The Truth About Cars » Mustang The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Tue, 15 Jul 2014 13:19:48 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Mustang Michigan Performance Company Takes To Crowdfunding For CNG Mustang Concept Mon, 19 May 2014 13:00:07 +0000 cng-mustang

Crowdfunding has been used to deliver financing to projects ranging from fashion collections and film productions, to food trucks and the occasional work that ends up bombing while investors are left holding nothing (not even the bag their were promised as a gift for investing).

This project may be a success or failure, but if all goes as promised, Michigan’s Performance CNG will be able to deliver a CNG-powered 2003 Ford Mustang while demonstrating all compressed natural gas can do in the name of energy independence.

Autoblog Green reports the company, headed by founder Daryl Patrishkoff, is attempting to raise $55,000 through IndieGoGo to pay for the battery of emissions testing required by the Environmental Protection Agency, acquisition of high-performance CNG parts, and engine calibration. Currently, the Mustang, which runs on gasoline and CNG paired with alcohol injection, puts out 470 horsepower, with the aim of adding more horses through the fundraising.

And what will the project deliver to its investors (beyond being named a contributor in all promotion material)? The hope others will take notice on natural gas, bringing their investment capital to the table with the goal of liberating the United States from foreign energy resources, adding jobs to the industry, and delivering a wide range of vehicles using CNG to the masses; as of this moment, only 120,000 vehicles use the fuel, the majority of which are buses and trucks.

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The Deuce’s Coupe – Henry Ford II’s Personal Prototype Mustang Sat, 19 Apr 2014 01:56:20 +0000 IMG_0600

Full gallery here.

Fifty years ago this week, the first Ford Mustang went on sale. While Lee Iacocca is considered by many to be the father of the Mustang, the simple reality is that without the approval of Henry Ford II, the chief executive at Ford, the Mustang would never have happened. That took some doing. After American Motors had shown the viability of compact cars, in 1960, Ford introduced the Falcon, Chevrolet introduced the Corvair, and Pontiac brought out the original, compact, Tempest. When GM introduced the sportier Monza versions of the Corvair, Iacocca, who by then was a Ford corporate VP and general manager of the Ford division, wanted something to compete with it. Henry Ford II, aka “Hank the Deuce”, had to be convinced to spend money on the project, just a few short years after FoMoCo took a serious financial hit when the Edsel brand did not have a successful launch. Iacocca, one of the great salesmen, not only sold his boss on the concept of the Mustang, the Deuce came to love the pony car so much he had a very special one made just for himself.


Multiple accounts from other participants in the story affirm that HFII was reluctant to give the Mustang program a green light. By early 1962, Iacocca had already been turned down at least twice, with Ford shouting “No! No!” when Ford’s division boss asked for $75 million to go after the youth market with a reskinned Falcon. Iacocca’s unofficial “Fairlane Committee”, an advanced product planning group that met every couple of weeks at the Fairlane Motel, away from prying eyes and ears at the Glass House, Ford’s World headquarters, had been working on the Mustang idea, but the team despaired of getting HFII’s approval.

In an interview on the Mustang’s genesis, Iacocca explained his challenge:

Henry Ford II had just dealt with one of the biggest losses in Ford history with the Edsel. It was dumped just one year earlier at a loss of $250 million. Henry was not receptive to launching a new, unproven line of cars which would present further risk to the company.

I made a number of trips to his office before I gained approval to build. He told me if it wasn’t a success, it would be my ass, and I might be looking for a new job elsewhere.

Surprisingly, Iacocca got word that Ford would let him pitch the as yet unnamed sporty car one more time. With the meeting scheduled for the next morning, Iacocca convened an emergency meeting of his secret committee. Things had to be secret because in the wake of the Edsel debacle, Ford’s corporate culture had become very cautious.

According to Ford head of public relations and Iacocca’s speechwriter Walter T. Murphy, who was at the meeting, the group included: Don Frey, Ford’s chief product planner; John Bowers, advertising manager; Frank Zimmerman, Ford division head of marketing; Robert Eggert, the company’s chief market research authority; Hal Sperlich, who wore many hats as Iacocca’s right hand man (and would follow him to Chrysler): and William Laurie, senior officer of Ford’s advertising agency, J. Walter Thompson.

In a 1989 account that he wrote for Ward’s Auto, Murphy described the scene:

“What I need are some fresh grabbers for my meeting tomorrow morning with Henry at the Glass House,” Mr. Iacocca told his committee (Note: we always called him Henry at meetings when Mr. Ford was not present), Bob Eggert, the researcher, was first at bat: “Lee, let’s lead off with the name of the car we’ve decided on.”

The feeling was that Henry didn’t know we were picking the Mustang name and he’d be entranced. Mr. Frey supported Mr. Eggert. “That’s a good way to go, but emphasize that this stylish pony car will kick GM’s Monza square in the balls.” Henry should love that! “I’ve got it,” Mr. Iacocca responded as he snapped shut the little car research binder that Mr. Eggert had slipped in front of him. “Murphy, put together some notes for me by early tomorrow morning. Thank you. The meeting is adjourned.”

The following morning Mr. Ford stretched out in his leather chair, fingers clasped atop his expanding belly. Mr. Iacocca stood holding a few index cards. He was not smoking or fingering a cigar, as he usually did. Mr. Ford asked “What have you got, Lee?”

Lee launched into his pitch on the market for the youthful low-cost cars that Ford once dominated but had surrendered to GM along with a bushel of profit/penetration points. “Now this new little pony car, the Mustang, would give an orgasm to anyone under 30,” he said. Henry sat upright as if he had been jabbed with a needle. “What was that you said, Lee?” asked Mr. Ford.

Lee began to repeat his orgasm line but Mr. Ford interrupted. “No not that crap, what did you call the car?” “It’s the Mustang, Mr. Ford, a name that will sell like hell.” “Sounds good; have Frey take it to the product planning committee and get it approved. And as of now, you’ve got $75 million to fund your Mustang.”

In the end, Henry Ford II’s approval of the Mustang came down to the name. I’ll note that Walker’s recollection is slightly different than that of Iacocca, who says that Ford initially committed just $45 million for the project.

The Mustang team first developed the four cylinder midengine Mustang (now known as Mustang I) concept for the 1962 show circuit, gauging interest in a sporty car targeted at young people. Because of cost concerns, they were likely to never build such a car (the Edsel failure guaranteed that the car would have to be based on an existing Ford car), but the reaction was positive, leading to the Falcon based Mustang II concept (not to be confused with the 1974 Mustang II production car). The Mustang II was based on a very early preproduction Mustang body shell, first used for a styling study with stretched front end (with “Cougar” badging – the name that convinced HFII was chosen very late in the process)  and then taken out on the ’63 auto show circuit to drum up interest in the new car. The Mustang II is owned by the Detroit Historical Museum and it would be hard to put a dollar value on such a rare and historically significant Mustang.


Henry Ford II with the Mustang at Ford’s pavilion at the 1964 New York World’s Fair, where the Mustang was first introduced to the public. Above and behind him you can see one of the convertibles used in the Walt Disney Co. designed Magic Skyway that carried visitors through Ford’s exhibit.

Before the official start of Mustang production on March 9, 1964, in February Ford started to build actual preproduction prototypes of the Mustang, about 180 of them in all. The bodies-in-white were pilot plant units built off of body bucks by Ford Body & Assembly in Allen Park, which explains the leaded seams. The bodies were then trucked to the nearby Dearborn assembly plant where they were assembled as part of the validation process.

lee-iacocca- deuce bordinat

From left to right: Lee Iacocca, Henry Ford II, and Gene Bordinat

One of of those preproduction prototypes was set aside for special treatment by Ford Design. Ten years later, it was just another old Mustang when Art Cairo spotted a classified ad in a Detroit newspaper that read, “1965 Mustang once owned by the Ford family.” The asking price was a very reasonable $1,000 so Cairo went to look at the car. He found what appeared to be a Hi-Po 289 hardtop in black. It had some unusual parts, though. The vinyl roof was leather, not vinyl, as was the interior upholstery and dashpad. The brightwork on the wheel arch lips was die-cast, not anodized aluminum as on production cars. Door jams and trunk openings had fully leaded seams, and there were features like GT foglights in the grille, exhaust tips and styled steel wheels that were not available on early production Mustangs. Under the hood, there was an alternator instead of a generator, which was what ran the electrical system of early Mustangs. The only Ford products that offered alternators in mid 1964 were Lincolns.

On the interior, in addition to leather seats there was real teakwood, molded leather door panels with pistol-grip door handles, and a factory reverb unit and rear speaker under the package shelf. Door strikers and latches were chrome plated. In addition to what appeared to be an authentic High Performance 289, the car had disc brakes up front, a “top loader” four speed manual transmission and a 9 inch rear end with a 3.50:1 final drive ratio.

When Art read the VIN, 5F07K100148, and realized that it was a genuine “K code” Mustang, an early production “1964 1/2″ model, with a real Hi-Po 289 and lots of oddball parts, he recognized that it was a special car and that he needed to buy it (it would turn out later that Cairo’s Mustang was the very first K-code Mustang built). In the glovebox he found an owner’s manual for a ’65 Mustang written with the name “Edsel B. Ford II” and a Grosse Pointe address. The VIN in the manual, however, was for a fastback and didn’t match the one in the car.

Edsel, Henry Ford II’s son, would have been in high school when the car was new so Cairo figured it was an authentic Ford family car and bought it, assuming it was the younger Ford’s personal car. In 1983, when Art was interviewing Edsel for the Mustang Monthly magazine, Edsel revealed to him that the hardtop was not his, but his father’s and that somehow the owner’s manual for his fastback ’65 ended up with his dad’s car. Since the car’s restoration, Edsel autographed the teakwood glovebox door.

It turns out that while the cars were built for Ford family members to use, they were not titled to the Ford’s but rather remained the possession of the Ford company. After Henry and Edsel were done with their Mustangs, they were returned to FoMoCo and sold. The story that Cairo had heard was that the Deuce gave his Mustang to his chauffeur, who then sold it to the person who sold it to Cairo.

In addition to the changes mentioned above, other modifications were discovered when the car was finally restored. The alternator meant that the car had a custom wiring harness. A steel scatter shield was welded into the transmission tunnel in case of a failure of the clutch or flywheel. The engine was a real Hi-Po 289, but it had experimental cylinder heads, and even the steering box was not a production unit. The original headliner was leather, to match the roof and upholstery and in addition to all the real wood and chrome plating, a custom AM radio with die-cast knobs and buttons was installed.


“X” stands for experimental. The Hi-Po 289 V8 in Henry Ford II’s personal Mustang had experimental heads.

The fog lamps, exhaust trumpets and die-cast moldings were developmental parts planned to be introduced the following year, installed by Ford Design.

As mentioned, when Cairo bought the car, he knew it was special, being an early K-code car, but he didn’t take the Ford family provenance that seriously. He loaned the car to his brother, who beat on it pretty hard until something broke in the 289′s valvetrain. Art retrieved the keys, overhauled the heads and did a mild restoration and respray.

He didn’t drive it much because his job involving new vehicle launches at Ford kept him on the road a lot, moving from assembly plant to assembly plant. Though he drove 5F07K100148 sparingly, for the most part the car was unknown to the Mustang community.

In 2002, Cairo started getting worried about the long term effects of inactivity and humidity and a deep inspection found significant decay, rust and rodent damage. Rustbusters, a restoration shop in Redford, Michigan was entrusted with the car.

This was going to be a complicated job. Some parts, like the headliner and upholstery are so original they cannot be “restored”. How do you restore a one off with a replica?

The car was carefully taken apart, with copious notes and photographs taken. Once disassembled, they discovered that the rust had eaten through body panels, floors, frame-rails, wheelhouses, quarter-panels, inner fenders, doors, and the cowl vent. Had this been a run of the mill ’65 Mustang, most owners would have removed the VIN and bought a replacement body from Dynacorn.

Instead, with the help of reproduction company National Parts Depot, Rustbusters used a body jig custom designed for vintage Mustangs and repaired all of the sheet metal. A modern self-etching primer sealer was used as was polymer seam sealer, but Cairo was able to locate some vintage Ford Raven Black enamel, and after spraying, the Mustang was color sanded and hand rubbed old school style to replicate a 1964 era paint job. Unfortunately, the die-cast prototype wheel-lip moldings were too corroded to use.

Early production Mustangs came with an unimproved hood that had sharp edges, replaced in 1965 with a hood that had a rolled lip. Since all preproduction and Indy Pace Car Mustangs (Ford provided the pace car for the 1964 race) that have surfaced so far feature the later style hood, Art decided to go with the “1965″ hood, which is how he found the car when he bought it.

The engine was rebuilt to factory specs, other than a .030 overbore, but inspections revealed that both the transmission and rear end just needed new seals and gaskets.

