THE ENGINEERING team that created this sixthgeneration Mustang was obviously keenly aware of Henry Ford’s famous 1916 sermon on history, which reads as follows: “History is more or less bunk. It’s tradition. We don’t want tradition. We want to live in the present and the only history that’s worth a tinker’s damn is the history we made today.”

There’s no arguing Henry’s point. Now that the first factory right-hand drive Mustang is awaiting your inspection in Ford showrooms around the country, it has to compete for your dollar like any other car.

Buying into the Pony cult is one thing, but if its holy grail is a C-grade nostalgia trip – and there have been a couple of those over the badge’s 51 year lifespan – that old Mustang magic won’t cut it for long, especially in Australia’s brutally competitive market.

We’re the world’s least sentimental new car buyers.

Ford Australia is only too aware of that.

So let’s just treat the 2016 Mustang GT like any other fairy-dusted new hopeful in search of love and profit. Is it any good? Oh yes.

This car is tasked with establishing the Mustang badge in Europe and right-hand drive markets, including the UK, Japan and Australia. So its engineering is, of necessity, benchmarked against much more demanding (read German) standards than previous models.

Yet the 21st century Mustang also has to keep faith with the original, as an affordable, practical daily driver.

On both counts, it’s a winner.

Local pricing, raised shortly before launch due to the tumbling Aussie dollar, now kicks off at $57,490 for the six-speed manual Fastback.

The six-speed auto Fastback is $59,990; the GT Convertible auto is $66,490.

Consider the hardware you get for that: a 306kW/530Nm 5.0-litre, 32-valve alloy V8 with independent variable camshaft timing; limited slip differential; independent suspension at both ends; six-piston front Brembo calipers; 19-inch gloss black alloy wheels with 255/40 front and 275/40 rear Pirelli PZero rubber.

Then there’s the electronics: Normal, Sport, Track and Snow/Wet modes for drivetrain and the electric steering; Track Apps, including launch control on the manual, G-force readouts and acceleration times; Ford’s brilliant SYNC2 infotainment system with voice control that actually works, navigation and automatic emergency assistance calling via your paired smartphone; MyKey, which allows you to programme safety features such as a speed limiter and non-negotiable traction control into the key you give your teenager when they drive the car (and they will ask); individual tyre pressure monitoring and a perimeter alarm.

Add leather-faced, heated and cooled front seats, eight airbags, dual-zone air and, well, dead set bargain doesn’t even begin to describe it, really.

The only comparable value for money V8 propositions on offer today are Holden’s VFII SSV Redline ($50,490 for the ute; $53,990 sedan) and the Falcon XR8 sedan, priced at $53,490.

Ford’s Coyote V8 has that typically indolent atmo character across the bottom end and lower midrange, accompanied by a fruity, mellow (and partly synthesised) note. Beyond 4000rpm it’s a beautifully responsive, silken device with a meaner edge, but it’s never angry and dangerous in that “I want to kill you!”

AMG sort of way.

The Getrag manual, like any gearbox with this much torque in front of it, rewards patience and a delicate touch, while the clutch is predictably heavy and abrupt, though entirely manageable, in take up. The auto’s shifts are smooth and timely in day to day driving, but Sport+ doesn’t read your intentions as quickly and accurately as a premium German transmission, so when driving hard on your favourite road the paddles are the go.

Mustang has never been a sports car and this model


My Little Pony

CARL WIDMANN, Mustang Chief Engineer, has been touring the world with his new right-hand drive baby.

A Michigan native and third generation FoMoCo employee, Widmann is steeped in Mustang lore and obviously relished the engineering task.

“We knew we had to improve the ability and specification of the car because it’s going into Europe where it will compete against BMW, Audi and Mercedes. Australia has a performance car culture, so the Performance Pack, which is optional in the US, is standard on your GT. It includes the 19-inch wheels, staggered size Pirelli PZero tyres, six piston Brembo front calipers with 380mm rotors, front splitter and limited slip differential.

People buy a Mustang as their everyday car.

Mustangs don’t live in the garage,” he said.

So it’s a surprise to hear him say that the car has “no direct competitor,” in Australia. When we explain the comparable price, ability and specification of Holden’s VFII SSV Redline he seems unaware of its existence and bemused at such an odd comparison.

I didn’t have the heart to suggest that it would be a real close contest…or that the Mustang might come off second best.

is no exception. It’s heavy, the suspension is tuned on the sporty side of GT, and with a hefty lump of V8 up front you finesse rather than fling it into tight corners. That said, there’s no lack of grip from the Pirellis, the electric steering is surprisingly talkative, precise and intuitive and the Brembos are superb in progression, power and fade resistance.

As a long-distance drive, Mustang GT could be an Australian native. It’s as effortlessly secure, absorbent and comfortable on our crappy country roads as Falcon and Commodore.

The cabin has just the right degree of industrial-grade Michigan ambience and warbird-inspired design cues expected of America’s most famous nameplate. An Audi interior this isn’t, but the seats are deeply padded and supportive and a big lad can get the driving position set just right. Which means low, of course.

The ’Stang feels bigger than it is from the driver’s seat, though, with a deep dash cowl and that magnificent bonnet stretching way out front.

Point it at the horizon, stick your favourite cartridge in the eight track…sorry, pair your smartphone to SYNC2… dial up a bit of Stevie Ray Vaughan, or something similarly complimentary to the cadence of a V8, and enjoy.

New. Mustang. Ford has done it. This car is both.


The Waiting Game

AS WE go to press there’s a waiting list of about 12 months for the GT Fastback and Convertible. Eighty per cent of Australian customers have ordered the GT. The Kiwis are even more righteous – 90 percent of their 600 pre-arrival deposits have been placed on the V8.

