By on September 21, 2013

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The first one that I bought was a Mustang #2
Nobody kept ‘em any longer than they kept a pair of shoes
They started showing up at every used car lot in town
A V-8 on a go-cart, easy terms, no money down
- Daddy’s Cup, Drive By Truckers

Props to Ford for including the Mustang II in its 50th anniversary celebration, featuring the much maligned little pony car in this video with Ford Racing’s John Clor and his pristine 1977 Cobra II. The Dearborn automaker also issued a press release with the almost apologetic title “The Right Car At The Time: The 1974 Ford Mustang II”. The Mustang II is the one Mustang people love to hate. Even Mustang enthusiasts will turn their noses up at a Mustang II. At the recent Mustang Memories show put on by the Mustang Owners Club of Southeast Michigan, with about 800 Mustangs and another 200 Ford powered cars in attendance, I was only able to find a single Mustang II, a ’78 Cobra II that was immaculate. Said to be a glorified Pinto, and indeed originating with the Pinto platform, the Mustang II had the misfortune of being made during the so-called Malaise Era, when cars featured emissions control choked engines, battering ram 5 mph bumpers, tacky ’70s interiors, and loud and large exterior tape and decal treatments. The truth is that the Mustang II wasn’t a failure and that it was indeed the right car for the time.

How can you mock a car this clean? Full gallery here.

How can you mock a car this clean? Full gallery here.

Mustangs had grown fat by the 1973 models. Sales of the pony car had slowed by the 1970s and by late 1970 Lee Iococca, by then president of Ford, had embraced the idea of a smaller Mustang, getting back to its compact Falcon roots. That was well before oil started getting expensive in the wake of the 1973 Yom Kippur war as the Arab oil producing states started flexing their economic muscles. When the oil crisis hit, making a smaller, more fuel efficient Mustang proved to be a fortuitous move. People flocked to buy the Mustang II just as the original Mustang drew people into Ford showrooms in 1964. The Mustang II era includes some of the highest sales years in the nameplate’s history.

John Clor's immaculate 1977 Mustang II Cobra II. Note the Malaise Era trifecta of bold graphics, louvers and T-tops.

John Clor’s immaculate 1977 Mustang II Cobra II. Note the Malaise Era trifecta of bold graphics, louvers and T-tops. Full gallery here.

Coincidentally, just before  Ford released the video with Clor, I had made plans to visit Mustang Alley at the recent Woodward Dream Cruise, specifically to take pictures of Mustang IIs. If I’m the kind of guy who will walk past a half dozen ’69 Camaros to shoot one Corvair, you just know I’ll walk past more mundane Shelbys and Boss 302s to get pics of Mustang IIs.

Nobody knows what happened to the actual TV cars, but the Mustang II was featured on Charlie's Angels, hence the decal on the spoiler. Full gallery here.

Nobody knows what happened to the actual TV cars, but the Mustang II was featured on Charlie’s Angels, hence the decal on the spoiler. Don’t TorqThrust wheels look great, even in small sizes? Full gallery here.

In addition to finding a handful of 2nd generation Mustangs hanging out in the Ferndale district court’s parking lot, Clor’s Cobra II was in a premium spot, a place of honor if you will, right on Nine Mile Road with John dressed in a shirt with both Mustang II and Pinto patches, extolling the Mustang II in general and his Cobra II in particular (it’s a genuine Cobra, so to speak, since Ford paid Carroll Shelby $5 a car for the rights to call it one).

Starting with the Firebird TransAm's "screaming chicken", it became fashionable in the 1970s to plaster a huge decal of some kind of fauna on the hood, in this case, a cobra. This was the only Mustang II out of over 800 Mustangs at the Mustang Memories show. Mustang enthusiasts generally don't have fond memories of the Pinto derived Mustang II. Full gallery here.

Starting with the Firebird TransAm’s “screaming chicken”, it became fashionable in the 1970s to plaster a huge decal of some kind of fauna on the hood, in this case, a cobra. The Mustang II got a snake, the TransAm got a bird, and the Hornet based AMC AMX got a bug. This was the only Mustang II that I could find among over 800 Mustangs at the Mustang Memories show. Mustang enthusiasts generally don’t have fond memories of the Pinto derived Mustang II, but it was hardly the worst car of the era. Full gallery here.

Clor hasn’t been the only person who worked at Ford whom I’ve met at car shows that is not at all ashamed of the Mustang II. Retired Ford designer Howard “Buck” Mook is active in the Detroit area car collecting community, bringing his cars to local shows and serving as a judge at events like the Eyes On Design and Concours of America shows. His resume includes some Ford’s F series trucks and while still in design school he helped customizing great Dean Jeffries create the Monkeemobile and Green Hornet Black Beauty television cars. Buck was responsible for the three-door fastback shape of the Mustang II (Dick Nesbitt drew the notchback variant).

notchbackimg_0234_l

Lee Iacocca had two competing teams work on the Mustang II, an important project at Ford. Howard “Buck” Mook, of the Mercury design team drew the fastback. Dick Nesbitt of the Ford team drew the notchback. Is there some kind of metaphor about blind justice and how the Mustang II is regarded? Full gallery here.

Another Howard, Howard Payne, headed the interior design team. Payne’s own resume includes the model he made with John Orfe that ultimately became the 1961 Lincoln Continental. You can mock the Mustang II all you want but it was a priority job and Ford assigned some of their best talent to the task.

Interior designer Howard Payne said that no expense was spared and the cockpit has aged well.

Interior designer Howard Payne said that no expense was spared and it shows. The cockpit has indeed aged well. Full gallery here.

