By on August 15, 2012

The Mustang II stands as the poster child of the Malaise Era; based on a miserable economy car yet bearing the name of a beloved icon from a more optimistic period. You don’t see many Mustang IIs these days, for obvious reasons, but a few are being kept alive by enthusiasts. Here’s a pair of well-stripped examples that appear to have come from the reject bin of a Mustang II collector.
The ’78 has King Cobra decals on the doors. Could it be one of the very rare 1978-only King Cobra Mustang IIs?
Well, maybe, but there’s no King Cobra decal on the hood, and the underside of the hood has this emissions sticker for the never-installed-in-the-King-Cobra 2.8 liter Cologne V6. Maybe it’s a King Cobra with a hood swap, or an ordinary V6 Mustang with a door swap, or a random collection of Mustang II parts with King Cobra decals slapped on.
Whatever it is, we must admire the 70s-ness of the T-tops. Sure, all T-tops leaked like crazy, but that’s like saying that Quaaludes had unpleasant side effects.
Then there’s the ’77, which has a sort of Harlequin Mustang II effect with its multicolored body components.
If the chrome Moroso air cleaner don’t fit, cut a hole! Then, when you put your hot-rod 351W engine in some other Pinto family member, apply duct tape over the hole to keep the rain off the 2300.

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43 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1977 and 1978 Ford Mustangs...”


  • avatar
    raph

    People love to hate on these but they did sell well and they also make a nice little hot rod (or doaner front suspension – just look at all the Mustang II IFS kits out there).

    IMO their only vice was the odd 4 lug bolt circle and limited rim diameter.

    • 0 avatar
      Joe McKinney

      Purists hate the Mustang II, but downsizing was the right thing to do at the time and the sales prove it. Had Ford continued with the plus-size 1971-73 Mach 1 the Mustang may not have survived the decade.

      • 0 avatar
        dolorean

        Mustang owners like myself keep the Mustang II like a deep, dark family secret of a past we’d rather forget. When one of the black sheep shows up to one of our Cruise Nights, it’s placed on display somewhere to the back of the show; to be included, but not inclusive. A few of us will make a good show of going over and talking to the delusional King Kobra owner.

        The nasty truth to the Mustang II that purists tend to ignore is the 1974 is the year Mustang made C&D’s COTY and became the second highest selling Mustang year of all time. It’s also the first year of the anemic four cylinder Mustang that unfortunately continued until the early ’90s.

      • 0 avatar
        ranwhenparked

        The sad truth is that the Mustang II was actually much closer in spirit to the 1964 original than the bloated 1961-1973 models that preceded it, or, arguably, the current car. It was compact, light, economical, and shared its platform with Ford’s mainstream small car model. It was also available in a very wide array of trim levels, packages, and powertrains.

        It had the misfortune of being based on a small car with a much worse reputation than the old Falcon, being launched a time when perceptions of American cars were worse to begin with, coming with smog strangled engines, and being built at a low point in quality control practices.

    • 0 avatar
      CougarXR7

      People love to hate the II, but it was the right car for the time. Nowadays, all one of the surviving examples needs is a hot small block or turbo 2.3 to wipe the sneers right off the critics’ faces.

  • avatar
    Mark MacInnis

    I personally always lusted after the Ghia coupe (not the hatch) in Silver with the matching landau roof and a cranberry red cloth interior. But I also lusted after Vicki Bienenstien down the street, but I never got her, either.

    Hey, I was 14. What did I know?

  • avatar
    TonyJZX

    what a difference a decade makes

    if they were ’67/68 mustangs they’d be garage queens in some old guy’s air conditioned garage

  • avatar
    jgcaulder

    I bought one of these a few years back for $250. The guy had it under a carport with a bunch of stuff sitting on it. He hadn’t driven it for 7 or so years. It was a 1976 with an automatic and nothing else. It was the 2.3 liter engine, which actually fired up and ran (very rough) after using some starting fluid. I was able to drive it home, which was a mile away, and proceeded to clean it up and get it running good again. A reconditioned head with a very mild cam, a rebulit carb, and a reconditioned fuel tank really livened up the little car which was turning only the fan and the alternator. I ended up selling it and have regretted it ever since. I sw it on the other side of town with a fresh coat of blue paint (the car was originally tan, then repainted a cheap white) and looked great. Man, I miss that little car.

