The Truth About Cars » cobra http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Fri, 12 Dec 2014 16:28:14 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0.1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » cobra http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com Piston Slap: Factory Tune, Power On The Table? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/piston-slap-6/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/piston-slap-6/#comments Wed, 24 Sep 2014 12:02:37 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=916986 TTAC commentator Raph writes: Hey Sajeev I’ve got a a bit of a conundrum with 09 GT500. I recently purchased a blue-tooth OBDII dongle and the Torque Pro app for my phone which provides a variety of useful functions including monitoring various PIDs (On Board Diagnostic Parameter IDs). While checking over the various PIDs I […]

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TTAC commentator Raph writes:

Hey Sajeev I’ve got a a bit of a conundrum with 09 GT500. I recently purchased a blue-tooth OBDII dongle and the Torque Pro app for my phone which provides a variety of useful functions including monitoring various PIDs (On Board Diagnostic Parameter IDs).

While checking over the various PIDs I noticed the throttle body was limited to 75% of WOT and I’m not sure if that was just a limitation of the app or perhaps the tune was limiting the range of movement on the throttle body?

Also I noticed that the boost inferred by the car’s factory boost gauge does not correlate to the boost reading in Torque Pro? The Torque Pro app has an adjustment feature to scale the boost reading by either setting it to zero, a positive value or 14.7 psi or a negative value of 14.7 psi.

I’m unsure how Ford references boost with the MAP sensor since fiddling with the scale adjustment in Torque Pro hasn’t produced any worthwhile results (a best 4 PSI but the blower on the car is pullied to produce in the neighborhood or 18 psi.

Long story short: Am I leaving some power on the table and what about that damn boost reading?

 

Sajeev answers:

Whoa duuude, you mean that the fancy smarty-phone app says you are only at 75% throttle when you floor it?

We’ve been down this road before, as these apps often read parameters sans the accuracy of tools available to powertrain engineers or even shade-tree tuners with EFI hacks. While it’s been proven many times over that the GT500’s stock tune is pretty conservative, it surely ain’t 75% throttle conservative.  As much as I love new tech, while my career revolves around Web 2.0, we need a reality check: sometimes apps aren’t that awesome, they can kinda suck.

To wit, I sent your queries to a real tuner, Mr. Torrie McPhail, who is both a trusted friend and a well-regarded dude in the tuning world.  This isn’t an endorsement (even if it is) because I can’t possibly know the stuff in Torrie’s brain. So let’s do it, to it:

“First point: what calibration is in use? If you are using something non-stock, I would request calibration information from that source as to vehicle output.

I doubt anyone would be limiting throttle angle on a car like this, most likely that is how the phone app construes the PID output while at WOT which would put it squarely in the shadow of the shaft anyways.

And the factory boost gauge isn’t actual and just calculates inferred manifold pressure from sensor output. I would stick a good Autometer boost gauge in the car to solve that.”

So there you have it: if you have a stock tune, you are leaving PLENTY of power on the table, even a conservative tune will unlock plenty more power. And don’t take the engine app too seriously. Off to you, Best and Brightest!

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice. 

 

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Piston Slap: One of “Those People…” http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/04/piston-slap-one-of-those-people/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/04/piston-slap-one-of-those-people/#comments Wed, 17 Apr 2013 10:00:49 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=485139 TTAC Commentator MNM4EVER writes: A mechanic friend of mine has a 1993 LX 5.0 w/AOD in slightly rough condition he is looking to get rid of. I can pick it up now, complete but not running, for $1800. If I do not buy it, he plans to get it running but otherwise not fix it […]

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TTAC Commentator MNM4EVER writes:

A mechanic friend of mine has a 1993 LX 5.0 w/AOD in slightly rough condition he is looking to get rid of. I can pick it up now, complete but not running, for $1800. If I do not buy it, he plans to get it running but otherwise not fix it up and sell it for $3k or so.

My goal for my potential Mustang is to resto-mod it… 4.6L Cobra motor, track suspension, Cobra disc brakes all around, restore the interior but replace the seats, maybe even swap in a later 94-2004 dash, etc. Since I am looking to replace much of the major components of the car, a rough project car is a definite option for me.

