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Mid-Seventies Sizzle: 1976 Ford Mustang Cobra II

After years of declining sales, Ford reinvented the Mustang pony car in 1974. Instead of being a derivative of the Falcon compact in the 1960s, it was an extension of the Pinto subcompact of the 1970s. It was smaller and more fuel efficient, which may have been its main selling point in the middle of the OPEC energy crisis. To add some sizzle to the bacon, Ford added the Cobra II in 1976. While it implied a faster car, the drivetrains were not modified, so it was more about looking good. This ’76 Cobra is a survivor of sorts, though it has been repainted. Located in Scottsdale, Arizona, this ‘Stang is available here on eBay where the current ante is $6,000.

The debut of the Mustang II couldn’t have been better timed as Americans were getting accustomed to gasoline no longer being cheap (50 cents instead of a quarter). The old Mustang had gotten fat and bloated, so when the Mustang II came along, sales took off in ’74 at a clip of 300,000 units (still half that of the 1966 peak). Trying to bust out of it just being an economy car now, the Ford gurus added the Cobra II package in 1976 to emulate the look of the Shelby Mustangs of the decade before. But you could order the Cobra II with the same I-4, V6, or V8 that was available in the run-of-the-mill Mustang II.

When you ordered a new Cobra II, it didn’t roll off the assembly line the way you see it now. The trim package was added by an outside firm owned by Jim Wangers, a long-time industry executive. To get one, you had to fork over about $600 in extra charges to Ford and Wangers. The seller’s car has a mid-range engine, a 171 cubic inch V6 with an automatic transmission. We’re told it’s a mirror image of the one driven by Farrah Fawcett in the TV show, Charlie’s Angels.

The seller must be a marketing type like Wangers himself as the verbiage in the listing promotes more the genre of the car than the car itself. Terms like “golden age” and “automotive history” populate the sales pitch. In between this jargon, we conclude this car was in storage for several years and was put back into running condition to be sold. It looks and runs well with an older repaint, but the blue stripping is flawed, and a purist would want to have that redone. But the interior looks quite good. Does this Cobra II take you back to your high school years when scoring a cool ride was Priority #1?

Comments

  1. Avatar photo alphasud Member

    For years I would always turn my nose up to this era of Mustang but I was the right car for the malaise 70’s. I would probably change the title of the article to Mid-seventies Simmer for all the Cobra 2 Mustangs. If it had the 302 it would be easy to apply all the power adders of the later GT cars and have a Mustang 2 with Sizzle.

    Like 9
  2. Avatar photo Bob_in_TN Member

    Thanks Russ.

    I think the seller took his Creative Writing class a bit too seriously.

    As for the car, it is pretty good. It would be more fun with a 302 and (especially) a manual transmission. You would be wise to brush up on your Charlie’s Angels trivia before heading out to Cars & Coffee.

    I’d call the Mustang II an “extension” of the Pinto only to the extent that they were both compact economy cars at their core, as there is little platform commonality between them (beyond items which were common to all Ford models).

    Like 23
  3. Avatar photo Rw

    These make awesome Pro Street cars.

    Like 6
  4. Avatar photo Brian

    Nothing wrong with this car that couldn’t be solved with a 427 Windsor stroker, 5 speed, and a stout 8.8 rear.

    Like 13
    • Avatar photo SirRaoulDuke

      I’ve always said there’s nothing wrong with the Cobra II that can’t be fixed with a massaged 302 with about 300 hp, but hey if you want to go with something to fight the rotation of the Earth, more power to ya!

      Like 3
  5. Avatar photo Robert Atkinson, Jr.

    I’m with the folks who used to bad mouth these cars, but with the wisdom of age, have been re-evaluating their initial disdain. The only fly in the ointment for me is the 2.8L “Essex” V6 under the hood. A pleasant, but not overly powerful engine, it was the top motor for the deuce Mustang’s European cousin, the Mercury Capri. Those engines did have a rather serious Achilles Heel, however. There wasn’t a timing chain or timing belt in the V6, but the two timing gears meshed directly together. This, in and of itself wasn’t a problem, except that the gears used nylon teeth on a steel center section. Over time, due to heat and age, the nylon got brittle, and the gear teeth would break, or worse, pieces of the nylon would fall off completely, stopping the engine cold! This is not good! I don’t know if all-steel replacement gears are available or not. I think I saw steel replacement gear kits for this motor on the Wheeler Dealers TV show on the Motor Trend channel, but don’t quote me on that.

    For that reason alone, an upgrade to a 302/5.0L might be in order. Crate small blocks are available directly from Ford in 302, 347 or 351 cubic-inch sizes, and as the saying goes, “There is no substitute for cubic inches!”!

    Like 10
    • Avatar photo scottymac

      The V-6 is a German Cologne 60 degree engine, the Essex V-6 was an English design with 90 degrees between the banks. Later, in the Eighties, the Canadians built an unrelated Essex V-6 as used in Taurus, Aerostar, and F-150.

      Like 6
      • Avatar photo Robert Atkinson, Jr.

        I checked on-line, and replacement gear sets are available in your choice of steel or aluminum. The steel gears are reputed to be noisier, but you only have to replace the crankshaft gear, the stock cam gears are all steel. The aluminum gears are quieter, but since the crank gear profile is different from the stock gear profile, if you use the aluminum gear, you have to replace both the crank and the cam gears.

        On a side note, the 2.3L four-cylinder engine used in base models is shared with the Pinto, and was later upgraded with a turbocharger for use in the SVO Mustang and the T-Bird Turbo Coupe, so a turbo four-cylinder upgrade is as close as your local junkyard, a.k.a. auto salvage center.

