Home » There Should Have Been Two Fords With The Mustang Badge In 1974, And Here’s The First One

There Should Have Been Two Fords With The Mustang Badge In 1974, And Here’s The First One

Mustang 74 1 Topshot 2
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If you haven’t noticed yet, the Autopian likes to champion vehicular underdogs.

Popular media might have very fixed opinions of what is “good” and “bad” in the automotive world, but you’d better not bring such attitudes to the comments sections of this very website. So the Yugo is number one on the list of “worst cars ever,” is it? Like the blue one with Jason Torchinsky’s name on the title, sitting about twenty feet from his desk? That Yugo? It’s not just him. David Tracy’s fondness for Big Three outsider AMC-era Jeep pickups is matched only by Beau’s love of William Towns-designed Aston Martin Lagondas.

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

It should come as no surprise then to see that the automotive “mascot” of the Autopian’s two-year anniversary is just such a ride. Jason chose a Mustang for this mascot; other car sites might have selected something like a Highland Green 1968 fastback, a SN95 Cobra or even a Vanilla Ice white Fox convertible, but Jason’s went with the most controversial Mustang of all time: the Mustang II.

II Hated

It’s now been fifty years since Pinto-based Mustang II was released, yet disinterest if not vitriol lives on. Torch recently went to a Mustang event with reportedly thousands of cars in attendance, there was literally the only one Mustang II on display. Buried among the other more popular ‘Stangs at the show, you would think this generation was a mere footnote in the Mustang story, though it was far from that.

Mustang Ii Jason 4 21
Jason Torchinsky

This maligned machine might be forever seen as a failure in enthusiast’s eyes, but it certainly failed upwardly back in the day. Introduced right in the teeth of the 1973-74 energy crisis, you couldn’t have asked for a better car for the times. Replacing the larger, gas-guzzling previous generation with a Pinto-based four- or six-cylinder powered version that was a foot and a half shorter than the earlier car might have irked Mustang faithful, but 386,000 other buyers didn’t care and bought a Mustang II in the first year of production alone (not that much less than the 418,000 of the initial year of “OG” 1964 1/2 ‘Stang).

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With the Mustang II, buyers got a “sporty” affordable ride and a fabled name; what’s not to like? As an elementary schooler at the time, the amber rear signals were enough to hook me. As I’ve mentioned before, I really wondered why the hell my dad wouldn’t trade in our by-then-rather-beat-up 1965 Mustang that he’d bought brand new from Tasca Ford twelve years earlier for one of these (by the way, our hooptie in question was a faded, rusting Ivy Green convertible with a 289 4 barrel, factory front disc brakes, and Pony interior, so yes, I was stupid, but I was a kid).

Mustang Ii Images 4 21
Ford

Despite the incredible 1974 sales numbers for the Mustang II, in the later model years Ford wasn’t able to move half as many cars. In 1977, when 153,000 units sold, the Camaro was able to beat the Mustang in the sales race for the first time. Sales rebounded slightly for the final year in 1978, but the GM rival continued to hammer the poor PintoStang. The celebrated Fox body replacement couldn’t come soon enough.

Mustang II Sales:
1974  386,000

1975  188,500
1976  187,500
1977  153,000
1978  192,500

As much as I respect people who love and preserve the few remaining examples, I tend to side with the Mustang mainstream fans in my general disdain for the performance and looks of the II. Worse than that, I think there was a way that the Mustang could have not only kept its cred but also found more buyers back in the day.

II Unsophisticated

In many ways, the Mustang II suffered from the fact that it was a neither-fish-nor-fowl sort of proposal. The car courted not only traditional pony car buyers, but also those cross-shopping smaller, mainly imported coupes. That stuck-in-the-middle aspect of the II undeniably created that broad market appeal and helped with its initial sales success, but it also held the car back.

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You see, some Camaro or Firebird prospects must have considered and bought the Mustang II, but for many of them, I’m sure the much smaller compact seemed like a more fitting competitor of the Vega-based Monza coupe. Hard to believe, but despite being labeled as “oversized” that 1971-73 Mustang was only half an inch longer than the second-generation F-Body Camaro; it just wasn’t that much bigger. Take a look at the scaled comparison images below; I checked the dimensions twice. The Mustang II is, of all things, even shorter than the Monza.

