V&R Stories: That !@#$ing Mustang II!

To get our minds off of the pressing news of the day – or the past several weeks – telling stories would probably the best medicine we all need.

I was looking back through the site to see what stories I have not told from the past. There’s probably something out there that could be told to wider audience.

As V&R is trying to be as family friendly as possible (a difficult task, but it is worth the challenge), I nixed several stories as they would border on an “R” rating from the Motion Picture Association.

(NOTE: There may have been some stories that were rated R on this site…but, you want to capture enough readers, right? So, I digress…)

These days usually harken back to the past, so let me throw these thoughts out to you…

Let me talk about a car I once owned.

It was a 1974 Ford Mustang II Ghia. This replacement for the iconic Mustang that began in April of 1964 was named Motor Trend's Car of The Year. Built on the Pinto platform, the Mustang II was a sign of the times, with an emphasis on fuel economy over performance. It came in a notchback and a hatchback. Our Ghia was the former.

The specific one we had was in a Lime Yellow paint job with an Avocado vinyl roof. Ghia models had an extra panel for the C pillar, wrapped in the vinyl roof color with the carrozeria’s logo in the middle of it. Inside was a two-tone vinyl motif of lime yellow and avocado.

Under the hood was a 2.8-liter Cologne V6. Our Mustang II Ghia had a three-speed automatic transmission, whitewall tires on some sporty wheels. On paper, this all sounded pretty good – for 1974.

My brother had it first. My mom bought it for him while he was at Reseda High School. He deserved having a car He was one of the school’s valedictorians for the class of 1979. He was headed for UCLA. Matt was working towards becoming a manager at his job.

Matt only drive the Mustang II to work and back. Maybe to a ballgame. But, times were tough for us. Mom had a stroke as soon as I began high school, which debilitated her. Matt worked hard to not only keep the roof over our heads, but to make sure mom was able to get the help she needed from the government to maintain her life.

Despite the rough times, there were some good times had with this Lime Yellow 1974 Mustang II Ghia.

This car made it to the Reseda High School Prom – twice! My brother drove it for his in 1979. Then, I borrowed it for mine in 1982. I did not take my car – the 1972 Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight Luxury sedan. It looked and felt too ratchet to take the Sheraton Universal for our annual rite of passage. The Mustang II was “newer” and cleaner. But, that color! Who wants to fulfill their rite of passage with a lime green and avocado colored car? Maybe in 1974…but, 1982?!?

When the Oldsmobile died (more like, we had no funds to get it fixed – so we junked it), I would borrow the Mustang II on occasion. Over time, it became mine. I would have loved a more reliable piece of transportation. For someone who was struggling back then, it was a car.

It got me to work and back. It got to wherever I wanted to go. It helped transport mom, when I had to. It did the job.

From my own recollection, it was starting to fall apart. One time, the entire bank of cylinders needed a valve job. That was not cheap. Luckily, the garage was a couple of blocks away from home (actually, it was a Shell station). Still, it should’ve been a sign of things to come.

That three-speed automatic was on perpetual recall from Ford. But, we never got a recall notice for whatever fix they had for it. To demonstrate how bad this transmission was, a friend decided to stretch his leg from the back seat and aimed at it the shifter. All of the sudden, the car did not move. The transmission was easy to throw – or kick – from Drive to Neutral.

I finally gave up on the car. It was 1985 when I sold it for cheap. Even the RTD was more reliable than that Mustang II…and cheaper to run.

Let's be honest, that 1974 Mustang II was an utter piece of garbage. In retrospect, the color was embarrassing, it lacked reliability, and I tried to justify it by the nameplate. Heck, the Mustang's legacy was at stake with this Pinto-based…thing.

One would say that the car was too gay. Before I call out the homophobes who believed that, I will admit to a certain extent that it was pretty femme for what it was supposed to be. I'm sure some Bears would rock it. Probably not…

What if I came out in the 1980s? I won’t get into why I didn’t, but what if I did. That car would not get me a man even if one popped out of the street from his corner on Santa Monica Boulevard!

You see the embarrassment that car gave my family some decades later? You see why I try not to talk about that faux-Mustang as much as prompted?

I hate to say it, but that 1974 Ford Mustang II Ghia is one of the reasons why I currently do not own a car. The scars still hurt. But, I had to let it go mentally. Even in this vocation, there are some things you have to bless…rather, bless its heart.

All photos provided by the Stern Family Archive

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