There is always one generation in a cars’ line up that goes under appreciated or “undesirable.” In the case of the Mustang, these years are primarily 1974-1978, and named the Mustang II. While the Mustang II was not very desirable, the front end is a staple in the classic Ford market. You can still find manufacturers producing coilovers for the Mustang II front end, but nothing for the chassis itself. However, Dave Fortuna is one of the few people in this world who sees potential and has created a market for them.
Fortuna has an eye for creativity and a passion for the Mustang II, and he showcases his affection by running a company called Classic Auto Reproductions. When I asked Dave what year Mustangs he deals with, he simply told me, “You’re going to laugh, but I only handle the 1974-1978 models” — an interesting business approach as the majority of these cars are in disrepair or missing their front suspension. Fortuna continued, “I bought a 1978 Mustang II in the early 2000s to restore and enjoy. I soon found myself stuck trying to locate urethane bumpers, which didn’t exist. So, I decided to start making molds. We produced bumpers, then moved onto hoods, hatches, doors and even interior dashes.”
1978 Mustang II Phoenix
At SEMA this year, Fortuna brought out his Mustang II — the Grabber Blue paint latched onto social media platforms everywhere and spread like wildfire. While the front end still screamed Mustang II, the fender flares, wheels and duck-tail all shouted 1980s tuners. Dave explained the car’s back story.
“This was an original SEMA car in 2014 and 2015. However when heading home from SEMA the transporter rolled over and almost destroyed the entire car. The car then made its way to a shop to be fully disassembled before the shop went under. After leaving the shop, it sat until I purchased it in late October of 2020.”
While some may have vague memories of the Kona Blue-esque Mustang II powered by a Triton V10, this build has completely changed form.
“We kept the tube chassis from the original car, but changed the drivetrain and heavily modified every panel. We added 1.5-inches on each side of the front and then the flares are about 1.5-inches wider as well. Then we added 6-inches total to the rear width. This allowed us to fit a 325 rear tire and a 275 front on Forgeline wheels,” said Fortuna. “We also removed and reshaped the entire rear half of the car. Retrofitting a set of Torino taillights instead of the preexisting early Toyota Celica ones.”
A car with this much of an aesthetic punch deserves to have a proper motor backing it up.
“Originally the car had a V10 Triton in it, which was an odd choice, but it didn’t have the track potential I was looking for. I decided to swap in a Gen 2 Coyote motor from another project. It’s backed by a TR6060 six-speed transmission, SPEC super twin clutch, and a carbon-fiber torque tube to the rear,” said Fortuna. “We get a lot of guesses on what the motor is, primarily because of the Borla intakes and the MMR valve covers.”
To keep it simple, Fortuna runs a Holley Dominator and dash.
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While racecar vibes are everything at SEMA, Fortuna actually plans on tracking this build.
“Revolution Speed Shop tied the cage into the tube chassis, making it fully functional. The shop also finished all of the body work, paint, and drivetrain that needed to be addressed.” A safe bet for a car that is packing serious muscle under the hood and unreal braking ability due to its six-piston front calipers and four-piston rear calipers.
“We finished this build right before SEMA. The car will get a little tweak before its race ready.”
The original Mustang II was nicknamed “The Evolution,” but after a full rebuild that included new body work, drivetrain, suspension and more, the name was appropriately changed to “The Phoenix.” Fortuna has managed to take a two-time SEMA show car and make it into a fully functional race build.