But this rough car needs a lot of other things replaced too… all of the exterior moldings are weathered and degrading thanks to sitting in the Florida sun, the interior is trashed all around, paint is very bad, the body has dings and cracked plastic bumpers, surface rust has set in on many places and a little rust appears on the hatch edges, etc. I am guessing I would need to strip it completely and spend around $2k on bodywork to get it fixed, but then it would be showroom new. But the idea of replacing all those moldings and interior parts scares me… sh!t adds up fast.

So my long drawn out question: Is this a good buy at $1800? Or should I keep looking for a closer to mint Mustang for $5-7k that only needs minor restoration and mechanical upgrades as I see fit?

Sajeev answers:

So basically NOTHING on this Fox Mustang is up to your standards.  Honestly, it’s a horrible example of Fox-aliciousness for anyone at $1800. Even if it had a T-5 (stick), this is a $1000 Fox as it sits…on a good day. $1800 if it was complete and fully assembled? Somewhat likely.

You are one of “those people” that demands a nice car and will pay big money to make it right. For you people (what do you mean YOU people?) there’s no substitute for buying the cleanest, most pristine example you can afford. $5000 or more for a clean Fox Mustang isn’t unreasonable, and that’s right for you.

Once more: buy the cleanest, most pristine example you can afford.

And when you do, you better not put the later model dash in there…that’s just wrong for the rest of the body and a complete waste of a nice car.

MNM4EVER writes:

Well, since I consider you the expert on Fox bodies (too bad 5.0 Mustangs are lamesauce and Fox Lincolns/Cougars/Granadas/etc. rule – SM) , I figured there was no one better to help with my decision. I have been considering picking up a 90-93 Mustang hatch, preferably an LX 5.0 with a stick. I don’t want a convertible, I don’t like the GT look, and I don’t want a notchback. I remember back in the day the notch was considered super rare and therefore more desirable, but today it seems like they are everywhere. I know they are lighter, I don’t care, I like the hatchback look.

This will be a long term project/driver, and will definitely get upgraded suspension and brakes, wheels, seats, and I want 300-350hp. The dilemma is that nice LX 5.0 hatches are hard to find, especially in the condition I want it. I want a nice clean interior, I don’t want a beat on drag car or a rusted banged up body, in the end I want this car to be better than new and bodywork is very expensive. I can do most mechanical and all interior work myself, but I can’t paint or fix rust and dents. Down here in Florida it seems to be easier to find mint condition 4-cyl Mustangs, many owned by elderly people with low miles, and definitely never beat on. And since they are not V8s, they are CHEAP, much less than the V8s I see for sale.

So how hard is it to do an engine and trans swap into a 4-cyl Fox body and build it up the way I want it, compared to starting with a 5.0 platform? I don’t know how many differences there are in the chassis between them. I know even 5.0 cars need chassis bracing, I am going to change out the suspension and brakes anyway, etc. And no, I don’t want to turbo the 4-cyl, I want a V8 this time. To compare, I found a pretty nice all original LX 5.0 hatch with an auto and 68k miles for $7k, but I also found a just as nice, newer 4cyl LX hatch with 48k miles for $3k.

Any advice would be appreciated!

Sajeev concludes:

When it comes to Fox bodies, always remember the first rule of modification: chassis bracing uber alles. That means subframe connectors (get the ones that bolt to the seat bottoms, weld to the subframes) a G-load brace for the front subframe and a 3-point strut tower brace.  Not much extra weight, and it changes the car for the better. You will notice the difference behind the wheel in a matter of FEET, not miles.

If you only want less than 400hp (at the wheels), stick with the stock small block Ford (SBF) and upgrade the heads/cam/intake to make that up. For a street car, I’d recommend a power adder (Whipplecharger) and the appropriate camshaft to make it sing. And apparently Mr. John Kasse is finally making a set of heads that will put the 5.0 V8 a little closer to your garden variety LSX motor.** If you buy your parts wisely, the SBF will be a good fit for your needs and not be a huge money pit. If you plan on paying someone for the motor work, save yourself the expense of a non-SBF motor swap and build a good SBF that will drop right in with zero drama.

Now about the 4-cyl to 5.0 swap: it’s a huge pain in the butt because the wiring harness must be changed (alternator, interior stuff, etc.). Not fun. But if you have the two Mustangs side-by-side and a long weekend ahead of you, you can do it.  And be miserable…in the short term.

