A Daydreaming Designer Looks At An Alternate Reality Rebirth For The Unloved Mustang II

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Does “cancel culture” exist in the automotive world? I’m not talking about the results of some car executive or race driver being exposed saying or doing things that they really shouldn’t and having to deal with the consequences; I’m referring to the cars themselves, and I believe that cancelling exists.

Take a look at these posters featuring different eras of Ford Mustangs. Do you notice something that is conspicuous by its absence?

Screenshot (58) Copy

Sources: ebay and redbubble

That’s right: it’s as if the Pinto-based 1974-78 Mustang II never existed. Look, you could be forgiven for leaving off a footnote in Mustang history, but it’s sort of odd when the fourth best-selling model year EVER of the car (after the 1965-67 versions) is just eradicated from the records of a lot of enthusiasts, like it committed crimes against humanity. People forget that the Mustang II was extremely popular since it made perfect sense for the current gas-lines energy crisis and was in retrospect not much worse than its contemporary rivals, if at all. Marketing makes it look like fun here:

I thought these were quite fetching at the time and told my dad that we should trade our own by-then somewhat dog-eared Mustang in on one. Sure, ours was a ’65 front disc brake 289 4 barrel convertible, but when you’re like six or seven years old it’s just an old car with a ripped top, and the II had AMBER REAR SIGNALS! Dad was not moved.

Admittedly, the II is not a great Pony car or car in general; it’s the archetype of problems of the malaise era. In addition to the negative seventies disco vibe and the lackluster performance, the cool cred by association for this thing was pretty low; the early Mustangs had James Bond and Steve McQueen while the Mustang II had Charlie’s Angels.

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Source: Mecum

What if things were different? Let’s look at an alternate reality where the Mustang II (deservedly or not) got some attention from a guy who (deservedly or not) had the title of King of Cool.

The Alternate Universe Mustang II

The year is alternate 1975, and Steve McQueen stars in the much hyped and long-awaited Bullitt II, which turns out to be a terrible movie. The plot has more holes than the fenders on a rust belt Datsun, and it’s a pretty dull film (I mean, the original was hardly fast paced between chases). The now thirty-something star seemed rather wooden and going through the motions in this screen turd. McQueen knew that he couldn’t beat the original Bullitt chase for pure speed, hence the sequel featured a Hertz-rented white Mustang II notchback coupe in hot pursuit on sidewalks, stairs and even in a building.  Critics were merciless; ‘even the chase seems tacked on’ quipped Roger Ebert.

Screenshot (55)

Source: Mondoshop and The Bishop

However, today ANYTHING McQueen touched or even glanced at is now considered gold.  Around alternate year 2020 Ford realized, like VW did with the New Beetle, that a retro-revival can only go so far.  As our black clad colleague from old Blighty mentioned, you can only make Xerox copies of copies of copies of an original Mustang for so long before it becomes an amorphous blob, and the Mustang used to be an innovator with each new version.  But why would the Blue Oval brand risk innovation when they could just reach back for more nostalgia, just a different mark? Hence the Mustang II 2: the return of the Puny Car.

Here is a rough mockup of what this car could look like, using an S-550 as a basis. The nose of the car follows the shape of the original II, and the stubby notchback shape simulates the Bullitt II rental car.

2020 Ford Mustang Front 13997 032 2400x1800 Yz 3 Copy

source: KBB and The Bishop

What you have is essentially the same formula of 2005 Mustang and the following Challengers and Camaro, but now applied to this rather unloved notchback coupe. With four cylinder engines now the norm in Mustangs, Ford decided that the McQueen-associated four-banger II would be a perfect revival just in time for the Pinto-based car’s fiftieth birthday, and the malaise era just keeps getting cooler all the time with people either not alive then or too young to know how shitty it really was (like me). As my Boomer Boss tells me, try paying up to sixteen percent interest for four years on a molasses-slow new car that barely started in the cold and see how nostalgic you are then.

At the back you can be damn sure that the New Two has the tri-colored taillights that were an American first back at the 1974 launch.

Used 2020 Ford Mustang Ecoboost High Performance Wrear View Camera

source: Auto Collection of Murfreesboro and The Bishop

Inside, it would seem that the big slab dashboard of the original II is perfect for a new car, since slab equals big screen, or several screens in this case. Oh, and the screens are framed by the dashboard padding, not just stuck to the top of the dash like a couple Acer monitors on stands. Who would do that?

29056992 1974 Ford Mustang Std

source: classic cars.com

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There are several modes for the dash displays:

Heritage: Just like the 1974 car with woodgrain and animated mechanical digital clock above the glove box.

