A decade ago, after over a year of promotion earning it the title of “the worst kept secret in Detroit’s history,” the Ford Motor Company publicly announced the Mustang with an extravagant introduction at the 1964 New York World’s Fair. Standing proudly by “The House of Good Taste” and the Population Clock with its blinking display of ever larger numbers recording the world’s move toward total urbanity, was a flotilla of cars intended to be sold to a segment of the population Ford identified as the Youth Market. Those convertible and hardtop Mustangs had a projected first year sales goal of a quarter of a million cars, Ford PR men announced with evident trepidation. Their trepidation was founded on the fact that no one in Detroit had ever made an economic success of a sportily-styled car—particularly a car that had been built up out of existing components (in the Mustang’s case, most of the chassis came from the boxy Falcon compact). Nor had any car maker ever had much good to say about the idea of courting anything but a middle class and up market. In fact, Plymouth had tried much the same thing as the Mustang months earlier with its glassback Barracuda (a rebodied Valiant compact) and was meeting with near total customer apathy. But even the sceptics wouldn’t deliver a blanket death warrant on the car simply because it wasn’t a Mustang. By means of a then-unique marketing ploy, made possible by relatively new production line technology, the Mustang could be just about anything to anybody via an ape arm-long list of options. They weren’t just trim options, but whole running gear and suspension packages. Everything from a 101-hp Six with a 3-speed manual transmission up to a high performance 289 with a 4-speed could be found on the options list.
By the end of that first sales year—the same year in which Martin Luther King won the Nobel Peace Prize, Sonny Liston ended his reign as heavyweight champion by sitting on a stool in Miami, Nikita Krushchev was ousted as Premier of the USSR, Lyndon Johnson decided to bomb North Viet Nam in retaliation for the shelling of American ships in the Gulf of Tonkin and Studebaker was gasping its last to stay in the automotive business—the Mustang not only reached its sales goal, but almost doubled it by selling nearly 420,000 cars. By the end of the year a General Manager at one GM division summed up the impact of the Mustang and at the same time predicted what the next few years would bring when he paraphrased Lincoln by saying, “You can sell a young car to a young man, and a young car to an old man, but you can’t sell an old car to anybody!”
He was right, and within five years GM had created two Mustang-like models for its top selling Chevrolet (Camaro) and Pontiac (Firebird) divisions, Chrysler did the same for Plymouth with a new Barracuda and Dodge (with the Challenger) and even American Motors got into the act with its Javelin and AMX. Ford had read and believed its own Mustang advertising stressing “total performance” and had begun a $17-million effort to win LeMans, building engines for Indy cars and fuel dragsters, and had set up a lightly disguised limited-production line for race cars under Carroll Shelby (and a race shop of its own called Car Craft). It was a time of wild automotive excitement—and excesses—that was easily able to withstand the first tentative forays of the safety crusaders, the ecology freaks and even the government. The Youth Market not only financed the project but seemed to transmit its exuberance back to the manufacturers in a sort of self-expanding, closed-loop system.
A decade has passed, however, and in those ten years many of the newsmakers of 1964 have died. The Mustang now joins that list. In the end, the combined assault of rising insurance rates, inflation, safety and emission standards, the threat of an energy crisis and a market glut of Mustang-like cars have effectively put a bullet into the Mustang’s head. Yet had Ford remained true to the original Mustang concept, a reasonably-priced, reasonably-sized 2+2 vehicle that could be interpreted, on an international scale, as a very much Americanized GT car, the Mustang might still be alive and healthy. Instead, in its most recent editions, the Mustang had become little more than an intermediate sedan styled in the most impractical—close to outrageously unusable—manner.
So now Ford is starting over with the Mustang II. A car totally different from the Mustang in terms of hardware, but identical in concept. A sporty car aimed at the Youth Market . . . but based on a smaller scale than even the original Mustang in order to meet contemporary realities. In size, the Mustang II is almost dainty in comparison to what has been wearing that nameplate of late. It’s definitely not a mutant intermediate but a true sporty sub-compact. Its visual relationship with the Pinto is unmistakable (which is, for all intents and purposes, Ford’s current equivalent to the Falcon). The Mustang II’s wheelbase is just over two inches longer than the Pinto’s (96.2 inches) with an overall body length six inches longer (175.0 inches). What, in fact, the new Mustang gives the impression of being is a domestically-built version of Ford’s sister division’s Mercury Capri—that the Capri has become the second largest selling import in the U.S. can hardly be taken as a coincidence, either.
