Solid and Clean: 1978 Ford Mustang II King Cobra

The 1978 Mustang II King Cobra can be accused of a lot of things, but being subtle certainly wouldn’t be one of them. The 1978 Pontiac Trans Am was considered to be pretty “in-your-face,” but the King Cobra managed to crank that up a notch. Barn Finder Pat L spotted this clean looking Ford for us, so thank you for that Pat. It is located in Lowell, Indiana, and has been listed for sale here on Craigslist. The owner has set the price for the King Cobra at $9,000.

There are plenty of people who deride the Mustang II, and if I’m honest, I’m not a huge fan of the styling. However, it does actually deserve recognition within the Mustang story, because it allowed the Mustang name to stay alive when it would have been easy for Ford to retire the badge during the Malaise Era. That means that unlike its direct competitors, the Mustang has managed to remain in production all the way from the 1960s to the present day. The King Cobra is finished in black and features the distinctive Red graphics. The body and paint appear to be in good condition, with the Cobra having received a repaint at some point in the past. The owner identifies small bubbles in the decal on the hood as an issue, but a replacement decal will be included in the sale. It is hard to be 100% certain from the photos, but I think that the wheels fitted to the Ford either aren’t original, or they have had the lace centers painted at some point. On a car with these graphics, the face of the lace section should have a machined aluminum finish, while the recesses should be red. The style looks right, so I suspect that a repaint is the answer.

If an owner was buying a new King Cobra in 1978 with visions of high-performance floating around in their head, then they were in for a nasty surprise. In essence, the King Cobra option was little more than an appearance package, with no upgrades to the standard 302ci V8. It still produced a rather depressing 139hp, and in this case, the power is sent to the rear wheels via a 4-speed manual transmission. In all honesty, the horsepower figures are a long way from the Mustang’s glory days, but they were a reality of the automotive industry at the time. Today, an engine of similar capacity has no trouble delivering twice the power thanks to advances in fuel injection and electronic engine management technology. Being equipped with a manual transmission puts this King Cobra in the minority for 1978. In that year, Ford produced 2,954 of the King Cobra with an automatic transmission, while 2,017 were manual. The good news with this car is that not only is it a numbers-matching vehicle, but it is turn-key, meaning that it is ready to be driven and enjoyed.

The interior of the Ford is clean and tidy, but there are a few aspects of the car where it is beginning to show its age. The carpet is the most obvious of these, with it displaying significant levels of fading. The black interior trim appears to be in generally good condition, while the dash and pad seem to be free of cracks. The original shifter has been replaced with one from our good friends at Hurst, while the sports wheel has been clad in a wrap. The rest of the interior appears to be as it was when the car left the factory, and it wouldn’t take a lot of work to return it to completely stock. The King Cobra looks like it was equipped with a few optional extras, including air conditioning, and an AM/FM radio/cassette player.

In 1978, a sticker price of $6,350 meant that a King Cobra was not a cheap vehicle, and Ford still managed to sell 4,971 examples to the buying public. Today, these will sell for some pretty surprising prices. A clean example can usually fetch around the asking price of this car, while a pristine example can sell for $20,000 or more. This one is probably priced about right, and it will be interesting to see how quickly it sells.


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  1. nycbjr Member

    I dunno why but lately these are growing on me! Plenty of options to wake up that 302.. could be a nice ride!

    Like 14
    • dcowan

      I agree. I feel the same. Never a big fan but the last few I’ve seen have made me think

      Like 8
  2. Angrymike

    I kinda like this style all these years later, as a young man I hated it. It just so happens my father sold his 69 Road Runner for money to buy my sister her 77 Cobra-2, hers was white with red stripes and int, it also a 302 4 gear. I never forgave my sister for letting go of the Road Runner for a slow fake mustang. They’ve grown on me over the years, but I still miss that bird that my pops bought brand new.

    Like 11
  3. steve

    the Charley’s angels stangs were unpopular at the time by everyone who did not want one, but now I find these a bit cool, this one has all the right stuff, I would definitely tweek it to achieve maximum efficiency.

    Like 4
  4. Jeremy

    I’m loving these things nowadays as well. Black on black. 302,4 speed. No t tops thank goodness. They’re leaky noisy rattle traps in my experience with them. Double the HP with cam, lifter, carb, intake, exhaust (all can be done without pulling the engine) and it would be on par with fox bodies

    Like 8
  5. Troy s

    Engine looks to have been at least dressed up, new buyers were not greeted with an open air cleaner and cool valve covers, wonder if any real hop ups have been done to it. I won’t be negative here, that stuff gets old after a while, make a real runner out of it, make the exhaust growl with authority put fatter tires on it and who knows…

    Like 4
  6. petemcgee

    With 139 BHP on tap, performance can best be described as “Is this thing on?”

    Like 5
  7. Terry

    I had an identical one in the 80’s. Taught my wife to do burnouts with it.

    Like 5
  8. Edselbill

    Regarding HP of 136. Yes, that sound’s terrible by today’s comparison.

    But, keep in mind that standard 1978 Corvettes and 1978 Trans-Ams had only about 180 hp. (Yes, before anyone corrects me, there were LT and HP options that could raise them another 20+ or so HP, but as muscle cars go, this was the standard of the day.)

    Non-muscle or big luxury cars of the day typically ranged from about 70-100 hp.

    So, a lighweight, small “sporty” car from Ford in the Malaise era, did what it needed to do with 136 HP and sporty graphics, just as the Ventura based GTO’s, Gremlin based AMX’s, and Aspen based Road Runners did in the same era.

    So, all cars need to be judged by the era in which they were born. Compare it to the others at the time, not the early brethren or Fox body replacements.

    We should all be grateful that these Mustang II’s existed to keep the model alive.
    Now… applying the nameplate to a electric only SUV? That seems like a stretch.

    Like 8
    • Edselbill

      Just checked for curiosity.
      79 Z 28 featured today – 170hp
      78 AMX (Gremlin / Spirit)- 125hp
      78 Road Runner (Aspen / Volare’) – 140hp
      78 Dodge Challenger (Mitsu) – 77-105 hp

      So, the Mustang II was completely on par for the time.

      The good news is that you can easily wake it up for as much hp as you want given that it is the venerable 302 with tons of upgrades on the market.

      Like 7
      • Paul

        LOL they only had 136 hp from 5 liters, a friend at work had a new one and I had my Cosworth. That poor excuse for a Mustang (rebodied Pinto) was nose heavy and slow. I had 2 liters and 110 hp and could run with him plus out handle him anytime.

        Like 1
  9. Todd

    Had a 78. Ran decent for the era, couldn’t keep transmissions in it. It was more like a 3 spd OD type thing. The shifter was stamped steel and really thin walled tubing. Sold it with a bad trans and last time I seen it, it was on a wholesale lot, flipped up on its side and someone had stolen the bad trans! Lol

  10. Miguel

    I see they got the extra 2 HP out of the engine by removing the A/C belt.

    Like 1
  11. KarlS

    You know, every time one of these Mustangs come up for auction, all that I read is the same old thing: Underpowered, nose heavy, blah blah blah. Well, I not only worked for Ford at the time these came out, I owned a 76 model. Someone earlier claimed they were nothing but trouble but, at least at my dealership, we never had any come in for complaints. The one I owned only had a power steering leak when I got it used and after that was fixed, I never had a problem with it moving on. Someone also stated, maybe not on this Mustang II auction but on a prior one, that if it weren’t for the Mustang II, there probably wouldn’t be a 3, 4 or any other model down the line. That is most likely correct. Try not look a gift Mustang in the mouth, eh?

    Like 1

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