By on August 25, 2011

After sharing this beater Torino wagon I photographed back in the early 1990s, I ran across a series of shots of an even Malaise-ier machine. Just as silver miners often find lead mixed in with their metal of choice (or maybe it’s the other way around), I keep discovering long-forgotten car photos as I scan the negatives for the 1965 Impala Hell Project series. Here’s a car that I believe has a 0.00043% chance of having avoided The Crusher during the 18 years that have passed since these photos were taken.
During a visit to a friend’s place in Santa Ana, I spotted this basket-case Mustang II in a driveway across the street. I had just discovered the joys of cheap 35mm cameras at that time, so I’d ditched the AE-1 in favor of thrift-store point-and-shoots, disposable cameras hacked and reloaded with black-and-white film, and crappy panorama cameras. This Mustang seemed like a good subject for some artsy experimentation, and so I shot it with three different terrible cameras. This panorama camera had such terrible light leakage that the sun-in-background shots blew out the images in several adjacent frames.
These days, the few Mustang IIs that didn’t die donating their front suspensions to Model A Fords are enjoying something of a comeback. They’re not exactly valuable, but they’re worth a lot more than the nadir of value they reached in the early 1990s.
The Pinto-based Mustang II spent the entire decade of the 1980s being loathed by car freaks, and so an ugly 15-year-old example with mismatched body parts— even with Centerlines— would be about as desirable in 1993 as, say, a slushbox ’91 Hyundai Scoupe with a full Manny, Moe, and Jack customization and a potato for a gas cap would be today.
But look! Finding details in these blurry, grainy photos is like looking for the second gunman in frames of the Zapruder Film, but this car definitely has a V8 emblem on the fender. The Mustang II was available with a just-barely-into-triple-digits-horsepower 302 starting in 1975, but the problem in 1993 was that California hadn’t yet exempted pre-1976 cars from emissions testing. That meant that the owner of this car couldn’t swap in a real V8 and still pass the smog test. Not that it really mattered, since this Mustang probably hadn’t run since Reagan’s first term by the time I photographed it.

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25 Comments on “Behind the Orange Curtain, 1993 Edition: V8 Mustang II, Ran When Parked...”


  • avatar
    Polishdon

    Ever think of using Google’s street view and see if it’s still there ?

  • avatar
    cdotson

    The car that originally possessed that fender had a V8. I’m betting the chances that this is that same car are less than 50/50.

  • avatar

    Okay, I have to bite … what are the joys of a point and shoot camera for you compared to a SLR?

    D

    • 0 avatar
      cfclark

      Google “Lomography” and you can just about grasp the mindset (though taken to more of an extreme). Deliberately bad film photography is a hipster trend these days.

      • 0 avatar
        Sinistermisterman

        Friggin’ hipster hijacked one of my hobbies AND one of my favorite beers. If it weren’t for the fact that I actually shave, have a decent job, drive a car (rather than ride a crappy old bicycle) and don’t make bollocks covers of pop songs,
        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oIr8-f2OWhs&feature=relmfu
        I too would be considered a damn HIPSTER.

    • 0 avatar

      Sometimes it’s fun working within the limitations of a terrible camera- teaches you that image composition is more important than hardware, and so on. Nowadays it’s easier to just use a good camera and then mess with the images in Photoshop… though I’m still playing with building a proper digital pinhole camera.

      • 0 avatar
        Slow_Joe_Crow

        I’ll buy that argument, since I had fun with pinhole cameras in college and cheap Chinese medium formats had a big following in 80s. On the other hand my justification for going from a digital point and shoot to an SLR was because the better camera made it easier to realize the image I had in my mind. It comes down to a question of artistic focus. Sometimes the complex tool gets in the way of creativity, sometimes the capable tool facilitates creativity, and sometimes a blind following of fashion (hipster with a Holga) negates creativity.

  • avatar

    A friend of mine had one of these in the late 80′s.
    IIRC it was a tan 1976 with a 3 speed auto, vinyl roof,upgraded Alpine cassette player, the biggest transmission hump….in the world, and a rip snorting 302 V8.
    Okay I lied about the rip snorting part since any pretense of performance was vanquished the minute you mashed the pedal.
    One would assume a car that small with a V8 would be a hell of a lot of fun, but it was anything but.
    We had to put motor oil on the rear tires to get it to do a smoke show (and no, I’ve no idea why we thought to do that).
    Overall the car was a crashing bore, albeit reliable, and I’m sure they made a lot of good toasters from it, just like they did with this example.
    That Ford Courier truck is far more desirable then any Mustang II IMHO.

  • avatar
    TR4

    Loathed by car freaks, true, but the sales figures told a different story. The 4 cylinder Mustang II was the right car at the time for many, being introduced right at the first gas shortage/price hike in the winter of ’73. My wife still has her ’76 V8, her first brand new car.

  • avatar
    VanillaDude

    This was a really bad car for so many reasons, but what was Lee Iacocca supposed to do in 1973? Keep building the 1973 with cosmetic changes? No one was buying Mustangs at that time and the brand was on the verge of going the way of most car brands 10 years young.

    Lee pimped it. He saved his car by turning it into a Pinto with every nasty styling cliche available. It had more vinyl padding than an asylum. As to engines, the Mustang II was as nasty as anything else available in 1974.

    It sold shamefully well. I mean bigger than Camry thirty years later. Lee knew how to be a carnival barker in the auto business.

    But you know how you feel the next day after you’ve sampled a pimp’s wares, right? That is what happened to this little trampy Mustang II. They got used and then got degraded and trashed when their shortcomings lost their novelties. Folks got embarrassed being seen with them. Appearing in Charlie’s Angels didn’t give these little cars more class or credibility.

