Home » These Old Ford Styling Concepts For The Mustang II Show How Wild It Could Have Been

These Old Ford Styling Concepts For The Mustang II Show How Wild It Could Have Been

Mustang2 Styling Top

This was our anniversary week, and the car we proclaimed to be the mascot of our second anniversary is, appropriately, a second itself: the Mustang II. This is by far the least-desirable, most maligned Mustang, but like so many of the reputations of undesirable cars, The II’s bad rep is somewhat unfair.

The Mustang II was a product of a very specific time in history, and the peculiar circumstances and demands of that era defined the boundaries of what the Mustang II could be. In that context, I think the Mustang II did a pretty good job, keeping the Mustang concept of a fun, accessible sporty car alive while the world around it roiled and frothed in ways perhaps not so welcoming to fun, sporty cars.

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

But what if things had been a bit different? What if geopolitics and global economies and overall human culture had taken different turns, made different decisions? In these cases, maybe some of these unrealized Mustang II concepts would have been what made it into the world. And maybe, in some alternate realities, they did? Who knows. But we can certainly look at the Mustang IIs that never were, and wonder.

1977 Ford Mustang Ii 77
[Ed Note: I felt like we needed a pic of a Mustang II here. I probably should have gone with a brochure from 1973 or ’74, but I love this art style, so 1977 it is! – PV]
The pictures we’re about to enjoy are official archival photos from the Ford design studios. I first saw these images via a Car Body Design post from 2013, and they show some really novel and bold styling experiments for Ford’s followup to the original Mustang. The plan was to retain the chassis from the previous generation of Mustang, which is why the early design experiments are significantly larger than what the Mustang II eventually became.

Mach1 73 Copy


It’s important to remember just how huge and bloated the Mustang had become by 1973; the Mustang Mach 1 of that era was a colossal beast, all runway-long hood and high, meaty rear end. It was a beast, and customers were starting to complain that it was unwieldy and perhaps lost focus on what the Mustang’s original intent was.

I mean, look at that thing up there in the brochure art! It’s a beast! A beast whose proportions you can still see in early Mustang II concepts, like this one from 1970:

1970 M2 1

I’ll admit, while I don’t really think this is successful, I love this one because it’s so gleefully unhinged. Look at that skirted rear wheel! The subtle flush door handle! And that truly bonkers front end, with the monobrow hood shrouding inset headlamps and a very raked grille The turn indicators are those long strips on either side of that grille-and-headlights central pod, and I do like those. This feels more like Ford’s take on a Citroën SM than anything based on what we understood Mustangs to be.

This peculiar front end treatment shows up, in modified form, in a later styling model:


1971 M2 4

This one is from a bit under a year later, but that sloping front end with a higher-height midsection is still there. This time we have a more traditional Mustang grille in that area, with hidden headlamps. It’s a strange look, turning a hood scoop into an entire front end, and while I don’t really think it’s attractive, I’m definitely intrigued. Maybe a little aroused?

Let’s go back to 1970 and see what other approaches were being tried:

1970 M2 2

This one is interesting because the designers pretty much hit on what the final Mustang II front end treatment would be, way back there in October of 1970, before trying out a lot of other approaches. That character line that whisks from the front and kicks up after the B-pillar is kind of fun. Note also that certain Mustang design traits, like the faux side scoops, weren’t deemed important enough to include here.


1971 M2 1

This is quite a departure, and almost feels ’70s Italian, like a Fiat 124 Sports Coupe, in its crisp rectilinearity. The hidden lights and full-width grille are interesting, but the rest of the body has a lot of what would become a late ’70s, early 1980s Ford look, what you’d see on later Fox body Mustangs and Ford Fairmont Futuras.

1971 M2 2

The front end of this one feels a lot like what would end up on the Ford Torino. Also, look at that AMC-style pull-flap door handle! This feels almost nothing like a Mustang, though.

1971 M2 3


Here’s a really radical departure, a full-on wedge-shaped mustang with hidden lights and a strange grille on the hood. I kind of like this, in a first-gen Mazda RX-7 sort of way, though that C-pillar, with its horizontal vents, is giving some very Alfa Romeo Montreal vibes. Interestingly, the traditional Mustang side scoop is back here on this very un-Mustang concept. I like it, though!

1971 M2 5

Around the same time as that radical re-think of Mustang-ness was happening, there were other design ideas that were much more traditional, reaching all the way back to the first Mustangs, like the concept above. The traditional three-bar Mustang lights are there, now with what seems to be inset reverse lamps in the middle bar, and a very prominent faux-scoop, with some kind of D-shaped detailing in there. Proportions feel like traditional Mustang notchback proportions.

1971 M2 6

Just about a month after the one above, we see studies that feel very close to what the Mustang II would be. This one is a bit swoopier and that side scoop almost looks functional for something, but it’s quite close, right down to the “reverse color” bumpers that were mostly body-colored plastic with an inset aluminum strip.


