By on April 8, 2019

1978 Ford Mustang Stallion in Denver wrecking yard, LH front view - ©2019 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsAfter the first-generation Mustang went from frisky lightweight to bloated monstrosity, Ford transferred the name over to an economy car based on the Pinto. This proved to be a wise move, in light of certain geopolitical events that took place right around the time the first Mustang IIs began rolling into showrooms, but most of the old Mustang magic was lost during the Pinto-ization process.

Ford created a bunch of flashy trim packages for the car, and I spotted one of the more unusual ones in a Denver self-serve yard a couple of weeks back: the Stallion.

1978 Ford Mustang Stallion in Denver wrecking yard, Stallion decal - ©2019 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThe Stallion Option Group was appearance-only, and got you stuff like a black grille, black rocker panels, and these snazzy fender decals. The Stallion could be ordered in Silver Metallic, Vermillion, Bright Yellow, or Silver Blue Glow paint.

1978 Ford Mustang Stallion in Denver wrecking yard, engine - ©2019 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsWhile a 2.8-liter V6 and 5.0-liter V8 were available engine options, this car has the base 2.3-liter four-cylinder. Power was rated at 19 horsepower, on a good day (actually, it was 88).

1978 Ford Mustang Stallion in Denver wrecking yard, interior - ©2019 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThis car is in the same yard as this ’79 Mustang Cobra, so it’s possible that both came from the collection of the same Malaise Mustang hoarder.

1978 Ford Mustang Stallion in Denver wrecking yard, front suspension - ©2019 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsAs recently as five years ago, every Mustang II front suspension got yanked and purchased within days of hitting a cheap self-serve yard like this one, because hot-rodders use them to modernize ancient Detroit machinery. These days, though, it’s easier to just buy a brand-new aftermarket setup.


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44 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1978 Ford Mustang Stallion...”


  • avatar
    TR4

    It’s a stick shift, so not all bad!

  • avatar
    dividebytube

    A friend in mine in high school had one – same shade of yellow too.

    He swapped in a warmed over 302 but I swear the thing felt no faster than my 4-cyl Nissan truck; not that we ever raced ’em. Perhaps his rear gears was uh very MPG friendly as was the style of the time.

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      Of my two best friends in high school one had a slant-6 Duster the other a 302 Mustang II. They would race and argue and beat the crap out of each other as to who had the better car… and that’s the joke

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      3.50:1 is the very minimum, so the V8 Mustang IIs came with 3.00 ratios only.

      Otherwise the 302s made 248 lbs/ft of torque at 1,500 RPM in a 2,996 lbs car. 3.73s with trac-loc are ideal and all it takes to turn that setup into a killer little car.

    • 0 avatar
      agent534

      I had a ’78 4 cylinder with ttops. I swear ttops must have been the only option, this car had a manual rack, no power steering, standard trans.

      I swapped in a 302 and it moved pretty good. Really fun with the manual rack too. Would spin the factory sized wheels all day long. Not sure what the gears were but I did blow the rear in it. Swapped in another rear, and drove it for a while. Good times.

      • 0 avatar
        DenverMike

        The 2.3 manual had way more aggressive gearing, to get the turkey moving, both in the trans and rear end, so with a V8 swap and nothing else, it had to be a missile, if you could get traction. Something had to break though (Pinto parts) .

  • avatar

    Normally I can find value in any oddball car, but this one can be sent straight to the crusher, no matter how many memories of ladies in feathered hairstyles it conjures up……

  • avatar
    gearhead77

    I know these were stopgap cars, something to keep Mustang alive in light of the oil crisis, world turmoil and downsizing. Maybe if it wasn’t so hideously obvious they were Pintos disguised as Mustangs, perhaps there would be more love for them.

    I say this now as the owner of a largely original 89 Mustang GT convertible 5 speed. The “Fox” cars lived longer than any had a right to and Ford did no favors by keeping that antiquated platform as long as they did. But it was likely profitable and it outlived the car that was supposed to replace it (Probe) due to hue and cry from Mustang faithful. Without Fox, there would be no current Mustang and without Mustang II, the name probably would have died.

    • 0 avatar
      Pig_Iron

      I think you’re right. I also think they should have brought over the Mk-III Capri, then replaced that with the Probe but called it the Capri. Weirdly, they alienated the Mustang fans with the Mustang-II, and the Capri fans with the Capri-II.

      Back, when I worked in automotive, it was clear Ford was being lead around by it’s marketing department – who were notoriously often wrong. Seeing what’s going on at Lincoln, that may still be the case. I long for a Scirocco-esque Capri. Ford marketing tells me that’s an Ecosport, so they don’t get my money.

