Open-air fiends welcomed a T-top roof with twin liftout glass panels as a new 1977 option.

The 1977 and 1978 Ford Mustang

The 1977 Ford Mustang gained a Ghia "Sports Appearance Group" keyed to black or tan paint. This featured many color-keyed items including console, three-spoke sports steering wheel, cast-aluminum wheels with chamois-color spokes, and a trunk luggage rack with hold-down straps and bright buckles.

All Mustang models now offered optional "lacy spoke" aluminum wheels in chrome or with white-painted spokes and red trim rings. A Corvette-style T-top roof with twin lift-off glass panels arrived as a fastback option. Two-toning was now available on most models.

But all this was just gilding a familiar lily, and Mustang II model-year sales skidded to 153,173 units. Another 8481 were built to '77 specs but sold as "interim" '78s to get around a temporary emissions-related regulatory snag.

All Hail the King Cobra

Ford apparently didn't track Cobra II installations, and in retrospect the package symbolizes the dreary "paint-on performance" that was about all Detroit could offer in the Seventies. Even so, the Cobra II proved quite popular and was continued. Moreover, its success prompted vice president Gene Bordinat to set his designers working on an even more hard-core fastback package. It arrived with the "real" '78s as -- what else? -- the King Cobra.

A giant snake decal on the hood seemed rather '70s psychedelic, but the King Cobra wasn't entirely for show.

Priced at $1253, the ensemble put a huge snake decal on the hood and tape stripes on the roof, rear deck, rocker panels and A-pillars, around the wheel wells, and on the standard front air dam. "King Cobra" was writ large on each door, the air dam, and a standard rear spoiler. Grille, window moldings, headlamp bezels, and wiper arms all got the "blackout" treatment, while the dash got another dose of brushed-aluminum trim.

Happily, Ford also threw in the 302 V-8, plus power steering, the handling-oriented Rallye Package, and Goodrich 70-series T/A radial tires. It was only fair, given all that bold advertising. The result was eye-catching if nothing else. The typical King needed about 17 seconds in the standing quarter-mile, hardly "high performance" in the traditional sense, but about as hot as you could get at the time.

The King Cobra was chosen over an "IMSA Cobra" package suggested by Wangers and patterned on the Charlie Kemp racer. Instead, Ford added a stealthy $163 Rallye Appearance Package that adorned fastbacks with gold accents against black paint, plus color-coordinated cloth upholstery.

A 302-cubic-inch V-8 and handling-oriented suspension were included in the $1253 asking price of the King Cobra package.

All '78s benefited from a standard electronic voltage regulator and, with optional power steering, variable-ratio gearing (replacing fixed-ratio). The Ghia adopted "Wilshire" cloth seating. A new Fashion Accessory Package spruced-up the standard notchback by adding door pockets, striped fabric upholstery, lighted vanity mirror, and four-way manual driver's seat, all clearly aimed at women buyers.

Fortunately, such sexist appeals were on the way out. Otherwise, 1978 was a quiet year for Mustang II. It was also the last, yet sales jumped to 192,410, helped by an economy now fully recovered from the gas crunch.

Despite its popularity when new, the Mustang II has few fans today. Its styling has not aged gracefully, and many find its "less pony car" nature an unhappy reminder of an unhappy era for American automobiles. But the Mustang II kept the pony car spirit alive in the face of those very rough times, thus paving the way for even better Mustangs. That's no small achievement and reason enough to respect Iacocca's "little jewel."

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