The Ford Mustang has never been a car that I particularly wanted to drive. It’s a car I had to drive. If you’re into cars then it’s probably on your bucket list because the Mustang is one of a handful of motoring icons of the last 50 years that have entered general culture. Like the E Type, classic Mini and Morris Minor, the Mustang is a car that almost everyone knows and recognises. Love it or hate it, you can’t really ignore it.
Before I bought a Mustang and added it to the Great Escape Cars fleet in May I confess that I’d already broken my Mustang duck. Because I think cliche and irony make a good mix I celebrated my 40th driving Highway 1 from San Francisco to Los Angeles. It was a modern one, which suited me fine as American car makers don’t really do progress and in 45 years of production, from mechanics to looks, not much appeared to have changed.
The Mustang story is familiar to anyone who loves cars, but I’ll précis it here. Ford conceived the idea of a compact, sporty coupe and convertible using simple, proprietary mechanicals to keep cost down. The legend that has grown up around the car implies that Ford’s sharp market research enabled it to develop a car that meant something to everyone, whether young family, male or female or single man about town. But luck rather than judgement clearly played a part as the Mustang was originally meant to be a mid-engined V4 two seater. Poor sales of the two seater Thunderbird forced a rethink as a larger four seat, front engine car. Even at launch Ford only predicted limited annual sales for the Mustang.
It was Ford’s revolutionary marketing skills that turned a humdrum seller into a sensation. The Mustang’s simplicity enabled Ford to develop endless variations of trim, engines and body styles around the same basic mechanicals. So buyers could personalise their car to an astonishing degree, a facility that kept interest in the Mustang high. Ford continually added new options and refined the shape so that every few months buyers could choose a ‘new’ Mustang. It was a formula that Ford applied successfully in Europe from the 60s to the 90s, enabling the same car to sell to budget and premium buyers but with different trim combinations. Clever stuff.
For anyone interested in buying a classic Mustang this cornucopia of models and specifications makes finding the right car either difficult or a joyous journey of discovery, depending on the sort of person you are. I am an impetuous and impatient person, so I found it difficult and frustrating. I have wanted to add a Mustang to the fleet for several years and had my heart set on a Bullitt replica in Highland Green. I still do. A lot. But Bullitt cars are absurdly expensive so would have required me to charge too much for hiring one.
So a rethink was required. I knew it had to be a 60s car, because post ’70 the Mustang got a bit heavy and lardy, not that I don’t quite like those cars but they’re not the ones most people want to drive. A mid-period car brought in a huge confusion of specifications and engines, which started to overheat my brain. Which gradually brought me to the early cars, the simpler ones that are more true to the original concept. The early cars were available as convertible or notch back – I knew we had to have a convertible to widen the car’s appeal to customers.
Now at this point most people would opt for a V8. I didn’t. The Mustang was conceived as an inexpensive sporting rather than sporty car and consequently its brakes and suspension don’t quite match high power. The original straight six Ford Mustang engine has the right power to suit the car and is unstressed and reliable. Trust me when I say that driving a LHD V8 Mustang in anger on British roads is not an experience I would relish. The smaller engine a safer and more sensible choice for a hire company.
The car I bought is about as true to the original Mustang as it can be. It’s an early ‘1964-and-a-half’ car built in the first few months of production and finished in red with a red interior and white roof, exactly the combination that Ford pushed in its marketing materials at the time. Our car is well specified with power steering, manual gearbox and power roof. It’s perfect for breaking your Mustang duck or makes a good self drive wedding car.
Drive a Mustang and you quickly realise that this is a car whose sportiness is more American than European. The Mustang is designed for smooth, straight interstates, for rolling down the windows and roof, hefting one elbow on the door and hooking one finger over the wheel. I’ve been lucky enough to drive a lot of different cars but the Mustang is by far the cruisiest. It wafts effortlessly, responding to steering and braking inputs in a relaxed and less than immediate manner. Everything about the Mustang is designed for relaxation and comfort. So go with it – sit back, put your elbow in High Tan Position and roll on.
We’ve tried to make driving a Mustang more achievable by offering the Mustang at the lowest hire price in the UK, just £199 for 24 hrs or £349 for a weekend. Mileage is unlimited and the price includes insurance and RAC cover.