In 1974, the muscle car market was dwindling. True pony cars were becoming a thing of the past as the Plymouth Barracuda was retired, the Dodge Challenger had seen its last dealership, the AMC Javelin was a goner, and by the next year, the Chevrolet Z28 and pretty much the entire line of Camaros would be done away with.
What Brought us the Cobra
The nearly lone survivor in ’74 was the Ford Mustang II, the model that brought us what we now know as the King Cobra. The King Cobra, an arguable predecessor to all the other Cobra models, as well as the SVT, the 5.0, and even the Shelby GT500, was one-of-a-kind to come out of Detroit in that era. Even though the engine and horsepower offerings were somewhat lacking (a 302 cu-in V8 that only offered 130 horsepower), the body style of this Mustang offered the paint and tape-stripe that put other paint jobs to shame. In a day when racing stripes were typical, these pinstripes gave the Cobra an entirely different look, one that screamed style and power in a more understated way than many of its predecessors.
The Mustang II, although it owes its design largely to the Ford Pinto, served its purpose well in the economic recession of the early 70’s. It was designed as a compact car to keep up with what competitors were releasing at the time, reducing the overall size by a foot. In ’76, the II transitioned to the Cobra II (a nod to the Shelby), and by ’78, the King Cobra was a full option package available on the Mustang II, complete with the two-barrel carburetor engine, the distinctive hood scoop, the Snake decal, a black grille, full black headlamp bezels, and all black window trim. It also boasted a front air dam, unique pinstriping, spoke wheels with Cobra center caps, and much more. The additional Rally package offered springs, adjustable shocks and a rear stabilizer bar to offer a smoother ride for those who wanted to kick up the speed.
The King Cobra remains the rarest of all the Mustang II models, as only 4318 units were built and sold.
Local Cobra Fame
It’s not every day you see an original ’78 King Cobra in mint condition, especially since there are so few left in the classic world today. We were beyond thrilled to see a local ’78 King Cobra at Carmel Artomobilia this year, and we wanted to share with our readers the great story behind this car and its owner:
Donna L. Ewer-Cunningham is the owner of this beauty, and she says it was love at first sight when she saw her ’78 King Cobra. Donna says she became interested in cars when she was ten years old and the ’55 Thunderbird was first released on the market. She learned to drive originally in a four-speed 1958 Corvette, and has adored classic cars ever since then. She says she was never looking for a Mustang to add to her collection, but when she saw this gorgeous car, she had to have it. Donna says about her Cobra: “It was totally original and looked brand new off the showroom floor when I got it (’89). It’s always been stock engine 302. Nothing altered at all.” Cunningham is the third owner of this car, and she believes she will be the last one. Over the years, there have been 78,000 miles put onto this model, but the only thing redone has been the paint job, which was done to exact original specifications.
The New King Cobra
There were rumors were flying all over the car world a few weeks ago as the first glimpse of a King Cobra concept car was seen at a recent show in Las Vegas. Ford did use the Cobra name on several mustangs through the 90’s, however, the King Cobra name will be used again for the first time since the 70’s when it graces this new model. SEMA showed us the new rendition of the King Cobra, and we are as pleased as we hoped we would be with what we saw!
We don’t know details on the new King Cobra yet, but we are anxiously awaiting more information on this new classic from the big blue oval. In the meantime, tell us about your King Cobra stories. Do you have one of these rare models in your garage? We’d love to find a few more of these beauties across the country and get to know the owners behind the Cobras. Share your stories with us, and don’t forget to call us for a muscle car insurance quote when the new King Cobra hits the dealerships!