Size Comparison 4 24
Autobarn Classics, Classic Cars, General Motors, Bring A Trailer

Sadly for Ford, there was another problem: the Ferrari 250GT-style 1971-81 F-bodies were some of the best-looking Camaros and Firebirds ever (I think they’re still stunning, and the Chevy Monza had the appearance of a cut-rate Ferrari 365GTC/4). You saw Farrah Fawcett in a Pinto ‘Stang but you’d never see Burt Reynolds piloting one in Smokey and the Bandit.

Chevy Images 4 26 Jpg
General Motors

On the other hand, if you compared a Mustang II with similar-sized compact coupes like a Toyota Celica (or heaven forbid, a Volkswagen Scirocco) you’d be less than impressed with the refinement, to say nothing of the rather rococo “personal luxury car” styling (a 1976 Celica liftback looks more like a little Mustang than the Mustang II does).

Celicas 4 22
Volkswagen, Bring A Trailer

Trying to take on everything from a 6.6 liter Pontiac Trans Am all the way down to a Vega-powered Pontiac Sunbird with just one car was a fool’s errand. In retrospect, I think Ford could have experienced even more success by taking a bold move: making two separate cars with a Mustang badge. One of these cars would be about the size of the II (or even smaller) but more sporting, aimed squarely at import buyers. It seems that I might not be alone in this thinking, and that Ford had a bit of a crisis of conscious about this as well.

II European?

After half of a century, once-highly-secret Ford concepts are seeing the light of day, and we’re able to witness alternative directions that Ford considered taking with what ultimately became the second generation of their famous coupe. Jason showed a few of them recently, and they’re all over the map. Some of these things look like Shrinky Dink Granadas and Gran Torinos:

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Mustang Concepts 2 4 21
Ford via Jason Torchinsky

Other designs look like God-knows-what ideas with strange add-ons fender skirts or some funky-looking thing with chrome Armco bumpers:

Mustang Concepts 4 21
Ford via Jason Torchinsky

However, if you looked in the comments below, a post from a Tim Beamer mentioned that one particular concept presented seemed to stand out:

Tim Beamer 4 27 E1714421746328

 

Let’s take a look at the rather unromantically named S-17615-10 below:

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1971 M2 3 E1712344110713
Ford via Jason Torchinsky

Tim Beamer was right; compared to many of the rather odd, ill-proportioned examples that Jason presented, the concept in question is quite seems to be an outlier not only due to its comparative resolve but also because it seems to have been made to a totally different design brief. Like even the most complex riddles, years later the answers are rather easy to find.

A little research uncovers that this proposal was from the Ghia studios; if you aren’t familiar with the name of the designer, you’ll certainly know his work. Most famous for penning Italian masterpieces like the Fiat 124 Spyder and DeTomaso Pantera, Tom Tjaard was actually a Detroit native who worked overseas at Ghia and then Pininfarina before returning to the by-then-Ford-owned Ghia studios at the time this concept was created (in an earlier post I attributed the Ford Fiesta to Telnack’s team, yet based on more research it appears to be Tjaard design as well). The date on the image of S-17615-10 says 1970, and it’s pretty clear to many observers that, inadvertently or not, the shape influenced the look of numerous cars released around a decade later such as the FB Mazda RX-7, the Mitsubishi Starion and Z31 Nissan 300ZX.

Starion 4 22
Mitsubishi, Nissan

In fact, this Ghia concept bears a surprisingly strong resemblance to a car that, just like the Mustang II, premiered in 1974. Designed by ex-Ford man Herb Grasse, the Bricklin SV-1 was a sensation at the time that probably could have been a major success had labor and quality issues not quickly brought it down (note the sagging side rub strips on the example below).

Bricklin Sv1 4 23
Bring A Trailer

As far as S-17615-10 being made to a different design brief than those other Mustang concepts, that seems to have been the case as well. Based on Ford’s recognition that foreign imports were starting to dominate the scene around 1970, the Ghia concepts were apparently an attempt to use their newly acquired Turin studios to see what a more European approach to their prized little compact might look like.

Ultimately, Ford did decide to go with a smaller, more “world car” sized Mustang offering, but they certainly didn’t go with the international styling. The Mustang II looked less Italy Torino than it did Big Lebowski Torino. As proof of Lee Iacoccca’s understanding of US tastes, many buyers did indeed like that, but GM had it all over the Blue Oval in terms of styling.

