When I was a kid my absolute favorite car was the Mustang. Something about the classic aggressive body lines combined with a thunderous V8 just spoke to me. I would barely do my required reading for school, but I would read anything regarding the Mustang I could get my hands on. The Mustang was once a stalwart in American Road Racing. The old Boss 302, and Shelby GT350 not only took on all comers, they often beat them. Over the years the Mustang’s racing presence dwindled and other American Classics like the Corvette and Viper (for a time) became the American Road Racing Standard.
Once I got into High School the Mustang was a shell of its former self. The late 90s and early 2000’s versions were nothing like the classics that adorned my bedroom walls. And clearly I was not alone in this opinion as 2005 brought us the Retro styled ‘Stang. This helped, a little. But it was too late. I was now firmly a Corvette guy. You could improve the style, but style without substance is nothing. The new body couldn’t overcome things like a Live Rear Axle and woefully underpowered engine. Sure Ford followed up with the Shelby GT500. Sure it fixed the horsepower problem, but all that hp went to tires that were too narrow and still had that damn rear end. Ford was making progress, they gave us a car that looked good and impressed simpletons with power figures, noise, burnouts, etc . However as something we could use to take on our annoyingly noisy (and as it pertained to the Mustang, often correct) European rivals it fell short.
At this point many of you are up in arms. You’re running for your torches and pitchforks. “The Mustang was never intended to compete with the global sports cars” you’re saying. You might even go as far as to state “Listen Mr. So Called Automotive Writer, All a pony car needs is 2 doors, V8 Muscle, and a healthy dose of its own tire smoke”. Here’s the shocker, I agree with you. V8’s, manual transmissions, and tire smoke are all very necessary things. Certainly the world would be a much better place with more of those and less Priuses. Confused yet? Let me explain. Why not have all of those things, but with the knowhow of the 21st Century? It is completely doable to keep all the things that make a Pony Car great and have modern suspension and a modern engine.
Which brings me to 2012, well strictly speaking 2011, more on that a little later. The 2011 Mustang saw a brand new V8, and a return to the “5.0”. While not boasting the latest and greatest tech, The Coyote was still leaps and bounds ahead of the outgoing 4.6. It was only a matter of time before we saw a return to one of my absolute favorite Mustangs. To those of you who don’t speak European Engine Displacement, 5 liters = 302 cubic inches. Which brings me neatly (kinda) back to 2012, and the return of the Boss 302. The Boss bested the fancy European darling BMW M3 around Laguna Seca. Even though it still sported a Live Rear End, it was set up for corners, it was progress.
Why tell you all this, why go on a long winded history of the Mustang and I? Well as we all know 2015 we get an all new Mustang. And Joy of Joys independent the live rear end is gone, and fully independent rear suspension takes its place. The standard Mustang gets 3 engine options, the venerable V8, yes a V6 and (GASP) a turbocharged 4 cylinder. All very exciting, blah blah blah. Then we got wind of something special in the works, a return to one of the most iconic names in Mustang’s history.
The Shelby GT350, the baby Shelby. The Shelby most people talk about, but more as an aside to the GT500. But to those who know, who haven’t based their entire love affair with Shelby based on Gone in 60 Seconds, the GT350 is the car deserving of the admiration. The GT350 was the car Shelby took racing when he wasn’t out Cobra-ing. They were the “track day cars” of their era. Powered by a small (by 60s Muscle Car Standards) High Output 289. It was built to rev, built to go around corners, built to be more than a Muscle Cars, built to be a sports car.
So the new GT350, why is it worth the long sentimental ramblings? Well it may be the Mustang that brings me back, for my money it might be the most important (best) mustang for decades. It sports tech that is modern and not just modern for a Mustang. Not only is the suspension independent but its hooked to MagneRide dampers. Not familiar with how magnetorheological (yes that’s an actual word for all you non car people), let me explain, in detail, painful, boring, excruciating detail… Kidding. Theres no time, and I’m pretty sure I’d lose the 5 of you who are still reading this. The short version is it allows a computer to control the stiffness of the suspension in real time. Soft for day to day driving to full on awesomeness levels for the track. But what about the brakes you say? Carbon Ceramic, or the same high performance brakes you see on Europe’s snootiest, er I mean best sports cars. All of this brings me to the engine, which without all the other stuff would be a tragic waste in this car. It’s based off the sensational Coyote 5.0 V8. For starters its called the “Voodo”, it grows to 5.2 Liters, and thanks to a Flat Plane Crank (more high tech stuff usually reserved for the likes of Ferrari) revs over 8,000. 8,000!!! What this translates to is 550 honest to goodness, American, blue collar naturally aspirated horsepower. All of that gloriousness will be mated to 6 speed manual transmission, ONLY. No pansy automatics for lazy people here. Want this car? Rob a bank, and then learn how to drive a manual. Actually, even if you don’t want it, learn to drive a manual. You’ll be a better person for it.
Take a brief moment and endulge the talking heads and marketing wizbangery and take a look at the total package.
Or just skip to the obligatory Nurburgring testing.
Thank you Road & Track for the Video.
So here we are have I come full Circle? Has the new Mustang vaulted itself back to my favorite car? Well in a word, yes, and no. You see when I was a kid and didn’t know any better it was easy to have 1 favorite car. Now burdened with vast (shut up) automotive knowledge, I can’t choose 1 favorite. I can’t have a simple 1 car fantasy garage. I’d probably need 10 or 20 or more. We are in a golden age of cars. The Hypercars (LaFerrari, P1, 918 etc) are the hyper-est they’ve ever been. The Sports Cars are the sportiest they’ve ever been. Hot Hatchbacks are the hottest they’ve ever been And all of our favorite classics are still there, in all their glory. Muscle Cars have the most muscle they’ve ever had. Thank you Dodge and your wonderful Hellcats. And it goes on and on. We are blessed for choice in whatever car segment we want/can afford. (as long as it isn’t a Prius) So yes I love the Mustang again, but it is 1 among many great cars, and it can proudly take its place among them.