Ford hasn’t always been the bold leader of sound automotive judgement that it is today. Though in fairness, most of the god-awful Mustangs listed below were the result of fuel shortages and government regulations, and actually many were sales successes initially. Taking a more zen-like approach let’s remember that without evil or ugliness in the world, true beauty and goodness may not exist either. Nevertheless, to quote Sealab’s Dr. Quinn, “Mistakes were made.” Mistakes indeed. As promised, in Part 2 of a look back at some of the best and worst Mustangs, here are five versions of the ‘Stag that we wish never existed. And actually when WAS the last time you saw a Mustang II on the road?
1993 Mustang LX
The performance discrepancy between engine choices was pretty wide in 1993, and even at the top end things were still pretty bleak. Even after Ford formed a Special Vehicle Team (SVT) in 1991 to create high-performance cars, the results for the 1993 Mustang SVT Cobra and Cobra R were at best 235 horses. Only after Ford got rid of the aging 5.0 in 1996 would a Mustang be built that created more than 300 hp. On the bottom end, the ’93 LX came with a pitiful 105 hp 4-banger that is somehow befitting the bug-eyed visage (dare I say Ford Tempo-esque) and uninspired body style that it is wrapped in. Base price for a ’93 Mustang; $11,159.
1979 Mustang Coupe
Inexplicably, for only the second time in it’s history, the Mustang was named the official pace car for the Indy 500 in 1979. Actually, this is a pretty good indication of how bad American car making then, because top-to-bottom, the engine choices offered in Mustangs that year are some of the most anemic of all time. At the bottom end was a six-cylinder that actually produced LESS giddy-up (85 hp) than the base four-cylinder (88 hp). At the top end, the 5.0 V8 wheezed its way to only 140 horses. Surely every one of them was needed to pace Indy. Something caught on at Ford though as the Fox platform first introduced with the 1979 would be used for nearly 25 years. Despite its shortcomings standard ’79 Mustangs sold more than 150,000 units and came in with a base price of $4,494.
1973 Mustang Grande
Mustang had definitely slid by 1973 with a base V6 engine that was only capable of 99 horsepower. The top-of-the line Cobra Jet was still able to produce 266 horses at this point, but its days were also numbered. The “Grande” line of Mustangs (the last year of which was in ’73) was meant to attract customers by adding luxury, not exactly first on most typical Mustang lover’s wish list. The definition of this luxury was a vinyl roof, pinstripes, wire wheel covers, a special “luxury” cloth and vinyl interior, unique rear spring bushings to provide a quieter ride and an electric clock……wow. It actually worked, selling 25,274 in its final year with a base price of each Grande at $2,946.
1984 Mustangs…all of them
A bright spot for the Mustang in 1984 was the beginning of many wonderful years of collaboration with Steve Saleen. Unfortunately, even in 1984 the Saleen Mustang suffered like all Mustangs from a dirth of performance and a maximum output of 175 horsepower….in the SVO version mind you. Not surprisingly, Saleen began engine modifications the following year. The base engine in 1984 was a pathetic 88 hp four-cylinder. In their defense, Ford was attempting to produce a lighter, quicker vehicle that could compete with European sports cars by utilizing (as one engine choice), a turbocharged four-cylinder capable of 145 hp. Obviously, the absence of 1984 Mustangs on the road today is an indictment of that failed attempt. Could it be that Mustang purists are having a flashback to ’84 when they protest a future turbocharged V6 replacing the V8? One could hardly blame them. On the outside, the ’84 Mustangs featured the always popular “Logan’s Run”/cheese grater grill and saggy plastic bumpers that are the automotive equivelent of a wet diaper. Even by today’s standards, the base price ($7,089) of this turd seems steep.
1974 Mustang II
Finally, this examination draws to a close with far and away the most maligned Mustang of all time; the Mustang II, first rolled out in 1974. Don’t blame Ford, blame the public, because the Mustang II was a sales hit with nearly triple the numbers sold over the previous year. Motor Trend even named it car of the year. Equal blame for the Mustang II has to be shared with the oil industry and the nations that created the fuel crisis as that was the real impetus behind its design, which included sharing parts with another punchline model, the Pinto. Engine choices in ’74 were between a 4-cylinder making 88 horses and a V6 worth a paltry 105 hp. That’s right. No V8 option. Though as you can see, many years the V8 wasn’t capable of much more anyway. Unless one of Charlie’s Angels came with it, the Mustang II was by far the ugliest ‘Stang of all time. Base price in 1974 of a coupe was $3,134.
Did we miss one or get it wrong? Let us know what you think.