A "mouthy" grille, C-shaped side sculpturing, and other elements linked the new Mustang II fastback to the '65 original.

The 1974 Ford Mustang

Though it retained the signature long-hood/short-deck proportions, Mustang II was visibly smaller than the original. The real target was sporty import coupes. Against the '65 it was nearly six inches shorter in wheelbase (at 94.2 inches), 6.6 inches shorter overall (at 175.0), two inches slimmer (68.2), and 1.1 inches lower (49.9).

There were dramatic differences against the bulky 1971-73 models, the II being some 20 inches shorter overall, nearly 13 inches trimmer between wheel centers, four inches narrower, an inch lower, and -- the important part -- lighter by a whopping 400-500 pounds. The increasingly popular Toyota Celica had a 1.3-inch longer wheelbase than Mustang II but was 11.1 inches shorter, 5.2 inches slimmer, and 2.5 inches taller.

To prepare the public for Mustang II, Ford ran up a lightly disguised concept version as a 1973 auto-show attraction. Called Sportiva II, it was essentially the production car recast as a "targa" convertible, with a fixed rollover bar between removable roof sections. It would have been a great showroom lure, but the ragtop market had collapsed and Iacocca had ruled out a new open Mustang -- another break with the past.

Note the new "cantering" horse logo alongside the Ghia notchback  in this Mustang II brochure.

This left a base-trim notchback and fastback, a sportier Mach 1 fastback, and a vinyl-topped Ghia coupe, replacing Grande as the luxury model. All were fixed-pillar styles, not pillarless designs. Fastbacks offered flip-out rear-quarter windows as a $29 option.

Not Just a Sporty Pinto

At announcement time, some observers suggested Mustang II was just a sportier Pinto. Of course, that was how it started. And sure enough, a good many components were shared. Even wheelbase was the same.

But the Pinto was actually upgraded for '74 to take advantage of components and features designed for Mustang II. For example, both models employed unit construction -- another first for the pony car -- and shared a basic coil-spring front suspension with unequal-length upper and lower arms.

For the Mustang, however, the lower arms as well as the drivetrain were cradled by a U-shaped rubber-mounted subframe; the Pinto's front suspension bolted directly to the main structure. The subframe, a brainstorm from program engineers Bob Negstad and Jim Kennedy, greatly reduced road shock and driveline vibration reaching the cabin. It also contributed to more precise steering and a smoother ride versus the Pinto.

Stingy company accountants approved the added expense in light of the Mustang's planned higher selling price. Witzenburg notes the "toilet seat" (as the subframe was known internally) "came to be regarded as the single most important component of the Mustang II chassis."

The Sportiva II concept previewed the Mustang II at 1973 auto shows, but in a "targa" convertible style that would not see production.

There were other differences, too. For example, Mustang II shared the Pinto's rack-and-pinion steering but mounted it differently, again to minimize shock, and offered optional power assist (which Pinto did not at the time). At the rear, Mustang leaf springs were two inches longer than Pinto's, and shock absorbers were staggered as in previous high-performance Mustangs.

Spring rates were computer-calculated to match each particular car's equipment and weight. The Ghia notchback, for example, came with very soft settings, while the optional competition suspension had the stiffest springs, along with a thicker front antiroll bar, a rear bar, and Gabriel adjustable shock absorbers.

The 1974 Mustang was available with V-6 or four-cylinder power. Find out what other options were available on the next page.

For even more on the Ford Mustang, check out the following links.
  • Saddle up for the complete story of America's best-loved sporty car. How the Ford Mustang Works chronicles the legend from its inception in the early 1960s to today's all-new Mustang.
  • A bigger, brawnier Mustang galloped in for 1971, just as buyers were moving away from the pony car market. In 1971-1972-1973 Ford Mustang, learn how the car still offered high style.
  • Mustang began a second revolution with the handsome, sophisticated "New Breed". 1979-1980-1981 Ford Mustang tells how hit scored big in the showroom, and in fans' hearts.
  • The Ford Mustang is central to America's muscle car mania. Learn about some of the quickest Mustangs ever, along with profiles, photos, and specifications of more than 100 muscle cars.