Thursday, April 24, 2014

1979 Ford Mustangs

Sports Cars Image Gallery
"New Breed" Mustang styling, introduced in 1979 and little changed in this 1980 model, had a uniquely "Mustang" kind of sporty elegance.  

Marketers had put a Roman numeral on the 1974-1978 Ford Mustang II to emphasize just how different it was from previous Mustangs. For the same reason, they removed the suffix when they launched the new generation with the 1979 Ford Mustang. To drive home the point that this was a new Mustang with renewed spirit, they also came up with a freshened running horse emblem that looked more like its muscular old self.
The car attached to it looked nothing like any Mustang before. Clean, taut, and crisp, it combined the best of American and European design thinking, yet had a uniquely "Mustang" kind of sporty elegance. Admittedly, some old shortcomings remained: problematic handling, a less-than-ideal driving position, limited passenger room, and workmanship that didn't compare well with that of European and Japanese cars like the BMW 3-Series and Toyota Celica. But no car can be faultless, especially one so affordable. By almost any standard, the '79 Mustang marked a second revolution for Ford's pony car.This basic design would be good enough to continue without fundamental change for no less than 14 years, an eternity in the auto business. Even more remarkable, a subsequent retooling enabled it to ride on another 11 years -- and outsell its two remaining rivals along the way. By 2003, Ford again had America's only pony car...but we're getting ahead of ourselves.Dearborn Changes CourseThe '79 Mustang was the result of a bold decision taken a good six years earlier. Even before the Middle East oil embargo, Detroit began to realize that many of its cars had simply grown too big. With Washington's endless stream of safety and emissions rules, the Big Three began to wonder if fuel-economy standards wouldn't be next. Indeed, April 1973 ushered in a new mandate for vehicle window stickers showing mileage figures for city and highway driving as calculated by the recently established Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The numbers weren't very accurate at first, but the implication was clear. Then the gas crunch hit. "Almost overnight," records historian Gary Witzenburg, "fuel-efficient cars were in and gas-hogs were out, maybe forever as far as anyone knew, and Detroit wasted little time in formulating future plans for a newly fuel-conscious America."

This early "concept" sketch by Fritz Mayhew pointed the way toward 1979 Mustang styling. Note the low, slim nose tapered sharply down from the windshield.

As it happened, General Motors was already planning to "downsize" its cars, starting with 1977 full-size models. Chrysler, with far less capital, would bank on updating its popular compacts and offering smaller "captive imports" from overseas partners. Ford had different ideas. In public at least, chairman Henry Ford II staunchly defended tradition. The gas crunch was an aberration, he said. Once it passed, most Americans would again want big cars with big engines and "road-hugging weight," just as they always had. He was right -- to a point. The oil embargo was short-lived, and much of the public did swing back to big size and power.

However, keep reading to learn how the oil barons would deliver another shock even as the '79 Mustang was reaching showrooms.
As with past Mustangs, '79 styling was chosen from proposals submitted by competing teams -- three in Dearborn, plus the Ford-owned Ghia studio in Italy.

The 1979 Ford Mustang Design

Even as Henry Ford II promised to push the latest economy imports "back into the sea," his company was embarking on a bold new project intended to serve fuel efficiency in the United States and save big bucks on a global basis. Code named Fox, it was initiated in early 1973 with the aim of devising a single foundation or "platform" suitable for a variety of future Ford models in the U.S., Europe, Latin America, even Australia.
The idea was "a new corporate worldwide sport/family four/five-passenger sedan" with "imaginative packaging and component application," plus adaptability to both rear-wheel drive and the space-saving front-wheel-drive powerteams long familiar in Europe. In October 1974, project responsibility was shifted from Ford's Production Planning and Research office to the Product Development Group at North American Automotive Operations in Dearborn. Two months later, company president Lee Iacocca green-lighted a 1978 Fox-based replacement for either the little Pinto or the compact Maverick -- and a new Mustang for 1979 or later.

Though a "world car" was soon deemed incapable of satisfying the diverse needs of Ford's many global markets, the Maverick-replacing Fairmont and the new Mustang were in the works by April 1975, now with top-priority status in the wake of the oil embargo. Per recent Dearborn practice, each would have a Mercury sister, respectively the Zephyr and a new domestically built Capri.

Mustang First

The key thing, as Witzenburg notes, is that Fox development "was tailored around the Mustang's needs as a sporty, agile, European-style product…." He quoted Gordon Riggs, planning manager for light and midsize cars, who was put in charge of the overall effort on special assignment: "We said, okay, we're going to have a series of cars off of a platform as yet undefined, and what should that platform be? We decided first off that it was going to be a sporty platform, because we knew the focal point of it was really Mustang. Anything we did…to help the Mustang would probably benefit any other car we took off of it. It was not planned just for the Mustang, but the whole platform was designed to accommodate it."

Though the mass-market Fairmont/Zephyr would bow a year ahead of Mustang, designers initially worked on both models more or less together under light-car design chief Fritz Mayhew and corporate design vice-president Gene Bordinat. Because Mustang was first seen as mainly just a sporty Fairmont, early proposals were sedan-like and slab-sided, not very "Mustang" at all.

A Mustang II look evidently still had a chance well into 1976, as suggested by this full-scale model photographed in early March.

But April 1975 also ushered Jack Telnack into the program after a tour of duty as design Vice President for Ford Europe. From his new post as executive director for North American Light Car and Truck Design, he would soon put his stamp on the emerging pony car.

Another Styling Showdown

But not before another of Iacocca's intramural design contests. This one pitted Advanced Design and two other Dearborn studios against Ford's Ghia operation in Italy, where Don DeLaRossa was now in charge. All were given the same package parameters or "hard points" including length, width, wheelbase, and cowl height as the basis for sketches, clay models, and fiberglass mockups.

This time, however, quarter-scale clay models were tested for up to 136 hours in wind tunnels. That's because aerodynamics was increasingly recognized -- actually rediscovered from the lessons of Thirties streamlining -- as crucial to maximizing fuel economy, a key program goal. That, in turn, meant engineering with a keen eye on weight.

In addition, the program aimed at improved space-efficiency, meaning more interior room for a given external size, plus lower manufacturing costs through careful engineering and maximum component sharing among the various Fox-based models. Planners said the platform could be shortened somewhat for Mustang, and it was: by 5.1 inches in wheelbase, to 100.4. Mustang II engines -- 2.3-liter overhead-cam four, 2.8-liter overhead-valve V-6 and 5.0-liter/302-cubic-inch V-8 -- would be retained.

A Ghia idea, also from early '76, shows a different take on the "formal" look ultimately rejected.

Recalling 1965, curb weight was pegged at a comparatively lean 2700 pounds. The interior would be larger than Mustang II's but still planned for comfortable seating in front and "occasional" seating in back for children or smaller adults.

Like the original Mustang but unlike the II, stylists were directed to do a notchback first, then a fastback version of it. After reviewing several full-size fiberglass models, management chose the distinctive offering from Telnack's group.

Remarkably, the only changes made for production were substituting an eggcrate grille insert and adding simulated louvers behind the rear side windows. The fastback ended up with a vestigial rear deck instead of a full-sweep roofline. This shortened the hatch to reduce maximum opening height and make it easier to pull down.

The 1979 Mustang's styling was all about reducing the drag coefficient and improving mileage.

The '79 Mustang coupe shows how the design evolved into a subtle wedge: slim in front, with the hood sharply tapered from a rather high cowl.

The 1979 Ford Mustang Styling

Ford's in-house competition for the new Mustang resulted in a leaner design that emphasized aerodynamics. The result was so successful that the production model would end up looking remarkably similar to the winning design.

