My trip to London was more about unplugging, spending time with family, and staring at paintings in museums. I was going to try, with all my might, to not spend as much time as I usually do gawking at cars. I was mostly successful, but I did let my eyes fall upon some unusual piece of rolling metal. The most surprising find? This extremely clean 1970s Mustang II with California plates tucked into a little parking lot near London’s Borough market.
I always have these grand plans for exercise when I go on vacation, which often don’t happen because I’m either too busy or too tired from walking so much. About halfway into my trip last week I woke up before the family and thought I’d take advantage of the rare London sunshine to go for a little jog. My plan was to start at the site of the old Globe Theater at the base of Southwark (pronounced suh-thick) Bridge, down the northern bank of the Thames River, across Tower Bridge and back along the south bank.
Fun fact: If you’ve never been to London you might picture London Bridge as the thing with the towers. It is not. London Bridge is a completely nondescript, boring roadway. Tower Bridge is actually the one with the cool towers on it. Don’t feel bad, I didn’t realize this until I got there.
The first part of the jog was quite nice and I enjoyed staring at the HMS Belfast docked in the river as I slowly jogged off the 9,000-calorie British breakfasts I was indulging in every morning. Crossing to the other side of the Tower Bridge I realized that the running path I was on dead-ended at the base of the plain-as-crustless-Wonder-Bread London Bridge.
Undeterred, I tried winding my way through the Bankside neighborhood. I immediately got lost somewhere around the Golden Hinde, which is the ship Sir Francis Drake used to circumnavigate the globe. Seriously, get turned around for like 15 seconds in London and you’re going to randomly bump into something of huge importance to Western Civilization. It was then that I fully got the Eddie Izzard joke about being from Europe “where the history comes from.”
Jogging a little further I nearly broke my neck looking back at this:
Yeah, that’s a Mustang II Ghia. In great condition. Parked near the Thames with California plates. What-the-what?!?
For those of you who don’t know, the Ford Mustang II was Ford’s attempt to keep the company’s extremely valuable nameplate alive during the oil crisis and after years of letting the Mustang get big, heavy, and awkward. It’s basically a Pinto underneath, available with either a 2.3-liter inline-four or 2.8-liter V6, initially.
Here’s a great brochure showing off the appeal:
Given the Pinto bones, most people would agree that the Mustang II is the worst-and-least Mustang to ever Mustang. Much to my surprise, Ford actually sold the Mustang II in Europe. There were even right-hand drive versions built for the UK market. Here’s a British review of a left-hand drive version:
The version I saw, though, couldn’t have been a British market car. For instance, British market cars had a super European turn signal light awkwardly poking out of the nose next to the grille, as seen on this 1978 Mustang II Ghia for sale on Car & Classic:
There’s even a Facebook Group for UK & EU lovers of the Mustang II. I deeply respect this. So why don’t I think it’s a British car? Obviously, anyone can put American plates on a car in the UK, but this car has both a steering wheel in the correct place (sorry/not sorry) and it doesn’t have the parking light/indicator conversion. It’s possible this is a European version?
It also appears to be optioned all the way up to the Ghia spec, though I’m not sure exactly which year or which motor it has. I’m guessing it’s got the V6. If anyone can look at the clues and let me know I’d appreciate it.
Why does a Ghia spec exist? Well, Italian coachbuilder Ghia designed the body and Ford thought the Ghia name would give it that extra little bit of European flair. Here’s what you got with a Ghia package:
That’s right, it comes with a digital clock, Westminster cloth or Media velour trim, BSW steel-belted radials, and “elegance that can evaporate boredom instantly.” No one can top 1970s copywriters for pure cocaine-fueled optimism.
This owner selected the vinyl and it looks fantastic.
If anyone has any details on what the hell this is and how it got there I’d love to know more.
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