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Thread: 1974–1978 Mustang II, Cobra II, and King Cobra

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    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    1974–1978 Mustang II, Cobra II, and King Cobra

    By 1974, the muscle car frenzy of the 1960s had petered-out like an all-night kegger at sunrise. After a ten-year bender with 100-octane leaded premium and 300-horsepower V-8 engines, Ford Motor Co. faced a harsh hangover of “catastrophic converters” and watered-down 87-octane unleaded which you had to stand in line all day to get. Reeling, wild-eyed, and increasingly desperate, Ford belched up the Pinto-sourced, “downsized” Mustang II; it had all the power of a crushed plastic beer cup.

    The “little jewel of a car,” as then–Ford Chairman Lee Iaccoca daringly called it, was emblematic of the era—a time of equally-downsized expectations and a sad harbinger of things to come. As a jewel, it was cubic zirconium.

    In addition to being much less physically substantial than any previous Mustang (the 1974 model was almost 20 inches shorter and a good 400poundspounds lighter than the 1973), it was also the first entirely performance-free ersatz Mustang. Initially no V-8 engine was even available—a depressing “first” for Ford’s pony car. The only alternative to the 88-horsepower Pinto-derived rattletrap four-cylinder engine was a just slightly less pathetic 105-horsepower 2.8-liter “Cologne” V-6 sourced from Ford’s European operations—along with a half-hearted "Mach 1" stripe package intended to remind buyers of better days.

    It was thin gruel, however, compared to the previous year’s fastback Boss 351—a car that would prove to be the last decent Mustang Ford would build for another decade.

    Having foot holes in the floorboard like a Flintstones car might have seemed like a way to get the hapless little pony moving faster, and thanks to its rust- and leak-prone thin-gauge sheet metal, this proved to be a common “aftermarket accessory” with just a winter or two of road salt—but without any noticable speed boost. Automotive journalists of the era praised the Mustang II as being “right for the times”—even while noting that trim pieces often fell off in their hands. Any real cowboy riding a horse this slow would have sharpened his spurs and powered-up the cattle prods.

    In 1975, Ford tried to re-attach some of the Mustang’s gelded “equipment” by bringing back a V-8 option. But even though there were eight cylinders, just 122horsepower was developed—an all-time low for the Ford 302. The 5-liter engine’s potential was further hampered by the ever-stricter emissions equipment imposed by the federal government—but even more so by the fact that Ford was trying to bandage a 1960s-era engine that had never been designed with either good mileage or low emissions in mind. Making matters worse, the struggling engine was only available with a power-sapping three-speed automatic and “highway gears” designed to promote fuel economy, not acceleration. The result was performance hardly better than the V-6 with the four-speed manual—and insufficient to outrun any real Mustang of the past.

    Still, Ford gamely made a “performance package” of this basic combo—and in 1976 tacked on billboard-sized “Cobra II” stickers that screamed “I’m slow!” in perfect tune with the sickly whistle blowing from the single exhaust pipe. By 1977, an even more gaudy set of air dams, chin spoilers, and a hood scoop, which, of course, didn’t scoop anything, were added. It seemed the weaker the car got, the more aggressive and outsize the decals it was papered-over with, like dressing a turtle in cheetah skin.

    The ultimate embarrassment came in 1978—when the blunt-toothed, sore-gummed King Cobra appeared. Taking a cue from the huge success of Pontiac’s gaudy Trans-Am of the period, Ford may have reasoned that buyers would at least feel fast driving a car with a massive prismatic decal of a stylized Cobra draped over the hood and loud “5.0” engine call-outs on the now rear-facing—but still fake—hood scoop.

    5,000 King Cobras were made before the plug was pulled—and the damage to Mustang’s once-proud legacy finally put to an end.

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    1974.. Ah yes, the great Carter years (he should have stuck to building houses).

    This is when Detroit decided to use the energy crisis as an excuse to pump out really POS autos. This is when they began to lose market share.

    They screwed everything up. GTO's became bloated boats. Grand Prix's became ghetto cruisers, and the beautyful Impala (the 1965 SS hardtop) became a tuna boat called Caprice, my 1968 SCJ Fairlane fastback, became a Dukes of Hazzard 'Torino', Camaro's turned into 4,000 lb sleds, and some of the worst Vetts ever.

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    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dBrong View Post
    1974.. Ah yes, the great Carter years (he should have stuck to building houses).

    This is when Detroit decided to use the energy crisis as an excuse to pump out really POS autos. This is when they began to lose market share.

    They screwed everything up. GTO's became bloated boats. Grand Prix's became ghetto cruisers, and the beautyful Impala (the 1965 SS hardtop) became a tuna boat called Caprice, my 1968 SCJ Fairlane fastback, became a Dukes of Hazzard 'Torino', Camaro's turned into 4,000 lb sleds, and some of the worst Vetts ever.
    Yes.

    Only Pontiac, in my opinion, kept the fire going. The '70s Trans-Ams were great cars; head and shoulders above the average, with fierce (for the times) performance, excellent handling and tons of attitude.

    I'm glad I got mine!

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    Senior Member Mase's Avatar
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    Senior Member Mase's Avatar
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    1974 to 1978 Mustang pictures.....

    http://allfordmustangs.com/photopost...y.php/cat/3235

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    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    God help me, the Mustang II has grown on me over the years... .

    I saw one the other day. Just a regular model, in '70s brown/bronze. The thing made me smile.

    I am more and more alienated by anything modern. I'd take that old Mustang over a new BMW any day o' the week.

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    Quote Originally Posted by dBrong View Post
    1974.. Ah yes, the great Carter years (he should have stuck to building houses).

    This is when Detroit decided to use the energy crisis as an excuse to pump out really POS autos. This is when they began to lose market share.

    They screwed everything up. GTO's became bloated boats. Grand Prix's became ghetto cruisers, and the beautyful Impala (the 1965 SS hardtop) became a tuna boat called Caprice, my 1968 SCJ Fairlane fastback, became a Dukes of Hazzard 'Torino', Camaro's turned into 4,000 lb sleds, and some of the worst Vetts ever.
    Actually 1974 was the tail end of the Nixon years. The Demonrats coupled with a compromising and treasonous president Nixon passed the Clean Air Act in 1970. Cars like the Mustang II and other detuned toothless monsters were the result.

    That is true about the energy crisis. Don't forget about the 5 mph bumper rule as well....

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    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by swamprat View Post
    Actually 1974 was the tail end of the Nixon years. The Demonrats coupled with a compromising and treasonous president Nixon passed the Clean Air Act in 1970. Cars like the Mustang II and other detuned toothless monsters were the result.

    That is true about the energy crisis. Don't forget about the 5 mph bumper rule as well....
    You know, it occurs to me that everything began going to shit - really going to shit, at a full gallop - shortly after I was born. I think the mid-late 1960s were the apogee of America and we have been free-falling ever since. Whatever the measure, things are shittier. We have far less freedom, work harder for less (in terms of real buying power/economic security), crime and social pathology are at almost unbelievable levels of depravity (and ubiquity). Etc. Etc.

    All the real "shit" laws that sealed the doom of this country began with the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the 1965 Immigration Act, the Clean Air Act and the various other "acts" that set the stage for The Chimp and, now, the half-breed Elagabulus who will preside over the final collapse....

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