King Cobra: 1978 Ford Mustang

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I’ve been waiting for one of these to pop up for sale – a 1978 Mustang King Cobra with the 4-speed manual transmission! The seller has it listed here on craigslist and has already dropped the price by $1,500 to $9,000 which seems like a good deal for an example as clean as this one. Correct down to the wheels and body graphics, I’d love to own this to drive and preserve for years to come.

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The King Cobra was hardly a performance icon but it at least looked the part of a muscle car. The deep air dams, standard 302 V8 engine and the attractive Lacy spoke wheels – along with the cobra snake decal on the hood – made this an eye-catching machine. The interior still looks good today, especially with a manual transmission and the original 3-spoke steering wheel still in place. The seller has already replaced the carpet for the next owner.

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The Ford faithful didn’t abandon their favorite pony car over the performance shortcomings as over 4,000 consumers purchased a Mustang II equipped with the King Cobra package. The V8 only made about 140 bhp which is pretty pitiful compared to previous generations, but almost every muscle car was facing the same pressure to be more miserly when it came to fuel consumption.

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This car has either been preserved or restored carefully, as it looks OEM correct in every way. While the seller says it needs new paint, I can’t see from the pictures where it has deteriorated. Regardless, new graphics will be included in the sale if the next owner wants to take it down to bare metal. I have a feeling these cars will increase in value over the next few years, but what do you think?

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Comments

  1. Keith

    Look’s like this pinto….I mean mustang is in good condition. With all due respect I can’t take this (Charlie’s Angels) car seriously…….just my opinion. Nice car though. :)

    Like 1
    • Jason Houston

      If you think this is bad, you should have been the Pinto – I mean Mustang – that followed it…

  2. Keith

    Lose the AC compressor and save 75 pounds!…… :)

    • Jeff DeWitt

      Or better yet replace it with a modern compressor. Save about 50 pounds and probably about 20 HP, plus you get to stay cool!

  3. Slim Chance

    I forgot how badly Detroit could screw things up. This one will be hard to un-forget.
    Thanks for nothing.

  4. Jeff V.

    I hate these things! Sorry, but my late great uncle traded his ’67 Camaro ss/rs with a dealer-installed 427, vin-change etc (bought new) for a first year ’74 Mustang II, the same year I turned 16 and got my license! I was in auto-shop in hs and wanted that Camaro sooooo bad!

    • Jason Houston

      I feel your pain. My poor parents swapped a nice 1952 Ford Ranch Wagon with Overdrive for a 1959 Renault foreign car. Gawd, whadda MISTAKE!

  5. E55

    I agree w Keith. The best preserved crappy car is still a crappy car. In my opinion, it offers unattractive caricature-like design, unrewarding performance and handling, bad ergonomics, and, worst of all: you’d always have to explain why you’re driving it!

  6. Vince Habel

    Poor excuse of a Mustang and Cobra.

    • Wayne Thomas

      This one? Yes. However, you can find online an example of a restomod with a V10 swap that is quite…..quite better than the best stock example.

  7. z1rider

    This is the car everyone loves to hate though they forget that ALL cars lost performance starting around 1973/4. Why do you think Porsche put a turbo on the 911?

    The low HP was due to changes made for emissions compliance (largely lower compression ratios and retarded cam timing) not fuel economy. Those changes also adversely impacted fuel consumption as well. And not just the Mustang but every other car for sale at the time.

    For me, the deal breaker for this one is the T-tops. Water and air leaks, loss of structural integrity are not worth it. Were T-tops standard on King Cobras?

  8. Kincer Dave Member

    These aren’t the greatest mustangs but they did keep the name alive. When I was a teenager I had a friend that had one of these that wasn’t stock and it was wicked fast!

