He tossed me the keys saying, "I won't tell if you don't."
I won't. I never will. I didn't just.
The new Mustang is a world apart from Mustangs of old. How do I know this? I have a hard-on for the pony logo; I love Mustangs. My first was a Mustang. My current is also a Mustang. One was a Fox, the other an S197 and while they are decades apart, the new S550 is light years ahead.
And I have finally been behind the wheel of a 2015 GT. Three pedals, a stick and 5.0 liters of Ford power; I was in for a treat. Oh, and it was red. Did I mention the red?
Like a little lamb to Mary, I am a Mustang follower. The new car, when but a rumor ("It will have IRS!") had me wetting my shorts weekly. Every tidbit Ford released was a hit of heroine, the pure dope. I could not live without it. Waking, I would check Twitter and throughout the day Facebook. The blogs, I followed them all. A turbo, they'd say, is definitely on the way and for the next week I would be feverishly leafing through old mags; it's the SVO two point oh! How could I have known, in those early days, all the good things would come true?
Sitting behind the wheel for the first time I heard the lyrics, "Like a virgin, touched for the very first time," race through my head. I was a slut, a Mustang whore, but here I was with a familiar burning in my loins – it felt like the first time all over again. I was a mess of goose bumps, every hair on my body stood on end as if electrified.
"Take me," I begged wordlessly.
My friend, the owner, stood there awkwardly. He seemed to sense our connection. His intrusion amplified his awkwardness. Understandable, I thought, but I took the man for a swinger.
He asked, pensive, "Would you like a moment together?"
I took it as rhetorical, reminded myself of my place, and pulled my saliva-dripping tongue back into my mouth. Smiled, "Such nice." Speaking in meme's.
Once the moment had passed we, as men are want to do, repressed our shared discomfort at the burble-whoom of the engine turning over. That Coyote, even minus the flat-plane crank of the big brother GT350, sounds a treat. The clutch was easy under my toe and I took a stab at the gas. The car responded with a roar. I responded with a boner.
He started talking, the owner and my new friend, but I wasn't really listening. Blah blah blah horsepower, blah blah blah tire width – the car was stock, a GT with Performance Package. I wasn't learning anything I didn't already know.
I realize, in the writing, that neither are you. Everyone and their dog in the journalist community has gotten a whack at the new pony, has reviewed the car to death. It's this, it's that. You've read the articles, watched the videos. The new Mustang is a leap forward for Mustangs, an excellent car, but it's still a Mustang and, at least in GT trim, it's not the leader in its field. Okay, good… that's out of the way.
The transmission slipped easily into gear. I had rowed through them a few times finding the throws to my liking. I opened the throttle, let off the clutch and away we went. Our drive was short, but spirited and I kept comparing the new Mustang with the (many) older cars I've driven. We would be cutting down a bending back street, rutted like the face of an experienced meth user, and I'd say something like, "It's so planted compared to the old car."
It's uncanny how the spirit of a car can live through generations. Every iteration changes the formula, every new car theoretically better than the last yet for all it has ever changed; the Mustang spirit has always remained the same. Part truck, part muscle car; all motor. Drive a boat, drive a '71 and then drive a comparatively tiny foxbody and there it is the spirit of a Mustang. Equal parts cheap and fun, that's a Mustang. He's the new boss, just like the old boss. In the S550, the spirit lives on. Even grown up, with independent rear suspension and all the modern accouterments, the distinct Mustang feel is obvious. The rear end stays planted and is less inclined to buck, sure, but you sit in the same lazy-Saturday-night position looking out over a long, bulging hood while right footing a big, noisy V8.
At his urging we put the pony through some tight, weight transferring turns. Turn in was remarkable. There was none of the old Mustang tradition of turn, turn some more, brake, turn, pray, bounce, skip, spin, curse. Tail followed nose around pivot. Moments emerged, the Mustang shone. Accustomed to the tendencies of the solid-rear axle cars, I was astonished.
On the open road the Mustang came alive. There is a sensation, fairly unique to Mustangs, which is the hallmark of the franchise and it is not found mid-corner or doing pulls from fifty. The character of a Mustang is judged simply on how it leaves the line and gets away from the lights. Found in the space between stop and go, it is not simply a matter of getting away and getting away fast. It is the gathering storm. Cowboys, horsemen, hobby horse having humans, anyone who has ever spent time with horses, spent time in the saddle knows what I'm talking about. Equine or automobile, in either incarnation, there is a moment that stretches off into infinity while the beast gathers itself, harnesses the Force, and explodes light a shot forward. That moment defines a Mustang.
Stopped, slipped into first, the rev's climb. "Go," commands my passenger. "Go, go, go!" There it is, that Mustang Thang, rising up to greet me as my foot backs out of the clutch. It's quicker now, I can tell you, but it's still there. The Mustang lives on.
Second, third, fourth… Red line, shift, redline. I haven't done this in my own car in what seems like years. "RAH!" a screaming V8 will always touch my tickle spot. I back off before Johnny Law grabs his gun.
Before I know it we are home, back, done. It's over too quickly and I know how my wife must feel. I only want more. He senses this, tells me I can drive it again when we can talk about it, can tell people. It's like an autoerotic, homoerotic sin. It's our little secret, dirty and ours.
In the guise of wanting to talk about his car more, about his car history, we sit and chat for a while. It is a rouse, my clever little ploy to spend more time in the car soaking in the finer details. I notice, 'The top of the door, it's soft touch material.' The stick, the knob, is it milled? Nope but still... The accents are unlike anything Ford has ever done with a production Mustang. Someone didn't just call it good-enough. Yet, so as to retain loyal customers familiar with the feel of recent Mustangs the interior is not radically different. I find myself impressed with gauges evocative of my own, but modern and made of higher grade materials and the story is the same throughout. It's the same, but better.
And I think that was my take-away from my first seat steal in an S550 Mustang; it's the same but better. Looking back, watching the car as I walked away, I kept thinking on it. It's the same but better.