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Mustang II: The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly

Mustang II: The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly

Some say I was a little hard on the 1974-78 Mustang II in “The Top 11 Never Made Special Edition Ford Mustangs” that ran earlier this week on the BangShift.com blog. 

After all, Mustang II is the ‘Stang John Clor opines in the book, The Mustang Dynasty, “needs to be measured on its own merits, and taken in context.” And in “context,” the Mustang II actually did amount to more than just a front suspension donor for innumerable street rods.

Here’s a potpourri of Mustang IIs every BangShifter should know about:


11) THE IMSA COBRA II PROTOTYPE: Jim Wangers, the leading proponent and builder of the faux muscle Mustang II Cobra II, cooked up an even wilder idea for 1978: a wide body IMSA Cobra II. The main attractions of the IMSA Cobra II were tasteful (for the time) box-style fender flares, a giant snake decal on the hood (undoubtedly inspired by the “screaming chicken” on Pontiac’s Trans-Am), and a proper set of muscular wheels and tires to supplant the embarrassing P195/70-13s. Sadly, Ford said no.

10) THE KING COBRA (the first 5.0?): For the last year of the Mustang II’s slow reign of shame, Ford’s Gene Bordinat and his crew of stylists one-upped the Mustang II Cobra II with an even wilder Mustang: the King Cobra. Unlike the Cobra II, buyers at least had to order the King Cobra with a V8. John Clor asserts that this was the first Mustang to use the venerable metric “5.0” engine designation, in The Mustang Dynasty. Although the King Cobra’s 17-second quarter mile times aren’t legendary, at least Ford didn’t just totally punt in the wake of the Smokey and the Bandit Trans-Am juggernaut.

9) SCOTT SHAFIROFF’S MUSTANG II: Most BangShifters think of Scott Shafiroff as a paragon Chevrolet engine builder. But Chevy loyalists may be surprised to learn that Mr. Shafiroff apparently used to “make the scene” in a Mustang II pro stocker!

8) GAPP & ROUSH’S MUSTANG II: Although it may not be as famous as the Gapp & Roush “Tiajuana Taxi” Maverick Pro Stocker, Wayne Gapp and Jack Roush also fielded a quick and colorful Mustang II in the years before their partnership wound down to a close.

7) THE MONROE HANDLERS: Possibly the first high-visibility “custom” Mustang IIs, the Monroe Shock Absorber-sponsored Monroe Handler Mustangs were constructed in the pages of Hot Rod magazine. While not the most timeless of builds, the Monroe Handlers showed that working with a “Deuce ‘Stang” wasn’t completely futile.

6) JILL MONROE’S COBRA II: The other Monroe that 1970s BangShifters wanted to “handle” was “Charlie’s Angel” Jill Monroe, played on TV by the late Farrah Fawcett. Here’s video of Jill tailing “perps” in her showroom-stock Mustang II Cobra II. The thought of cruising with Farrah during her feathered-hair prime is almost enough to make even a Cobra II cool.

5) CHARLIE KEMP’S IMSA MUSTANG II: The inspiration for Jim Wanger’s street-bound IMSA Cobra II was Charlie Kemp’s wild, wide-body IMSA racer. Kemp’s car was fast but fragile. While it was no match for the factory-backed IMSA cars of the day, Kemp’s outrageous Mustang II stands as an example of dogged tenacity during a time when Ford had mistakenly turned its back on motorsports in the U.S.

4) SHIRL GREER’S “UNCHAINED LIGHTNING” MUSTANG II FUNNY CAR: Old BangShifters recall the improbable saga of how Shirl Greer won the 1974 NHRA Funny Car World Championship. Greer’s Mustang II flopper was seen in later years on the nostalgia circuit. Despite the fact that there’s probably not a single Ford part in Greer’s Mustang II, “Unchained Lighting” remains one of the more memorable “Pony Deuce” quarter-milers ever built.

