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V8/4-Speed And T-Tops! 1978 Ford Mustang Cobra II

If you need to own a Mustang II, this is probably the one to buy: a real-deal Cobra II, with T-tops, the 302 V8, and a four-speed manual. The Cobra II also wears its original paint job and graphics kit, with a healthy dose of patina baked right in. While many Mustang enthusiasts turn their noses up at these cars, this is a project-grade Mustang II I wouldn’t kick of the garage: it makes the right noises, the roof opens up, and it’s got three pedals. For the money, it seems like a bargain to me, especially if you’re into the loud ’70s graphics scheme like I am. Find the Cobra II here on eBay where there’s one bid to $9,000 and no reserve.

Before anyone labels me an apologist for the low point of Mustang products, I’ll issue the disclaimer that I totally get why this car remains a sore spot for many long-time Mustang enthusiasts. But I also understand where Ford was coming from at the time in terms of needing to find a way to address changing attitudes among car shoppers and lawmakers who didn’t have any real connection to the muscle car scene. It’s never an easy decision to neuter one of the most popular cars you ever made, and while there was likely a smarter middle ground to be achieved in the R&D stages, a Mustang Cobra II equipped like this one shows that someone at Ford still wanted enthusiasts to have a car in their corner.

The 302 was the way to go if you were shopping Ford products at this otherwise dismal time in the company’s history, and the engine today remains a venerable option when building a muscle car project, or even a track car for weekend battles. Put some Flowmasters on here and the untrained eye and ear won’t know the difference in terms of the Cobra II being a “true” muscle car or just a poser. Blue stripes on a white body are perhaps the most fitting color combo when trying to convince the world that your Cobra II has Shelby DNA (it doesn’t), but I also like the black models with the gold Cobra lettering on the doors. What’s your favorite Cobra II color scheme?

The interior is a bit tired, and actually looks a little worse than I was expecting given the outside. The seller does note that below the dash pad is an uncracked dash, so that’s good news. Maintenance-wise, he’s addressed some of the typical repairs needed to get it running and driving, but it will still need fine-tuning. He’s replaced the air pump, rebuilt the carburetor, installed a new steering rack, and replaced the battery, and also installed a new starter, solenoid, and fixed turn signals. The engine still runs slightly rough and has some coolant and oil leaks, so this project is far from complete – but it still looks like a very worthy project, despite that opening bid being surprisingly strong.


  1. Avatar photo Bob_in_TN Member

    Nice write-up Jeff. I also understand why Ford did what they did with the Mustang II. It was a product of its times, and a rather successful one at that. Which, to me, makes all the “it’s just a rebadged Pinto” comments trite and tiring. We get it, it’s not the most popular Mustang.

    This example is well-worn but not abused, and it deserves a restoration. I hope a Mustang II enthusiast gets it, and we see it at a show in a couple years, in all its late 70’s glory.

    Like 30
    • Avatar photo Ivan

      I was browsing the web looking at these graphics for the Cobra II’s and came across this barn find. I purchased this subject car, obviously shortly after your write up. I’ve made some mechanical upgrades and is way better. It’s a blast to drive and really is a rare car. I hope I can save your article somehow and hope to see more of them. Thanks, Ivan.

      Like 0
  2. Avatar photo Rustytech Member

    Couldn’t have said it better myself!

    Like 15
  3. Avatar photo Jeff

    How Do You Spell Dud: 1978 Ford Mustang Cobra II

    Like 2
  4. Avatar photo #TheChief

    I drove a nearly new 1976 Cobra II my
    Senior year of high school. Black with gold stripes 302 4-speed. Loved that car!

    Like 17
  5. Avatar photo Ryan

    These little ponies were a blast to get crazy on the streets with! A car is a car. A person makes it the car he wants. Can’t please them all.

    Like 15
  6. Avatar photo bobk

    Mine was the mirror image of this one, 2 years earlier. ’76 302/4spd, blue with white stripes. Didn’t have the T-tops, but I’m not a big fan of T-tops anyway. Great fun. Yes, not the best Mustang that I’ve owned – that honor would go to the ’67 390/4spd fastback. With the prices of ’67 Mustangs now, I kick myself every day for having sold that car, especially for what I sold it for.