Good luck in your hunt.  But take heed to my parting shot, son:

 

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

**Obviously the all-aluminum LSX-FTW swap is the ideal answer, but sometimes its cheaper (parts and labor) to accomplish almost the same thing with the factory correct engine block.  I am always torn between a 5.0 or an LS in a Fox Body, in cases where less than 400 horses is needed on a reasonable budget. The stock SBF is still a good motor in certain applications, and I am pretty sure this is one of those cases. This ain’t no wheezy four-banger or a gutless V6. And the SBF sounds better than any LSX, so there’s that.

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Piston Slap: The Shroud of Torino? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/08/piston-slap-the-shroud-of-torino/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/08/piston-slap-the-shroud-of-torino/#comments Mon, 08 Aug 2011 16:24:19 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=406100   Jeramy writes: Here’s my dilemma: Bought a 1983 5.0 Cougar for my wife as her “weekend” car, but the TBI was problematic and the seats were terribly uncomfortable. Dumped the Cougar, and bought a loaded 1985 F-150 with 5.0 and power everything, then sprayed it in Mustang Redfire Metallic red, but she wanted something […]

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The Torino in Question.

 

Jeramy writes:

Here’s my dilemma: Bought a 1983 5.0 Cougar for my wife as her “weekend” car, but the TBI was problematic and the seats were terribly uncomfortable. Dumped the Cougar, and bought a loaded 1985 F-150 with 5.0 and power everything, then sprayed it in Mustang Redfire Metallic red, but she wanted something more “sporty.”

So I traded the pickup for a 1971 Torino coupe with a 351W and 3 speed auto (pictured here).

I’ve since upgraded it to power steering, but she still insists it’s hard to drive. I do have most of the parts to convert it to power disc brakes (it has manual drums), but I get the feeling that no matter what I do, it’s still going handle like a 40-year-old car. It gets driven less than 300 miles a year. I already have two other project cars in pieces, an ’83 CJ7 and a 1970 Torino Cobra, plus two reliable daily drivers. On the one hand, I’m tempted to just drive the ’71 Torino through the summer myself, except for the gas mileage. I don’t think I could realistically sell it for more than $5000, especially in the weak collector-car market, and to be honest I’ve been reluctant to sell it because I can use it as reference for reassembling my Cobra. On the other hand, it’s literally become a shelf in the garage.

My wife would love a new Mustang or maybe a Miata, and given my history in picking vehicles for her, it’s way past time to let her decide on the next one. So the question is, what do I do with the ’71 Torino?

Sajeev answers:

Funny you mentioned 1983 Fox Bodies and their trouble prone (EEC-III) EFI system, I just spent a few hours in the brutal heat removing that particular electro-vacuum nightmare from my 1983 Lincoln Continental.  Not that anyone really cares, just know that I understand where you’re coming from.

I know chronically single men (like yours truly) are pretty frickin’ oblivious to the dynamics of a healthy marriage, but weekend toy or not, did you really put your wife into three different project cars of dubious appeal?  Certainly appealing to me and you…but you catch my drift.

Having an assembled reference point for your Cobra project is good, especially since now is not the time to sell any classic machine, especially an especially not-unique, especially not-muscular Torino. Honestly, I’d be surprised if you can get $5000 for it, unless the interior is factory fresh and you find the right buyer. Speaking of…

Holy Cyclone, Batman!

You can make a 1971 Torino drive very much like a new car. That I do know.  Because, along with all of my brother’s insane vehicular exploits elsewhere on TTAC, he has a restomod 1970 Mercury Cyclone GT.  Yes, the purists are freaking out over that pedestrian Montego grille, but the change was out of respect to our parent’s former 1970 Montego in the same color.  Which explains how and why the Cyclone is a resto-mod of passion: nobody in their right mind would buy it for anywhere near the money in it.  Which is commonplace in the restomod business, unless it’s a C2/Midyear Corvette with a heavy dose of LS1-FTW.

You can do a Heidts front and rear suspension, EFI Windsor V8 swap, late model gearbox, big wheels/brakes and modern HVAC/Stereo/sound insulation to make a Torino a rather awesome daily driver, but you better not.  Sit on it and hope the economy gets better in the next coupla years.

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry.

