Our Cars: 1978 Mustang II

Today’s Post by Joe Farace

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 below. Much earlier I 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 five-speed transmission. It was trimmed out just as you see in the illustration, a white fastback with T-Tops but mine had black pin stripes and interior.

The Mustang II had no common components with any of its preceding models sharing its platform with the equally unloved Ford Pinto. It too would go on to live in ignominy with its basic claim to fame being that Mustang II’s were used on the original Charlie’s Angels TV show. When I owned it some of my friends called it my Charlie’s Angels’ car even though the car Farah Fawcett drove was a white fastback Cobra with 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 that was similar in size and power to the Falcon and it would have been a great way to bringing Mustang back to its roots but 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 according to him the new model was “less of a Pinto than the ’64½ had been a Falcon.” And while they may be unlove today. Ford sold over a million of them.

Yet quality control was not as good as a Nissan Versa and my car had a number of electrical problems starting with it shutting down at importune times, like while driving down the highway. 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 shop and wouldn’t start, they fixed it for not a lot of money.

In 1981 I moved to Colorado and lost all my connections with the Maryland car scene, especially mechanics which ended up costing me dearly. At one point, I had to have a new clutch installed (by an incompetent mechanic) making the car difficult to drive and Mary hated driving it. Ultimately I had transmission problems forced me to sell the Mustang 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.


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