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Tim Beamer requested that Your Dumb Ass Servant show how that Tjaard Ghia concept might look in production (and live on to the present day), and I couldn’t resist taking the bait. It’s too bad that Tjaard’s little Mustang couldn’t see the light of day, and I’d be glad to go back into the malaise time loop I’m forever trapped in to explore if it did. First, though, I need to set the stage for its existence.

The First Of The II Mustangs

The Mustang had grown over time by the early seventies, and there was a reason. Just as cars today are turning into 6000 pound behmouths, the market generally demanded bigger and bigger cars. but there was a group of buyers that Ford left behind. People like my dad that appreciated the small, substitute-for-a-European-car approach of our 1965 model were alienated by the later Mustangs. The new Mustang II was indeed smaller but few people that owned, say, an Open Manta or Volvo 1800ES would ever consider even darkening the door of a Ford dealer to drive one.

Part One of my two-part answer to this challenge would be the smaller of the two Mustangs, which I’ll call the “Stallion” model. We’d base it on Tjaard’s S-17615-10; around the size of the Mustang II, the Stallion would use Pinto mechanicals or possibly parts from the German Capri; the Pinto four would be standard but a Cologne V6 could be optional. I’d save the V8 for the bigger Mustang that I’ll show next, but I’d love to see a turbocharged V6 in the Stallion at some point instead of adding the weight of that underpowered 302 up front.

Considering the hype at the time surrounding the aforementioned Bricklin and wedges like the TR7, I have to believe that the Stallion’s looks would generate a buzz similar to when the first Mustang premiered in April 1964 at the World’s Fair. Now, I couldn’t take the Tjaard design as-is, of course. First, that grille on S-17615-10 looks a bit like someone picked up a forced air heat return duct grate at Home Depot and stuck it on the car. I’ve replaced that with a full-width hood grille which overlaps the pop-up headlamps and has the requisite logo in the center. I’ve kept the vestigial side “scoop” from the original concept that echoes the detail of the early ‘Stangs. The Ford Rally wheels from the Pinto don’t look bad, nor do the Ford door handles.

Stallion Front 4 27

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As much as I like the tapering rear of the Tjaard concept, there is no way that this would allow for enough cargo space and headroom for the mandatory tiny rear seat, so we’ll need to raise it. The Alfa Montreal-style side vents, while quite cool, won’t play in Peoria so we’ll simply add a rear quarter window shape similarly to an old Fastback Mustang (but we’ll add privacy louvers inside the glass).

The taillights are recessed red three-bar units that look very “Mustang”, but don’t panic Jason!!  See that fake full-width “exhaust” grille below these lights? That hides backup lights and honest-to-God amber rear signals like Our Founder would demand. The fake gas cap logo is a nice nod to the early Mustangs as well.

Stallion Back 4 24

Now, not everyone wants a fastback, and the Mustang II notchback did well enough that Chevy offered a “Town Coupe” version of that Monza to counter it. Naturally, we can provide those buyers with a notchback Mustang Stallion. Note that if we released this a year later in 1975, we could use four rectangular exposed headlamps instead of the pop-ups on the fastback to give it a different character (and lower cost).

Ghia Notchback

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Yes, there would a “Ghia” model like the one that Kelly had on Charlie’s Angels, but no landau roof option. I am sure that dealers and the aftermarket will solve for that factory omission.

Sportier Inside II

Considering that this will be a very mainstream, high-volume American car I didn’t want to go too nuts with the Stallion interior. I did, however, what to get more “sporting” looking than the very LTD-style dash of the Mustang II you see below:

Mustang Ii Interior 4 26
Ford

The shape of the Stallion dash is a “double cowl” look of the first Mustangs with symmetrical recessed areas in front of driver and passenger, flanking a central pod with the same HVAC and radio controls that were used on about a zillion different seventies Fords.

Mustang Interior 4 25

If you’re a Mustang fanperson, you’ll know about the famous “Rally-Pac” gauge cluster; a tachometer and clock option that added on to the top of the steering column of the 1964-66 models.

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Mustang Gauges 2 4 21
Bandelier Mustang Collection

The Stallion could use a similar design, where an optional gauge package would substitute the fuel and temp gauges with additional instruments, and then add a tach and clock to “float” in the space below.

