Ford Mustang Generation 2

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There is no way Ford planners could have foreseen conditions that would prevail at introduction time when the Mustang II program was initiated, but it's doubtful if they could have formulated a more timely car if they somehow could have gazed into a magic crystal ball. The realities of 1974 promise to bring down the curtain on the traditional domestic car as we have known it - certainly for the masses.

Such cars were feasible with unlimited supply of cheap fuel, lots of wide open spaces and smaller populations, but those conditions no longer existed. The Mustang II arrived -- re-emerging as a "small car." Reduced in size and weight, it was a serious attempt to recapture the verve and spirit of a previous era.

Ford management had recognized the problems of the oversized Mustang and with several years lead time, again sponsored a design competition to create a 1974 Mustang that would have to be one thing. It would have to be a "little jewel."

This was a time when the oil crisis was being felt at the gas pump. In addition, insurance rates for high-powered cars were soaring out of sight. Market research showed people were interested in sporty-looking subcompacts that didn't necessarily leave a strip of rubber on the street. Research also showed small foreign cars were continuing to sell well.

The answer was something sporty and nimble, with superior handling, quality, fine engineering and fresh design characteristics. The downsized result was a total departure from the Mustangs of recent years. Available in only two body styles -- two-door hardtop and three-door hatchback -- it did retain Mustang's characteristic long hood/short deck configuration, along with a return to side sculpting and as always, the distinctive Mustang grille.

Two engines were offered -- a basic 140ci, 2.3 liter, overhead cam, four-cylinder rated at 88hp or an optional 171ci, V-6 producing 105 horsepower. The 1974 was available in three models -- the basic two-door or three-door; the luxury-oriented two-door "Ghia" hardtop, or the Mach 1 hatchback. The Ghia, named after the Italian coachworks design studio that Ford had acquired several years earlier, replaced the Grande as the luxury entry. The Mach 1 came with a 2.8 liter V-6. Its unique bodyside treatment with Mach 1 lettering set it apart and a Rallye package helped it live up to its performance potential.

With a silhouette and dimensions closer to the '65 Mustang, Mustang II was the right car for the times. Strong first year sales confirm that a smaller platform, gas-efficient powertrain and the addition of rack-and-pinion steering were welcome changes. Sales for 1974 rebounded. Production more than doubled to 385,993, or just 10 percent less than the 12-month total for the first Mustang. The 1974 Mustang II was awarded Motor Trend's Car of the Year award, a first for the Ford Mustang car line.

The 1975 Mustang II was hardly changed. The grille got a larger eggcrate-type mesh, which was now practically flush with the grille opening Mustang's lineup for 1975 reprised the hardtop, hatchback, Ghia and Mach I. A 302ci, V-8, rated at 140hp, was squeezed under the hood to give Mustang II needed impetus and was an option on all models. The 2.3 liter four-cylinder was the standard block and 2.8 liter V-6 with four-speed transmission was the other option.

The luxury Ghia sported opera windows in the roof pillars and full or half vinyl roof. Other Ghia options included silver metallic paint; stand-up hood ornament, and full length bodyside tape stripes. Two sunroofs were available, either the standard or silver glass version, both manually operated. New wheels became available. These were a cast aluminum spoke-type wheel. The styled steel and forged aluminum wheels were also available.

A Rallye Package for the 2.8 liter V-6 or 302 V-8 meant better handling. It included Traction-Lok differential; competition suspension; extra cooling package; bright metal exhaust tips, and leather-wrapped steering wheel, among others. California-bound 302s got catalytic converters and all engines benefited from electronic ignition. Steel-belted tires were standard equipment.

Late in the model year, an MPG version of the Mustang II was made available. Using the 2.3L four-cyliner engine and a lower numerical rear axle ratio, 3.18:1 vs 3.40:1, the MPG Mustang was designed to deliver better mileage. The Competition Suspension, available by itself, included heavy-duty springs, Gabriel adjustable shocks, a rear stabilizer bar and 195/70x13 B/WL tires. There was also the regular Luxury Interior Group (standard on the Ghia) which included a choice of vinyl or cloth and vinyl seat trim, deluxe door and rear seat quarter trim, door courtesy lights, color-keyed deluxe belts on hardtops, shag carpeting, rear ashtray, parking brake boot and, as Ford called it, a super sound package.

In terms of sales, however, 1975 was a tough one for the entire industry. In defense of all auto makers, unemployment, inflation, regulations for fuel economy, the 55 mph national speed limit, and emissions and safety considerations were severe sales deterrents. Mustang production for 1975 was reduced by more than half compared with 1974 -- 188,575 units. As the Mustang II entered its third year, change over the last two model years was minimal. Even with slightly modified trim options, the basic car could hardly be distinguished from its 1974 and 1975 counterparts. In true Mustang tradition, options and add-ons became the rule for 1977.