1972 M2 1

By early ’72 the fastback had been tried, and the Mustang II side window graphic seems to have been defined. The taillights are also similar to the production Mustang II, which was the first American car to feature amber rear indicators, something I think is shown in that black-and-white picture above. I think. This rear end feels like a Mustang II, though. We’re almost there.

Mustangii Brochure

The final product is significantly toned down from the styling concepts and experiments, but you can definitely see how they got there. Would a wedge-shaped Mustang II have been more of a success? Or one with that weird hood-scoop front end? Who knows. Maybe these new quantum computers can peek into other realities to see how the Mustang II developed there. That seems like a good use of resources!



For A Few Years In American History Blowing Up Two Lovely Original Mustangs To Save A Crappy Mustang II Actually Made Financial Sense

Meet Our Second Anniversary Car, The Mustang II!: Cold Start

Someone Is Driving Around London In A Perfect Version Of The Worst Mustang

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1 month ago

Some of these models were misses for sure, but imagine if Ford held onto them and sold them later. What would people pay for a one off Mustang concept?
Maybe I’m just peeved at how many cool models and EV1 were destroyed.

2 months ago

This is by far the least-desirable, most maligned Mustang, but… [t]he II’s bad rep is somewhat unfair.”

Counterpoint: you’re wrong. Source: I drove one for several years in the 80s. It truly was a terrible car, even for the 70s.

Was it quick or fast? Ha! Maybe the 4.9L V8 with a manny tranny wasn’t *slow*, but not really fast. Mine had the 2.8L with an auto, and it was glacially slow. 90 mph could be achievable with a looong steep downhill.

Did it handle well? Maybe in comparison to a horse & buggy. But compared to cars of its era, it had a ton of body roll and the feedback was soft and muted. Cornering was not its strong point.

Was it capable? The back seat was pretty much unusable, the trunk was small, and off-road capability was laughable. Driving the thing on snowy roads was a white knuckle experience.

Brakes? Yeah, I think it had brakes. Poor ones. The left and right sides were uneven in mine. Braking in slippery conditions would create loss of traction on one side (I can’t remember which side) and send the car into a fishtailing slide.

Was it reliable? The autotragic was rebuilt at 30, 60, 90, and 120k miles. The solid lifters were never in tune; I had plenty of people ask me if it was a diesel because of the way it sounded. And keep in mind that diesels of the time were… ummm…. not great. So the diesel question was not a compliment. The rear suspension was completely replaced at <100k due to broken leaf springs and other issues. It was pretty common back in the day to see a Mustang II with a sagging rear end.

Was it efficient? About 17 MPG in normal driving, 21 MPG on a long highway run. Maybe it could have been improved if one could get those lifters adjusted correctly and keep them in tune… but as I said above, that was an impossible task.

The styling was not the problem with the Mustang II. It looked OK, although I agree that a wider stance on the wheels would have improved the look somewhat. No, the real problem was that it was simply a bad car compared to its peers.

Myk El
Myk El
2 months ago

I would have loved s-17317-33. But mostly, what would the modern Mustang inspired by that concept would be fascinating to me.

2 months ago

S-17303-28, the second styling concept, looks eerily close to the FB Mazda RX-7. If they hadn’t messed it up with the boar schnozz slapped on top (Why do I get the feeling that was a Bunkie influence?), that front end treatment with pop-ups or recessed sealed beams could’ve been the defining characteristic of the Mustang into the ’90s.

S-17615-10 is a direct lift from Maserati, making a shorter version of the Bora and Indy. They even kept the weird little vent at the base of the hood that the Bora has. The timeline gives that away, as the Indy went on sale in June of 1969, the Bora’s prototype was unveiled at the 1970 Turin Auto Show, the Bora’s final version was shown at the March 1971 Geneva Auto Salon, and the S-17615-10 is dated as being completed for review on October 29th, 1971.

There’s another styling prototype that never got away from being a drawing, S-16869-9, from May of 1971 that takes S-17303-28 and refines it quite a bit, looking remarkably similar in the front to the 1979 Fox Mustang with a rear end similar to the S130 Datsun 280ZX.

2 months ago

I love this art style, so 1977 it is!

It reminds me of some of the art from early Atari 2600 game packaging

Chris D
Chris D
2 months ago

This is an example of if it ain’t broke, fix it ’til it is.

The Capri-ish concept was pretty good, except for the very awkward rear end. At least they ended the make-it-larger-every-few-years tradition, which ruined the Thunderbird, as an example.

2 months ago

This ruined the Mustang for an entire generation–the malaise poster car. At least the Corvette of that era (C3?) looked fast. This looked like a Vega.

I did not take the Mustang seriously until the mid 80s. And it kept a backseat to the Camaro.

2 months ago
Reply to  Ok_Im_here

Totally agree, never liked that generation. They really lost the plot on that one, trying too hard to come up with something new.

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