  9. Charles H.

    Bought this ’79 Cobra in 1998 for $1,200, I later replaced the TRX wheels with a set of brushed aluminum bullet hole mags and B.F. Goodrich Radial T/A’s, also did some performance mods to the 5.0 V8, this pic was how it it looked when I first bought it, before I did anything to it……wish I could be lucky enough to find one nowadays that cheap!

  10. JW

    Well if I didn’t need a pickup more this would be sitting in my garage next to our 70 Mach1. Yes they were not tire burners and they were graphically cartoonish just like the 78 T/A’s but my wife had one new in 78 and it was a fun car to drive. I would buy this sell the decals he bought have it repainted then throw some better suspension parts on it with better tire and wheel combination along with some throaty exhaust and maybe a shot of nitrous then I would be a happy camper.

  11. Jamie Palmer Jamie Staff

    This is one case where I disagree with most of you folks…I have always liked the “loud” King Cobra graphics and styling package. The T-tops would keep me from buying this one, though. I’ll take mine in red, 4-speed, AC please.

    • Howard A Member

      Hi Jamie, THANK-YOU. I can’t tell you the last time I saw a “King Cobra”. A friend had just a “regular Cobra ll” and it was a fun car. People have to realize, the car world was in turmoil and Mustang almost became history. Like Dave sez, it kept Mustang alive, and is probably one of Ford’s biggest sellers today. I like it. Re: T-tops. I think that leaking was inherent on all T-tops,( like cheap sunroofs) and was just a bad idea across the board. Solution: don’t drive a beautiful classic like this in the rain.

      • Jason Houston

        The last time I saw one was about 15 years ago, in a wrecking yard in Indio, CA. I was as clean as this, sans motor/trans.

  12. Kevin Harper

    Not a mustang guy, but I don’t understand all the hate. Aesthetically the graphics are a bit over the top for me, but the shape looks better than the fox bodies that followed it, or the bloated mach 2 that proceeded. It seems to take hints from the euro capri.
    Chassis wise yes it it a pinto underneath just as the 65 was a falcon, but for all the bad the Pinto had a decent chassis for that period. It seems every hotrod and kit car used the front suspension and they were popular in both road and circle track racing.
    Yes the engine is anemic in that state of tune, but it is a 302 and last I checked there was not a shortage of cheap performance parts available.
    Oh in regards to the t-tops I don’t think they all had them. I dated a girl in high school that had a white one and I don’t remember t-tops. I do remember it being not stock and pretty fast.

    • Keith

      Kevin, dude listen to yourself…….You are explaining all the flaws this mustang 2 has as if your trying to rationalize all it’s shortcomings. This car to me is a dressed up pinto and a sorry excuse for a performance car. If it were so great you wouldn’t have to explain it’s flaws. I say this with all due respect by the way……k

      • Howard A Member

        Hi Keith, well, by that logic, a V-8 Monza was a gussied up Vega, but was still a pretty cool car. ( my ex had ’77 Monza 2+2 V-8) I know that car would give this car a run for the money,( stock) and let me tell ya’, it had power to pass!

      • Arthur

        I don’t know … give this King Cobra an Art Morrison or Roadster Shop chassis, a 5.2L Predator engine from the GT500, a Tremec 6-speed, a custom interior, and replace the body kit with a custom designed kit, and you won’t have to worry about such shortcomings ever again.

    • Stephen

      For many of us who lived through the period, the Mustang II serves as a reminder of all that was wrong with the mid-seventies, though it certainly wasn’t the worst car of its era. The Fox-body successor was lighter, faster, better-built, better-handling and much nicer to drive.

    • Jason Houston

      Looking at this through the eyes of a Mustang aficionado, the 74-78 is just a turd in a punch bowl. If they had left it as a Pinto, nobody would have noticed, and the car would have a lot of respect today.

