The second-generation Ford Mustang is a pony car that was manufactured by Ford from 1973 until 1978. It was introduced in showrooms during September 1973, in coupe a...More »
The second-generation Ford Mustang is a pony car that was manufactured by Ford from 1973 until 1978. It was introduced in showrooms during September 1973, in coupe and hatchback versions for the 1974 model year, in time for the 1973 oil crisis. The Mustang II had no common components with the preceding models and shared its platform with the subcompact-sized Ford Pinto.
The first generation Mustangs grew in size; the 1973 model had become markedly larger than the original model. The pony car market segment saw decreasing sales in the early-1970s "with many buyers turning to lower-priced, fuel-efficient compacts like Ford's own Maverick - a huge first-year success itself". The Mustang was growing to become an intermediate-sized sedan, "too big and alienated many in its customer base". The allure of the original Mustang was its trim size and concept. The automakers in Detroit had "begun to receive vibrations from the only source it really listens to - new-car buyers... The message: Build smaller cars" as customers stopped buying and the inventory of unsold new cars climbed during the summer of 1973, and there were already positive market expectations for the new downsized Mustang. Automakers were "scrambling" by December 1973 as "the trend toward smaller, less extravagant cars to surge ahead faster than anyone had expected."
Subsequent to becoming president of Ford Motor Company on December 10, 1970, Lee Iacocca ordered the development of a smaller Mustang for 1974 introduction. Initial plans called for a downsized Mustang based on the compact Ford Maverick, similar in size and power to the Falcon, the basis for original Mustang. Those plans were later scrapped in favor of a smaller Mustang based on the subcompact Ford Pinto. The original pony car was based on the compact Falcon and for its second-generation, the Mustang evolved from an even smaller platform, the Pinto that was rolled out in 1971. 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."
Rather than replicating the unchanged designs of the GM pony cars, Chevrolet Camaro and Pontiac Firebird, the Mustang II now competed against sporty subcompact models that included GM's Buick Skyhawk, Oldsmobile Starfire, Pontiac Sunbird, and Chevrolet Monza. The new model would also better compete with 2+2 import coupes such as the Toyota Celica, Datsun 240Z, Mazda RX-3, and the European Ford Capri - which itself was inspired by the original Mustang but built by Ford of Europe, and marketed since April 1970 in the U.S. by Mercury as a captive import. It saw a new competitor from Germany in 1974 with the Volkswagen Scirocco, and the BMW 2002 introduced earlier in the late 1960s. The new design featured rack and pinion steering and a separate engine sub-frame that decreased noise, vibration, and harshness.
According to Ford's Chief Engineer Stuart M. Frey (younger brother of Donald N. Frey) Iacocca expected a high level of fit and finish, wanting the car to be "a little jewel". The Mustang II production was 385,993 units the first year. The big 1973 Mustang total reached 134,867, but the 1974 version was within "10 percent of the original Mustang's 12-month production record of 418,812." Over five years the Mustang II recorded four of the ten top model year Mustang sales. A 2009 report confirmed Iacocca's vision for the 1974-1978 Mustang, saying it "was the right car at the right time, selling more than 1 million units in four years."
The introduction of the Mustang II in September 1973 coincided with the oil embargo. The marketplace was adjusting to the fuel crisis, increasing insurance rates, United States emission standards, safety regulations, and downturns in the economy, as well as the waning consumer demand in the pony car segment. GM had considered discontinuing the Camaro and Firebird after 1972, and in 1974 Chrysler discontinued the Barracuda and Dodge Challenger, American Motors discontinued the Javelin, and lighter, more economical imported cars became increasingly popular - "in effect, filling the segment the Mustang had created, then abandoned."
Designers and engineers worked feverishly on a "reinvented" Mustang, mimicking the first version, by the traditional new model year introduction during the fall of 1973. The new Mustang II returned to a size closer to the 1965 model, ultimately winning the Motor Trend Car of the Year. The economical Mustang II became popular for consumers almost concurrently with their experience with gasoline rationing that was part of the 1973 oil crisis.
"Just as the original Mustang had been based on mundane Falcon components, Iacocca and company decided to use some of the parts from the new-for-1971 subcompact Ford Pinto as the basis for the Mustang." The new Mustang was viewed as a "fun-to-drive economy" car, but "in reality it shared its underpinnings with the ... Pinto." The Mustang II carried handling and engineering improvements, its performance was comparable to contemporary Detroit products.