The Mustang's winning design team consisted of light-design chief Fritz Mayhew and executive director of design Jack Telnack. The team also included pre-production-design executive David Rees and pre-production designer Gary Haas. The shape they evolved was a subtle wedge: slim in front, with the hood sharply tapered from a rather high cowl -- actually an inch taller than that of the Fairmont/Zephyr.

"We were supposed to hold the Fairmont cowl…and radiator support," Telnack told Witzenburg, "which really stiffened the hood...made it much straighter. Bob Alexander was in charge of engineering at the time, and he had just come back from Europe, too. We had a lot of people who had just come back from Europe and who had a different feel for this type of car. We decided to pivot the hood around the air cleaner and actually raise the cowl to get the front end down. No Detroit designer ever asks to make anything higher, but we felt it was important aerodynamically to get the nose down lower. Of course, this would require a new radiator support and inner fender aprons but Gene Bordinat said to go ahead and try it."

Though all this added a sizable $1.4 million to total program cost, all involved agreed it was justified.

Witzenburg noted another advantage of Telnack's change: Drivers could see four-feet closer to the nose than in a Mustang II. Also helping "aero" -- and looks -- were a modest lip on decklids, a curved rear window on the notchback, a small spoiler built into front bumpers, and Mustang's first rectangular headlights (newly allowed by Washington), a quartet that also helped slim the nose.

"Normally we get the package hard points and adhere to them," Telnack recalled, "but we weren't accepting anything on this car as gospel." That included traditional Mustang styling signatures like the galloping grille pony and C-shaped side sculpturing. The latter was abandoned for smooth, slightly curved sides, while the horse was maintained in a small "pony tricolor" logo for a circular hood medallion just above the grille.

"Jack really wanted this car to have the impact of the original Mustang," said Fritz Mayhew, "so we [tried] to do a car that would look as different on the road as the original had. We felt, as management obviously did, that it was time for a change. We had done about as much as we could with those 1964 design cues."

Once approved, '79 styling was refined in the wind tunnel to trim air drag and thus enhance fuel economy.

Lower Cd = More MPG

The applied rear-roof slats hindered over-the-shoulder vision, but they weren't Telnack's idea. Indeed, he directed his team to always be mindful of the "form follows function" ideal. "We wanted to be as aerodynamically correct as possible before getting into the wind tunnel. In the past we have designed cars and then gone into the tunnel mainly for tuning the major surfaces that have been approved.... With the Mustang, the designers were thinking about aerodynamics in the initial sketch stages, which made the tuning job in the tunnel much easier. Consequently, we wound up with the most slippery car ever done in the Ford Motor Company: a drag coefficient [Cd] of 0.44 for the three-door fastback, 0.46 for the two-door notchback. [Aerodynamics is] probably the most cost-effective way to improve corporate average fuel economy. We know that a 10-percent [reduction] in drag can result in a five-percent improvement in fuel economy at a steady-state 50 mph....That's really worthwhile stuff for us to go after."

It's worth noting that the drag figures Telnack cited were good for the time but would soon seem mediocre. The Fox-based 1983 Thunderbird, for example, arrived with an altogether more impressive Cd of 0.35. While the difference may not seem dramatic, it represents a reduction of more than 20 percent, and shows just how quickly standards can change. Incidentally, Telnack directed that effort too.

In the end, the '79 Mustang was some 200 pounds lighter on average than Mustang II despite being slightly larger in every dimension. Keep reading to learn how Mustang designers explored the use of lightweight materials to enhance both fuel economy and performance.

Unlike the Mustang II, the '79 was designed as a notchback. The rear window was modestly curved to reduce wind resistance, one of several decisions approved by management despite higher cost.

The 1979 Ford Mustang: Materials and Features

For performance as well as fuel economy, engineers working in the 1979 Mustang used lightweight materials wherever feasible, including plastics, aluminum, and high-strength/low-alloy (HSLA) steel. A significant new plastics technology appeared in color-keyed bumper covers of soft urethane made by the reaction-injection molding (RIM) process. HSLA steel was used for rear suspension arms and the number-three frame crossmember, while aluminum featured in drivetrain components and the bumpers of some models.

Slimmer-section doors saved more pounds. So did thinner but stronger glass (even though there was more of it), a lower beltline, and taller "greenhouse" allowing much larger windows. With all this, the '79 Mustang was some 200 pounds lighter on average than Mustang II despite being slightly larger in every dimension -- quite an accomplishment for the age of downsizing.

Interior design received equally careful attention. Total volume rose by 14 cubic feet on the notchback and by 16 cubic feet on the hatchback. The thinner doors opened up 3.6 inches of front shoulder room and two inches of hip room.

Back-seat gains were even more impressive, with five inches of added shoulder width, six more inches of hip room, and more than five extra inches of leg room. Cargo volume expanded too, adding two cubic feet in the notchback and four in the hatch.

New Features, New Function

Telnack's European experience also showed up in standard full instrumentation including trip odometer, tachometer, ammeter, and oil-pressure gauge. Another "foreign" touch was the use of steering-column stalks to control wipers/washers and turn signals/headlight dimmer/horn; these came from the Fairmont/Zephyr, as did the basic dashboard and cowl structure. A third lever (on the right) adjusted a tilt steering wheel, one of several new extras.

Among other new options were an "ultra fidelity" sound system with power amplifier and, for hatchbacks, a rear-window wiper/washer. Still another first-time convenience option was a console-mounted "vehicle systems monitor." This used a Honda-style graphic display with warning lights placed on an overhead outline of the car to signal low fuel, low windshield-washer fluid, and failed headlights, taillights, or brake lamps. A pushbutton allowed checking that the display itself was working. The console also housed a quartz-crystal digital chronometer showing time, date, or elapsed time at the touch of a button.

The "New Breed" interior showed as much European influence as the exterior, with standard full instrumentation and handy steering-column stalk controls for wipers and lights.

Planners decided on three trim levels for the two body styles: standard, Sport option, and Ghia. The Mach 1 was history, but lived on in spirit with a new $1173 Cobra package for the hatchback that was virtually a separate model. Recalling the late King Cobra, this "boy racer" kit featured black-finish greenhouse trim and lower body sides, color-keyed body moldings, and an optional snake decal for the hood, plus sportier seats and cabin appointments -- and a new engine that we'll get to shortly.

Designers were hard at work updating the Mustang chassis for '79.

Mustang's basic '79 styling was the work of a team lead by Jack Telnack. Note the applied vertical slats aft of the rear side windows on this Sport Option hatchback, one of the few changes made before production.

The 1979 Ford Mustang Chassis

The 1979 Ford Mustang offered three suspension setups for broadest possible market appeal: standard, "handling," and "special," each designed for and issued with its own set of tires.

As planned, basic hardware came from the Fairmont/Zephyr, which meant switching the front end from upper A-arms to modified MacPherson-strut geometry. Unlike similar layouts in many contemporary European and Japanese cars, the coil spring here did not wrap around the strut, but mounted between a lower control arm and the body structure. This eliminated the need for an expensive spring compressor when replacing shocks.

A front antiroll bar was standard across the board, with diameter varied to suit engine weight and power. At the rear was a new "four-bar link" system, also with coil springs, lighter and more compact than Mustang II's leaf-spring Hotchkiss arrangement. V-8 cars included a rear antiroll bar that was more for lateral location than controlling sway, but it effectively lowered the car's roll center, allowing commensurately softer rear springs for ride comfort.

The basic chassis was tuned for standard 13-inch bias-ply tires. The mid-level "handling" package (just $33) came with 14-inch radials, higher-rate springs, different shock valving, stiffer bushings, and, on V-6 cars, a rear stabilizer.

