302/4-Speed: 1978 Ford Mustang II King Cobra

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People are often unkind about the Mustang II, stating it is unworthy of wearing the iconic Mustang badge. However, history shows that, like its predecessor, the Mustang II was the right car at the right time for the American buying public. This 1978 model is the King Cobra version. It looks tired, but the photos and Marti Report confirm it is a rock-solid project candidate featuring some desirable factory options. I must say a big thank you to Barn Finder Tony P for spotting this promising project candidate.

Okay, it’s time for me to make an admission. I have never been a massive fan of the Mustang II’s styling. I have always considered it almost a caricature of its predecessor, but that is a personal opinion you may not share. I respect you if that is the case. This King Cobra rolled off the line in 1978, which was the badge’s final production year before the Fox-Body hit the market. The first owner ordered it in Code 2R Bright Red with contrasting Orange tape. However, this car’s most striking feature is the glass T-top, a feature you don’t see every day. The paint is well past its “best-before” date, with little evidence of the stripes. However, what this classic lacks in beauty, it compensates for in sheer strength. The photos support the seller’s statement that this classic is as solid and rust-free as the day it rolled off the lot. The front fender and hood received damage from a falling post, but the seller includes replacement panels to assist the buyer on their restoration path. That appears to be the only sheetmetal damage worth noting, suggesting this could be an ideal candidate for a first-timer or an enthusiast wishing to follow the DIY restoration path. The tinted glass is clear, and although some trim pieces have seen better days, most are restorable.

The seller doesn’t supply any interior shots, and this image is as close as we come to seeing the King Cobra’s Red cloth and vinyl interior trim. Therefore, making a definitive call on its condition is impossible. Kits are available if a retrim proves necessary, and these aren’t outrageously expensive. The first owner splashed their cash on some desirable options, including air conditioning, a console, and an AM/FM stereo/8-track player.

King Cobra buyers in 1978 automatically received Ford’s 302ci V8, and this car’s first owner teamed that engine with a four-speed manual transmission. The 302 was a shadow of its former self in 1978, producing 139hp and 250 ft/lbs of torque. Therefore, the ¼-mile ET of 17.1 seconds was what buyers expected during The Malaise Era. However, there is plenty of positive news for potential buyers. This King Cobra is an original survivor with 93,000 miles on the clock. The seller recently replaced the fuel tank, fuel pump, carburetor, water pump, timing chain, radiator, plugs, brake booster, master cylinder, and brake lines. The effort and expense proved worthwhile because this Ford is a turnkey proposition that runs and drives exceptionally well. Flying in and building a relationship with this classic on the journey home is a viable option.

The Mustang II is a much-maligned creature and is often the butt of jokes. However, it hit showroom floors during an energy crisis, and the buying public embraced it to the extent that 296,041 cars found homes during the first production year. The Mustang II spent years in the unloved basket, but they have recently gained attention in the classic market, and values are climbing. The seller listed this King Cobra here on Craigslist in Lakewood, Colorado, for $10,000. That figure is realistic for a rust-free project candidate, but do you love this survivor enough to give it a new home?

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  1. Bob_in_TN Bob_in_TNMember

    Thank you Adam for a reasonably-toned write up on this Mustang II. It looks well-worn but perhaps not abused, and could be a good candidate for restoration.

    As reported by a friend, this weekend’s Ford Carlisle show featured the Mustang II, since it has been 50 model years since its introduction. There were about 34 present, some of which were high-end restorations. They do have a respectable following.

    Like 15
  2. james sartor

    These are still more Mustang than Ford’s current D Cell powered imposter they call a Mustang. Mustang goes ROAR and not WHIRR. Call them Edsel II but not Mustang.

    Like 21
    • scottymac

      There were rumors when the Mach E surfaced that Ford planned an ICE engined four door Mustang sedan. That’s where I draw the line.

      Like 0
  3. Big C

    $10,000? 5 years ago? A King Cobra in this condition was under $4,000. I see they had one too many wobble pops and took out a mailbox with the right front fender. And, if those T Tops leaked like most of them did? There’s no wonder we don’t see the interior.

    Like 9
    • Steve R

      Just because the seller is asking $10,000 doesn’t mean he can get it. I may be wrong, but I don’t think the market has moved that far.