    Like 2
  7. Avatar photo Superdessucke

    Wait, what Mustang submodel is this again?

    Like 2
  8. Avatar photo Jcs

    Maybe THIS is the one that Farrah Fawcett’s beautiful butt prints are on. One can dream, right?

    Like 13
    • Avatar photo Gus Fring

      Just remember, she pooped and passed gas, like everyone else.

      Like 3
    • Avatar photo Gary

      Her’s, which became her sister’s (Cheryl Ladd) when she left the show, was a ’76.

      Like 0
  9. Avatar photo MDY

    I needed a new car in 1976. I had owned a Comet with a 302 4-speed. It made sense to go with something I knew. Besides, insurance was a lot less than a Camaro. I drove it from Chicago to Jasper park in the Canadian Rockies with no issues. The hatchback was a nice feature for me at the time. The rack and pinion steering worked well and it is still used today on certain builds. Now, when I see one close up, I am surprised at how small and tight it feels. I sure couldn’t live with it as a daily car today but if the right one came along, I might consider it a a toy and time capsule. I have some nice memories from that car and that time.

    Like 6
  10. Avatar photo misterlou Member

    Interesting read on Wikipedia about the II. In ’73 Ford sold 134,000 Mustangs. In ’74 they sold 296,000 II’s. Fugly or not, gotta give it to Lee Iacocca…and they’re still selling the front end of this thing.

    Like 8
  11. Avatar photo djjerme

    Man, very tempting. If I hadn’t already hit the limit for cars with the wife, I’d be bidding on this. These are fun little cars, and I would love to get this out on the track this summer.

    Like 2
  12. Avatar photo A.C. .Morgan

    I find it ironic that in the 70’s, (Some of us ) were doing V-8 Vegas and Pintoes. For the FORD stable, we had the factory doing the V-8 install for us with the Mustang II, as GM did with the Monza. Late 70’s to the mid 80’s weren’t the prime performance era, But we did what we could with what we had..

    Like 1
  13. Avatar photo JoeNYWF64

    I bet if Ford put on bigger wheels, a decent rear end differential, & offered a 351 in these, they would have been appreciated.
    This gen stang IMO has the best looking interior – espec steering wheel – of all gens, including the current one.

    Like 0
  14. Avatar photo PRA4SNW

    Guaranteed to get a lot of looks if you bought and drove this.
    Some might be bewildered looks, but you would get a lot of looks.

    Like 1
  15. Avatar photo SirRaoulDuke

    I’ll be honest: I have always wanted to restomod one of these. Nothing there that 400 HP can’t fix.

    Like 3
  16. Avatar photo Bhowe Member

    I liked this version best with the huge cobra graphics in green on a white car. I also agree with the author about liking loud graphics

    Like 2
  17. Avatar photo Cinci SnakeBite'78

    I currently have a “78 King Cobra Mustang, all original with a little over 81k original miles. Its black on black, automatic, V8,302 5.0. I Love it! Gets great and nostalgic compliments at car shows! I’ve had guys with tens of thousands in a car tell me they couldn’t believe how many people wanted to talk to me and that they were jealous. You can sink your life savings in a car, but nothing beats original….NOTHING!

    Like 2
  18. Avatar photo Kent Krueger

    I understand perfectly why Ford created the Mustang II. Sales of Mustangs were stagnating. The 71-73 models were heavy, poor handling and not particularly economical. Performance was generally at an all time low, insurance rates were high and fuel prices had taken a huge jump.

    Without the Mustang II, there wouldn’t be any Mustangs being built today. I wasn’t a fan of the Mustang II initially, however my tastes started to turn fairly early. Today I look fondly on the Mustang II for what it was. It’s the car that saved the Pony Car lineup. Remember that the Firebird is gone, the Camaro and Challenger were out of production for years. None of these cars would have been brought back W/O the Mustang II saving the Mustang name.

    Like 1
  19. Avatar photo Ivan

    I was browsing the web looking at these graphics for the Cobra II’s and came across this barn find. I purchased this subject car, obviously shortly after your write up. I’ve made some mechanical upgrades and is way better. It’s a blast to drive and really is a rare car. I hope I can save your article somehow and hope to see more of them. Thanks, Ivan.

    Like 0

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