At its essence, the 1974-1978 Mustang second generation, marketed as the Mustang II, was simply a product of the times in which it was born. The global oil crisis that began in 1973 had lasting effects on the U.S. economy, and was directly responsible for the more efficiency-minded design of the new Mustang. Ford didn’t shy away from admitting to this. For example, the 1978 Mustang brochure noted that “...[the Mustang II] provides very good EPA fuel economy at a time when it’s so essential.”
It’s no secret among enthusiasts that the 2nd generation of the Mustang is regarded as the “least good.” But being fanatical about every model year and variant, we think that the Mustang II gets overlooked by many and an undeserved bad reputation by others.
Subjectively, it could also be argued that the Mustang was being marketed more and more towards women and that the overall body shape had been sculpted to become smoother and more refined in appearance. Though some of these attributes are simply due to the aesthetics of the 1970’s, Ford was actively trying to expand their target demographic. The same 1978 sales brochure prominently called out the Fashion Accessory Package, saying that it was “Especially for you, lovely lady!”, and that it was “designed with you, a woman, in mind.” This hilariously transparent marketing seems out of place in the modern era, but provides a great insight into how exactly Ford was trying to sell the model at the time.
Even though it shared its underpinnings with the much-maligned Ford Pinto, the 1974 Mustang II won the Motor Trend Car of the Year award, which indicates that, while it might not be regarded as the best Mustang of all-time, it was the right Mustang for that time. Despite the success of the novel 1974 Mustang, sales dropped substantially for the remainder of the second generation.
The 1974 Mustang is notable for being the only model year that did not feature a V8 engine as an option. Additionally, convertibles were not available for any of the Mustang II model years, only returning later in the Fox Body cycle with the 1983 model year.
While the Mustang II can be considered the least “Mustang-like” of any generation, we’re just thankful that it was able to adapt and evolve through difficult times in order to survive, cementing its place in history as one of the greatest American automobiles.