Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Alameda Street Sighting - 1976 Ford Mustang II

You see before you, arguably, the lowest point in the history of the Ford Mustang. Well, maybe not, because at least in 1976 it was possible to buy a Mustang II with a V8. But the era of the Ford Mustang II was a dark, uncertain time for ponycars. Even the horse on the grille looked worried. In 1974 Ford killed off the big, thirsty 'Boxstangs' in favor of this little filly engineered from the Pinto.

It was a shock to performance-minded folks to go from the 351-powered 1973 Mach 1 fastback to a dinky hatchback or coupe that initially couldn't be had with anything bigger than a 2.8 liter V6. Attempts were made to rekindle some of that Mustang magic during the four miserable years of the Mustang II but it was mostly tape stripes and choked-off, low-compression shadows of the former performance engines. The Mach 1 came and went, its name now a joke compared to the 428 Super Cobra Jet Mach 1 of 1969. Then the Cobra II came along, spitting in the face of Carroll Shelby's creations and the rip-snorting big block V8s of yesteryear with billboard-sized COBRA II graphics that only Farrah Fawcett could make look good. Finally in 1978 came the King Cobra, which I actually like; a rather silly exercise in copying the Trans Am formula of T-tops, hood scoops, pinstriping and a stylized cartoon snake on the hood. But worst of all were the base Mustang IIs with their Pinto-based four-bangers. It's really rather sad, because the Mustang II can be made into a very good performance car once you do some work to it. Throw out the factory emissions controls and go wild (provided you don't live in California).

This car is a fairly simple Mustang II notchback coupe, possibly a Ghia trim going by the remains of a vinyl roof and evidence of a C-pillar badge that's now missing. The wire hubcaps are another indication. Note the once color-matched body rub strips. This was a fairly common feature on 1970s Fords, either to match or contrast the body color on the rub strips instead of using just plain black rubber. It was clever but the strips have mostly faded to white now. I assume this car was red once. In the yellowish evening light it was hard to tell, making the car appear orange. For all I know it could be a repaint. Interior looks like red vinyl, a combination I don't expect to make a return anytime soon as a factory option.
There are a few Mustang IIs roaming around Alameda (or at least taking up space there), which I appreciate since at least some of these little cars need to be preserved. This one's getting pretty rough, but it can be saved if someone cares enough to do so.

1 comment:

  1. Well, Jay, you said everything I feel about this car. I remember the first time I saw one of these on a lot. I think I actually said " Yuck!". I thought, how could Ford put the Mustang name on this car? I was embarrassed for them! This car wasn't even worthy of the Maverick nameplate which would have been more believable, but it would have dragged that model's image down as well. Definitely a low point at Ford. You're right. The horse does look worried. Worried, and embarrassed. I'll bet the line workers at Ford cried as they attached that nameplate to these cars. But, like most cars, they have their fans and will be preserved. A coworker of mine has a red fastback. No gawdy decals or bright work on it, just nice wheels. A clean little car.