The car was finished just in time for Ford’s centennial in 2003 and Art was invited to display his car in front of Ford World Headquarters as part of the 100th anniversary celebration. This month it’s appropriately back in the lobby of the “Glass House”, whose official name is the Henry Ford II World Center, along with some other historic Mustangs, to celebrate the Mustang’s semicentennial.

mump_0607_11z+1964_ford_mustang+rear_seat_tag mump_0607_10z+1964_ford_mustang+part_number mump_0607_09z+1964_ford_mustang+passengers_side_door mump_0607_08z+1964_ford_mustang+radiator mump_0607_07z+1964_ford_mustang+engine_view mump_0607_06z+1964_ford_mustang+rear_view mump_0607_05z+1964_ford_mustang+rear_view mump_0607_12z+1964_ford_mustang+rear_speaker IMG_0583a 1964-Ford-Mustang-with-Henry-Ford-II mump_0505_26_+art_cairo_289_high_performance_engine+_cylinder_head lee-iacocca- deuce bordinat ]]> 22
Piston Slap: A Faltering Ford’s ESP? Mon, 17 Mar 2014 12:00:30 +0000

Mark writes:


I’m sure you’ve fielded similar questions in the past, but in the spirit of basic cable, here’s a potential re-run: I have a 2012 Mustang V6 with the performance package & a 6-speed manual. It’s coming up on 26k miles, so I’ve got 10k miles and/or about 9 months before the 3/36 bumper to bumper warranty expires. The car has had a couple issues covered under warranty so far, with the biggest one being a new steering box at about 15k miles. A nearby Ford dealer will sell me a Ford factory warranty (not an aftermarket roll of the dice) to basically double the 3/36 coverage for about $1200.

That comes with a $100 deductible, and if I sell the car before the warranty expires, I can have the unused portion refunded to me. Normally I wouldn’t consider buying an extended warranty, but I’ve had just enough trouble with the car up to this point, and read enough horror stories about the MT82 gearbox, to make me think about it. I’m really not sure how long I’ll keep the car, but I do like the idea of having that warranty security blanket as long as I do. What’s your take?

Sajeev answers:

Nothing wrong with revisiting a classic!  We’ve previously said that “scary” Euro-metal needs an extended warranty, provided you shop around for the best price. And that less scary metal might not benefit from any warranty, even the factory one with fancy Lexus loaner cars and plush Lexus lounges. So why not discuss in terms of Ford’s ESP plan?

This commonplace, low value Ford product (unlike the Lexus and BMW) is not an easy vehicle to armchair assess and judge.  Aside from the well known MT82, will an “unmodified” Mustang have significant failure in the next 72,000-ish miles and 3-ish years? I am guessing not.  And will the MT82 survive under the V6′s less aggressive torque curve and your shifting behavior?  That’s entirely possible.

Back to the unmodified part: assuming you aren’t skirting warranty issues with an non-stock engine tune (that pushes the boundaries of “safe” aftermarket air-fuel ratios) or aftermarket suspension bits, etc. you aren’t likely to break anything large enough to justify the cost of the warranty.

My gut says no, don’t get an extended warranty.  Instead get a local mechanic that you trust, and use places like Rockauto and eBay for getting spares. But if the peace of mind suits you, stick with the factory (i.e. Ford ESP) warranty and shop around: perhaps you can get it for less by emailing dealerships across the country.


Send your queries to Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice. 

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A Visit To Ford’s Wind Tunnel To Look At The New Mustang’s Slick Aero Tricks Sat, 01 Mar 2014 18:00:55 +0000

Click here to view the embedded video.

Click on the settings icon in the menu bar of the video above to watch it in 2D or your choice of 3D formats.

The second best part about the job of writing about cars is not getting to drive expensive cars for free or being flown to resorts with Jacuzzi tubs. No, the second best part about the gig is that I get to see and do some very cool car guy things. How many of you have watched film or video of a car being tested in a wind tunnel and thought to yourself, “that’s neat!”? Well, this week I got to observe the new 2015 Ford Mustang’s aerodynamic features demonstrated in one of those neat wind tunnels.

As part of the publicity campaign leading up to the April introduction of the all-new 2015 Ford Mustang, Ford is going to have a series of presentations to Detroit area automotive media types and they kicked it off with a visit to FoMoCo’s Driveability Testing  Facility in Allen Park. The DTF contains a number of test cells that allow Ford engineers to duplicate just about any temperature, altitude or meteorological condition (including snow and hail) a driver might experience. Three of the test cells are wind tunnels large enough to test full size cars and Ford’s marketing and engineering folks had a preproduction black 2015 Mustang GT coupe sitting in one of them.

After Kemal Curić, who was in charge of exterior design on the new Mustang, did a walkaround, pointing out the various aerodynamic features of the car, they fired up the fans to 30 mph and a technician used a smoke wand so we could actually see just how effective those features are.

Click here to view the embedded video.

When the 2015 Mustang finally hits the showrooms later this year, you may not notice the differences, but each of the models has been fine tuned for aerodynamic balance. Ford says that they spent twice as much time on the new Mustang’s aerodynamic performance as on the outgoing model. Much of that work was done in the digital domain, which can work at a very fine granular resolution that can’t be replicated with real-world pressure sensors or physical tufts, but still everything is subjected to real-world testing with real airflow in a wind tunnel.


Some of the changes are almost imperceptible, for example, raising or shaving the surface of the rear deck lid by as little as 1 millimeter will have an observable and significant effect. Each model, Ecoboost 4, V6 or GT, has slightly different aero features and if you order the performance package on the GT, that gets its own special wind-cheating tricks. For example, EcoBoost powered Mustangs will feature active grille shutters that close to reduce drag at higher speeds. Different front splitters and functional rear underbody air extractors were developed for each model. The front fascia on all models incorporates ducts that create aero wheel curtains that isolate the spinning wheels and tires from turbulence, a first for Ford.

Wheel aero curtains on the 2015 Mustang

Wheel aero curtains on the 2015 Mustang

Most of the work is aimed at reducing turbulence and hence drag by keeping the airflow closely attached to the car body’s surface as it passes the car. With the smoke wand set right at the leading edge of the hood, the trail smoothly runs from the nose of the car up over the roof and then down the fastback roofline and over the integrated spoiler on the deck lid. It’s only when the smoke is finally trailing the car that you see any turbulence, though as it transitions past the functional cold air intake for the engine at the base of the windshield you can see the eddies curling air down into the induction system.


Another of the aero features of the front end are functional air extractors in the hood. Not only do they prevent air pressure from building up under the hood, Curić said that they actually create downforce. Moving back along the car, the side mirrors have been moved from the window frame down to a stalk on the door. That aerodynamically isolates the mirror from the body, allowing laminar flow along the window. The mirror itself has been shaped so that air flows smoothly around and past it. A side skirt below the rocker panel works with the front splitter to keep underbody airflow separate from the upper air. One aero device you might not notice is a small flap spoiler mounted under the car just in front of each rear wheel, intended to smooth the flow of air around the rear tires.


The rear decklid of the new Mustang GT is the collaborative product of the designers, aerodynamicists and the manufacturing engineers. You may not realize this when you see the complex shapes on modern cars, but there’s a constant struggle between the designers and the body engineers over what is possible, or more importantly, what is possible at a price point. The decklid on the 2015 Mustang is a relatively complicated shape, particularly because they decided on an integrated spoiler, not a bolt on part. It’s one thing to get a clay model to perform well in the wind tunnel, it’s another thing to be able to reproduce that shape in metal or plastic production parts.


One reason why they don’t just rely on testing aero with fluid dynamics in the digital domain is that the wind tunnel isn’t just used for aerodynamics. Microphone arrays mounted above and to the side of the car are used to measure noise and are part of the process of reducing NVH. Interior sound measurements are taken with the audio equivalent of crash test dummies, but I was told that exterior measurements correlate well with how much noise there is inside the car, which makes sense.

IMG_0027At the event I learned a little bit about how they do wind tunnel testing at Ford and how that affects the way the new Mustang looks and drives. I also learned a bit about just how serious the Ford engineers and designers are about wringing out a small percentage improvement here and another one there. When it comes to aero, all those little things add up. Though they wouldn’t cite a specific drag coefficient, we were told that the new Mustang is 3% better in terms of aerodynamics than the 2014 model, yielding a 1% improvement in highway fuel economy. As you can see from the acoustic testing, though, it’s not only about miles per gallon.

Almost one in five Mustangs that are sold currently are convertibles. Before the wind tunnel presentation we heard about the Webasto supplied folding roof on the new Mustang convertible and how it’s quieter, goes up and down faster (an electromechanical drive replaces hydraulics), folds flatter, looks better both up and down, and, yes, has better aerodynamics than the ragtop on the outgoing model. The old roof had three supporting bows, a vinyl outer skin and an inexpensive inner skin. The new roof has an additional bow to give the roof better shape, the outside is fabric, the inside is real headlining material and between them, for the first time on a Mustang, is a layer of sound and heat insulating foam. One of the reporters asked them if the improvements were made in response to consumer feedback. The Ford engineer replied that yes, they had gotten feedback indicating that Mustang owners wanted a quieter car, and then, almost as an aside, he said, they wanted to give the new Mustang a better roof in general.

It’s quite difficult to convey to people just how massive an undertaking it is to develop a new car. I’m sure that what I saw at Ford is duplicated at every major car company. Because of this job I get a peak behind the curtain now and then and I get to pay attention to the men and women working behind that curtain. However, instead of charlatans pulling levers projecting the image of greatness, there are lots of very hardworking people making great efforts at incremental improvements that, taken cumulatively, positively impact our experiences as drivers and car owners.

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can get a parallax view at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS

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A Love Story: A Woman, Her Mustang, and Her Man Sat, 08 Feb 2014 16:00:01 +0000 IMG_0166

Carroll Shelby rather famously derided the original Ford Falcon-based first generation Mustang as a “secretary’s car”, and he wasn’t far from the mark. Young, single working women were one of the original target markets for the original pony car and you can see that from period advertisements for the Mustang. In 1964, as the Mustang approached its official sales date of April 17th of that year, Gail Brown was 22 years old, just graduated from the Chicago Teachers College, still living with her parents, and exactly the kind of young woman Ford wanted as their customer. In today’s hindsight, her mom’s ’57 Ford Fairlane that Gail drove to work every day was a pretty cool car, but she wanted her own wheels. She wasn’t entirely sure what she wanted, but it had to be cool and it had to be a convertible. Since the Browns were a Ford family, on April 15th, 1964 Gail went to Johnson Ford in Chicago.


Nothing in the showroom excited her, but the salesman decided to bend a couple of rules and took her to a storage area in the back lot where a car was hidden under a cover. Pulling back the cover, the salesman showed Gail a loaded powder blue 1965 Mustang, complete with Rally Pac instruments, a 260 V8 (the 260 was the first version of what in time would become the 289), and most important, a convertible top. Though the Mustang wasn’t supposed to officially go on sale until two days later on the 17th on the month, Gail loved the car so much that she persuaded the dealer to sell it to her, making her the first known retail owner of a Mustang.


Gail may have been single, but she had a college sweetheart, Tom Wise, who was serving on board a nuclear powered missile submarine during the height of the cold war. He was the envy of many of his shipmates, having a pretty girlfriend with a convertible that he could drive when he visited her on leave. He did eventually buy his own car, a base  Chevy Biscayne that he ordered before his ship left on assignment and was ready when he next got shore leave.

They married in 1966 and started their family in the suburbs of Chicago. Now if you had your choice of driving a stripper full size Chevy or a well equipped Mustang convertible with a V8, you’d understand why Tom used the Mustang as his daily driver in nice weather. Besides, they had a growing family and Gail had an easier time fitting their kids in the back seat of the the Chevy. After years of fun and  faithful service, a recalcitrant carburetor put the Mustang in their garage, where it sat for 27 years. After they retired, in 2007, Tom started what became a three year full restoration of the car. Though they paid someone to do the body and paint work, Tom did most of the assembly work, done to a very high standard, himself.


As you might expect, the Wises have a cordial relationship with Ford Motor Company. I first met them a couple of months ago when Ford revealed the all-new 2015 Mustang. The lobby of Ford’s conference center in Dearborn was filled with historic Mustangs including the Wise’s ’64 1/2 convertible. Not far away from their car was Mustang VIN #001, also a convertible, in Wimbledon white. That white Mustang was part of Ford’s display for the new Mustang at the Detroit auto show. As mentioned, the Wises live in the Chicago area, so for the vintage part of the Mustang display at the Chicago Auto Show, Ford put their blue pony car in a place of honor in Ford’s exhibit at McCormick Place.


That’s where I met them for the second time, with what they describe as a family member, their now 50  year old car. Mr. Wise told me that the car is in great demand by organizers of Mustang and Ford car shows and they take it to a lot events. It’s pretty obvious that the Wises have a lot of affection for their car and the company that made it. Tom’s current daily driver is a Ford Escape and he told me that he’s very happy with the little SUV. Even more obvious is the affection that the Wises have for each other. A fifty year old, one family car is a rarity, but these days, a marriage that has spanned five decades may be even rarer.

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can get a parallax view at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS

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Piston Slap: In Accordance with Wants and Needs Mon, 30 Dec 2013 13:39:46 +0000

Matt writes:

Hi Sajeev!

I submitted a question last year about which SUV/CUV we should buy to replace my wife’s 2005 Odyssey.  I admit that I may have embellished my description of some of her thoughts and feedback during that process when I submitted my question the last time–mostly in the spirit of satire.  Well, some of the B&B didn’t catch on to that and they ended up flaming her pretty badly.  I was so excited to see your response that I showed the post to her before reading through the comments. She’s more thorough than me and did continue on into the comments.

To make a long story short, it wasn’t pretty for me.  

Fortunately, we’re still married and we replaced the Ody with a 2013 Highlander Limited, initially Steve Lang’s suggestion, and seconded by several commenters.  She’s had it now since March and is generally pretty happy with it.