  • avatar
    Crabspirits

    Back in the street racing days of my teen years, an impromptu drag vs a King Cobra was the most memorable. A race vs a Geo Metro as a joke was fun, and it was faster than I thought it would be. But it’s the race against that Cobra that turned out to be so alarmingly, shockingly slow that it was burned in my brain.

  • avatar
    dolorean

    There was a episode of Family Guy, where Noah finds an Elephant and a Penguin have produced a Ele-peng-hant love-child. Noah looks at them both referring to their offspring and says, “Did you name it?”. The Elephant stutters, “What?”. “DID YOU NAME IT?! Cause it’s going over the side!”

    Hence what should have happened when Ford designers and engineers penned and created the Mustang II. Unfortunately it was not pushed over the side.

  • avatar
    ABankThatMakesCars

    If I could find one of these with a 302 and manual trans in good shape I would drive it.

  • avatar
    zbnutcase

    And, the economy car it was based on, the PINTO, was hardly miserable! Can you say VEGA? SIMCA? NOW we are talking miserable!

  • avatar
    geo

    The Mustang II was a great car for the time. I remember it being pleasant to be in, with nice lines and a nice interior. I wish people would stop applying today’s standards to 40-year-old domestic cars.

    I would have been interesting if they went with the original pland and built a Mustang on the Maverick platform, but I supposed we would have a car that handled just as poorly, on a bigger platform.

    Like the last-gen Focus, it was the right car at the right time.

    • 0 avatar
      OldandSlow

      I’d much rather have had a Mercury Capri, which was available as captive import from Europe.

      • 0 avatar
        geo

        I don’t understand why they didn’t just modify the Capri as the new Ford compact. It was fantastic, though needed some improvements in reliability. I’m guessing Iacocca and the team felt it was an ego slap to be denied the opportunity to design a new car themselves.

      • 0 avatar
        chicagoland

        Ford and GM didnt want ‘furrin’ stuff in the 70s’. “Not invented here” attitue.

        M-II just got outdated looking quick, once the Chevy Monza came out. And Ford ended up building a ‘better Monza’! Lasted to 1993.

    • 0 avatar

      “Based the the Maverick platform”

      Hmmm…the Maverick was just a continuation of the ’60-65 Falcon platform, which the Mustang was originally based on.

      In a way, it would’ve been back to its roots.

  • avatar
    DownEaster

    I can remember test driving one of these when looking at cars for college. It was a 4 cylinder automatic and was okay at the time in the power department for a little car. Wasn’t as nice as the Mustangs of the 60s but I guess adequate for its day. Chevy had the Monza and all of its clones such as the Sunbird, Starfire, and Skyhawk. They were very similar to the Mustang II but their hatchback had a cleaner design. I also remember the Ghia version of these with the half padded vinyl roof and the mini personal luxury car look they were striving for. Gas mileage wasn’t much better than the six cylinder Mavericks or Granadas of the time. All and all not the best Mustangs but probably the low point of the Mustang name.

  • avatar
    gkhize

    The first car I ever bought with my own money was a ’76 Mustang II Mach 1 with a 2.3 4 cylinder. Overall not a bad little car. The 4 banger eventually threw a rod and I dropped a 289 into it and it would get out and go. I think history has been a little hard on the II. It was really perfect reflection of the auto industry as a whole at the time. Was it a great car? Not hardly. But back then all cars were pretty shabbily built. I had a friend whose dad bought him a brand new ’78 Camaro RS. The day he brought it home we went for a ride and while climbing out of the passenger side I grabbed the dash and the whole thing pulled out nearly 6 inches.

    As a prior II owner, I get a little aggravated with the Pinto association, because in truth, only one single piece of the subframe was shared. The rest was all unique to the Mustang. Unfortunately the tag stuck and I think made it hard it to get any positive press.

    Wish I could find a decent one just for nostalgia sake…….

    • 0 avatar
      dolorean

      To this day, I don’t think there’s a Mustang II left in the junk yard with that original 9″ rear end on it. Ford was always good at putting down as much power from the engine as possible, even if it was only 170 HP, you got nearly all of them.

