hit for Ford.

The “for sale” sign in the window notes the car has “43,211 actual miles.” It certainly is one of the most pristine examples I’ve ever seen (and it also very closely matches the color of the appliances in the house we lived in during the early 1970s).

I suspect most of us reading this today, given the choice, would jump at the ’69 over the ’74. But in late 1973, folks were three times more likely to opt for the downsized, fuel-sipping (relatively) Mustang II. When you think about it, wasn’t it really closer in spirit to the original 1964-1/2 Mustang, after all?

If that lime-green Mustang II has you all hot and bothered, the number on the for sale sign is 309.696.1786. I do not know the seller so you’re on your own if you call…