Payne says that his team was told to spare no expense, and the Mustang II cockpit has aged well. Like Mook, Payne can be seen showing one of his cars at local shows. I’ve run into them at different events around town. Actually, I ran into both of them at the same time once, when Mook was showing his French Ford Comete and Payne his own Cord at the Orphan Car Show.

78 king cobra black_l

Some folks may laugh at the Mustang II King Cobra, but even with a smog choked 302, because of its light weight it was actually faster than many V8 powered first generation Mustangs. The rack & pinion steering and control arms have made Mustang II front suspensions popular with customizers and hot rodders. Full gallery here.

As mentioned, they’re not ashamed at all about the Mustang II and will gladly talk about their experiences designing it. They might also mention that while sales later dropped, the first year the Mustang II was on sale, it sold almost 386,000 units, the most of any Mustangs since 1968 and one of the best years ever in the car’s now half century history.

John Clor. Note the Pinto patch on his sleeve besides  the one for the Mustang II. Full gallery of John's '77 Cobra II here.

J\Ford Racing’s John Clor. Note the Pinto patch on his sleeve besides the one for the Mustang II. Full gallery of John’s ’77 Cobra II here.

The inclusion of the Mustang II in the Mustang’s golden anniversary celebrations is appropriate, if only because of its role in the nameplate’s history. Unlike the Chevy Camaro and the Dodge Challenger, the Mustang never went out of production, in no small part due to the Mustang II’s success keeping the nameplate alive. While it may have had its shortcomings as a car, the ultimate measure of success in the auto industry is selling a lot of units.

76 fastback white_l

Per the “Grand National Effect” most Mustang IIs that you see today are Cobra models, but as you can see from this 1976 fastback, the car could be ordered without gaudy stripes and decals. It has a Stallion decal on the hood but I’m not sure that it’s a Stallion edition. Full gallery here.

Over 5 model years, Ford sold over 1.1 million Mustang IIs. Cars, though, are also a hobby in addition to being a major industry. The inclusion of the Mustang II in Ford’s celebration of the pony car’s 50th anniversary is also appropriate because the people who own and collect them obviously love them as much as owners of first generation K-code Mustangs love those cars.

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can dig deeper at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS

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107 Comments on “John Clor, Buck Mook and Howard Payne Are Not At All Ashamed Of The Mustang II...”


  • avatar
    Felis Concolor

    Compare the first year Mustangs to what they had become in the early 70s and the Mustang II makes much more sense, especially when comparing overall proportions and the excessive overhang of those later years. The styling integrated well with its Pinto and Maverick stablemates.

    • 0 avatar
      Dave M.

      Amen. The 71-73 Mustangs were truly horrid bloatmobiles. Ford lucked out and released the II just as OPEC I came about. The ’74 II sold more Mustangs than since the original ’64 release.

      I’m glad they’re embracing it as part of their heritage.

      • 0 avatar
        NoGoYo

        I think the Mustang II looks stupid and the 71-73 (at least in Sportsroof form) looks amazing.

        Mustang II looks like a small car with a much bigger car’s front end stuck on.

        • 0 avatar
          VanillaDude

          Right.
          This is historical editing.
          Yeah – the brand survived.

          Look at the basic vehicle here, not the glued on aero-winged, air-dammed, vent-windowed, oversized-decaled V8 versions. Ford brags today about selling over a million of them. Instead of telling us that the majority of those sales were in the first two years and then sales dropped off a cliff when buyers realized what the Mustang II really was. Those pimped out V8 rides were the results of a company attempting to turn a sow’s ear into a silk purse.

          Claiming that those later years reflect the real vehicle history is misleading, to put it charitably.

          The Mustang II is history, but when you go to a Mustang meet – you don’t see them. Why? Because they were not good representatives of what was, or is, a Mustang. The II is an embarrassement, regardless of how Ford today wishes to spin that story.

          Over a million sold, but the overall feeling today regarding this vehicle is negative – but Ford is today claiming that this perception is incorrect? Gee, a million new Mustang II owners, then these cars go to another serveral hundred thousand used car owners, then passed on to – what, infamy – but Ford says we all got that wrong?

          Ford is insulting us with this rewrite. We know what is a good vehicle, and what is not, and the Mustang II sucked. I remember them well, as well as everyone else who was alive, or has seen one today, clearly recognizes. Please don’t show us a powder puff, special edition, late model, limited edition version and tell us otherwise.

          Yeah – Ford should not overlook the Mustang II, but needs to be honest with us by calling it the Ford Mistake.

    • 0 avatar
      tblb3b1965

      I had a 1978 cobra for about 9 years til about 1992. I pulled the smog crap, threw on a edelbrock performer intake,holly carb,cyclone headers with thrush mufflers 68 j code 4bbl heads fresh flat top piston short block and it would smoke the late 80s mustangs excep for wide open the 5 speeds stangs would run about 5-6 miles per hr faster,I liked it because i wanted somthing different than everybody else and there mustangs ,camaros etc. the mods were day-nite,really woke it up.

  • avatar
    CJinSD

    Ford should embrace the Mustang II. Was any subsequent Mustang as successful? The only issue is whether or not the II was bad enough to send people to Toyota and Datsun for their next cars.

    • 0 avatar
      James2

      The 1980 Fox-body Mustang was bad enough to send my parents into the loving arms of the Japanese. It was a good-looking car, just horribly built.

    • 0 avatar
      thornmark

      Charlie’s Angels turned them into chick cars. A nice showcase, but the sound effects were pure Hollywood and totally bogus, like their actual (lack of) performance.

      Cousin had the 6 cylinder Pinto cousin which got about 17 mpg and stalled in intersections. Replaced it with the orig Cavalier which got 18 mpg and was an expensive Honda Accord that didn’t run very well.

