Vintage Car & Driver Review: 1974 Mustang II Mach I: Overweight, Slow, Flaccid Handling, Virulent Understeer, But A Nice Interior

(first posted 2/10/2017)  My CC on the Mustang II Cobra II was maybe a wee bit over the top, going so far as to call it a Deadly Sin, which doesn’t quite apply, since Ford never died. A venial sin, in any case. And a fair amount of my ammunition came from this C&D review of the all-new Mustang II Mach I (a rather awkward name).

But note how rather gently the oft-acerbic C&D gets to its conclusions. After all, the MII was a very big deal; America’s first ‘super coupe’, whatever that was supposed to mean. And it was of course compared heavily to the original Mustang, which had arrived just a decade earlier, and turned the automotive world upside down. The MII had some big shoes to fill with its undersized feet.

I’m not going to try to paste the two halves of this foldout together; you know what its front end looks like.

A lot of history and background here. The MII was clearly designed in response to the sporty import coupes that were hot in the early 70s, like the Toyota Celica, Opel Manta, and the Capri (sold at Mercury dealers) and no less than the #2 selling import car at the time. Meaning: these imports all came quite decently equipped with nicely-trimmed interiors and exuding a level of quality unlike the typical cheap small car, or like the base Mustangs of yore.  So the MII was noted for its “feel” in that regard.

The MII’s engines were the new SOHC 2.3 L “Lima” four, an Americanized development of Ford Cologne’s SOHC fours, and an optional 2.8L version of the Cologne V6. The tested Mach I had all the performance goodies, including the V6, the new four-speed manual transmission, and even a “competition suspension”, which was a real stretch, in terms of it name.

The interior gets a fair amount of praise, although the overly-soft and unsupportive bucket seats were clearly designed more for the luxurious Ghia than a genuine sporty car. And it was relatively quite, thanks to soundproofing that must have included lining the cabin in lead sheet. Because the MII weighed in at a very porky 3100 lbs, a full 700 lbs more than its German cousin, the Capri, which was so well received because of its performance and handling. And not only was the MII heavy, but a full 57% of it sat on its undersized 13″ CR70-13 tires. Not a recipe for success, or for being a genuine ‘super coupe’.

The Capri and the Opel Manta had largely invented that genre, thanks to their superb balance, steering and handling. The MII was a clumsy mini-Clydesdale in comparison.

Performance was decidedly dull, with a 12.2 second amble to 60, and over 18 seconds to the end of the 1/4 mile. Even the Manta with its 1.9 L four was faster. Never mind a V6 Capri. And the new American-made four speed was called out for not being as smooth-shifting as the Ford-UK unit used in the Pinto.

“Body lean was present in all handling tests”, despite the ‘competition suspension’. The brake system, adopted wholesale from the Pinto, had rear wheel lockup.

The final verdict: although the MII gets good grades for its interior, comfort and finish, “its acceleration and general engine performance simply doesn’t match expectations.” And the handling is just plain “flaccid”.


More: CC 1976 Mustang II Cobra II – Ford’s Deadly Sin #1   PN (obviously)