Derailed Design: 1974-1978 Mustang II?
The Mustang brand has an enviably loyal (and utterly massive) fanbase. The upside of this is community support for owners, monetary support for Ford, and Mustangs continue to exist in today’s world, despite being utterly anachronistic. The Mustang has followed an Elvis-like path of multiple transformations, from trim to fat to trim to weird to retro to god knows what. Like any individual, I believe each car has a “loser” phase in its life – hamstrung by a lame redesign, a platform change that angers the enthusiasts, launching into the wrong market, etc.

But with the Ford Mustang II, Ford was basically saying to their customers: “You stupid fools will buy anything with a Mustang badge on it, because you’re stupid middle class proletariat trash.” Or something like that. Here’s how it happened: the Mustang, since it’s inception in 1964, gradually changed from a hard-edged, uncomplicated and rowdy sports car, to a tubby middle-weight also-ran.


When the first OPEC oil crisis came around, having a gus-slurping V8 car became about as desirable as a pork chop in a mosque. Mustang fans had been whining about the gradually increasing girth of the Mustang for a while, so Ford CEO Lee Iaccoca (yeah, that Iaccoca) proclaimed that the 1974 Mustang was to be smaller, trimmer and lighter.

The original plan was to base the new Mustang on the Ford Maverick, which was about the size of the original chassis the Mustang sat on – the Falcon – but with the massive spike in gas prices, Ford decided to step down one platform size in keeping with the times. For those not good with old Fords, in 1973 the car smaller than the Maverick was the Pinto.


So came the 1974 Mustang II, which was… a Pinto. With a Mustang badge. It was a sorry attempt and everyone but Motor Trend knew it – they somehow awarded it Car Of The Year status in it’s debut year of 1974. Engine choices were quite scintillating: the base model carried a thundering 2.3L 8v four-cylinder with about 6 horsepower (ok, ok: 88 horsepower). For the truly discerning driver, Ford’s “Cologne” 2.8L overhead-cam V6 was available, which ripped up the tarmac with… 105 horsepower. Never mind, at least it was light and handled well, right?

Well, no. The only true improvement over the earlier Mustangs was a change from a recirculating-ball steering rack to a rack-and-pinion, which was much more accurate. Also on the plus side: the engine was mounted in a seperate subframe which reduced the NVH factor, and front disc brakes were standard. On the negative side: acceleration was glacial, the brakes were weak, it rolled over and played dead when you took it around a corner, it fell apart rapidly, and it looked like it’d fell out of the ugly tree and hit every branch on the way down.


Mustang enthusiasts screamed bloody murder, and rightly so. Ford tried their best to make good by hastily installing a 302ci V8 in 1975. This smog-choked 4.9L V8 wheezed through a single 2-barrel carb and made 140 horsepower, which still wasn’t enough to break 10 seconds to 60 mph. Ford also offered an “MPG” model in 1975, a 2.3L car fitted with a catalytic converter and a longer 3.40:1 final drive (stock was 3.18:1) for lower RPMs at speed. You can imagine how slow those were…

But wait, there’s MORE! In 1976, Ford introduced the impossibly gaudy Cobra II. This was to be a “performance version” but in reality it was a tape-and-stickers package, available with the 4, 6, or 8 cylinder. Worse yet was the King Cobra II. In this case, I believe a simple picture will explain what a thousand words never could hope to:


There was also the Mustang II Ghia, perhaps the most lamentable Mustang ever made. It came standard with a vinyl-covered roof, opera windows(!), whitewall tires and some wire wheel covers. Oh, and the top-of-the-line 1974 Mustang II with the V6 was called the Mach 1. FOR SHAME.


Despite being an absolute and complete turd of an automobile, the fact was that the Mustang II sold very well. This was due to the fear of another imminent gas crisis (which was prescient of the buyers), but the fact that 4 out of 5 years of Mustang II production are on the top 10 list of yearly production figures for the Mustang line, which has been around since 1964. Thankfully, Ford got it right in a lot of ways with the Fox-body Mustang, which debuted in 1979 – lighter, tighter, cleaner, meaner, and a little green, the Fox Body was better in every appreciable way, including a variety of engines with real power!

I gotta admit Im not a big Mustang II fan, but I also must say I did like the Black King Cobra, and the white and blue Cobra II
these cars make excellent race cars, very light.
There is a question at the end of your post so I will feel free to reply. I don't see any credits where the story came from however this article is pure trash. I hope it wasn't any one from a Mustang Club. MCA officially recognizes the Mustang II and in fact a club cannot be associated with the MCA if they do not recognize the Mustang II. The Story is clearly biased with personal insults, and very little to no real facts, even those facts are grossly Biased. I would be ashamed to post this crap on ANY Mustang site. Let me clear the story and present the real side of the story.

The Mustang II is one of the Best selling Mustang of ALL 45 Years of Mustangs. How could you possibly say that people did not like them when over 1 MILLION people bought them from 1974 to 1978. It was indeed the Motor Trend CAR OF THE Year! People LOVED the Mustang II. The Mustang II came with new innovations that were SO incredibly good they are still in use today. Rack and Pinion Stearing, and front suspension revolutions. Just about every Street Rod in the US has a Mustang II front suspension! The Body was revoultionary as well using padded mounts making it smooth and quiet compared to other cars of the time. No wonder it sold like hotcakes!

The Author above states that it was Slow... Sure EVERYTHING was slow, but let's look at facts. At nearly 1000 pounds lighter than the Camaro, It was NOT slow for it's day.

Yes, it was lower in HP numbers than the 60's Mustangs and of course lower than the high tech cars of today but it was right in the ballpark for the cars of the 70's:

Check this out, The 1978 Camaro had a 305 V-8 135 HP vs 1978 Mustang II 302 V-8 139 HP. The Mustang II kicked the Camaro's hiney!Yet you never hear the Chevy Fans bag on the Camaro...

