Ford’s Mustang California Special roars into South Africa

There’s definitely something about the Ford Mustang. Since the launch of the current –  sixth – generation of the model in 2015, more than 3 650 units, accounting for 87% market share, have found homes in South Africa. That is quite a feat. 

Initially, the Mustang was launched locally in the 2.3-litre Ecoboost and the burly 5.0-litre V8. Thankfully, the marque has come to its senses and stopped importing the former. One of the primary reasons you would buy a Mustang, besides its looks and heritage, is the V8 engine nestling under the bonnet and the glorious noise it makes. I mean, who wants a paltry four-cylinder engine in their Mustang? It is the culinary equivalent of going to a revered steakhouse and ordering a lentil soup – it’s sacrilegious.  

To keep the model relevant and on people’s buying lists, special edition Mustangs have made landfall in recent years. Among these is the characterful Bullit version which was exclusively offered with British Racing Green paintwork and manual transmission. Only 55 units were brought into SA, so if you can find one, hang on to it as it is likely to appreciate in value. In June last year, another limited edition model – 100 units – of the Mustang Mach 1 was launched here. It boasts a signature off-grey lick of paint with contrasting black-and-orange colour inserts.  

The interior of the Mustang California Special

Most recently, Ford has brought us yet another limited version of the Pony in the form of the California Special (GT/CS) and, again, only 100 units are coming to SA. It pays homage to the original 1964 California Special and can be distinguished by its blacked-out grille, GT performance wing on the rear deck and side-scoops which, sadly, are ornamental and not functional. The cabin too is full of special edition items such as the CS name embroidered in the seats, while a California Special insert/plaque nestles on the drop-down fascia on the passenger side. 

Under the bonnet still beats the heart of the Coyote 5.0-litre V8 engine making 330kW and 528Nm via a 10-speed automatic gearbox driving the rear wheels. It might not be the first word in blistering performance, but what the Mustang lacks in outright performance, it more than makes up for in character. There are many, more powerful and more expensive sports cars on the market, but very few have the alluring and enigmatic character of the Mustang. Pass by a school in a Mustang and kids point and shout in awe, something a ‘Stang musters more easily than any other car in its price range. 

(John McCann/M&G)

Driving a Mustang fast is like riding a bucking bronco – it requires some deftness as it is not the sharpest sports car in the segment, yet there’s still something satisfying about doing so. Perhaps it has to do with raucous V8 sound from its quad exhausts, which is as old-school as modern V8s go. 

It also comes with a LDS (limited slip differential) to ensure maximum grip levels off the line and out of tight corners. Of course, you can switch off all the nanny electronics and drive it like an absolute yobo, leaving unofficial black road markings in your tyres’ wake. 

It is these nuances that continue to make the Mustang one of the coolest cars available on the market. It is not the best built, the most dynamic or the fastest, yet people continue to buy them in their droves. It is quite an enigma, the Ford Mustang and that, perhaps, remains its strongest suit.

Pricing: R1 154 900 and all 100 units have already been pre-sold.

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