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Quote Of The Day: Shelby Cobra And The Pursuit Of Distinctiveness Edition http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/11/quote-of-the-day-shelby-cobra-and-the-pursuit-of-distinctiveness-edition/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/11/quote-of-the-day-shelby-cobra-and-the-pursuit-of-distinctiveness-edition/#comments Fri, 05 Nov 2010 17:19:50 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=371574 It is one thing to recognize the legendary status of Mr. Shelby and the original Cobras, including the 427 S/C, and quite another to assert that purchasers and potential purchasers view Cobra continuations or replicas, sold primarily as kits, which employ the Cobra 427 S/C Design as coming from a single source.  The fact that […]

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It is one thing to recognize the legendary status of Mr. Shelby and the original Cobras, including the 427 S/C, and quite another to assert that purchasers and potential
purchasers view Cobra continuations or replicas, sold primarily as kits, which employ the Cobra 427 S/C Design as coming from a single source.  The fact that Cobra replicas, sold primarily as kits, which employ the 427 S/C Design, have been sold by numerous third parties for more than three decades, including between 2002 and 2009, precludes us from drawing that conclusion.  Accordingly, we find applicant’s evidence based on media coverage of Mr. Shelby and all of the Cobras not probative of the issue of acquired distinctiveness.

That’s right, the Shelby Cobra has been officially copied to death, according to a recent ruling by the US Patent Office’s Trademark Trial and Appeal Board [in PDF here]. The board’s finding was complex, as proving “distinctiveness” takes a lot of doing, but the upshot is that so many Cobra replicas have been built, consumers don’t actually think of the original (Shelby-designed) Cobras when they see one. Had Shelby sued every single kit car maker since day one, he’d have the legal rights to his design, but in the years since 1968, the term “Cobra” has come to mean more than the specific Shelby Cobra 289 or Shelby Cobra 427 S/C. In fact, a survey used to try to prove the distinctiveness of the Shelby designs in the eyes of consumers may have even used a photo of a 289 to illustrate a 427 S/C… even the guy running the survey wasn’t sure. The moral of Caroll Shelby’s legal battle to own the rights to anything resembling an original Cobra: never stop suing the kit car makers. Or, just be happy with the millions of dollars and legend status you’ve already accumulated.

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The Cobra And The Cheetah: A Muscle Car Tale (Part One) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/09/the-cobra-and-the-cheetah-a-muscle-car-tale-part-one/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/09/the-cobra-and-the-cheetah-a-muscle-car-tale-part-one/#comments Tue, 07 Sep 2010 17:00:17 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=364912 The Shelby 427 Cobra is a curious car. There are few vehicles that more worthily deserve the description iconic. The originals are so historically significant and rare that each is worth hundreds of thousands of dollars (and in the case of the six Daytona Coupes, millions), yet stylistically identical replicas are ubiquitous. Chances are, if […]

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The Shelby 427 Cobra is a curious car. There are few vehicles that more worthily deserve the description iconic. The originals are so historically significant and rare that each is worth hundreds of thousands of dollars (and in the case of the six Daytona Coupes, millions), yet stylistically identical replicas are ubiquitous. Chances are, if you see a Cobra, it’s probably not real baby seal. Over the decades thousands of replica Cobras have been produced to varying degrees of fidelity by a variety of kit car and turnkey manufacturers. When Carroll Shelby realized that he couldn’t sue the replicar makers into submission, he decided to make his own “continuation series” Cobra replicas (in your choice of carbon fiber, fiberglass or original aluminum bodies). He’s also come to a licensing agreement with Superformance, who make superb Cobra and Daytona Coupe reproductions. I’m a big supporter of the idea of intellectual property, and Ol’ Shel is entitled to make a living off his name and accomplishments, but Carroll Shelby’s proprietary attitude towards the Cobra borders on the absurd.

While his own racing success and the original Cobras’ performance and track success were the basis of the Shelby legend, I think it’s fair to argue that had there not been so many replicas made, that legend would be less renowned. The only reason why the general public knows about the car is because of the replicas. In the 1960s and 1970s, the chances of seeing a Cobra off of a racetrack were close to nil. Serious car enthusiasts knew about Cobras and of course the six Daytona Coupes took on a Bugatti like aura among collectors and buffs, but to the general public it was just another ’60s hot rod. If people outside the car world knew about the name Shelby, it was because of Ford Motor Company. Without the “Cobras” built by replica makers, most people would have thought that Shelby was just some kind of Mustang.

Mr. Shelby’s business relationship with Superformance is more of a marriage of convenience than an acknowledgment of how others have helped grow his legend. He gets a piece of the action from the leading maker of Cobra replicas and they get to say that their cars are authorized and licensed. While Shelby backed off from suing the Shelby American Automobile Club, the fact that he would even think of suing he biggest fans shows that he just doesn’t get it.

