Jim Smart
December 1, 2000
Photos By: Chuck James

Followers of the forgotten Mustang have it rough. They get a lot of sand kicked in their faces for being enthusiastic about the '74-'78 Mustang II. But listen up, Rally-Pacers, because the Mustang II is just plain old-fashioned better than your Walter Middy classic. Now before you start throwing tomatoes and broken beer bottles at this die-hard classic Mustang buff, consider the facts about the Mustang's evolution in the '70s.

The '74 Mustang II was awarded Motor Trend's coveted Car of the Year. Sales that first year were 385,993 units-up a huge percentage from 1973's dismal 134,867. The all-new compact Mustang was well received for its cute styling, terrific handling, exceptional fuel economy, and improved workmanship. Buyers loved it because it was the right car at the right time. The Mustang II was getting back to the size of the original Mustang, which made it a winner right from the start. The Arab oil embargo was a wonderful turn of events that also contributed to the Mustang II's success.

OK, so big deal, you say. Well, in your face with a toilet seat. We say a "toilet seat" because that's what Ford engineers called the Mustang II's special subframe, engineered for quiet operation. It resembled a toilet seat, but it worked like a brick outhouse with swinging doors and brass hinges. The subframe isolated engine noise and vibration, making the Mustang II the smoothest Mustang ever. A rebodied Pinto, you say. Oh, yes, but quite advanced compared to those rebodied '65 Falcons. The subframe was but one of the advances that made the Mustang II better. Improved manufacturing methods, distinctive interiors, and a tighter fit made the Mustang II an extraordinary car for the masses during the OPEC years.

With all that said, behold the '77 Mustang Cobra II-a slippery, appealing hatchback four-seater that went well with bell-bottoms, sideburns, and disco music.

The Cobra II was a product of America's continuing appetite for the look and feel of V-8 power, despite the increasing cost of a gallon of gas. Now 14-year-old Ketty Latimer understands the appeal of Ford's nimble little Cobra II. She found this one buried in the weeds outside Seattle. Its windows had been open for many years, and the interior was overwhelmed with rotting leaves, moisture, and animal feces. Most would have given it up for dead, but not Ketty. She and her father, Marv Fowler, hauled the sleeping steed out of the brush and took it home. What followed was years of hard work infusing new life into a forgotten Mustang. This Cobra II is the product of their efforts.

What might surprise you about this Cobra II is Ketty's desire to keep it stock. When they found the car, an aftermarket four-barrel intake and Holley carb was atop the snoozing 302. Ketty wanted a stock Motorcraft 2150 two-barrel and iron intake. Marv, who builds street rods, told us it was the first time he has ever swapped a four-barrel for a two-throat. Ketty told us her Cobra II was purchased new in 1977 by Mary Brown-a postal service professional-who willed the car to her grandson, Kevin Shawn Wood, before she passed away. In the wake of many tickets, Kevin parked the Cobra II, where it gradually vanished in the swamp marsh. When Ketty found the car, it had 73,000 miles showing.

At the tender, impressionable age of 14, Ketty drives her Cobra II. She has been driving this car since she was 12. Early in the saddle? Sure. Seasoned driver at 14? You bet. Because the Fowlers have a lot of land, Ketty drives legally and safely under the watchful eye of the ol' man-on the homestead, not the road. When it's time to get her driver's license in two years, she'll be ready for all the challenges driving yields today.

It takes a certain amount of courage to tackle an offbeat ride. Because parts are scarce and general enthusiasm is low for fourth-generation Mustangs, reaching a successful conclusion to a challenging restoration takes guts. You have to hand it to Ketty and her special dad. They challenged the odds and won. She's nobody's kid sister, that's for sure.