  13. Mark S Member

    The reason that compression ratios were lowered was to cool combustion temperatures, which made it possible to remove lead form the fuel, this was significant in removing the enormous brown clouds that would hang over our cities. Essentially cooler combustion temperatures removed NOX from the exhaust. Computer controlled fuel injection and timing gave us back some of the power we lost in the 70’s and 80’s. Turbo charged short stroke high revving engines like the the Eco. Boost Ford is building now are doing a decent job at giving us power and economic benefits. This is why I think that these power plants will give restomods a great way to keep EPA guys off our backs in the future.

  14. randy

    You guys defending this turd of a car need to drive one all year long in all kinds of weather, and traffic. It would stay parked, as it has been for not enough years.

    For being cars guys, some folks don’t show much working knowledge or common sense. ;>)

    • PaulG

      Randy (and several others that frequent this site) need to remember that if you can’t say anything nice, don’t comment at all. There are car guys that fit MANY different molds. Just because this car “might” be less of a current collectible than another doesn’t make it a target for commentary such as yours. I’m afraid that this site is becoming less friendly that it used to.
      BTW, Happy Thanksgiving to the great contributors and loyal followers of this site!

      • Jason Houston

        Well, you can blame the auto industry, for if they had not taken to building patently offensive cars (like 58 Oldsmobiles, 62 Dodges, 65 Fairlanes, 74 Mustangs, 59 Pontiacs, or 60 Imperials) there wouldn’t be anything to criticize!

      • Howard A Member

        Hi Paul, thanks, best post yet! Happy Thanksgiving, and I’m thankful for rationally thinking people like yourself, and to the founders of this site. I wish them many years of success. I’ve found, generally, people have misconceived notions about certain cars because their father’s cousin’s kid had a bad experience or someone who never changed the oil, puked the motor, now all of those cars are bad. I like all cars and trucks, some more than others, but with proper care, generally all cars are good.

      • randy

        Sorry PaulG, I was a little abrupt. How are new comers to the car world going to know the truth if we white wash our comments? The best nag in the glue factory is still a nag. I have no hate for the car, or the folks that like them. It takes all kinds. Emotions and wanting to relive our past play a big part in our likes and dislikes, and our ability to make irrational decisions. A lot of the animosity comes from our “choices” being dictated to us by greedy corps that do not care about us, just our money. I am sure I have “stuff” that others would not use as toilet paper. Happy motoring!

    • Jamie Palmer Jamie Staff

      Sorry you feel that way, Randy. I *have* driven one all year long in all kinds of weather, as a matter of fact I took my first driving test in one. I stand by the fact that *I* like them…and that’s all that’s important to me as an auto enthusiast. I suspect that you and some other folks (maybe even most) would think that most of the cars I own aren’t that desirable…fine with me, keeps costs down!

      Like 1
  15. Jeff Staff

    Put me firmly in the camp of Mustang II defenders!

    Frankly, I like the Mustang II a bit more than the traditional Mustang because of its surprisingly good handling out of the box when set up correctly and the fact that it is well documented the 302 and a stick is a pleasing combination. That and the factory body kit is a nice throwback to the TransAm cars that I loved so much.

    Can’t hate on the cars or the people who like them just because it wasn’t your favorite…I would have much rather Pontiac soldiered on with a sub-par version of the Fiero if it meant we’d have a cheap mid-engine option today instead of killing it right when it got good. Glad Ford found a way to keep the Mustang alive so we have the awesome platform that’s in showrooms now.

    Like 1
    • randy

      Please explain “good handling out of the box” “when set up properly”?

  16. Sukey

    A pinto in disguise

    • Mark S Member

      Pinto’s didn’t come with 302’s in them, I recall a mustang 2 that’s my cousin had he lived on an acreage in the foot hill country out side Calgary where it wasn’t unusual to get a two foot snow dumb over night. He had studded winter tires and some sand bags in the back and that little car was unstoppable. I remember riding in it as a kid as he was much older then I, and I can tell you that that car went like the wind and took a daily pounding down those country roads, they were awesome cars.

