Not many changes were made for the 1976 Mustang model year but Ford did release several new special edition packages that got pundits excited. All the variations from the 1975 model year followed along with the addition of a new ‘Stallion’ appearance package as well as the Cobra II package that was also introduced this year and added a large rear spoiler, a fake hood scoop and blue stripes across white paint to a V8-powered fastback. It certainly looked impressive, though the Cobra II wasn’t any faster than other similarly powered Mustang IIs.
Changes for 1976 were mainly visual. These cosmetic body changes for 1976 included paint color changes trim changes. New black w/white trim bumper inserts were standard on all II’s, replacing the chrome ones. Ford offered two cosmetic option packages, which was popular in the ’70’s, the Mach 1 and the Cobra II. Wheel and tire combinations were pretty boring choices as well.
There were three engine options for 1976. There was a four-cylinder engine from the prior year, a 140 cubic inch (2.3 liter) 4 cylinder with 88 horsepower. These 4 cylinder Mustangs were dubbed “MPGs” to emphasize their great fuel economy. There was also an option 2.8 liter Cologne V6, the German-built V6 derived from the European Capri’s 2.6L V6 now up to 102 horsepower. The was also a V8 with only one transmission change in mid-year now made available with the 4-speed. The V8, increased to 140 hp.
Performance wise, the 1976 Mustang sucked. Economy wise, it wasn’t very good either. But the inclusion of the V8 engine let the door open for gearheads to use aftermarket parts and modify the ‘Stang to get a pretty good performance vehicle.
Special Edition Models & Variants
In 1976 the economy was in a slump so Ford added special packages to attract buyers. Shortly after the new cars were introduced, Ford revamped the line-up, making every four-cylinder Mustang II an MPG model. The 2+2 became the MPG 2+2, the hardtop became the MPG Hardtop and the Ghia became the MPG Ghia. To get a non-MPG model, customers either ordered a Mach I (with a standard V6 it couldn’t be a MPG), or they ordered a regular Mustang II with an optional V6 or V8 engine.
First was the well-known Cobra II, a realistic attempt to recapture the Shelby GT350 look and feel. The “Cobra II” package had fake hood scoop, front and rear spoilers, some stripes and snake emblems in 1976. The second package was the subtler, lesser-known Stallion. The Stallion Group, coinciding with similar offerings on the Maverick and Pinto lines, was strictly a cosmetic package.
Mustang II for 1976. The Ghia trim was still very popular among buyers. Performance had become secondary to luxury. The 1976 Mustang Ghia optioned coupe included a half vinyl roof, hood striping, bodyside moldings, velour cloth interior color-keyed sun visors and headliner, and center console. The Ghia Luxury Group was offered between 1974 to 1981. In 1976 the Ghia package added $334 to the standard notchback coupe (or two-door sedan). Ghia was a group of Italian designers which Ford acquired a controlling interest in 1970.
The Mach 1 remained mostly unchanged in 1976. It like the Cobra II package and Stallion packages was simply cosmetic. To get any performance you had to order the V8 engine. The 1976 Mustang Mach 1 included an engine, wheels, and interior upgrade as well as all the Mach 1 badging. The 1976 Mustang Mach 1 came with the larger engine from the prior year; the Rallye Package which includes Traction-Lok differential and other add ons.
The other “appearance” package was the Cobra II, simulating the early Shelbys. The package was installed by Motortown Corporation, and consisted of wide-length stripes running on top of the car, stripes along the lower body, with “COBRA II” in the center section, front and rear spoilers, rear quarter window louvers with chrome snake emblem, simulated hood scoop, snake decals on each fender, a chrome snake emblem in the blacked-out grille, brushed aluminum instrument and door panels, and styled steel wheels. The Cobra II package was only available on hatchbacks, and came in White w/Blue stripes, Blue w/White stripes, or Black w/Gold stripes, and was limited to Blue, White/Blue, or Black interiors.
The 1976 Stallion Option Group was appearance-only package for the Mustang. You got you stuff like a black grille, black rocker panels, and these snazzy fender decals. Known as the Stallion Group, it was available only for 1976 on either the coupe or hatchback, and also available on Pintos and Mavericks.
This model looked badass. In 1976 Ford introduced an optional all-black sports group for the Mach 1 and it was appropriately called “The Shadow”. Its features include: the Mach 1 options, black exterior, black or bright red interior, brushed aluminum instrument panel applique, black grille/window molding/windshield wiper arms, competition suspension, Traction-Lok differential axle, and extra cooling package. On an invoice, we see this listed as a Black Midnight option.
The MPG edition Mustang came out in mid-1975 and included lower gearing for higher MPG ratings. It wasn’t until the 1976 model year that these models got their own fancy name. All MPG cars were equipped with the 2.3 liter engine and 3.18:1 rear-axle ratio whereas the standard was 3.40:1. This resulted in 34 mpg highway and 24 mpg city for the manual transmission; and 31 mpg highway, 22 mpg city for the automatic transmission.
There was also a Mustang II Limited Edition that gave buyers $137 worth of extras, including special two-tone paint, accent stripes, styled steel wheels, unique upholstery and a brushed-aluminum instrument panel applique, all at no charge.