Boosted Performance: 1977 Ford Mustang Cobra II

The opinions of enthusiasts on the Mustang II have always been divided. There are people who don’t really mind them, and there are those who really don’t like them at all. There doesn’t seem to be much of a middle ground, and I can remember one motoring journalist of the day describing the car as being “a caricature of the original Mustang.” This particular Cobra II has been given a bit of a kick in the pants, so it will be interesting to see if this is enough to sway the opinions of the people who hold a negative view of the model. It is located in Fenton, Missouri, and is listed for sale here on eBay. Bidding on the Cobra II has reached $12,200, but the reserve hasn’t been met.

By 1973, the then-current Mustang bore precious little resemblance to the lively pony car from which it had descended. It had grown significantly larger and heavier, and the sales figures reflected the buying public’s shift away from it. Where the 1973 Mustang struggled to sell 135,000 cars, the new Mustang II managed to sell close to 400,000 units in 1974. In fact, from 1974 until production ceased in 1978, the Mustang II racked up 1.1 million sales. Where the original Mustang was based on the Falcon, the Mustang II went even smaller and was based on the Pinto platform. It was probably this characteristic more than any that caused people to pour scorn on the car’s styling. With such a short wheelbase, the styling tended to make the car look tall and ungainly. However, the advent of the stripes that were part of  packages such as the Cobra II did alleviate this issue to an extent. This particular Cobra II, finished in its original black with the gold stripes, looks to be in very good condition. It doesn’t wear its original wheels, but the original paint does look to be pretty decent. The T-Top looks like it is in nice condition, and it really is hard to fault the physical condition of the car. Returning to my earlier point. I have seen these with the ride height dropped, and it is amazing the difference that this move alone makes to the appearance of the car. Of course, it also doesn’t tend to hurt the handling, either.

I said that the Cobra II had received a kick in the pants, and here it is. The original 302ci V8 engine has been fitted with a period-correct aftermarket turbocharger. In standard form, the 302 produced 129hp, but the owner doesn’t indicate how much more power is delivered by this modification. The transmission is a 4-speed manual, while the Cobra II also features power steering and power front disc brakes. I’ve never been quite sold on aftermarket turbo conversions of this era because they can have a tendency to be quite fussy and inconsistent in operation from day-to-day. However, even though we have no actual figures on how much extra power this one delivers, the owner says that it does feel strong.

The interior of the Cobra II is in generally good condition, although it is easy to have your eyes drawn towards the non-original aspects of the car. The most obvious is the fire extinguisher. I actually am in favor of these as an aftermarket addition if installed correctly, because when you need one of these, you really need one. I like the fact that it has been bolted to the underside of the dash, which conceals any mounting holes. However, when it comes to holes in the original interior trim, the ones for the extinguisher would rate as tiny compared to the rest. There is a cluster of gauges mounted in the dash above the glove compartment, and I would assume that these are there to monitor the health of various components as they deal with the extra strain from the turbo installation. There is also a boost gauge in the gauge cluster, along with two switches. We know that one switch controls the fuel pump, but it isn’t clear what the other one is for. The interior trim and upholstery all look quite good, and the only real issue is some fading in the original carpet.

So, that’s a Cobra II with a kick. Just how much of a kick is an unknown quantity. If this conversion was performed when the car was relatively new and it has survived until the present, then it would tend to indicate that the upgrades have been performed to a fairly high standard. I guess that this would be my main concern. If the work has been done properly, then there is no reason why it shouldn’t be reliable. If the work is suspect in any way, then it could easily be like a hand grenade with the pin pulled out. So, is the potential for improved performance enough to change your opinion if you aren’t a Mustang II fan? If you are a fan of this model, would you find the potential for improved performance to be a tempting proposition?

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Comments

  1. Keith

    Still a pinto under the skin however the V8/turbo is a nice period correct touch. I will say that the early carbureted turbo systems were very finicky and prone to loosing boost under hard acceleration. Whoever buys this mustang should convert the turbo to a modern fuel injected setup and stiffen up the unibody. Mustang 2 with T-Tops flexed a lot (to include) later generation mustangs.

    4
    • Flash

      The hard tops had a lot of body flex also. I had a 78 with a 302 and 4 speed that cracked at the rear quarter seam and the latch for the rear hatch

      1
  2. William Denny

    Know they were trying to keep it period correct but a 2.3 ecoboost would be the way to go in this. I had a ’74 with the 2.8 Cologne V6 in high school, it was such a piece but I loved it and desperately wanted a Cobra II.

