Junkyard Find: 1978 Ford Mustang II Ghia

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin
junkyard find 1978 ford mustang ii ghia

Ford returned the Mustang to its roots— an affordable, sporty-looking commuter based on a huge-selling economy car— for the 1974 model year when the Pinto-based Mustang II made its debut. While many now claim that the Mustang II has finally attained true respectability among American car freaks, I still see plenty of Mustang IIs en route to the cold steel jaws of The Crusher. Here’s a heavily-optioned ’78 Mustang II Ghia, complete with V8 engine and screaming orange Stirling cloth interior, found in a Denver self-service yard a couple of weeks ago.

Ford bought Carrozzeria Ghia from Alejandro de Tomaso in 1970, and a few years of Dearborn meetings resulted in the Ghia name being used as a high-end trim level for everything from the Fiesta to the Granada in North America. In 1978, all Mustang II Ghias got a vinyl landau roof with opera window; this car had its vinyl stripped away years ago and its white paint sprayed over with rattle-can flat black.

The base 1978 Mustang II hardtop listed at $3,900, while you had to pay $4,342 to get the luxed-up Ghia (that’s about $16,700 and $18,700 in 2021 dollars). Of course, this car has quite a few costly options; I can’t determine the price tag for this Stirling cloth-and-vinyl upholstery, but the Ghia Sports Group package alone added 355 bucks to the bottom line.

Gas prices were brutal in 1978 America (and about to get even worse), but the original purchaser of this car opted to get the 302-cubic-inch (5.0-liter) Windsor V8 engine, rated at 139 horsepower. The price: $241 (around $1,040 today).

The emissions sticker on the valve cover shows that we’re looking at what’s probably the original engine (or someone did a swap and kept the old valve covers). The data plate shows that this car was built at the San Jose assembly plant (now the location of The Great Mall) in September 1977 and sold through the Denver sales office. Sure enough, the sticker shows that this engine was set up for operation above 4,000 feet altitude.

Decades ago, any Mustang II with factory-installed V8 would get swarmed by street-rod builders wishing to snag its front suspension and engine cross member, but those days are long gone thanks to a plethora of aftermarket Mustang II-based suspension goodies that are sturdier and easier to install than the real thing.

The real gone cats got four-on-the-floor manual transmissions behind their 302s in 1978, but nearly all buyers of V6- or V8-equipped Mustang IIs spent extra to get a three-speed automatic. How much extra? In this case, $225 (about $970 in 2021 clams, or bones).

The detachable “Flip-Up Open Air Roof” cost $153 extra ($660 today), which was much cheaper than the cool-but-leaky $666 T-top option.

It has air conditioning ($470), full gauges (not sure of the price but probably not included with the Ghia Sports Group), and likely came with one of the several extra-cost wheel/tire options. By the time the dust settled over the dealership paperwork, the original buyer of this car probably spent as much as the cost of a nicely equipped LTD II Brougham.

Go Mustang!

Just a year later, the Mustang went onto the new Fox platform… and stayed there until 1993 (or 2004, depending on whether you consider the SN95 to be a true Fox).

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  • Pig_Iron Pig_Iron on Jun 22, 2021

    What a time capsule. Thank you for posting it. I'm surprised the front end is still attached, and hasn't been swiped for someone else's project.

  • Ponchoman49 Ponchoman49 on Jun 22, 2021

    These often appear on top 10 or top 20 worst car lists quite often and with good reason. The first year 1974 edition especially so with the top engine being the junk pile German 2.8 V6 with 106 blazing horses terrorizing the streets with 12-13 second 0-60 times. Those were seriously depressing times and this was Mustang at it's all time low!

  • Nrd515 Usually for me it's been Arby's for pretty much forever, except when the one near my house dosed me with food poisoning twice in about a year. Both times were horrible, but the second time was just so terrible it's up near the top of my medical horror stories, and I have a few of those. Obviously, I never went to that one again. I'm still pissed at Arby's for dropping Potato Cakes, and Culver's is truly better anyway. It will be Arby's fish for my "cheat day", when I eat what I want. No tartar sauce and no lettuce on mine, please. And if I get a fish and a French Dip & Swiss? Keep the Swiss, and the dip, too salty. Just the meat and the bread for me, thanks. The odds are about 25% that they will screw one or both of them up and I will have to drive through again to get replacement sandwiches. Culver's seems to get my order right many times in a row, but if I hurry and don't check my order, that's when it's screwed up and garbage to me. My best friend lives on Starbucks coffee. I don't understand coffee's appeal at all. Both my sister and I hate anything it's in. It's like green peppers, they ruin everything they touch. About the only things I hate more than coffee are most condiments, ranked from most hated to..who cares..[list=1][*]Tartar sauce. Just thinking about it makes me smell it in my head. A nod to Ranch here too. Disgusting. [/*][*]Mayo. JEEEEZUS! WTF?[/*][*]Ketchup. Sweet puke tasting sludge. On my fries? Salt. [/*][*]Mustard. Yikes. Brown, yellow, whatever, it's just awful.[/*][*]Pickles. Just ruin it from the pickle juice. No. [/*][*]Horsey, Secret, whatever sauce. Gross. [/*][*]American Cheese. American Sleeze. Any cheese, I don't want it.[/*][*]Shredded lettuce. I don't hate it, but it's warm and what's the point?[/*][*]Raw onion. Totally OK, but not something I really want. Grilled onions is a whole nother thing, I WANT those on a burger.[/*][*]Any of that "juice" that Subway and other sandwich places want to put on. NO, HELL NO! Actually, move this up to #5. [/*][/list=1]
  • SPPPP It seems like a really nice car that's just still trying to find its customer.
  • MRF 95 T-Bird I owned an 87 Thunderbird aka the second generation aero bird. It was a fine driving comfortable and very reliable car. Quite underrated compared to the GM G-body mid sized coupes since unlike them they had rack and pinion steering and struts on all four wheels plus fuel injection which GM was a bit late to the game on their mid and full sized cars. When I sold it I considered a Mark VII LSC which like many had its trouble prone air suspension deleted and replaced with coils and struts. Instead I went for a MN-12 Thunderbird.
  • SCE to AUX Somebody got the bill of material mixed up and never caught it.Maybe the stud was for a different version (like the 4xe) which might use a different fuel tank.
  • Inside Looking Out Scandinavian design costs only $600? I mean the furniture.