What Is the Mustang King Cobra?

What Is the Mustang King Cobra?

Last Updated August 8, 2023 | Andrew Boyle

The Mustang King Cobra was a limited edition Mustang produced in 1978. Only 4,313 were ever produced. The King Cobra is part of the Mustang II generation but was designed to be more powerful than the rest of the generation.

Although it’s often forgotten now, the little-loved Mustang II was actually a huge hit in its time. Almost 300,000 Mustang IIs sold in 1974 and it continued to be a strong performer for the four years this generation lasted. While the Mustang II was popular among drivers who desired a sporty car that reflected the economic realities of the recession and the gas crisis, its anemic engine offerings did little to appease drivers who longed for the big block V8s of old.

In 1976, to celebrate the return of a V8 engine to the Mustang’s lineup, Ford released the Cobra II. The Cobra II was an appearance-only package that celebrated the racing heritage of earlier Shelbys but offered little in the way of performance upgrades.

Enter the King Cobra

Bright orange Mustang with Cobra on the hood

Introduced in 1978, the Mustang King Cobra was Ford’s attempt to truly reclaim its performance car roots, offering not only a cosmetic upgrade but also a 302-cu.-in. two-barrel carburetor engine, a front-air dam, power front disc brakes, power steering, and a Rallye package with adjustable shocks and rear stabilizer bar. The King Cobra package was only available on V8-equipped Mustangs, and it also featured unique pinstriping, a hood scoop, a distinctive snake decal, black trim pieces, and more, making a bold statement for any driver willing to pay the $6,350 price tag this top-of-the-line package commanded.

The First 5.0

Another notable feature of the King Cobra was that it was the very first Mustang to wear the “5.0” branding. Ford had been the first U.S. manufacturer to adopt metric dimensions in their engines, and the Cobra prominently displayed that fact on its nameplates and decals. Of course, the “5.0” branding would go on to be an iconic part of the Fox Body platform, introduced in 1979, which would return the Mustang to its rightful place atop the pony car pantheon.

Sales Stats

The King Cobra variant was produced only for the 1978 model year, and sold 4,313 units. It remains highly sought after by collectors, both on its own merits and for the important role it played in rehabilitating the brand’s image among performance fanatics.

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