1977 Ford Mustang IIEnlarge Photo
In preparation for its iconic ponycar's 45th birthday on April 17 (official celebration in Birmingham, Alabama), Ford's been walking down Mustang memory lane. This week they drug up the Malaise Era second- and third-generation Mustangs, built from 1974 to 1982 when gas crises and claptrap catalytic converters killed power output, landau roofs and aluminum wheel covers passed for athleticism and sport.
1978 Ford Mustang II King CobraEnlarge Photo
Ford swears that even through the dark days of the 70s, the "Mustang has never lost its essence – that certain cache that makes it an American icon. At no point in history is this more evident than in the period from 1974 to 1982." Um...cache? Maybe the PR team popped a few quaaludes for nostalgia's sake.
1980 Ford Mustang convertibleEnlarge Photo
Perhaps the biggest offense was the Pinto-based 1974-1979 Mustang II, which nonetheless has attained a bizarre cult following. 1974 was the only year that the Mustang has ever been offered without a V-8. Nonetheless, perhaps on the merit of the Mustang name alone, Ford moved 386,000 of the '74s. If the Mustang II did anything successfully, it was to sharply curtail the avoirdupois of the previous generation.
1981 Ford MustangEnlarge Photo
The 1979 Mustang moved onto the Fox platform, which first underpinned the 1978 Ford Fairmont and Mercury Zephyr midsize sedans. It was never a platform known for structural rigidity, but it did stalwart duty underneath a vastly improved Mustang exterior for 1979. Ford smartly paired this platform with a powerful and legendary V-8 in 1982, the 5.0. That happily burbling engine provided more thrust than just about anything at its price point in the power-starved 80s and paved the way for the ponycar resurrection.
We'd rather forget this era of the 'Stang. There's a brand new 2010 Mustang out and it looks, drives, and acts like a ponycar should. The rise, fall, and resurrection of the Mustang closely mirrors that of the American car industry. Here's hoping the Mustang II (along with marketing failures like New Coke) remains forever consigned to the past.