The forgotten Ford Mustang II finds respect on Woodward
John Clor lives for Mustangs and is their champion, especially the oft-misunderstood second generation some dismissed for sharing aspects of the Pinto platform and for being underpowered. He has had a full career in journalism, public relations, and working with car clubs, and he has written two books on the Mustang. Currently he is the Enthusiast Communications Manager for FordPerformance.com.
“I’m the Mustang guy. I’m a student of the history of the car,” Clor says as we head out for some Woodward Dream Cruising. Who better to point out some of his favorites on the packed boulevard—with or without Mustang badging?
“There’s a different beast that lurks in the heart of a Detroiter,” Clor says as we buckle up. “There are emotional liberties when you pilot your own car with the wind blowing in your face.” And we’re off.
1977 Ford Mustang Cobra II
We are cruising in Clor’s 1977 Ford Mustang Cobra II, license plate: Snake77. Clor is a fierce defender of his white Cobra II fastback with red stripes and interior and the newly offered T-top for the fastback with twin removable tinted glass panels. He has a stock 302 V-8, and he added dual exhausts. The California car has a real hood scoop, but it isn’t functional. Just don’t call it a Pinto: Clor has spent a lot of time and energy debunking the idea the smaller second-gen Mustang is based on the subcompact Pinto, saying not much was shared beyond some brake parts. Defending the Mustang II has become a calling for him. “I like things that were disrespected.” You don’t see many Mustang IIs around, so Clor has made it his personal mission to raise its status. “I’m a Mustang guy. I picked Mustang II because no one else is. I will be the champion. Mustang history deserves it.”
1978 Ford Mustang Cobra II
Clor ordered a Cobra in 1977, but changes for the ’78 model got pulled ahead. When he went to take delivery, he was shocked to see the dual stripes replaced with a single one, and the decal was changed so that it had Cobra written in giant letters across the door. He was disappointed but kept the car for 13 years. He sold it and then bought it back in 1999—the owner’s card was still in his name. He is storing it as he looks for parts. It could take years, but Clor is determined to restore it—but with ’77 stripes—so he will have a Cobra to leave to each of his sons. As he tells the story, he spots one cruising on the other side of Woodward and pulls some quick maneuvers to chase it down. “That’s my car!” he yells to the young driver. “When you gonna sell it to me?”
1977 Chevrolet Monza Spyder
This was the head-to-head competitor with the Mustang II. Monzas had rust issues, as this one shows. But the car with its small-block V-8 was popular in the day as people were turning away from the larger Camaro with its big-block V-8. Clor tells the smiling Monza driver to take care of the car and never sell it. The roads are better when shared with a nemesis.
1966 Ford Fairlane /1964 Ford Fairlane 500 427
Tired of seeing so many Chevys, “I would love to see a ’66 Fairlane with a 427 big-block,” Clor said before we head out. Bingo: We pull out onto Woodward, and there she is, looking spectacular in red. And nearby: Thunderbolt, a white 1964 Ford Fairlane 500 427.
1961 Ford Galaxie /1962 Ford Galaxie 500
Gotta love the big taillights and nice, clean body on this 1961 Ford Galaxie. One body fin adds to the clean design. We also see a nice 1962 Galaxie 500, which has us thinking of Andy Griffith’s police car even though it is a few model years too early.
1971 Ford Torino GT
This was also on the Easter egg hunt when we set out to cruise. Yellow, imposing, fabulous. They don’t make coupes like this anymore. It was considered an upscale variation of the Fairlane, a Detroit exotic given that it was named after the city of Turin. It was Motor Trend’s Car of the Year in 1970.
2004 Ford Mustang SVT Cobra
“That’s a seriously nasty terminator with a big honking blower,” Clor notes as we pass the 2004 SVT Cobra. The snake is about all it bears in common with our cruising Cobra. This was the last model year for the SVT Cobra, which was succeeded by the 2007 Shelby GT500. It was a short model year for the 2004 Terminator Cobra as Ford planned to stop making Mustangs at the Dearborn Assembly Plant; the 2005 would be built in Flat Rock.
1958 Ford convertible
This hot rod takes Clor down memory lane: a scale model of this car was his first toy, bought at Sears. “Wow, where else can you see your first toy car but riding down Woodward?”
1959 Chevrolet Impala wagon
This rusted wagon is why people like the Woodward Dream Cruise. Detroit iron in patina state, rusted flat fins and all, is celebrated in the Motor City. There is an underground market for cars like this, Clor says.
1977 Mercury Cougar Villager
This immaculate wagon was a treat for the eyes. The woody wagons had a comeback after the Chevy Chase Vacation movie. The Griswold family would be lucky to ride in a wagon this clean.
1968 Ford Mustang GT
“That’s why I fell in love with Mustang,” Clor says of this black beauty. The fastback GT was intoxicating. “Man, you don’t see that,” he says admiringly of the car that Steve McQueen drove in Bullitt.
1970 Ford Mustang Mach I
This is the car Clor thought he was buying. He fell in love with the ’69 but couldn’t afford one until 1970. He saved up his money to get a four-speed in red with a shaker on it. He gave the money to his dad to make the purchase, but his dad, a Detroit cop, pulled a parental fast one and used the money to buy a more sedate red Pinto. He borrowed a ’69 Mustang fastback from his brother and used it to drag race his future wife. Her ’70 Camaro with a 350 four-barrel smoked him. They got married, and first thing he did was sell the Camaro.
1978 King Cobra
It was only available for one model year as a limited edition. Clor snagged one and held onto it for 15 years. It was box stock with a 5.0L V-8 and four-speed manual. This was Ford’s answer to the Pontiac Trans Am.
1954 Kaiser Darrin
“How cool is that?” A 1954 Kaiser Darrin is cruising alongside us, door open. Owner Terry Trasatti tells me later it was too hot to keep the door closed and it slides easily on a track. This car is not a trailer queen, and although it might look more at home at Pebble, in Detroit it gets driven a lot. He has even taken it to Tennessee and North Carolina to do the Tail of the Dragon, and the Willys 161 six-cylinder engine was up to the task.
1963 Mercury Comet
This convertible is the Falcon’s luxury sister. The 1963 had a redesigned chassis and suspension for the optional 260-cubic-inch V-8 engine. Convertible and coupe models were also added that year.