This is a 1974 Ford Mustang II with the Ghia Luxury package. Last Thursday, a 26 year old shirtless man was arrested in Des Moines, Iowa for attacking several bar customers with a hatchet. This man’s name, and I’m not making this up, was “Shelby Mustang GT500 Miller.” I lead with that for two reasons. One, to illustrate what an amazing country America is, and two, to show just how deeply ingrained into our culture the Ford Mustang has become.
It is one of the most valued and iconic names in motoring, revered by nearly all with a sentimental bone in their body. It is easy to get caught up in the romance and history of the Mustang, and I’ll be the first to say that much of that high praise is deserved. But not all. Exhibit A: the Mustang II.
This car was Ford’s attempt at shoving its storied ponycar, kicking and screaming, through the gas crisis of the early 1970s. Oil embargoes and tightened government regulations meant gas prices were high, and the big, loud muscle cars of the late 60s were falling like Brazilian soccer players (zing). In a panic, Ford threw away the old Mustang platforms, instead drawing inspiration from their new compact, the Pinto, a car most famous for spontaneously deciding to be a flaming ball of steel and screaming passengers instead of a mid-range hatchback. In 1974, out popped this, the second generation of the Mustang which was named, in a conniption fit of sheer creativity, the Mustang II.
Was it a success? That depends on who you ask. They certainly sold a bunch. It remains one of the most popular Mustangs ever made. But that was about the only thing that was good about the car. Ford commissioned an Italian design studio to style the Mustang, and I understand that beauty-beholder business, but this is the best they could come up with? This first-year car didn’t even offer a V8, and when they finally did get around to providing one, it only put out 140 horsepower. That’s the same as a Honda Civic, and the Mustang II had twice as many cylinders. Calling the Mustang II “bad” is like calling the Israeli-Palestinian conflict “a bit of a pickle.” It serves as the wart that enthusiasts gloss over, a mark on the face of a beloved and rich past.
This Ghia edition was an attempt to sprinkle a bit of luxury into the car, effectively answering a question exactly no one asked. The Mustang II was the poster boy for the depressing malaise that was the 1970s, and a symbol of every disappointing sequel ever made. Not only did it fail as a car, it failed as a Mustang. And for that reason the Mustang II’s existence is simply inexcusable.
-To be clear, Shelby Mustang GT500 Miller didn’t manage to hatchet anyone to death in Iowa- everyone’s okay.
-Contrary to popular belief, the Mustang II only shared a few parts with the Pinto, not an entire platform.