Since my experience went so well the last time (/sarcasm), I thought I’d submit another one related to my 2001 Honda Accord EX 4 cyl. with 122,000 miles.

I can’t really say anything bad about it.  Sure, it’s on its 3rd transmission, but two of those failures were within months of each other, and since the last one was put in about 7-8 years ago, I’ve not had any problems.  It’s in fine shape cosmetically with no rust, though the alloy wheels are starting to get a bit rough.  At my last oil change, my mechanic said everything looks really good underneath and in the engine compartment and he expects it will live a long time.  The inside is clean, though some of the rubberized plastic on the center console is getting a bit sticky due to UV exposure.  Basically, nothing is wrong with it, and I don’t expect any expensive repairs any time soon.  The only other part that’s needed replacement was the timing belt at 100K.

I use the car mainly as a commuter (13 miles one-way on country back roads through the corn fields) and errand runner around town.  It might take 1-2 longer trips per year (< 400 miles), but that’s rare.  It gets driven much less in the summer since I bought a motorcycle for getting back and forth to work.

Obviously, I don’t need to replace the car for any reason, other than I’ve been driving it for 12 years and am in the mood for a change.  I saw the new Accord, and really liked the looks of it.  That got me thinking about new cars in general.  I don’t honestly know what I would replace it with.  Lots of vehicles on the wish list (Ram 1500, Mustang GT, Mazda 6, Honda Accord, Chrysler 300 V-8, Jeep Grand Cherokee), but that’s not really at the heart of this question.  It’s more about whether I should keep it or move on.

I’m generally a keeper (obviously), and find pleasure in not wasting, whether it’s money, energy, time, etc.  There’s something I enjoy about hanging on to something that has plenty of life left in it.  As long as the thing doesn’t look like a complete hooptie, I enjoy it.  My 9 year-old son is also quite fond of the car and has informed me that he wants it when he turns 16.  Also, considering the way in which I use, it, there’s really no need for another vehicle (though there are plenty of days I dream about how easy that home project would be with a pick-up).

On the other hand…

It seems like cars have come so far in the last 12 years, and I wouldn’t mind enjoying some of the comfort and convenience features that can now be had.  I really am a bit of gear head at heart, and I do tire of constantly reading about (and lusting after) new cars, but doing nothing about it.  As much as I enjoy being a keeper, there is part of me that says “to heck with it, just get that rear-drive car with the manual transmission and V8 that you’ve always wanted!”

Sajeev, I’m conflicted.  What is a man to do?


P.S.  I’m pretty sure a panther will not scratch that itch…sorry.

Sajeev answers:

Pro Tip: consider a heavily depreciated Ford Econoline conversion van instead of Panther Love if you put words in your wife’s mouth again…cuz you’ll be sleepin’ in the street, son! 

I don’t recall my previous suggestions, it’s impossible to Google considering the number of cringe-worthy instances when a reader gives an incorrect elaboration on/assumption of the needs of one’s spouse.  (Never mind, the B&B found it, thanks!) And, with your marriage in mind, I can’t tell you to repress/take action on your lust for a newer, more tech savvy, more exciting machine.  Because your Accord sounds like a peach and we got bigger problems in life.

I consider you to be a lucky man to be in such a position. My advice?

  1. Test Drive any car you might possibly want, within the confines of your budget and future expenses.  You know, things like the kid’s college tuition, a new roof, divorce lawyer, etc.
  2. Rent something with all the toys/gadgets for a week.
  3. Ask your wife and do whatever she says.
  4. Get an Executive Decision Maker and run with it.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Send your queries to Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice. 
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2015 Ford Mustang “Body in White” Coming w/ Ford 9″ Axle Tue, 17 Dec 2013 19:32:37 +0000 2015 Mustang

I was there when Ford debuted its new-for-1999 Mustang Cobra with its “revolutionary” new independent rear suspension. The IRS was a first for the Ford Mustang, and it was a move that Ford’s brass believed would allow the “new edge” Cobra to compete with cars like the BMW M3 for supremacy in the budget super car market. I also remember the very first question that was asked: Will a Ford 9″ bolt in? It was the first question, right out of the box … and it seems like someone at Ford remembers. The new-for-2015 Mustang is going to hit dealers with a new independent rear suspension late next year, and it seems like Ford Racing will have a 9″ live axle option ready.

According to a Ford Racing employee at PRI, the live-axle version of the 2015 Ford Mustang is expected to debut at next year’s PRI show as part of a new “body in white” program intended to attract serious racers to the platform. The body in white 2015 Mustang will also serve to take some of the shine off of bitter rival Chevrolet’s current COPO Camaro and body in white Camaro programs.

Once the live-axle 2015 Mustang racers are out “in the wild”, the parts needed to convert street-going Mustangs from independent rear suspensions to the 9″ setup should become available through Ford Racing and participating dealers. Back in 1999, SVT engineer Eric Zinkosky said the “new independent rear suspension (was packaged) in not only the same space as the solid-axle design, but we had to use the same suspension mounting points. We virtually ‘reverse-engineered’ the IRS from the known suspension hardpoints, and we had to keep everything inside the same box.” Assuming similar thinking went into the upcoming Ford Racing 9″ suspension for the bodies in white, getting a solid axle to help get a high-horsepower Ecoboost Mustang’s power down should be a lot easier than many have feared.


About my source: While I have opted to not give his name, this information came to me from a Ford Racing employee on-hand at the 2013 PRI Show yesterday, 12DEC2013, when I asked if I could look under the hood of the (supposedly) 4 cyl. Ecoboost Mustang spinning on the big lazy Susan at the Ford Racing stand. He said no. I told another PRI old-timer the story about the 1999 Cobra IRS reveal, which the Ford Racing rep overheard. He laughed and said, “Yeah, that’s not ’til next year. We’ll probably announce it at the same time as the body in white program …” but he got called away before he could say “That’s off the record.” Take that how you will.


Originally published on Gas 2.

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American Graffiti – X Sun, 15 Dec 2013 12:00:08 +0000 Click here to view the embedded video.

Way back in 1973, a relatively young and inexperienced director by the name of George Lucas made a movie that starred a whole bunch of nobodies. Called “American Graffiti,” it turned out to be the little movie that could. Co-Produced by Francis Ford Coppola and Gary Kurtz for just $775,000, it went on to become one of the most profitable films of all time, making an estimated $200 million dollars and, in the process, turned several of those “nobodies,” people like Ron Howard, Harrison Ford, Richard Dreyfus, Suzanne Summers, and Cindy Williams, into bankable stars. In 1995, the National Library of Congress declared it to be “culturally, historically and aesthetically significant” and selected it for preservation by adding it to the National Film Registry.

For those of you who haven’t seen it, I won’t ruin the story by revealing any of the finer points of the plot. Generally speaking, it is the story of teenage angst and antics set amid classic cars and punctuated by great old-time rock and roll music and the action follows several teens on a hot August night in the far away year of 1962 as they cruise their cars around the California town of Modesto in search of action and adventure. The movie hit theaters just as the first wave of the baby boom generation, people born between 1946 and 64, began to close-in on the ripe old age of 30 and to see it now is to look back upon the days of their youth through the rose colored glasses of nostalgia.

It has taken me a long time to appreciate it. I was all of 7 years old when American Graffiti went into theatrical release and didn’t actually sit down and watch it until VCRs became commonplace in the American home sometime in the early 1980s. Frankly, I didn‘t get it. For me, a founding member of Generation X who was born in 1966, the movie seemed a cloying tale of ancient silliness that had long since been wiped away the decades that had followed them. I think now, however, that the real problem was that, even though I was the same age as the kids depicted, I would never have done the things they did. Having nothing real in common with any of the characters, I ended up listening to the dated, but admittedly wonderful, soundtrack and watching that old Detroit iron endlessly circling the town. In that regard, at least, the movie reflected a reality that I actually knew. That’s because, despite the 20 years that had elapsed between the action depicted in American Graffiti and the tawdry days of my own youth, virtually nothing had changed.

Yours truly, master of the pin-stripe tape.

Yours truly, master of the pin-stripe tape.

I got my driver’s license in early 1983 and by my senior year of high school, 1984, my Nova and I were a regular part of the street scene. My car, armed with a six cylinder and a three on the tree, was never competitive but, thanks to my ability with pin stripe tape and a set of rallye wheels that came from my brother Tracy I had a good looking little cruiser that was both reliable and about as fuel efficient as I could get. It was my buddies who had the heavy iron, Rick with his Javelin at first and later a 69 Charger and Denny with a 340 Demon, who carried the honor of our small group. Even so, we were never the “fast guys.”

The fast guys were older than us. Already working solid $4.00 and hour jobs 40 hours a week, they had real money to throw at their cars. There was Jim, who had an Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser with a 442 front end grafted on. It wasn’t fast, but it was custom. Then came Dave, whose father owned a local body shop, who had a wickedly fast 68 Camaro but who spent most of his time selling and smoking pot rather than actually racing. Next was Bob, who had a custom bodied Comet Caliente that mounted square headlights above a front spoiler do big we called it “The Bulldozer.” And finally Tye, our own local hot-rodder who had finished school just a year earlier. His 68 Mustang had none of the shine or polish the other cars enjoyed, but he worked relentlessly to make it just a little bit faster each week.

Perhaps it was because their cars were so similar beneath the skin, or perhaps it was because, when everything was said and done, they were both a couple of jerks way down deep inside, but for some reason Bob and Tye who should have been, in my opinion, friends were instead mortal enemies. I remember them now, a couple of wanna-be toughs in greasy pants and with cigarettes dangling from their lower lips as they glowered at one another from opposite ends of our local video game arcade’s parking lot. They got there early and staked out their spots, their supporters filling in around them while the rest of us endlessly circled around like a giant school of fish.

Like stags in the rutting season, each boy was compelled to trumpet his prowess in the loudest way possible and every so often, one or the other would jump into his car to start and rev his uncorked engine. If we were lucky, the other boy would respond to the challenge and a burn off contest would ensue. Back and forth it would go, the pressure of imminent conflict gradually increasing by the hour as the witching hour drew nigh. Then, just before midnight, when most of us had to be home, both boys would lead their troops to the battlefield.

Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

We had a special spot close to the Everett Boeing 747/777 assembly plant. The factory is immense and tens of thousands of people work there. Every shift change floods the roadway with commuters and as a result the plant is served by its own 6 lane wide highway spur. At one end, close to the factory gate is a stoplight to control ingress and egress from the huge parking lots that line the roadway and approximately ¼ mile away is a giant overhead sign that directs traffic onto the main highway, East to Mukilteo or West to Everett. The course was wide, safe and, at anytime other than shift change, totally desolate.

The two caravans of cars, and those of us who had dared to break our curfews to become hangers on, would converge on the spot just prior to the main event. Looking back on it now, the local police had to know what we were doing but for the most part they left us alone. Generally they were good to us so long as we were good to them and, unlike the movie (spoiler alert!) we played no shenanigans. Usually we would get about 30 minutes on-site before a single cruiser would roll through with its lights on reminding us that we needed to go home.

In that 30 minutes we had, however, the ritual was unvaried. Bob and Tye would stage up singly and make a practice run while the other watched. Final adjustments would be made and burn offs would follow. At last, the night culminated as they came to the lone, door handle to door handle.

The stoplight switched to green and both drivers hammered the gas. The sound of their Fords’ engines pounded the night and reflecting back at us off the wall of the factory as the two cars accelerated. Bob hit his shifts perfectly while Tye’s automatic did the work for him as they came out of the hole and ran up to speed. It was neck and neck and then, slowly the Bob’s Bulldozer began to inch away. He stretched out his lead to one car length as then two before they passed the finish line. The winner would slow and turn, making a victory lap along the line of kids while the loser, unwilling to face the jeers of the masses, would continue up the on ramp and onto the freeway.

With the main movers done, the rest of us would take our own turns. Rick or Denny would take on all comers, sometimes winning sometimes losing, while I looked for someone whose engine was as deficient in acceleration as my own lest I be beaten to a pulp every time. There was never money involved, we never had more than a few dollars in our pockets anyhow, it was all for fun and, perhaps, just a bit of pride. And then, as he 30 minute mark would approach, that single police cruiser would come and, as quickly as it started, it would end.

At the end of the movie, we get to find out what happened to the kids those “nobodies” played. As the credits rolled, a single subtitled line told us their fates. Without ruining for you, all I can say is that some of them went far in life and some of them didn’t. I would imagine it is the same for the kids I knew too. Some of us have found our way to places no one would ever have believed we could go while others of us still struggle. The one thing we have in common now are those nights and the heady days that came at the ends of our own childhoods. Maybe one day, someone will make a movie about that.

Snohomish High School Auto Shop 1983/84

Snohomish High School Auto Shop 1983/84

Thomas Kreutzer currently lives in Buffalo, New York with his wife and three children but has spent most of his adult life overseas. He has lived in Japan for 9 years, Jamaica for 2 and spent almost 5 years as a US Merchant Mariner serving primarily in the Pacific. A long time auto and motorcycle enthusiast, he has pursued his hobbies whenever possible. He also enjoys writing and public speaking where, according to his wife, his favorite subject is himself.

