The Mustang II years ...
1974 TV Commercial
Lee Iacocca poses with the 2 Mustangs he brought to market
in a 10
Click on an image below to
The Mustang II was in the works long before
the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) decided to
squeeze world oil supplies. That it appeared at virtually the same
time was mere coincidence, though a lucky break for Ford.
In several ways, the Mustang II shows how history repeats itself in
the automotive world. For starters, Lee Iaccoca just knew the market
was ready for it in the same way he suspected the original Mustang
was the right car for its time. Pony cars were falling from favor by
1970, with many buyers turning to lower-priced, fuel-efficient
compacts like Ford's own Maverick -- a huge first-year success
But Americans were also turning on to sporty 2+2 import coupes like
Ford's own British/German Capri, which bowed in April 1970 to good
reviews and strong initial demand. Another "captive import," GM's
German-built Opel Manta, was selling well, and the Toyota Celica was
more popular still. In 1965 such "mini-pony cars" attracted fewer
than 100,000 sales, but by 1972 were up to around 300,000 -- and
expected to go above 400,000 by '74. Mustang II's mission was to
capture a big slice of this sizable new pie.
Ford design vice president Eugene Bordinat
gave full credit to Iacocca for the Mustang II: "he was the first
guy to come along [at Ford] who had the feeling for cars that had
existed in General Motors for some time."
For his part, Iacocca observed: "When I look
at the foreign-car market and see that one in five is a sporty car,
I know something's happening. Look at what the Celica started to do
before the two devaluations [of the dollar] nailed it! Anyone who
decides to sit this out just ain't gonna dance!" But Ford didn't
start out to start over.
The Mustang II program actually dates from around
the middle of 1969, when work began on what was then simply the next
Mustang. With muscle-car mania still raging, first thoughts
inevitably centered on larger, heavier-looking designs, reflecting
Ford's belief that buyers would still want roomy, "impressive" pony
cars in the mid-Seventies. In fact, early proposals were even more
hulking than the '71 Mustang then nearing completion. But by the
time Iacocca became Ford Motor Company president in 1970,
had dropped out of the pony car market, and the imported Capri --
which Iacocca said was more like the original "than any Mustang we
have today" -- was doing solid business at Lincoln-Mercury dealers.
Iacocca had never liked Bunkie Knudsen's '71 Mustang, and it wasn't
just because the man who backed it had been favored with the
president's chair. Iacocca had been troubled by Mustang's course
since 1966. He wasn't alone. As author Gary Witzenburg related, the
grumbling had been going on at least since 1968. At that year's
stockholders meeting, one Anna Muccioli, who owned a '65 Mustang,
rose to ask Henry Ford II: "Why can't you just leave a small car
small?…you keep blowing them up and starting another little one,
blow that one up and start another one…why don't you just leave
them?" To her likely surprise, the chairman said he agreed.
"Hopefully we will keep in mind what you say here and, hopefully, we
will have a product that will be satisfactory to you."
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
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 pillar less 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." First-year sales were a
smashing 385,993 cars, within 10 percent of the original Mustang's
12-month production record of 418,812. This made the first year
Mustang II the 6th best selling Mustang of all