Shelby Throwback: 1976 Ford Mustang Cobra II

While the name had been a part of Ford heritage for several years, it didn’t become an established brand within the Mustang line-up until 1976. By then, the sub-compact Mustang II had been out a couple of years, so was only natural that it became the Cobra II. This first-year Cobra II has only had two owners, with the first party possessing the car for 44 years. Some recent work has been done to make it roadworthy again and it presents well now. Located in Collegeville, Pennsylvania, this Mustang is available here on eBay where the bidding has reached $10,800, the reserve hasn’t been met, and the Buy It Now price is $17,500.

The 1976-78 Cobra II models started with a Mustang II hatchback that had some appearance items installed by Motortown Corp. With the goal of simulating the early Shelby’s, the transformation included wide-length stripes running on top of the car, stripes along the lower body (with “COBRA II” in the center section), front and rear spoilers, rear quarter window louvers with a chrome snake emblem, simulated hood scoop, snake decals on each fender, a chrome snake emblem in the blacked-out grille, brushed aluminum instrument and door panels, and styled steel wheels. While three color choices were available, the most popular was white with blue stripes, as is the case with the seller’s car.

Apparently, the Cobra II was marketed well because it counted for a nice percentage of Mustang II production for 1976. Out of more than 188,500 Mustangs built that year, more than 25,000 of them were the Cobra II. The Cobra would enjoy two long runs in the Mustang portfolio, first from 1976-81 and again in 1993-04. While the Cobra II had a 4-speed manual transmission, the engine was standard Ford fare with a 302 cubic inch V8 that produced 134 hp SAE net. Not a barn burner, but quick for its size as the Mustang II was several hundred pounds lighter than the original Mustang that wrapped up in 1973.

This ’76 Cobra II was acquired by the seller last year. At the time, it was still in the hands of the original owner, who had kept it in a covered garage. During its first four decades, it only managed to accumulate 69,000 miles. The seller proceeded to focus on the car’s mechanical components to get it running in top running order again. Some of the work performed include:

  • refreshed the fuel delivery system by overhauling the carburetor, replacing the fuel pump, and cleaning and coating the gas tank
  • redid the car’s brakes, including the wheel cylinders, master cylinder and lubricating the car’s newer front disc calipers
  • changed all fluids and performed a tune-up

Other parts on the car appear to have been replaced over the years and not by the seller, but include the steering rack, exhaust system and clutch cable. Things that still needs attention are a new set of tires (the ones on the Mustang are old and uneven) and a turn signal switch. From the inside the car, things are not perfect, but acceptable. There is some wear on the driver’s seat, the dashboard has a crack in it, and the panels in the hatch area are discolored from the sun. Outside the car, it looks practically new. The paint shines up well, what chrome there is looks good, the stripes don’t seem to have any cracks and there is no mention or sightings of rust.

While these ‘70s Cobra II’s weren’t as potent as their Shelby predecessors of the prior decade, they still make for interesting cars to present today, considering the time period they were built is often thought of as the “malaise era” of American car production. Pricing for regular Mustangs from 1976 is low, but a Cobra II like this one sold at Barret-Jackson for $38,500 three years ago.

Fast Finds

Comments

  1. Mikefromthehammer

    I had a new 79 Cobra. You had the option of either the 302 or turbo 2.3 four. I wisely chose the V8 – 140 HP, 250 lb. ft of torque. This was the first year for the Fox body. Two things I did not like: 1. The “variable venturi” carburettor made it difficult to start – it was fine once it did start. 2. It ran hot most of the time. I replaced the radiator, but now (that I am older and hopefully smarter) I think I should have also replaced the thermostat. I think it may have been stuck in a partially closed position.

    Like 4
    • Dave

      Another thing to replace is the water pump. I had a 1969 Charger R/T whose overheating problem began after a stoplight drag race. I spent hundreds at professional radiator shops with no luck. The guy I sold the car to figured it out.

      Like 2
    • Popawfox

      79 stangs also had the 255 v8. My cousin bought one when he got out of the Marine Corp.

  2. Moparman Member

    Count me in the camp of those who DON”T share a hatred of the Mustang II. Despite its’ radical changes from the previous generation; it still preserved a continuous link in the Mustang family; unlike the Challenger/Camaro/RIP Firebird. Also the rack & pinion steering set up has been utilized by many car builders. This one appears to be well kept, and I wish I had space for it! GLWTA!! :-)

    Like 18
    • Fred W

      You gotta respect the suspension- my ’48 Continental has it and handles (for a big car) like it’s on rails. The only thing that would make this Cobra better is Farrah on the hood!

      Like 19
      • princeofprussia

        Why would ANYONE want a rotting corpse on their hood?

        Like 13
      • jwzg

        Savage

        Like 7
  3. David Bailey

    Over the years, I’ve grown to appreciate these cars’ diminutive size. Never could tell the Cobra II vs. The King Cobra, though.

    Like 4
    • Don Eladio

      Different stickers, lol…and that was about it.

      Like 7
  4. Steve Clinton

    You can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig.

    Like 16
    • Charles Smith

      Had one just like it, other than mine was blue with white stripes. Worse car I ever owned. The 13″ wheels rode like crap. The engine was weak as it could be. It used oil. The only thing even close to a cobra was the decal on the side. Lucky for me somebody side swiped it and they couldn’t get the paint to match back in those days (blue metallic), so I traded it for a 77 Thunderbird. Much better car at the time with a 351w.