      She never bought another American car.

      • 0 avatar
        Kenmore

        I remember the base models being popular with the female stratum whose daughters and younger sisters would go on to make small, plasticky Pontiacs a scourge of the roads. Probably some or that impetus came from Charley’s Angels.

        Career-track women were already well into the Japanese Big 3 by the late 70′s.

  • avatar
    Felix Hoenikker

    The reason these cars are scorned by the Mustang crowd is the pathetic four bangers that most of the Mustang II’s came with. When coupled with an automatic, they were truly wretched except going down hill with a tail wind.I remember riding up a hill in the early 80s in said four cyl auto, and it could not get past 40 mph with the pedal to the metal. Truly bad.
    The real problem was Detroit’s refusal to get with the program and adopt electronic fuel injection to control emissions without the loss of performance and fuel economy that resulted from de-tuned engine with strangled carbeurators. Same problem with the Japanese too.

    • 0 avatar

      your’e forgetting that the 79-94 Mustang also came with a 2.3 four that was no performance king either..

    • 0 avatar
      White Shadow

      I had a similar experience riding in a friend’s Mustang II, back when I was in high school. We were on a highway trying to catch up with two cute girls in a Pontiac Fiero. Unfortunately for us, this particular stretch of highway was uphill and when I told my friend to “floor it!”, he said, “it is floored…it won’t go any faster!”

      Needless to say, we never saw those girls again. LOL

  • avatar
    daviel

    I had a notchback – brought back from the dead I-6. Good car.

  • avatar
    joeveto3

    I remember hating these, but looking at the photos today, I think the car has aged well. The look isn’t that bad, and honestly, with some proper wheels and a decent engine, I think the car could be fun.

    • 0 avatar
      MK

      Yeah I was thinking the same thing, I’m not a big fan of the front but the side and rear 3/4 views look pretty nice. And it’s just a nice size and proportion all arond
      Certainly they’re much more attractive than the butt-ugly 71-73 models, I always felt sorry for the driver when I saw one of those going down the road….but I haven’t seen one on the road in probably over 15 years.

      These little things have aged much better, as stated above the biggest issue were the horrible engines and low power of the lesser models that most people owned.

      Still shocking to read that line about the “king cobra” v8 only getting 0-60 in under 10 seconds…. Jimminy Christmas that is AWFUL.
      I had forgotten how bad things were back then, we’re lucky to have made it through.

  • avatar
    bodayguy

    My first car was a hand-me down from dad, a 1974 Mach I. It was a POS and I thought it was hideous even back then (I did like the mag wheels). However, I am a car enthusiast now, and I owned a 2011 5.0, so I guess something in the car’s DNA worked. Looks wise, I think the front wheels sit too far back on the II for it to strike the right design.

  • avatar

    Hanging on the wall near my bed is a picture of my 77 notchback from almost 25 years ago. V-6, 4 speed, dark blue with a tan/orange interior. I love that car and even with the V-6, it would spin its raised white letter Road Huggers all day. What a great hoon car. Before that I even had a fastback someone had made into a sticker Cobra II, because it also had the V-6.

  • avatar
    April

    I went with my Dad to our local Ford dealer and found a new 1978 Cobra out on the lot. I thought it was a rather sharp looking car (white with blue racing stripes) but my father was turned off by the fake hood scoop and plastic cobras on the trim pieces.

    I guess it was a product of the time as it seemed most American “performance” cars were clothed rather loudly.

  • avatar
    Wheeljack

    I’m not a fan of these, but since a 5.0L bolts right in, it’s pretty easy to jettison the smog-strangled 302 and put some real power under the hood. With it’s featherweight chassis, these things would positively fly with a nice horsepower injection.

  • avatar
    Kenmore

    At the time I thought they were chick cars. Maybe they were.

    • 0 avatar
      thornmark

      Naw.

      http://autoinjected.files.wordpress.com/2011/12/farah-fawcett-jill-munroe-charlie-angels-mustang-cobra-ii.jpg

      Forgotten For Good: The ’74-’78 Ford Mustang II
      http://blog.autoinjected.com/2011/12/12/forgotten-for-good-the-74-78-ford-mustang-ii/

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      They were…

      http://www.nicecarsforwomen.com/ford/mustang/fordmustang_history/1974_1978_MustangII/index.htm

  • avatar
    CelticPete

    People hate these things because they were terrible. It’s amazing cars really did go downhill in the late 70′s and 80s. Its not a joke – technology went backwards.

    But these cars were terrible in their day – and not just with the four banger..

    Read this Car and Driver article and understand the depths of its suckitude..

    http://www.caranddriver.com/comparisons/chevy-corvette-vs-dodge-dart-pontiac-firebird-chevy-silverado-ford-mustang-archived-comparison-test

    Enough with the bogus revisionist history. The Mustang II wasn’t good.

    • 0 avatar
      afflo

      Were they bad compared to other cars in their class (Celica, Fairlady, etc.)?

      And were they mechanically less dependable or well crafted than previous Mustangs, or just next to the newly arrived Japanese cars?

    • 0 avatar
      raph

      Cars went backwards in the 80′s? That’s somewhere between an exaggeration and a flat out lie.

      The 70′s were bad I’ll agree with you there but the 80′s is where the sunshine started to peek through the clouds and domestic performance started to make a come back and in more balanced form.

      By the mid 80′s the Mustang GT for example was by dint of better suspension and tires as well as more efficient engine faster than all but its most heroic progenitors.

