ACC Blog: A Practical Driver Ruined

People wreck cars every day, but we never talk about how a car can wreck a person.

Here’s the deal:

I recently found myself behind the wheel of a 2012 Ford Mustang GT, and in the beginning, I wasn’t too happy. First, the Grabber Blue paint looked garish and loud under the noon sun. Second, I was driving the car about 250 miles from Portland, Oregon to a gathering of fly fishing fanatics – a nerdfest – just outside of Anacortes, WA. Fly anglers drive pickups, Suburbans or 4-wheel drive station wagons. You need a ride that will carry tons of gear, fears no road or weather and has plenty of glass for the “Stop Pebble Mine” and “Catch and Release is Not an Option” stickers.

I know all this because I’m one of those nerds, and I know the rules. I dreaded showing up in rural Anacortes, Washington in a noisy, loud, fast muscle car.

And yet….

The Mustang’s 5.0-liter, all-aluminum engine slung the car down Interstate 5 with an effortless, and, yes, sexy, rumble. The specs claimed that engine had 420 horses, but I just know the car leaped from 70 mph to 100 mph almost instantly when I passed a thundering lineup of three big rigs.

The second time I had to pass a bunch of trucks, I turned off the satellite radio to hear the exhaust.

The third time, I turned off the radio and rolled down the window to really hear the rumble and growl of that V8 spooling up, burning gas and dusting big rigs. I felt like – Isaac Walton help me – I was living in “Bullitt” or some other 1960s carfest of a movie.

For the rest of the drive, I looked for lineups of big trucks. I eased onto off-ramps and then punched the car down the on-ramps.  I slipped on my Ray Bans, even though it rained most of the 160 miles from Portland to Seattle. My only regret? This car didn’t have manual transmission, and I would have felt cooler rowing through the gears and feeling the torque jump from the engine to the driveshaft.

I felt cool – damn, I was cool — until it was time to labor through horrible traffic through the Seattle Megalopolis. This car doesn’t care for stop-and-start traffic. And why should it?

I got to the event and managed to hide the car from the beady eyes of my fellow fly anglers. At the end of the evening, I eased out of the building and looked for my Subaru Outback. I then spotted the Mustang — glowing like a giant, shiny Viagra pill — under the one functioning light in the parking lot. A misty rain beaded on the paint and ran down the gleaming aluminum wheels. The car was wet, but it was really dripping sex.

It was my own, private Ford commercial.

My cold, wet angler’s heart warmed to the idea of bombing the Mustang down empty highways between Anacortes and Portland. My brain pictured the car barreling down the highway in a blur of misty rain, piercing headlights and a steely exhaust bass line.

And that’s just what happened.

As I drove – using the handy steering wheel-mounted switch to toggle between Motown, classic rock and bebop jazz on the satellite radio – I realized that this car was made to be fun. It’s fun to barrel along in a powerful car with tight steering, smooth, powerful brakes – and a useless backseat. It’s fun to hear the exhaust rumble and see the car glow under parking lot lights. It’s fun to drive for the joy of driving – the journey became the destination.

Ford made this Mustang for middle-aged guys who can afford to drop $45k or so on a fun car — and who grew when almost everyone wanted a muscle car – and the cool guys all had them. Yeah, it was made for guys like me. It helped that the driver’s seat was very comfortable and the controls made sense from the first moment the car fired up.

Old cars are amazing fun, but they’re often hard to drive. ACC has a terrific, one-of-none 1964 Nova Wagon that drips cool as it surges and rumbles down the road, but I keep waiting for the hopped-up 283 engine to rip the diff of the rear axle and spin it into the asphalt like a giant drill bit.

The 2013 Mustang GT oozes power, but the seats are comfortable — as long as you stay in the front seats — the precise steering tracks like the car is on rails and the ABS disc brakes stop the car with no drama.

I don’t want to spread sacrilege around this old-car temple, but, hey, I’ll take the Mustang.

Ford will sell a lot of Mustang GTs – as long as the cars remain proudly impractical, slightly noisy and, most importantly, make the drive all about fun rather than practicality.

I stopped for gas just outside of Tacoma – the car got an average of 25.3 miles per gallon on the highway – and another guy stared at the Mustang with open envy.

“That color is amazing,” he said.

“Yeah, I like it too,” I said.

This purely fun car wrecked me for my perfect Subaru – and most other cars on the market right now – unless I’m going fly fishing.

2013 Ford Mustang GT

Price as tested: $42,000

Equipment: 5.0-liter, 420-hp, all-aluminum, DOHC V8 engine, 6-speed automatic, electric power-assisted steering with rack and pinion gear. Four-wheel power disc brakes with ABS. 18-inch aluminum wheels. Stainless steel tubular headers.

EPA Mileage: 18/25

Likes: This car carries the resurgence of modern performance muscle to the masses — especially the masses of middle-aged guys who want to bring a lot of fun to the road for a relatively small amount of cash. The Mustang GT is a flat-out fun driver. The trunk is huge. This car was made for taking your significant other on a long drive to cozy, small hotel.

Dislikes: I could nitpick about the tiny back seat and the gaudy instrument panel, but then I would be missing the point about this car.

Fun to drive: *****

Fun to look at: ***** (at night)

Overall experience: *****

Verdict: Who would have predicted the amazing resurgence of American Muscle Cars 10 or 20 years ago? Yet, these cars offer performance, decent gas mileage and fun without breaking the bank. Best of all, keeping them on the road will not total your checking account.