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Sunday Stories: “A Father’s Obligation” by Thomas Kreutzer Sun, 08 Dec 2013 14:00:17 +0000 Several months ago, when he assumed the editorial responsibility for the The Truth About Cars, Jack Baruth made a the readers several promises. Among those promises was a commitment that this web site’s home page would be “100% work safe.” Anyone, he said, should be able to visit this website any time and not have their career put in danger. NSFW material could still be published, he promised, but it would always come with a warning and be kept behind a link.

This week, I found out first-hand that he meant what he said. Ladies and gentlemen, the following story begins with certain language that, if taken out of context by someone in your place of employment, might get some of you into trouble. Click the following Sunday Story link at your own peril.

I look forward to reading your thoughts on this work in the comment section. – TMK


The girl snapped her eyes shut and reflexively turned her face away from the stream of cock sauce an instant before it struck. Time dilated and James watched in slow motion as gooey mixture impacted the gentle curve of her cheek and then sprayed in every direction. The blast painted the side of her face, spattered up into her hair and dribbled down onto the front of her obviously expensive dress. The girl’s mother shrieked, her sister giggled and her father, an enormous stern-looking man, silently studied the boy who had just sullied his daughter. The man‘s expression showed nothing but James knew he was being judged. His entire unhappy life flashed before his eyes, replayed in its entirety from his ignoble beginning and culminating in the night’s events. From there, the future stretched without cheer or hope towards an oppressive black horizon.

They weren’t the kind of people who usually ate at the Pho-King. The Vietnamese noodle shop was one of those places that attracted business with a large neon sign that read “You’ll love our Pho-King soup!” and its usual customers were broke college kids and working class families on tight budgets. This family seemed above such silliness but, for whatever reason, on this night they had chosen the fluorescent lights and plastic place mats of the Pho-King over the many better restaurants in town. The other customers could only watch and wonder why.

The matriarch was a stunning Asian beauty who spoke in the gentle tones of exotically accented English. Impossibly petite, with flawless make up, impeccable clothes and expensive jewelry, she had the look of a trophy wife. The father was a broad shouldered Caucasian with salt-and-pepper hair who, despite his age, was impressively fit with massive biceps – “guns” the Frat guys would call them thought James. The man’s clothes were nowhere near as expensive as his wife’s but his attention to the fine details of his appearance, the Rolex watch on his wrist and the high powered European sedan that had quickly attracted James’ attention when it first rolled into the parking lot told the world he was a man of real means.

The couple’s two daughters were as different from one another as the two parents. The older girl, the one James had just hosed down with hot pepper sauce, favored her mother and was a small Asian American beauty with soft brown eyes, clear olive skin and long auburn hair that fell in long, naturally curly ringlets down to the middle of her back. The other girl, around sixteen years old and just as pretty as her mom and sister, favored her father. She was already a head taller than the other two women and had the hard, muscular look of an athlete. Telephone in hand, she giggled happily at her sister’s misfortune as she filmed the scene. “This is Pho-king hilarious!” she snorted.

Time reasserted itself and James, in a panic, seized a napkin and swiped at the girl’s face, carefully trying to sweep the mixture of red peppers and vinegar away from her eyes. Thank God she had quick reflexes he thought as he cursed his own carelessness. She could have really been hurt, he realized. Why on Earth had he decided the bottle needed to be shaken up before he added the pepper sauce to her plate? He had been trying to impress her, he knew, and a wave of shame swept over him.

He knew her, of course, her name was Sachi. They went to the same college and they often found themselves together in the classes. They had been paired countless times for group projects and made a good team. James was smart, maybe a little too nerdy according to some girls, but he was a popular choice for joint assignments as he usually did the lion’s share of the work. But Sachi wasn’t a free rider, he knew. Perhaps she wasn’t as cerebral as James liked to think he was, but she did her fair share and, he had to acknowledge, her contributions always made their projects better.

They had, over time, gained a mutual respect for one another’s abilities and an odd “Beauty and the Beast” sort of friendship had taken root. Not long after that, James found that his heart began beat faster whenever she was near. He wanted to be with her, but there were always papers to write, tests to study for and, of course, his own difficult work schedule in the way. He just didn’t have the time, at least that’s what he told himself, but the truth was that he had learned early in life that pretty girls like Sachi didn’t date nerds like him. To ask her out was to court rejection and so, he had taken a different course.

He had done his best to seem casual as he passed her the 50% off coupon and invited her to come and visit him at work. He never really thought she would actually follow through and when the girl arrived that very night with her whole family in tow, James had nearly lost his mind. That she had come at all meant something important, he knew, but exactly what he could not fathom. The uncertainty made him nervous and the added stress of facing her mother, father and sister had driven him towards panic. He had felt sick to his stomach when they had come in, but he did his best to rise to the occasion. Things had been going well until…

The father spoke sharply and his tone had the hint of a real threat to it. “Yuri, put that damn camera away. If this ends up on the internet you’ll be off-line and at home for a month.”

The girl filmed for a moment more, gave a heavy sigh and rolled her eyes before putting the phone away. The mother, meanwhile, dug through her purse and pulled out a small bag of wet wipes. Gently pushing the boy’s hands away from her daughter, she cleaned the girl’s face and then tried to blot away at the stain on the dress before it could set. The daughter objected and there was a brief exchange in a foreign language. A moment later, they both stood and headed towards the rest room, the mother still fussing over the girl like a hen over a baby chick.

James stammered an apology but no one seemed be listening. He turned his attention to the mess on the table and had almost finished cleaning when the manager arrived. “Looks like you’ll be paying for this family’s dinner tonight.” He said ominously. James nodded without looking up, it was better that way. A day’s lost wages would be a burden, he knew, but it was fair. He’d probably get asked to pay for Sachi’s dry cleaning, too. Damn, would there ever be a time when money wasn’t an issue?

After cleaning up the mess, James took a 15 minute break and exited the kitchen via the back door. He needed to decompress and the parking lot was the only real option. He liked cars and for some reason being around them always made him feel calmer. Behind the wheel of his Mustang the world made sense. He wasn’t the world’s greatest driver, he knew, but when he was in the driver‘s seat, he could go anywhere his heart desired. He looked at his car and wished he could slip into it now and slink away but he had a meal to pay for and he needed the hours. Escape was impossible but, at the very least, Sachi and her family would be gone when he got back. Of course, he would still have to face her at school on Monday. He shivered at the thought.

The curvaceous shape of the expensive sedan on the far side of the parking lot caught the boy’s eye and, awestruck, James wandered towards it without thinking. Sleek and powerful, the car hunkered in its space like a predator waiting to pounce. It was beautiful, thought James, more art than machine. He stopped at a respectful distance as he admired the car’s lines in the in the unnatural brightness of the streetlights. He would never own anything like it, he realized suddenly. Even after he had graduated, a teacher’s salary would never pay for something like this. He hadn’t guessed that Sachi’s parents had this kind of wealth and, feeling suddenly foolish, he hung his head.

For a big man, Sachi’s father was surprisingly stealthy and James was startled by the man’s sudden presence at his side. The two men stood together silently, both eyeing the grand car while they each searched for the words that would bridge the gap between them. As the silence stretched out, James reached down deep and found the courage to speak. “Nice car.” he squeaked.

The man smiled and looked at the youth. “Thanks.” he answered. “When I was young, I couldn’t have imagined that one day I might own something like that.” He gestured towards the car with his chin. “Sometimes, life takes you places you never thought you could go. You just have to keep getting back up every time you fall down.”

James had been expecting a rebuke and was surprised at the man’s gentle tone. He searched for something else to say but Sachi’s father continued, “Your boss wouldn’t let us pay our bill.” he said seriously. “Is he really going to make you pay for our dinner out of your own pocket?”

James nodded. “Yes.” he answered. “But it’s OK. I ruined your dinner, and Sachi’s dress and, well,” his voice broke, “everything.”

“The entire bill came to about $50.” said the man. “There were times in my life when that much money was a day or two of hard work. That’s a high price to pay for what was obviously an accident.” The big man fished out his wallet, withdrew a $100 bill and offered it to the boy.

James gaped at the money, too afraid to take it. The older man responded to the boy’s silence by stuffing it into the pocket of the younger man’s apron. “My daughter says good things about you.” he continued. “That you’re smart, funny and that you want to be a high school teacher when you graduate from college.”

James was dumbfounded. Sachi talked about him? To her parents? It was too much to believe.

“Looks to me like you’re earnest and hard working too.” the man added. “Those are qualities that I find a many young men lack these days.” Sachi’s father paused and, for the second time that night, James felt he was being judged.

The expression on Sachi’s father’s face softened ever so slightly. “You know,” he said at last, “lots of boys call our house asking to speak to our daughters but Sachi has good sense when it comes to people and most of them don’t get very far. Tonight, when she insisted that we spend our family Friday here, I knew it was important.” He shook his head. “Not my kind of food to be honest, but a father has an obligation to help their children get what they want in life.”

Before James had time to think about what the words might have meant the door to the restaurant opened and the three women came out in a group, Sachi’s mom still fussing over her eldest daughter while the younger girl tittered and laughed at her big sister’s distress. Sachi saw the two men standing together and broke from the others as her mother and sister went to the car. She approached the men furtively, sidling up to her father and taking him by the hand. “Daddy,” she asked in the sly little voice she used when she wanted something. “You’re not hassling James, are you?”

“Well,” replied her father with the hint of humor in his voice, “he did assault my daughter, did he not?”

“It was just a silly accident.” she argued playfully. She looked at James, her face radiant and the boy suddenly flushed deep red in response. Was it possible to see someone blush under the streetlights?

“We were just talking about cars.” replied the big man as he shot the boy a wink.

“You’re always talking about cars, daddy.” she teased. Her tone brightened suddenly, “Did I tell you that James promised me a ride in his Mustang?”

A ride? Had he really promised her a ride? The boy’s mind raced but he was finding it difficult to think. Something was happening but he wasn’t quite sure what.

The big man hugged his daughter with one arm and put his other hand on James’ shoulder. “That’s great.” he answered. “I’m looking forward to talking with him some more when he comes to pick you up. It’ll be nice to have someone around who appreciates fast cars for a change.”

The big man guided the two kids together, placed his daughter’s hand in the boy’s and muttered something about starting the car as he turned to go. But the words were lost to the night. Sachi’s touch was electric and for the second time that night James’ entire life flashed before his eyes. Only this time, when the vision had ended, cheer and hope and begun to bloom and, out on the distant horizon, the sun was rising.


Thomas Kreutzer currently lives in Buffalo, New York with his wife and three children but has spent most of his adult life overseas. He has lived in Japan for 9 years, Jamaica for 2 and spent almost 5 years as a US Merchant Mariner serving primarily in the Pacific. A long time auto and motorcycle enthusiast, he has pursued his hobbies whenever possible. He also enjoys writing and public speaking where, according to his wife, his favorite subject is himself.

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Bark’s Bites: A Moment of Appreciation for Depreciation Mon, 02 Dec 2013 14:18:26 +0000 barkflex

Everybody on the internet knows that buying new cars is just plain stupid. New cars, after all, are just “depreciating hunks of metal.” New cars depreciate an average of 20% immediately, and then go down another 15% each year after that, according to sources such as KBB and Edmunds. According to every message board I’ve ever read, buying a new car will probably cause you to lose your house, get divorced, and be sent to the Chateau d’If for thirteen years.

But how true is that? And if it is true, does it matter? Let’s find out.

Like the best scientists (and by the best scientists, I mean Norman Osborn), I made the decision to test this theory myself several years ago, albeit not necessary intentionally. Since 2000, I have bought five cars for myself, all of them new. In order:

2000 Hyundai Tiburon (bought new in March 2000)

2001 Hyundai Santa Fe (bought new in June 2001)

2004 Mazda RX-8 (bought new in May 2005)

2009 Pontiac G8 GT (bought new in October of 2008)

2013 Ford Boss 302 (bought new in June 2012)

Each car was financed over a sixty month term, and only the Tiburon had any sort of cash down payment (you can read about how that happened in my epic tale of short-lived 944 ownership). Each car was traded in on its successor at a franchise dealership. In other words, I did exactly what you’re NOT supposed to do. How did it work out?

The longest I kept any car was nearly four years. The shortest was a little over a year. In each case, I either got out even up (Tiburon, Santa Fe) or I had positive equity on my trade(RX-8, G8). So, essentially, I leased the cars for varying terms from sixteen to forty-six months. How did I manage to do this without taking massive financial losses?

1) Negotiate the hell out of the price on the front end. With the exception of the Boss (which, at that point, was seeing an average of $5K-10K ADM), I paid significantly less than invoice for the car. My best purchase was on the RX-8. For a car that stickered at just over $30k, I paid $22,500, which included a $4K factory rebate and $4K of dealer markdown. I was able to accomplish this due to my patience and willing to buy a car from the previous model year six months into the current model year. It took over two weeks of negotiating to make this happen, including walking away from the deal entirely twice only to have the dealer call me back. Use everything that’s available to you. Maybe your employer is a GM supplier-find out. Get invoice numbers, not only on the base car but on options. Dealers HATE how much information is available to consumers now-more than one dealer has said it’s impossible to make money on the front end of a sale of a new car. Use it all. You’re not there to make friends. Which leads me to…

2) Finance, finance, finance-but only at a good rate. It’s amazing to me how many people will battle like crazy on the price of a car only to give it all back in the Finance and Insurance office. If you have a beacon score of at least 700 (and that’s auto-adjusted, meaning that even if you’ve missed a credit card payment or two over the years but you’ve paid your car on time, you should be fine), there is NO REASON to ever, ever pay more than whatever the best promotional rate available is. If you’re at least a 660, you can still negotiate down to a very good rate-nothing more than 3.9% over sixty months. Anything that’s less than the rate of inflation is essentially free money. I was able to get zero percent for 60 months on the G8, so the payments I was making three years into my schedule were actually worth about six or seven percent less in actual dollars than the payments I was making in my first year. If the dealership is trying to hit you with a rate over five percent, it’s because the F and I guy is getting spiffed on every point above and beyond standard rates he can get you to agree to. Back-end profits are about all a dealer has left nowadays-don’t give it away. Know your score before you go in and, even better, pre-arrange financing with your own financial institution so you have an offer in your pocket.

