Our Cars: 1978 Mustang II

While generally reviled by enthusiasts today, Ford’s Mustang II was manufactured from 1973 until 1978. Mine was a 1978 and I was inspired to buy it from the very same ad you see here. Previously I had owned a 1966 Mustang convertible with 200 cubic inch six-cylinder and Fordomatic transmission and cool wire wheel hubcaps. I was determined that my Mustang II would be different: It had the 302 Windsor V8 and four-speed transmission. It was trimmed out just as you see in the illustration—a fastback with T-Tops and all.

white-T-top-mustang-copyThe Mustang II had no common components with preceding models sharing its platform with the equally unloved Pinto. It too would go on to live in ignominy with is basic claim to fame being that Mustang II’s were used on Charlie’s Angels. When I owned it people always called it my Charlie’s Angels car even though the car that Farah Fawcett drove was a fastback Cobra and no T-tops.

Lee Iacocca who spearheaded the creation of the Mustang and then presided over turning it into a larger, less nibble car ordered the development of a smaller Mustang for 1974. Initial plans called for a downsized Mustang based on the Ford Maverick—remember them?— similar in size and power to the Falcon and would have been a great idea by bringing Mustang back to its roots but, oh no, that didn’t happen. Instead those plans were scrapped in favor of a smaller Mustang based on the Pinto. The final Mustang II production design was set in 1971 by Dick Nesbitt, but the new model was “less of a Pinto than the ’64½ had been a Falcon.”

Yet quality control was not as good as a Nissan Versa and my car had a number of problems starting with shutting down at importune times. When it was towed to the dealership, guess what? It started right up. Several months of that got old, I’ll tell ya but finally when it went to the dealers and wouldn’t start and they fixed it.

In 1981 I moved to Colorado and lost all my connections with the Maryland car scene. Here I ended up having to install a new clutch which was installed by an incompetent making it hard to drive, and my wife  hated to drive it. Ultimately I had transmission problems, which forced me to sell it but I still have a sense of nostalgia for the car, more so than my ’66. Every time I see a Mustang II—and they are few and far apart—I get excited. And to tell the truth I really would like to own one again, if I could find another T-Top fastback.