Original V8: 1976 Ford Mustang II Ghia

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Classic car enthusiasts are, on the whole, an understanding bunch of souls. They will forgive a car for a lack of performance if it is an object of unspeakable beauty. A classic can possess looks that will make small children cry uncontrollably, but if it offers the sort of performance and acceleration that makes anything produced by SpaceX look weak, they will turn a blind eye to its appearance. That seamlessly brings us to the subject of Ford’s Mustang II. This is a model that has copped only slightly fewer derogatory comments than the Pinto on which it was based. People have been willing to take a pot-shot at its styling and its perceived lack of performance. However, history will record that, like its predecessor, it was the right car in the right place at the right time. This 1976 Mustang II Ghia is an original survivor, and the V8 under the hood makes it one of the more desirable examples of the Ghia that Ford produced in that model year. It is a rock-solid vehicle that would respond positively to a cosmetic refresh, and when you look at what it offers, that process would seem to be pretty straightforward. It is located in Portland, Oregon, and has been listed for sale here on eBay. Respectable bidding has pushed the price to $3,250, but this figure remains short of the reserve.

I will openly admit that if I were to compile a list of the ten most beautiful cars ever produced, there’s little chance that the Mustang II would find its way onto that list. The styling is almost a caricature of the lines that graced the 1st Generation Mustang, but that occurred because Ford attempted to instill some of the original model’s DNA onto a far smaller platform. It is really the automotive equivalent of a rock band that produces a mega-successful first album. Critics will always compare their second album to the first, and often the comparison is well short of favorable. The original Mustang was always going to be a tough act to follow, and Ford may have experienced fewer criticisms if there were no points of comparison between the two generations. However, the Mustang II is what it is, and for all of the criticisms, it sold in numbers that justified its existence. Our feature car wears its original Medium Gold paint, and while it retains a reasonable shine for its age, it looks tired. The car’s cause probably isn’t helped by the shredded Landau-style vinyl top. This gives the vehicle a worn appearance and makes it easy to judge its overall condition by this single flaw. When we look beyond that, the lack of apparent dings and dents and the complete absence of rust suggests that returning the Ghia to its glowing best would be a straightforward process. The passenger mirror is broken, but the remaining trim and the glass appear to be in good order.

If this Mustang II has a high point, it is its interior condition. Pale upholstery can look tired as the years pass, but this doesn’t look particularly bad. There are no visible rips or tears, and stains are minimal. A deep clean might not return it to a showroom fresh state, but it would make it look pretty nice. The window crank on the passenger door is broken, but these can be found for a few dollars. The plastic has avoided the crumbling appearance, which is common, while the dash and pad look remarkable for their age. It isn’t loaded with luxury appointments, but there’s plenty of faux-woodgrain, a factory tach, and an original radio/8-track player. As a bonus, the owner includes a collection of 8-track tapes. You just have to hope that you share similar musical tastes!

Ford offered a choice of engines in the Mustang II Ghia, and the original owner of this one went for the largest that they could buy. This is the 302ci V8 that produces 134hp. Completing this package are a three-speed automatic transmission, power steering, and power brakes. This car rolled off the line at the height of The Malaise Era, meaning that performance figures weren’t enough to set pulses racing. A ¼-mile ET of 17.8 seconds might look less than sparkling today, but in 1976, that number was considered respectable. For potential buyers, there’s plenty of good news to take away from this classic. It appears that it is numbers-matching and that it is in sound mechanical health. The owner has recently treated the transmission to a rebuild and replaced the steering rack, fuel pump, exhaust, radiator, heater core, master cylinder, and front and rear brakes. He admits that there is a minor coolant leak and a matching oil leak from the front of the car, but neither impacts its operation. He indicates that he has been using the car as a daily driver, suggesting that it is ready to hit the road with a new owner behind the wheel.

It would be easy to dismiss the Mustang II and its importance in the American automotive scene. It hit the market at the same point that the world experienced the Arab Oil Embargo and ensuing energy crisis, and its smaller size and more efficient drivetrain, when compared to its predecessor, meant that it sold in record numbers. Ford passenger car sales for 1976 totaled 1.8 million vehicles. Of those, 188,567 were the Mustang II. When you look at the other offerings within the Ford range for that year, the Mustang II could rightfully hold its head high. The Mustang II also served as a stop-gap between the 1st Generation cars and the enormously successful Fox-Body variants. That is why we can’t underestimate its importance and why this car deserves a new owner willing to return it to its former glory.

Auctions Ending Soon


  1. Steve sawyer

    I guess you consider the car I just got a barn find, it’s a 1980 pinto panel delivery. It’s not the one with port holes and carpeting. This one was a county vehicle used to do county business. Steel package tray behind the front seats.

    Like 1
  2. HadTwo

    Hmmm, considerations;
    Baby Poop Brown…check
    Partially missing vinyl opera roof…check
    Guv’mint required safety sticker still adhered to dash…check
    8-track tape player…check
    Yes, qualified!

    Like 9
    • CJM

      Poop brown? The color is GOLD, over Vanilla vinyl. I happen to think its a gorgeous color combo. Its also clearly been repainted on the left side. The peeling top means its been in the sunbelt, which means a lack of rust. I’d rather replace a vinyl top than a floor or quarter panel. Are these the best cars ever made? No. But they are a great looking little car, inside and out, and were right for the times when new.