The "special" suspension was engineered around Michelin's TRX metric-size radial tires, which Ford had been offering in Europe for several years on its large Granada sedans. These tires had an unusual 390mm (15.35-inch) diameter and so required matching wheels, which ended up as forged-aluminum rims with a handsome three-spoke design done in Dearborn. Priced at $117-$241 depending on model, the TRX suspension came with its own shock-absorber valving, high-rate rear springs, a thicker (1.12-inch) front stabilizer bar, and a rear bar. It was the best choice for handling, engineered "to extract maximum performance" from the 190/65R390 rubber according to puffy press releases.

Precise rack-and-pinion steering continued, but housings for both the manual and power systems were changed to weight-saving die-cast aluminum. As before, a variable-ratio rack was included with optional power assist. Brakes were again front discs and rear drums, but of slightly larger size.

The '79 Mustang had an exotic new engine option -- a turbocharged "Lima" four-cylinder engine.
The '79 Mustang's turbocharged "Lima" four-cylinder option, the heart of the racy new Cobra package, rated at 132 SAE net horsepower.

The 1979 Ford Mustang Engines

The powertrain choices for the 1979 Ford Mustang showed an intriguing new engine option. The heart of the racy new Cobra package, it was a turbocharged "Lima" four-cylinder rated at 132 SAE net horsepower against only 88 horsepower for the unblown version. Though common now, turbos were pretty exotic in the late Seventies, especially for a mass-market Detroit product.

With four-speed gearbox, the blown-four was good for a claimed 8.3 seconds in 0-55-mph acceleration (Detroit wasn't quoting 0-60s with a "double nickel" national speed limit still in force), plus mid-20s fuel economy -- an excellent compromise overall.

Turbocharging, of course, was nothing new. Like the similar supercharger, it's a simple bolt-on means to improve volumetric efficiency. A small turbine plumbed into the exhaust manifold uses exhaust gases to turn an impeller that drives a pump near the carburetor. In normal running, the turbine spins too slowly to boost exhaust-manifold pressure or affect fuel consumption. But as the throttle is opened and the engine speeds up, so does the flow rate of the exhaust gases.

The increased flow spins the turbine, which speeds up the impeller to boost the density (pressure) of the air/fuel mixture, resulting in more power. To prevent damage, engineers set maximum boost at six pounds per square inch via a "wastegate" relief valve that allowed gases to bypass the turbine once that pressure was reached.

Carryover engines weren't neglected for '79. The veteran 302 V-8, now rating 140 horsepower, gained a new low-restriction exhaust system, more lightweight components, and an accessory drive with a single "serpentine" V-belt for greater reliability. The German-made V-6 was down to 109 horsepower -- and in short supply, prompting Ford to replace it during the model year with the hoary 200-cubic-inch inline six, which now rated just 85 horsepower.

The V-8 and both sixes offered an optional four-speed gearbox developed specifically for them -- essentially the base three-speed manual with a direct-drive third gear (1:1 ratio) and an overdrive fourth (0.70:1) tacked on. Final drive ratios were 3.08:1 for automatics, four-speed V-6, and the standard four, 3.45:1 for other combinations. Three-speed Cruise-O-Matic, also carried over with minor updates, was optional at $307.

In 1979, the veteran 302 V-8, now rating 140 horsepower, gained a new low- restriction exhaust system, more lightweight components, and an accessory drive with a single "serpentine" V-belt for greater reliability.

CAFE Jitters

Significantly, the '79 Mustang bowed in the second year for CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) standards. A Congressional response to the energy crisis, this law mandated specific mpg targets for all automakers selling in the U.S. In brief, the EPA-rated fuel economy for all cars sold by a given manufacturer had to average so many miles per gallon for a given model year, initially 19 mpg, rising progressively to 27.5 mpg by 1985.

Companies whose "fleet average" fell below a yearly target were fined a set number of dollars for each 0.1-mpg infraction, multiplied by total sales for that model year. Obviously, failure to comply could be costly indeed. However, the law provided credits for exceeding a given year's target that could be used to avoid or reduce penalties for non-compliance in another year, past or future. All rather complicated -- and highly political, of course.

Still, CAFE achieved its goal of spurring Detroit to develop smaller, lighter, thriftier cars in most every size and price class. The effort took on new urgency with the onset of another energy crisis in spring 1979, when the Shah of Iran was deposed by a fundamentalist Ayatollah who cut off the country's oil exports and held Americans hostage.

But the ensuing oil shortage soon became an oil glut. That, plus a fairly quick economic rebound and the new Reagan Administration's more relaxed attitude toward restrictions on business, rendered CAFE almost meaningless by the mid-Eighties.

For the first time since 1964, a Mustang was chosen to be the Indy 500 pace car in 1979.

1979 Ford Mustang Performance

As in previous models, powerteam determined the character of any particular 1979 Mustang. The V-8 was a drag-race engine by '79 standards, doing 0-60 mph in 8-9 seconds. A V-6 still took around 11 seconds with manual four-speed, while a like-equipped turbo-four needed 11-12 seconds. The straight-six took close to 13. Standing quarter-mile times ranged from 17 seconds at 85 mph for the V-8 to 19.2 at 75 for the 200 six.
Press reaction also still depended on engine -- and who was in the driver's seat. Some writers thought the V-8 had too much power for its chassis and was out of step with gasoline prices that were starting to rise again.

Don Sherman of Car and Driver judged the V-6 Mustang as the best choice for handling by dint of "the best power-to-front-end-weight ratio." But he was also impressed with two other cars he sampled for a preview report. "The lightweight revolution has arrived in performance land. Rejoice."

The intriguing turbo-four naturally garnered much "buff book" attention. Said John Dinkel in Road & Track: "The TRX turbo would seem to be an enthusiast's delight. I just hope that the design compromises dictated by costs and the fact that Ford couldn't start with a completely clean sheet of paper don't wreck that dream.... There's no doubt the new Mustang has the potential to be the best sport coupe Ford has ever built, but in some respects [it] is as enigmatic as its predecessor."

1979 Ford Mustang Pace Car

Highlighting the Fox Mustang's debut year was its selection as Indy 500 pace car, the first Mustang so honored since 1964. Doing the deed was a colorfully striped hatchback with a special T-bar roof and a V-8 massaged by tuner extraordinaire Jack Roush to attain the Brickyard's required 120-mph minimum track speed.

As so often happens with Indy pacers, the public was offered a replica. This had the same striping, pewter/black paint scheme, unique hood and three-slat grille, and premium Recaro bucket seats, plus flip-up sunroof and a choice of turbo-four or regular V-8 engines. Race-day decals were included for dealers to apply if the customer wished. The mists of time seem to have shrouded original price, but Ford built about 11,000 of these Replicas, unusually high for the genre.

Mustang was chosen pace car for the 1979 Indy 500. Ford celebrated the honor by running off some 11,000 replica hatchbacks like this. The replicas looked much like the actual pace car but had a flip-up sunroof instead of a T-top.

Lee Iacocca Leaves Ford

In June 1978, as the 1979 model year was in full swing, Ford set industry tongues a-wagging with word that Lee Iacocca was out of a job after 32 years. Officially, he was taking early retirement (on October 15, his 54th birthday).

But many observers assumed he'd be dumped before Henry Ford II's scheduled retirement as chief executive in 1980 and as chairman in 1982. As usual, the head man didn't say much, though he reportedly told Iacocca, "It's just one of those things." Iacocca wasn't bitter, at least in public. "You just surmise that he doesn't want strong guys around," he said later.

Ironically, and as Iacocca was careful to note, June 1978 was the biggest single sales month in Ford history, capping a first half that netted the company its largest six-month profit on record. "They probably won't be at this peak again, so I guess it's a good time to go." As we know, Iacocca rode off to Chrysler, which he eventually saved from extinction.

Iacocca's successor, Philip Caldwell, was happy to count a strong 369,936 sales for the redesigned Mustang. Though that was slightly less than the Mustang II's first-year total, it bested the company's forecast of 330,000, and represented a startling 92.2-percent jump from model-year '78.

