Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 3
The Mexican Mustang
Rarely did an automobile
company take a car designed for a 4 or 6-cylinder engine, stuff in a heavier, thirstier V8 and have anyone liking it. But that's exactly what happened with the 302-equipped 1975
Mustang. Of course the Mustang had been available during 1974
with the 302 V8 in Mexico, but that was a question of necessity, not need. At the time Ford was building a 302 V8 in Mexico but not a 4-cyl or a V6, and because a certain percentage of each car had to contain local content, Ford decided that Mexican Mustangs were to be fitted with the V8.
Unlike Mexico today, emission regulations were also less restrictive south of the US border so lack of cooling (one of the primary reasons the V8 wasn't available in U.S. Mustang) was less of a problem. A necessary compromise, however, was that air-conditioning
could not be ordered in Mexican 302s - an untenable situation for the comfort-conscious North Americans.
Fitting the 302 to U.S. Mustangs wasn't just a case of yanking out the 4-cyl or the V6 and stuffing in the V8. Several modifications - some major and some of a more subtle nature - were required. Structural changes included moving the radiator yoke forward, strengthening the side rails on the second cross-member and bringing the grill flush for better cooling as well as providing space for the longer V8.
The heavier V8 (it was 213 lb heavier than the 2.8-litre V6) also required an upgrade in suspension components: spindles, lower control arms and compression struts are all of heavier gauge material. To facilitate assembly and for common use of parts all 1975 Mustang’s incorporated these changes. Larger tyres
were needed with the V8, too: 195/70-13 radials on 5.5-in. steel rims were standard with 6-in. aluminium wheels optional as was the case in 1974
To compensate for the additional engine weight, spring rates were increased front and rear. The 302 gots 375 lb/in. coil springs up front compared to 350 lb/in. for the 1974 2.8-litre Mach I with air-conditioning
. Rear leaf springs were rated at 106 lb/in., an increase of 5 lb/in. over last year. With either the competition or rally suspension options (which were well worth the money), 124 lb/in. rear springs and a heavier front anti-roll bar
plus rear bar were standard. Brakes were the same size as for 1974
but the linings were of harder material for less fade and improved stopping distances. Because of the additional front-end weight, power brakes
and steering were standard.
Once news broke that the Mustang was to again be fitted with a V8, there were many who expected the new model to usher in a new era of mini-muscle cars. But they would have been disappointed, and the team here at Unique Cars and Parts
would have much preferred a 396 Chevelle or a 383 Roadrunner. The reason was that the Mustang's engine was in a low state of tune and stresses smooth, quiet acceleration rather than brute horsepower (it was fed by a two-barrel Autolite carburettor and was rated
at 134 bhp). That said, however, it was no slug in a straight line. Times for the 0-60 mph came in at around 10.5 seconds, and that was around 3 seconds faster than the Mach I, and about equal to the 1974
V6 Capri, a car the Mustang outweighed by a hefty 750 lb. That excess weight was the primary reason why the V6 felt so weak in the Mustang compared to its snappy response in the Capri.
Different US Emission Standards
In the Mustangs home market, there were different emission standards in many states, with California having the most stringent of all. West Coast destined Mustang II 302s were fitted with dual catalysts; while the rest of the USA escaped these devices entirely. With the converter, more spark advance could be dialed into the engine - an aid to drivability, fuel economy and cooling - but all 302s, whether equipped with catalysts or not, had exhaust
-gas recirculation though in differing amounts. In addition, all 1975 Ford engines, not just 302s, were fitted with air pumps and pointless ignitions. The fuel economy of the V8 package was around 15 mpg – according to Ford. That was not particularly good, considering the rival Capri
, from the same maker, achieved 20-22 mpg. To improve the 302's range, a 3.5-gal. auxiliary fuel tank was fitted in the left-rear quarter panel. This brought the total capacity to 16.5 gal. for a cruising range of around 250 miles with 1.0 gal. in reserve.
Real enthusiasts were to again be disappointed when they discovered that the 4-speed transmission - standard in all other Mustangs including Mexican 302s - wasn't available with the U.S. V8. According to Ford, the 4-speed wouldn’t fit because of interference in the tunnel area and for economic reasons Ford elected not to modify the car to make one fit. This wasn't a problem with Mexican Mustangs, Ford claimed, because those cars had a slightly different floor pan. Whatever the reason, you had to wait another year if you wanted a Mustang with a 4-speed box. But for 1975
, you had to settle for a automatic transmission
On paper the specifications of the 302 do not appear conducive to balanced handling: weight distribution without the driver was a nose-heavy 60% front/40% rear. But from what we have read, there were plenty of road testers that found the Mustang 302 to handle exceptionally well. Besides the stiffer springs and bigger anti-roll bars
, all shock absorbers were re-valved to reduce porpoising of the front end over dips or during braking. In addition the 3-way adjustable Gabriel shocks (standard with the competition and rally suspensions) was rebalanced to make the car more neutral during transient manoeuvres. Through high-speed sweeping turns there was mild understeer but in low-speed corners the driver could apply throttle to bring the tail out - a virtual impossibility with the underpowered V6. There was a little more steering feel (a mid-year change to all 1974
Mustangs) plus faster response to initial steering inputs.
The California package with dual catalysts up-shifted at about 4000 rpm. Acceleration times were improved slightly by holding the lever in gear and up-shifting manually at 4800-5000 rpm but anything higher was a waste because the camshaft was tuned for emissions. But then, the 1975
302 Mustang wasn't aimed at the performance buyer anyway. Rather. Ford claimed “it's a good highway car - quiet, nice ride, comfortable - but one that is also fun to drive.” All this was true, but we think most people would have been disappointed that the car was some way off the previous all-conquering Boss 302.
It was around this time that the US Federal Government instituted the new Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standard which mandated that all auto manufacturers had to achieve a certain average fuel economy among the vehicles that they built. This necessitated building high fuel economy cars to balance out gas guzzlers. Because of this, Ford released a MPG (Miles Per Gallon) version of its Mustang II with a 3.18:1 rear axle (instead of the standard 3.40:1) and fitted with a standard catalytic converter (which was required on all cars sold in California to reduce emissions). Fuel economy was quoted as 23/34 City/Highway, which was pretty decent for the times.