3) Try to buy interesting, desirable cars. Most modern dealers will have some sort of desirability index that they reference when deciding what value they give your trade. It grades the supply of similar vehicles in the market compared to the market demand for that vehicle. If you have a 2011 Ford Fusion, you are screwed. The supply of these vehicles far outweighs the demand. Get ready to battle. If you have a 2009 Jeep Wrangler with low miles, feel free to sit on your hands and wait for the offers to come in. I was able to leverage this in two cases-my RX-8 and my Tiburon (and if I’d been willing to wait a little bit longer, my G8, too). I got crushed on my Santa Fe. Nobody wanted a Hyundai with nearly 100,000 miles on it. Part of my two-week negotiation with the Mazda dealer on my RX-8 was getting them to just get me out of the Santa Fe even up; they initially offered a value that was four thousand dollars less than my remaining payoff. The cooler and more interesting your car is when you buy it, the cooler and more interesting it will be when you go to trade it in. But even if you have a lame car…

4) Dealers need to take in trades for their business model to work. Auction prices are out of control. Dealers both want and need trades-in fact, they are keeping stuff now that they never, ever would have before. It’s no longer crazy to go in asking for retail price for your car. You might not necessarily get it, but you might not be that far off, especially if the used car manager has a prospective customer for your car. I had a used car manager stalk me on my G8 for weeks, even after I traded it in elsewhere-he asked if I had any other friends with G8s.

5) Buy cars when the OEM/Dealer needs to sell it to you. Dealers have OEM new car targets that they have to hit. In fact, it’s one of the few ways that they can make money on new car sales anymore. And for some marques, the very existence of the franchise can be at stake if they don’t make targets. The whole thing about buying cars at the end of the year/quarter? It’s totally true. I have always bought cars on the last weekend of the month, and always when there is additional cash on the hood (again, with the exception of the Boss 302). Buy from struggling dealers. That guy that advertises that he’s the number one franchise dealer in town? Avoid his store like the plague. Buy from the desperate dealer. It matters.
But let’s say you take all of my advice-you’re still going to lose SOME money. After all, unless you bought a 993, you DID buy a depreciating asset. And even if you buy used, you’re STILL going to lose money.

Here’s my advice. Accept that buying a car, virtually any car, is a money loser. Don’t lose sleep over it. Enjoy it. Remember that if you’re reading TTAC, you’re probably an enthusiast. You’re buying a car because, on some level, you enjoy driving. You enjoy car ownership. Every day that I’ve owned my Boss 302 is a day that I’ve been able to enjoy it. The guy who’s waiting two years for it to depreciate forty percent? I’m enjoying my car for two years longer than he will. Maybe that’s worth forty percent to me. If this sort of thing matters to you, I got it when it was new and hot. He’ll get it when there’s a newer, hotter model of Mustang being sold at Ford stores. Maybe that means I’ll enjoy it more.
When you buy your dream car brand new, and then when you have the incredible nerve to finance it, rest assured; the Internet will call you an idiot. Who cares. You’ve got your dream car. In my experience, there have been few better days than the days I drove my new cars into my driveway for the first time. I sincerely hope you have the chance to share that same experience.

And tell the Internet to go to Hell. After all, it’s your money.

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Future Ford Product Teased Just Before Debut, May Monitor Driver’s Health Fri, 29 Nov 2013 16:07:37 +0000 mustangtease

Checking out, the site Ford has set up to livestream video from their upcoming reveal of the all-new 2015 Mustang, it appears that the teaser video may include exterior and interior views of the new car, along with the possibility that the 50th anniversary version of Ford’s pony car will actually monitor the driver’s health.



While mentioning that Ford executives will be present for “major product reveals”, the video references “remarkable technologies” while a list of technology features scroll on the screen. Included among features like Fully Automated Parking, SYNC Emergency Assist and Lane Keep Assist are two features that appear to have the ability to monitor the driver’s health: ECG Heart Rate Monitoring and Glucose Level Monitoring. Some cars today can record all sorts of performance data. Extending a car’s information technology to record the driver’s ‘performance’ levels as well is a logical next step.


Of course, it’s just a promotional video. The driver monitoring technologies might be science fiction and the images might not be of the new Mustang but the fact that those health measurements are included on that list shows that at the very least, someone in Dearborn is thinking about them.

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can get a parallax view at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS

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QOTD: What’s The Best Retro Mustang? Fri, 18 Oct 2013 15:39:24 +0000

(Let’s all welcome Zombie McQuestionbot back to TTAC. He’s a well-known and well-loved writer who is now writing for “bigger” and “better” and “more easily recognized” and “less thoroughly despised” outlets than this one, but we managed to convince him to write a few questions for us — JB)

Mustangs. I know, right? I almost bought a Mustang once. Actually, I did buy a Mustang. I was in the American South on my way to see an actual underground bullfight, with a bull and everything. But it turned out that the two-year-old “Mustang” that I agreed to pay five thousand dollars for in a back room of a Mexican restaurant was actually a Mustang.

You know, a horse.

The good news is that “Trigger” and I had plenty of good years together before I let him retire to a farm in Oregon. For “plenty of good years” subtitute “one drunken night”. And for “a farm in Oregon” substitute “the glue factory”. Oh, how I cried when they led Trigger away. Mostly because he’d stepped on my foot. But that isn’t the kind of Mustang we’re talking about here. The retro Mustang’s been around since 2005. What’s your favorite one?

Let’s start with the first generation. There was the Mustang V6, which was so bad that owning one is an actual legal cause for divorce in three southern states and Delaware. There was the Mustang GT, which had three hundred horsepower from a giant V-8 that made a lot of noise and once was used to power the world’s most powerful Sybian. Next up, we had the Mustang GT California Special, which was never purchased by anyone in California for the same reasons that you never see Aussies ordering a Bloomin’ Onion at the Outback Steakhouse.

Last but not least, we had the Shelby GT500, which had five hundred horsepower and was named in tribute to the original Shelby GT500, which did not.

Even more last but not least, we had the Mustang Bullitt, which was a nice way to have a tribute to Steve McQueen without having to pay Steve McQueen’s estate anything for doing it. One time I borrowed a Mustang Bullitt and drove it all the way to New York to participate in a high-stakes private poker game. The whole time there it kept punching me in the back every time I drove over an expansion joint. Eventually I gave up on the idea of using the freeway. By the time I got to the poker game, the only people left were James Bond and Le Chiffre, who thought I was making fun of him because I was bleeding from my left eye. I had to explain to him that it was just the ox-cart rear axle that made me that way.

I think there was also a Shelby GT-H, which was rented by Hertz to car collectors who never gave them back. “Send me the bill,” they’d say, and cackle as they stroked their Persian cats.

The original 2005 Mustang was so awesome that Ford decided not to change it for 2010. They just left it in an oven to melt a little bit. There was some concern about the interior melting as well, but it turned out that the plastic on the dashboard was so hard that it refused to melt. Instead, it actually transferred the heat to the nose of the car and made it look all droopy.

A drunken mistake by Alan Mullalllally while watching the Vanilla Ice movie, “Cool As Ice”, forced Ford to immediately put 5.0 engines in the 2011 model. These engines were actually twice as powerful as the original Mustang 5.0, which meant that it should have been a Mustang 10.0. Unfortunately, the average Mustang owner can’t count that high, so they left it as 5.0.

The original Mustang 5.0 was actually a 4.9. But Mustang owners didn’t understand the decimal system, so Ford called it the 5.0.

The new Mustang has spawned multiple variants — the Durable Technical V-6, which is not durable and has the “technical” solid rear axle. There’s the GT Track Pack, for both of the Mustang GT owners in America who think tracks have right turns, too. The California Special is back and it sells very well in Ohio.

Last but not least is the Boss 302. This car is more expensive than a used Corvette, which has always been the case for new Mustangs. Supposedly it’s very fast, but probably not as fast as a CTS-V.

If you’ve always wanted a Boss 302 your whole life since they came out two years ago, you might also be satisfied with a Hertz Penske GT, which is being rented from Hertz directly to collectors who will not be giving them back. I was an at airport recently, on my way to party with the guy who used to date the girl who sat next to Lindsay Lohan in her most recent rehab circle. I asked for an “Adrenaline” car, so they gave me a Dodge Challenger SRT. It was so obviously made for older people that I wasn’t surprised that one of the buttons on the steering wheel was labeled “Fallen And Can’t Get Up.”

All of these Mustangs are classics, but only one can be your favorite. So which will it be?

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Mustang Mayhem, The Rest of The Story Thu, 19 Sep 2013 16:07:54 +0000 2012 Mustang Mayhem, courtesy of Ford

2012 Mustang Mayhem, courtesy of Ford


TTAC’s own EIC pro tem was published in July pitting a V-6 Mustang Mayhem package against a Toyota FR-S and a used Porsche Boxster. I found myself discussing this with a car friendly, but non-gearhead boss. He asked if I knew the origin of the name. “Of course,” I replied, “It was named in a contest on Facebook.”

Well, as it turns out, there might be more to that story.

PJ O’Rourke wrote that Americans are “…the big boys, Jack, the original, giant, economy-sized, new and improved butt kickers of all time.” Sure, we have our issues, but when we get out of our own way, what we accomplish is amazing.

In 1945, the 8th Army Air Corps had a problem. The German Luftwaffe would not die and would come up and fight. So on April 16th, they took the fight to them. 900 fighters, including the mighty P-51 Mustang left the cold rock in the north Atlantic along with 1,200 bombers. The fighters strafed and destroyed over 750 aircraft in an event that became known as Mustang Mayhem. Among them was the 4th Fighter Group. The 4th would finish the war with over 1,000 aircraft destroyed.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Today, the 4th FG flies the F-15E “Strike Eagle” from Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in North Carolina. An F-15 modified for a ground attack role, each F-15E carries more destructive capability than an entire squadron of B-17s in WWII.

Last year, the 4th Fighter Group remembered what Americans can do, and set about to show the world. The 4th set the ambitious goal of taxing every F-15E in their inventory, with a goal of putting 70 into the air and hitting over 1,000 simulated targets.

Click here to view the embedded video.

As a nod to their heritage they called it Mustang Mayhem.

If North Carolina had chosen April 16th 2012 to secede from the union, they would have had one of the most powerful Air Forces in the world in terms of delivering raw devastation. Because that day, ninety-eight of the meanest machines to ever spin a turbine taxied onto the runway at Seymour Johnson.


Not Mustangs, but definitely mayhem

Not Mustangs, but definitely mayhem

Maybe someone on Facebook had some historical knowledge and the name caught on. I think it sounds pretty cool, others aren’t sure. It’s completely possible this is all a coincidence. Regardless, if you own one of these Mustangs, enjoy it. Because when we get out of own way, we can do amazing things.

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Piston Slap: Because Nobody Lies on Craigslist! Wed, 07 Aug 2013 12:07:54 +0000

Walt writes:

Mr. Mehta,

I am seriously considering purchasing a 1965 Mustang Fastback from a private seller on craigslist. He owes $3000 on the vehicle. I myself will have to take out a loan to pay for said car. The title to the car is held by the same institution that will be lending me the money. The situation is somewhat further complicated because this institution has no local branches to sit down with a representative and the current payer on the car to do the necessary paperwork. Compounding the issue is the fact that I live in a different state, 200 miles from the car’s location.

Bottom line, I would like to know how to go about this to achieve these objectives:

– My money goes to the rightful person or institution
– I get the proper paperwork to take possession of the vehicle
– The seller is legally compelled and bound to sign the title over to me when I have paid my loan
– I minimize my trips to and from the car’s location

This is my first ever car purchase (worry not, I own another reliable car) so please let me know if I have my facts wrong about the process. Provided these circumstances are not completely heinous and indicative of a potentially bad situation for me, I would like to move forward with my purchase.

Sajeev answers:

OMG…did I really just read that?

Everything here sounds like a unique twist on the typical craigslist scam. If you can’t get a trustworthy, third-party local to sort out this complete Charlie Foxtrot, run like hell. I see nothing worth pursuing in your letter…and not just because I think Fox Mustangs are better than any Pony Car from the 1960s.

And FWIW, needing a loan to buy a classic money pit is a horrible idea. And that’s putting it mildly! If you can’t afford it now, how on earth can you afford the repairs that will come sooner rather than later?  Everything can and will go bad, even the new parts you put on could be defective…it happens all the time!

Come on, Son! Even if the craigslist seller is on the level, you have to pass this one up until your savings account matches your passion for antique vehicles.

(Offline Update from Walt: In the end I decided to pass on the car.  Too much money and too much of a hassle for what was being offered.  I read TTAC daily and enjoy your articles, so keep up the good work!) 


