Needs A 302: 1978 Ford Mustang Cobra II

This 1978 Ford Mustang Cobra II is certainly a looker with its bold graphics and painted wheels, but is desperately in need of a bigger powerplant. Of course, many enthusiasts said that about the cars when new, but this Cobra II deserves to have the optional 302 V8 dropped in to give it the thrust to back up those bold graphics. The seller notes the car has the base-spec 2.3L four-cylinder installed currently, but that the engine needs replacement regardless of your desire for more horsepower. Find it here on eBay with bids approaching $2K and no reserve.

The Cobra II is relisted after the first “buyer” did not follow through. The Cobra package may have been a far cry from the original concept, but at least it got you some cosmetic tweaks that greatly improved the homely Mustang II’s looks. This included spoilers front and rear, blacked-out grill, hood scoops, and the aforementioned graphics package. So many of these stickers have been eaten away by years of sun exposure and other environmental damage; it’s nice to see one with the Cobra graphics still preserved. Thankfully, all of the other Cobra II enhancements are still attached.

The interior looks to be in great shape, and far better than the seven out of 10 rating the seller applied to it. The seller notes no rips, and unless there’s some water intrusion I can’t detect here, I’m not sure what the seller is dinging the cockpit on. The carpets look quite clean as do the door panels, and the cardinal red upholstery is one of the best looks for a black car. The original steering wheel remains installed, and the dash doesn’t appear to be cracked. The automatic is a bummer, but at least it will feel more lively once a proper 302 is swapped in.

The Cobra II package was available across the Mustang lineup at the time, which does seem insulting when you consider it could be added to the four- and six-cylinder models. This example is surprisingly rust-free, despite residing in Ohio. The seller notes there is no rot in the doors or floorboards, and that the rocker-panels have no rust to speak of, either. The undercoating is just starting to peel off, so it seems like this Cobra II was at least kept out of the snow when it was new. The next owner will have a great looking ride, hopefully with 302 (or bigger!) power under the hood to justify those bold Cobra II graphics. What engine would you swap in?

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  1. RayT Member

    I’ve never seen one of these with the ultra-rare “cylinder head delete” option!

    No doubt a 302 — with a manual transmission, please — would perk it up considerably, but at that point I’d already be looking for a Fox-body ‘Stang and buy a car I would LIKE to see (and be seen in).

    • Paul

      Can’t run any worse without cylinder head then it would if it had one from the factory……yes I know Bob-in TN is going to give me a hard time for again trashing yet another mustang II…I just can’t help my disdain for these horrible cars!

      I am on a crusade to see them all crushed!

      All in fun Bob!

  2. Bob_in_TN Member

    Not a bad starting point. A 5.0 or an Ecoboost 4 would work fine. With some additional work this could be a nice cruiser, one I would gladly own.


      Cool car, I’m thinkin Coyote motor with a 6-spd Tremec.

  3. sir mike

    Not one of Ford’s better ideas.

    • CCFisher

      Depends on your perspective. From an enthusiast standpoint, the Mustang II has little to offer. From a business perspective, it was brilliant – a smaller, more efficient Mustang just in time for the 1973-74 oil embargo. One could argue that without Mustang II, we wouldn’t have Mustang, Camaro, or Challenger today.

      • Paul

        The mustang II actually hurt fords reputation…the older body style 2nd generation camaro actually took over the sales lead from mustang II because of how pour this car actually was!
        And the camaro was using the same body that it had before oil embargo.

      • Troy s

        Ford was building zero performance cars from ’74 on. Nothing.
        StarskyHutch Torinos? No way.
        Pintos, Mavericks, the Mustang II, Torino, Granada, Fairmont, LTD, they were stones.
        So were most of the other brands, it’s funny but the Trans Am wasn’t a big seller ’till after it became smog hobbled….tastes were changing once again.
        As for Ford, it wouldn’t be until 1982 that a Mustang actually nosed a Z 28 Camaro in a straight line. Their image had been sorely tarnished amongst main stream enthusiasts for years but I can’t blame all of it on this here II. Not hardly.

