Mark Houlahan
Tech Editor, Mustang Monthly
February 4, 2014

The often maligned '74-'78 Mustang II has a very strong and vocal group of owners who are quick to correct snide comments about Pintos when people see the Second-Gen Mustang at an event. Call it the right car at the right time or the right car for a generation, the Mustang II sold well and has quite a following (now if it would only get the parts respect it needs to keep more of them alive and on the road!). One such fan of the II is Joe Fink of Everett, Pennsylvania. His eyes first focused on the lines of the Mustang II when visiting a friend's house back in the early 1990s. "I was at my best friend's house and he had a Mustang II Cobra, white with blue stripes. I was quite taken by the looks and size of the car," Joe explained.

This same friend later bought a second Mustang II Cobra (this one white with red stripes) and Joe talked him out of ownership, deciding to make it a project car of his own. "I slowly started dismantling the car, all the while thinking of what I wanted to do with it," Joe tells us. As the project progressed, Joe found the main structure of the II rusted out after stripping away the undercoating. It was a few years later, March 1995 Joe tells us, when another friend found this '78 Cobra II with T-tops at an auction in York, Pennsylvania, and bought it for the engine. This friend remembered Joe's issues with his first Mustang II and he reached out to Joe, striking a deal to sell him the Cobra II.

A botched restoration and paintjob in 2000 got Joe thinking it was time to go down a different path with the car. "My cousin told me the best thing to do is strip the whole car and start from scratch," Joe explained. After deliberating for a few weeks, Joe completely gutted the car, stripped it to bare metal, added the hoodscoop and sidescoops, shaved the door handles and had the Cobra II painted in PPG base/clear using a '02 Jaguar color—Phoenix Red—by Scott Dibert in Bedford, Pennsylvania.

With the body done right this time, Joe stepped it up under the hood as well, with a 347 stroker backed by a Tremec five-speed manual transmission. When it came to wiring the Mustang, visible wiring was kept to a minimum. A five-lug conversion using Ranger front spindles and Granada rear axles allow 15x8 American Racing Torq Thrust IIs at all four corners. Joe kept the interior relatively stock with reupholstered seats and a new headliner, but did work up some custom door panels, added power windows, and created a custom stainless steel dash insert with Stewart Warner gauges.

The final test of the finished Cobra II was a trip to the Carlisle Ford Nationals in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. "I promised myself when I started the project that someday I would take it to Carlisle Ford Nationals. Not so much for winning anything, but just to see and hear other peoples' opinions of what I have done. It was absolutely amazing the response I received on the various changes I made. I must have talked to nearly a hundred people," Joe said of his trip. Best of all, he not only took First Place in the '74-'78 Mustang class, but Ford Racing's John Clor bestowed a "celebrity pick" on Joe's Cobra II as well, capping the perfect weekend. "If it was not for my life-long best friend, Paul Deihl, who helped me with some of the mechanical issues I had trouble figuring out, and my neighbor, Jim Amberson, who is a wizard with wiring issues, this car would not have made the show.

Quick Specs

347ci small-block
650-cfm Holley four-barrel carburetor
Electric fuel pump
Electric cooling fan
MSD ignition
Tremec TKO five-speed manual transmission
8-inch axle with 3.00 gears
Custom subframe connectors
Custom 2½-inch exhaust with Flowmaster mufflers
Custom billet grille fitted with LED turn signals
'05-'09 Mustang gas hood strut kit
Ranger front disc brakes
Granada five-lug axles and drum brakes
Dual reservoir master cylinder
15x8 American Racing Torq Thrust II wheels
Cooper Cobra tires; P215/65R15 front, P235/60R15 rear
Stock reupholstered interior with painted trim
Custom stainless dash panel with Stewart Warner gauges

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