  17. grant

    Anyone who reads my comments knows that I’m not a big pinto fan. I’ve relayed the story of my dad’s pinto, and the torino we traded. What I didn’t relay was the car lasted for 200k miles then received as 302 out of a pickup. This chassis is fun with a v8.

  18. james

    Well i have to jump in, my parents bought a 76 Cobra 2. We all loved that car, And remember the fastest american vehicle built around that time was a DODGE truck. So picking was slim.

  19. Tundra/BMW Guy

    I am not a fan of Mustangs across the board. Mach1’s exluded. With that being said, hearing a 5.0 with a three, maybe four inch piped exhaust system hung underneath it, is a truely beautiful sound!! Gives me the chills eveytime I hear one!!!! Many have tried and in my opinion all have failed to duplicate that sound! It is exclusive to the 5.0!!! Ssssswwwwweeeeeeeeeettttt music to the ears!!!!!!!!!!!! I cannot imagine pulling up beside that thing and hearing that gorgeous note coming from underneath it!!

  20. steve

    I had a 77 Mach II or III? for three years in the early eighties.
    2.8 V6 with a 4 speed stick. Went pretty good compared to the peers of the day
    I would take another. I don’t think they looked bad, and like others said, the II kept the lights on at the Mustang Factory, so you guys can have your new ones today.

  21. jim s

    how many miles are on this car? it has a V8 and a manual transmission which is good. i too am glad ford kept building mustangs for all these years and did not replace it with the probe! nice find.

  22. shiro1303 Member

    Have to agree with the defenders here.
    One of my cars in high school was a 74 with a4 banger and 4 speed.
    It did the job well enough for what it was at the time cheap transportation.
    As far as the Pinto comments go. Who cares so it shared some underpinnings and the 4 cyl engine. other than that there was not much shared and one thing many forget to mention is that in the fabricated hot rod world many have used either the Mustang II or Crown Vic front suspension to modernize older hot rods and still do to this day so it can’t all be bad

  23. RoughDiamond

    I wonder if you could stuff a late model Coyote, old school Toploader and narrowed Ford 9″ in that COBRA! Sure you can with enough money.

  24. piper62j

    I never could take to these model years. Just not stylish enough from the original designs and YES,,,, always reminded me of the Pinto platform.. Ford made a big boo boo with these.. Sorry…

  25. z1rider

    The worst year for Mustang II sales (153,173 units in 1977) was still better than the best year (149,678 in the debut year, 1971) for the 71-73 version. Face it, the product planners got it right.

    As I stated previously, ALL cars lost performance during the mid to late 70’s. though the detractors here seem to ignore that.

    As far as the underpinnings (chassis) being Pinto based, the Pinto was a very competitive entry in SCCA racing for many years. The front suspension is more sophisticated than the Falcon based front end of the original Mustang. It is a double wishbone design which it has in common with most F1 cars. It is considered to be more sophisticated than the MacPherson struts long used by Porsche and BMW.

    Just sayin………….

  26. Hans

    I like these cars so much I’m building a 78 Mustang II road racer that will be street legal. It has a 570 horsepower motorsport four bolt main 351 and a tremec six speed. All the body modifications are steel except for the bumpers. Should be done next year.

    Like 2
    • patrick howell

      where did you get that body kit? I just picked up a 78 cobra II with a mid 80s mustang 5.0 and five speed in it, Its missing the front and rear bumpers though. Thats a nice looking rig!

  27. Jay Campbell

    There was a girl a year ahead of me in high school that had a ’78 Cobra II, white with green graphics, t-tops and a factory 4 speed. Her dad was a gear head and had swapped in a built small block 351 (Cleveland?). It was really fast, and she drove it like she’d stolen it.

    When she graduated and headed off to college, he gave her a brand new Fiesta in the same color scheme and manual trans (belileve it was a 4 speed). Had a sunroof and not much else, a real stripper car. She used to joke that she went down 5 cylinders and a couple hundred horsepower, and that the entire engine’s displacement in the Fiesta was equal to 2 cylinders of the old 351.