      Like 3
  3. Bob_in_TN Bob_in_TNMember

    Good summary Adam. Finding a decent original condition Mustang II isn’t easy. This one isn’t perfect but isn’t bad. Taken in its mid-70’s context, it is a fine representation of its era. “Pinto based,” ???

    Like 3
    • Poppy

      The Mustang II was based on the Pinto platform which debuted three years before the Mustang II was introduced.

      Like 2
      • Edselbill

        The “Pinto based” comments are over-blown. The Mustang II had less shared platform DNA than any other Mustang before (Falcon then Torino) or after (Fox / Fairmont).

        The unibody’s only shared part was the trunk floor. That’s it. No doors, no roof, no glass, no wheelbase, no engine mounts. Everything else on the “platform” was unique to the II. (The firewall isn’t even in the same location, nor are the floorboards compatible).

        However, the II shared plenty of engine, trans, front steering / suspension and switch gear with the full range of Fords, including the Pinto — but also the Maverick, Bronco, and a full range of European Fords. That doesn’t mean it is a “gussied up Pinto” as so many people like to claim.

        How often do people say a Foxstang is just a Fairmont in drag, or 1st gen as just a Falcon with make-up? Yet, those are far more accurate comparisons.

        Having just completed a three-year full restoration, expecting part swapping between Pinto and II, I have learned how little is shared.

        Like 12
  4. Ken

    @Adam Clark. I am so glad you reminded readers of how popular these were back in the 70’s. Iacocca saw the future demand for smaller, more fuel efficient fun, and this car was a huge success. His guiding principle was that the II would be a “little jewel”–better handling, fit and finish. As a teenager, I wouldn’t have been caught dead in one of these, but now I like them. A nice paint job, goosing up the hp, and wheels and tires would make a great weekender. You wouldn’t have to worry about running afoul of some Mustang II purist!

    Like 9
  5. Poppy

    The K-Tel “Hot Tracks” 8-track is a nice addition. Loaded with ’80s gold.

    Like 11
  6. BoatmanMember

    Well done, Adam.

    Like 2
  7. Frank

    Insulting to call this a Mustang! Ford CEO should have flogged the Design Department for this design.

    Like 4
    • Curtis

      Its still a mustang. Like it or not you can thank the federal goverment for its regulations. Today the three US car makers may not survive. At least the mustang 2 was American made.

      Like 6
      • MarveH

        Three U.S. automakers? There are only 2, Chrysler. Ram, jeep are owned by Fiat-Pugeot.

        Like 2
    • Lothar... of the Hill People

      I don’t hate the Mustang II so much but I hate the fact that they took the Mustang name to sell a Ford Tesla.

      Like 2
  8. Steve H

    If you think a 17 second quarter mile time is slow . . you should have driven my mom’s ’75 Mustang II Ghia with it’s FOUR cylinder . . 0 – 60 in an hour and a half !!! ( you could walk faster – BACKWARDS ) It was my mom’s second new car ( her first was a ’64 Mustang ) She kept driving the ’75 well into her 80’s. We sold it in 2011 for around $4,500 when my parents moved to a retirement building with 18,500 original miles on it. A sixteen-year-old boy bought the car with his dad and LOVED it – 4 cylinder and all.

    Like 5
  9. MikeB

    Just another example of the terrible things auto companies did in the 70’s and 80’s. As I am now 81 years old and lived through most modern automotive eras I have to say the mid 70’s through the 80’s were generally just plain awful. There were pitifully few exceptions which made things even worse. I think 1957 – 1970 was my favorite time.

    Like 10
    • MarveH

      I disagree about the 1980’s. It was a decade of ascendancy. Every 1989 car was better than every 1980 car, not so with the 70’s.
      Performance was back in the 80’s with V8’s, turbo 4’s, fuel injection multi valves and duel over head cams. It was an exciting time for cars.

      Like 1
      • MikeB

        I guess it’s all a matter of perception. I made it through the 80’s with a gray market 81 BMW 323is and a modified 87 Buick Regal Turbo. Both different but fun cars. But the way I see it now-why bother, just get a Tesla model S Plaid and quietly beat about anything.

        Like 0
  10. Troy

    When Ford started building this style of mustang I thought for sure that the mustang was doomed but it made a comeback now they are trying to kill it again with this Mach E POS that is mustang in name only

    Like 3
  11. jwaltb

    Do you guys get paid by the word?

    Like 2
  12. ADM

    I never really liked them, but, as noted, they were everywhere, back in the day. I once drove a red/red ’76 hatchback with the 302, and it really wasn’t that bad. With the V8, it would be a satisfying daily driver.

    Like 4

    I own a number of Mustang ii’s, I guess that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and the love for a particular model, an emotional attachment of some kind. In my case, when I started to date my future wife, she owned a gorgeous little red 1975 Mustang coupe, was it a great car, no, not even a good car, but it brings back many fond memories.

    Like 3
  14. Jim Trook

    The ’80s were exciting times for cars…..Some cars, but not this one. I guess people bought them thinking they were a real Mustang. I worked on them & knew better.

    Like 0
  15. jwaltb

    POS then, POS now.

    Like 2

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