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

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin
behind the orange curtain 1993 edition v8 mustang ii ran when parked

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

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

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

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

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

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  • 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.

  • ToolGuy CXXVIII comments?!?
  • ToolGuy I did truck things with my truck this past week, twenty-odd miles from home (farther than usual). Recall that the interior bed space of my (modified) truck is 98" x 74". On the ride home yesterday the bed carried a 20 foot extension ladder (10 feet long, flagged 14 inches past the rear bumper), two other ladders, a smallish air compressor, a largish shop vac, three large bins, some materials, some scrap, and a slew of tool cases/bags. It was pretty full, is what I'm saying.The range of the Cybertruck would have been just fine. Nothing I carried had any substantial weight to it, in truck terms. The frunk would have been extremely useful (lock the tool cases there, out of the way of the Bed Stuff, away from prying eyes and grasping fingers -- you say I can charge my cordless tools there? bonus). Stainless steel plus no paint is a plus.Apparently the Cybertruck bed will be 78" long (but over 96" with the tailgate folded down) and 60-65" wide. And then Tesla promises "100 cubic feet of exterior, lockable storage — including the under-bed, frunk and sail pillars." Underbed storage requires the bed to be clear of other stuff, but bottom line everything would have fit, especially when we consider the second row of seats (tools and some materials out of the weather).Some days I was hauling mostly air on one leg of the trip. There were several store runs involved, some for 8-foot stock. One day I bummed a ride in a Roush Mustang. Three separate times other drivers tried to run into my truck (stainless steel panels, yes please). The fuel savings would be large enough for me to notice and to care.TL;DR: This truck would work for me, as a truck. Sample size = 1.
  • Art Vandelay Dodge should bring this back. They could sell it as the classic classic classic model
  • Surferjoe Still have a 2013 RDX, naturally aspirated V6, just can't get behind a 4 banger turbo.Also gloriously absent, ESS, lane departure warnings, etc.
  • ToolGuy Is it a genuine Top Hand? Oh, I forgot, I don't care. 🙂