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A Big "What If?"
How do you think the Mustang would have fared in the pony car wars of the mid to late 70s? Now the big if here is; what if Ford had continued the '71-'73 body style right through to 1980 or 1981 as GM did with their "F" body.

Pontiac led the way through most of it with the Trans Am and Formula, even when Chevrolet put the Z-28 on haitus at the end of the '74 model year. From 1971 to 1976, Pontiac had a 455 available at some point in each model year. Chevrolet dropped the big block option from the Camaro after 1972, but the L-82 350 kept performance alive in the Z-28 until the end of the '74 model year. Even with the introduction of catalytic convertors, the L-82 continued on in the Corvette for several more years.

How do you envision Ford would have handled the situation? They dropped their big block option after '71, making them the first to abandon the 400+ cid arena. Could the Cleveland headed engines have kept the Mustang on par with the 400 and 455 cid Trans Am?

The second generation Trans Am, and Z28 developed quite a reputation for handling which only got better with the introduction of radial tires and wider rims. The addition of rear disc brakes to the Firebird line in '79 stepped thing up even more.

If you had been in charge of Mustang and Cougar from '71, and you were to take it through to 1980-'81, how would you have kept up with Pontiac and Chevrolet? Keep it real and bear in mind things like emissions, and the engineering limits for the day.

Hope this becomes a very lively and interesting discission
The "Big" 71-73's might have been sales compettive with the F-Birds. However with out the 74-78 pinto based stangs there prolly wouldent have been a Fox series of Mustang.
Now, had I been incharge at the time there would have been a downsizing to a Maverick sized Mustang, after the 71-73's. With a eye to keeping the 71-73 ride quality. However that would be, a whole different set of Iffa-wouldda-coulda-shoudda's.

Miss May, 65 2+2 EFI 331 4R70W 3.55 trac-loc Not much origional remaining
Robert's 73 Vert 308 4R70W 3.25 trac-loc. EFI conversion & 8.8 Trac-Loc 3.31 started.

If it ain't broke, I haven't modified it yet.
I am not sure the Cleveland architecture would have been able to survive the ever tightening post 73 emissions requirements. However, the 400 and the 460 did in passenger car applications and we all know that these engines are capable performance platforms. A resurgence of the 351W in a Mustang/Cougar may have been a viable option as well.

A 460 SCJ would have been an interesting exercise.

73 conv. 460, D0VE large valve heads, Performer RPM manifold, Voodoo 227/233 cam, Holley 950 HP carb, C6 trans, 3.25 trak-loc.
I don't know that Ford would've carried the chassis all the way through '80-'81 with just nose & tail treatments (like GM was able to do with Camaros and Firebirds/Trans Ams). I'm thinking there would've been a subtle change to sheet metal (if not overall size) around '75 (since Ford is so fond of odd-year new design releases). There's no obvious transition from the '73 to Fox-body platforms, but maybe something like a Maverick-sized/styled transition model could've happened, and possibly morphed into a slightly less-boxy Fox-body.

Can you imagine a majorly massaged Maverick-sized 'fastback' with a '71-'73 styled nose and tail light panel (with Shelby-like tail lights), having a similarly styled Ram Air hood as well? I'm thinking that would've been pretty dang cool!


[Image: mach1sig2.gif]
If Ford would have kept the Mustang big, as in 71-73, it would have quickly died a slow and inglorious death, and would have been out of production by 76.
The insurance regs &safety concerns had basically killed the super-car and pony car market by late 1970. No pony car was selling well enough to warrant continued production. The Camaro and Firebird hung on barely through tough and dedicated fans within GM, but even that was not enough to keep "muscle" alive. The Z28 was killed after 74, the Trans Am was soon to follow. The Cuda and Challenger were laid to rest, the Javelin dissappared and the Mustang was now a Pinto-Stang.
The first Arab oil-embargo accidentally made the Mustsng II ( and any other small-ish car that smelled of economy) overnight sensations. Tbis was the final nail in the "pony car" coffin. They were all gone, save for the Camaro/Firebird, which was scheduled to go out in 79.
GM engineer Herb Adams fought tooth and nail to keep the Trans Am dream alive, and at seemingly the very last minute before cancellation, along came first-time movie director and former stuntman Hal Needham with his little low-budget car-crash movie, looking for some cars to be donated for his upcoming movie. Turned down by Ford, GM. and Chrysler, he was having lunch one day with Pontiac's marketing manager and singing the blues about no one supplying any cars. He was offered 6 cobbled-up test-mule/ prototypes of the new 77 TrsnsAm ( made from 75 and 76 models) along with 6 LeMans'.with the agreement that none of them were to survive beyond filming...since they were due to be crushed anyway.
As we all know "Smokey and the Bandit" was the surprise monster hit of 77 ( surpassed ONLY by Star Wars!) and was basically a 90-minute commercial for Trans Ams. GM could not have bought that kind of good advertising for $10 million if they even wanted to.
The success of that movie rejuvinated and re-invigorated the love of "yesterdays" muscle cars, and GM was conveniantly poised to ride the wave.
Sales of GM F-bodjes skyrocketed, to the tune of about 500,000 a year from 78 through 80. Quality was dismal as they could barely screw them together fast enough to keep up with demand.
All things with even an appearance of performance was popular again, and decal-based hot-rods were offered in nearly every product line...even full size cars! Most of them were atrocious as all the "Big Three" were trying to grab whatever sales they could , but a few were OK.

I truly belive that "Smokey" is the impetus for what kept the genre alive when it was dying on life support.