Underneath the sheetmetal, the Mustang II bears less shared relationship with the Pinto than its appearance indicates. Brakes, steering gear, rear axle and a portion of the floor pan are the only major components which are current Pinto parts. The Mustang II’s base engine is a new 2.3-liter (140.5 cubic inch) overhead cam Four, built here in the U.S.—using metric measurements throughout (this engine will also be available in Pintos). The Mustang’s optional V-6 engine, however, is unavailable in a Pinto but is not exclusive to the new car. It is a bigger displacement (2.8 as opposed to 2.6-liter) version of the German-built Capri V-6 which has been sold in America for two years.
But while the Mustang II shares some standard components with the Pinto, it is not just another version of that economy sedan—no more than the original Mustang was simply a Falcon. It has been built with the specific intention of coming into the market as a Super Coupe and, in terms of “feel,” it’s a success. As opposed to the sterile practicality and cost-trimming measures so dispassionately evident in American-made economy cars up to this time, the Mustang II in no way seems to be a cheap car.
The pre-production version we tested was the “top performance” Mach I version, equipped with the V-6 engine and competition suspension (along with enough other options to make the car’s order form look like a target for a 12-gauge shotgun loaded with ink pellets.
It is a three-door semi-fastback Mach I (standard is a two-door notchback coupe, but pending rollover requirement standards effectively prevented Ford—or any manufacturer—from tooling up to build open cars, C/D, February), with the third door a hatchback for cargo. The car does look low (a fact emphasized by a heavy blackout stripe on the rocker panels) and “sporty” in the current Detroit idiom. But instead of looking like a sexy Pinto, the car creates a general impression more like that of a Torino coupe scaled down to more pleasing proportions. The assembly design of the body has been worked out so that weld seams and panel joints are generally well hidden. This gives it a very smooth outward appearance, free of the visual jigs and jogs which would tend to relegate it to the economy sedan category in the viewer’s eye.
Inside, the same impression holds. Throughout, there is attention to detailing that eliminates any misidentification of the Mustang II as an economy car. Carpeting is thick and abundantly laid, soft vinyl covers everything not already hidden under the carpet and the relationship between instruments, controls and the driver is intimate but not confining. For example, the steering wheel is mounted almost vertically but well away from the driver. That positioning in combination with a seat back that is sufficiently raked gives the driver room in which to operate without looking like a crab working over a piece of bait. The seats themselves fit perfectly with a generous seat cushion providing good thigh support and a backrest with ample curvature. What prevents them from being ideal would seem to be an overzealousness in making them feel luxurious. The result is that they are too soft and spongy to provide good overall support and restraint. In front of the driver is a subdued panel featuring complete instrumentation—all Mustang II models have a tachometer as standard equipment. Instrument visibility is excellent as is overall visibility, with plenty of glass area preventing any major blind spots even in this stylish fastback version.
And, considering the size differential between the gargantuan 1973 Mustang and the Mustang II (the ’73 being nearly twenty inches longer on a wheelbase 12 inches greater), interior dimensions are comparable within an inch in terms of head and leg room both front and rear. Recall, however, that no Mustang ever stood as a benchmark for rear seating comfort. This new version isn’t any threat to break the precedent. Only when it comes to hip and shoulder room does the new Mustang suffer, the difference averaging about three inches less in the front and five inches slimmer in the rear. Overall, the Mustang II has an appealing, unescapably luxurious feel, a feel that is enhanced by a very complete sound deadening package which ranks it above the Opel Manta Luxus as the plushest among Super Coupes.
However, visual and even audible excellence in Super Coupes generally comes at the penalty of weight . . . and performance. That is the case in the Mustang II Mach I. Our test car weighed over 3100 lbs. Thus, despite the fact that Ford’s V-6 engine is now 2820cc as opposed to its 1973 displacement of 2540cc (accomplished by increases of 0.12 inches in bore and 0.07 inches in stroke), the engine is more notable for its smoothness than any feel of power. At the time of this test, horsepower figures were not available, but there is the suspicion that the 2.8-liter version may actually be rated at less than the earlier version due to carburetor and ignition changes aimed at lower emissions. That, combined with the Mach I’s surprising heft (the V-6 Capri we tested in January, 1972 weighed slightly under 2400 lbs.), yields acceleration performance that is disappointing. Moreover, the wide spacing between third and fourth gears in the Mustang II’s exclusive 4-speed transmission in no way aids matters. This all-new transmission, which is built in the U.S. and housed in an aluminum case, does offer light and precise operation, but it is not as smooth in shifting as the current Pinto 4-speed.