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    If TTAC ever does a feature on horrible cars that were a big hit the Mustang II would win hands down

  • avatar
    Pig_Iron

    As despised as it was by Mustang fans, it ws the right car at the right time for Ford. With the Rallye package you got the Traction-Lok LSD, comp suspension pkg (HD springs, adj shocks, anti-roll bar), HD rad upgrade.
    But where I lived, the VW Scirocco was already out – it changed everything.

    • 0 avatar
      Dave M.

      Preach, brother! The II kept the Mustang name alive during some very tulmutuous times. The Gen 1 Mustang died in 1970; the ‘71-‘73 were embarrassments to the name. At least the II was tossable, albeit slowly. And they sold exceedingly well, setting the stage for the Fox.

  • avatar
    JimZ

    “the base 2.3-liter four-cylinder. Power was rated at 19 horsepower, on a good day (actually, it was 88).”

    ten years later, after gaining port fuel injection, it made…

    88 horsepower.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    I’ve always liked the look of the Mustang II fastback. The components conversation worked the other way, too: Pinto owners got to say their car’s suspension was shared by the Mustang, lending credibility to the Pinto setup.

    Also, note the climate controls right next to the driver’s door.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    When the Mustang II was in its prime I owned a 70 Mustang coupe with a 302 and the C4 automatic. Back then I would look down on the Mustang II “yeah it’s based on the Pinto” some of my neighbors owned but were generally pleased with them. If you looked at the sales figures they were one of the top selling models.
    But you look back at them they made perfect sense. Iacocca saw the popularity of the small Japanese coupe like the Celica and 200SX and wanted something similar. Maybe the execution wasn’t the best but with McPherson struts and rack and pinion steering they were ahead of their time.

    • 0 avatar
      Hummer

      All it took to give the car credence was a better name. Mustang was not it, you dont name an AWD Corolla a land cruiser, and you don’t name a crossover a Blazer.

      40 years later we’re not talking about how awesome Ford’s compact sports car was, we’re talking about how bone headed Ford was to try and nearly ruin a good name with a product that couldn’t live up to that name.

  • avatar
    4drSedan

    My first car was a 1981 Mercury Capri with the 2.3 and a 4 speed manual. I remember trying everything I could to wring any amount of power from that engine. That’s when I concluded that 4 cylinder, manual, hatchbacks were probably a great combo for an enthusiast with not a lot of coin. I may have been on to something.

  • avatar
    ajla

    I think the ’71-’73 Mustang gets a bum rap. Like with the ’73 Charger, it is a pretty radical look and 190 inches long & around 3000 pounds isn’t *that* big. People talk like they’re the size of a ’76 Eldorado. If power outputs weren’t falling during this period I think they’d be remembered more fondly.

    As far as the MustangII is concerned, I’ve heard the arguments about “right car for the times”, but if I was buying a Ford during this period it would have definitely been a Torino.

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    I remember the Stallion. The 2.3 with the great Holley 5210-c staged two-barrel. The Vegas used these with a hot water choke, similar to this, but with the little AC pleated paper filter (with a check valve!) inside the front, behind a 1″ nut (typical GM setup).

    It’s a shame that someone pried up the hood, and ruined it. Hood release cable broken?

  • avatar
    -Nate

    My GF in 1978 rented a Mustang II with the tiny 4 banger and slushbox tranny, it wouldn’t go from a dead stop on steeper hills….

    Oddly enough I think the early Pintos were good little Econo Boxes .

    -Nate

  • avatar
    Russycle

    I remember one of these lived in my neighborhood back in the day, it was silver I think. I always assumed the big Stallion graphic was afermarket, no idea it was a factory package.

    Hated these back in the day, I learned to drive stick in a Pinto so I was well aware of the platform’s limitations. Now I’m glad when I stumble across a well-preserved example, I think the design has aged pretty well.

  • avatar
    DEVILLE88

    This car does get a bum wrap. It was the right car for the right time. They sold like few other mustangs before or since. i would love to have one, make mine a green Ghia notchback with a tan colored leather interior and half vinyl top.

    • 0 avatar
      MRF 95 T-Bird

      My neighbor across the street had a green Ghia notchback with a tan colored leather interior and half top. Actually not bad looking, like a compact personal luxury Torino Elite.
      They were one of those families where when the daughters got a new car when they turned 16. Back then in their driveway it was the Mustang II and the Monza 2+2.
      Meanwhile I tuned my 70 Mustang…

      • 0 avatar
        DEVILLE88

        LOL!!! I actually owned a 75 Monza 2+2 nice car, had to replace the engine as mine seized………..never ran that well after that. I did own a 91 GT and a 99 convertible GT. Both great fast and reliable……but they make you want to spend tons of money on them.