The Mustang II was a turd, but if Mustang had stayed big, it would have died altogether.
The Z/28 performance package wasn't actually "killed," any more than the Formula Firebird - it's numbers simply dwindled after '71 until they eventually discontinued offering it. It was brought back in '77 as a trim/performance package (albeit as the Z-28... see what I did there? Wink )

"Smokey and the Bandit" definitely was a shot in the arm for the Trans Am... just like Dukes of Hazzard and Knight Rider made everybody want '69 Chargers and '82 Trans Ams, as well as Transformers helped the current-gen Camaros surge in sales (along with absence from the market). I guess the magic formula is to get the cars on-screen flying through the air, and you'll sell more of them.

I just wish the original "Gone in 60 Seconds" would've had a bigger fan base.


[Image: mach1sig2.gif]
The Arab oil-embargo, EPA and Safety requirements in a perfect storm came all came together in 1973 that created real panic, speed limits were lowered, gas prices tripled and in many areas was rationed. Where I lived we had rolling power outages for months, everyone was forced to conserve. Car lots couldn't keep small cars on the car lot, large cars remained on the sales lots.

I remember that period, very few people would have been interested in a 74 Mustang the size of our cars, many thought the oil shortage was there to stay.


M code 71 Mach 1, 351 4V Cleveland, Ram Air (not factory), C6 Trans, 3.5 rear
What an interesting thread. I was a young kid through the seventies. My dad bought a 74 Mustang II Ghia. The main muscle car that I remembered seeing was my much older cousin's grabber blue Mach 1. Come to think about this he didn't drive it much when I was a kid in the 70s. He still has that car but I haven't seen it in many years.

I think Kit and others are right on the money with the answers. It would have been interesting to see a Mach 1 Maverick sized Mustang instead of the Mustang II Mach 1.

[Image: 386_07_10_13_5_58_42.jpeg]
My Mustangs:
71 M-code Mach 1, Medium Blue/White Sport, 4R70W, 3L50, Factory Ram Air.
72 Q-code Mach 1, Pewter/Black Sport, 4-spd, 3L25.
65 Convertible, Britney Blue/White/White, more modified than original.
05 Convertible, Legend Lime/Tan/Tan, future classic??
My father was a true entrepeneur. He liked to work hard and then invest his money. (We played hard too...) He sold cars as a side/second job and finally purchased a small car lot back around 1973. He was buying cars wholesale; mainly dealer trade-ins, to place on the lot for sale. Almost every small car lot back then had muscle cars for sale. Ours was no different. But the little economy cars were selling the best. Datsuns and Subarus were our favorites but they were tough to buy. Hondas were just getting established but also desirable. Muscle cars, station wagons and pickups were everywhere and easy to get.

I have to agree with many on this thread - the 71-3 Mustangs would have died soon after 73 if that platform was allowed to continue. Even in 1973 power was WAY down in all cars, including the Mustangs. So high-performance demands were fading fast, replaced by consumers calling for economy. Insurance companies and special interest groups were pressuring for better safety (remember Ralph Nader?).
And while Ford and others still had big blocks - they were terribly choked of power. I drove a bunch of them. And in my personal experience/opinion, all cars in the late 70's and early 80's were embarrasing on power. The goofy bodykits, wings and graphics just couldn't make-up for the earlier raw power of the mid-late 60's and early 70's vehicles. Even Camaros were dogs. Sure you could hop them up and swap motors but I'm talking as originally equipped. Dodge/Chrysler's 1978 "Little Red Truck" was a glim attempt at some respectable power - it could do the 1/4 mile in the mid 14's. When 82 HO Mustangs appeared, it began to look more promising. Jump to today - now we have new 6 cyl cars with 300 plus HP. Impressive to say the least.


1971 Boss 351  
1972 Q code 4 speed convertible 
1971 Mustang Sportsroof  351-2V FMX 
1973 Mach 1 (parts car)
I dont see the dinstiction between "killed" and "discontinued". I simply meant the z-28 package was discontinued due to dwindling sales. Purely a business decision. The Trans Am held on because of a passionate few executives within Pontiac fought hard to keep it in the mix. These guys were responsible for the 290 hp ( some say 310 horse...never actually made) 455 SD Trans Am that was arguably the absolute last gasp and last true muscle car out of Detroit. The 455 HO that followed it wasn't even close...it was a real yawner.
The 2 1/2 year hiatus before the Z-28 returned was actually good for it in the long run. What ceased production as the last of a "muscle car" was somewhat reimagined and brought back as more of an all-around refined sports-handler as opposed to track-bred racer. The 77.5 Z-28 surprised me that it sold so well, considering what the previous Z-28s were.
Years later I had a 79 4-speed Z-28 that was one of the best and most fun cars I ever had. All I did was replace the weezing and worn-out LM4 160-horse 350 with a simple ZZ+4 crate motor...and that car came to life!

The Maverick was Iaccoca's effort to rekindle a fever with a car inspired by previous Mustangs, and it was a quick, although short-lived success.
I too think the Maverick was very Mustang-like, but the market just wasn't hot for a car like that.

Our big Mustangs are beloved by many today, much more than when they were "current". I remember having many heated discussions with guys back then who thought the new ( in 71) Mustangs were a joke: big, ugly, cumbersome and out-of-touch.
I always loved the style, and now feel vindicated that I recognized its greatness from the start.

Several have made mention of a "Mach 1"-style version of a Maverick would have been nice. They did sell the Maverick "Grabber" a somewhat pretentious sporty version of the Maverick: scooped hood, bold decals, Magnum 500s, and a mild 302 2V. Not a true "Mach 1" level performer, but then again...every Mach 1 was not CJ-fortified barnburner either.
The Grabber was only mildly succesful, and it soon faded away.
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