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      I hadn’t forgotten how bad they really were, the C&D link reminded me that I had two friends one bought the Cobra, the other a Plymouth Duster (same as the Dart). Dave (Duster) would beat the pants off of Jeff (Cobra) then Dave would tease Jeff relentlessly to the point where Jeff would just come out of that Cobra swinging at the much larger Dave, it was hysterical. Jeff had paid so much more for that Cobra, he was totally humiliated

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    First Jaloponik and now TTAC?

    Theres no good reason why Ford couldn’t build the Mustang II from the Maverick at the time, we need not gush of Fords success at swiping cash from us via Ford Pintos with plastic muscle suits.

    Yes the Mustangs before were fat, yes the fox bodies were built badly, its why the only good Mustangs were the first few years.

    Same goes for the Camaro too.

    • 0 avatar
      agent534

      The Maverick was a pos built on the original Falcon platform from 1960, same as the outgoing Mustangs. Like it or not, the Pinto was a much better, modern for the time platform and a natural to base the new Mustang on.
      But now worries, Ford went to that platform one more time and gave you the Granada, and Lincoln Versailles(the source for a 9″ with rear discs for many a Mustang.)

      • 0 avatar
        Ryoku75

        A better base for the Mustang would’ve been the Escort of the time, a car that was already familiar with rally enthusiasts of the time, or perhaps a Capri. Both of these cars could be had with the same engine as Pintos of the time.

        What was ever good about the Pinto? Safety controversy aside, I’ve never heard anyone praise their handling, performance, modding potential, nor anything I’d expect a Mustang owner to want.

        They were also cramped, badly designed, but surprisingly weren’t built that badly for the era and with the 2.3l could last 200k miles.

        • 0 avatar
          agent534

          Just speculating but looking at Pinto production numbers, Ford sold a lot of them. 350k in 71 and 480k in 1972! It was designed in North America for the North American market, and with those sales numbers, my guess is they felt the Pinto met target market needs, and would be a solid base for the next Mustang. Seems a reasonable conclusion for the business side of the house to make.

  • avatar
    ajla

    I can accept the argument that the Mustang II was a successful car and even that it was a return to the original Mustang formula.

    It could have lived happily in that role. However, put giant cobra decals on it, and you have a car that was pretty much just Jobbed out in every comparison test.

  • avatar
    skor

    I was a boy in the 70s when these things were everywhere. The notch-backs were horrible looking beyond belief, especially the vinyl covered roof cars. The fastbacks where OK looking from the rear or the side, but viewed from the front it was VERY obviously a Pinto, and that’s why the Mustang II is the Rodney Dangerfield of the Mustangs.

    The original Mustang was based on the Falcon but the Mustang bodies were completely unique with the exception of the cowl, very few customers recognized Mustang’s lineage. As regards the Mustang II, even for a non car person, the Mustang II was a little horse pretending to be a big horse. It didn’t fool anyone.

  • avatar
    AMC_CJ

    Drive by Truckers reference, wow. That’s just not something you see. Great band in their heyday.

    There were some decent cars of that era that need just a decent de-smog and several hundred dollars in go-fast parts to be pretty good. These though?

  • avatar
    Trend-Shifter

    My wife bought a 1977 Mustang II brand new for $3500.
    It was a 2300 OHC-4 with a 4-speed stick.

    It was completely reliable for 165,000 miles until we sold it.
    It did not need anything out of the ordinary over the time we owned the car. The next owner bought it from us around 1986 for $800 and everything was still in perfect working order.

    I did all the maintenance myself and did not have a bad word for it except that it did have body flex and the tall 13″ tires did it no handling favors.

    Last year I found a Mustang II exactly like the first car she had with only 43,000 original miles. I am now doing the maintenance to bring it back from it’s slumber. It should be ready for her to enjoy next summer. BTW, 4-lug 16″ Mustang Pony wheels fits the Mustang II and should go a long way towards improving the handling.

  • avatar
    golden2husky

    After looking at the video and some photos, it was incredible how poorly the bodywork was assembled. My early days of driving started with a friend’s 1979 Mustang. On the passenger side there was an actual run in the paint. I guess time is influencing some peoples’ memory of the Malaise Era; it really was that bad. Some things were getting better compared to 60′s and early 70′s cars – they certainly handled better, braked better, and were getting more crash-worthy. You also did not get into a car that stank of gas fumes in the summer. But fit/finish, reliability, and above all, performance, all these things SUCKED! And despite common belief, some of the Japanese cars were not so great, either. And BMW still stood for “Bring Me a Wrecker”….

    • 0 avatar
      Kenmore

      Grim, grim era in nearly every way. Tan cars, avocado refrigerators and orange shag carpets to go along with the death of rubber/steel/glass jobs and the entrenchment of affirmative action. Vomitous.

      The only American bright spots were the ’77 GM downsize that produced some righteously handsome and practical sedans & wagons, and the pickups/vans.

      • 0 avatar
        NoGoYo

        Yeah son, the downsized GM full-sizers were spacious, practical, and handsome cars. Ever see the ’77-79 Caprice coupe with the “bent glass” back window? That’s something else, and I’m sure it would cost at least two grand to replace it.

  • avatar
    rudiger

    The hatred for the Mustang II is misplaced. What people should be hating is the era in which it (and low performance cars like it) were able to flourish. Performance had all but died by the mid-seventies and anything with any kind of driving enjoyment (particularly relative to the halcyon musclecar years of the sixties) drank too much gas and would not sell. Fuel mileage was the name of the game back then.

    Ford, more than GM or Chrysler, was much more attuned to this market dynamic and the Mustang II simply reflected that. Yeah, a Mustang II with a 351 Cleveland engine would have been great, but it never would have sold. The few remaining musclecar diehards were all buying Z28s, Trans Ams (thanks to Burt Reynolds), and the last 340/360 A-body Mopars.