Send your queries to Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice. 

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Junkyard Find: 1979 Ford Mustang “Indy 500 Pace Car Edition” Thu, 11 Jul 2013 13:00:28 +0000 05 - 1979 Ford Mustang Indy 500 Pace Car Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin1979 was the first year for the Fox Platform Mustang, and Ford celebrated by grabbing the rights to show off their new machine at the 1979 Indianapolis 500. You could buy a street version of the Indy 500 Mustang pace car, and many did. Many others, a few years later, bought the galloping-horses-and-tape-stripes decal kit for their non-Pace Car Edition Mustangs. I’m pretty sure that this car— which I found in a California self-service yard— belongs in the latter group… but not completely sure.

This car was so much better than the Pinto-based Mustang that preceded it (not to mention the bloated early-70s monstrosities that preceded that car) that Jackie Stewart had no problems finding nice things to say about it.
08 - 1979 Ford Mustang Indy 500 Pace Car Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe true pace car ’79s were all painted in “pewter,” which this suspiciously primer-looking paint might have been, 34 years ago.
01 - 1979 Ford Mustang Indy 500 Pace Car Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinYou can see a bit of the crazy op art upholstery that was used in all the 1979 Pace Car Editions.
06 - 1979 Ford Mustang Indy 500 Pace Car Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinPace Car Edition ’79 Mustangs came with a choice of the 302-cubic-inch V8 or the turbocharged 2300 “Pinto” engine. This here is the non-turbocharged Pinto engine. You decide— is this a garden-variety four-banger Fox Mustang, worth scrap value, or a genuine special edition pace car, worth twice scrap value?

01 - 1979 Ford Mustang Indy 500 Pace Car Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 02 - 1979 Ford Mustang Indy 500 Pace Car Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 03 - 1979 Ford Mustang Indy 500 Pace Car Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 04 - 1979 Ford Mustang Indy 500 Pace Car Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 05 - 1979 Ford Mustang Indy 500 Pace Car Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 06 - 1979 Ford Mustang Indy 500 Pace Car Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 07 - 1979 Ford Mustang Indy 500 Pace Car Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 08 - 1979 Ford Mustang Indy 500 Pace Car Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 09 - 1979 Ford Mustang Indy 500 Pace Car Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 10 - 1979 Ford Mustang Indy 500 Pace Car Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 11 - 1979 Ford Mustang Indy 500 Pace Car Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin ]]> 66
49 Years of Mustang Advertising Mon, 22 Apr 2013 15:01:30 +0000

We’re told that the “pony car” era started when the 1964 1/2 Mustang was introduced at the New York World’s Fair on April 17, 1964. Actually, the Plymouth Barracuda beat the Mustang to the market by 16 days, but the Mustang made a huge impression, which is why they’re called pony cars and not fish cars. Ford has already started with their 50th anniversary celebrations, and of course you’ll be able to buy your choice of merchandise with the golden anniversary logo, which uses a version of the font used for the Mustang’s 5.0 liter engine logo. By April 17th of next year you may be sick of hearing about Lee Iacocca’s pride and joy, but in the meantime, please enjoy 49 years of Mustang advertising.


Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can dig deeper at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks – RJS
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Piston Slap: One of “Those People…” Wed, 17 Apr 2013 10:00:49 +0000 TTAC Commentator MNM4EVER writes:

A mechanic friend of mine has a 1993 LX 5.0 w/AOD in slightly rough condition he is looking to get rid of. I can pick it up now, complete but not running, for $1800. If I do not buy it, he plans to get it running but otherwise not fix it up and sell it for $3k or so.

My goal for my potential Mustang is to resto-mod it… 4.6L Cobra motor, track suspension, Cobra disc brakes all around, restore the interior but replace the seats, maybe even swap in a later 94-2004 dash, etc. Since I am looking to replace much of the major components of the car, a rough project car is a definite option for me.

But this rough car needs a lot of other things replaced too… all of the exterior moldings are weathered and degrading thanks to sitting in the Florida sun, the interior is trashed all around, paint is very bad, the body has dings and cracked plastic bumpers, surface rust has set in on many places and a little rust appears on the hatch edges, etc. I am guessing I would need to strip it completely and spend around $2k on bodywork to get it fixed, but then it would be showroom new. But the idea of replacing all those moldings and interior parts scares me… sh!t adds up fast.

So my long drawn out question: Is this a good buy at $1800? Or should I keep looking for a closer to mint Mustang for $5-7k that only needs minor restoration and mechanical upgrades as I see fit?

Sajeev answers:

So basically NOTHING on this Fox Mustang is up to your standards.  Honestly, it’s a horrible example of Fox-aliciousness for anyone at $1800. Even if it had a T-5 (stick), this is a $1000 Fox as it sits…on a good day. $1800 if it was complete and fully assembled? Somewhat likely.

You are one of “those people” that demands a nice car and will pay big money to make it right. For you people (what do you mean YOU people?) there’s no substitute for buying the cleanest, most pristine example you can afford. $5000 or more for a clean Fox Mustang isn’t unreasonable, and that’s right for you.

Once more: buy the cleanest, most pristine example you can afford.

And when you do, you better not put the later model dash in there…that’s just wrong for the rest of the body and a complete waste of a nice car.

MNM4EVER writes:

Well, since I consider you the expert on Fox bodies (too bad 5.0 Mustangs are lamesauce and Fox Lincolns/Cougars/Granadas/etc. rule – SM) , I figured there was no one better to help with my decision. I have been considering picking up a 90-93 Mustang hatch, preferably an LX 5.0 with a stick. I don’t want a convertible, I don’t like the GT look, and I don’t want a notchback. I remember back in the day the notch was considered super rare and therefore more desirable, but today it seems like they are everywhere. I know they are lighter, I don’t care, I like the hatchback look.

This will be a long term project/driver, and will definitely get upgraded suspension and brakes, wheels, seats, and I want 300-350hp. The dilemma is that nice LX 5.0 hatches are hard to find, especially in the condition I want it. I want a nice clean interior, I don’t want a beat on drag car or a rusted banged up body, in the end I want this car to be better than new and bodywork is very expensive. I can do most mechanical and all interior work myself, but I can’t paint or fix rust and dents. Down here in Florida it seems to be easier to find mint condition 4-cyl Mustangs, many owned by elderly people with low miles, and definitely never beat on. And since they are not V8s, they are CHEAP, much less than the V8s I see for sale.

So how hard is it to do an engine and trans swap into a 4-cyl Fox body and build it up the way I want it, compared to starting with a 5.0 platform? I don’t know how many differences there are in the chassis between them. I know even 5.0 cars need chassis bracing, I am going to change out the suspension and brakes anyway, etc. And no, I don’t want to turbo the 4-cyl, I want a V8 this time. To compare, I found a pretty nice all original LX 5.0 hatch with an auto and 68k miles for $7k, but I also found a just as nice, newer 4cyl LX hatch with 48k miles for $3k.

Any advice would be appreciated!

Sajeev concludes:

When it comes to Fox bodies, always remember the first rule of modification: chassis bracing uber alles. That means subframe connectors (get the ones that bolt to the seat bottoms, weld to the subframes) a G-load brace for the front subframe and a 3-point strut tower brace.  Not much extra weight, and it changes the car for the better. You will notice the difference behind the wheel in a matter of FEET, not miles.

If you only want less than 400hp (at the wheels), stick with the stock small block Ford (SBF) and upgrade the heads/cam/intake to make that up. For a street car, I’d recommend a power adder (Whipplecharger) and the appropriate camshaft to make it sing. And apparently Mr. John Kasse is finally making a set of heads that will put the 5.0 V8 a little closer to your garden variety LSX motor.** If you buy your parts wisely, the SBF will be a good fit for your needs and not be a huge money pit. If you plan on paying someone for the motor work, save yourself the expense of a non-SBF motor swap and build a good SBF that will drop right in with zero drama.

Now about the 4-cyl to 5.0 swap: it’s a huge pain in the butt because the wiring harness must be changed (alternator, interior stuff, etc.). Not fun. But if you have the two Mustangs side-by-side and a long weekend ahead of you, you can do it.  And be miserable…in the short term.

Good luck in your hunt.  But take heed to my parting shot, son:


Send your queries to Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

**Obviously the all-aluminum LSX-FTW swap is the ideal answer, but sometimes its cheaper (parts and labor) to accomplish almost the same thing with the factory correct engine block.  I am always torn between a 5.0 or an LS in a Fox Body, in cases where less than 400 horses is needed on a reasonable budget. The stock SBF is still a good motor in certain applications, and I am pretty sure this is one of those cases. This ain’t no wheezy four-banger or a gutless V6. And the SBF sounds better than any LSX, so there’s that.

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Tales From The Cooler: The Persian Conversion Fri, 01 Mar 2013 10:00:43 +0000

You are looking at the rarest Mercedes-Benz vehicle ever built: a 2011 GLK350 AMG that I spotted last week. How uncommon is this SUV? The exact production number was zero as that model does not exist. It appears the owner of the car added an AMG emblem to its hatch, part of an epidemic of de-badge and re-badge engineering happening here in Southern California. 

When my father bought the first 1964 Mustang in our small Midwestern town, we drew a crowd of people everywhere we stopped. The only problem was the “260″ V-8 emblems on our fenders instead of the coveted “289 High Performance” tags. I soon learned folks were buying the Hi-Po emblems and sticking them on their Stangs. I believe the original Mustangs marked the start of the Emblem Manipulation Era.

Here in you-are-what-you-drive land, you can spot examples on a daily basis, like a BMW 328i magically transformed into an M3. There are many Chrysler 300s running around with Hemi badges that are actually V-6s. Some conversions are just plain dumb, like the 1988 Cadillac Coupe De Ville GT that Murilee recently unearthed. Word is that former NBA star Shaquille O’Neal once bought a Mercedes-Benz S500 and transformed it into the world’s first S1000. Even more curious are the people referenced in the title of this story who sometimes remove all the emblems from their rides.

The motivation of these individuals is not always to impress their neighbors – during my Chrysler used cars days a decade ago, we had more than one customer try to trade in their Grand Cherokee 2-wheel-drive adorned with “4 X 4″ badges on its flanks. There are no doubt dealers who failed to check the drivetrain on such trades and thus allowed $1500 too much, just as the closed-mouth clients had hoped.

At least one automaker will not be party to this game – if you are looking for a Ferrari emblem for your Fiat 500, you are out of luck as Ferrari retailers reportedly ask for proof of ownership before they fork one over.

Have you ever seen, or God forbid participated in, a case of re-badge engineering?


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Vellum Venom Vignette: More Cluster Commotions? Sun, 13 Jan 2013 18:09:42 +0000

Question #1. TTAC commentator Seminole95 writes:

Sajeev, I have another question for you.

Why do auto manufacturers increasingly make cars with hard to read speedometers? I was thinking of buying a Mustang, but I could not tell easily how fast I was going. The new Accord speedometer is harder to read than previous models.

My commute speed limit is 45 mph. I set the cruise at 54, because I have been told that police don’t start ticketing until you get 10 mph over the limit. I can’t see the 54 mph tick easily when the speedometer is hard to read.

Sajeev Answers:

Why? For the same reason they give us no rearward visibility! They don’t care about style with substance. And cameras/TV screens are cheap to install, and a nice option package for you to buy. If you can’t see behind you or look at your gauges, don’t worry: THERE IS A TV SCREEN YOU CAN USE INSTEAD. Woot!

Agreed on the 2005-up Mustang gauge cluster’s horrible ergonomics. But then again, we love our retro Mustang-Clydesdale design (not me)…don’t we? The worst was definitely the first Bullitt Mustang (branded) of the SN-95 variety. It was the one that set the bad precedent. The one that told common sense to go pound sand.

OH NOES WTF IS GOING ON?!? Or conversely: I’m Steve McQueen biatch, I don’t care how fast I’m going!!!

Question #2. Anonymous writes:

In the vein of ATS cluster article, what gives with the speedo on my new-ish Golf?

Up to 80mph, it’s one metric and above 80 it’s another. Before I noticed the disparity, I thought I was cruising along at 85mph because I had the needle pegged on the unmarked tick above 80. Little did I realize I was going 90, because I normally have the display set to fuel economy, not the digital speedo. What was VW thinking?

Sajeev Answers:

Dude are you really trying to hold your phone, snap a photo while exceeding (probably) the speed limit?  I’ve seen worse, but still…COME ON SON! I gotta slap wrists, and make this one Anonymous.

I don’t have a big problem with this setup, as there is enough space between the letters and a seasoned owner learns the denomination change over.  I’m not saying that VW gave you the best cluster but it’s okay.  Even without the redundant digi-gauge in the center!

Okay, I’m lying, I do have a problem with the cluster: 160mph? Really?  In a Golf? This is a good speedo for a high-performance model, exclusively.  Case in point:


This is the cluster from my 1988 Mercury Cougar XR-7.  Sort of, because it’s a Fox body bastard like everything else in my ride.  I added two different Thunderbird Turbo Coupe tachometers (1985 for the face, 1987 for the guts) and the stupid-rare Ford Motorsport 140 MPH speedometer.

Two design beefs: Yes, I have a factory looking 24PSI boost gauge, but I don’t have a turbo on my 5.0L V8…yet. Yes, this speedo is better than the factory unit (85MPH) but the selection of big numbers to highlight isn’t logical (115MPH?). But they chose the highlights that make it flow nicely.

