Behind the Orange Curtain, 1993 Edition: V8 Mustang II, Ran When Parked

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin

After sharing this beater Torino wagon I photographed back in the early 1990s, I ran across a series of shots of an even Malaise-ier machine. Just as silver miners often find lead mixed in with their metal of choice (or maybe it’s the other way around), I keep discovering long-forgotten car photos as I scan the negatives for the 1965 Impala Hell Project series. Here’s a car that I believe has a 0.00043% chance of having avoided The Crusher during the 18 years that have passed since these photos were taken.

During a visit to a friend’s place in Santa Ana, I spotted this basket-case Mustang II in a driveway across the street. I had just discovered the joys of cheap 35mm cameras at that time, so I’d ditched the AE-1 in favor of thrift-store point-and-shoots, disposable cameras hacked and reloaded with black-and-white film, and crappy panorama cameras. This Mustang seemed like a good subject for some artsy experimentation, and so I shot it with three different terrible cameras. This panorama camera had such terrible light leakage that the sun-in-background shots blew out the images in several adjacent frames.

These days, the few Mustang IIs that didn’t die donating their front suspensions to Model A Fords are enjoying something of a comeback. They’re not exactly valuable, but they’re worth a lot more than the nadir of value they reached in the early 1990s.

The Pinto-based Mustang II spent the entire decade of the 1980s being loathed by car freaks, and so an ugly 15-year-old example with mismatched body parts— even with Centerlines— would be about as desirable in 1993 as, say, a slushbox ’91 Hyundai Scoupe with a full Manny, Moe, and Jack customization and a potato for a gas cap would be today.

But look! Finding details in these blurry, grainy photos is like looking for the second gunman in frames of the Zapruder Film, but this car definitely has a V8 emblem on the fender. The Mustang II was available with a just-barely-into-triple-digits-horsepower 302 starting in 1975, but the problem in 1993 was that California hadn’t yet exempted pre-1976 cars from emissions testing. That meant that the owner of this car couldn’t swap in a real V8 and still pass the smog test. Not that it really mattered, since this Mustang probably hadn’t run since Reagan’s first term by the time I photographed it.

Murilee Martin
Murilee Martin

Murilee Martin is the pen name of Phil Greden, a writer who has lived in Minnesota, California, Georgia and (now) Colorado. He has toiled at copywriting, technical writing, junkmail writing, fiction writing and now automotive writing. He has owned many terrible vehicles and some good ones. He spends a great deal of time in self-service junkyards. These days, he writes for publications including Autoweek, Autoblog, Hagerty, The Truth About Cars and Capital One.

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  • Junebug Junebug on Aug 26, 2011

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

  • CougarXR7 CougarXR7 on Aug 26, 2011

    A lot of those old Monzas that disappeared from the road weren't scrapped. They were simply gutted, caged, fitted with lightweight fiberglass body components, and began life anew as hardcore race cars. They were and still are a hit with the SCCA, IMSA, and NHRA crowd. Nowadays you can even buy a complete, one-piece fiberglass replica body desgined for use with a custom tube chassis.

  • The Oracle Going to see a lot of corporations migrating out of Delaware as the state of incorporation. Musk sets trends, he doesn’t follow them.
  • Foo Eh. Net present value is in the red, once you add in rapidly rising insurance, late by months basic repairs-and-no availability, battery replacement, future hazmat recycling fees, and even faster depreciation. Wait until litigants win for "too heavy" in accidents... The math is brutal but if you value virtue signalling, some will pay anything.
  • Lynchenstein @EBFlex - All ICEs are zero-emission until you start them up. Except my mom's old 95 Accord, that used to emit oil onto the ground quite a lot.
  • Charles The UAW makes me the opposite of patriotic
  • El scotto Wranglers are like good work boots, you can't make them any better. Rugged four wheel drive vehicles which ironically make great urban vehicles. Wagoneers were like handbags desired by affluent women. They've gone out of vogue. I can a Belgian company selling Jeep and Ram Trucks to a Chinese company.