  • avatar
    Junebug

    My cousin sold his 1968 Nova with the awesome 307 for a new 1974 Mustang II, he liked the Ford better!

  • avatar
    Felix Hoenikker

    These things were dogs even by the standards of the day. I remember riding in one with auto and standard 4 cylinder engine. It could barely hold 25 mph up a hill with thee people in it. POS is too kind a word for it.
    Maybe the manual was a little better, but I doubt it could make up for the poor excuse that the stock engine was.The only car slower than this that I had first hand experience with was a rental 1980 Corolla in CA. That car had 0-60 acceleration measured in hours not seconds.

  • avatar
    ttacgreg

    I don’t quite get why these cars are so reviled. I do remember they were built and marketed with a luxury spin than performance. It is not like all the other cars of the 70s were some kind of shining example of the pinnacle of automotive engineering. Even as I witnessed the 70s, I considered that be a dark age for automobiles. Emissions controls were dismal. The styling paradigm of the day seem to be a combination of castle and bordello. Remember Opera windows? Half vinyl roofs? Illuminated landau lights? Oh baby hold me back! Performance went down the toilet. There were Corvettes made in that era that my 2000 Toyota Corolla could keep up with in a drag race.
    So singling out this Mustang for scorn seems rather illogical.

    • 0 avatar
      Numbers_Matching

      ‘It is not like all the other cars of the 70s were some kind of shining example of the pinnacle of automotive engineering.’

      I would have phrased it like this:
      It is not like all the other *American* cars of the 70s were some kind of shining example of the pinnacle of automotive engineering.

  • avatar

    I’ve met Howard Mook a few times at Detroit area car shows. He designed the Mustang II and is rather proud of it. They sold hundreds of thousands of them and it kept the brand alive. So what that it was based on a Pinto. The original Mustang was also based on a small (for its day) economy car), the Falcon.

  • avatar
    Numbers_Matching

    I had my first court appearance as a result of being associated with some ‘activity’ in a 302 powered ’76 Ghia. That was in the ’80s when even decent examples were only $250.00.

  • avatar
    el scotto

    @ ttacgreg These cars were reviled by some because the Mustangs that preceded them were fire breathing muscle cars; think Mach I vs Mustang II. My uncle had a Cobra one with stripes and packaging and all sorts of stuff; impressive to a 14 YO kid. There is a Mustang II group/fan club. They say: We kept the Mustang brand alive so Ford could see their was a market for the Mustang. Or something close to that

    • 0 avatar
      chicagoland

      Most 65-73 Stangs were average sporty coupes, adult driven. Think Mary Richards in MTM show. For a true ‘muscle car’ a GTO is the definition.

      BTW, the Fox Stangs were Fairmont based, so all of them were based on ‘plebean’ cars from day 1. Not counting 2005+

      • 0 avatar
        dolorean

        “Most 65-73 Stangs were average sporty coupes, adult driven. Think Mary Richards in MTM show. For a true ‘muscle car’ a GTO is the definition.”

        True the Goat may be definition for muscle car, which you generally bought stock from the factory with all boxes checked. The Mustang was/is a ‘pony car’; a vehicle that you could buy cheap and modify for speed, for style, or for what defined you.

  • avatar

    The funny thing to me is that Ford clearly just repeated the original Mustang formula: engineering from the common cheap compact car with a snazzier body and image. Falcon in the 60s, Pinto in the 70s.

    I think they suffer most because they were so emblematic of the decline from the late 60s to the mid 70s, not because they were more terrible than any other New for ’74 product.

  • avatar
    Terry

    My mother bought a ’74 Mustang II as her 1st car–a late driver to say the least. The 2.3L was a paint-shaker of the highest magnitude. Gutless, vibe-laden, hard to think of any redeeming qualities to that engine ‘cept maybe hydraulic lifters.
    Compared to that drivetrain, my wife’s ’72 Mercury Capri 2.0 was a smooth powerhouse, zinging smoothly to redline without a care in the world.

