Top Gear Feature - 2005 Ford Mustang GT

Discussion in 'OT Driven' started by TriShield, Jun 8, 2005.

  1. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

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    Gotta have soul

    [​IMG]

    Soul. Easy to sell, impossible to buy. It can't be faked. You've either got it or you haven't. The Ford Mustang had it, once. A runaway success from the off, the Mustang had blue-collar America waving chequebooks outside Ford dealerships back in 1964. Good ol' boys queued around the block howling: "Yessiree, I sure want a piece of that!"

    The most democratic of performance cars, the 'Stang was a symbol of a confident America where any hard-working Joe could aspire to own a powerful, rear-wheel-drive thoroughbred with a horse on the grille. Galloping, not prancing. Eye-talians... Who needs 'em?

    But in 1967-68, the Mustang evolved into something else - a fully-fledged legend. The epitome of the cool muscle car. Everyone in the US knows this. They probably teach it in fourth grade, along with the names of US presidents.

    The immigration officer at Los Angeles' LAX airport enquired as to the nature of my business in the US of A. I'm a motoring journalist, I explained, here to test drive the new Mustang. Sizing me up with a skeptical eye, he growled:
    "You done much research?"
    "Some," I replied.
    "OK. What's the most popular Mustang?"
    "The '67-'68 fastback."
    His hard-man features gave way to the suggestion of a whistful smile.

    "You know you can buy a junked-up one for a thousand bucks? I've been thinking about gettin' one..." he said, stamping my form and waving me through, leaving me wondering if answering "Er, the 1982 Mustang SVO?" would have got me clapped in leg-irons and shipped off to Camp X-Ray in an orange romper suit.

    In 40 years, Ford has sold more than eight million Mustangs. There are no fewer than 250 clubs around the world dedicated to the original 'Pony Car'. But the 'Stangs built between 1967 and 1973 are the ones everyone remembers.

    Steve McQueen's 1968 Fastback in Bullitt is the obvious one. Or perhaps the '71 Mach 1 Mustang Roger Moore used to evade the Vegas cops in Diamonds Are Forever. Or 'Eleanor', the '73 Mach 1 in the original Gone In 60 Seconds. In its various incarnations, the Mustang has appeared in more than 500 movies.

    But sadly, after that golden epoch of the late Sixties and early Seventies, the Mustang fell into decline. Its 'Fat Elvis' years, if you will. From the late Seventies onwards, Pony Cars have been, well, a bit pony - flabby, mediocre and soulless.

    The same is often said about Las Vegas. Once a shimmering oasis of impossibly disreputable glamour, Sin City has grown up, become a slick corporate adult Disneyland but lost something crucial along the way. Its soul? Perhaps...

    [​IMG]

    But spool back to the latter half of the Sixties, the Mustang's glory years, and Las Vegas is in full swing, blazing away out there in the Nevada desert. Elvis and his now-legal young squeeze Priscilla tie the knot at Aladdin's, while Viva Las Vegas plays in movie theatres. Sinatra's Rat Pack prowl the Sands Casino by day and stumble onstage, cold Martinis in hand, by night. At the same time, Evel Knievel cracks a few more vertebrae jumping over the Caesar's Palace fountains and Howard Hughes, the demented emperor-recluse of Vegas, holes up in the Desert Inn, eventually buying the place up to stop its managers throwing him out.

    So when Ford invited us over to the US to drive their latest Mustang - a car unapologetically influenced by the '67 Fastback - Las Vegas seemed the obvious destination.

    Ford insists the 2005 car, the first genuinely all-new 'Stang since 1979, possesses 'all the soul that makes a Mustang a Mustang'. It's a bold assertion and, like all half-decent marketing slogans, virtually impossible to substantiate. Horsepower, acceleration and top speed are easily verified, but 'soul' is harder to nail.

    But, we reasoned, if we drove out into the desert and just kept on going until we reached the neon canyons of Las Vegas; that would be a good place to start looking. And you never know, we might even be able to find out what happened to Vegas's soul along the way.

    We leave Santa Monica before dawn. The yellow Mustang GT, whose outline we can only vaguely determine in the darkness, burbles satisfyingly as we turn the key and aim towards Interstate 10.

    Almost immediately, a mysterious, persistent squeak emanates from the trim; exact source unknown.
    I probably wouldn't notice it normally but it's before 6am and, frankly, everything is annoying at this time of day.The wretched state of LA's freeway system doesn't flatter the Mustang's suspension either. We crash over the scarred concrete and judder over expansion joints as the sun rises through the early morning photochemical haze. No wonder 'Governator' Schwarzenegger drives a Hummer.

    The new Mustang's suspension is not exactly cutting-edge engineering. The rear end is based around a solid live axle, roughly the diameter of a telegraph pole because, says Ford, the drag racing crowd wouldn't have it any other way. It's also cheap. Cheap is good in the muscle car market. It's all about bangs per buck. Buyers want horsepower and the gew-gaws can go to hell. Consequently, the entry-level four-litre V6, 202-horse Mustang will sell for just $20,000 and the V8 GT model will go for an affordable $27,395. Neither will be made in right-hand drive or officially exported to the UK, sadly. But specialist importers will bring them in and there's always the private import route.