Buyers must have liked the new models, because Ford charged a lot more for them. Aggravated by stubborn period inflation, base sticker prices swelled a whopping $500-$700 -- a 15-17 percent jump -- ranging from $4071 for the four-cylinder notchback to $4824 for the Ghia hatch.

For the 1980 Mustang, designers were still concerned with fuel economy. Learn more about how the 1980 Mustang was tweaked and refined (and how performance suffered).


1977 And 1978 Ford Mustang

Open-air fiends welcomed a T-top roof with twin liftout glass panels as a new 1977 option.

The 1977 and 1978 Ford Mustang

The 1977 Ford Mustang gained a Ghia "Sports Appearance Group" keyed to black or tan paint. This featured many color-keyed items including console, three-spoke sports steering wheel, cast-aluminum wheels with chamois-color spokes, and a trunk luggage rack with hold-down straps and bright buckles.
All Mustang models now offered optional "lacy spoke" aluminum wheels in chrome or with white-painted spokes and red trim rings. A Corvette-style T-top roof with twin lift-off glass panels arrived as a fastback option. Two-toning was now available on most models.

But all this was just gilding a familiar lily, and Mustang II model-year sales skidded to 153,173 units. Another 8481 were built to '77 specs but sold as "interim" '78's to get around a temporary emissions-related regulatory snag.

All Hail the King Cobra

Ford apparently didn't track Cobra II installations, and in retrospect the package symbolizes the dreary "paint-on performance" that was about all Detroit could offer in the Seventies. Even so, the Cobra II proved quite popular and was continued. Moreover, its success prompted vice president Gene Bordinat to set his designers working on an even more hard-core fastback package. It arrived with the "real" '78's as -- what else? -- the King Cobra.

A giant snake decal on the hood seemed rather '70's psychedelic, but the King Cobra wasn't entirely for show.

Priced at $1253, the ensemble put a huge snake decal on the hood and tape stripes on the roof, rear deck, rocker panels and A-pillars, around the wheel wells, and on the standard front air dam. "King Cobra" was writ large on each door, the air dam, and a standard rear spoiler. Grille, window moldings, headlamp bezels, and wiper arms all got the "blackout" treatment, while the dash got another dose of brushed-aluminum trim.
Happily, Ford also threw in the 302 V-8, plus power steering, the handling-oriented Rallye Package, and Goodrich 70-series T/A radial tires. It was only fair, given all that bold advertising. The result was eye-catching if nothing else. The typical King needed about 17 seconds in the standing quarter-mile, hardly "high performance" in the traditional sense, but about as hot as you could get at the time.

The King Cobra was chosen over an "IMSA Cobra" package suggested by Wangers and patterned on the Charlie Kemp racer. Instead, Ford added a stealthy $163 Rallye Appearance Package that adorned fastbacks with gold accents against black paint, plus color-coordinated cloth upholstery.

A 302-cubic-inch V-8 and handling-oriented suspension were included in the $1253 asking price of the King Cobra package.

All '78s benefited from a standard electronic voltage regulator and, with optional power steering, variable-ratio gearing (replacing fixed-ratio). The Ghia adopted "Wilshire" cloth seating. A new Fashion Accessory Package spruced-up the standard notchback by adding door pockets, striped fabric upholstery, lighted vanity mirror, and four-way manual driver's seat, all clearly aimed at women buyers.

Fortunately, such sexist appeals were on the way out. Otherwise, 1978 was a quiet year for Mustang II. It was also the last, yet sales jumped to 192,410, helped by an economy now fully recovered from the gas crunch.

Despite its popularity when new, the Mustang II has few fans today. Its styling has not aged gracefully, and many find its "less pony car" nature an unhappy reminder of an unhappy era for American automobiles. But the Mustang II kept the pony car spirit alive in the face of those very rough times, thus paving the way for even better Mustangs. That's no small achievement and reason enough to respect Iacocca's "little jewel."


1976 Ford Mustangs

Purists blanched when Ford added the Shelby-like Cobra II package for '76 fastbacks, but the option proved quite popular.

The 1976 Ford Mustang

Sales of the 1976 Ford Mustang totaled 187,567, helped in this bicentennial year by introduction of a trim option evoking the late, great Shelby-Mustangs. Called "Cobra II" and available for fastbacks only, it was suggested by Jim Wangers, the advertising whiz who'd helped create the legendary GTO for Pontiac in the early 1960's.

Wangers sold Ford on the Cobra II idea with the understanding that a company he owned, Motortown, would manufacture most of the package's styling add-ons and install them at its small plant near the Dearborn Mustang factory.

The Cobra II debuted as a $325 option, but another $287 was required for a "Cobra II modification package" to ready the stock fastback for all kinds of extra stuff. Immediately apparent were louvered covers on the rear-quarter-windows, a front air dam, a rear spoiler, and a simulated hood air scoop.

Also included were a "blackout" grille, styled-steel wheels with trim rings and radial tires, and bold model badges. Broad Shelby-style racing stripes were applied to the hood, roof, trunklid, and rocker panels in either blue against white paint or gold over black. Other color combinations were added in subsequent model years. The interior was spruced up with a sports steering wheel and brushed-aluminum accents, plus dual remote-control door mirrors.

The Cobra II option did nothing for acceleration, making it a product of its time.

Purists laughed at the Cobra II, especially with the stock four-cylinder engine, but historian Gary Witzenburg observed that "properly equipped, the thing actually performed pretty well by 1976 standards." Incidentally, the option was available for the Mach 1 as well as the base fastback, making a car so equipped a Mustang II Mach 1 Cobra II.

Nobody laughed when road racer Charlie Kemp ran a wildly modified fastback in the International Motor Sports Association (IMSA) GT class during 1976. Though far from stock and not blessed by Ford, it looked enough like a Cobra II to cheer Blue Oval partisans. Unhappily for them, Kemp's car was competitively fast but unreliable and often ended up in the DNF (did not finish) column. It scored no victories in one of the Mustang II's few attempts at competition.

The Stallion package, another new '76 dressup kit, also did nothing for acceleration but arguably made the fastback look faster.

No less subtle than the Cobra II was the Stallion, another all-show/no-go 1976 package that was also offered (in slightly different forms) for that year's Pintos and Mavericks. Again restricted to fastbacks, it delivered acres of black paint on hood and roof, silver elsewhere, and forged-aluminum wheels, all set off by snorting horse's-head front-fender decals. One other bit of '76 news involved the Ghia moonroof, which was now optional for other models and with either silver or brown tint.

The next two models years also had some showy packages, but performance and open-air driving also made a return.


1975 Ford Mustangs

Grilles on all '75s wore large eggcrates, a change made partly to accommodate that year's revived 302 V-8 offering. This Ghia shows "opera" rear windows.

The 1975 Ford Mustang

Ford had ushered in a new era of Mustangs in 1974 with its smaller, more upscale Mustang II redesign.
Among changes in the second model year, the 1975 Ghia hardtop model added a flip-up glass "moonroof" option ($422) and a $151 Silver Luxury Group with cranberry-color crushed-velour upholstery, silver paint, matching half-vinyl top, and standup hood ornament. At the same time, Ghia rear-quarter glass was abbreviated into "opera" windows, a popular luxury-car styling fad of the day.

A fold-down rear seat was now standard for fastbacks, and cast-aluminum wheels and steel-belted radial tires were newly optional across the board. So was an "extended-range" (17-gallon) fuel tank ($18), a tacit admission that even these radically "downsized" Mustangs were rather thirsty. Mid-model year brought partial relief in a special "MPG" notchback and fastback with catalytic converter, which eliminated the need for some add-on emissions hardware and allowed engine retuning for better mileage and drivability. The MPG models then vanished, though not their "cat con."