While Shelby’s company indeed assembled the original Cobras and he does own the name and the hooded snake logo, the idea of him suing replica makers was a bit absurd. The essence of most replicas is in the exterior styling, a fact to which the many Lambo and Ferrari bodied Pontiac Fieros, or faux Mercedes SSKs like the Excalibur attest. Some companies and craftsmen try to make exact mechanical copies, others cobble together components from more mundane production cars. Still, no matter what running gear they use underneath, they generally try to make the body look authentic. The guy who is driving a “Cobra” that is mechanically a Fox body Mustang doesn’t care as long as people recognize it as a Cobra. The resto-mod muscle cars may look like 1970 Challengers, but under the hood there’s a modern HEMI, there’s a modern front suspension and steering on a custom crossmember mounted to a new welded in subframe, and there’s a tub and non-factory multilink rear suspension setup too. They want modern mechanicals, but it has to have the right styling.

Shelby, much as he litigates to protect his legacy, had little to do with the styling of the Cobra roadster. The original Cobra was a small British roadster (in this case, the A.C. Ace.) powered by an American V8 (in this case the 289 Ford). If you showed most Americans an Ace, they’d think it was a 289 Cobra. Though some might notice the Ace’s smaller fender flares, it’s hard to argue that fender flares should be the basis of lawsuits.

Not only did Carroll Shelby have almost nothing to do with how the Cobra looked, he also, at least as far as how I heard the story, had little to do with the final engineering of the 427 versions.

This could be an urban legend, but it had the ring of Detroit truth and should be documented. On the Sunday following the Woodward Dream Cruise a few years ago, I stopped at one of the informal car shows that spontaneously take place in parking lots up and down Woodward. Maybe it was the safety wire ties twisted to the center-lock knock off wheel nuts on what looked to be real Halibrands, but there was definitely something about the car that said it wasn’t no replica. Indeed, the proud owner said it was a genuine side oiler 427 Cobra. While I was schmoozing with him, a nice old geezer ambled over. The guy was wearing blue jeans, a white dress shirt and suspenders. I almost could swear there was a machinist’s guide and some calipers in his shirt pocket. It was the uniform of an old school Detroit machinist. He had spent his career working in Ford’s fabrication shop in the Dearborn complex and proceeded to tell the Cobra owner the story of his car.

Apparently the concept of putting the big block 427 in the Cobra was the result of a three martini lunch involving Carroll Shelby and Henry Ford II. General Motors’ top brass was at best ambivalent about racing, but Hank the Deuce wanted to win and win big in the worst way. In hindsight looking at the Lotus Indy cars, the GT40, the Shelby Cobras, and Shelby and Boss Mustangs, the automotive world was the better for Ford’s involvement and investment and racing. Ford and Shelby figured that a big block powered Cobra would dominate the competition in racing and be faster on the street than any Corvette.

There is more to engineering a proper race car than shoehorning the biggest engine that will fit inside the bulkheads. Cast iron big block V8 engines are heavy and the A.C. Ace was originally designed for a four cylinder engine, not to handle 400+ horsepower. The original 427 Cobra mule was an abortion. It had inadequate brakes, dangerous handling and overheated badly. The mule was shipped from California to Dearborn, where the old guy with the suspenders worked with Ford’s engineers (and presumably some Kar Kraft people too) reengineering it into a competitive sports car.

The irony is that while it was Shelby who gave the Mustang credibility by making the GT350 and GT500 more Shelby than Ford, the most iconic Shelby of all, the 427 Cobra, may have been more Ford than Shelby.

The rest is history. The actual cobra is one of nature’s most deadly predators. When a predator has no competition, it dominates that ecosystem. In terms of raw speed and visceral visual appeal, there was nothing like the Cobra. Or was there?