    • 0 avatar
      White Shadow

      The Mustang II was good for just one thing– to bridge the gap between the real Mustangs. So for that I’m thankful to the Mustang II. Without it, the Mustang would have a gap without being produced, just like the Camaro does today.

    • 0 avatar
      George B

      Kansas where I grew up didn’t have vehicle inspections. It was fairly common out in the country to remove much of the pollution equipment so you could use cheaper leaded gasoline. Remember “test pipes” made to install in place of the catalytic converter? Mid/late 70s cars were so bad in EPA-compliant form that just about anyone could improve the performance relative to stock.

  • avatar
    bill mcgee

    A GF had a new 1976 Ghia coupe in that so very malaise era Ford color scheme of pale yellow / olive green vinyl top and interior combo .Back then the interior seemed even attractive to an economy car owner like me but hers was loaded with a moon roof and A.C. , with the six/ 4 speed .I agree with above comments that the Mustang II interior has aged well . Actually I thought the Fox era Mustang had much cheaper looking interiors just like all the Fox era Fords . I recall reading somewhere that Ford flat ran out of money after restyling the Mustang and Thunderbird and really had to cut corners somewhere , and it was the interiors that suffered . At the time I didn’t think the performance seemed that bad , given the times – due to the 55 m.p.h. speed limits the lack of power may not have been as obvious. But they really were ” chick cars ” back then .I don’t recall knowing any guy who had one back then . Except for the Cobras.

  • avatar
    salguod

    I was a kid when these were new and I remember really liking them. I still do in all their 70′s kitschy glory. I even had a Latrax RC Cobra much like the black and orange one here.

    I also happened to own a ’76 Camaro 6 cyl auto in the 80s as my HS driver. While the Camaro was the Mustang IIs traditional competition, the car I replaced it with was really more like it – an ’80 Chevy Monza. Economy car platform, 4, 6 & 8 cylinder engines, hatchback and nothcback bodies and glorious tape stripe specials. The Monza was a cleaner styled car and it drove pretty nice. Too bad it was screwed together so badly. I mean really, really badly.

    Still, these are the cars of my youth and there’s always going to be a soft spot in my heart for them.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    I always like the Mustang II, but only the fastback (a lot). The notchback never grew on me.

    One reason I liked the Mustang II was because as a Pinto owner, I could claim that it shared the same parts with its sportier brother. Unfortunately, the Mustang II didn’t wear any better. In 1980, I was patching rust holes on a friend’s 74 II, but that was true of most Fords of the era.

    Importantly, much of the hate directed at the Mustang II is due to the beauty and coolness of the 79 Mustang – TRX wheels, the turbocharged 2.3, and totally new exterior allowed people to easily forget the II.

    Ronnie – I guess I’m like you in this regard: I’ll pass by a dozen “me-too” cars just to look at that one special car.

  • avatar
    bill mcgee

    I had a manager who had a year old 1977 Cobra with the 302 / 4 speed . One time I raced him in my $50 1965 Malibu 4-door sedan , 3 speed with the 283, 275k miles on it . Left him in my dust , actually the smoke pouring out of the exhaust . I remember sailing over some railroad tracks just like the ” Dukes of Hazard ” , the bashed -in-trunk of the Malibu banging up and down . Later he said he had to ease off the throttle because he was afraid he’ d break his front spoiler – no worries about that when you’re driving a $ 50 , 13- year – old Malibu . Good times ! Bad timing tho – a couple of weeks later he gave me a really lousy performance review . lesson number one – let the boss win .

  • avatar
    Scribe39

    Like so many cars of the era, which fought smog-choked engines, the Mustang II gained its reputation mostly from the snarky comments of the buff magazines, who are NEVER satisfied with anything less than a Ferrari. The Mustang II was no worse than most of that early smog era/gas mileage/OPEC period.

    • 0 avatar
      Kenmore

      As someone who never cared about going fast I agree. There was nothing more actively bad about Mustang IIs than any other small car of the era.

      And like golden2husky says, Japanese cars of the period certainly weren’t perfect. I mean, damn, in the saltbelt it wasn’t uncommon to see five year-old J-cars & pickups well into rotting at every water trap, and they had plenty of those.

      However I believe Japanese cars even then had clear mechanical superiority resulting in greater reliability and durability. Plus their FE was immediately superior. Otherwise they’d have never caught on as they did.

      • 0 avatar
        Lie2me

        The Mustang II got an extra heavy does of snark and disdain because of it’s name and heritage. Had they named it a Pinto II the accolades would still be pouring in. The same with the Cimarron, had it been anything other then a Cadillac it probably would have been well received. The scorn came from what these cars pretended to be but weren’t

        The same thing is going on with the Cherokee, why these car makers insist on putting legendary names on forgettable cars when the results are rarely good is beyond me

        • 0 avatar
          rudiger

          That’s easy. It’s called ‘brand recognition’ and it means a lot to the consumer. An outstanding, recent example is the Ford Five Hundred/Taurus. When the Taurus’ last replacement came out, some genius at Ford decided that, due to declining sales of the outgoing model, it was time for a new name – Five Hundred was what was chosen. No one knew what it was and it never caught on.

          So, Ford returned to the legendary Taurus name. Suddenly, sales took off on what was essentially the same vehicle, just with a different, more recognizable name.

          The name ‘Mustang’ has become synonymous with Ford to the point that there will always be something with the Mustang name in Ford’s lineup.

