A while back I wrote a post about the truly hateful and terrible Toyota Prius. As far as I could figure the car lacked anything even resembling a redeeming feature. The thing of it is, the Prius is not alone in its terribleness. Throughout history awful cars have littered the automotive landscape. Far too many for just one post, so today we launch a new series of posts. In the coming months we will be bringing you cars that get the ShiftingLanes stamp of unapproval. Today’s culprit, the 1974 “What in God’s name were they thinking of” Ford Mustang II.
As most of you know I love me some classic Mustang. It invented the Pony Car class. Shelby GT 350s & 500s, Boss 302s and 429s. These are not only some of the most desirable Mustangs, but there among the most desirable classic cars ever. In 1971 The Mustang got fatter and was literally growing out of its target market. Buyers wanted the Mustang go on a diet; back to the original concept. Ford took this very seriously. The original Mustang was based on Ford’s venerable Falcon. This worked so well that when it came time for the Mustang II Ford searched its catalog of cars to find a suitable base for its new pony car. This was the mid 70’s and the combination of insurance companies and rising gas prices were killing performance cars. Instead of letting their engineers try to cleverly work around the issues Ford turned to its crack squad of Accountants. Ah yes, Accountants who are known far and wide for their car building prowess. To be fair, accounting does take its toll on people. Anyone who has tried to make sense of a profit and loss statement knows what I mean. In fact if I spend more than 60 seconds thinking about debits and credits I get a nose bleed. Point of the matter is this, it is nye on impossible to build a great car when the primary focus is cutting cost. Which brings me back to Ford’s choice for the base of the 1974 Mustang II: the Pinto. The Pinto all by itself is completely capable of ruining your day repeatedly and without remorse. No sane engineer would ever use a Pinto as a basis for any vehicle hoping to have any credible performance. Unless they had it forced upon them, against their will, by some suit.
Ford had downsized the Mustang, and using top notch Shifting Lanes logic, one might reasonably to expect this to improve handling. In actuality, the II handled no better than the overweight outgoing model. Worry not! Thanks to a pesky oil embargo, gas was expensive and fuel efficiency was all the rage. The 74 Mustang had 2 engine options, a 2.3 liter 4cyl and a 2.8 liter V6 (Coincidentally the first time Ford used the Metric System to describe displacement in America). That’s correct kids, no V8 option. The only time in the Mustang’s history you couldn’t get a V8. The whole point of the Mustang is a V8 in a smallish car. Nobody has ever gone to Barrett Jackson (Enormous Classic Car Auction) and pined for a V6 pony car. In fact if you even mention anything other than a V8 in a classic pony car, they arrest you and throw you in a Turkish prison for 40 years (Ok, so maybe not, but they should). Thing is, nobody wants a V6 in their Mustang let alone a piddly little 4. They settle for the small engines because that’s what they could afford. Side Note: I know the current, modern 6’s and even a turbo 4 make plenty of power, but back then, no sir, not even close.
This all brings me to the elephant in the room, the way the Mustang II looks. The Pinto was never going to win a beauty contest, but the body on the II looks like someone attacked a pinto with the ugly ax. For a small car, it manages to pull off fat and bulbous. From no angle is the II good looking. It’s a car only a mother could love, if she had cataracts and a drinking problem. I mean LOOK AT IT!!! It’s hideous. Sure later models were dressed up in performance trim and such, and it helped. But it was kind of like putting makeup on someone reallllllllllllllllllllly ugly, it helps but it’s still in no way pleasant to look at.
All of this was good enough in 1974 to win Ford and it’s Mustang II the coveted “Motor Trend – Car of the Year” Award. Seriously, look it up. Not gonna lie this calls into question the validity of Motor Trends highest award. Though, this is the same organization that gave a car called a Prius the “Car of the Year.” Clearly there is a long history of lenient, non-punitive drug testing over at Motor Trend.
In ’75 Ford brought back a V8 and there were even some “performance models” like the King Cobra and given the era, performed well-ish against the competition. Though, these models were not without their issues. To make the King Cobra suspension “handle” Ford over stiffened everything. Sure this worked on a smooth race track, but in the real world it resulted in a ride that would undoubtedly shatter the occupant’s spine.
The Mustang II was a product of a perfect storm of abysmalness. Gas shortages, nannying insurance companies, and overly cost conscious accountants combined to create something unworthy of the Mustang name. Thankfully the II’s reign of tyranny only lasted until 1978. If given the chance to drive a Mustang II, (Why would you even want to, but I digress) promptly drive it off the nearest available cliff. DISCLAIMER: ShiftingLanes.com in no way endorses the driving of cars off cliffs. Side effects to drivers/passengers of driving a car off a cliff include, but are not limited to: severe burns, broken bones, excessive arterial bleeding, and, in some acute cases, death. Perhaps it’s better to just push it off a cliff, but not before setting it on fire.