But the big news for '75 was the return of V-8 power, answering customer pleas for more performance. Optional through '78, this was, of course, the familiar small-block 302-cubic-inch unit, initially tuned for 122 net horsepower, then 139.

Small front-fender emblems identified V-8-equipped cars like this Mach 1.

Unlike many second-year updates, this one was quite involved. As product development vice president Harold McDonald told historian Gary Witzenburg: "We had a very difficult time…because there hadn't been provision made for [a V-8]…The hood had to be much longer and a half-inch higher for clearance, we had to change the radiator support and move the radiator forward three inches, change things along the firewall, beef up [the frame] and mount the engine differently…but we didn't have to move the tread or change suspension mounting points."

However, springs, brakes and other components were beefed up to handle the heavier V-8, and all models regardless of engine wore larger grille eggcrates.

Mustang II Meets Monza

Others were bound to follow Ford's lead, and Mustang II got new competition for 1975 in Chevy's Monza 2+2, a sporty version of the bow-tie brand's subcompact Vega. Monza's optional 4.3-liter (262-cid) V-8 looked no match for Mustang's "5.0," and in straight-line acceleration it wasn't. Yet after a two-car shootout, Road & Track recommended the Chevy for its fresh, Ferrari-like styling and comfort, ride, handling, and fuel economy that were all judged superior to the Ford's.

Others were bound to follow Ford's lead, and Mustang II got new competition for 1975 in Chevy's Monza 2+2, a sporty version of the bow-tie brand's subcompact Vega. Monza's optional 4.3-liter (262-cid) V-8 looked no match for Mustang's "5.0," and in straight-line acceleration it wasn't. Yet after a two-car shootout, Road & Track recommended the Chevy for its fresh, Ferrari-like styling and comfort, ride, handling, and fuel economy that were all judged superior to the Ford's.

A year earlier, reporting on a four-speed Mach 1, R&T said "it would be unrealistic to expect Ford of Dearborn to produce a European-type sporty car. Instead they've come up with a distinctively American interpretation of a sporty compact…[T]he car's great weight and poor balance make some [functional] options virtually necessary…[But] if you're not bothered by such considerations, [Mustang II] is solid, well-built, quiet and plush -- and not at all unpleasant to drive…as long as you don't ask too much of it."
Road & Track said the 1975 Mustang was quiet and plush.

Though gas started flowing freely again in March 1974, a slow economic recovery depressed auto sales into model-year '75. Mustang II was not immune, volume dropping over 50 percent to 188,575. Yet even that was far more encouraging -- and profitable -- than the tepid pace of 1971-73.

Sales were buoyed in 1976, in part by the popular Cobra II.


1974 Ford Mustangs
1974 Ford Mustang

1974 Ford Mustang Mach 1
“The top engine on the 1974 Mustang II was a 2.8-liter Cologne V-6, which was evil portent enough, but Ford’s product planners still stuck with the Mach 1 tag. Thankfully they quickly realized the error of their ways and shoehorned a (strangled, but still real) V-8 in there. But it was done, and of such things are horrible reputations made.”

1974 Ford Mustang II Mach I

1974 Ford Mustang II Mach I

1974 Ford Mustang
1974 Ford Mustang Cobra II
pictures of classic cars
Lee Iacocca, brain behind both cars, stands with a Mustang II and a '65 hardtop (rear) in a press photo designed to drum up interest for the new car.

The 1974 Ford Mustang, a dramatically smaller, lighter design, marked a fresh start for America's original pony car. It was the brainchild of Lee Iacocca, who fathered the first Mustang a decade earlier. Appropriately named Mustang II, the car eventually would be seen as a low point in Mustang's proud history. But that's certainly not the way it started out.

Success often stems as much from common sense and dumb luck as from cleverness and hard work. The Mustang II is a case in point. As the smallest, lightest Mustang since the original, it was a fresh start for Ford's pony car and a refreshing return to rationality. And it couldn't have been better timed, introduced just two months before the first "Energy Crisis" upended America. People came in droves to see the Mustang II -- and to buy.

First-year sales were a smashing 385,993 cars, within 10 percent of the original Mustang's 12-month production record of 418,812. Of course, the Mustang II was in the works long before the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) decided to squeeze world oil supplies. That it appeared at virtually the same time was mere coincidence, though a lucky break for Ford.

In several ways, the Mustang II shows how history repeats itself in the automotive world. For starters, Lee Iaccoca just knew the market was ready for it in the same way he suspected the original Mustang was the right car for its time. Pony cars were falling from favor by 1970, with many buyers turning to lower-priced, fuel-efficient compacts like Ford's own Maverick -- a huge first-year success itself.

But Americans were also turning on to sporty 2+2 import coupes like Ford's own British/German Capri, which bowed in April 1970 to good reviews and strong initial demand. Another "captive import," GM's German-built Opel Manta, was selling well, and the Toyota Celica was more popular still. In 1965 such "mini-pony cars" attracted fewer than 100,000 sales, but by 1972 were up to around 300,000 -- and expected to go above 400,000 by '74. Mustang II's mission was to capture a big slice of this sizable new pie.Ford design vice president Eugene Bordinat gave full credit to Iacocca for the Mustang II: "He was the first guy to come along at Ford who had the feeling for cars that had existed in General Motors for some time." For his part, Iacocca observed: "When I look at the foreign-car market and see that one in five is a sporty car, I know something's happening. Look at what the Celica started to do before the two devaluations [of the dollar] nailed it! Anyone who decides to sit this out just ain't gonna dance!"But Ford didn't start out to start over. The Mustang II program actually dates from around the middle of 1969, when work began on what was then simply the next Mustang. With muscle-car mania still raging, first thoughts inevitably centered on larger, heavier-looking designs, reflecting Ford's belief that buyers would still want roomy, "impressive" pony cars in the mid-Seventies.In fact, early proposals were even more hulking than the '71 Mustang then nearing completion. But by the time Iacocca became Ford Motor Company president in 1970, the bottom had dropped out of the pony car market, and the imported Capri -- which Iacocca said was more like the original "than any Mustang we have today" -- was doing solid business at Lincoln-Mercury dealers.Iacocca had never liked Bunkie Knudsen's '71 Mustang, and it wasn't just because the man who backed it had been favored with the president's chair. Iacocca had been troubled by Mustang's course since 1966. He wasn't alone.As author Gary Witzenburg related, the grumbling had been going on at least since 1968. At that year's stockholders meeting, one Anna Muccioli, who owned a '65 Mustang, rose to ask Henry Ford II: "Why can't you just leave a small car small?…You keep blowing them up and starting another little one, blow that one up and start another one…Why don't you just leave them?"

Mustang II didn't start out as a much-smaller pony carbut as an even bigger next Mustang.

To her likely surprise, the chairman said he agreed. "Hopefully we will keep in mind what you say here and, hopefully, we will have a product that will be satisfactory to you."

In one nod to the past, Iacocca instituted an in-house design competition to develop the next Mustang.

The 1974 Ford Mustang: Design Competition

In November 1969, less than two months after Henry Ford II fired Bunkie Knudsen as Ford president, new chief Lee Iacocca voiced his own concerns to a group of top-level Ford executives at the toney Greenbrier Resort in West Virginia.

According to author Gary Witzenburg, this meeting quickly led to "top-priority plans to build a new sporty small car for the 1974 model year based on…the Maverick shell. A second program, codenamed 'Arizona,' was to investigate an upmarket variation on the upcoming '71 Pinto subcompact for 1975."

Both programs were turned over to Nat Adamson, manager of advanced product planning, who recalled that the Maverick-based car, code named "Ohio," was initially favored. "The Maverick then seemed like a very small car to us," he told Witzenburg, "especially when we compared it to that year's much bigger and longer Mustang. And the Maverick was selling very well at the time."

