MUSTANG GT

IT LOBBED HERE WITH MORE HYPE THAN AN AFL GRAND FINAL.

WORDS MARK HIGGINS

WHEN FORD MOTOR Company launched the Mustang on April 17 1964 at the New York World Fair, it had no clue it was introducing an icon that would stand the test of time for over half a century.

Still smarting from the Edsel’s failure, enthusiastic President Lee Iaccoca convinced the Ford board members to back his hunch and give this all-new affordable, sporty two-door four-seater a shot. Now, with ten million sales in sight, the rest was history.

While the Mustang was an instant hit, becoming the second most-recognised Ford after the T-Model, Australians had to wait over 52 years until 2016, when it finally lobbed here with 6000 pre-sales and more fanfare and hype than an AFL Grand Final.

Although not an uncommon sight these days the Mustang never fails to draw plenty of looks. The unmistakable shape, three-bar tail lamps, long bonnet, wide haunches, dual exhausts, low roofline, big black alloy-wheels and the signature pony on the grille. It shouts power, performance and presence and turns more heads than the entire Kardashian clan.

Inside the leather-trimmed multifunction steering wheel (with 16 buttons) and infotainment system with its 8-inch touchscreen unify neatly with the retro chrome toggle switches, raised dash panel in front of the driver and passenger (circa 1969) large round air vents and analogue instruments.

The body hugging, heated and cooled, leather sports seats set you low in true muscle-car style and you look along the Mustang’s never-ending bonnet with its raised character lines.

It’s roomy for two but forget four unless they’re kids, however the boot can swallow a couple of decent sized Samsonites.

Sitting behind the wheel brought back childhood memories of Allan Moffat’s bright red Coca Cola Trans Am Mustang and my bedroom wall, covered in posters of it. I sat for a few quiet moments, closed the door and took it all in before hitting the starter button, bringing the brawny 5-litre V8 to life with a rumble.

FORD MUSTANG FASTBACK GT

BODY 2-door coupe

ENGINE 5.0-litre V8

POWER & TORQUE 303kW/525Nm

PERFORMANCE 0-100km/h 5.2 seconds

TOP SPEED 250 km/h

TRANSMISSION 6-speed manual

SUSPENSION Front: MacPherson Strut Rear: independent with coil springs

BRAKES Front and rear discs

WHEELS 19 x 9 inch front 19 x 9.5 inch rear

PRICE $57,490 (+ORC)

Trundling through the city early one morning had me feeling like Steve McQueen in Bullitt, hunting the baddies and their Dodge RT Charger.

I often gave the throttle a stomp just to hear the V8 sound track ricocheting off the glass and concrete edifices.

A few hours later, I was scything up and down the six-speed manual gearbox along a winding coast road, with ‘Sport’ mode selected to fully flex the Mustang’s sizeable 303 kW and 525Nm muscles and exploit its handling and (first-for-aMustang) independent rear suspension.

Nailing the loud pedal the Mustang’s five-litre injected V8 dumps equal measures of power and adrenalin all the way to the redline. Its fierce acceleration, masses of torque and limited-slip diff help shoot it out of corners like a missile. Feisty thoroughbreds should be treated with respect and the Mustang is no different, as this one has a habit of breaking traction and chucking itself sideways through bends if you’re a tad enthusiastic with your right foot.

When I jumped into the Mustang I was expecting loads of mumbo, concrete suspension, lifeless steering and average handling, as American cars don’t have a great reputation for cornering prowess.

I got that wrong.

As expected it’s big on grunt and the ride is firm but it’s also bloody good at ironing out dips, bumps, rail crossings and blemishes without loosening your fillings. It’s also surprisingly agile.

The big Michelin boots provide plenty of grip, its Brembo brakes deliver face bending stopping forces and the electric power steering communicates well.

You could be having the shittiest day of all time, but when drop down into the Mustang’s driver seat, look down its long bonnet and hit the starter, you instantly forget everything that’s happened and the world becomes a better place. Guaranteed.

“DROP INTO THE MUSTANG’ DRIVER SEAT AND THE WORLD BECOMES A BETTER PLACE”

Being a GT the $57,490 Mustang is well kitted out with dual zone aircon, sat nav, auto headlights, keyless entry, push button start/stop, sports pedals the SYNC2 infotainment system and a nine-speaker audio system.

Safety wise, it gets MyKey – the car key that’s programmable to limit the vehicle’s speed, plus stability and traction controls, a brace of airbags, perimeter alarm, a tyre pressure monitoring system and a rearview camera. Yet it only scores three ANCAP safety stars out of five.

I loved the finer details of the Mustang, like the speedo named a Ground Speed Indicator and best of all, the pony symbol that lights the ground under the doors at night.

So… does it live up to all the hype that heralded its arrival?

It sure does and it sure has been worth the long wait. And that doesn’t often happen.

THE FORD ICON THAT NEARLY WASN’

WHEN FORD whipped the covers off the Mustang on April 17 1964 few would have tipped it to be one of the auto industry’s biggest hits, that continues to flourish over half a century later.

But the Mustang almost didn’t happen.

You see, Ford was deep in the financial fertiliser due to the utter failure of its muchtrumped Edsel.

The last thing it could afford as a brand, and financially, was another flop.

But Ford President Lee Iacocca was sure the Mustang was a winner and convinced the board members of this. Armed with $75 million the Mustang was developed and built within two years, about half the normal time for a new-from-the-groundup model.

When they saw it Americans fell in love with the Mustang and demand was so overwhelming that Ford had to tool up three plants to try and keep up. The plan was to produce 100,000 Mustangs in year one but its dealers sold 418,000.

The Mustang created a new breed of cars, originally dubbed ‘Pony cars’ but with engine and performance upgrades they were soon dubbed muscle cars.

However it wasn’t all plain sailing with the Stang losing its way and its muscle car tag on more than one occasion. You only have to look at the woeful fourcylinder mid-90s offerings to see how far Ford had strayed from the original concept.

Unsurprisingly, given our love of performance vehicles, Australians have fallen for the Mustang, well the 5-litre V8 version, making it the biggest selling sportscar in this country, a crown it’s unlikely to lose, as the Ford that nearly didn’t happen, closes in on 10 million sales globally.