A Mustang Story

  • June 7, 2024

Not all the news is bad news.

Ford has not cancelled the Mustang, for instance. Nor are there plans to ruin it by turning it into a battery powered device. At least that’s the word, for now. That may, of course, change. The coming (s)election will likely decide that.

Or maybe it won’t matter.

Ford is in a tough spot. The industry is in a tough spot. Having failed to contradict the assertions made about the “climate” and how it is “changing” on account of carbon dioxide being “emitted” by engines that burn gas, the industry agreed with the assertions made that it is necessary to get rid of engines and never mind what buyers want.

That it is necessary to sell devices, instead And lose money on each “sale.”

Back to the Mustang. The 2024 model I’m test driving this week got me thinking about the ’95 model I was test driving 30 years ago, back in the summer of ’94. As Elvis used to say, it’s been a long time, baby.

And for good as well as bad.

That Mustang – the one I was driving back in the summer of ’94 – was a ’95 Cobra R, which was the highest-performance Mustang available that year. It was a stripped-down, street legal race car without power windows or locks or even rear seats. No radio. No AC – and it was hot that summer. As it has always been during summer, before people got addled into believing the “climate” was “changing” because it got hot during the summer.

What it did have was the last factory-installed 351 cubic inch (5.8 liters, in our gay and fake times) V8 engine that Ford put into a new Mustang. This engine was unique to the Cobra R and it came only with a five speed manual transmission. Its exhaust headers radiated heat into the passenger compartment through the floorpans, which were not insulated to lock out the heat. I can remember the sound of its exhaust booming off the tiled walls of the Baltimore Harbor Tunnel at 130 MPH with the windows rolled down, on my up to New York City just for the Hell of it. I made that trip – from the DC area to downtown Manhattan – in a little over two hours.

That Mustang was fast – and fun.

And so is the newest one.

The difference is the ’24 Mustang I am driving right now has a 2.3 liter four cylinder engine less than half the size of the ’95 R’s 351 and with four fewer cylinders yet it makes more power: 315 vs. 300 horsepower as well as an astounding (for such a little engine) 350 ft.-lbs. of of torque. Almost as much torque as the 351 made (365 ft.-lbs.).

Which is why the new Mustang is just about as quick – 5.4 seconds to 60 – and also why it uses much less gas. EPA says 22 city, 33 highway. The ’95 used twice as much gas, despite being a much lighter car.

Which brings up the bad news. Or – more finely – what might have been really good news, if Ford had been able to continue building a car like that ’95 R. Not as a stripped-down, limited-production race car with license plates but a mass-production car like the new car, without all the weight (and cost) adding equipment that’s no longer optional – such as AC and all those god-damned air bags and other crap that makes a new Mustang with a four cylinder engine weigh 262 pounds more (3,588 lbs.) than a ’95 Mustang Cobra R (3,326 lbs.) with a V8 did back then.

As good as the new Mustang is, imagine how much better it would be – in terms of both performance and gas mileage – if it weighed less than a ’95 Cobra R. Shorn of say 300 pounds of deadweight, a ’24 Mustang with that 315 horsepower four (which by the way is the Mustang’ standard engine now; a V8 is available in the GT for those desire 480 horsepower and better performance than the race-car ’95 offered) would probably be capable of getting to 60 in the high fours and of returning better than 35 MPG on the highway, if you kept your right foot light.

Ah, what might have been!

On the other hand, what we have isn’t bad. Anyone can buy a copy of the Mustang I’m driving this week; you had to have an SCCA road racing license to buy a ’95 Cobra R, which is why so few people ever got to drive one, much less 130 MPH through the Baltimore Harbor Tunnel at 2 in the morning on the way to New York City, as I did.

That was all kinds of fun.

But this is alright, too!

. . .

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