          • 0 avatar
            Lie2me

            I understand the value of “brand recognition” and I believe it works when you offer-up something equal or better then it’s namesake. It’s when you go in the opposite direction with a legendary name that you face the scorn of those who realize the new is nothing like the old. This is a particularly odd situation in that the Mustang II was fine as an economy coupe and sold quite well, but for those who went looking for a Mustang and got this, the disappointment still lingers 40 years later. As a car company I don’t think the risk is worth it, call it anything else and let it stand on it’s own merits

        • 0 avatar
          Ryoku75

          The same things going on with the Fiat 500, new Beetle, Corollas, Civics, many many cars today.

          To me, brand recognition is the automotive worlds way of building junk made to sound like something we’re familiar with.

          • 0 avatar
            schmitt trigger

            “To me, brand recognition is the automotive worlds way of building junk made to sound like something we’re familiar with.”

            +11
            You absolutely nailed it….

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    I really don’t know why Ford went down the Mustang II path. In Europe Ford had the perfect vehicle in the Capri since 1969.

    The Capri was Ford’s idea to transplant the ‘pony car’ into Europe. A small Euro pony car would sell in the US. Were they available in the US?

    Even in Sth Africa a 302 version was getting around. I remember here in Australia we had a 3 litre V6 Capri. Some guys used to drop 289s and 302s into them here.

    Here’s a link to a Cosworth powered Capri.

    http://www.ultimatecarpage.com/car/1964/Ford-Capri-RS-Cosworth.html

    • 0 avatar
      OldandSlow

      Yep – we had the Capri sold in the US as Mercury.

      Back in 1975 after spending 3 years in the US Army – I had already driven European cars. The Capri had better chassis refinement versus the Dearborn derived Mustang II and the packaging was more refined as well.

      I had to choose at the time between a 1970 MGB-GT and a 1972 Capri. I chose the MGB GT, a wrong move on my part – but even with all the fiddling that comes with a B, I enjoyed the B while I had it.

    • 0 avatar
      mkirk

      I believe one could get that Capri here and they were slow sellers. I was told they rusted worse then your standard malaise metal but that is just someones opinion…I dont know for sure.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        The Capri was sold here as a Mercury. It was the second best selling import after the VW Beetle for a while, buy quality issues soon became known and then Ford lost interest in promoting the Capri when the Mustang II reached the market.

  • avatar
    agent534

    I had a Mustang II that I acquired with ttops and a 4 cylinder 4 speed, and manual steering. I promptly swapped in a 302, and left the manual rack, and it still ranks in my top 2 fun cars I’ve owned. Anyone who complains about performance of these cars must not be able to turn a wrench because after ’74 it came with the same 302 as was built in the 60′s (statement includes the 289 and its hipo variants)and would perk right up to the usual exhaust, cam, intake upgrades.
    Styling was better than most of its compact competition in he 70s. In the interior I can’t explain why the transmission tunnel is so big, but other than that, no complaints.
    It really was the right car for the time, and now values are going the other way. I keep looking for another on the cheap, and Im not finding it, but I am find people who have spent time and money restoring theirs, they do have a large following.

  • avatar
    mkirk

    Why does the Mustang II get so much grief for being based on the Pinto. It isn’t like the Falcon that was under the original was known for performance. Anyway these are no worse than anything else of the period and the available engines make them of interest today. Build a stout 5.0 and drop it in for bang for the buck performance or stuff a 2.3 turbo under there. These are no worse than anything else from the period and the Pinto was not a bad car during that time.

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      Exactly. Mine was a Fox ’79 Mustang and its 140HP 302 was a direct carryover from the ’75+ Mustang IIs. Bone stock, it couldn’t even break the TRX’ loose if it was raining and chained to a tree. So what?

      The 1st thing I did was ditch the peg leg’d 2.40 gears for a 4.10 Posi. That alone turned it into a whole different animal. 100′ burnouts and sideways in 2nd gear! Those 302s made a lot of torque down low, but the stock, EPA encouraged gears masked it.

      It was already unbeatable by the sports cars of the day with just the gears. Then I did the cam, intake, carb, headers ect. A real blast to drive. But I settled on 3.73 gears.

      Today, I have a new respect for Mustang IIs. They’re so rare that it’s refreshing to see them. They’re really growing on me. They’re light weigh and prime an engine swap and other junk yard upgrades. Turbo Coupe 2.3? Entire 4.6 drivetrain?

    • 0 avatar
      skor

      Because the original Mustang LOOKED very different from it’s Falcon sibling, but the Mustang II was very obviously derived from a Pinto.

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      The Falcon was a well-designed run of the mill car for its time that was known for, well, just being a decent car. It was just a sort of mid-sized compact. The Mustang that came later looked hardly anything like it.

      The Pinto was a slow, cramped, silly looking, badly designed economy car that had a reputation for catching fire in rear-end collisions, while the Mustang 2 was simply a riced-out Pinto with barely much to disguise itself.

  • avatar
    White Shadow

    There are only two reasons why the Mustang II sold at all: 1- Charlie’s Angels, and 2- Because all the cars for sale in the mid- to late-70s sucked, so competition was very scarce.

    • 0 avatar
      mkirk

      I am not sure the Charlie’s Angels connection helped this car.

      • 0 avatar
        White Shadow

        It didn’t help the car, but it did help sales. No doubt about it. Any regular TV exposure is always a good thing for sales.

        • 0 avatar
          agent534

          The car debuted in 1974 to 296k in sales. Charlie’s Angles wasn’t on TV until 1976.

          • 0 avatar
            skor

            The small new Mustang came out just as the first oil crisis hit. People believed they would be good on gas mileage, but they were mediocre at best.