And here we are 30 years later Raving about good looking the new SN197 Mustangs are REALLY? Where did Ford get the styling from??

[Image: compare2.jpg]

Recently in the April 2009 Mustang Monthly they rated the TOP Most significant Mustangs of ALL time. The Mustang II came in at #5 of 45 and is credited with actually saving the Mustang line.

All of this information is factual, not biased Drivel like the above story.PS I do apologize if this was indeed written by the Main Admin. But seriously... cmon...
mstng2, its amazing what people write sometimes. I am pretty sure that 1972 Mach 1 just found this information on the internet somewhere and posted it here. I imagine there are bad reviews on every mustang ever produced.

Thats a pretty neat photo comparison :)
It is fairly well established that the sales of thje 71-73 Mustangs were so dissapointing that Ford could not wait to get to the new "II".
Not helping matters was that Iacocca absolutely HATED the big-body 71-73s, which he considered to be a product of Bunkie Knudsen's influence. Iacocca hated Knudsen and as soon as he was gone from Ford, Iacocca did everything in his power to excise all Knudsen-influnced product from thre ford offerings.
Iacocca did not like that the Mustang had become a Muscle-car, even as far back as 69'.
He intended the car to be a small, sporty "secretary's car", the formula that worked so well on the original.
So, he intended to take the "Stang back to its roots: Small, economical and sporty.
The "II" was NOT a rebadged Pinto, but it definitely has much Pinto-DNA in its structure. I have always thought of it as the "better" Pinto.

The car was a dud when it hit the streets, most don't remember that. But...a few short months later, OPEC started acting up and suddenly everyone was clamoring for small, sporty and economical cars.
Quite but accident and reaping the benefits of awesome luck, Ford had exactly "The right car at the right time".

It sold very well for a few years, but was soon very outdated, so Ford replaced it with the new faddish European-influenced "Fox" Mustang in '79.

I remember everyone lamenting what a laughable junker the "II" was...especially the "Cobra II"...when they were new cars. But, people bought a lot of them.

I had a 79 "King Cobra" 4-speed/ 302/ T-Tops. I hate to admit it but that was a great car. Never let me down, drove great, handled OK, and while woefully underpowered compared to a few years before, it still had enough spunk to be a fun driver that felt fast...kinda.
I liked that car a lot, and wish I would never have gotten rid of it.
Yes, well the article does seem to be written by someone who does not have any loyalty to the Mustang brand and perhaps a bit of non-American thought. Oh well ..

I can remember that in my high school days that the little Mustang II was not all that highly thought of but I can also remember a friend who was a GM guy buying one and bragging about how well it ran!

I would gladly take a Mach 1 or Cobra II variation. With the right tires and a little performance work it would be a keeper.
Reality check: The first Mustangs were just re-styled Falcons. The Mustang phenomenon is like any other "success" story: It's part marketing, part engineering and part well I don't know what - let's call it LUCK. People are fickle. Things don't always go as intended.

A Mustang II was pretty much a re-styled Pinto. Same concept - different times. Like it or not that's what it was.

After having owned a '67 Mustang with a 289 and a '67 Cougar with a '289, I actually owned a '76 Mustang II with a 302. It was great little car and in my mind it was a Mustang that was fit for the times. It was burdened by all of the Federal (Smog pumps, 5 Mph bumpers, etc.) and it still held it's own against most of the competition. Mustangs are performance cars for the masses. The mass market drives their design. If Ford made a big-block powered Mustang II how many would have sold during the energy crisis? Mission accomplished.

FYI - Ford named it the "Mustang II". Another smart marketing move. They drew a line in the sand. This was a new era. If you look closely at the horse figure on a Mustang II it actually looks "slower" than on a Gen 1 Mustang.

I like the little mustang II's. I redid one 2 years ago for my nephews first car. He still has it and still taking good care of it.


Nice car and nice work! What engine and trans? If it has a V-8 I bet it's pretty quick. My friend had a Pinto with a built 351W. He made a lot of money (street racing) with that car. The II is what helped keep Mustangs alive until the Fox body cars came out. They certainly have their place in Mustang history. It would be nice if more people recognized them for what they are.

Hey now this would be cool: a drag race between a '65-'68 with a mildly built 289/302 and a Mustang II with a mildly built 302/4V. Without all of the emissions equipment of the mid 70's choking the little engine I'm willing to bet that the II might actually perform at least as well, if not better than the old classic.
(04-03-2014, 10:04 AM)jrpav Wrote: Nice car and nice work! What engine and trans? If it has a V-8 I bet it's pretty quick. My friend had a Pinto with a built 351W. He made a lot of money (street racing) with that car. The II is what helped keep Mustangs alive until the Fox body cars came out. They certainly have their place in Mustang history. It would be nice if more people recognized them for what they are.

Hey now this would be cool: a drag race between a '65-'68 with a mildly built 289/302 and a Mustang II with a mildly built 302/4V. Without all of the emissions equipment of the mid 70's choking the little engine I'm willing to bet that the II might actually perform at least as well, if not better than the old classic.

The motor is a HUGE 2.3 four banger!! LOL It does have a 4 speed that helps out. It runs well, but nothing crazy....a 17 year old kid is just fine with that. We are in the process of looking for a mid 80's Thunderbird turbo coupe. We want to transplant a 2.3 turbo in this thing and run the crap out of it! The 74 was the only year not to offer the v8 if I remember correctly and they are tough to squeeze in there because of the firewall. In 75 they changed the firewall a little and makes it a lot easier to get a v8 in there.

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