But the smaller Arizona got priority when three concept models "tested" well against contemporary sports cars in two Southern California consumer showings. It was the first sign the public might go for something even smaller than the original Mustang.

The June 1969 "Apex" was one of the earliest attempts at a downsized Mustang.

But neither of these programs produced anything that satisfied Iacocca, design vice president Eugene Bordinat, or Advanced Design chief Don DeLaRossa. Ohio proposals ended up blowsy and staid, while initial Arizona designs looked like the restyled Pintos they were.

An Assist From Ghia

But then, in November 1970, Ford acquired a controlling interest in Ghia of Italy, and Iacocca wasted no time in asking the famed coachbuilder to submit concepts for his new small sporty car. With typical dispatch, Ghia sent over a running prototype in just 53 days, a sloped-nose red-and-black fastback that Iacocca himself drove to and from work.

It greatly accelerated the drive toward the eventual Mustang II. "Aside from the new slant on styling that it gave us," Iacocca said later, "the quick delivery of that real, live, drivable sample...coalesced our thinking and gave us something tangible to look at and argue about early in the game, an experience that I had never had before in my career in the company.... It was a great early boost for the whole program."

Several months later, Ghia offered a second running prototype, a trim notchback with an airy "pagoda" roof a la Mercedes SL and bodyside sculpturing like that of the first Mustang. This, too, would stimulate Dearborn design thinking.

Raising Arizona

Around July 1971, management decided to abandon the Ohio car and moved up Adamson's preferred Arizona to 1974. These were key decisions, because they effectively ruled out using Ford's long-serving inline six-cylinder engine.

Bordinat recalled that DeLaRossa "put his studio to work on a clay model showing how big the Mustang would have to be to accommodate that big I-6 engine. He got me to call Lee over for a look at it. Don became, shall we say, very forthright and told Lee that if we really wanted to make a smaller car, we had better start with a smaller engine because this one with this engine in it was getting bigger even before it was designed. Lee agreed with us and that was the end of the I-6. The next thing we heard was that the choice of engines would be a new small 2.3-liter four-cylinder and a larger-displacement version of the German Capri V-6, so we were able to get down to making the rest of the car smaller too."

Still, there was no early consensus on how much smaller the new Mustang should be, though it obviously had to shrink from 1971-73 size. There was also debate over whether to offer a notchback, a fastback, or a blend of both.

The second of two prototypes from Italian coachbuilder Ghia revived Mustang's original bodyside sculpturing.

In another echo of the original Mustang program, Iacocca staged an intramural design competition to get things rolling. "Lee thinks that pitting our guys against each other breeds our best stuff," Bordinat told Witzenburg. "I've tried to disagree with him, but every time we do it, we get an exceptionally good car."
This contest, begun in August 1971 and ultimately lasting three months, pitted the Ford and Lincoln-Mercury production studios against DeLaRossa's Advanced Design group and the Interior Studio under L. David Ash. Talk about "back to the future." Even many of the key players were the same as 10 years before.
This design competition was as heated as the first.

The September 1971 fastback that would become Mustang II wasn't Ghia's, but it showed the Italian coachbuilder's influence.

The 1974 Ford Mustang: The Winning Design

Ford President Lee Iacocca, looking to recapture the vibe of the first Ford Mustang for Mustang II, reinstituted the in-house design competition that produced the '65 model.

Once again, rival teams worked from an idea clearly defined by Iacocca: "The new Mustang must be small, with a wheelbase between 96 and 100 inches. It must be a sporty notchback and/or fastback coupe; the convertible is dead and can be forgotten. He'd later think otherwise at Chrysler. It must come as standard with a four-speed manual gearbox and a four-cylinder or small six-cylinder engine. Most important, it must be luxurious -- upholstered in quality materials and carefully built." At one point, Iacocca declared "the 1974 Mustang will have to be…a little jewel."

According to Ben Bidwell, then chief program product planner (he became Ford Division general manager in 1973 and was later Chrysler president under Iacocca), high quality was a must for Ford's president: "He will be out there in the showroom and he'll run his finger around the molding, and if it so much as scrapes him, some poor son of a gun will get it."

Of course, Iacocca also took a keen interest in Mustang II styling. As corporate planning chief Hal Sperlich recalled: "He was planning an entirely new kind of domestic car for a different kind of customer, so naturally he wanted it to look different from other cars on the market; different from the Mustangs of 1971, 1972, and 1973; different from the Pinto and different from the Capri, too."

All this ultimately came down to a late-November management review of five full-size clay models, one notchback and four fastbacks. The easy winner was a fastback from the Lincoln-Mercury group under Al Mueller. Like Joe Oros before him, he painted his clay -- in an eye-catching persimmon, not white -- so it would stand out and improve his team's chances.

As Mueller recalled for author Gary Witzenburg: "Mr. Iacocca's procedure at these showings usually is the same. He walks around the cars a few times and listens to the comments of others. Then he says exactly what he thinks -- either pro or con. He really flipped over our fastback. His cigar must have rolled around three times."

Lee Iacocca enthusiastically declared that Mustang II would "turn the small-car market on its ear".

But though surprisingly little altered for production, the design got mixed press reviews, and some critics felt that the notchback derived from it was a hodge-podge. The fastback was considered more handsome, though it wasn't a "classic" shape like the '65 Mustang. It was, however, more practical by dint of its European-style lift-up rear "door," a first for a Mustang and another boost for the popularity of hatchback body styles in America.

First-Class Cabin

Interior design was less debated, though no less involved. Forsaking usual design practice, studio chief Dave Ash decided to make his "seating buck" unusually realistic to convey a sense of being in a real automobile. He even attached exterior sheetmetal and four wheels.

"It was a time-consuming thing to build," he said later, "but it served its purpose very well. We didn't have to go through an elaborate series of meetings to determine everything. It was all approved right here. We were on a crash basis to get it done, and it was very enthusiastically received."

Ash later confessed that his team was partly inspired by the likes of Jaguar, Rolls-Royce, and Mercedes. "We put everything in that we could conceive of that connotes restrained elegance, plus the get-up-and-go that says Mustang -- something of a fire breather.... It's a kind of a mini T-Bird."

The posh Ghia interior, with its wood-tone dash accents and luxury carpeting, fit with Iacocca's vision of Mustang II as "a little jewel".

Unlike the massive, heavily sculptured twin-cowl instrument panels of 1969-73, the Mustang II panel was dominated by a simple large oblong directly ahead of the driver. This put all controls close at hand, yet still had room for all necessary warning lights and instruments. Surprisingly, the latter included a standard tachometer, temperature gauge, and ammeter.

Seats were initially covered in pleated cloth, vinyl, or optional leather -- unusually plush for a small car. They had no rake adjustment, cited as a literal sore point by some road-testers, but were definitely more comfortable than previous Mustang seats.

Rear legroom was limited, but the new car was seen as being used primarily by one or two adults who would sit in the front. Back-seat room would be sufficient only for a couple of small children or for an adult passenger to be comfortable for a short time. Another echo of Ford's first pony car.

The winning design was a fastback, but two body styles would be offered.

The trim Anaheim prototype convinced Ford president Lee Iacocca to offer a notchback body style as well as a fastback.

The 1974 Ford Mustang: Notchback by Default

How the notchback version of the 1974 Ford Mustang came into being is in fact an interesting lesson in corporate decision-making, and in the challenges facing those who have to execute those decisions.
The notchback concept shown at a November 1971 executive review of design concepts, submitted by Advanced Design chief Don DeLaRossa's troops, had been nicknamed "Anaheim" after it bombed at a September consumer clinic in Disneyland's hometown.