Mustang Gauges 4 25

As with the outside of the Mustang Stallion, the look would definitely attract new buyers. It’s possible that my then-thirty-year-old dad would have said “This is more like our ‘65, and I think that Ford is finally getting it.” He still wouldn’t have traded in our 1965 Mustang, of course.

What Does The Second Of The II Mustangs Look Like?

I always balked at the idea of making a full series of Mustangs including sedans (or even wagons like its poor Mercury Cougar brother got saddled with). Still, that doesn’t mean within the realm of “sports coupe” we couldn’t offer some choices, and the market was large enough for two different cars featuring the “Mustang” name. In retrospect, I think that they needed that.

Some might say that the smaller-of-the-two Stallion doesn’t look that much like a traditional Mustang, but in 1974 the Mustang II was also a departure from what people expected from a Mustang as well. Don’t forget- back then the Mustang was still a living, breathing thing that kept pace with the needs and wants of the times. Unlike today, it was not stuck in the “it’s 1968 all over again” retro loop that we’ve had since the S197 debuted in 2005. The Mustang had yet to hit the nostalgia trip; this was Ford’s pony car equivalent of the Rolling Stones when they were still releasing stuff like “Exile On Main Street” and not today when they’re doing, well, I have no idea what the last five Stones albums were called.

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So we have our small 1974 Mustang now, but what is that “big” model going to look like? You’ll see soon enough, but here’s a hint. There was a Mustang show car that Ford didn’t bring to life in America, but instead let it partially influence one of their cars in the Land Down Under; a car which survived the apocalypse, if you can believe the events of a certain film…

 

Relatedbar

A Daydreaming Designer Imagines The Mercury Version Of The Ford GT40 That Never Existed – The Autopian

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

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How Ford Could Attack The Electric Dodge Charger With A Mustang That’s Not A Mustang – The Autopian

Our Daydreaming Designer Imagines If Japanese Wacky-Car Company Mitsuoka Made A Tribute To The Second Generation Camaro – The Autopian

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Electronika
Electronika
22 days ago

I try really hard not to complain about the ads, and I know the Autopian is a business that needs to ads\money to operate but can you guys please please drop these microsoft ads that auto expand and cover the stories??? They make it impossible to read your stories and without the stories what is the point??? I mean I pay for membership already it is a real put off

Attila the Hatchback
Attila the Hatchback
22 days ago
Reply to  Electronika

Weird, I’ve never seen on of these.
FWIW, I usually use Firefox (with no ad blockers), though. I avoid Chrome like the plague — it exists solely to allow google to monetize you through ads/tracking.

Black Peter
Black Peter
22 days ago

Tasca?? Now I’m going to read everything in a generic jabrony voice…

Church
Church
22 days ago

Love it. No notes.

Tinibone
Tinibone
22 days ago

Looking forward to the Aussie XA/XB/XC coupe modifications! I’d love to see how GM would respond with a Yankee version of the Monaro coupe as a chev or Pontiac maybe

Brian Wheeler
Brian Wheeler
22 days ago

The Stallion would go on to influence the Saturn SC.

El Barto
El Barto
22 days ago

Looking forward to seeing your ‘stang version of the Aussie Falcon XA / XB / XC Hardtop Coupes.

Josh Turner
Josh Turner
23 days ago

Great article, and a fun concept.

Tom Tjaarda’s name actually had three As in it, though. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tom_Tjaarda?wprov=sfti1

The Bishop
The Bishop
23 days ago
Reply to  Josh Turner

Thanks for the correction! Of course I feel like an a-hole now.

Hoonicus
Hoonicus
23 days ago

There was a cool concept in 1962,
Dan Gurney introduced it at the United States Grand Prix in Watkins Glen, New York, in 1962.https://www.thehenryford.org/artifact/253045/
then a mustang II in 63
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eugene_Bordinat

Look below and weep at what should have been.
https://performance.ford.com/content/fordracing/home/enthusiasts/newsroom/2018/01/long-lost-1963-_bordinat-cobra-concept/_jcr_content/fr-contentItem/image.img.jpg/1599238157184.jpg

Last edited 23 days ago by Hoonicus
BigThingsComin
BigThingsComin
23 days ago
Reply to  Hoonicus

I’d buy that Cobra concept. But it screams Thunderbird to me, not Mustang.

