It is well-established to readers that I am a Ford guy. I won’t repeat the details, but folks from southeastern Michigan (and lots of other people) are born into families that pass along strong loyalties to one of the (former) “Big Three” U.S. car companies. My family is Ford.
This Mustang II Cobra (it might be 1975, ’76 or ’77 – I can’t tell) was warming itself on the pavement in front of an auto parts store in Waukesha, WI when I passed.
The Mustang, of course, holds an honored place not just in Ford history, but automotive history as well. Approaching its 10th birthday in 1973, the once trim if underpowered Mustang had bloated almost out of recognition, and true believers were not happy. All this weight required huge power, which was really no problem until the Israeli army invaded Egypt in that year and provoked what is commonly called the “Arab Oil Embargo”.
Actually responding very quickly, Ford scrapped plans for a slightly smaller next-generation of the Mustang and took another step down the product line to build the Mustang II on the humble Pinto platform. (The family resemblance is a bit too strong for some.)
“Cobra” will forever be associated with the legendary racer Caroll Shelby, who happened to see Ford engines when he was hallucinating about a lightweight British sports car stuffed with American V8 power, and the Shelby Cobras materialized. These cars are genuine classics, with original Cobras now far outnumbered by plastic-bodied poseurs.
So a Cobra version of the Mustang II was an irresistible move for a natural marketing maven like Ford president Lee Iacocca, who was instrumental in the transformation of the original Mustang from the pedestrian Falcon model. So, we have the Mustang II Cobra edition.
In my opinion, this is one of the ugliest products Ford ever built, and like all American cars of the mid-seventies it was subject to the only available fuel-saving and pollution-reducing technology at that time; strangulation. Performance wise, with the V8 engine, the car was not really much worse than its competitors, but really not Cobra-like at all.
With all of the Cobra body pieces, including the non-functional hood scoop, unnecessary louvers and questionable aerodynamic add-ons the car looks like it was vacuum-formed out of plastic parts that were never really test fitted until they met up on the assembly line.
As much of a fan as I am of bad cars, I have to admit that as a Ford guy, this one is a little embarrassing.
I should point out that the Mustang II was actually a huge sales success and enjoys a very loyal (if somewhat defensive) following. If you want to have a ‘70’s flashback, check out this video of Charlie's Angel Farah Fawcett stalking the bad guys in this car.
(The video's long, but do stay through the 1:24 mark where Jill enters the driveway a little too fast for the front spoiler, then gets out of the Mustang and swings her hair first one way - then the other!)
All words and images (except the video) copyright 2009 Jeffery Blackwell