Second-generation Ford Mustang

From Ford Wiki
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Second generation
File:Ford Mustang II.jpg
Also calledFord Mustang II
AssemblyDearborn, Michigan
Body style(s)2-door coupe
3-door hatchback
Engine(s)140 cu in (2.3 L) I4
171 cu in (2.8 L) Cologne V6
302 cu in (4.9 L) V8
RelatedFord Pinto
Mercury Bobcat

Main article: Ford Mustang

The much larger 1973 Mustang was a far different car than the original 1964 model. Ford was deluged with mail from fans of the original car who demanded that the Mustang be returned to its original size and concept. Upon taking over the presidency of Ford Motor Company in December, 1970, Lee Iacocca ordered the development of a smaller Mustang for 1974 introduction with initial plans calling for the downsized Mustang to be based on the compact Ford Maverick, which was similar in size and power to the Falcon upon which the original Mustang had been based. Those plans were later scrapped in favor of an even smaller Mustang based on the subcompact Ford Pinto. Such a car could better compete with smaller sporty import coupes such as the Toyota Celica and Ford Capri, then built by Ford of Germany and Britain, and sold in the U.S. by Mercury as a "captive import".

Dubbed "Little Jewel" by Lee Iacocca himself, the Mustang II was a project spearheaded by the Mustang's original creator. Iacocca believed that the Mustang had strayed too far from its original concept, so a completely redesigned Mustang was in order for 1974. Like the car that preceded it, the Mustang II had its roots in another compact, the Ford Pinto (though less so than the original car was based on the Falcon). The car sold well, with sales of more than 400,000 units the first year. It is worth noting that four of the five years of the Mustang II are on the top-ten list of most-sold Mustangs. The Mustang II featured innovations such as rack-and-pinion steering and a separate engine sub-frame that greatly decreased noise, vibration, and harshness.

The Arab oil embargo, skyrocketing insurance rates, and United States emissions and safety standards destroyed the straight-line performance of virtually every car of the period. In 1974, Chrysler ended production of the Barracuda and its stable mate, the Dodge Challenger. American Motors also discontinued the Javelin at the end of the 1974 model year. GM nearly discontinued the Camaro and Firebird after 1972.


The 1974 introduction of the Mustang II earned Ford Motor Trend magazine's Car of the Year honors and actually returned the car to more than a semblance of its 1964 predecessor in size, shape, and overall styling. Iacocca insisted that the Mustang II be finished to quality standards unheard of in the American auto industry. The Mustang II boasted many superior handling and engineering features, its performance by today's standards could be described as only "mediocre" — however, equal to other Ford or Detroit products of the day. The Mustang II was positioned to compete head-on with many foreign sports car imports that were hitting the market at that time. The Toyota Celica and the Datsun 280Z were its main competitors. Thus, the car was downsized to adapt to more fuel efficient standards. Available as a coupe or three-door hatchback, the new car's base engine was a 140 cu in (2.3 L) SOHC I4, the first fully metric engine built in the U.S. for installation in an American car. A 171 cu in (2.8 L) V6 was the sole optional engine. Mustang II packages ranged from the base "Hardtop," 2+2 hatchback, a "Ghia" luxury group with vinyl roof, and a top of the line V6-powered Mach 1. The popular V8 option would disappear for the first and only time in 1974 (except in Mexico). Mustangs lost their pillarless body style; all models now had fixed rear windows and a chrome covered "B" pillar that resembled a hardtop, but in fact was a coupe. In Mustang advertisements, however, Ford promoted the notchback coupe as a "Hardtop." Sales for the Mustang II increased in 1974 making it the 6th best selling Mustang of all time with 296,041, units sold.


Due to consumer demand and since the car was never meant to have a V8, it became a scramble to re-engineer the car to reinstate the 302 cu in (4.9 L) V8 option in time for the 1975 model year, but only with a two-barrel carburetor and "net" 140 hp (104 kW). To make the V8 option fit, changes were made to the front fenders, engine bay, and header panel. Since Ford of Mexico never lost the V8, they assisted in the modifications. Although tepid by today's standards, the car's stock 302 performed quite well by 1970s standards. The Mustang II's 302 cu in engine became Ford's first officially designated metric V8 Mustang; it was called the "5.0 L" even though its capacity was 4.94 L. Other than the optional V8 engine, the car underwent minor changes in 1975. The Ghia received opera windows within its vinyl top. In mid-year, a "MPG" model was added to a 2.3 L base models that featured a catalytic converter and a 3.18:1 rear-axle ratio (standard was 3:40:1) to claim EPA-version economy estimates of 23 mpg-US (10 L/100 km; 28 mpg-imp) in the city and 34 mpg-US (6.9 L/100 km; 41 mpg-imp) on the highway.[1] To underscore fuel efficiency, all base 2.3 L Mustang IIs were called MPG after 1975. The Mustang II again turned record sales numbers for 1975 making it the 9th best selling Mustang of all time with 199,199 sold.


