Here’s the thing with the Ford Mustang, it might not be the fastest, best-handling or most luxurious sports car, but few cars will put as big a smile on your face.
THERE’S no replacement for displacement. And when it’s a naturally aspirated 5.0-litre V8 slotted under the long bonnet of a Ford Mustang California Special it’s even more, well… special.
The California Special follows on the heels of the Bullitt and Mach 1 and like those there are only 100 that have been made available in South Africa.
Ford’s iconic sports car has been the world’s best selling sports coupe for the seventh consecutive year and in South Africa it owns 87 percent of the market and at the end of May this year, 3,652 owners smile every time they push the start button since it was introduced in 2015.
The California Special harks back to the 1968 California Special models that were inspired by the 1967 Shelby GT notchback coupe prototype specially designed by Mustang owners clubs and regional dealers in the late sixties.
This one reflects the same with a front grille finished in Ebony Black with a GT/CS badge in Race Red, lower side stripes in black, red and grey that run from the front to the rear wings with a low resolution “California Special” script that becomes more visible as the light improves.
A larger front splitter, GT Performance Package rear wing, side air scoops (for decoration only) and five spoke alloy wheels, 19×9-inch for the front and 19×9.5-inch for the rear in Carbonised Grey, finish off this head-turner.
Inside it’s pretty much standard Mustang fare with heated and cooled front seats while the leather seats and door inserts are part finished in grey Miko suede, an eco-friendly synthetic material made from recycled polyester, with red stitching and embossed with the CT/CS logo.
The instrument panel is finished in Carbon Hex aluminium also with a unique California Special badge.
A digital cluster gives you all the information you need depending on your driving setting, including things like G-force and track lights.
Those are the peripheries though, the real star of the show is the V8. Delivering 330kW and 529Nm of torque it puts a tingle down your spine on start-up, unless you act all responsible and select the Good Neighbour mode, and a smile on your face every time you floor the throttle and it slams through the 10-speed automatic gearbox.
The ‘box is optimised for performance depending on the mode, which can be switched between Normal, Sport, Track, Drag and Snow/Wet modes.
For example when you floor it from standstill in Track mode there’s a distinct shunt from first to fourth with a glorious soundtrack while in Normal it will gently get you up to speed with hardly any obvious changes.
It will get to 100km/h in 4.5 seconds, while a limited-slip differential and MagneRide Damping System monitor driving conditions a thousand times per second using electronically-controlled fluid to match damping resistance to the driving scenario.
I suspect we may have had those systems working overtime on our drive in the Western Cape with some of the best driving roads including Franschhoek Pass.
It was a rare open Pass on the way down and the Mustang was pushed hard and fast into and out of every corner. While it’s not as nimble as some other sports cars, it requires hard work and focus but rewards you with an exciting drive and a magnificent guttural soundtrack to match.
Once you’ve had your fun on the twisties and the large brake disks have cooled down the Mustang transforms to a gentle Grand Tourer burbling along at 2000rpm at the national speed limit with the SYNC3 guiding you to your destination.
The thing is with the Ford Mustang California Special (and all Mustangs for that matter), it may not be the fastest, best-handling or most luxurious sports car, but you can drive a car twice, three or four times more expensive and you won’t get the smiles and whistles as you do cruising around in it.
It’s a Mustang. That is all.
The Ford Mustang California Special is priced at R1,154,900.
It comes with Ford Protect comprising a four-year/120,000km warranty, three-year/unlimited distance Roadside assistance and five-year/unlimited distance corrosion warranty. Customers have the option of purchasing a service plan.