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Snake In The Grass: 1978 Ford Mustang II King Cobra

Performance and 1978 – two things as car enthusiasts we don’t normally use in the same sentence. After all, 1978 was all about style and nothing was riding higher at the time than 2 door personal luxury coupes. But this was Ford’s performance effort for the year. The King Cobra was an option introduced mid-way through the 1977 model year. There were 68,408 Mustang II 2+2 coupes made in 1978 (plus another 7,968 Mach I’s) but since King Cobra was an option and not a model, no data was found to determine just how rare this car is. This example is found here on eBay.

This is not the best interior shot I’ve ever seen, but it still shows that a little work is in order. The seats seem to be in good shape without any obvious rips but a good cleaning is in order. However, the dash pad is warped and the driver’s armrest is missing. There probably are other interior bits that will need replacing as well, such as carpeting. This car comes with an automatic transmission.

The performance wasn’t riding too high even with the largest available engine. The 302 V-8 in this small pony car produced only 139 HP. Looks like quite a bit of detailing may be in order here as well. Yet this engine has only seen 62,873 miles of use. This model had the optional air conditioning, but the compressor is missing.

This King Cobra has the T-top option and the glass panels appear to be in good condition. I’m sure that would be a costly item to replace. The seller has included a new set of tires, and it still sports its original wheels with center caps.

Some of the items included in the King Cobra option included King Cobra lettering on the doors, black grille (without Mustang emblem), sport steering wheel, hood scoop and snake tape treatment on the hood. If you look closely, I think you can faintly see the cobra, although it’s greatly faded out. As of this writing, the bid is at $2,125, and apparently, the reserve has already been met. NADA value for this model is at $12,167 for high value, $10,187 for average value and $3,340 as it sits. Could this King Cobra be worth the effort of restoring?


  1. Classic Steel

    Was that 2,000,062,873 Miles of use ?

    Did we just see Charlie’s angels bloomers in the floor boards😮 as it’s got an automatic tranny 😜

    This is one roached out ride…

    Like 8
    • nrg8

      Wait wut? What’s this about panties on the floorboards?

      Like 5
    • Joe Common

      How do you get bloomers IN the floor boards? I know you can weld different metals together.

      Like 0
    • Dean

      I thought it was Parrot Ice by the dashboard light…*slurp*

      Like 2
  2. Bill Maddox

    4971 King Cobras were built. Less than half had T-tops.

    Like 6
  3. Ghiabill

    4971 King Cobras were built. Less than half had T-tops.

    Like 18
  4. Randy

    “Could this King Cobra be worth the effort of restoring?”


    Not worth the effort, not worth the cost, not worth it, period. Send it to the crusher.

    Like 6
    • Miguel

      I don’t think the crusher is where it should go.

      A kid can get it running himself and drive it.

      Like 5
  5. edh

    And the puke tank is toast!

    Like 1
  6. Jimmy

    When my wife purchased her new 78 Mustang Cobra she declined the King Cobra because the salesman said all King Cobras were manual trans. If true why is this one automatic.

    Like 2
    • Vin_in_NJ

      Because all salesmen are honest

      Like 13
      • Jimmy

        But you would think he would have been honest about getting one in a automatic because the king Cobra had a higher sticker price than the plain Cobra which he would have made a bigger commission.

        Like 2
    • Ghiabill

      Yep. Most I’ve seen are autos.

      Like 7
    • David Skinner

      Because the dealership didn’t have a King Cobra with an Automatic, but did have something else the salesman could sell the wife. Better to close the deal today, than risk having the customer back out of the deal while waiting on a different car. Another $12 in commission isn’t worth the risk.

      Like 0
  7. David Logo

    ALL Mustang II V8s were automatic, you could get Posi though..
    With the t-roofs you hit the gas and the entire dash twisted as the chassis flexed!! Led in the nose handling due to the iron engine and if it had more power it would prob twist it’s way into a knot.
    Can’t imagine these dogs being worth anything, even in perfect shape.

    Like 1
  8. David Logo

    I stand corrected, apparently there was a manual option for the V8 in 78

    Like 1
  9. Tom Carmicheal

    the NADA is a joke

    Like 2
    • Beatnik Bedouin

      Of course – ‘NADA’ in Spanish means ‘nothing’… ;-)

      Like 4
      • GhiaBill

        I wouldn’t part with mine for that. That’s for sure.

        Like 2
    • theGasHole

      NADA = Not Accurate Dumb A$$

      Like 1
  10. Retired Stig

    Not sure which I want more, a King Kobra malt liquor 16oz., or one of these. Even a little of either tends to make one chuff. Other than a sort of campy humour, I can’t imagine why anyone would want a dog like this. Pass.

    Like 0
  11. grant

    But yet, I’ve heard you all extol the virtues of Chevettes on these pages… Why would you want this dog? ‘Cause it’s already set up for a V8 and engine tech has come leaps and bounds since then. Build a nice 351 or whatnot and go hunting.

    Like 3
  12. Superdessucke

    This thing is snake bit.

