Forty years ago, the Ford Mustang II replaced the Mustang. It was (and remains) ugly and slow. Fortunately for the Mustang II, it was only a little uglier and a little slower than the Mustang it replaced, so it sold well. It was also considerably less ugly than the Pinto it was loosely based on.

The Mustang II was also a car of its time, the early 1970s, when clothing was uglier than any Ford product and gas prices were skyrocketing. Oil shortages, OPEC, Vietnam led the nightly news.

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But the Mustang II was never a good idea, whatever Ford has to say about it 40 years after the fact.

Today Ford issued a press release commemorating the 40th anniversary of the Mustang II's 1973 launch. In the release, the company makes a case for the smaller, more boring car's existence.

Says the release: "Despite being among the best-selling Mustangs of the past 49 years, Mustang II has been maligned by hardcore pony-car fans as the black sheep of the family almost since it went on sale. Looking back now, however, it’s clear that without the new direction forged by Mustang II, Ford almost certainly wouldn’t be celebrating 50 years of Mustang today."

Ford goes on to note the Mustang II's 500-pounds-lighter curb weight, more efficient engine range (no V-8s were offered initially), and greater agility, meaning overall performance was about the same as the bloated late-run proper Mustangs. "Coping with dissatisfied Mustang enthusiasts, and the emergence of federal environmental and safety requirements, Ford realized that Mustang needed to return to its roots. Initial proposals for a redesign based on the 1971 to 1973 platform were scrapped. A smaller, lighter car was created."

While that all may be true--the Mustang may have had to take a hiatus, or been killed altogether if it hadn't downsized--there's no sound argument for the way that Ford did those things with the Mustang II.

Taking a pony car that grew into a muscle car and turning it into the automotive equivalent of a brown polyester zoot suit was a bad thing. No matter what incidental good may have come of it.

1974 Ford Mustang II

1974 Ford Mustang II

It's not entirely Ford's fault of course (except for that hideous body), as the government had decided to get its thick fingers in the mix with emissions regulations, flummoxing engineers seeking real horsepower for years afterward.

Fortunately for the new generation of pony car buyers, the upcoming four-cylinder EcoBoost Mustang looks like it will escape this fate. The current run of the Mustang has seen its share of bloat, particularly in the high-performance GT500 models, even though they've come out quite good in the end. It's time to pare things down again, but this time, Ford looks to be well-equipped for the task.

Based on our spy shots and our own experience with Ford's current line of turbocharged four-bangers, we expect the next-generation Mustang, which is going to sport an EcoBoost turbo four-cylinder, to be a proper take on the idea of an efficient, nimble pony car. One that doesn't remind you of the gas you're saving every time you put your foot in it. One that makes you smile, or maybe even giggle a bit.

That is not the Mustang II, Ford. No matter how you try to spin it.