          • 0 avatar
            White Shadow

            Um…okay, so do you actually have a point? The Mustang II was produced through the 1978 model year. Do you really think that the Mustang featured on Charlie’s Angels didn’t help sales? LOL

          • 0 avatar
            agent534

            @WhiteShadow, aside from providing the evidence that the statement you made is factually incorrect, no I do not have any other points.

          • 0 avatar
            White Shadow

            @ agent534: Unfortunately, you provided no such evidence. Your response failed to disprove the validity of my comment. Let’s recap—I said that Charlie’s Angels helped Mustang II sales. You replied by saying that Charlie’s Angels wasn’t on the air when the Mustang II debuted. Great, bunky. What you fail to understand is that I didn’t specify which model years I was talking about. Never did I say that the TV show helped sales of the first year or even the first two or three years. However, I’d love for you to prove me wrong by providing evidence that the TV show didn’t in fact help sales of the Mustang II. Let me know what you dig up, m’kay?

          • 0 avatar
            Lie2me

            The car was about as good as the TV show and vice versa, my guess is that they didn’t help or hurt each others success. In retrospect I think they both were overrated

          • 0 avatar
            White Shadow

            Newsflash for you: When a car is featured on a TV show, it helps the sales of that car. Of course that means the car in question should be a current model and available at new car dealerships. Just like Knight Rider helped sell Pontiac Firebirds, Charlie’s Angels helped sell Mustangs. This is pretty basic stuff and shouldn’t be hard to understand, even for people without a background in marketing and/or advertising.

          • 0 avatar
            Kenmore

            “When a car is featured on a TV show, it helps the sales of that car.”

            Yep… that’s why you couldn’t go anywhere without seeing Sunbeam Tigers after the first season of Get Smart. Helped ‘em sell millions.

            And don’t even get me started on #*!@ing Batmobiles.

          • 0 avatar
            Lie2me

            I guess the Green Hornet sold a lot of Imperials. I wonder how many Nashs Lois Lane sold? Then there was Jane Hathaway and her Dodge Convertible, yep every homely spinster secretary in the country had to have one of those. In 1957 the biggest TV extravaganza was put on to promote a new car. Every TV in the country was tuned in to watch the star studded event… “The Edsel Show”… sold about two cars after that

          • 0 avatar
            Kenmore

            Badda-Boom on the Edsel show.

            Merciful heaven, I do believe even Beverly Hillbillies sold more 1921 Oldsmobile trucks.

            I remember Japanese coming over to scour our rural towns for them. They all had nametags..”Hello! My name is: Hiroshi”

          • 0 avatar
            Lie2me

            Ford had given Rosemary Clooney (George’s aunt) an Edsel convertible to be part of the event. The day of the show she pulls into the studio right behind Henry II, gets out of her brand new Edsel convertible, closes the door and the door handle comes right off in her hand. Without missing a beat walks over to ol’ Henry II extends her hand as if to shake his then hands him the door handle and says, “About this…” Henry II is speechless, Ms. Clooney walks away

          • 0 avatar
            Kenmore

            Priceless.

            Handing Truth to Power.

            I still maintain that a lemon-sucking Edsel grill would be just the touch for that proposed Jaguar CUV.

          • 0 avatar
            White Shadow

            Hey Kenmore Refrigerator boy— use your head for once in your life. Do you really think that “Get Smart” didn’t help Tiger sales? Really? Of course it did. I’m sure it helped sell quite a few. Now lets use some common sense and logic, shall we? How can we measure the effects of a TV show have on car sales when we don’t know what the sales numbers would have been without the car being featured on the show? Well, we can’t. So even if Sunbeam Tigers had poor sales overall, they would have been even more poor without TV exposure. That much should be obvious to anyone with an IQ over 50.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            “I said that Charlie’s Angels helped Mustang II sales.”

            Well, that would certainly explain why production of the car hit its low point in 1977, after the TV show’s debut in 1976.

            1974 – 385,993
            1975 – 188,575
            1976 – 187,567
            1977 – 153,173
            1978 – 192,410

            Oh, and look at what happened in 1979, the first year of the Fox body:

            1979 – 369,936

            Meanwhile, Camaro production almost doubled between 1975 and 1978 (145,770 vs. 272,631). Whereas the Mustang was the clear leader in 1974, it was well behind by 1978.

            “Now lets use some common sense and logic, shall we?”

            Common sense would tell me to do some research and to look at data prior to making claims that can only be supported by a hunch.

            The debut year was the strongest, the model year following the show’s debut was a low point, and the other three years were about equal. Meanwhile, the competition was outperforming it. Those figures would suggest that the TV show didn’t do all that much good, after all.

          • 0 avatar
            Lie2me

            “Hey Kenmore Refrigerator boy— use your head for once in your life”

            How sad, Biff just hasn’t been the same since Marty McFly caused him to run into that truck full of manure and he got buried in it… up to his eyeballs, in manure

          • 0 avatar
            Kenmore

            “That much should be obvious to anyone with an IQ over 50.”

            Yeah… go find one and ask.

            Then kick ‘im in the nuts just ’cause.

          • 0 avatar
            White Shadow

            PCH101, sorry bud, but you’re obviously too ignorant to understand what I said. I’ll break it down for you ‘tard style.

            My comment was that the TV show helped sell the car. You replied by listing the declining sales numbers, as if that matters. Now tell me what the sales numbers would have been if the car had never appeared on the TV show. Go ahead and produce those numbers. Do you get the point yet? It’s not about the declining sales numbers, it’s about the fact that the sales numbers would have been even lower with the car appearing regularly on a popular TV show. Now is that too hard to understand? It shouldn’t be….