        • 0 avatar
          MRF 95 T-Bird

          I always thought the Monza had great modern styling with molded bumpers instead of cow catchers.
          Apparently these were supposed to get the planned GM rotary.
          Depending how they were equipped the Monza 2+2 came with the infamous aluminum 2.3 OHC-4 or the 262 ci 4.3 small block V8. My neighbors had the V8 because it had the badging on the fender.
          The V8 was crammed in the engine bay in such a manner that to change the spark plugs in one bank you had to reach them through the wheelwell with a flex extension.

    • 0 avatar
      JimC2

      Bum wrap or bum rap? Hehehehe…

      If you take away the hate for all malaise era cars, the Pinto Mustangs were indeed the right car for the right time.

      People forget that the original Mustang was a tarted-up Falcon, which itself was an average-at-best, entry-level car- and a brainchild of McNamara, the greatest bean counter of all time. That Mustang evolved into a pretty great car (and Ford sold a lot of Falcons before they started building the Mustang) but the pony car concept came from being a sporty car that would be cheap to build.

      The Pinto was also an average-at-best (maybe that’s being generous), cheap, entry-level car. It sucked, but most of the competition sucked then too.

  • avatar
    dividebytube

    Ah I forgot until now that my oldest brother’s first car was a lime-green Mustang II. He bought it used and drove it off to college the same year.

    Eventually replaced by a ’81 Caprice that was originally bought by our parents – one fitted out with the Chevy 3.8 – ugh. 110hp hauling a b-body around!

    • 0 avatar
      gearhead77

      I could only imagine that awfulness. I had a 3.8 powered 81 Regal. In hindsight, it was fine for 16 year old me ( in 1995) because I still managed to do dumb things with a no power car. And it was free.

    • 0 avatar
      ponchoman49

      You think that’s bad. How about being stuck driving an 85 HP Slant Six Newport Chrysler of 1981 vintage. It had trouble going more than 65 if any wind was up. A truly awful slow car.

  • avatar
    ponchoman49

    This was one of the cars that really started the so called Malaise era and one that can get crushed along with it’s terrible memories. The 1974 version didn’t even have a V8 available. My uncle actually bought a white base 2.3 stick coupe brand new ad a college commuter car. It was troublesome the moment he started driving it. The engine leaked oil, stalled and eventually needed to be replaced due to a bad cylinder that was causing it to skip badly. It was also virtually useless in the Winter months and wouldn’t even climb his slightly inclined driveway without 4 large bags of dirt in the trunk and snow tires to try and get some weight. He actually thought it was pretty quick until he raced my dads 1974 Chevelle equipped with a 350 and lost pretty bad. he never bought another Ford to this day.

  • avatar
    CaptainObvious

    Watching the commercials – I’m reminded of another that played at the same time with the tagline:

    Mustang II – Boredom 0!

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kzhtHx0p-dM

    And this commercial mentions the Stallion package!

    • 0 avatar
      namesakeone

      Chrysler had a follow-up ad for its then-new Volare (with its Road Runner, Sun Runner [the coupe with a paint option and a sunroof] and Road Runner “Front Runner”–a bikinied young woman holding a sign out of the sunroofed car stating “Score: Mustangs 2, Volares 3”! https://www.hobbydb.com/catalog_items/fun-runners-from-plymouth

  • avatar
    rocketrodeo

    Destined to be the rarest of Mustangs, due to the widespread ignorance that is perfectly reflected here, by people who should know better. The Mustang II was not a response to the gas crisis; it anticipated it and was on the market at just the right time. It was the first downsized American car, and it was wildly successful, selling more than any Mustang other than the original. My dad bought one in 1975, with the 2.3 liter four cylinder and four speed manual, and it became my first car. Lots of my friends had them too. It got 30mpg and handled and braked far better than the 67 GT fastback that I replaced it with. People who claim to be car guys can’t bitch about how bloated the Mustang had become in the early 1970s and also bitch about what a bad car the II was, especially since the early foxbodies weren’t much if any better. The weight was right, the design was right–for the times–and with some good old fashioned hot-rodding with off-the-shelf parts it becomes a legitimately fast and tight-handling car. The rack and pinion steering is still modern, and even if the rest of the suspension is completely conventional American rear-drive, you can do a lot with a smallblock on a 96 inch wheelbase.


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