AUTOROTICA: Ford Mustang II (1974-78). Less Pony Car, More Economy Car.

The Ford Mustang literally defined the Pony Car market segment in U.S. automobile manufacturing. Named after the Mustang pony, the class of cars was defined as an affordable, compact, highly styled car with a sporty or performance-oriented image, the 1964 Ford Mustang was all-that. But by the early 1970’s the Ford Mustang had become more of a Muscle Car than a Pony Car. Sales of the Mustang sagged over the years, dropping from a high of over 400,000 to a low of 134,867 in 1973.

Then came the 1974 Ford Mustang II, which was introduced in the fall of 1973, just as America was experiencing its first big oil crisis. An oil embargo against the United States for siding with Israel in the Middle East conflict had led to gas price hikes, and government mandated gas rationing. The gas crisis was on the nightly news, contributed to a stock market crash, and hit American pocketbooks—hard.

Enter the economy-car generation.

Nearly 300,000 Mustang II’s were sold in its first year (doubling sales from 1973), as buyers searched for fuel-efficient cars. The allure of the original Mustang was its trim size and concept. The Mustang II’s four- or six-cylinder options sipped oil compared to the former model’s V8. 

The car was manufactured between 1973 and 1978. It came in a coupe and hatchback (no convertible) and sat as a sporty economy car alongside Ford’ other popular cars of the time—the Ford Pinto and Ford Maverick. While hardly the classic that the original 1964 Mustang is, the Mustang II served-purpose during a time of the oil crisis. It will never be lauded in history as a design triumph, but it did get the job done—both for American drivers, and for the sales executives at Ford.

In its first year of production, the Mustang II sold 385,993 units—far exceeding the previous year’s sales of 134,867. In just four years, over 1 million Mustang II’s were sold. Clearly it was the right car at the right time.

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