The Modern Pony (updated)


 I have never owned a Ford Mustang and despite it being an American icon, I have never fawned over buying one. However, I must credit both Carroll Shelby and Chip Foose for igniting the automotive enthusiasm in my daughter that I never could on my own.
That moment will forever be crystal clear in my memory as I sat on the sofa one afternoon enjoying my VHS copy of “Gone in Sixty Seconds.”
Foose was the car guru brought on board by the studio to prep an iconic Mustang for the halo role of “Eleanor,” the mystical beast that carried a storied history with Randall Raines, played by Nicholas Cage.
 The original car chase, crash-fest film used a Mustang Mach1, but since the new story stipulated the hunt for a rare, top-end car, producer Jerry Bruckheimer picked the vast Foose knowledge, who asked, “What could be better than a Shelby GT500?”
Not just any GT500, but one caressed to be a one-off jewel and the modern version of “Eleanor” was born.
Back to my memorable experience, where my daughter walked in from high school and stood spellbound by the car she saw on the television screen.
“What is that?” she asked, never breaking her gaze.
“That’s Eleanor…”
“The car is named Eleanor,” I explained.
“Okay, but what is it?”
“It’s a 67 Shelby GT500”
“A what?”
“It’s a rare, custom, high performance version of a Mustang.”
“Whatever it is…its beautiful!”
 And just like that, she was snake-bitten and has been a fan ever since. Granted, her interests have taken her far afield from that day, but it’s as close as I’ve come to sharing my automotive passion with anyone.
 Fast forward twenty-plus years to a documentary called, “A Faster Horse.”
If you haven’t seen this film, I highly recommend giving it a look because it provides an incredible insight into the history of the Mustang. Not only that, but a unique behind-the-scenes look into what it takes to bring a car from a design sketch to a running/driving machine. That task alone is daunting enough, but when there is 50 years of history and a legacy to preserve, the stakes climb to orbit levels.
The Mustang was originally the brainchild of Lee Iacocca, who launched a small, affordable, sporty car into a market laden with land yachts. Even the executives at Ford thought him a madman, but 18 months and 1 million Mustangs later, he suddenly became a genius.
 A talented, passionate man named Dave Pericak drew the job of project manager for the 2015 Mustang and was tasked with making the car honor its heritage while doing something it had never done before…be marketable overseas. The film showcases how demanding this task was to achieve.
This idea was actually toyed with in 1984 when Detroit performance cars were suffering in the wake of emission standards and the oil crisis. Ford engineers decided to take different tack and offer a performance variant of the Mustang using more European influence. The Mustang SVO came equipped with superior suspension, brakes, and five speed manual, but its most defining feature was the 2.3L Intercooled turbo engine that cranked out 175 horsepower, easily the highest performance Mustang of the day. The popularity of the SVO never caught on against the American outcry for V8 powerplants and faded into history after only two years of production.
 Thirty years later, what was once the rare option has now become mainstream. While many snub the new pony and its 2.3L Ecoboost, I find it amazing that twin-scroll turbocharging, direct injection, intercooling and independent rear suspension are not high-end options, but entry level goodies. The modern Mustang Ecoboost delivers nearly double the power of the SVO at 310hp and 320lbs/ft of torque. It comes as no surprise the tuner crowd have already found simple, potent mods to unleash a stampede of extra ponies, rivaling the power of European counterparts.
They doubted Iacocca and many doubted Pericak, but I believe the Ecoboost Pony is here to stay. Call me over-the-hill or a sap for an underdog, but the new Mustang looks more appealing to me than ever before. I admit being swayed by the reliable performance of my Taurus (see What’s in a Name) but Ford has done an admirable job of making their cars user-friendly, filled with convenient touches and fun to drive. I have yet to drive a new Mustang Ecoboost, but it may be on my horizon.
In the meantime, I’m constantly impressed how automotive technology continues to evolve and I think the very best is yet to come. Maybe someday, my daughter and I will share a Mustang road trip, be it hers or mine and things just might come full circle.
Personally, I envision a sparkling, metallic white pearl convertible with a spoiler, splashy wheels, and an angry exhaust note, affectionately known as “Pegasus.” Isn’t it nice to know we can always dream about far more than we will ever able to get? Maybe, maybe not, but dreams are where ideas are born. Without those dreams and visionary minds, there would be no Mustangs, no Shelby Cobras and no “Eleanor.”
How sad would that be?
– T. August Green
I stopped by a Ford dealer to check out a new Mustang EcoBoost Premium Convertible.
This is an impressive car from top to bottom, inside and out. A quick half-turn of a latch and the press of a button has the top down in seconds, easily fast enough to do at a traffic light. The subwoofer for the Shaker sound system swallows one corner of the trunk, but even with the top down the amount of luggage space is truly impressive. The vast majority of drop-tops on the market can’t make that claim.
 The premium heated/cooled leather seats are very comfortable, with just enough side support, unlike the vise-grip, optional Recaro sport seats.
I’m 6’2,”and for this car to boast so much legroom is a huge comfort plus. With the seat full-back, I can extend my legs completely straight, a feat impossible in my 2013 Taurus.
The dreaded (for me) dead pedal doesn’t intrude so far into the footwell to rob space, and that was another welcome discovery.
The dash is beautifully laid out and controls are easy to reach. The row of toggle switches for steering feel, traction control and sport mode are retro-cool. Granted, the back seat doesn’t appear to be rated for human consumption so I’ll call it a padded child/luggage holder.
The EcoBoost is spunky to say the least, and if you’re the power hungry type, the aftermarket is already on board with plenty of go-faster goodies.
The 2.3 will never growl like a V8. But honestly, I’ve owned enough 4 & 6cyl cars in the last 20 years to appreciate the unique sound of a strong performer and the EcoBoost delivers with 310 stock hp. Not many cars in this price range compete with those numbers and deliver 30mpg hi-way.
I think Ford has a serious winner and with it already the new darling of the rental fleets, many a nice used example will soon be available.
My temptation just grew a step larger.

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