Design History: 1974 Mustang II – from sketch to production

Automotive Design 3 Oct 2013
Design History: 1974 Mustang II – from sketch to production

The design story of the 1974 Mustang II, the model that thanks to the lighter, smaller platform achieved success during the challenging times of the mid-1970’s. Includes sketches and photos of prototypes and design models.


Following the document on the Mustang Concepts that never reached productions, we report another interesting document published by Ford to celebrate the Mustang’s 50th anniversary. The protagonist is the Mustang II, which was presented in the fall of 1973 as an all-new model.

1973 Ford Mustang Mach 1 1976 Ford Mustang II Cobra II

Above: the 1973 Ford Mustang Mach 1 outgoing model (on the left) and the 1976 Ford Mustang II Cobra II (right)

While the Mustang II is admittedly not the favorite member of the model family, it was an essential step to keep the model alive during a very challenging time for the entire industry and the sporty car segment in particular. In its first year it achieved nearly 400,000 sales, the highest figure since 1966.

Ford Mustang II – Design Story

After a phenomenally successful launch in 1964 with six-cylinder and small-block V8 engines, the original pony car jumped into the increasingly competitive muscle car battles of the late 1960s. Between 1964 and 1973, Mustang grew more than one foot in length and gained nearly 700 pounds to accommodate the big-block V8 engines of the time.

However, by early 1968, some fans of the original pony car were already lamenting its growth. The combination of such complaints from customers, waning sales of sports and muscle cars in the early 1970s, and the coming of new emissions and safety regulations forced Team Mustang to rethink what the second-generation car would look like.

Early designs based on an updated version of the 1971-to-1973 platform were abandoned, and the decision was made to move Mustang to a new, smaller and lighter platform better suited for the coming era of oil embargoes and crash tests.

1970 Mustang II Early Design Proposal

Early in the Mustang II program, designers looked at retaining the larger 1971-to-1973 platform with a completely new design. This particular proposal was built on the 109-inch wheelbase, but aside from the galloping pony badge on the grille, almost nothing about it says Mustang.

1970 Mustang II Early Design Proposal

The model pictured above was also built on the larger platform, but the front end gives the first hint of what the production car would look like with shrouded headlights separated from the grille.

1971 Mustang II Design Proposal

By early 1971, the decision was made to shift to a smaller, lighter platform, but the above design proposal was deemed too conservative and formal for a Mustang.

1971 Mustang II Early Design Proposal

This model took the conservative design theme even further with an upright grille, quad headlamps and none of the fun spirit of Mustang.

1971 Mustang II three door hatchback proposal by Ghia

In mid-1971, the Ford-owned Ghia design studio in Italy was asked to prepare two proposals for a fastback and a hardtop. The three-door hatchback pictured above led the way to a sleeker-looking theme for Mustang II including the molded-in faux side scoops, one of the few details that actually survived for production.

1971 Mustang II three door hatchback with shark-nose grille by Ghia

This model takes the basic profile of the Ghia hatchback and adds a forward-leaning “shark-nose” grille while retaining hidden headlamps.

1971 Mustang II hardtop design proposal

The hardtop proposal shown above further develops the theme from Ghia’s hardtop design, and provides a more contemporary interpretation of the original 1965 hardtop.

1974 Mustang II Design Sketch

This sketch takes a more radical approach to the hatchback layout on the shorter-wheelbase platform.

1974 Mustang II Design Sketch

Another sketch that combines a slimmer version of the shark-nose grille with hidden headlamps. The shape of the side glass has evolved to a shape closer to what would roll off the assembly line in 1973.

1971 Mustang II tape drawing

This tape drawing shows the dramatic reduction in size from the 1973 Mustang, and one of the early proposals for the 1974 model.

1971 Mustang II design model

1972 Mustang II tape drawing

The basic profile of the hatchback Mustang II is finalized in this tape drawing, although the rear quarter windows would be expanded.

1972 Mustang II design model

The primary differences between this model and the production Mustang II are the taillights and side scoops, which would eventually lose the strakes.

1974 Mustang Sportiva II Concept

Prior to the public introduction of the 1974 Mustang II, Ford displayed a targa-roofed concept called the Mustang Sportiva II. Like the 1963 Mustang II concept, which was built from a modified prototype of the production 1965 model, the Sportiva II was derived from a preproduction 1974 model.

1974 Mustang II

In the fall of 1973, the all-new Mustang II went on sale in hardtop and hatchback bodystyles. Initially available only with four-cylinder and V6 engines, Mustang II arrived just in time for the first big spike in gasoline prices, and helped to reverse years of declining sales, hitting nearly 300,000 units in its first model year.

1974 Mustang II with hatchback body style

For the first time since the car’s 1964 introduction, Mustang II was available in a hatchback body-style that offered some extra practicality.

NOTE: Ford has also made publicly available a historic pdf document titled “The Mustang Story” which gives an overview of the development of the original 1965 Mustang and 1974 Mustang II.

(Source: Ford)

Image Gallery

Design History: 1974 Mustang II - from sketch to production - Image 4
Design History: 1974 Mustang II - from sketch to production - Image 12
Design History: 1974 Mustang II - from sketch to production - Image 5
Design History: 1974 Mustang II - from sketch to production - Image 17
Design History: 1974 Mustang II - from sketch to production - Image 11
Design History: 1974 Mustang II - from sketch to production - Image 1
Design History: 1974 Mustang II - from sketch to production - Image 14
Design History: 1974 Mustang II - from sketch to production - Image 10
Design History: 1974 Mustang II - from sketch to production - Image 16

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