But Iacocca, suspecting researchers had missed something, decided to give it one last chance at a San Francisco session in February 1972. Reaction was positive, so it was decided to do a "trunked" version of the approved fastback -- this with barely 16 months left before production was scheduled to start. "It seems we go through that with every Mustang program," said Jack Telnack, who later replaced Eugene Bordinat as company design chief. "We always start with the fastback.... Then we find out the surveys still say fifty-fifty [preference] and we have to add the notchback."

But Iacocca liked the idea of a notchback better than he liked the Anaheim concept, and that specific model was turned down.

DeLaRossa long maintained the Anaheim should have been chosen as the theme model. As he later told author Gary Witzenburg: "If we wanted to design a modern second generation of Mustangs, why not recapture some of the flavor of the famous original model of 1965? That was a notchback. The fastback Mustangs were offshoots that came in later." He could have added that the notchback had always outsold the fastback, something that may have occurred to Iacocca too.

In any case, Iacocca certainly knew the sales necessity of having two body types, and he'd liked the Anaheim from the first, though maybe not as much as the Mueller fastback. Interestingly, Ford also investigated a cut-down two-seat fastback in February '72, but it was never seriously in the running.

DeLaRossa recalled that, "When we started the Mustang II, I said to Lee Iacocca that we should not forget the original Mustang was a notchback -- that was followed with a fastback -- so let's not do a fastback first. Let's do the notchback first. My recollection is that that made sense to him. So I got to work on a notchback right away at Ghia, and a version of it in Dearborn.

Iacocca told design exec Don DeLaRossa that the Anaheim concept was too much of a departure from the Mustang.

"When Lee saw the Anaheim," DeLaRossa continued, "he said to me, 'It's terrific, but it doesn't have enough 'Mustang' in it. It's almost like it's too modern, too much of a departure.' And much to my chagrin, there was a young designer, Fritz Mayhew, who embarks on doing a fastback.

"It was very attractive. And damned if Lee didn't buy it. A 180 degrees from what we had talked about. So then all hell broke loose trying to make a notchback out of that car. There was no way, and that accounts for the strange look of the Mustang II notchback. It never looked right. The C-pillar looked like a tree trunk growing out of the quarter panel.

"The Mustang II was a mild success and just hung around," DeLaRossa concluded. "I had trouble adjusting to that. I think the car I did would have been gangbusters, but that's life in the creative business."

When it hit showrooms, the 1974 Mustang was noticeably smaller than its predecessor.

A "mouthy" grille, C-shaped side sculpturing, and other elements linked the new Mustang II fastback to the '65 original.

The 1974 Ford Mustang

Though it retained the signature long-hood/short-deck proportions, Mustang II was visibly smaller than the original. The real target was sporty import coupes. Against the '65 it was nearly six inches shorter in wheelbase (at 94.2 inches), 6.6 inches shorter overall (at 175.0), two inches slimmer (68.2), and 1.1 inches lower (49.9).

There were dramatic differences against the bulky 1971-73 models, the II being some 20 inches shorter overall, nearly 13 inches trimmer between wheel centers, four inches narrower, an inch lower, and -- the important part -- lighter by a whopping 400-500 pounds. The increasingly popular Toyota Celica had a 1.3-inch longer wheelbase than Mustang II but was 11.1 inches shorter, 5.2 inches slimmer, and 2.5 inches taller.

To prepare the public for Mustang II, Ford ran up a lightly disguised concept version as a 1973 auto-show attraction. Called Sportiva II, it was essentially the production car recast as a "targa" convertible, with a fixed rollover bar between removable roof sections. It would have been a great showroom lure, but the ragtop market had collapsed and Iacocca had ruled out a new open Mustang -- another break with the past.

Note the new "cantering" horse logo alongside the Ghia notchback  in this Mustang II brochure.

This left a base-trim notchback and fastback, a sportier Mach 1 fastback, and a vinyl-topped Ghia coupe, replacing Grande as the luxury model. All were fixed-pillar styles, not pillarless designs. Fastbacks offered flip-out rear-quarter windows as a $29 option.

Not Just a Sporty Pinto

At announcement time, some observers suggested Mustang II was just a sportier Pinto. Of course, that was how it started. And sure enough, a good many components were shared. Even wheelbase was the same.
But the Pinto was actually upgraded for '74 to take advantage of components and features designed for Mustang II. For example, both models employed unit construction -- another first for the pony car -- and shared a basic coil-spring front suspension with unequal-length upper and lower arms.

For the Mustang, however, the lower arms as well as the drivetrain were cradled by a U-shaped rubber-mounted subframe; the Pinto's front suspension bolted directly to the main structure. The subframe, a brainstorm from program engineers Bob Negstad and Jim Kennedy, greatly reduced road shock and driveline vibration reaching the cabin. It also contributed to more precise steering and a smoother ride versus the Pinto.

Stingy company accountants approved the added expense in light of the Mustang's planned higher selling price. Witzenburg notes the "toilet seat" (as the subframe was known internally) "came to be regarded as the single most important component of the Mustang II chassis."

The Sportiva II concept previewed the Mustang II at 1973 auto shows, but in a "targa" convertible style that would not see production.

There were other differences, too. For example, Mustang II shared the Pinto's rack-and-pinion steering but mounted it differently, again to minimize shock, and offered optional power assist (which Pinto did not at the time). At the rear, Mustang leaf springs were two inches longer than Pinto's, and shock absorbers were staggered as in previous high-performance Mustangs.

Spring rates were computer-calculated to match each particular car's equipment and weight. The Ghia notchback, for example, came with very soft settings, while the optional competition suspension had the stiffest springs, along with a thicker front antiroll bar, a rear bar, and Gabriel adjustable shock absorbers.

The 1974 Mustang was available with V-6 or four-cylinder power.

No V-8 was offered on the initial 1974 Ford Mustang.

1974 Ford Mustang Engines and Options

Ford President Lee Iacocca masterminded the Mustang II, creating a smaller, more fuel-efficient car to compete with sporty imports. Iacocca had eliminated the straight-line six-cylinder engine in favor of a more compact V-6, and per his edict, engineers gave no thought to providing a V-8 engine, a break with Mustang tradition -- and something Ford would soon regret.

Initial engine choices comprised a new 2.3-liter (140-cubic-inch) single-overhead-cam inline four-cylinder and a 2.8-liter enlargement of the Capri's overhead-valve V-6. The four, sometimes called the "Lima" engine after the Lima, Ohio, plant that supplied it, was the first American-built engine designed to metric dimensions. That wasn't surprising. Originally slated for some of Ford's larger European cars, it was actually a bored-and-stroked version of the Pinto 2.0-liter.

A novel feature was "monolithic engine timing." After each engine was assembled, an electronic device hooked to a computer was connected to two engine sensors, an indicator point at the rear of the crankshaft and an electrical terminal between the distributor and coil. The computer compared readings from each sensor, then set timing automatically by means of a distributor adjustment. The computer's high degree of precision made this technique very useful for meeting increasingly tough emission standards.

The V-6 was basically the same engine offered in U.S.-market Capris from 1972. It used the same camshaft, valvetrain, pushrods, and distributor as its European parent but was bored and stroked for American service, capacity increasing from 2.6 liters (155 cid) to 2.8 (171 cid). At the same time, Ford switched from siamesed to separate exhaust ports for improved performance and thermal efficiency.

Supplied only with dual exhausts, the V-6 was optional for any Mustang II save the Mach 1 hatchback, where it was standard. Like early 2.0-liter Pinto fours, it was imported from Ford's West German subsidiary in Cologne.

Mustang II offered four basic models, shown here as pictured on the back cover of the 1974 sales brochure.

