Junkyard Find: 1978 Ford Mustang II Ghia

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin

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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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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  • 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!

  • JJ JJ on Dec 08, 2023

    I have this same car and drive it every summer. Only difference is mine does not have the swing roof. Same interior, engine, etc. Found it in British Columbia about 15 years ago with 90,000 km and zero rust. I know it's not a popular member of the Mustang family, but I love it and lots of people stop to tell me their memories of the Mustang II.

  • Wjtinfwb I'd like to see a Ford/Mazda relationship restarted. Both companies have some car guys keeping the flame alive and could develop a sports car slightly bigger than a Miata and pick and choose from each other's parts bin to put together some attractive powertrain combo's. Even a Mazda 3 AWD with the 300HP EcoBoost 2.3L, manual and AWD from the Focus RS would be welcome. Even better, a factory Miata V8 with the 480 HP Coyote (i know it wont fit...) and a manual gearbox. And how about a CX-5 with a 2.7L EcoBoost V6 with AWD and an chassis tuned for sport. Lots of possibilities.
  • Blueice Patient 28, sorry, but it is Oktoberfest. Bring a kegof Kraut beer and we will 50% you.
  • Bd2 Probably Toyota, Hyundai is killing them these days.
  • Bd2 Japan is evil, stop buying their vehicles. I hope TTAC has a holiday for PEARL HARBOR.
  • Wolfwagen If Isuzu could update this truck and keep the cost between $25K - $30K they would sell like ice pops on dollar day in a heat wave.