3) THE BLUE MAX MUSTANG II FUNNY CAR: The partnership of Raymond Beadle and Blue Max team founder Harry Schmidt fielded a beautiful Mustang II-bodied funny car that took the 1975 U.S. Nationals. Beadle and Schmidt eventually split up and the Mustang II livery was retired. However, Beadle went on to become one of the superstars of drag racing and number twenty on the NHRA’s list of fifty top drivers. BangShifters ought to remember the Blue Max Mustang II as Beadle’s “break-out” car.

2) DYNO DON’S MUSTANG II: Although Dyno Don Nicholson drove a number of significant race cars over his illustrious career, his 1977 NHRA World Championship-winning Mustang II is remembered for another reason: it made a his crew chief and engine builder,  a young mechanical engineer named Jon Kaase, a star. Kaase “paid his dues” on Nicholson’s Mustang II, opening the door for Kaase to become the preeminent “mountain motor” IHRA pro stock engine builder and multiple-time Popular Hot Rodding Engine Masters champion.

1) JOE RUGGIERELLO’S MUSTANG II: In the April 1977 issue of Hot Rod, legendary journalist Gray Baskerville summarized Joe Ruggierello’s infamous Detroit-based “Sudden Death” Mustang II as follows: “This Is the Horse That Ate the Rat, That Smoked the Cat, That Gobbled the Goat . . . It Came from the House That Gapp ‘N’ Jack Built.”  

Baskerville contined,”Ruggirello’s racer is so fast that it does two things: manages to stay one step ahead of the grim reaper and remains undefeated on those secluded freeways and byways located in and around the suburbs of Detroit.”


2) NO V8 FOR 1974 — In an article entitled “The Deuce is Mild,” published in the January 1974 issue of Hot Rod, Cory Farley wrote the new, V8-less Mustang II was “no quarter horse.”

“On a hot day at Irwindale Raceway, with wheelstander Wild Bill Shrewsbury driving, the ‘Stang went 18.56 at 73.95 miles per hour. Bill left easy, he left hard, he shifted early and he shifted late; and the car kept running 18.50s at around 73.”

(Sadly, the article includes no photos of Shrewsbury whipping the little V6 on the strip)

1) ENERGY CRISIS STAR: John Clor beams that the Mustang II is sixth on the all-time Mustang sales chart and the V8-less 1974 model came within ten percent of the sales record for the original 1965 Mustang.


What BangShifters should note is that the Mustang II actually flopped until the OPEC oil embargo brought gas lines in the fall of 1973. And Chevrolet’s Camaro raced past Mustang in sales for the first time after gasoline prices stabilized.


4) THE SPORTIVA II PROTOTYPE: Imagine a topless Mustang II with a chunky, Fairmont Futura-styled targa bar and you’ve got the still-born Mustang II Sportiva II. Ford used it to tease consumers at 1973 auto shows, who were soon to be left with no convertible-topped Mustangs for a decade. Bummer.

3) MUSTANG II GHIA: Carrozzeria Ghia SpA was once one of Italy’s most respected design houses. By the mid-1970s Ford had diluted the “Ghia” brand to the moniker for tacky trim packages. Vinyl tops and opera windows on Mustangs should tell you all you need to know about the awful Mustang II Ghia. Veteran Ford designer Don DeLaRossa likened the huge C-pillar to “a tree trunk growing out of the quarter panel.” Lee Iacocca would repeatedly return to this atrocious neo-classic styling abyss during the remainder of his automotive career.

2) WESTERN MUSTANG II PROTOTYPE: The proposed Western Mustang II sported Ghia-type opera windows, saddle-tooled leather seats and a King Ranch color palate. Yee-hah. It was so bad that Ford crushed all but one of the prototypes.

1) THE WARHORSE: Here at BangShift, we’ve debated the merits of possibly the ugliest Mustang II of all time, dubbed here as “The Warhorse.” It takes some doing to throw together a Pony Deuce that?s more homely than what Dearborn built, but someone’s done it.

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