  3. rpol35 Staff

    “There are people who don’t really mind them, and there are those who really don’t like them at all. There doesn’t seem to be much of a middle ground, ….”

    Boy you got the right! I wrote off the Mustang between 1971 & 1978 not showing any real interest until the Fox body’s 5.0 woke out of it’s slumber in the late ’80’s.

    It was always amazing to me that the plainness of the Fox’s ’79 introduction was what was really necessary to re-kindle interest again – a return to how it started in ’64 I guess.

    4
    • JoeNYWF64

      Hard to believe it happened, considering in ’79 the stang lost its low roof, sculpted curves, frameless glass, racing mirrors, & the ’78 & earlier had not only a better looking & roomier interior, but more color choices!
      I would have expected the ’79-up fox body stang to be as popular as its cousin, the horrible ’80 thunderbird lol.
      True the underpinnings were superior to the ’78, but i thought this was basically still a secretary’s car like in ’65 – where the majority of the sales are. & most dont CARE what’s underneath. The ’74-78 did sell WELL!

      2
  4. CCFisher

    “I’ve never been quite sold on aftermarket turbo conversions of this era because they can have a tendency to be quite fussy and inconsistent in operation from day-to-day.”

    Please…. FACTORY turbos of this era had a tendency to be fussy and inconsistent. I can only imagine what this one is like!

    7
    • Dan

      Amen. That is why the turbocharged four-cylinder introduced in the 1979 Mustang didn’t last very long. Forced induction has massively improved since then.

      2
    • Karl

      I think my problem with this gen mustang is they are SO FAR AWAY FROM THE ROOTS of the mustang I was mentally incapable of ever thinking of them as a mustang more like a fancy painted pinto, I barely ever even acknowledged they ever existed!

      • majordad

        You could say roughly the same thing about the original Mustang, that it was just a fancy painted Falcon. Or a fox body Mustang is just a fancy painted Fairmont. Ford sold a lot of each version of Mustang. I never liked the Mustang II having owned a terrible Pinto but they have grown on me over the years.

        1
  5. JoeNYWF64

    Odd it only has a test pipe on, & no dual exhaust.
    May be hard to see those aux gauges – maybe tilt them toward the driver or move closer to driver? Nice interior otherwise – not “too” black.
    How much hp & torque can that rear end handle if it’s stock?
    Can you fit 15 wheels on a mustang II without hitting the body?
    Looks like 14s on now – i think they all came with 13’s stock.

    1
  6. Jon B

    I bought a new 77 with the 302 4spd ps, oh and no air.
    Those transmissions had synchros that wore pretty quickly. But it didn’t mind burnouts or banging gears. How much damage can 129 hp do?
    Mine was a lemon, had oil pressure problems from day 1. The stripes started flaking off but the black paint was flawless.
    Finally got the engine rebuilt under the extended warranty at a different dealer. Then it really ran. The rest of the car was junk and I still couldn’t get it fixed so I told Ford to come get the thing.
    It wheel hopped terribly until I put traction bars on it. Must have had something to do with them coming off a Charger R/T….
    I’m about 15 miles from this car.

    3
  7. Gaspumpchas

    Sure hope its boosted. As Jon B said, 129 hp is a disgrace for both a 302 and a mustang. I had a customer who bought one of these brand new, and it couldn’t pull a sick Whore off a pi$$pot. You would need to drive this to see if its your cup o tea. If the turbo has any snot at all, it might raise the devil with the lower end and anything else it might come in contact with. Ya know, you can make chicken salad out of chicken $hit, but its hard to get the flavor right. Put this thing out of its misery.
    Cheers
    GPC

    5
  8. Coventrycat

    That fire extinguisher will be a permanent part of someone’s knee caps in an accident.

    7
  9. CanuckCarGuy

    Notwithstanding the Mustang name this is a sharp looking little Ford, although it’s unfortunate it wasn’t left in stock condition. The mismatched gold hood scoop is an unfortunate addition, as are the gauges…these sorts of additions push a car to the ‘no thank you’ column for me. I would like to find a clean, original Mustang II Ghia to use as an in-town run about , as I like their look and their potential.

    4
  10. Dan

    For such a maligned car, the price seems a bit strong. But the mismatched gauges, and lack of a boost gauge, make me a little suspicious about the overall quality of the build.

    2
    • Car Nut Tacoma

      I agree. I’ve never liked aftermarket gauges. If they can be installed in a way that they look like they’re OEM, then I’m fine with it. But most I’ve seen just look tacky, for lack of a better word.