If you want a 2.3 Ecoboost you can get into one much sooner, depending upon colour and spec – a few dealers even have floor stock.

More than 4000 deposits were taken here before the car arrived, and worldwide demand is such that two 11 hour shifts at Ford’s Flat Rock, Michigan factory aren’t enough.

Why Four Art Thou?

I ONLY got five minutes in the 2.3-litre Ecoboost four, which opens the range at $45,990 for the Fastback manual; the auto is $48,490 and the Convertible auto is $54,990.

With 233kW and 432Nm it’s hardly underdone, but the main question is why would you? The word Europe is the answer, where punitive capacity and emissionsbased tax regimes apply and juice, which the V8 likes a lot, is expensive.

You also miss out on the hi-po brakes and tyres.


ENGINE 4951cc V8, 32v MAX POWER 306kW@6500rpm MAX TORQUE 530Nm@4250rpm TRANSMISSION Six-speed manual WEIGHT 1739kg 0-100KM/H 4.8sec* (Ford Europe claim) ECONOMY 13.1L/100m (combined) PRICE $57,490 ON SALE Now



THE GREATEST Ferrari V8 you’ve never heard of?

That could very well be the 348 GT Competizione; an incredibly rare and intriguing specialist vehicle. Those with even a passing knowledge of contemporary Ferraris will appreciate that history hasn’t been too kind to the original Ferrari 348tb. First introduced in 1989, it weighed too much and was a tricky handler at the limit. What’s not so well known is that Ferrari massively improved the car over its life, with major improvements to the electronics and suspension introduced in 1994. The ultimate iteration of the line was the 348 GT Competizione model with a scant 50 units built, and of those, a mere eight were right-hand drive cars. Ferrari’s first homologation special after the 288 GTO was always going to be an event, but the Competizione was so fleetingly rare it somehow managed to fly under the popular radar.

The car we’re driving here is one of the eight right hookers and it’s probably the most immaculate of the lot. It’s hard to comprehend that this car has driven just 192km since it rolled from the gates of Maranello factory back in 1994. Of course, it’s racked up a few air miles since then, originally shuttling from Italy to Singapore where it was part of the car collection of that country’s Ferrari importer before finding its way to Australia six years ago.

Perhaps now, you’re beginning to appreciate the almost chimerical nature of this car.

Like the F40, the Competizione features a Kevlar/carbonfibre composite to cut weight. The doors feel featherlight in your hands and the exposed weave runs across the sills and the bucket seat backs. The brakes are from the F40 Evoluzione, while the front and rear bumpers are composite. More focused springs and dampers, and a rod rather than a cable gear shift, deliver more immediate feedback. The 18-inch Speedline alloys are also lighter than the standard 348’s 17-inch rims which contribute to a total 190kg weight saving over the GTB. Bear in mind that a 360 Challenge Stradale shaved 110kg over the standard car, a 430 Scuderia 100kg and a 458 Speciale 90kg.

The Competizione is, in some ways, the most extreme V8 special of the bunch.

A different diff ratio boosted acceleration still further, and if you’re handy with the dog-leg gated manual ‘box, you might dip below five seconds for a sprint to 100km/h. Fire up the 3.4-litre V8 and it settles into a smooth, high idle. Let the fluids warm for a few minutes and the ‘box will then allow you to select second without complaint, a feature common to all these V8 Ferraris. The clutch swings through a long arc, the throttle response is instant and the pedal spacing perfect for those with daintier feet. The unassisted steering is hefty at parking speeds and your eye falls to the numbered plaque reading ‘Competizione 21/50’ on the boss.

This car might be a near-perfect time capsule back to 1994, a year when Kurt Cobain checked out, Nelson Mandela took power in South Africa and Michael Schumacher speared Damon Hill off the track in Adelaide to claim his first F1 world title, but this 348’s handling is anything but vintage. It corners flat and hard, the porcine roll oversteer of the base 348 excised courtesy of the stiffer rose-jointed suspension and weight savings. The way it controls its mass when braking and tipping into a corner is a revelation. You can see how the Competizione was the transitional vehicle to the lauded F355, albeit without the teething issues that plagued early 355s. The engine races between 5000rpm and the 7500rpm with typical zeal, a tribute to the efforts its current owner has made recommissioning this car to fighting fitness after having been laid up for so long in sweaty Singapore.

It’s a rare privilege to even unearth a virtual delivery-kays car like this. Combine that with the fact that it’s a limited-run Ferrari special and days don’t get much better.

Getting behind the wheel was an unexpected bonus. It’s still for sale if you’re interested. The price? Those playing the longer game will certainly see value in such a pristine rarity.


Gentleman Racer

Michelotto acquired eleven of the 50-car Competizione production run to convert to race specification. The suspension featured revised geometry and fully adjustable Koni dampers.

F40 halfshafts were fitted along with carbonfibre doors and undertray. A lightweight engine cover and front lid helped offset the weight of a full FIA roll cage. Racing seats, belts, pedals and an Alcantara wheel were fitted and the glass was replaced by Lexan. Ultimately only two of the eleven Michelotto cars were raced competitively, one in the 1993 Italian Supercar GT series by Jolly Club and the other in the 1994 Daytona 24 hours under the banner of the Shelton Ferrari dealership.


ENGINE 3405cc V8, 32v DOHC MAX POWER 235kW @ 7200rpm MAX TORQUE 324Nm @ 5000rpm TRANSMISSION 5-speed dogleg manual WEIGHT 1180kg 0-100KM/H c. 5.0s

TOP SPEED c. 282km/h PRICE $615,000 ON SALE Now