Part two coming soon…

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Curbside Classic: Ford’s Deadly Sin#1 – 1975 Mustang Cobra II http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/04/curbside-classic-fords-deadly-sin1-1975-mustang-cobra-ii/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/04/curbside-classic-fords-deadly-sin1-1975-mustang-cobra-ii/#comments Thu, 01 Apr 2010 15:01:18 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=351000 Powered By Ford. There’s something special about those words, something iconic, something that evokes nightmares of an uniquely American scope, from our first family cross-country trips in a 1954 Ford that perpetually overheated and stalled from vapor lock (when it actually started) to the last one, Mother’s craptastic 1981 Escort (replaced by a Civic)  that […]

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Powered By Ford. There’s something special about those words, something iconic, something that evokes nightmares of an uniquely American scope, from our first family cross-country trips in a 1954 Ford that perpetually overheated and stalled from vapor lock (when it actually started) to the last one, Mother’s craptastic 1981 Escort (replaced by a Civic)  that could barely do seventy wheezing unsteadily along the rain-soaked I-70 straight. Powered by Ford. It’s the peeling logo hastily slapped onto the valve covers of this five-liter Mustang II, but you won’t need to raise the hood to understand what it means. The first time this pathetic lump of an engine tries to suck air through its tiny two-barrel carburetor and wheezes its feeble exhaust through soda-straw sized tailpipes, it will be more than crystal clear.

My apologies to Jack Baruth (and it’s not the first time I’ve stolen some of his words). But his stirring words of worship at the altar of Ford compels me to release the anti-Ford held safely thus far in my digital files, and unleash its full 122 horsepower V8 fury upon his Mustang love poem.  Nature seeks a balance, and for every heroic blue oval exploit at Le Mans in 1967 and Topanga Canyon Road in 2010, there is a 1971 LTD or this 1975 Mustang Cobra II to offset the glory. We wouldn’t want to be accused of being Ford fan-boys at TTAC, now would we?

The Mustang II was a truly wretched car. Obviously, it couldn’t have been much worse than its predecessor, that hideously oversized barge of a draft-horse car, the ’71-’73 ‘Stang. Or could it? One wants desperately to give Lee Iacocca credit for trying to do the right thing: dramatically downsize the Mustang to make it competitive with the Euro style “super-coupes” that were the hot thing after the pony car market collapsed under the weight of its wretched excess.

So the target competition for the Mustang II were the Toyota Celica, Opel Manta, and Ford’s own European import, the Capri (sold by Mercury). Therein lies the sum and substance of Ford’s enormous mistake with the Mustang II, the same one that GM and Ford repeated endlessly until they were finally pounded into submission. Instead of just building the highly competent Capri as the Mustang II, or in the case of GM, the Manta/Opel 1900, in their US factories, they threw themselves repeatedly on the sword of hubris: we can do it better in Detroit, even small sporty and economy cars, something the Europeans had been building and perfecting for decades.

GM’s Vega was the first to go down this path, if we generously give the Corvair a pass. The Opel 1900/Manta was a delightful-handling and well designed car, and with a tiny fraction of the money wasted on the Vega’s development, it could have been made truly superb. Ford’s Pinto was only marginally better than the Vega because it didn’t blow up or rust quite so instantaneously, but its silly low, short and wide and cramped body were retrograde from the perfectly practical English Ford Cortina that donated much of its guts for it.

That was 1971. That was also the year Mercury started selling the Capri here. Surprisingly, or not, it became a genuine hit, and at its peak, was the number two selling import in the land after the VW Beetle. Reviews praised it: (R/T) “a very attractive sporting car. It’s solid as a Mercedes, still compact and light in the context of 1974 barrier busters, fast, reasonably economical of fuel, precise-handling, and quick-stopping: its engine and drivetrain are both sporty and refined.” Apparently not good enough for Lido; he had wrought a true miracle turning the Falcon into the original Mustang, so why not do the same thing with the Pinto? Why not indeed! Unlike lightening, hubris always strikes after someone’s first success, deserved or not.

A reworked front end and some new longer rear springs were designed to quiet down the Pinto’s notorious trashy interior noise levels and general structural inefficiencies ( the whole car rattles and rustles like a burlap bag full of tin cups. Self destruction seems only moments away. C/D 1971) . Lee wanted the Mustang II to have a touch of luxury to it, especially in the padded-top Ghia series; a sort of mini-T Bird. So, yes, let’s put lots of cushy rubber and soft springs in the suspension to give it a nice ride on the freeway.

But somehow, all that sound deadening and whatever else the Ford boys did to transform the Pinto into the Mustang II must have weighed a lot; well, lead is a terrific sound barrier. The unfortunate result was that the Mustang II weighed more than the original Mustang, despite the fact that its wheelbase was now a full foot shorter and it sported a four cylinder engine. But Powered By Ford was stamped or glued to the new 2.3 liter OHC four, a noisy and thrashy lump that soldiered on for decades. Generating all of eighty-eight horsepower, Ford’s long investment in racing engines was now really paying off.