Competitors also included the Toyota Celica and the Datsun 240Z. Sales of such imports attracted fewer than 100,000 customers in 1965, but by 1972 demand had increased; therefore, the "Mustang II's mission was to capture a big slice of this sizable new pie."
Available as a coupe or three-door hatchback, the new car's base engine was a 140 cu in (2.3 L) SOHC I4, the first fully metric-dimensioned engine built in the U.S. A 171 cu in (2.8 L) V6 was the sole optional engine. Mustang II packages ranged from the base "Hardtop," 2+2 hatchback, a "Ghia" luxury group with vinyl roof, and a top of the line V6-powered Mach 1. A V8 engine option would not be available in a Mustang for the only time for the 1974 model year (except in Mexico).
"The Mustang II's attractive all-new styling was influenced by coachbuilder Ghia of Italy, which had recently been acquired by Ford. It carried through the long-hood, short-deck theme of the original, and as Iacocca requested it came as a notchback and hatch-equipped fastback." Mustangs lost their pillarless body style; all models now had fixed rear windows and a chrome covered "B" pillar that resembled a hardtop, but in fact was a coupe. In Mustang advertisements, however, Ford promoted the notchback coupe as a "Hardtop".
Almost replicating the initial 1965 Mustang's sales rush, "even without any real performance appeal, the '74 Mustang II brought buyers running into Ford dealerships." Sales for the Mustang II increased in 1974, making it the 6th best selling Mustang of all time with 296,041 units produced.
"With oil crisis memories starting to fade" Ford needed a V8 in the Mustang II to return "performance to respectable levels." The engine bay was re-engineered to accept the 302 cu in (4.9 L) V8 option for the 1975 model year, with revised hood and header panel. The engine was limited to a two-barrel carburetor and "net" 140 hp (104 kW; 142 PS). Since Ford's Mexican division never lost the V8, they assisted in the modifications.
Testing by Road & Track "recorded zero to 96 km/h (60 mph) in 10.5 seconds, and a top speed of 171 km/h (106 mph)." The Mustang II's 302 cu in engine became Ford's first officially designated metric V8 Mustang; it was called the "5.0 L" even though its capacity was 4.942 L.
Other than the optional V8 engine, the car underwent minor changes in 1975. The Ghia received opera windows and a padded vinyl half-top. In mid-year, a 2.3 L "MPG" model was added, featuring a catalytic converter and a 3.18:1 rear-axle ratio (standard was 3.40:1) to claim EPA-version economy estimates of 23 mpg-US (10 L/100 km; 28 mpg-imp) in the city and 34 mpg-US (6.9 L/100 km; 41 mpg-imp) on the highway. To underscore fuel efficiency, all base 2.3 L Mustang IIs were called MPG after 1975.
The Mustang II achieved record sales for 1975, making it the 9th best selling Mustang of all time, with 199,199 sold.
In 1976, Ford offered the "Stallion" appearance group including styled wheels, blacked-out grille, bumpers and body moldings as well as the "Cobra II" appearance package with black grille, simulated hood scoop, front and rear spoilers, quarter window louvers, accent stripes and a cobra emblem on the front fenders - available with all engine choices. Automotive historian Gary Witzenburg observed that properly equipped, the thing actually performed pretty well by 1976 standards." Full instrumentation was standard. A manual moon roof was optional.
The 1977 model year introduced a "Sports Appearance Group" for the Ghia model that was color matched to either black or tan paint, as well as several minor styling changes and expanded color options for the Cobra II. Also new was a T-top option for the fastback featuring twin removable tinted glass panels. Midway through the 1977 model year, changes for the 1978 model year were pulled ahead to sell early. It is most notable on the Cobra II models where the hood scoop was turned around to seem more aerodynamic and the graphics were revised. For the decals, the dual stripes running the length of the car were replaced with a single stripe and on the side of the car the snake and "COBRA II" decal were replaced with a large stripe down the center with large "COBRA" lettering in the middle. Louvers were added to the hatch and the side panel louvers only came in black. All the window and glass moldings were painted black as well.
In 1978, the "King Cobra" became available. This was a limited edition version with 4,313 units produced. It featured a deep air-dam, stripes, and a "Pontiac Trans-Am style" cobra snake decal on the hood. The King Cobra was available only with the V8 to help bolster the car's performance image.
On the momentum of the Mustang II's successful sales, a totally new Mustang was introduced for the 1979 model year.
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