      I’ve noticed all but the most desirable cars are staying in the market longer or seem not to be bringing as much on online auctions (see the 67 Chevelle wagon from the other day). The market seems like it’s turning, if so I might start looking to buy a survivor or older resto 60’s or early-70’s V8 4spd midsized 2dr or El Camino. Prices have been inflated for years, I think that’s changing as peoples budgets are being stretched. There are less people at swapmeets and those that are aren’t carrying around stuff like they were as recently as last summer. Now is not the time to settle, it’s the time to hold for make/model you really want. It’s also time to hold out for cars that are in better condition, we are going into summer, this is when the market tightens up as vacations approach and the kids are out of school and are chewing up budgets.

      Steve R

      Like 0
  4. Al camino

    Did someone take this right out of the junk yard and set it in they’re driveway?

    Like 7
    • PRA4SNW PRA4SNWMember

      I was thinking the same thing – did someone find this sitting in the middle of a field somewhere?

      This is worth 10K only when the junkiest Fox body becomes 40K.

      Like 2
  5. scrapyard john

    It’s supposed to be a turn key rig that you can drive home. I can see that turning into a great Roadkill episode. I was in high school in the early 90’s and a few of us decided to pool our money and buy a cheap vehicle to mess around with. The victim was a 1974 Mustang II with a 4 cylinder and a 4 speed that we acquired via a newspaper ad (remember those?) for $300. It’s probably a good thing that ours didn’t have the 302.

    Like 3
  6. Al camino

    I guess the owner figured he can’t pound it into the ground anymore so time to sell it to a very lucky person! Next!

    Like 0
  7. 2VT

    As if the Mustang-E is a worthy replacement.

    Like 2
  8. Philbo427

    I like the t-tops! Those rims and the color is giving me Dukes of Hazzard vibes. Would be a cool car to fix up!

    Like 4
  9. Terry

    Very little left of the King Cobra. Missing fiberglass parts, wrong wheels and the stripes to name a few. If it wasn’t for the Marti report I would doubt the claim.

    Like 0
  10. Bud Lee

    Ford should do a new retro version of these. Except do it right this time. A modern 4 cylinder has in some cases 3 times the HP than that 302, but the KING COBRA should have a V8 in the neighborhood of 540 HP or more.

    Like 2
  11. SA

    Alot has been said about these and most of the cars from 74-79. They are by far still better than some of the junk today thanks to the current administration. Having said that I have always like the mustang 2 with the 302 especially manual Trans. I guess what draws me more to them and other cars of that year is……I turned 18 that year. Time sure did pass by. All those I like them I don’t think this car is worth $10,000.

    Like 1
    • SA

      I hate spell check.

      Like 0
  12. Jeremy Gagnon

    Like any V8 that was strangled by emissions in the ’70s there is power waiting to be uncorked in that 302.Without even pulling the engine, install aluminum heads,a good cam,4 barrell carb,headers/exhaust and presto,at least double the hp.Add a 373 posi and go beat up on some IROC -Z s

    Like 6
    • Steve R

      Those modifications will run you around $3,000, possibly more, add $10,000 for the purchase price of the car, upgrade the brakes, wheels, tires, suspension, paint and body, probably interior and you are likely looking at $25-$30k minimum to match an IROC’s performance. Even then you’ll get smoked by any V8 Camaro, Mustang and SRT Challenger built in the last 15-20 years. With a little effort and persistence you should be able to find a V8 powered late-90’s through mid-2000’s F-body, Mustang GT or Corvette for not much more than this cars asking price.

      You only buy this car if you love it, if not, wait until you find something you do.

      Steve R

      Like 0
  13. Philip Lepel

    $10k for a well sorted and resorted car sure. A beginner project not so much. $4-5k sure . They do restore beautifully and with bigger wheels and low profile tires look great. To me the 74-78 Mustang returned to its roots, a sporty car meant to be modified. If Carrol Shelby had massaged a few of these id be sure their reputation who have been elevated.

    Like 1
  14. JoeNYWF64

    Luckily, most of the dumb factory flat black painted over front & rear window trim has peeled off – best to remove the rest & polish the metal & do not repaint. Same with the tailight borders/trim.

    Like 0
  15. TSTONE

    This is why I think CL should have laugh emojis.

    Like 0

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