Obscurity and mediocrity in Mustang form.
Every time you see a brand new Mustang you see the culmination of more than 50 years of development. That’s 50 years of trial and error, successes, failures and idiosyncrasies all wrapped up neatly for sale at a reasonable price. The Mustang has always stood for affordable performance, but you don’t go half a century without some hiccups. Nevertheless some interesting choices over the years yielded some very strange results, and that’s why we’re not calling these the worst Mustangs of all time. This is just a list of the most obscure 'Stangs.
Two things happened in 1973, the first being the oil crisis that hit in October. The second was the end of the first generation Mustang. A Mustang Mach 1 from 1973 with its 351 cu.in. V8, four-barrel carburetor and four valves per cylinder could produce a 6.1 second 0-60 mph sprint and a 14.8 second quarter mile with 243 horsepower. And then in one year something changed. The 1974 Mach 1 came from the factory sputtering out an 11.4 second 0-60 time and an abysmal 18.3-second quarter mile all while delivering a staggering 105 horsepower. What happened? Along with the second generation Mustang the oil crisis hit hard, and Ford had shifted its focus to making something more economic.
So the automaker decided on what was called the Mustang II, an under powered fastback pony car. The weird thing about 1974 was that for all Mustangs sold in America there was no V8 option. For one whole year, a Mach 1 was left without a V8 and instead was dragged by a 2.8-liter V6. It was also based on the Pinto platform, a car notorious for catching fire when rear ended, incidents which tragically claimed a few lives. The Mustang II gets a bad rep, but it had a lot to deal with, mainly America’s panic during the oil crisis. In that respect the Mustang II Mach 1 was the correct car for Ford to make. If anything, the 1974 Mustang was there to provide a different kind of affordable performance, the economic kind.
Another Mustang that hit obscurity and grazed mediocrity was the 1980 Fox Body, a car that came with a 4.2-liter 255 cu.in. V8. It was an odd engine size, making a proportionately small amount of horsepower. With its 119 horses the 1980 Mustang created similar results to the 1974 Mach 1, even slower in some cases. Its 0-60 time was an impressive 12.4 seconds and the quarter mile was a flat 19 seconds. This could be due to the fact that it only came with an automatic transmission. Ford accomplished something interesting by creating less speed with more displacement and more power. The 255s were de-bored 302s.
That means the cylinders were filled in a certain amount to reduce displacement. The 255s' reign of terror didn’t end until 1982 when the Mustang finally got the 5.0-liter 302 back in its original form when it produced 157 horsepower. The 1970s-early 80s were the dark times for Mustangs. In 1986 it broke through the fuel injection barrier and finally started producing some decent power for its size. In 1988 the Mustang got 225 horsepower out of its 5.0-liter V8, which still wasn’t a lot for its displacement but plenty for such a small car. The 1980s also sparked a unique gem from 1984-1986, that being the turbocharged four-cylinder Mustang SVO. That, however, with all its problems, borders more on the ridiculous than the obscure.
The Mustang SVO was Ford’s first spawn of its Special Vehicle Operations division (SVO). Ford wanted to direct attention to its turbocharged four-cylinder engine, which was the Mustang’s official performance version at the time. The first of the SVOs was a collaboration between Ford and McLaren, called the M81. It was a Mustang SVO, sporting the 2.3-liter turbocharged four-cylinder Ford engine but given special attention by McLaren. McLaren were only allowed to use stock parts from Ford's own shelves and were to emphasize handling performance. At stock the engine produced around 120 horsepower at 5psi of boost, but after McLaren was done with it the engine was producing around 175 hp at 10psi.
In terms of the rest of the car, Ford’s desire for an emphasis on handling and being nimble earned the M81 Koni shocks and struts, brakes from the V8 and a noticeable yet understated body kit. Only 10 were produced, including the prototype, out of an intended run of 250 making it certainly one of, if not the rarest, Mustang to ever exist. Lots of Mustang aficionados will claim that the 1971 Mustang Boss 351 is the rarest, since it arguably is the only year when there was a Boss 351. But there were almost 2,000 of those made.