There were two options departures, however. Ford had acquired the rights to the Cobra name made famous by Carroll Shelby. In an effort to regenerate the sports car image of the 60s, Mustang introduced the Cobra II trim option in 1976, priced at $325. Available only on the hatchback, it consisted of a sports steering wheel; brushed aluminum appliqués on door panels and dash; front air dam; simulated hood scoop; flip-out rear quarter windows with louvered covers; ducktail rear spoiler; styled steel wheels with trim rings, and radial tires.

The coiled cobra and/or appropriate Cobra II signage was applied to rocker panels, grille, front fenders and rear. For 1976, exterior color schemes were blue-on-white or gold-on-black, reminiscent of the LeMans paint and stripe theme from the Shelby GT-350. Additional color schemes were added for 1977, green on white, white on blue and red on white. The success of the Cobra IIs inspired Ford to move production from an outside vendor to within the Dearborn plant in 1977.

In keeping with its equine image, Mustang also offered the "Stallion" trim package for the youth market, again on the hatchback edition. (it included silver body sides and rear deck, but black everywhere else -- hood, roof, moldings, grille (absent the pony), rockers panels, lowers fenders, lower doors, lower front and rear bumpers and lower quarter panels. The package also added styled steel wheels, bright moldings on the lower bodyside and Stallion fender decals.

The basic engines remained the four-cylinder, 2.3 liter and six-cylinder, 2.8 liter engines and the 302ci V-8 helped fulfill the promises inherent in the Cobra II package. The latter became available with a four-speed manual transmission, an improvement over 1975's automatic only, and the V-6 offered an automatic at extra cost. New for `76 were catalytic converters on all models; windshield wiper controls were now mounted on a steering column, and intermittent wiper option was added. For convertible fans wanting fresh air in their hair, Targa-type or T-roofs were introduced in mid 1977 for fastbacks only.

1976 production dropped only 1,000 cars from the previous year, and prices were slightly below 1975 levels. Production for 1977 tailed off by 34,400 units, reaching 153,173 for the year. Change was in the air -- 1978 would mark the final year for the Mustang II, the Mach 1 model and the Cobra II option packages. Halfway through Mustang II's existence, Ford management decided a totally new Mustang was needed, a third generation of the youth-oriented, stylish sports car "for the masses".

Tops on Mustang's 1978 menu were the King Cobra fastback option. Priced at $1,277, it included black rear window louvers; black-finish on the grille, headlight bezels, window molding and wiper arms; a large snake decal on the hood and tape stripes on roof, rear deck and wrapped around the lower portions of the body from front valance, across fender bottoms, wheel wells and rocker panels to the rear wheel wells. King Cobra lettering graced the doors, arm dam and decklid spoiler.

Total units produced with the King Cobra option was a mere 4318. Customers could also acquire the 302ci V-8; Rallye Package; power steering; power brakes; heavy duty springs; adjustable shocks; rear stabilizer bar, spoke wheels and Goodrich 70-Series T/A radial tires. Also new options for `78 were variable ratio, electronic voltage regulator; two rear-seat cushions replacing the full-length seat, and styled steel wheels with white trim rings or forged aluminum wheels in white or natural aluminum.

The Cobra II got a new tape stripe treatment, and black rear window louvers, similar to the Sport Slats of 1969-70 Mustangs, were made part of the package. The production total for the Cobra II took a plunge in 1978 to only 8,009 units. The Fashion Accessory option consisted of Fresno cloth seat inserts; driver's side lighted vanity mirror; four-way manually-adjustable driver's seat; coin tray; door pockets; illuminated entry system and exterior stripe treatment.

Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) rules were introduced in 1978 by the federal government. For the auto industry it meant that every car sold must meet Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ratings for fuel economy or face stiff fines for non-compliance. The requirements were arbitrarily set at 18 mpg for 1978; 19 mpg for `79, and on upward until 27 1/2 mpg was reached in 1985. With these challenges about to have an impact on a vehicle's size, weight, and efficient performance, Ford was ready for a third generation Mustang.

Year end results for Mustang were favorable, however. 1978 production hit 192,410 units; second only to 1974 when the Mustang II was introduced. During their five-year run, 1,107,718 Mustang IIs rolled off Dearborn and San Jose assembly lines and they served to bridge the gap between the last of the traditional Mustangs and an exciting new generation designed for more demanding times.

Also see: Mustang Engines, Mustang Highlights, Mustang Prototype, Racebred Mustangs, Mustang Identification
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