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Test drive: Mustang GT California Special Convertible

Now, that’ s more like it!

I enjoyed driving the SUVs and even the F150 pickup that Ford has passed my way over the past few months, but for sheer fun, nothing beats a Mustang GT…except for a Mustang GT convertible!

The Mustang in question was a white California Special model with black interior. Ford has been making “California Specials” for a long time, and having just come back from a glorious few days in San Diego, I’d have to say their name is well-chosen: this would be the perfect car for tooling along the beaches of Southern California with the Beach Boys blaring on the (excellent) stereo.

What makes a California Special? I’ll let Ford describe it:

GT California Special Edition includes unique chrome billet-style grille with body-colour surround, unique lower fascia with fog lamps, 19-in. argent-painted machined-aluminum wheels with P245/45R19 tires, GT/CS side stripes, unique decklid badge with name in faux gas cap, unique instrument panel finish, carbon door-panel inserts, leather-trimmed seats with Carbon inserts, premium carpeted front floor mats with embroidered logo, rear lower fascia insert, rear pedestal spoiler, decklid tape appliqué, and side scoops.

In other words, it looks really cool. And you look cool driving it (or at least you can pretend you look cool, which is good enough for me. You can check out the photo to see if and my daughter Alice really look cool.)

It also drives cool. There’s a lot of power under the hood, and it makes a very satisfying rumbling sound that telegraphs that power. It gets transferred to the wheels through a slick six-speed transmission. I admit, however, that since it’s been ten years since I drove a standard on a regular basis (my previous car was a Plymouth Laser, a.k.a. a “turbocharged M&M”), I did occasionally stall the engine as I tried to get the feel for the clutch. I also had some difficulty putting the car in reverse until I finally gave in and read the manual, and realized you have to push the shift lever down to engage reverse: a sensible set-up. But it was fun to stir my own gears again, and I adapted so quickly that when I got back into my automatic-transmission Volvo I kept trying to push the clutch in when I stopped and half-expected the car to stall when I couldn’t find the pedal in time.

I didn’t get a chance to take it for much of a highway run, but that was okay, because the big fun of driving it wasn’t so much the engine-transmission-interior stuff as the fact that it was a convertible: not the first one I’ve ever ridden in, but I think the first I’ve ever driven.

It was just my bad luck that it rained one of the three days I had the car. But that still left a couple of other days to take the top down, even if it was chilly. Not that big a problem when its cool (not freezing cold) with the heated seats and the heater going. We had a great time tooling around, actually going out of our way just for the sheer fun of top-down motoring.

Oh, and the actual process of taking down and putting up the top was absolutely painless: undo a couple of latches, hold down the switch, the top stows: reverse the switch, the top rises, do up the latches again, and away you go. It only took a minute either way.

Steering was quick, seating was comfortable, and I never felt cramped despite my six-foot-two-inch frame and big feet. This is a fun, fun car. If I had the spare change lying around (hmm; maybe I should check the couch), I’d love to own one, at least in the summer.

I can’t speak to its practicality in a Saskatchewan winter, but, hey, it’s not called a Saskatchewan Special, it’s called a California Special.

Maybe the Beach Boys need to write a new tune: “I wish they all could be California Cars…”


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