If the four wasn’t quite recreating the Le Mans Mulsanne straight experience adequately, the Cologne V6 was the only option for more go in 1974, the II’s first year. C/D tested the new Mach 1 version with the 105 hp 2.8 six, and noted right off the bat that it was saddled with too much weight: “Our test car weighed over 3100 lbs…(the V-6 Capri we tested in 1972 weighed slightly under 2400 lbs)…the (Mustang’s) engine is more notable for its smoothness than any feel of power”. The quarter mile took over eighteen seconds (@74 mph), and zero to sixty took over twelve seconds. Ouch. But it probably had a nicer ride than the Capri. Oh, did it ever:

As the Mustang II Mach I (with the optional “competition” suspension) approaches its cornering limits, the front end transmits the fact that it definitely is plowing…enthusiasts are going to be disappointed..excessive body lean was present in all handling tests…” The Mustang II plowed and handled like crap with the light four and little German V6 under the hood, so it doesn’t take much of an imagination to speculate what it handled like when Ford finally shoehorned the 302 V8 into it for 1975, for all the wrong reasons. And the fact that it was still riding on 13″ wheels didn’t help any either.

Before we get on to the Cobra II, let’s note that C/D felt that the new four speed transmission that was developed in the US specifically for it was “not as smooth shifting as the current Pinto 4-speed” (sourced from Europe). And the fact that it was given the Pinto’s brakes without change wasn’t too inspiring either: “difficult to maintain precise directional stability during hard stops”. C/D sums the Mach1 up this way: “its acceleration and performance don’t match expectations. Much of that is due to weight and some to emission standards, but neither of these factors justify the car’s flaccid handling”.

Given that Ford had to do some fairly extensive work on the Mustang II’s front end to accommodate the V8 implant, it’s obvious that they never planned on that outcome. And given that the 302 put out a mere 122 hp in 1975, one wonders why go to all the trouble, given the dramatic increase in front end weight it caused. Ford should have spent money on its turbo-four program a few years earlier. Or found a way to federalize the DOHC and fuel injection engines it used in Europe. But the American legacy of Ford was built around V8s, and what’s a Mustang without one: Powered By (genuine US) Ford.

Now we can finally speak our vile words about the actual Cobra II. Please note that this is the very first automobile to carry that august name since the original. As thus, it was one of the most disastrous abuses of destroying equity in a name that was a true legend.  That it was put on such a ridiculous pretender of a car, a Pinto (barely) in disguise, is almost mind boggling. Anything  positive anyone can say about the Mustang II program is instantly offset by this cruel joke made by Lido and his not-so Whiz Kids. And it only got worse with the King Cobra version a couple years later. The seventies really were the pits, US-built automobile wise anyway, and the Mustang II was the little pebble lodged at the bottom of the pit.

It turned out that real V8 performance in an excellently handling coupe was still in demand, and very much available, in the form of the Camaro Z-28. And at a price that put the Mustang II Mach I and Cobra II to infinite shame. In the very same issue of C/D is a test of the 1973 Camaro Z-28 with the slightly civilized but still very satisfying 350 V8 that churned out 245 hp, exactly double (plus one) of the Mustang’s V8. And the Z 28 cracked off the dash to sixty in 6.7 seconds, almost exactly one half of the Mustang Mach I’s time. And ran a 15 second quarter at 95 mph. And handled and steered most properly indeed.

C/D summed it up the Z28 this way: “Because few cars at any price offer the refinement in going, stopping, and turning abilities. And that refinement is housed in one of the most handsome forms ever to roll out of Detroit. But the real clincher is price: the latest Z-28 is a blue chip investment.”

Here’s the shocker: the Z-28, equipped with the potent V8 and four speed, stickered at $4066 ($19k adjusted). The 1975 Mustang II Mach I with the V6 listed at $4188; how much more the Cobra II package and the V8 cost is a guess. Half the horsepower, twice as long to sixty, miserable handling, in a ridiculous and mal-proportioned body with a yard too much front overhang. No wonder the Camaro rated a “GM’s Greatest Hits” designation at CC (here’s the full gushing writeup), and this Mustang II earns Ford’s first Deadly Sin. Powered By Ford.

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