      Like 9
      • Brian77

        First new car I bought ,a 77 White with Red Stripes ,V8 4 speed . Dad wouldn’t cosign on the Spitfire I thought I wanted went to Dealer found this $ 5,000 sticker no ac Mustang,I enjoyed it,friend TBoned a cutlass that ran a stop sign in front of us, 15 yr girl had (Borrowed)it ,his head busted my windshield and they put it back together and painted the stripe back,,State patrol followed me home after I picked it up wanted to know where my front plate was ,alas I traded it for a 78 Tbird as well.

    • Frank Sumatra

      Arse whole comment.

      Like 11
    • john holmes

      Don’t be a Shelzbot..

      Like 1
    • john holmes

      Don’t be a Shelzbot..

      Like 1
  5. Vin_in_NJ

    I immediately think of the 1970’s Charlie’s Angels TV show when I see these cars. While Farah Fawcett was assigned a Cobra II, Jaclyn Smith had a Mustang Ghia, and Kate Jackson had a lowly Pinto.

    Like 12
    • Mr.BZ

      Even the cars were typecast!

    • Matt

      Kate Jackson wasn’t hot! 8-)

  6. Marshall King

    While I don’t mind the styling of these, if I am going to spend the close to 20 G’s for this, I’ll go a couple grand more and buy the much rarer Macho T/A, as there were far fewer made, and they do have a following. This Mustang would be a great way to get into the old cars. Not ruling out the price the person wants, as who would have ever thought a Maverick, Pinto or Vega would be getting the money they are right now?

    Like 4
  7. Dean

    For the day these cars were awesome. I had 2 and loved both of them.

    Like 3
  8. MDY

    I bought one new in 1976 – a black Cobra V8 with a 4-speed, just like this one. What is a great car? No, but it was less money and lower insurance than a Camaro at the time and I still had a V8 4-speed plus my previous car had a 302 so I knew the engine well. I needed transportation and it was a good compromise for the time. These were difficult years for performance lovers. Everything was slow. The speed limit was 55 mph, too. Remember that?
    I sat in one a couple of years ago and I didn’t remember just how tight and compact it was inside. I can’t believe I drove from Chicago to Banff in one of these! I’d go nuts today doing that.
    The price being asked seems really high but 5 years from now it will seem cheap, I’m sure.

    Like 6
  9. MikeB

    A piece of cosmetic crap for the terrible 70’s. Let’s face it, almost all 70’s cars were destroyed by smog gear requirements, compression ratios were way ,power was gone. Cosmetic stuff was all they had left. (Exception being the 73 SD TransAm). This “Cobra” is a prime example of “all hat and no cattle “ cars of that era.

    Like 6
  10. Bob_in_TN Bob_in_TN Member

    Nice example. Still some improvements which could be made, but the aftermarket parts supply for things like interior parts isn’t strong, and finding good used or NOS parts is getting to be difficult. I’m glad to see one getting attention.

    Aside: the Mustang Club of America show in Kansas City July 23-25 will include a show-within-a-show: the Mustang II Reunion VI.

    Like 3
    • Rick Rothermel

      These are typical ’70s ‘vinyl musclecar’ crap but if you toss the bumpers, get rid of the tiny wheels, add EFI and better exhaust, and get the stance right they can recover a bit of their potential ‘cool’.

  11. Frozenbird

    My 17 year old daughter surprised me with a pic of one these the other day. Farrah Fawcett was sitting on the hood and she thought it was a “really cool looking car” Cool enough to go out and find one I asked (I have a collection of cars) and she said “yes”. It has to be either white w/blue or white w/red she thought. Why it surprised me is because her and her same generation friends think the ‘fox body mustang’ is the ugliest thing they have ever seen and they can’t believe it was ever called a Mustang. I always figured the ’85 GT with t-tops with recarro’s was pretty cool. Maybe these Mustangs II’s are going to be looked upon differently by the current new driving generation…..

    Like 4
    • Mr.BZ

      I’m just happy to hear that she and her friends have any interest in cars at all. Hope?

      Like 4
  12. Mike Freeman

    Always thought of these as a Pinto GT.

    Like 7
  13. CraigR

    Seems like you could smarten up that 302 and get some giddyup out of that pony.

    Like 5
  14. Kevin

    Once again, personal attacks are happening, come on guys,be a little more grown up,these cars are what they are,malaise/disco era smog machines, if you don’t like it,ok no big deal, say so,let’s criticize the cars more than each other, after all isn’t this, all about the cars!

    Like 11
  15. John Oliveri

    Charlie’s Angels, Farrah Fawcett had one of these, and I always wanted her, or Jacklyn Smith, but I still don’t want the car, unless they both can pick me up in it, and it’s 1976 again, if only for a day

    Like 2
    • Mikefromthehammer

      Why limit yourself to only one. Take’m both!

  16. Bunky

    I went to a Ford showroom and drooled on the fender of this cars’ twin. Ended up buying a two year old Pinto wagon from a private party. I was a starving college kid. If I had it to do over I’d buy the Cobra II and double the water in my Top Ramen to make up the difference. Couple years later I bought a ‘76 Mustang Fastback “Stallion”. Think nice stripes and graphics with half the cylinders. Nicely appointed, slow, but it looked cool and got 40 mpg. 🤷‍♂️

    Like 1
  17. Joe

    I had an identical copy except mine had the 2.8 V6. It was my first new car. No big problems but lots of memories with it.

  18. JoeNYWF64

    Amazing how thin those front roof pillar supports are.
    Even the club crook lock in the trunk is blue!
    Looks ez to change spark plugs.
    Can you swap on 14″ wheels & tires without wheel well rubbing issues?
    The single exhaust & restrictive ’70s cat conveter has got to be robbing maybe 30 hp.

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