  4. fordman6878

    Those seats are definitely not original

  5. Troy s

    Fender flares to accommodate the wider wheels and tires, lose the dumb kiddie graphics, set the interior up with but hugging racing seats, three pedals down there, 5 speed, cage, tweaked suspension, rear end out of a fox with 355 gears, 351 bored and stroked out +380 cubes, dynomax exhaust no cats, and basically go balls out at the local orange cone knocker track. People will smile at you and be amazed that a Mustang II could rip so hard. Okay, I’ll show myself out.

    • Martin

      I agree. They look and go so well with a little massaging.

    • hooligan68

      They raced them and those cars had the 70’s style box flares. That’s how I would do it. Add a nicely built ecoboost (it’s lighter by about 100lbs and capable of 500 bhp) and it would be a hoot.

  6. MrMustang

    Get a 1993 SVT Cobra drivetrain and computer and put it in there with AC and the factory 5 speed. Should scoot down the road nicely.

  7. dave

    I agree with Ray T and others, 302, yes. Toss the auto, get 4 speed. Ain’t got nothin to lose at this point.

  8. Claudio

    Buy a salvage 2016+ for parts and build a nice mustang 2 with it!the 4 cyl eco with turbo would be wonderful in this

  9. blyndgesser

    Ford Racing now sells a Windsor-based stroker crate motor with 460 cubic inches and 575 horses. I’m sure you can find headers for it that will fit between the shock towers.

    If you can keep it between the ditches, that would be a nice toy.

  10. AMCFAN

    There are those that can say I would do this and if mine would do that. We can sit here all day long. Sourcing the V8 and four speed from? Mounts, suspension and more. At that point it seems not worthwhile when you think for a little more you could get a running driving 5.0 Fox right now.

    Look at the car in it’s condition. The previous owner couldn’t get past the six cylinder head swap. As CC stated it was a for a business standpoint it WAS a great idea to build the Mustang II. To the enthusiast it is Ford Mustang at it’s lowest point. I hardly think it is a savior. A Mustang built off the Pinto? Come on!

    The Mustang would have lived on without the Mustang II. Chrysler brought back the Challenger in 2005. GM Killed off the Camaro (and about to do it again) and brought it back.

    It is public demand and the thoughts of making a profit is the driving force. Now everyone is on the electric band wagon. There will be an electric Mustang Mach E available by the end of 2020. So in 30 years can we say the E Mustang killed the brand? We can blame the Mustang SUV or Mustang Monster truck. How about a Mustang Jeep?

  11. Gaspumpchas

    IMHO, sorry excuse to put the name mustang on. Hard to look at. Had a customer with one of these with a 302 4 speed- couldn’t pull a sick whore off a pi$$pot. As one of the guys pointed out, trying to get the correct stuff to install the v8 might be a chore. One the flip side, if you put a warmed up SBF in there it would haul the groceries nicely, doesn’t weigh much. Good luck.

  12. 408 interceptor

    I’ll donate a running 403 olds to whomever buys this project, if it was good enough for a 79 firebird it’s good enough for this. By the way a mustang II with the 302 and AC weighed in at a hefty 3,300 lbs.

  13. Tort Member

    First thing is to get rid of the awful graphics and then find or build high a performance 302.

  14. Mitchell Ross

    I say keep the graphics, if they are decent. That is what the car is, a Cobra II, it represents the time it came from. I would put a 302 and automatic in , just because the cost and difficulty of finding each and every part of a manual linkage and clutch setup would be a pain. The car would represent what was the top of the lone Mustang at the time.

    To correct, or rather clarify a statement made, the Mustang II outsold the Camaro for the first 3 years, was outsold for the last 2 of its existence

  15. Paul

    To clarify the mustang II came out as a all new model for 1974 competing with the camaro that at the time was on a 4 year old body style…..the same old body style camaro eventually took the sales lead away from the mustang II with Camaro having a much older chassis and body style car….because the public came to realize after the mustang II was out for awhile how pour of a car the mustang II actually was!

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