Own a Mustang? You've probably seen these things happen.
It’s already been a few weeks since the Ford Mustang GT California Special has left the CarBuzz offices after a few long miles and with a bit of rear-end rubber missing. Given the adventures with the Mustang under our belt, we can’t help but miss the car and all the experiences we had with it. It’s not necessarily the performance that we miss, 435 horsepower is no slouch, but it also isn’t the kind of power that scares the life out of someone. Instead, it’s a culmination of the things we learned that from driving it for a week that make us nostalgic.
One of the first things that you notice about the Mustang, especially a bright orange one that’s been spec’d out with the California Special package, is the level of attention you get in or out of the car. It’s not for everyone though, especially those who consider themselves to be introverts. Attention seekers may love pulling up to the gas station (a place that Mustang owners will frequent with the 5.0-liter V8) and noticing that all eyes are on them when stepping out to fill the tank. They may also appreciate seeing teenagers whip out their phones to snap a picture and in LA of all places, where every other car is a BMW, Ferrari, or G-Wagon. I happened to fall into that category and made sure to respond with a peace sign and a sweet sounding rev.
Another interesting happening I noticed with the Mustang is that it tends to make all other normal cars I’ve driven seem tame. Part of that has to do with the fact that the Mustang is an unrestrained car, but another contribution is the general tendency for modern cars to be subdued. Before copious amounts of sound insulation and magnetic shock absorbers made the modern car feel like a pillow, drivers couldn’t be soft. In real cars, you are exposed to the elements and that means heat, cold, excessive noise, and discomforts of all sorts. When taking a road trip in today’s modern cars, it’s hard to tell the difference from the interior and the five-star hotel you are visiting. That might sound like a good thing, but to us enthusiasts, it’s not.
On the other hand, when the day is occupied with watching the odometer count away the miles, some of the Mustang’s medieval characteristics begin to get a bit tiresome. A stiff clutch means that California’s infamous stop and go traffic is a nightmare and in compact cities like San Francisco, the novelty of the car wears off quickly when you realize that you’ll never hit more than 40 mph without subsequently running into a wall of traffic. Here, all of the horsepower in the world doesn’t make a difference because now you’re stuck with the loud noise, heat from the engine, a sore leg, and the glimpses of bored drivers looking at you in contempt while your paycheck rumbles out the tale pipes.
Of course you don't buy a Mustang to feel cocooned in luxury. They say that you never feel more alive than when you are closest to death, and while Mustangs and death aren’t closely linked unless you bring one to a Cars and Coffee, experiencing that no holds barred side of life, the one with the noise, drama, and the life-shortening fumes of tire smoke, is enough to remind even the most driven comfort-seeker of their mortality. If you don’t step out of your house without antibacterial soap and a list of emergency contacts, then the Mustang isn’t for you. But if you’ve broken a few bones doing extreme sports, have been skydiving, or live life like there’s no tomorrow, then the Mustang is the cheapest way to invoke those feelings during a morning commute.
Although let’s be honest. Purchasing a Mustang is a decision you only partially make for yourself. The other reason, one that’s arguably more important than your sense of fun, is to let everyone else know that you drive a Mustang. During my week with the pony car, my friends and family knew of every gas stop, every burnout, and were even able to make out some of the scenic landmarks behind the body of the car because of the pictures I posted to my social media accounts. Given that the Mustang is such a natural cult car, you’ll be hard pressed to find too many owners that don’t have at least a handful of pictures depicting their precious car to remind everyone that they’re part of the club. Don’t fight it, just let it happen.