    Like 0
  13. Miguel

    If this was the last King Cobra on earth, ti would be worth bringing back.

    It certainly is not the last.

    Like 1
  14. mapppott

    This car appears to be highly optioned: t-tops, deluxe interior with leather wrapped steering wheel, AC, bumper protection package, King Cobra package. Those doors and quarters appear to be rust/dent free. Only 4,971 King Cobras were made, 1 year only (1978). This car is absolutely worth restoring.

    Like 2
  15. wuzjeepnowsaab

    These represented the absolute nadir of the Blue Oval. Take a tarted up Pinto, tart it up more by dressing it in high heels and a push-up bra, and then try to tap into a legendary moniker…and see if it sells

    God these were ridiculous. Sorry if there are lovers of these out there and they’re offended…and I’m sure the flames are being lit…but you’re wrong. These were stupid cars new; stupid cars now.

    Like 0
  16. CanuckCarGuy

    Curious to whether attitudes would change towards these cars, if it hadn’t been named Mustang, and didn’t draw the inevitable comparisons?

    Like 3
  17. Jimmy

    Well unless the critics of these cars actually drove one especially the 76 to 78 Cobras and King Cobras they might think differently. They were quick for the time and without them the older hot rodders wouldn’t have their Mustang II rack & pinion steering to install in their cars. Even the avid Mustang crowd who dismiss these cars as horrible forget if it wasn’t for them Mustang wouldn’t be the longest running pony car name today.

    Like 7
  18. wuzjeepnowsaab

    Oh I drove them, Jimmy. Every doggone day. As a kid in 1977/1978 I worked in a rustproofing shop and we had a contract with one of the bigger Ford dealers in the area. We’d shuttle the cars back and forth from the dealership to the shop and back so that meant driving them. The entire industry was in a period of “malaise,” but Ford really led the way with this particular car.

    Interesting sidebar…this particular dealer was the “pass-through” dealer for cars built by Ford Canada for delivery to the FBI in the US. Now those cars would honk when you got your foot into them…and being kids, we got our foot into them a lot! haha

    Like 2
    • Miguel

      The dealership I worked at in 1987/1988 serviced the cars for the local police department.

      One employee thought he was being cute and whenever a police car would be there, he put a bumper sticker for his favorite radio station on the underside of the light bar.

      Now those 1987 Caprice police package cars were a hoot.

      Like 0
  19. Gay Car Nut

    Lovely looking car. I see a potential for performance upgrades. This King Cobra could have a real bite to go with the style.

    Like 1
  20. Jefferson Brown

    Bill Owens – Good point about the words 1978 and Performance being used together rarely. Several magazine articles have stated that the fastest American “car” that year of disco and the 55 mph speed limit was the Dodge Li’l Red Express(360 Police interceptor engine, no catalytic converter, 4-barrel carburetor).

    Nobody’s putting one of these Mustang IIs through a lavish no-expense-spared restoration…yeah…be the 1st one! But they ARE Mustangs and Motor Trend gave them their Car of the Year award when they came out.

    Like 0
    • Bill Owens Bill Owens Member

      Jefferson Brown, thanks for the comment on the fastest American car in 1978. I sold a 1971 Ford LTD with a 390 V-8 and bought a new 1978 Thunderbird with a 351 Windsor. Even though they weighed nearly the same, there was quite a difference in the performance of these two due to tougher emission controls by 1978 and having to run on unleaded fuel. I wanted a Thunderbird badly, but would not go for the 400 because fuel would be too costly and avoided a 302 for 0-60 time being “whenever” seconds.

      Like 0
  21. Karl

    King cobra? Really I wouldn’t take this pile if they paid me!

    Like 0
  22. GhiaBill

    I did put one through the no expense spared restoration and I’m glad I did. Mine is a great car and was the first Mustang Club of America Conservator Class Mustang II in the world and even won third in the fifty years of Mustang class at the Pinehurst Concours Dr Elegance beAting out a couple of restored Shelbys. They are great cars. Haters just gotta hate.

    Like 3

    It doesn’t take much effort take wake up a small block anything. Ditch all the pollution control better heads cam, headers and off you go. These were not the most popular mustang but with a little effort they were a lot of fun and reliable. Saying that they twisted is bull crap the unibody design on this and many other cars was very solid and made them lighter. This car done up with a speed was no slouch.

    Like 0
  24. gary

    u can get an auto,my wife did on her 1st and got one 2 yrs ago

    Like 0
  25. Arthur

    Bill Owens wrote: “Could this King Cobra be worth the effort of restoring?”

    Speaking for myself, I wouldn’t do a standard restoration. Instead, I would turn this into a restomod, like the Mustang II built by A-Team Restoration for its owner, Brett Behrens. Instead of a Triton V-10, however, this King Cobra could have the 5.2L Predator engine from the GT500.

    To learn more about the customized Mustang, one can visit the following page:

    Like 0
  26. John

    I’d get it and restore it, it’s not Special the 1978 King Cobra was only a regular V8 small block barely pushing 150 hp if that, if I could I’d slap a Windsor and Really cause a Rukus lol

    Like 0

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