Is this Cougar a bad design too?  Not really.  The speedometer is odd, but awesome.  Considering Ford Motorsport actually made a proper speedo for a unique vehicle (Thunderbird/Cougar only) this is impressive.  It makes me wonder if the Thunderbird Turbo Coupe was actually used by certain government agencies with alphabet names and covert operations. 

You know, covert operations demand a 140MPH speedometer in your jet black Turbo Coupe. Maybe someone at Ford knows the truth, as we all love the myth(?) of the Buick Grand National Turbos supposedly bought by the CIA. And how that somehow inspired the insane Buick GNX. Fiction is fun!

But your Golf? Not really. Just give it a boring speedometer, and let some idiot like me upgrade it with the Golf R unit several decades from now.

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American Irony: This Facebook Page Will Destroy Your Faith In Humanity Thu, 20 Dec 2012 15:36:06 +0000

It must have seemed like a good idea at the time: in the wake of a national event that has a lot of people looking for a legislative solution, start a Facebook page which ostensibly calls for the banning of another controversial piece of machinery. As Generalfeldmarschall von Moltke once wrote, however, no plan survives the first contact with the enemy.

The Facebook page is question is called Ban The Ford Mustang and it contains a combination of deliberately provocative graphics like the one above and pictures of accident scenes where a Mustang was involved. The implication is that Mustangs are responsible for none of the fatalities; rather, it’s the drivers’ own incompetence or recklessness that caused the deaths. Since nobody is calling for Mustangs to be banned due to their high-speed capacity, presumably firearms in private hands should be extended the same courtesy.

There are a couple of problems with this analogy. The first one is that there are certainly a reasonable number of people who would be alive today had they chosen to purchase a Toyota Yaris instead of a Mustang. Fast cars get to dangerous speeds faster and many people are more prone to speeding and reckless behavior if they are behind the wheel of a fast car.

The second problem is that there are people calling for fast cars to be banned, whether for purposes of public safety or to prevent excessive resource consumption. It’s not a common viewpoint in the United States; anti-sports-car people here tend to use the soft attack of ridicule. But in the EU, it’s already been suggested once, and a quick trawl through the English-language Singapore and Hong Kong blogs shows it’s not exactly a forbidden concept over there.

Of course, the merits of the analogy have been lost on a significant percentage of the site’s commenters, who appear to take the call for the Mustang’s removal from public roads entirely seriously.

Yes, that man’s wearing a “5.0″ sweatshirt. At least he spelled “pussy” correctly, placing him easily in the top quartile of intellectual capacity among the people responding to the page. A common complaint among these people is that the page is a plot by a disaffected Camaro owner hoping to ensure marketplace supremacy for the porky Chevrolet by actually having the Mustang removed from showrooms. Others want a similar page made for the Challenger, just in the interest of fairness, and also because the HEMI sucks balls.

In the end, “Ban The Ford Mustang” could be said to make precisely the point it had hoped to counter: people not only can’t be trusted to own guns, or Mustangs, they can’t be trusted to own anything, a computer least of all. This modern-day Jonathan Swift has found out that some people would eat children.

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Monday Mileage Midget: 8,193 Miles On A 1997 Chevy Camaro Z28 Mon, 17 Dec 2012 17:27:41 +0000

Let’s say you had to move out of the country. Forever.

There are only so many things you can take with you. A few pieces of furniture. Family albums. Your antique collection of 1970′s beer bottles.

The play car you rarely drive… has to be ditched. So you unload it at a nearby dealership and hope for the best.

It’s hard to believe. But what you see here is the real McCoy. A soon to be 16 year old Camaro Z28 with all of 8,193 miles.

By 1997 these Camaros had nearly caught up with the Mustangs in terms of sales volume. 100k for a Mustang. 95k for the Camaro. Throw in a healthy five-figure sales volume for the Firebird, and it seemed like the F-bodies would indeed endure for the long run.

Then something happened… and that something was nothing. GM more or less let both models shrivel on the vines of cost containment and amortization until May 2001 when, after only about 29k sales, GM finally pulled the plug on the last great cheap Chevy musclecar. Sales were so bad at this point that many of these models had to be badged as 2002 models to remain marketable.


Just look at that interior.A cheap, drab, plastic fantastic. I can tell you from personal experience that the dashboard alone shatters with frightening normalcy while nearly everything else just falls apart over the course of time.

Cheap seats. Cheap doors. Cheap dash. It was as if all the old accountants from the Roger Smith era had a party and all the retirees from the finance division were invited as well.  I’m sure you could find some 1980′s parts bin surplus if you looked hard enough.

Which is a shame. Because these vehicles are an absolute blast to drive. I recently got a 1997 Firebird model and to be frank, it offers one of the best powertrain combinations from that era. In a pure bang for the buck calculation, these F-bodies are tough to beat.

Should this one go to a museum? Ebay? A collectors garage? Beats me. However it did sell for quite a price. Feel free to make a guess and share with the Best& Brightest your F-body story du jour. Extra credit if you can associate with my home state of New Jersey.


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(Late) Monday Mileage Champion: 730,837 Miles!!! Tue, 27 Nov 2012 14:00:50 +0000

A 2000 Ford Mustang GT is not exactly a car that I would like to call a second home.

It’s a tad claustrophobic. The plastics are borderline industrial grade. And the Ford 4.6 Liter Modular V8 is not especially known for offering the level of fuel efficency needed to make this car a long-term money saver.

Thankfully, this vehicle was quickly disqualified thanks to a Carfax that showed it only had 123k miles back in 2010.

300k a year? Two years in a row? I think not!

Therefore I am awarding this week’s award to a far distant runner up. A 1999 Chevy Suburban that offered all of 414,268 miles before finally being sent to the trade-in world we affectionately call at the auctions ‘wholesale heaven’.

A loaded Suburban was once seen as an example of wealth and opulence.  Stop laughing!

This particular Suburban offered all the niceties of the Clinton Era. Thick leather seats that could fit 98% of American posteriors. A premium sound system with a cassette AND a CD player. Running boards. Tow hitch. Plastic buttons galore that all seemed to be derived from Tonka surplus.

Everything but all wheel drive and a minority interest in a nearby oil well.

These models were absolute marvels to own back when gas was hovering between $10 to $30 a barrel. Millions of Americans wanted to give themselves the infinite luxury and bloat of an SUV. Although the Suburban offered all the sophistication of a ballpienhammer, it regularly outsold every full-sized SUV in the marketplace.

The world that once was is, of course, no more. The late 1990′s were a unique time when trucks and minivans collectively outsold cars and little cars were produced mainly to susbsidize CAFE requirements and the real profit makers.

As crazy as it sounds, these large vehicles also helped out the average small car buyer back then. Strong demand for SUV’s at the auctions resulted in cheap retail prices for those smaller late model cars. In 1999 I could buy a two year old mid-level Ford Escort at the auctions for less than $6,000. Retail was only around $7500 to $8000 at best. We’re talking about a near 50% drop in price within a two year period.

Small cars were to resale value then, what Suzukis and Saabs are to resale value now. A towering financial cliff worthy of a cheapskates consideration!

On the far lower end of the market. you could have found plenty of perfectly fine $500 to $1500 cars at the auctions that needed only minor mechanical or detail work. Transportation was cheap thanks to the low price of gas and the anti-small orientation of American car buyers.

By the way folks, this particular car had no announcements on the auction block. No engine issues. No transmission lurches. Not even a scuff on the body on frame. Nothing but wholesome old-school Americana. Everything was up to snuff. Even the odometer!

I’ve always thought that Suburbans were the ultimate hoarder rides.

Want to buy some Yoohoos and never throw them away? Or a go on a neverending shopping trip?

The Suburban was nowhere near as good for that purpose as the creaky old full-sized vans that get plenty of steel storage shelves and a lipstick refresh every 10 years or so.

Too bad they drove like ox carts. On the road those full-sized vans were as appealing to the fairer sex, as scooters are to Hell’s Angels. Even dozens of conversion van outfits couldn’t stop the SUV from becoming the undisputed kings of profit; with the Suburban and Ford Explorer raking in billions for GM and Ford respectively.

With a Suburban a mom could pull a trailer along with a brood of childlike creatures and feel right at home. Except this happened to be a home where you could visit hundreds of drive through windows. Talk on a cell phone. Cut off the poor schmoe driving the Ford Escort, and enjoy a gas bill that would rarely go above forty dollars.

They sold well back in the day because they filled a need… along with a neverending list of wants.

Today despite CUV’s, crossovers, and glorified mini-wagons eating away at the Suburban’s market segment, there is still a healthy demand and profit to be had with these models.

I would even be willing to bet that if gas ever goes back to the party that was 1999, SUV sales would once again rock n’ roll.

In big countries like ours, small doesn’t sell unless big costs too much.

In the future I will miss these Suburbans… so long as I don’t see so many of them. Too much time driving a lowly Escort made me averse to all things SUV.

But how about you? Has there been a Suburban that helped you become a mobile entrepreneur? Or perhaps a LeMons hauler? What pleasent valley 1990′s styled Suburban has ever graced your driveway? Or your neighbors?

Do you think the Suburban will become the Murilee Martin hooptie of the future? Or a lurid hangover of the past?

You decide.


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New or Used: First World Problems! Fri, 12 Oct 2012 17:32:36 +0000

Travis writes:

This might seem a little frivolous, but this is a genuine dilemma that I’m currently facing right now. I’ve been looking to replace a 2006 Pontiac GTO that I’ve had for 4 years. It’s been fun, comfortable, and mildly expensive to maintain in the last year with random small but non-typical GM parts-bin stuff falling apart. I got into an accident a few days ago which pushed around the engine enough to declare the car a total loss. Lucky me me for being safe, also lucky me for not having to sell my car while also getting partial refunds on the $2700 that’s been dropped into it in the past 3 months.

I was planning on replacing it with a low mileage 2011 Mustang GT with the Brembo package. A smallish loan would cover the distance between the two cars pricewise, and I’d have a fun newer car that fulfilled everything the old one did while still being under bumper to bumper warranty.

Insurance is giving me more than I had expected and I have the option to buy back the GTO and sell it to a salvage yard if the price difference is worth the hassle. With the extra cash, the reimbursement of repairs, and possible profit on the vehicle itself, with that same loan I’d be taking out, I could afford a new 2013 GT with the Brembos and have at least a grand or two left over. Being able to comfortably afford a nice new vehicle is not something I’ve ever really had the option of in my life. My family is big on hand-me-downs, and when I got the GTO I took it over the option of getting something reasonable like a new Honda Fit. In 3 or 4 years, I’ll be inheriting a 2011 Corvette Grand Sport from the father. I know these are first world problems, and I can just imagine the jokes already but I’m seriously at a bit of a loss. The practical side of me is saying get a 2011 and don’t take out a real loan, find cash elsewhere to make up the small difference. The fun side of me is saying spoil yourself with something new that you can afford and don’t worry about anything falling off and eating your wallet for years to come. The super-sensible side of me is saying get a slightly used Malibu LTZ with a 2.4, pocket a load of cash, don’t take out a loan, and don’t enjoy driving for 3 or 4 years until you get a free corvette. What say you two?

Also, the Corvette is an automatic.

Steve answers:

Two recommendations for you.

The first is to do a little research. In the salvage auction business, there are two companies that are the 800 pound gorillas. Copart and Insurance Auto Auctions.

I would go to their web sites, call up the local branches, and see if you can get a good general idea of the vehicle’s worth. Then I would arrange the vehicle sold at one of their auctions. That way you have a large group of salvage yards, rebuilders and exporters bidding on the vehicle instead of just one.

The second is to wait for the Corvette. I would find a vehicle that satisfies your fun-o-meter while giving you a bit more practicality for whatever future needs, unexpected or otherwise, may arise. A three old sport/luxury vehicle with low miles that still comes with a healthy CPO warranty would be a pretty strong consideration.

The brands and models are endless. Audi, Acura, BMW, Cadillac, Jaguar, Lexus, Mercedes, Volvo. You may even like a Lincoln or a Saab. I would shop around a bit and find yourself a ride worth keeping for at least the next three to five years.

Sajeev answers:

I’d buy what you want now, and immediately sell Dad’s slushbox Corvette when you get it…especially if it doesn’t have Magnaride.

Or buy some beater for 3-4 years, get Dad’s Vette and sell ‘em both for a Z06/ZR1 with Magnaride. But that’s just me.

Sure, these are total #firstworldproblems. No biggie: we do this all the time.  When it comes to money and non-appliance issues, you really need to decide what you want to drive.  Mustangs are great all-around machine on the street, but a Corvette is better elsewhere.  It’s time to buckle down and decide what sporting machine you’d actually want to part with your money for.  That’s a decision for you.

That said, off to you Best and Brightest!



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Life With Shelby Part Two: Around The Track In Two Minutes And Ten Seconds (Updated With More Photographs) Wed, 10 Oct 2012 15:14:37 +0000

Let us go then, you and I,
When the Oak Tree flagger lets the blue flag fly
Like a warning for the engine-bay unable;
Let us go, slideways through the track-out,
The supercharger shouts
And restless Vettes with small-blocks spinning hard
And sundry other so-called fast cars
Moving to the right like a conga line
The four-lobe whine
To lead you to an overwhelming question…
Oh, do not ask, “What is it?”
This GT500 is tha shiznit.