    But she said it was way better on gas, and could hold the road better. And it was a better commuter car for her in college.

    As someone born in 1972, I have an irrational love for Mustang Cobra II’s, the Trans-Am 6.6 (403) 4 speed WS6, and the Z28’s of that era. Also the 911 SC’s, Ferarri 328 GTS and the earlier Panteras.

    Like 1
    • patrick howell

      Every car you listed is one of my favorites! Great minds thinks alike. I would also add the 1965 427 cobra.

  28. Mike_B_SVT

    I love it. Always wanted one. Everyone hates them so much – including people who have never seen them in person. Don’t give a crap about the haters comparing it to a Pinto – how soon they forget that our beloved 5.0 Fox body is a F’ing FAIRMONT! Hell, at least everyone knows what a Pinto is, but a Fairmont? It was a car so good that they don’t even exist in modern memory.
    I also like the Cobra II’s for the fact that you simply do not see them. The II’s thankfully have not become the “bellybutton” car that every other generation Mustang has become.
    Over the top hood graphics? Really? How do you feel about the screaming chicken Firebirds? Mmm… In the current era of cookie-cutter-jelly-bean-mobiles, I love the over-the-top in-your-face color and graphics schemes!
    Ok, rant off… deep breaths… count to 10…
    ;-)

  29. Futura 64

    Worked at a Ford Dealer when these abominations were new. Absolutely the most hideous Mustang ever built, and it has the trifecta T-tops as well…squeak, creak and LEAK.

  30. Hammer

    My first car was a 1971, $1995.00 blue Pinto. It was the absolute base Pinto with a 1600 cc, 4 speed car. Built to compete with the VW beetle. Ripped 3 gas tanks out from under it and never blew up! I installed a rupture disk in the last tank and piped through the quarter panel to blow off up and back in case of rear end impact. My favorite Mustangs were the 71 to 73 model years. I have always hated the butt ugly falconstangs of the 64.5 to 66 years, they started to get better in 67 but the 69 & 70 were the best of the the early ones. The worse Mustang II was better than the best 64.5 to 67 built including Shelbys. I drove a lot of II’s as I worked for a Ford dealer in 73 & 74 and I always respected them. I have always wanted to find a notch back and trans plant a Injected 5.0 (302) from a Fox or a built 351 Windsor in it. I dirve a completely original, 170,000 mile 1995 Polo Green Z28 Camaro. Currently restoring a 1981Turbo Trans Am (44,094 original) and a 79 Camaro when my MS allows my to play in my shop. Yes, I love “Screaming Chickem” Trans Am’s as my 81 has the Turbo Screaming Chicken. I an a completely dedicated gen 2 and gen 4 GM F body nut. I have worked on a lot of Fords but have only owned 1, the 71 Pinto. Windsors & FE were the best older motors. I have never been a Chrysler product fan but I worked on a lot of them l iked 70 to 73 Challangers & Cudas. Worked on a lot of retired NYS trooper cars as a gut in the area bought the at auction & sold 100’s the Argyle NY area. Nothing wrong with a Mustang II or any other car, truck or any other vehicle that a person likes and enjoys operating and maintaining. “Live long and prosper!”

  31. piper62j

    Hammer.. I agree.. My favorite of the Mustangs is the 71 -73. I’m currently restoring a 73 Mach 1 ‘Q’ code fastback and having a great time with it.. Here’s a pic of the floor pan with new lines..

    I owned a 73 Mach 1 w/ 400ci 2bbl back in 73.. Should have kept that one..

    Best of luck with your projects and good to know there is another car guy out there that’s into the 71 – 73’s..

  32. Orlando

    I love king cobras. Especially the black 4 speed cars. I have one in my stable. When I saw this ad, I had to have it

    Now I own 2

    Thanks for the heads up Barn Finds!!

    Like 1

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