The Mustang II's standard four-speed gearbox was basically the four-speed unit from the British Ford Cortina as used in the Pinto but strengthened to handle the Mustang's more powerful engines. Of course, SelectShift Cruise-O-Matic was available (at $212). Brakes were usefully upgraded to standard 9.3-inch front discs and 9 x 1.75-inch rear drums.

Predictably, most Mustang IIs exhibited "American" ride and handling characteristics. The Mach 1 was both more capable and entertaining with its standard V-6 ($299 extra on other models), but no '74 Mustang II was Sixties speedy. The car was heavy for its size (curb weight was a porky 2650-2900 pounds), so a V-6 with four-speed would do 0-60 mph in a lackluster 13-14 seconds and reach only about 100 mph, a far cry from the Boss and big-block days.

As if to signal the reduced performance, the trademark running-horse emblem became a less muscular steed that seemed to be cantering. It was created by interior designer Charles Keresztes, inspired by the work of noted Western artist Frederic Remington.

Less for More?

Despite its terrific first-year sales (and winning Motor Trend's 1974 "Car of the Year" award), the Mustang II wasn't an instant hit. With the economy still beset by "stagflation," early buyers favored low-priced models with few frills, whereas Ford production planning had assumed just the opposite.

Demand picked up pace once the oil embargo hit and long lines formed at gas pumps. Ford fast adjusted the model mix, but some sales were probably lost anyway because Mustang II looked to some people like less car for more money.

The price escalation was certainly dramatic, even allowing for the "little jewel's" extra standard equipment. The base coupe started the year at $3081, up $321 from its '73 counterpart -- which came with a six-cylinder engine, not a four. The fastback was up $455 to $3275, the $3427 Ghia was $481 costlier than the last Grande, and the V-6 Mach 1, at $3621, was up $533 from its V-8 predecessor. Though prices would go even higher, sales held up quite well through end-of-the-line '78.

envisioned a luxury fastback with Ghia-level appointments.

Options were fewer than in recent years, but more than sufficient. Besides air conditioning ($383) and various radios and tape players, the '74 list showed power steering ($106), power brakes ($45), tilt/takeout sunroof ($149), antitheft alarm ($75), console ($43), electric rear-window defroster ($59), rocker-panel trim, protective bodyside moldings, fold-down rear seat ($61), and "Glamour Paint."

A $100 Luxury Interior Group for base cars and Mach 1 delivered most of the Ghia's upscale appointments; its extra noise insulation was available for other models in a "Super Sound" package ($22). All models offered a Convenience Group (dual door mirrors and such), a Light Group (courtesy lamps and extra warning lights), and a new Maintenance Group ($44) with a shop manual, basic tools, fire extinguisher, and other items for roadside emergencies.

Tempting enthusiasts were Traction-Lok differential ($45) and the comp suspension (only $37) with adjustable shock absorbers, wider tires, and rear antiroll bar. These items were also part of a V-6 Rallye Package along with heavy-duty cooling, chrome exhaust tips, raised-white-letter tires on styled-steel wheels, twin remote-adjustable door mirrors, leather-rim steering wheel, and quartz digital clock.

The biggest option for 1975 was the return of the V-8 engine.

1973 Ford Mustangs

Photo of a 1973 Ford Mustang Convertible (Mustang Sally)

1973 Ford Mustang Convertible


1973 Ford Mustang Mach 1 Fastback

1973 Ford Mustang Mach 1

1973 Ford Mustang Convertible

1973 Mustang Ad


The '73 Mustang convertible dresses up with optional polished aluminum wheels and Mach-style twin-scoop hood.

The 1973 Ford Mustang

The 1973 Ford Mustang brought the pony car into the final model year of fourth generation. It was still its hefty self, but somehow it picked up some 10,000 sales, to nearly 135,000. The convertible, now the only drop top in the Ford line, soared a resounding 85 percent to 11,853 units, perhaps because Ford announced that it would not return the following year. As we know, the ragtop Mustang would be back, but not for another decade.

The federal government now required front bumpers to sustain low-speed shunts without damage. Though Ford and other automakers met the rule with some pretty awful-looking cowcatchers, Mustang fared quite well, as body-color bumpers were now standard for all models and stuck out only a little more. The bumpers absorbed energy through an I-beam mounting bar with a box-section bracket attached to two longitudinal rubber blocks that gave way on impact, then bounced back to original position.

Elsewhere, base models and the Grande got a grille insert with larger eggcrates, and parking lights on all '73s migrated from beneath the bumper to within the grille, where they were stood on end to resemble running lamps. The usual trim shuffles occurred, and Grabber colors were dropped in favor of quieter "Ember Glow" metallics.

The Sprint package was forgotten, but base models could now mimic Mach 1 via an optional Decor Group ($51) and, for the first time, a twin-scoop hood. Two-tone hood paint in matte-finish black or silver was again sold separately ($35). A functional ram-air hood remained optional with the two-barrel 351 only (at $58). Steel-belted radial tires joined the options list, where snazzy polished aluminum wheels ($111-$142) replaced the familiar styled-steel Magnum 500s. Fastbacks now offered an optional vinyl covering for the front three-quarters of the roof ($52). The Mach 1 got a revised honeycomb grille texture and new lower-body striping. The uptown Grande hardtop now included a useful parking-brake warning light. As it had since '71, the Grande came with a "halo" vinyl roof, so-called because the covering left a slim band of body color around the side windows.

The Grande interior was quite posh, considering the Grande model's reasonable $2946 base price.

To meet new limits on oxides of nitrogen (NOx), all 1973 Ford Mustang engines got a revamped emissions-
control system with positive crankcase ventilation and exhaust-gas recirculation. The EGR routed gases from the exhaust manifold through a vacuum valve into the carburetor to be diluted by the incoming fuel/air mixture. This permitted leaner carburetor settings but also diminished horsepower except on the 302 V-8 and 250 six. The two-barrel 351 sunk to 173 net horsepower, the four-barrel version to 259. As noted earlier, the 351 HO got the heave-ho, a victim of weak demand and too much required finagling to satisfy the federal air marshals. Equally disheartening, four-speed manual was now limited to the 4V 351, and automatic was mandatory with the two-barrel unit (though most buyers ordered that anyway).

In other technical news for '73, power front-disc brakes were newly standard with either 351 V-8 and for all convertibles, and both disc and drum brakes were enlarged for cars without power assist. Interiors adopted flame-retardant materials to meet a gruesome new federal "burn rate" standard (four inches per minute), and some hardware was redesigned to be less injurious.

Prices went up a bit for '73. With six-cylinder engine the hardtop started at $2760, the fastback at $2820, the ragtop at $3102, Grande at $2946, and Mach 1 at $3088. Mach excepted, the 302 V-8 added $87.

Time to Start Over

Thus endeth "Bunkie's Mustang, the one that looked like it hit the wall," as Ford marketing exec Hal Sperlich derisively termed it. Knudsen, of course, was long gone by 1973, but many in Dearborn were still mighty unhappy with the Mustang he left behind. Said design vice-president Eugene Bordinat: "We started out with a secretary car and all of a sudden we had a behemoth." Lee Iacocca was even more displeased. "I've said it a hundred times and I'll say it again. The Mustang market never left us, we left it," he declared years later. "If we hadn't gone nuts and put the Boss 429 engine in, the car never would have grown in size. That was what triggered it out of the small-car world -- performance, performance, performance!"
Though 1971-73 Mustangs are often criticized for excessive nose-plowing understeer, especially in tight corners, sportier models like the Mach 1 could be reasonably agile for their size and heft.

But Mustang was about to rejoin the world of sensible sportiness, thanks to Iacocca's push for an entirely new car in the spirit of the original mid-Sixties blockbuster. Though this one would be no less controversial in its way than the 1971, 1972, and 1973 models, Iacocca's new brainchild, for better or worse, was going back to basics for a brave but battered new automotive world.