Hard over the crest of VIR’s back straight and this almost unspeakably mighty car is cutting the morning fog in two with the violence of a cruise missile sonic-booming under the radar ceiling and my Blue-group student is starting to regret his ride-along with widening eyes and that C6 blocking me at the Oak Tree exit is a blurry memory in the mirror and I am grabbing fifth now and down the backside we thunder and now the wind has a physical force in the cabin on my face and a couple of gas-station receipts tornado-stutter-spin between us and the speedometer has force in the motion, man, one-fifty one-fifty-five one-sixty one-sixty-five spin the dial arrow marker hard on the brakes and there is nothing, the pedal moans and the pads are suspended from the rotors by the infernal combustion burning the material into a millimeter cushion of murderous free-floating gas and I push through it and the ABS chatters and we bounce up the hill past the curb it’s still anyone’s guess and my student is cringing now eek eek SQUEAK SQUEAL SLAM fifth to fourth ROAR fourth to third ROAR SQUEAK BOOM SQUEAK off the brakes and down the Rollercoaster with the five point four (edit: five point eight!) lunging us towards the exit curb on hot tires and the student says


and I say


When we last left our 2013 Shelby GT500 test car, it was fresh from a meeting with its hardcore track sibling and was on the way to Virginia International Raceway via the backroads of rural Kentucky. I loved the big-hearted Ford the same way I’ve loved pretty much every Mustang built since 2005. Hell, as a former CMC-class racer I love all the Mustangs from 1979 forwards. But not all loves are the same; I love the V-6 Mustang the way I love a trusty female friend and I love this Shelby-that-should-be-called-SVT-Cobra the way I love the woman who sits at the center of my blackened heart, pulling the strings that make me gasp for breath when I see her picture or hear her voice.

A slight mix-up with the nice people at Ford — who provided this lovely car to me at no charge and even made sure the tank was full when it arrived, I don’t feel the need to do some bullshit Jalopnik-style hipper-than-thou disclosure which implies I’m so above it all that I feel no emotion upon receiving the keys to a 662-horsepower automobile — meant that the Shelby arrived with a “MyKey” that limited my ability to fuss with the stability control and steering/suspension settings. Day One at VIR I spent just running students around and running the Goodyear F1 Supercar tires down to the shadow of the cords on the outside edges. I didn’t bother to run for time because I knew I’d bump into the limits of the AdvanceTrac.

In actual use, the AdvanceTrac is charmingly unobtrusive. You really have to get the car out of shape in order for it to intervene. If I had a student learning to drive on a racetrack with one of these Cobras, I’d tell him to leave it on. Still, there are a few places on the track where it’s useful to do more than the computer allows. Sunday afternoon a package arrived from FedEx with the regular key. I turned off the systems — taking a mild breath when I did so since this is the kind of car in which uncorrected mistakes can be big — turned on my MyChron beam-timer, and headed out for a timed lap.

Let us go then, as the poet said.

As we pass the start/finish line we are chugging past 130mph and the GT500 doesn’t feel remotely out of steam. I dislike supercharged track cars for two reasons. The first is that they are subject to heat-related performance reduction, and sure enough as the day went on the GT500 found its top speed on that long back straight dropping to an indicated 160 or so. One-sixty! Hardly moving. What’s the point. But I digress. The other problem with supercharged cars is that they are strong at 1500rpm but weak as kittens at the top of the rev range. Not the Shelby. It just keeps going, and going, and churning power all the way to the amazing 7,000-rpm “temporary redline”. The car will let you run past the nominal 6250-rpm redline for up to eight seconds, and on a track you will do that over and over again.

Time to brake for Turn One. Well, here’s the bad news. This car doesn’t have close to enough brake on it. It needs the same kind of brakes you get on a Vette ZR1, because it’s fast like that and it’s heavy like an ’82 Marquis Brougham. Every lap around a racetrack with the GT500 is spent managing the brakes. They can give you a few different responses. Initially they are just kind of weak. Then the pedal travel goes long. Then the scary behavior begins as the overheated pad material vaporizes and actually holds the pads off the rotor for a moment before the pedal sinks right into an ineffectual ABS chatter. I can see why the mainstream auto press was a little scared of the Mustang on-track because the brakes are a crapshoot and the news gets worse and worse as you continue to lap. There isn’t much to hit at VIR so in each case I did my best and trusted to fate. Still, on both straights I’m braking a hundred feet early at least. The Shelby covers a hundred feet in four-tenths of a second. The cowardly lion inside me wants to make that brake point a full second earlier but where’s the glory in that?

Turns 1 and 2 can be taken in second gear if you really want to make time but the Cobra can break traction at any moment as you’re heading for Turn 3 so it requires some finesse. This is where you make money on all the slower cars running Hoosiers and adjustable suspension. The Mustang is not unwilling to turn but here you do get a sense of what that extra weight in the nose does. Compared to a Boss or a GT, it just takes some time for the Goodyears to grab and change direction. It feels a little tippy-toe here, but nothing too worrisome. Just get the thing pointed straight, if you can, and ride the lightning. A touch of left-foot braking to get the nose down and we’re into Three hard enough to get the inside wheels in the air. Grab a quick shift before having another gut-check brake into Four and Five.

We can rotate the car on the throttle at any point but that takes time off the clock and it heats up the rear tires. We need them cool and you’ll see why in about seventy seconds. Hit all the curbs and run 5a to 6 and 6a. Flat out to the bottom of the Climbing Esses and we will need to brake to an entry speed of somewhere between 120 and 125mph. The experienced VIR locals can probably do better but trust me, that speed feels like enough. This year the curbs have been paved and expanded so we can let the car run pretty straight up the hill. Unlike many cars, the Shelby can accelerate up the Esses very quickly so you’ll have to watch the throttle.

The Nine-Ten exit is frankly scary. There isn’t enough grip at these speeds to do anything other than track out and hope the front tires will catch you. Step on the brake hard for Ten and dive in on light throttle. If you apply full power too early, the GT500 will step out on the back of the hill and that, my friend, is how you will hit the wall at ninety-five miles per hour. Unlike my Boxster, the Shelby won’t take all the engine’s torque if the outside wheels are on the curb. Not today in these kind of humid conditions, anyway. It’s a finesse thing all the way down the hill.

There’s no sense trying to do Eleven right. You have too much momentum. Smoke-chatter the poor brakes and rotate for Oak Tree and the exit to the back straight. I took this turn in third for most of Saturday but on Sunday I grabbed second for the extra tenths of a second it might offer. So help me G-d if you do not have the wheel straight in this car when you are in second gear on hot tires it will slap your face so let’s exit the way Ross Bentley told me, clean and smooth.

Now it’s a drag race and the Shelby can’t break 160 due to the heat. With yesterday’s cooler air I’d have another eight mph in pocket. With decent brakes and cool air I’d have another twelve. Maybe fifteen. 175 on a road course! It’s sexy, brother. In practice the GT500 must be braked at the “arrow” before the first brake marker and even then it’s a dicey airborne ABS-bounce up the “prototype line” to 14a.

On the downhill, we can spin the tires at will so throttle modulation is the order of the day. I’d thought initially I could get through Turn 16 without the brakes but that’s stupid, it kills your exit. So let’s use the left foot here. Around this time you get the sense of why some journalists openly prefer the Scion FR-S to this car. Every mistake in the Ford is a big one.

The car bounces through 17 and squats on its suspension to 17a. If you are hasty with the throttle, as I was in my early laps, the GT500 snaps sideways and points your nose at the pitlane entrance. Silly snake! We don’t want to go there! What are you doing! You’re just a car, you don’t get to tell us where to go! Keep in mind that “hasty with the throttle” doesn’t mean “full throttle where half is called for.” In this car, it means “80% down instead of 75% down.” You aren’t really wide-open until your back wheels pass the end of the 17a curb. This is where you need those rear tires to be cool enough to grip. The time you set this lap will be heavily influenced by how careful you were in the minutes previous.

It’s a drag race again and my oh my we love those. The timer says


Racer excuses: the tires were smoked. The engine was hot. The brakes were nonexistent. A fresh GT500 in the morning on Hawk Blues is a 2:05 car. I’m pretty sure of it. But that 2:10 time is absolutely consistent with what solid track rats are seeing in stock C6 Z06es, and did I mention I set the time with a female passenger in the car, in traffic? Respect is due to the engine and the overall balance. This isn’t a one-trick pony.

It isn’t perfect. You know it isn’t. A GT-R is certainly faster, although I didn’t do anything but pass GT-Rs that weekend. But this is a car to know, then love, then eventually master. You won’t figure it out on your first trackday. The limits are so high, the power is so stupendous, the experience is humbling, really. If I could change the car in any way, I would put brakes on it. If I bought one, I would put brakes on it pronto. No question. The rest of it I’d leave alone.

The eye-watering price of $62,000 and change means that only the reasonably wealthy, or hopelessly optimistic, will be able to own one. Still, as the man once said… if you have the means, I highly recommend picking one up. This GT500 is one of the all-time greats. I love it with all the sincerity, but none of the sadness, of T.S. Eliot’s hero. No scuttling across silent seas here: the GT500 roars across the American racetrack, majestic and mighty.

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Tales From The Cooler: Owner’s Manual Shootout: 2013 Mercedes-Benz GLK350 Vs. 1968 Ford Mustang Mon, 01 Oct 2012 13:14:33 +0000

There are two cars parked in my garage that are just begging for a comparison test. A new Mercedes-Benz GLK350 has taken up temporary residence here. My wife Sally Jo is the proud owner of a pristine 1968 Mustang 302 Coupe which was purchased new by her grandfather. How could we resist not doing a comparo to find out which of these vehicles offers the better…owner’s manual?

It is to be expected  that a modern owner’s manual will be larger than one from an older car due to the myriad of new conveniences on today’s vehicles, but hold on to your hat: the GLK350′s guidebook is actually 5 separate manuals totaling a whopping 854 pages vs. the Mustang’s manual total of 53 pages.

At least 200 of those pages are devoted to “Warning Notes,” some repeated several times. Mercedes-Benz is prepared for every Lawyered-Up Nimrod who they fear will drink the wiper fluid, unlatch the hood while driving, let their kids ride unbelted, close the sunroof on their head and so on.

Thanks to Benz’s manuals being available on-line, you can download them to your phone or tablet and find a topic very quickly. The Mustang handbook is also easy to use because of its light weight and straight forward “pull this knob and push that lever and if something breaks go see your Ford Dealer” type of instructions.

Let’s go straight to the highlights:

Lost in Translation Award
: Regarding the exhaust system: “Take particular care not to park on dry grassland or harvested grain fields.”

Dire Warning Duel
GLK: “If you switch off the ignition while driving, safety-relevant functions are only available with limitations, or not at all…do not switch off the ignition while driving.”

Mustang: Regarding use of the emergency flasher switch: “It is important to push switch ALL THE WAY IN or ALL THE WAY OUT. Positions part way may cause inadvertent operation of other accessories.”

Stuck In The Mud?

GLK: “If the drive wheels get trapped on loose or muddy ground, recover the vehicle with the utmost care…pull out the vehicle backwards, if possible, using the tracks it made when it became stuck.”

Mustang: “”Rocking” the car works like a pendulum, to swing the car off a particular slippery spot. Shift rhythmically between reverse and low (“R” and “1″ {low} with Cruise-O-Matic) while keeping a gentle pressure on the accelerator.”

Happens To Our Engineers All The Time

GLK: “The vehicle is locked automatically when the ignition is switched on and the vehicle’s wheels are turning at a speed in excess of 9 mph (15 km/h). You could therefore be locked out if:

  • the vehicle is being pushed.
  • the vehicle is being towed.
  • the vehicle is on a roller dynamometer.”

Tire Talk

Mustang: “If the car is to be driven at sustained (one hour or more) speeds over 90 MPH, special high speed capability tires MUST be installed.”

GLK: From the 34-page tire tutorial: “The size description for all tires with maximum speeds of over 186 mph (300 km/h) must include “ZR” and the service specifications must be given in parentheses. Example:….”

The Good Old Days (Get Off My Lawn!)

Mustang: “If your engine cannot be started normally, a push from another car will usually get you going, provided the battery is not “dead.”

Secret Features Revealed

Mustang: The booklet features a list of available dealer-installed accessories including “Television” and “Throttle Holder” with no details provided. I assume the former would be produced by Philco and the latter would be a crude cruise control device?

GLK: You can program a “Speed Alert” with MB Customer Assistance which will notify you by voicemail or text when your car exceeds a certain MPH and the time and exact location of same. Designed to monitor teen drivers, I see it as my personal drag strip timing slip. I am setting my “Speed Alert” at 120 mph and heading for the desert this weekend!

Even After 45 Years, Some Things Do Not Change

GLK: “The more you look after the engine when it is new, the more satisfied you will be with its performance in the future. You should therefore drive at varying vehicle and engine speeds for the first 1,000 miles.”

Mustang: “…as a matter of prudence most owners avoid extended high speed operations for the first 1,000 miles. Constant speed operation should also be avoided…”

So which owner’s manual prevails? Each one answers any and all possible questions. I was stumped as to which book was better. As the FNG for this Big Time Auto Blog, I cannot leave the Best and the Brightest hanging. What would other auto writers do, I thought? I decided to go with what Motor Trend’s Angus McKenzie Phillips might say:

“Ford spends more advertising bucks with Motor Trend than does Mercedes, thus the Mustang’s manual wins!”

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