  11. Car Nut Tacoma

    I’ve always loved this generation Ford Mustang. Why the dislike against them by collectors today is beyond me. I’d buy a Mustang II Ghia if I could find one in decent driveable condition.

    3
    • Paul

      They didn’t come from the factory new in descent drivable condition!! Hence the dislike for them!

      • JoeNYWF64

        I assume you mean high speed stability? Perhaps back THEN it was just a good 55mph car? I do remember related pintos having higher speed stability problems, but maybe that’s because that car & the new stang then did not have [optional] radial tires? & the radial tires back then, like the firestone 500’s were nothing to brag about.
        Certainly the front suspension & steering of the mustang 2 was a tremendous improvement over my ’69 falcon’s squeaky control arms(not just the falcon), & power “rope” steering. Manual steering in the latter would be even more fun. lol

  12. Mark W

    This car appears to never have had A/C, as the two center vents aren’t present. But, it also seems to have no heater or defrost functions, either, as the controls, normally present on the lower left side of the dashboard, have been eliminated.

  13. Clinton

    Considering that it’s actually bid up to 12k this truly proves ones mans trash is another mans treasure.

  14. Troy s

    Lose the hideous decals, lowered with decent rims and tires, the interior looks better to me With the array of aftermarket gauges..,,,built 302, supercharger instead of turbo if forced induction is desired, flowmasters with dumps no cats,
    Do what ever you can to lose the boy racer tape stripe looks with no guts image these have earned, earned mind you, at the end of the day Farah would be impressed. Ahahah!!

  15. TimM

    I have the early mustangs 2-65’s and 1-66 and these were just not my idea of what way Ford should have gone with there number one muscle car!! I did however know a girl in high school that had one!! She let me drive it once and it surprised the heck out of me!! Of course her father was an ace mechanic and it was anything but stock!!! She had the four speed and she insisted I get on it one day leaving school!! It even got a cherp out of third gear!!!

    2
  16. Sfm5

    Built on a Pinto platform. Guess that explains the fire extinguisher.

    2
    • Car Nut Tacoma

      Does it?

  17. Bodyman68

    Funny how this is but the pinto was lighter then these mustangs , i had a few in the 80s to say the least none came with any turbos till 79 so peroid correct it is not . The wrong hood scoop for that car . The fire extinguisher should be on floor not under dash and on driverside . And to go further on it the 8″ rears held up to severe beatings and racing. To the haters the pinto led the way for the most common front end in most street rods and mustangs to this day! Id take this and build a sb 302 for it and ditch the turbo as these never needed it . I had a 77 t-top 302 4spd and it had lousy oil pressure i pulled it built a 289 and c4 which changed the whole cars outlook . All a stock one needed was headers ,cam, and 4barrel to wake it up . These were fast little cars and the start of the fox body ,ford wanted to lighten up and go with the gas crunch economy boxes and these worked well . Say what you want but its true these little mustangs were big back then as they were lighter faster and way better handeling then any earlier mustang.

  18. Paul

    Put me in the hate club category. I have been unfortunate enough to have driven (and pushed) one of these very unreliable, worthless, underpowered, pour handling, unsafe piles of junk. My friends referred to my car by the nick name of “Broken” even the ford dealership that sold the car told me that they all are junk not just mine and that I should get rid of it before warranty runs out!
    I hope this car finds its way to the crusher so nobody else has to endure the pain I went through!

  19. Scott

    Thank you Barn Finds that featuring another car of ours from MotoeXotica.com. This little Mustang II, love it or hate it has found a new home! If you watched the video I did mention that the most loved part of these cars was the front end, that is sitting under many a hot rod today. Thanks again for your comments and interest. We will be back with something new and different. S

  20. John B.

    My wife purchased a new “loaded” Cobra ll
    in 1978. It came with one headlight blowed before it was unloaded. Within days the differential started making noise and had to be replaced because the rear cover was not welded completely around its circumference. The T-tops leaked the entire time she owned it. At about 38,000 miles one of the “umbrellas” that aids in valve lubrication disintegrated and a piece found its way into the oil pump and locked it up. This lead to me having to replace all of the rod and main bearings. The transmission was having issues when she finally sold it. It was a beautiful car, comfortable, and great fun to drive but I was glad to see it go! I don’t care if everyone collects them just as long as I don’t have to work on it!!!

  21. Paul

    I completely understand your frustration….it is my belief from experience that the mustang II is one of the worst cars ever built.
    Not one single part on them seems to hold up well!
    Most People that really know these car as well as I do stay far away from them.

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