    It is a miracle the Mustang survived this era. Maybe it was affixing the “II” after it’s name that saved it. It sure as hell wasn’t the car.

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      It is funny to think that the Camaro and Firebird, which benefitted from benign neglect during the ’70s, were the ones to fail on the market while the Mustang kept on plugging along in spite of efforts to kill it like the Mustang II, the 2.3 turbo, the Probe that was supposed to be a new Mustang, and the Fox platform that wouldn’t go away. The Mustang was pathetic in every way compared to the Mustang released a decade earlier, but it still had a happier owner base than the Monza that GM puked up to compete with it. IIRC, Lido spoke of interior quality improvements on the Mustang II relative to what Ford had done before in their lines.

  • avatar
    Lokki

    An fugly POS then, and an fugly POS now and a pretense of art photography can’t mask that.

    I never willingly spoke or even touched any person who drove one.

    Those were horrible days for an gearhead. None of the cars made in this country could reach 60 mph before they rusted away, and they were all d*mn ugly while they rusted.

    The only good thing that happened was that when they started talking about banning convertibles, I realized that desperate times call for desperate actions, and I went out and bought an Alfa Spider.

  • avatar
    Russycle

    Nostalgia’s a funny thing. I parked near one of these the other day, and dang if I didn’t kind of want it. And that’s from someone who learned to drive in a Pinto and despised the M2 for being just as bad, but pretentious as well.

  • avatar
    mazder3

    Oof. Your photography here accurately captures how I see the world when I’m tanked on Hurricane High Gravity.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    The reason why Lee Iacocca revised the Mustang hence the II was that he saw the small Japanese “pony” cars 200SX, 240Z, Celica, the various Corolla’s were selling well and Ford needed something to compete with them even though Mercury had it’s German Capri.

    • 0 avatar
      rustyra24

      I have owned several early Celicas. They are one of the best looking car’s of the period. Imports were selling like hot cakes back then.

      • 0 avatar
        MRF 95 T-Bird

        My dad owned a 72 Celica ST in white. He bought it in the late 70′s for a mear $200 from the original owner. It just needed a clutch and the tinworm on the fenders and rockers was just getting to it. He put a clutch in it and used it as his commuter car with normal maintence till the mid-80′s when the distributor drive broke and the rear trailing arms rotted through the floor. It was sold to some guy who parted it out. I actually learned to drive stick on this car since his previous car, a 68 Valiant w/3 on the tree was somehow tough for me to learn on. I always found the Celica even the later versions a blast to drive.

  • avatar

    I ran into Howard Mook at the Eyes On Design show where he was one of the judges. Mook did the exterior styling on the car, turning the sow’s ear of a Pinto into a downsized pony car. Mook is proud of his work and as others have pointed out, the existence of the Mustang II allowed the brand to survive. The Mustang II has a cadre of enthusiasts and their cars are starting to show up at car shows. “Regular” Mustang owners accept the Mustang II as part of the brand. Every year at the Woodward Dream Cruise, there is a “Mustang Alley” on Nine Mile Rd. in Ferndale. About 700 Mustangs of all variety fill up blocks and blocks. Marty Densch spotted five Mustang IIs including a Ghia and a nicely preserved Mustang II Cobra.

    Generally speaking, no matter how boring, silly or ugly a car is when new, 40 years later it’s a historical artifact with enthusiasts, clubs and specialty auto parts suppliers.

  • avatar
    CougarXR7

    When I was taking college body shop classes in the early 90′s, I knew a guy who had TWO of these, both the same year. One was a root beer brown “Ghia” with a tan landau roof, Enkei rims, and a stock 302. He also had an orange “Cobra” version with a potent but not smog-legal 351 Windsor stuffed in there. A hidden nitrous system was the icing on the cake.

    His orange one went like a bat out of hell and getting traction with the stock tires was damn near impossible.

  • avatar
    CougarXR7

    @CJInSD:

    It would appear that the Monza and Mustang II were marketed towards different clientele anyway. The Mustang II seemed more popular with women and those seeking a mini-luxury car, while the Monza seemed more popular with males who had latent racing fantasies.

    I could be wrong, but looking back that’s the impression I get.

    Does anyone here remember the wild big-block MII campaigned by the pro stock racing team of Gapp & Roush? Or the Monroe Handler a few years later?

    • 0 avatar
      brettucks

      I remember Bob Glidden campaigned one pretty early on. Not sure for who but in my ‘ford engines’ book

    • 0 avatar
      brettucks

      I remember Bob Glidden ran one, not sure if it was the gapp-roush car or not

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      http://www.caranddriver.com/reviews/comparisons/archive/1975_chevrolet_monza_2_2_vs._ford_mustang_ii-archived_comparison

      Here is an interesting period comparison test. Car and Driver’s editors considered them competitors. They actually liked the Monza more, but Monzas quickly developed a reputation for awful quality and engineering while the Mustang IIs were still around in meaningful numbers well into the ’80s.

  • avatar
    Junebug

    My best friend in 1976 had a Cobra II, blue with white stripes. Those things seemed to be everywhere for a couple years. Not a bad car, and after we de-smog’d and hot-rodded it a bit, it ran pretty darn good. Much better than any Camaro in 1976.

  • avatar
    CougarXR7

    A lot of those old Monzas that disappeared from the road weren’t scrapped. They were simply gutted, caged, fitted with lightweight fiberglass body components, and began life anew as hardcore race cars. They were and still are a hit with the SCCA, IMSA, and NHRA crowd.

    Nowadays you can even buy a complete, one-piece fiberglass replica body desgined for use with a custom tube chassis.


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