    Once on the I-15 to Vegas however, the asphalt smooths out, the suspension settles down and we lope happily along at 80mph, the 4.6-litre aluminium V8 spinning lazily at 2,500 revs.

    This beefed-up version of the outgoing car's engine with 40 extra hp makes the 2005 car the first mainstream production Mustang to boast 300bhp; power only delivered by hot Cobra and Boss models in the past. The V8 Mustang will be the cheapest 300bhp car on sale in America.

    [​IMG]

    There's really no need but I can't resist giving the accelerator the occasional nudge, just to feel the 'Stang lunge forward on torque alone, the revs building in the unhurried way a proper musclecar engine should. The V8 delivers its peak 300bhp at its 6,000rpm redline, but you wouldn't know it. The engine note is nothing short of symphonic, rising from a booming rumble to an urgent, hard-edged hammering as the revs climb.

    As the sun scorches through the mist, and the LA suburbs give way to dry scrub and Joshua trees, I settle deep in the dark leather bucket seat, squinting into the distant heat haze over the curvature of the bonnet bulge. I've never driven an original '67 Fastback, but I'd like to think it feels like this, only more so.

    Our first proper daylight look at the car comes when we stop at a suitably retro-themed diner. The Mustang looks stunning, all coolly aggressive angles, its 'Screaming Yellow' paint blinding in the desert sun. More importantly, it couldn't be anything other than a Mustang. Its forward-jutting snout, reworked grille and sloped rear windows are borrowed directly from its '67 forebear but, as a whole, it looks contemporary - unlike Ford's recent Thunderbird which veered uncomfortably towards pastiche.

    Fuel becomes an issue when the dash warning starts blinking '50 miles to E'. So we take the next trash-strewn exit ramp and follow signs to a rundown old gas station, which turns out not to sell petroleum products of any kind and looks exactly like the kind of place where bad things happen to stranded drivers in dubious B-movies.

    I prod the dash button that switches off the traction control, spin the rear tyres in the dirt and rejoin the blacktop in a slithering dust-storm. Always wanted to do that. Hoping to find another gas station soon, while pondering how horrible it must be to have to drink your own urine, we press on down the desert highway. Twenty miles later we pull into a garage at the same time as a minivan full of college kids heading to Vegas for the weekend.

    "Hey, is that thing on the market yet?" shouts one, clearly an avid reader of auto magazines. "It looks like a '67 or '68. Cool car."

    We get exactly the same response in Las Vegas. Two or three times a minute on average as we crawl along the Strip - the world's most entertaining traffic jam. Inching past pirate battles, dancing fountains, New York, Paris, Venice and hideous 200ft high images of spray-tanned faces split in two by unnaturally white smiles, people point and yell at our car. Not just nostalgic baby boomers and seasoned old petrolheads either. Everyone. From an old-timer in a matching Ferrari baseball cap and polo shirt combo, to teenage neo-punks in 'Exploited' T-shirts. We practically have to wipe the drool off the windows.

    "Is that the new Mustang?." They holler, "Fuck, yeah! How much did that run ya?"

    I know, I know, not exactly Wildean bon mots. But that's the whole point of muscle cars. They have to be brash, powerful and affordable enough to be a realistic aspiration for the mulleted mid-Western male with a dog called Skeeter.

    The muscle car taps into something psychologists call the reptile brain; the primitive, inner core of the human cortex. Higher functions of the intellect mean nothing to the reptile brain - all it wants is basic stimuli: sex, food, adrenalin... and big, fast, loud cars.

    [​IMG]

    The reptile brain is most likely the reason Las Vegas not only exists, but is the fastest growing city in the United States. 'Eat, Drink, Play,' say the signs downtown, 'Nude Girls,' 'Free Drinks for Players,' and 'All You Can Eat, All Day!' Hunter S Thompson knew this when he wrote Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas... A few tabs of acid and the casinos were crawling with voracious man-sized lizards. This is why deep down, we all want to drive a muscle car - whether we agree with them intellectually or not. What made the '67 Mustang different was that it had all this visceral caveman appeal, but it was also beautiful. Steve McQueen - a man of wealth and unquestionable taste - didn't drive a Pontiac Firebird, did he?

    Judge for yourself, but I think the 2005 'Stang is the best looking Mustang since. The interior is full of classy, Sixties retro touches, like the pony-badged steering wheel with the cruise control buttons hidden inside the alloy spokes.

    But look close up and you can see how Ford has kept costs down. Tap the big chrome rings around the clocks and they're plastic underneath, as are the 'aluminum'-look doorhandles. The handbrake and centre console too are made of cheap, brittle plastic.

    The Mustang's interior showcases an oddball innovation... the first ever colour-configurable instrument panel. Owners can mix and match lighting to create more than 125 different-coloured backgrounds. The idea is very Vegas but not very muscle car. It's hard to picture the guys down at Bud's Speed Shop asking each other whether the dash lights go with their new mauve slacks. No, I suspect their interest is more likely to be fired by the optional 1,000-watt, MP3-playing Shaker sound system.

