Curbside Car Show: Mustang Day – Part 2

As the early ’65-’73 Mustangs came to a close on my previous post, we continue with the not-as-loved later offerings. Not that the owners of these samples care much about such notions, as their possessions were a means to get their hands on some of that ‘Stang lore, in any way. Aesthetics aside, these owners are definitely into the Mustang Gospel, and are only too happy to spread the word.

V8s tend to be the norm with most of these, as with the locals that’s the main allure of later models. In the region, the offerings from ’74 to ’05 barely exist in meaningful numbers, but those few are pampered in ways that US counterparts probably rarely experience.

Not surprisingly, Mustang IIs are a very thin lot. No amount of gospel can cover for that model’s deadly sins, even if a few devotees are found here and there. I’m 93.85% with the II’s deadly sin status, giving it minor points by mere fact of keeping Ford’s pony car alive during the 70’s nadir years.

This particular II is owned by a Honduras native, so this was a bit of an international gathering in the end. And yes, if you must know, this disco-age sample had the original engine swapped for a V8. At some point, Cesar (my Mustang devotee friend) felt compelled to exchange some tips on chassis reinforcements with the car’s owner. He should know, as he had a Mustang II for some time, and in his words it ‘split in half’ after some performance enhancements of his own.

This is probably the nicest II I’ve seen in ages, and as good a sample as it’s possible. To see the original Mustang’s cues put through the grinder of ’70s styling shrunken over a Pinto chassis makes for a rather goofy affair. There’s definitely more ‘secretaries car’ on these than in the ’64 1/2, and it’s no wonder it was the Charlie’s Angels ‘Stang. Talking about gals, on a dinner with my wife’s girlfriends they all referred to this model solely by the adjectives ‘cute’ and ‘pretty.’ Ok, now that I think some more about it, I’m 99.99% agreeing with the deadly status.

As previously explained, since the locals’ love is aimed mostly to the original ‘Stang, it’s not surprising that the post 2005’s are quite popular as well, as it evokes the original rather successfully. The second photo goes a long way to show how those ‘original cues’ meant different things to different ages; as the yellow looks very JLo-in-the-2000s, while the little II looks like an undernourished wannabe nymphet that didn’t make the cut into a Happy Days episode (I do admit my phone’s wide angle lens adds to that perception).

Talking some more about the undernourished nymphet, it’s actually a rather CC affair. Found in a garage a couple of years ago, the current owner, in a “gotta have a Mustang” state of being (an unhealthy and serious condition) impulsively purchased the vehicle and got it roadworthy during the pandemic. However, it has since developed an unusual camber on the front driver’s side wheel. Cesar found the time to pull the owner aside and warned him to ‘look into it,’ with his previous Mustang II experience serving as cautionary tale.

As of this post, the owner seems to have ‘looked into it,’ for the car is now selling at the marketplace for $7,500, probably hoping to recoup some of his investment. On that ad, I discovered how much Pinto lurks under this II’s hood, as the engine is the run-of-the-mill Lima 4. Looks pretty unmolested though.

Sticking to negatives, the wooden ‘formica’ interior brought a sense of decontentment that just went against Iacocca’s claims of the II being a “little jewel.” The color hues are very period correct, with maroon-brown with brown, on top of some more brown. I’ll stop there, before my ‘fake wood’ PTSD kicks in; after all, I was raised in the 70’s.

As the Salvadorian Civil War started in early 1980, with a 5 year government ban on vehicle imports, early Fox body Mustangs rarely show up. Once the 5.0 entered the picture and the import ban was lifted, devotees of the Mustang Gospel took to grey imports as Ford never brought the model back to the region.

Only one early Fox-body Mustang was present, and that was Cesar’s, his being a bit of a weekend toy and project car. I’ll delve more on its virtues and foibles in a future post. Suffice to say that the ’79 Mustang was the only to ever break from the 65’s styling trappings, with a clean modern look befitting the euro likings of Ford’s then management. There was still a lot of malaise on the mechanicals and the interior, but that was per course for most American offerings at the time.

The rounded ‘aero’ nose of later Fox bodies looks slightly ill-fitting to my eyes, even though it kept the model looking new for a few more years. Through the use of smoked glass the updated styling does a better job of cleaning the greenhouse’s C-pillar area, doing away with the most dated bit of the ’79 body. The vinyl top is an odd detail on this sample and probably dealer installed back in the US, as vinyl shops simply don’t exist over here (and with that, you brougham lovers know this land is not for you).

This white sample has a Miami vibe to me, even though they were rather popular in California, where I lived at the time. Technically, this is my generation’s ‘Stang, and even if sales only hovered around 100K yearly, it was the sole American model my classmates mentioned as a car they ‘aspired to.’

Being in California during the early 90’s was to see firsthand the collapse of American brands with then-20 somethings. Whatever aspirations the Sloan ladder had placed in the American psyche was nowhere to be found with California’s youth of the time, and to mention a US make in conversation was a death knell for further talk (look… I tried). Only the Mustang bucked this trend, with quite a few guys talking about owning one. A Spanish classmate sprung to buy one with his first paycheck, and there were a few more such cases among my classmates.

For the record, if I were to choose, I would take this plain black LX. Not too extrovert, with just enough period correct ‘Stang.

A flurry of interest raised sales some on the aero’s last years, as the Probe came out and there was much fear for the future of Ford’s pony car. By then, dashboard and front accommodations had improved as well, though the rear was still strictly for appearances. Not a big deal, as I assume for most buyers the car was a weekend toy, or had more than one vehicle at home.

The ’94 introduction proved rather successful, and put most worries of the Mustang’s future at ease. It sold in respectable numbers and was -once again- fairly popular in California. Of course, it never approached the sales of the ’79, or ’74 years, much less the original ’65. That said, by then Ford had learned to live with lowered sales expectations, with the car’s position as a niche product cementing.

Ford’s Mach III had given a prelude of the 94’s styling, and while there were worries as to how the Mustang cues would fit the lozenge-styling of the 90’s, the results were rather effective. Once again, styling purists found those cues a bit gimmicky, but the Mustang faithful didn’t care about such reservations.

How successful those ‘Stang cues appear nowadays may be debatable, but they do add some distinction to the organic styling and keeps it from being too anodyne (a common malady of early 90’s car styling). I probably have more gripes about the interior, which painfully tried to emulate the 65’s dash with a sea of plastic formed shapes of varying quality. Still, the ‘Stang interior was way ahead from any of GM’s competing F-bodies.

By this point, the local’s penchant for extroverted styling comes into play, with somewhat excessive accessories appearing more often than not. Stripes become de rigueur, as well as the occasional large sticker. Originality has gone out the window too, but is that really important at this point?

The ’99 restyle made use of Ford’s new edge styling in perfect evolutionary form. You either found it a successful manlier interpretation of the 94’s lines, or an unimaginative job mucking around the same themes. Either familiarity or a personal bias kept me from shooting much of this sample. That said, this generation kept the Mustang alive until the successful retro reincarnation of 2005.

Curiously enough, around the grounds a rare (in these lands) late GTO appeared. The driving and chassis dynamics of the ’03-’06 GTOs are leagues beyond what 60’s offerings had, but the uninspired styling brings a huge counterpoint against Ford’s original pony car. Considering Pontiac’s sad fate, the Mustang evolution goes to show how much work, chance, and effort come into play in order to keep an icon alive.