To help boost sales and excitement, other appearance and performance options were added in 1976. The "Stallion" appearance group featured styled wheels and blacked out grille, bumpers, and numerous body moldings. Ford also introduced the "Cobra II" package in 1976 with a simulated hood scoop, front and rear spoilers, quarter window louvers, as well as numerous accent stripes and snake emblems. All engines were available on the Cobra II. Through 1977 and 1978, several styling changes and color options were added to the Cobra II.

In 1978, the "King Cobra" became available. This was a limited edition version with 4,313 units produced.[2] It featured a deep air-dam and a Pontiac Trans-Am style cobra hood decal. The King Cobra was only available with the V8 to help bolster the car's performance image.

On the momentum of the Mustang II's successful sales, a totally new Mustang hit the streets in 1979.


Although successful in the market and highly profitable for Ford, the car received mixed reviews. The Mustang II was named Motor Trend's Car of the Year, in 1974, the only Mustang to achieve that honor until 1994. Nevertheless, Consumer Reports wrote that "there are better subcompacts on the market than the Mustang II" and recommended the AMC Gremlin as a car that was at least as good, and in some respects superior, in terms of seating, noise level, normal and emergency handling, and acceleration;[3] and Road & Track was of the opinion that the Ford was "[n]either fast nor particularly good handling[4].

Writers of the past few years tend to ignore the huge sucesses of the Mustang II and point out flaws by today's Standards. Clearly biased opinions include noting in 2003 that "[i]f there were any steps forward in technology with the Pinto chassis, it was that it had a rack-and-pinion steering gear rather than the Falcon's recirculating ball, and front disc brakes were standard", Edmunds Inside Line wrote of the Mustang II: "It was too small, underpowered, handled poorly, terribly put together, ill-proportioned, chintzy in its details and altogether subpar. [5] The 1974 base engine’s 88 horsepower was "truly pathetic" and the optional V6’s 105 horsepower was "underwhelming". (With the addition of mandatory catalytic converters in 1975 these outputs fell to 83 and 97 hp respectively.) [5]

In 1976 the "standard four [-cylinder] swelled to a heady 92 horsepower", the V6 increased to 102 horsepower, and [sales were] a surprisingly stable 187,567 units—a mere 1,019 less than in '75." In 1977 the engines’ power outputs dropped again, to 89 and 93 horsepower respectively, and production dropped "about 18 percent to 153,117 cars." [5]

Again, writers of today ignore the rave reviews of 1974 - 1976 and one even describes the Mustang II as "lamentable",The New York Times said in 2006 that defective steering, together with a fuel tank of the same design as in the Pinto, a car "forever infamous for exploding when struck in the rear", caused owners an anxiety that was "heightened by the fact that some Mustang IIs had Firestone 500 tires, notorious in the 70's for widespread failures." It continued: "Ford, not content to drag the revered Mustang name through the mud...added badges from Ghia, the venerable Italian studio that it had bought, to versions of the Mustang II with partial vinyl roofs and tacky opera windows." [4]

According to Edmunds Indside Line the 1978 King Cobra "wasn't much more than a Cobra II with revised graphics and the hood scoop turned around backward..." This model was "visually about as nutty a Mustang as has ever been built" but "[m]ysteriously, production climbed to 192,410 units." [5]

A 1995 book on the history of the Mustang refers to the introduction of "a lukewarm optional 302 V8 in 1975" and says that "the token revival of the Cobra name—appearing as the taped-and-striped Cobra II—the following year did little to stem the tide as customers grew less enchanted with the Mustang II’s cramped quarters and weak performance." There was "a steady slide in 1976 and '77". Despite the 25% rise in sales for 1978, "not even the high-profile Cobra with its flashy decals and snazzy spats and spoilers could save the day for the second-generation Mustang."[6]

The Edmunds review concluded: "As much as the Mustang II is despised today, Ford appreciated its success back then." [5]


  1. Leffingwell, Randy (2003). Mustang: Forty Years. MotorBooks/MBI. pp. 253. ISBN 9780760315972. 
  2. Bowling, Brad; Heasley, Jerry (2002). Mustang Special Editions. Krause Publications. pp. 118. ISBN 9780896892347.,M1. 
  3. "Road Test: Mustang II" the '74 autos issue, Consumer Reports, April 1974, Vol. 39, No. 4, pages 323-325.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Sass, Rob. "Rust in Peace Ford Mustang II 1974-1978" New York Times May 26 2006. Retrieved on August 16 2008
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 This Opinion was obviously biased as the Mustang II interior was premium for it's time as it sold ridiculously well." Huffman, John Pearley. "Ford Mustang Generations Fifth Generation 1974-1978", Edmunds Inside Line, May 06 2003. Retrieved on August 17 2008.
  6. Mueller, Mike. Ford Mustang, MotorBooks/MBI (1995), page 72. ISBN 0879389907.