Cobra II: As above but silver engine-turned trim

Original: Looks like a 1965 dashboard

Classic: Copy of a 1968 dashboard

Foxbox: Simulated 1988 instruments

Future 1 and 2: Modern digital style gauges. Also, the logo horse runs across the area above the glovebox on startup.

My guess is there would be a fastback version as well, since that was obviously part of the Mustang II portfolio, including the infamous Cobra II, but this time with more than the original’s 140 horsepower.

Maybe with the McQueen connection, Ford would finally would stop pretending that it is 1964 1/2 over and over like it has for the past nearly twenty years. Instead, they’d pretend that it’s 1974. Such progress.

Personally, while I think the Mustang II probably deserves better treatment by historians than what it generally gets in this reality, I’m still not a fan of this rather subpar model or the idea of a revival of it. Associations with McQueen certainly wouldn’t change my opinion. I have to agree with our own Matt Hardigee- when it comes to pony cars and effortless, confident cool in the seventies, James Garner in a Firebird is the one to beat.

S L500

Source: twitter

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87 Responses

  1. I’m a II fan, if only because I lived through the significance of the II rolling out to replace the ugly, bloated ’71-’73 Mustang, striking right when the 1st gas crisis was peaking. That Ford had the right car at the right time was pure luck on their part, but kudos to them when lightning struck. Sure, the Fox was even better, but the II kept the Mustang name alive after sales had dwindled in the early 70’s.

  2. I’m a Mustang II owner and enthusiast. I’ve owned three Mustang II Ghias (including my current ’75).

    After reading this article and looking at the accompanying illustrations, all I can say is STOP.

    The ideas are bad across the board (especially the hokey heritage mode for the dash that’s even worse than the fox-body mode that doesn’t actually look like the fox body cluster for the real new Mustang). The illustrations are worse.

    If I wanted a modern car that evokes the Mustang II’s image, it already exists. Ford sold it from 2013-2014. The last two years of S197 Mustang has a grille that’s almost exactly the shape of the original II grille, and, while they look less blocky than the 2010-2012 units, the tail lights are huge and blocky like the II’s tails as well.

    The Mustang II has it’s own legacy. It’s looked down upon my the ignorant, ignored by the masses, and enjoyed for what it is by those of us that know its secrets. My first, a ’74 with the 2.3 and the 4spd was such a rust-bucket that I parted it out after tinkering with it for years, a hobby that became my career (I’m a dealership technician). My ’76 gained headers, intake, carburetor, and exhaust and became a great little street cruiser that was comfortable, and once I replaced the 13″ wheels and pizza-cutter tires with 16″ ponys and a set of 205/55/16 tires, a respectable handler. My ’75 is a cheap, rusty, death trap of a drag car that runs 12s. They’re every bit as versatile as the Mustang generations before and after, they’re cheap, they’re light, and they’re a hell of a lot of fun. Don’t go trying to change that with some tacky re-imagining.

  3. Mustang II? Ewww. This take on it. Sorry, no thanks. No, I’m not biased. Ford makes a better all-around car than the Camaro since it’s rebirth. Yeah, the Camaro has died twice, but GM doesn’t leave it out of their history like Ford does with this car. I’m sure the Camaro will come back in a few years as an electric.

  4. There was a Bullitt II. It was called “Dirty Harry.” They wanted McQueen to do a sequel, but he was not interested and busy racing. So they changed it up a bit, added an unknown actor (the man with no name), but still had Ford hero cars (souped up 70/71 LTDs.) They still used San Francisco as the backdrop city, though.

  5. You know…I don’t hate this. Especially not those chunky retro taillights.

    Especially if it was a RWD platform, maybe flip the Escape’s 2.0T to a longitudinal layout….

    …NO. Bad zeppelopod. Caffeine BEFORE reading this site, not afterwards.

  6. I might challenge your assumed base platform for the new Mustang II.

    The original was based on a non- traditional platform for a sports car/pony car. It was chosen in the spirit of fuel efficiency and cost savings to share a platform and technology to make the Mustang nameplate sustainable in otherwise troubling times.

    The design execution was simple in that it saw Mustang design cues draped over an otherwise non-sports car body.

    I would like to assert that not only is your design not accurately applied, but is is also irrelevant. You see, fine sir (I assume), the Mustang II already exists. It’s called the Mach-E!!!!

      1. Perhaps the REAL challenge would have been to take a currently more ‘lowly’ common, fuel efficient, inexpensive platform like the Ford Escape… or even worse, the EcoSport!

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