A good read

itsaMustangtoo

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Apr 2, 2005
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It's Time for Mustangers to Finally Accept the II
by John Clor

For those of us who own Mustangs, there can be no greater joy than to drive one's prized pony to an all-Mustang show and experience all the wonderfully diverse expressions of Mustang love. It's like one, big, happy family picnic.
Well, almost.
For owners of second-generation Mustangs, that joy is sometimes bittersweet. That's because certain members of the hobby still hold a personal disdain for all things related to the 1974-1978 Mustang II - as if it were the troublesome redheaded stepchild of the Mustang family. Personal tastes aside, I think it's time to put that sort of exclusionary thinking to bed and allow the facts about the Mustang II to address the common misconceptions that still prevail among so-called "Mustang purists."
Every generation Mustang needs to be measured on its own merits, and taken in context when any form of success is considered. Those who would knock the Mustang II because it was so radically "downsized" need to understand the market dynamics of the 1970s to appreciate the II for being Ford's "Right Car at the Right Time."
When the upsized 1971-1973 Mustangs began floundering in the marketplace, the Musclecar Era was coming to an end, while insurance premiums were skyrocketing and federally mandated emissions controls were choking performance out of old-tech large-displacement V-8. The 250 cid inline six found in the 1973 Mustang put out only 95 horsepower, and the 302 V-8 that came standard in the '73 Mach 1 was rated at a mere 136 hp. Even the 351 that was optional for the '73 Mustang was only making around 155.
Mustang production for 1971 had dropped below 150,000 units, and for '72 fell to a bit over 125,000. in 1973, the nation was rocked by and energy crisis fueled by an Arab oil embargo while Mustang sales were crippled by the growing popularity of small, sporty import coupes. Eugene Bordinat, vice-president of Ford design at the time, noted that with the Mustang, "We started out with a secretary's car, and all of a sudden we had a behemoth." But the "father" of the Mustang, Ford's Lee Iacocca, was about to fix that and rejuvenate the Mustang brand with something he called the "little jewel."
Mustang II bowed in 1974, praised for its perfect timing in the marketplace, much like the original '65. Sales rebounded, and with model-year production of nearly 400,000 units, the Mustang II came to within 10 percent of equaling the original's Mustang's first-year sales record. It remains the sixth best-selling Mustang of all time. Much trimmer and thriftier than the 1971-1973s, Mustang II was 20 inches shorter, four inches narrower, and inch lower, and almost 500 pounds lighter. (What self-respecting enthusiast wouldn't want his favorite sports car to get smaller and lighter, instead of bigger and heavier?)
Despite it being the only year the II wasn't offered with a V-8, 1974 was Mustang named Motor Trend Car of the Year (the only other Mustang to win that honor was the '94.)
One common knock against II is its relationship with the Pinto. I find this strange as first-generation Mustangs were also based on Ford's economy car at the time (Falcon), plus the third- and fourth-generation cars were based on Ford's entry-level car of their era as well(Fairmont). Technically, Mustang II's platform was quite different that the Pinto's, with only a few chassis items such as wheel spindles and brake discs common to both after 1973, when Pinto got heavier and was in need of sturdier componentry found in the II's front suspension (which became the modle for many street rods.) Comparatively, the first-generation and Fox-bodied Mustangs had more Falcon and Fairmont in them that Mustang II had Pinto, yet nobody demeans them for it.
Finally, there is the rap that the Mustang II was embarrassingly underpowered. But when its performance is put in context of the times, Mustang II actually offered segment-topping bang for the buck. True, the 1978 Mustang II 302 V-8 made 139 horsepower, but its rival, the heavier Chevy Camaro, got only six more (145) from its 302 cid V-8. Even the four-barrel 350 in the slow-selling Z28 made just 185 hp, and with a sticker price of $6,500, the Z28 was some $2,300 more than a base Mustang II V-8 coupe - big money for oly 46 extra ponies. Heck, Smokey and the Bandit's "mighty" 400 cid powered '78 Pontiac Trans Am delivered a mere 180 horses - and it was a Hollywood performer!
"Mustang purists" should consider that performance dropped from Mustang II levels into the Fox-body era when the 118-horse 255 V-8 replaced the 302. And when performance was "reborn" in '82 with the Mustang GT, its 5.0-liter cranked out a whopping 18 more horses than in '78.
You see, the fact of the matter is that the Mustang II was as viable a performer during its time as almost any other era Mustang. And more than a million were sold in just five years. Armed with some facts, a sense of historical perspective and a taste for special Mustangs - the next time you're at a car show and want to see something really rare, walk past the row of Boss Mustangs and the section reserved for Shelbys, and seek out a Mustang II. You might just begin to see it in a different light.
 
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