Steve T
Steve T
23 days ago

Who was this ‘Tjaard’? A contemporary of Greg Giugara and Marcel Gandoni, perhaps?

Jack Trade
Jack Trade
23 days ago

Tangentially, what to make of the whole “Smokey and Bandit” thing with the F-body? Prior to that, it was indeed a sexy Euro style car; but afterward, it became, well, what we think of when we think Camaro. I really do think it was that movie that set all that in motion.

Charlie’s Angels at least preserved space for the Mustang to be different things to different buyers.

The Bishop
The Bishop
23 days ago
Reply to  Jack Trade

Ford got “Mustang Sally” while Chevy got The Dead Milkmen’s “Bitchin Camaro”

Urban Runabout
Urban Runabout
23 days ago

Yet Ford already had such a car:
It was called the “Capri II”

Mr. Canoehead
Mr. Canoehead
23 days ago
Reply to  Urban Runabout

I remember a review at the time that said that the Capri II made the Mustang II look like the old grey mare.

(Former Capri II owner here).

Urban Runabout
Urban Runabout
23 days ago
Reply to  The Bishop

I’m not an expert on what manufacturing facilities were available to Ford in the 70’s – but that timeframe wasn’t long before VW began Rabbit production at the Westmoreland plant in PA.
Seems to me if Capri II had been badged as a Ford Mustang rather than a Mercury – even without a notchback body style – higher sales may have been worthy of bringing production to the US.

But I get the point of building Mustang II on the Pinto platform- after all, the premise of the original Mustang was to take the mainstream, low-cost, corporate economy car platform and make something special of it.
Capri was the same for Ford Europe.

Which is why the current Mustang is so expensive, large and ridiculous: Ford no longer has a shared small car platform to build upon.

The Bishop
The Bishop
23 days ago
Reply to  Urban Runabout

The Capri was second to the Beetle as best selling import in the US in the early years it was offered at Lincoln Mercury dealerships (with no Mercury branding on it). Still, the exchange rate is likely why it was dropped in 1977 (1978 models were apparently leftover 1977s) and ultimately replaced with the modified fox Mustang in 1979.

Last edited 23 days ago by The Bishop
Urban Runabout
Urban Runabout
23 days ago
Reply to  The Bishop

Meanwhile, Europe got the Ford Capri III

Mr. Canoehead
Mr. Canoehead
23 days ago
Reply to  The Bishop

My Capri was titled a 1978 and I still get people online authoritatively telling me that it couldn’t possibly be a 1978, it had to be a 1977.

10001010
10001010
23 days ago

+1 for that beautiful Starion

The Bishop
The Bishop
23 days ago
Reply to  10001010

You never see skinny fender ones, do you?

10001010
10001010
23 days ago
Reply to  The Bishop

Only in junk yards. I had 2 widebodies back in the day and every time I was l looking for parts all I could find were skinnies. I’m partial to the widebody but both look great.

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
23 days ago

Well Bishop I may have misread your Mustang II Charlie’s Angel take but Sabrina drove the Pinto, as befit her character, Kelly drove the Mustang II, a Pinto I everything but name, and the Beautiful Jill, Farrah Fawcett drove the Mustang Cobra. Now I guess they didn’t get Charlie’s Angel’s over their but you did get Diana Riggs the Beautiful Agent 69, and the Sunbeam Tiger. So don’t feel bad.

MaximillianMeen
MaximillianMeen
23 days ago
Reply to  Mr Sarcastic

I think you are confusing The Bishop with Adrian. 99.9% sure The Bishop is ‘Murican. Hint, if the article doesn’t include some random nonsensical insult such as “nappy-wearing gob buggers” then it is The Bishop, not Unkle Brit-Goth.

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
23 days ago

If they aren’t the same you are correct. Thanks for the information However I am correct on the Charlie’s Angel’s vehicles.

Last edited 23 days ago by Mr Sarcastic
The Bishop
The Bishop
23 days ago

American as chips..I mean, french fries. Uh..y’all.

Chris Stevenson
Chris Stevenson
23 days ago

I doodled cars a lot as a kid, and I was stuck on the idea of creating a range of Mustangs. I was drawing in the early 90s, so my ideas were a Mustang Pony to take on the Miata and a Mustang Stallion that was a technological powerhouse to fight those weird “Skylines” in Britain’s CAR Magazine.

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