        Like 0
      • Avatar photo Robert Atkinson, Jr.

        So how do you tell the difference when looking at your motor? I don’t know if the the bank angle is that visible with the engine in the car, but even so, there must be some other methods to tell what you’ve got. A2.8L V6 also was used in the late Pintos, and as the base engine choice in Fox Body Mustangs and Mercury Capris, along with the European Capris (1969?-77) which one did they all use, the “Essex” or the “Cologne” version?

        Like 0
    • Avatar photo Philip L Davenport

      Also, there’s no replacement for displacement.

      Like 1
  6. Avatar photo Tommy T-Tops

    I don’t know why but I have to admit that I’ve always liked the style of these. I know, I know, it’s probably the worst version of the Mustang ever. My lawnmower has more power and I’m not a Ford or Mustang guy but there is just something that makes me like these. I also have a un-natural attraction to Saab Sonnets and Opel GT’s so maybe its an itch I need to scratch when I finally retire GLWTA

    Like 7
    • Avatar photo Philip L Davenport

      Also, there’s no replacement for displacement.

      Like 1
    • Avatar photo Grumpy61

      My best friend had a 71 Mach 1 with a 351C and 4 speed manual. He traded it in 1977 for this exact type of vehicle. He regrets to this very day

      Like 1
      • Avatar photo John H.

        ….and as his best friend, you are well within your rights to remind him of that grievous error at least weekly.

        Like 1
  7. Avatar photo bobk

    Gotta say, the “blue striping” is nowhere near the blue striping that I remember. Much darker.

    Like 4
  8. Avatar photo bobk

    And in my opinion, Mustang II’s were not the worst version of the Mustang that went to market. For me, that honor went to the “bloated whale” Mustangs made from 1971 – 1973.

    Like 9
  9. Avatar photo Brett Lee Lundy

    The Mustang II is to Ford what the AMF years were to Harley Davidson. They are not looked on as being in the marques prime and the build quality was dismal at best. BUT what each did was continue the brand thru times that saw others disappear, either temporarily or all together. They had the funding available to continue and ride out the Japanese invasion that hurt American Auto and Motorcycle sales of the 70’s, by providing a better quality vehicle at an affordable price, with good gas mileage. Ford was able to continue the Mustang brand uninterrupted, and the Harley brand was able to continue until it was bought back by Willie G and his team. neither of these era vehicles will ever command the prices of the previous or later due to the lack of defining provenance, performance, or product innovation. these will always be a memory provider, one that far exceeds what the reality was. i.e. ” I (or a buddy) had one in high school/ college, and we spent friday nights cruising around with friends”

    Like 7
  10. Avatar photo V12MECH

    Perfect for a Dyno Don pro-stock clone.

    Like 2
    • Avatar photo Christopher Gentry

      Dad had a 76 , 4 cylinder auto. This came after 4 previous first generation mustang , all 3 or 4 speeds. It was his last mustang. Still i’ve always liked the style. Said for decades , drop a better mill in it. Heck a newer ecoboost 4 would good it these thier so small.

      Like 1
  11. Avatar photo Beauwayne5000

    Had the same yr 302 4spd Cobra II Blue white stripes – took it off my used car lot as trade in a 1k$ car, in 1980.
    Slapped on a junkyard 289 4barrel manifold w/carb & jammed in a 3/4 comp cam & lifter kit & distributor coil & wire set + hot plugs.
    Snapped both rear main springs 1st pull.
    Limped down to merril wheel & Axle had 2 new main springs & extra leaf sheaf installed to handle torque & 100lb bags of sand on each side over Axle in rear hatch area to hold it down for traction.
    New Tiger paw sticky radials helped.
    Chopped off the exhaust behind resonators ran open no mufflers Deep throaty growl.
    Cut a hole in the hood with a saws-all & bolted on a Chrome drag style scoop shaker style.
    Amped up the factory Am/Fm cassette deck added Kenwood speakers in rear hatch & cranked ACDC with a pheasant feather 🪶 on the antenna.
    It pulled wheelies in 3 gears & hard scratch in 4th.
    After 6months of street racing and numerous tickets sold it to my body shop manager.
    I was nuts as a 19yr old teenager.
    Good memories tho of many a finey in the hatch with the back seats folded down out by the river & in the woods.
    Good times.

    Like 1
    • Avatar photo A REAL enthusiast

      You’re nuts now, thinking anybody believes your nonsensical stories. Enough traction to pull the wheels through three (LOL already at this outrageously lie), yet so little traction in fourth that you get “hard scratch”? So outrageously stupid, absolutely NOBODY believes this nonsense.

      Like 3
      • Avatar photo Brian Hazelwood

        I had a new 77 White -Red 4Speed The finey part could be true ,as that’s where I had my best ,back in the day! She’s still around too,but neither of us could crawl back there ,again.

        Like 0
      • Avatar photo Eric

        I never pulled wheelies in our cologne v6 Mustang deux but my bro cut rim grooves in a curve he finished on 2 wheels lol.

        That hatch and fold down back seat was a cool love nest on the cheap.

        Like 0
  12. Avatar photo Frank Denardo

    I remember watching Charlie’s Angels on Network TV and reruns. Farah Fawcett-Majors and later Cheryl Ladd drove this car for the entire run of the series.

    Like 0
  13. Avatar photo Barto

    An old high school buddy had one like this, only with a 302. He lost control on a slippery highway in AZ, flipped her over, and subsequently lost his lower leg.

    Meanwhile, I’ve always been partial towards these Cobras. With a V8 there’s a lot of motor for not much car.

    Like 1

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