The Ford Mustang II is an important piece of motoring history. No, really. Many people consider this car to embody the worst of the Malaise Era: too small, too slow, too poorly built. I believe we need to look at the Mustang II illuminated in the era it was born to understand why it exists, and why it is actually a cool car.
The photos for this article were all supplied by a reader from the Miata.net car talk community who calls himself Analogeezer. Analogeezer and the gang at Miata.net’s Car Talk forum have been a wealth of great stories and anecdotes about most of the Street Parked cars (and many other topics).
Small cars were becoming more and more popular as the 1970s progressed. Small sports cars like the Toyota Celica and Datsun 240Z were becoming the popular choice for enthusiasts while the Mustang grew larger with each model year. Lee Iacocca, chairman of the Ford Motor Company, saw this trend and ordered his engineers to make a smaller Mustang for the 1974 model year. This decision was either incredibly lucky or profoundly prescient, as the Arab Oil Embargo of 1973 sent fuel prices skyrocketing.
When the 1974 Mustang II was released, the market was scrambling for economical options. This car with its 2.3 liter base engine was incredibly popular, selling almost as many units as the original Mustang did in its first year. Although this car shares a platform with the bargain basement Pinto, it was built and packaged to a higher standard. Four cylinder Mustang IIs came with engines producing horsepower ratings in the high two digits. Some buyers opted for the 2.8 liter v6 which barely cracked the 100 horsepower barrier (only two digits in California). The high power option was the 5 liter v8 which produced 140 horsepower.
Compared to its forebears, the Mustang II looks underpowered, tiny, and boring. In actuality it’s not that different in size when compared to the original Mustang (itself based on the pedestrian Falcon platform). Compared to the grande size 3500+ lb 1973 Mustang, the 140 horsepower emissions strangled v8 only had about 2800 lbs to haul around. The slim weight and modern (for the day) steering and suspension probably gave the Mustang II a better driving experience than the earlier cars. While this car isn’t very appealing to current enthusiasts, it was a popular option in its time. The Mustang II allowed Ford to continue to offer a performance oriented model until emissions technology allowed them to offer more compelling options like they did with the Fox body Mustang which debuted in 1979.
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