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Road Test

Ford Mustang GT

by Stephen Walker

29th January, 2008

Ford Mustang GT 
Click on the image for a larger view

Only a few cars ever become an icon. And one such car is the early Ford Mustang.

The Mustang has been on American roads since 1964, when Ford introduced something special to compete in the then new and so-called 'pony car' segment of the American car market.

The car became an immediate 'hit' (so to speak) as it competed against the Plymouth Barracuda and, later, the Chevrolet Camaro. Other competitors to arrive in this era were the AMC Javelin, Mercury Cougar (which was based on the Mustang, which was, itself, based on the Ford Falcon) and Pontiac Firebird. Later, the Dodge Challenger and the AMC AMX arrived on the scene.

Not too long ago, Ford even sold right-hand drive Mustangs here in Australia. Although, over the years many a Mustang has been imported into the country. Hence, you see quite a few of them during your travels (especially on weekends). They are always easy to identify. And that's because they have become a motoring icon.

With the current model, it is the styling that provides immediate enthusiasm. The current Mustang has that retro look which appeals to a broad audience. At the present time, the Ford Mustang is enjoying a resurgence in popularity brought about by the 2005 restyling job. The North Americans have been snapping them up ever since.

But that hasn't prevented the enterprising Queensland firm, Performax (based in Gympie, just north of the famous Sunshine Coast), from importing the Mustang and converting them to right-hand drive especially for Australians who cannot get enough of the classic American Ford.

Local availability of such a highly sought after piece of machinery will be of great interest to many Australian car enthusiasts. Especially those with enough cash (or a strong cash flow, at least) to put a new Mustang onto their driveway.

Performax International, previously known as Corvette Queensland, is 'home' to numerous US-sourced products. They added the Mustang to their 'stable' (pardon the pun) some months ago when they correctly identified the demand for the Ford Mustang is such that Australia needs a specialist firm with the experience, expertise and commitment to supply car hungry Australians with another lifestyle product. Hence, the Ford Mustang is now here in Australia once again.

And we've driven the car. But firstly, a little about the company behind the importation of these automotive gems.

Editor, Stephen Walker, with the 
Ford Mustang GT 
Click on the image for a larger view

In Gympie, Queensland, on a prominent Bruce Highway corner site sits Performax with a yard and showroom full of mobile Americana. There are RVs, full-size utes and various cars available straight off the lot in both new and used varieties. And joining them is the new Mustang. If it's Mustang that interests you, ask about coupe and convertible in GT format and, of course, the dynamic, new, Shelby GT 500 for those who require more than more than enough!

Performax began in 1989 and specialises in US-sourced vehicles and RVs (caravans and fifth-wheelers). They engineer and carry-out 'in-house' modifications to make right-hand drive a 'seamless' exercise for the buyer. The integrity of the safety systems (SRS airbags, for example) and the operation of the steering system is more important today than ever before. Hence, with the expertise on offer at Performax, it is a natural progression for the firm to expand their vehicle line-up.

We met the Performax chief in Gympie, kicked the tyres (so to speak) and headed off for a run in the sun. We chose to drive up the Bruce Highway for this road test. We took the occasional diversion off the highway and ended up in Maryborough for a little bit of a look around.

We noticed that the Mustang was noticed everywhere we went. Such is the interest in the new stylish Ford Mustang.

We also noticed 'things' about the new Mustang. Things like the retro look for the steering wheel (with alloy-look spokes) and hub, retro look for the dashboard and dials (there are chrome rings on the surrounds). These were a nice touch because the retro styling certainly suits the Mustang.

Not so wonderful were the very tiny door pockets (just big enough for a mobile telephone) and the tiny glove box. Hardly worth the expense of the designer's time, but they are there just in case you need a tiny hide-away spot.

Additionally, we noticed that there were no 'auto' headlights, a feature now standard on cars that cost a quarter of the Mustang's price. Also, there were no 'lane-changers' and no audio controls on the steering wheel. Not that we're complaining, because the retro look Mustang may well be spoilt if it had modern day features.

Let's look at the modern day features though. Power is supplied by a 4.6 litre V8, which is more than enough to do the job of cruisin' the way cruisin' is meant to be done. There is a choice of manual or automatic transmissions. One feature which is always handy around town, is the cut-off switch for overdrive on the automatic transmission. No-one needs overdrive in town.

Oddities with the Mustang highlight the origins of the car. For example, the bonnet release is located within handy reach of the front seat passenger. Additionally, the handbrake lever is located on the left side of the centre console, whilst the automatic gear selector, if used manually, hides the selected gear number (as the numbers are on the left of the lever). Just like European cars, the Mustang has the turn indicator stalk on the left of the steering column.

Ford Mustang GT 
Click on the image for a larger view

On the road, the new Mustang delights the occupants with the exhaust note and quite reasonable performance. The ride is firm and may be better suited to roads other than those provided in regional Queensland. But we could live with it quite easily. The brakes are good and the driving experience is pleasant. There is a good, strong driver's footrest, which is an excellent idea. Perhaps Ford Australia could buy some footrests from Performax for fitment to the Falcons. Occupant enjoyment is dealt with by the inclusion of features such as central locking, heated front seats, electric seat control, 6 disc audio system and power windows. The doors are wide and provide easy entry/egress for two into the rear compartment. Although rear headroom for tall folks is somewhat limited.

The most noticeable aspect of the Mustang is the fact that it does not possess the finesse of a European car within the same price range.

Perhaps you're curious just what price range the Mustang is in. The Ford Mustang GT with conversion suitable for driving on the correct side of the road is $115,000 or so (RRP), depending on specifications and options.

At this price, which is way over the price of a very smooth Ford Falcon GT, the Mustang GT is very much aimed at a very specialised niche market. But that market will appreciate the Mustang for one very simple reason. There are not many motoring icons, so the new Mustang with its bonnet bulge and retro styling will delight many a successful business operator who has a penchant for all things American. Given the number of old Mustangs that roam the streets of our great nation, there are many folks who will provide an admiring glance at the localised Ford Mustang. And the folks in Gympie are waiting. By the way, their telephone number at Performax is (07) 5482.7833.

The current Ford Mustang GT is a 'muscle car' without too much muscle. Although it does perform well. And it is very easy to manage. That makes it a very suitable car for cruising. Which reminds me of the American entertainers, The Beach Boys. In their song "Still Cruisin'" they sang the words "still cruisin' after all these years". That, in fact, sums it all up. The Mustang is still cruising after all these years.

And, of course, many people are happy about that!

Click on an image for a larger view

Ford Mustang ..... 40 years of history!
Date of publication: 12th April, 2004
Forty years ago, the Mustang came along ..... read a short, image rich, history ..... here.

Other Ford content: here.

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