    Ford is making much of the fact that the new 'Stang has an all-new chassis. This is sort of true. The new car is built on a modified version of the Jaguar S-Type platform, but it's a dramatic improvement on the Fox platform that has underpinned the Mustang for nearly two decades. The six-inch-longer wheelbase creates more backseat passenger space, for one thing, but it's also stiffer - one reason why the new Mustang's convincingly planted handling is a massive improvement over the woolly floatiness of the previous model. The way the Mustang carves confidently into corners, making freeway on and off-ramps something to look forward to. And the brakes, the biggest ever fitted to a Mustang, pack more than enough bite to rein in all that power.

    A five-speed manual gearbox is the standard transmission for both V6 and V8 cars, with five-speed automatics available as an option. The Tremec manual gearbox in our GT gave cause for concern, though. Lumpy and rather agricultural feeling, it graunched and churned away like a slot machine paying out all the way to Vegas. Maybe they're all like that or maybe we had a dud. Either way, it's bad. In the twenty-first century, a new Ford really should not be making noises like that.

    [​IMG]

    Its heart may belong to 1967, but the new 'Stang does make a few concessions to modernity. It has ABS, bundled with switchable traction control as an option, plenty of airbags as part of Ford's Personal Safety System and even 'passenger weight-sensing technology', in case one too many Vegas all-you-can-eat steak and lobster dinners threatens to unsettle the car's delicate balance.

    We arrive in Vegas to find that Top Gear has thoughtfully booked us into The Frontier, a Western-themed casino hotel where the evening's entertainment is billed 'Bikini Bull Riding'. Bull-shouldered cowboys wearing Stetsons indoors are swaggering into a sawdust strewn saloon bar where Footloose is playing at painful volumes. (Footloose played at any volume is painful, but you know what I mean.)

    Do we go join 'em? Hell, yes. You don't drive America's greatest muscle car - a car with a silver 'GT' medallion the size of a dinnerplate on its rump, all the way to Vegas and not watch Bikini Bull Riding. No, sirree.

    Does the new Mustang have soul? Despite its flaws, yes it does. Bags of the stuff. And Vegas? I'm not sure Vegas ever had a soul. Probably lost it playing poker with a giant lizard back in '71.

    Richard Fleury

    [​IMG]

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  2. Balzz

    Balzz N54 Elitist OT Supporter

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    :rofl: :rofl: :rofl: :bowdown:
     
  3. P-chan

    P-chan New Member

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  4. GT40

    GT40 lol

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  5. chrislehr

    chrislehr * from home

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    Which episode will it be on (or was it on)
     
  6. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

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    I'm no expert, I just like to read about cars. So does OT, and sometimes we go for many pages discussing them.

    :love:
     
  7. kungfuwoo

    kungfuwoo New Member

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    You should make a post on a kia next time. Sorentooooooo!!!!!!!!!
     
  8. matrix243

    matrix243 My body, is ready.

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    holy shit do they ever hate americans.

    how could they have so much problems with the tremec?
     
  9. Smahatma

    Smahatma Bitch-Kumar OT Supporter

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    It was last season. Get with the times, bitch.
     
  10. Smahatma

    Smahatma Bitch-Kumar OT Supporter

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    Because they're used to much more refined boxes?
     
  11. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

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    Richard drove it last season, it got a C6-like review.
     
  12. tefnut

    tefnut build

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    HST reference :bowdown:
     
  13. Janson

    Janson Bill Stickers in innocent. OT Supporter

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    I'll take one please.
     
  14. Janson

    Janson Bill Stickers in innocent. OT Supporter

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    They think YOU are ugly
     
  15. Parabellum

    Parabellum Molon Labe!

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    Is the only way for us to watch this in the US downloading?
     
  16. Askari

    Askari New Member

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    [​IMG]

    Isn't that the same location as "Holdin it down"?!?!?!?!?!


    :run:
     
  17. Girth

    Girth ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ OT Supporter

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    The europeans approve... there IS light at the end of the tunnel. :eek3:
     
  18. Montoya

    Montoya OT Supporter

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    this wasnt on the top gear show. on the episode they drove it down the longest straight highway they could find in England, as to not have to worry about making any turns. They made an analogy of the rear suspension: "It's like walking around with your shoelaces tied together."
     
  19. Brian

    Brian New Member

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    correct


    it`s handling isnt approved by me:o
     
  20. krott5333

    krott5333 Guest

    whats the point of bolding every other line?

    anyone whos not going to read the whole thing can lick my sweaty sac
     
  21. you know me

    you know me OT where the douchbags play

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    You are tri-shield and fuck top gear.
     
  22. Balzz

    Balzz N54 Elitist OT Supporter

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    Someone else got it. :eek3:
     
  23. More&Faster

    More&Faster New Member

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    thanks for the article

    Top Gear Mag > *.americancarmag

    in addition:

    Top Gear on BBC > *.*

    :bigthumb:
     
  24. TQ

    TQ OT Supporter

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    I love that car :cool:
     
  25. MR Yasir

    MR Yasir New Member

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    pony car != muscle car
     

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