1978 Ford Mustang King Cobra – Embodying the Glamour and Style of the Malaise Era


When it comes to classic Ford Mustangs, no pony gets more hate than the second-generation model. Introduced for the 1974 model year and designed to meet then-new emissions and fuel economy regulations, the Mustang II is often labeled as ugly and underpowered. Pretty much a disgrace to the Mustang legacy.

But while it’s indeed uglier and notably slower than the first-generation pony, the Mustang II doesn’t deserve all the hate. It was simply the result of the radical changes that hit the U.S. car market in the early 1970s.

An era in which high-performance V8 engines were phased out by strict regulations while customer preference shifted toward more compact and efficient cars.

All told, there are many reasons why the Mustang II doesn’t deserve all the hate. And you can find out more about that in my Five Reasons Why the Ford Mustang II Isn’t Such a Terrible Pony story.

If that’s not enough to convince you, here’s a sixth reason: Ford offered a few cool appearance packages and color options on the Mustang II.

Of course, the Cobra and the King Cobra sit at the top of the list. The Cobra had the go-fast, two-tone stripes, while the King Cobra hit dealerships with a more aggressive body kit and cool graphics on the hood.

Introduced for the 1978 model year, it was essentially Ford’s answer to the Pontiac Firebird Trans-Am that became famous after being featured in Smokey and the Bandit.

But the King Cobra wasn’t just about a hood decal, a massive front bumper, and a tailgate spoiler. It was also available in a few flashy colors. Tangerine is arguably the wildest.

A vivid shade of orange, it makes the Mustang II stand out as a proper muscle car. And Ford didn’t stop there and offered a matching Scottish plaid upholstery.

The pattern was actually available in various colors, but Tangerine looked fabulous when paired with a black dashboard, center console, and door panels.

Because that’s what high-contrast combos do. But you don’t have to take my word for it, the 1978 King Cobra you see here is all about Tangerine goodness, both inside and out.

Showcased at the Muscle Car and Corvette Nationals in November 2022, this second-gen ‘Stang is also a rare gem. Not just because only 4,971 of the 192,410 Mustangs sold that year were ordered with the King Cobra package.

This hatchback is one of only 147 painted in Tangerine. And I’m pretty sure that the matching interior narrows that number down to fewer than 50 units.

The fact that this 1978 Mustang II was restored to Concours-ready condition is just as amazing, especially since second-gen ponies rarely get this kind of treatment.

Yes, the 4.9-liter V8 under the hood delivers only 139 horsepower, which is laughable by modern standards, but this Mustang II will stand out at any classic car event.

Even when parked next to a mean-looking, first-generation Shelby GT500. Check it out in the video below.

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