          • 0 avatar
            White Shadow

            LOL @Kenmore Refrigerator boy. He’s basically asking for a kick in the nuts. Gotta love it!

          • 0 avatar
            Lie2me

            Who are you?…

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            “Now tell me what the sales numbers would have been if the car had never appeared on the TV show. Go ahead and produce those numbers. Do you get the point yet?”

            I got your point. Unfortunately, your point wasn’t very good.

            Sales obviously didn’t go up. You have no bragging rights there.

            Similarly, there’s no reason to believe that sales would have been lower without the television program, as they weren’t trending downward prior to the show’s release.

            Let’s face it — you pulled this one out of your backside, and you have nothing to support your argument. (And no, repeating yourself and being insulting doesn’t improve your position.)

            I prefer facts. Get back to me when you have some.

          • 0 avatar
            White Shadow

            No, you obviously don’t get my point, because it was very good. You can’t prove that the TV show didn’t help sales. Just because sales were trending downwards doesn’t mean that they wouldn’t have trended downward even more without the TV show acting as advertising for the car (yes, that’s a fact) like all TV shows that feature cars do…

            And BTW, when did I ever say that sales went up? LOL, really bud? Did you really just put words in my mouth and then try to use them against me? Sorry, but you’re just not intelligent enough to pull that one off, but nice try anyway.

            Since you say that you like facts so much, how about providing some that prove your point (oh, that’s right, you never had a point in the first place) or better yet, at least one that can disprove mine. Don’t worry, I won’t hold my breath waiting. LOL

        • 0 avatar
          jim brewer

          The fan club of the “Mannix” TV series calls itself “The Barracudas” after the car the main character always drove.

  • avatar
    pb35

    As a little gearhead, I hung out at a gas station near my parents house. One guy named Butch that frequented the station had a brand new white with blue stripes Cobra (’76, I think) and I still remember the long, single-tire smoky burnouts he did with it.

    Years later, I would take delivery of a Scarlet Red ’87 GT of my own.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    The II was, in my opinion, the last good-looking Mustang for a long while. The first generation of Fox-bodies (’79-’93) were hideous; the “SN” Fox-bodies (’94-’04) were not much better.

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      Ultimately, it matters how they’re looked back on. I still think nothing before or since, looked as good as the Fox Mustangs. I preferred the ’87 thru ’93s, but now favour the 4-eye’d, especially the ’82 GT. I do agree the ’94 thru ’98 looked hideous, but still worlds apart from the early Fox’.

      It’s not that I thought the Mustang II was hideous, but looked cheap/disposable. Like if the Camaro had stolen the looks and body from the Vega. At least Pintos are about dead and gone.

      But this old lady does drive around a mint condition Mercury Bobcat. Dark emerald metallic with matching cloth interior, V6/auto, one-piece glass hatch and factory aluminum dished wheels.

      • 0 avatar
        Numbers_Matching

        “I preferred the ’87 thru ’93s, but now favour the 4-eye’d, especially the ’82 GT.”
        Agree – the early 4-eyed foxes are starting to catch on with collectors. I find them actually more appealing than the ’87-up composite headlight versions. To me, the angular body lines don’t really go with the ‘aero’ headlights.

    • 0 avatar
      White Shadow

      Wow…. Most Mustang fans find the Mustang II to be THE ugliest Mustang ever produced. The ugly looks and the piss poor performance are the two biggest reasons for the total disdain of the Mustang II among Mustang fans.

  • avatar
    agent534

    Anyone else note how much the 70′s Aston Martins nose looks like the Mustang II?

    This one even looks like a Pinto too:
    http://www.classicpromenade.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/IMG_5757-920×620.jpg

  • avatar
    gkhize

    First car I ever bought with my own money was a white ’76 Mach 1 with a 2.3 4 cylinder. While hardly a 428 SCJ it was a good car and a reflection of the times. By the time I got rid of it (traded for a brand new ’82 Escort with a $5995 sticker price) I’d replaced the 4-speed with an automatic, and the 2.3 with a 289 after the 4 banger spit out a rod. Still loved that car. The associateion with the Pinto certainly hurt them, but I read somewhere that the only part shared with the Pinto was one piece of subframe. I think they were a lot more Mustang than the next generation as they kept the styling cues like the side scoop, grille ornament, and 3 piece tail-lights that completely disappeared in ’79.

  • avatar
    gessvt

    Really like the look of John Clor’s Cobra II. These cars look great with the “10 hole” 15 inch Fox Mustang wheels. No modifications necessary.

    Can anyone verify that the roof of the notchback Mustang II carried over to the Fox notchback?

  • avatar
    Numbers_Matching

    ‘Can anyone verify that the roof of the notchback Mustang II carried over to the Fox notchback?’
    ??? – the ’79-up fox Mustang/Capri was a totally different body shell. The only carry over items were engine/transmissions (302, 2.8V6, 2.3I-4).

  • avatar
    08Suzuki

    I’m crying foul over mentioning the Camaro’s demise in the context of the Mustang II. Though the Mustang II may have had banner sales during the Malaise era, so was the ‘Maro. In fact more gen-2 Camaros (the “split-bumper”/sans variant, the first 5mph chrome bumper variant, and the full-on polyurethane bumper variant) were sold than any other, except perhaps the current one. I believe the ‘Maro also outsold even the Mustang II during this era.

    I will agree the Mustang II was a relief over what the Mustang I had become in its final two or so years. Though still ostensibly based on the original ’64 1/2 MY platform, it’s easy to see why people thought it was a redressed Gran Torino. I still think the Maverick Coupe would’ve been a better Mustang II though. Sorry.


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