Likewise, the Mustang II’s handling was adversely affected by the car’s weight, and also where that weight rested (57 per cent on the front wheels). The Mach I version we tested was equipped with optional rack and pinion power steering which gives a much quicker feel than Pintos we have driven equipped with the same basic arrangement, less the assist. Even with this added quickness, however, the Mach I’s steering wasn’t really quick enough to cope with the amount of understeer present.
As the Mustang II Mach I approaches its cornering limits, the front end transmits the fact that it is definitely plowing, and you find that steering response has faded appreciably. Fairly drastic maneuvering of the steering wheel, throttle or even the brake will fail to do much more than slow the car down on the line it is determined to take. While all this might satisfy the shrill demands of the safety establishment which seems determined to equate understeer with good handling, enthusiasts are going to be disappointed with the Mach I’s self determination. Our test car was even equipped with the optional “competition” suspension (heavy-duty springs, front and rear anti-sway bars and adjustable shock absorbers) and 5.5-inch styled wheels with CR70-13 tires. Even with the shock absorbers set on their firmest settings, heavy body lean was present in all handling tests. Ford has decided to use this same optional suspension for both Four and V-6 versions of the Mustang II. But because of the V-6’s extra weight, we would suggest that they incorporate a higher rate rear anti-sway bar and still quicker steering to reduce the heavy understeer. At that point the Mustang II’s handling, which right now relies on new front end geometry and an isolated cross member for its superiority over the Pinto, would have far more acceptable handling to enthusiasts.
Although the Mustang II’s brakes are among the parts shared with the current Pinto, the full story is a bit more. The front disc brakes are identical to what you find on any Pinto; however, the rears are the heavy-duty drums from the Pinto wagon and the entire system is available with power assist. Brake effort is predictably and appreciably lower, and the feel transmitted through the pedal allows for precise modulation. On our prototype test car, however, the rear brakes were victims of early lock up which made it difficult to maintain precise directional stability during hard stops.
In some respects the Mustang II follows the pattern set by the original a bit too closely. While its new reduced size and general attempt to infuse itself with a “sporty” flavor are policies that enthusiasts have been hoping for since European Super Coupes began appearing, too much of that flavor is not backed up by nourishment. The car is undoubtedly at the top of the current crop of Super Coupes in terms of comfort and finish, but its acceleration and general engine performance simply don’t match expectation. Much of that is due to weight; some is a result of emission standards. But neither of those two factors is justification for the car’s flaccid handling.
- Electric SUV Comparison: Ford Mustang Mach-E Vs Tesla Model Y & VW ID.4
- Ford Mustang Mach-E review: The people’s pony goes electric
- Ford Mustang Mach-E To Wear The Made In China Label
- All-electric Ford Mustang Mach-E delivers fuss-free power and a touch of glamour
- Ford Mustang Bullitt Dies Another Death, Will It Ever Return?
- 2014 Ford Focus ST review
- Millions of Ford vehicles will run on Google's Android operating system starting in 2023
- Google / Ford Partnership To Put Android OS In Millions Of Cars, Trucks Starting In 2023
- Google beats Microsoft for huge Ford contract that includes licenses for Android Auto
- Novità Ford, ecco tutti i modelli in arrivo nel 2021
- Misty Copeland Launches Mustang Mach-E Social Challenge To Honor Unique Strength Of Women
- Ford to produce electric Mustang in China to take on Tesla
- Vergecast: driving the Mustang Mach-E and this week’s Apple Car rumors
- Ford Motor terminates electric vehicle plans with China's Zotye
- Ford zaps GM's Super Bowl LV commercial on Twitter
- Ford posts strong results, promises big bet on electric and self-driving cars
- Ford to apply China's EV know-how in US
- Ford to speed up push to electric autos, digitization
- Covers come off Heimgartner Mustang
- Le Brocq's Tickford Mustang unveiled
1974 Ford Mustang II Mach I have 2624 words, post on www.caranddriver.com at September 5, 1973. This is cached page on Health Breaking News. If you want remove this page, please contact us.