  • avatar
    bill mcgee

    A GF had a new 1976 Ghia , with the six and a stick in that peculiar pale yellow with an olive colored vinyl roof and interior , an odd color combo I don’t remember anyone except Ford doing . For the times ( and for someone like me who drove older VWs then ) it seemed reasonably fast and a bit luxurious . Actually to me the next generation Mustang like all the later on Fords seemed cheesier , at least in their interiors . A boss had a ’76 Cobra with the 302 which we sneered at back then , knowing it was all show and no go . Also it had poor build quality , particularly the special bits for the Cobra package . I remember the rear spoiler and louvered window falling apart . Another time I raced him in my 1965 Malibu sedan with the 283 / 3-speed with 275k miles on it and won easily .

  • avatar
    CA Guy

    A co-worker’s mother had a new 75 or 76 Ghia, fully loaded with 302 and automatic. It was a truly terrible car and the whole office listened to frequent stories of the failure of major components – A/C, trans, PS, etc., as well as paint falling off and the vinyl top cracking and splitting early on. The family eventually traded for one of the first Toyota Cressidas and never bought another American car.

  • avatar
    agent534

    I bought a 78 ttop 4 cylinder manual steering for $1 from a family friend, a gift really, when I was a kid. I learned to drive stick on it. The only real complaint was the huge transmission tunnel between the seats, but I got a center console out of a parts car and that helped a lot. The 4 was slow, but got around OK. Eventually I pulled it and dropped a 302 4-speed in it., left the manual rack manual and it turned into one of the most fun cars I’ve owned, that list includes a GVR4 and my current 98 Formula. Fond memories of the 78, but eventually the tranny started to po out of gear and aamco couldn’t fix it ( all I had money for at the time) . Plus it was a cop magnet for some reason I can’t figure out. I sold it to a friend who took it apart to paint, and it never made it back together. I would buy another if the right one came along, good times

  • avatar

    Standing orders at the Concord, California yard de la junk and used auto parts for the entire front end suspension, steering, etc. assembly.

    The local hot rodders used them with older style cars to create an old/new car.

    My ancient moldy brain does not recall the price charged but I do not remember the price as being a prohibitive sum.

    Carry on.

    Enjoy your upcoming horrid inflation and the recession-to-some with others undergoing a depression becoming a politician-spewing admittance that a true depression has descended upon us.

    Good luck.

  • avatar
    chicagoland

    Looks like the blue one was a project car that got scrapped.

    “If that junk is not out of the garage I’m kicking you out”!

  • avatar
    acuraandy

    Dark days of Detroit

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    Actually the Mustang II was Iacocca’s idea and he turned out to be right considering it was a sales success. He was precient enough to see the popularity of Japanese sport coupes ie. Celica, 200SX etc. and have a sporty car that would compete with them. Sure it was based on the lowly Pinto like the 79-up Fox body were based on the Fairmont. As they call it today platform sharing. Were they muscle enough to go against a screaming chicken F-Body, mostly no but they filled in the small coupe niche in the market and competed against the Vega based Monza.

  • avatar
    cdotson

    My dad had one of these…it was a 78 Fastback/Hatchback that was aqua blue, about the color of the hood with the hole in it. Interior had aqua blue carpeting with white vinyl seating and white door panels and a blue plastic dash. His was the 2.3L/4-spd. It was the car I took my first ride in and I still remember it turning 100,000 miles on a leisurely cruise by my hometown city park. By 111k dad was barely keeping ahead of the tinworm and it didn’t run well enough to warrant hanging on so it was sold at a consignment lot for ~$1000 in 1990.

  • avatar
    Numbers_Matching

    Besides being new with fresh styling, I remember the ’79 ‘Cobra’ 5.0L was considerably faster than the ’78 Cobra II. Was it due to a slight weight reduction, gearing ?

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      I think that it was a big weight reduction. Car and Driver tested a 129 hp, 302 powered Mustang II in 1975 or 1976 and it weighed 3,350 lbs. The heaviest 1979 Mustang with the 140 hp 5.0 weighed only 2,672 lbs.

      • 0 avatar
        MRF 95 T-Bird

        Fox bodies are fairly trim but are solid and handle well. My 87 T-Bird 3.8 AOD with a mere 120hp weighted just under 2800lbs moved along quite well though did struggle up hills, especially with the a/c on. My 95 MN-12 with the 4.6 weighs about 3400 lbs also handles well.

  • avatar
    kalman

    if it wasnt for the mustang ii the ford mustangs would of died in 70′s. y’all should be thanking that they created the mustang ii for saving the whole mustang generation.


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