I do like to be right. Maybe I haven’t convinced you that we can push aside a multi-billion dollar company with a $250,000 piece of software and some cooperation, but I’ll take it where I can get it: ‘Murica makes the best sports cars. Period. Having recently bought a Ferrari, I can prove it.
A bit ago, I picked up a twenty one year old 355 F1 berlinetta, my third example of this model, making my car ownership look much like the marriage history of a corporate executive or pro team owner. I know my way around these beauties, I know their temperament, their needs, their quirks. I think I can make her happy, and that will make me happy. And maybe a little money, as I am betting they are at the bottom of their depreciation curve, another similarity to the next Ms. Ex-Wife-To-Be.
I have said it before (here) and I will say it again: there is something magical about Ferrari, about the way they look, the way they sound, the way they feel. But as sure as God’s car has a normally aspirated V12, they are not for everyone.
Sports cars are meant to be enjoyed. But what good is that if only a few can enjoy them? Or if that enjoyment is limited to a smug feeling of superiority because the thing is pretty much useless and actually driving it is both impractical and financially crippling?
I started writing this in a house in the mountains outside Blowing Rock, North Carolina, situated on the side of a cliff on a winding gravel road in some seriously rugged country, and I didn’t leave anything behind. I brought my mountain bike and all of the needed gear, my clothes for a week in any weather, my stuff to swim – and not the hot tub, mind; goggles and fins and paddles and shit so I can do my best Michael Phelps impression. Laptop and stuff for work (because you can never truly unplug anymore), all my gear for a day at the track (because – fingers crossed – I am getting back in the race car next weekend), food for an army, and even my daughter’s violin, all crammed in the back of the best sports car I have owned and possibly the best ever made: my ’16 Mustang.
I do want to take a second a send a message to everyone at Apple: bite me. When you created something that people really rely on, working code into the latest operating system of my old iPhone such that it no longer considers Ford to have paid enough royalties to you to keep your stock on the up and up such that it will out-of-the-blue stop allowing the phone to charge via the USB port while using it as a sole source of both navigation and the actual address of my destination, well that’s just beyond unacceptable. My next phone will be an Android, so you know where you can stuff your lightning cable, and why don’t you cram in a couple of those stupid headphone adapters while you are getting busy.
I have to admit, the GT350 is a very special Mustang (and technically is a “Shelby” but I think we can all get past the branding at this point). The motor is well and truly a race motor for the street, every bit as special as the stuff Porsche puts into its track-focused models, and just about everything else significant is bespoke to the model: transmission, suspension, brakes, even bodywork. But the entire car costs less brand new than the typical options list on a Ferrari. More importantly, it remains a Mustang at its core, and that is precisely why it is so special.
Once again, I am assuming any petrol-head reader has a somewhat slack jaw right now, trying to put together this dizzying logic: the GT350 is special because it has all of these go-fast bits that work in synergy to make it one of the most exciting drives I have had the opportunity to enjoy, and yet it is the Mustang part of it – the inexpensive, corner-cutting for production costs, inadequate performance due to the realities of life – that makes it well and truly special. What the what…?
Here is the thing: what good is fun if you can’t have it?
A bit of history on the GT350: Somewhere about 2012 (give or take) the true car nuts at Ford had a plan: win the 24 hours of le Mans in 2016. Why? Because that’s exactly 50 years after Ford showed Ferrari how we do things across the pond. (We 84REN66). This was no small feat then (see the upcoming Movie Ford v Ferrari…. November 15) and it’s no small feat today. So they set to building a GT race car – one that must be built on a road car – from the Mustang. At least two full years they labored, and faster and faster it became, until they finally threw in the towel: a front-engined, 2+2 coupe was not going to be able to reliably fight a plethora of purpose-built race machines with decades of development in their genome. So Ford scrapped that plan and went a different way. And from that after-birth I give you the 2016 le Mans winning Ford GT.
The GT350 is quite literally, a failure. And yet it is everything that Ford developed during that intense period, and that everything is quite literally some serious shit. The motor, the aero, the chassis; it is epic. But the best thing about it: it’s a Mustang.
From inception, the Mustang was about bringing a little fun to the people. No, you can’t bring the type exquisite craftsmanship and attention to detail that characterisze objects of desire at the pinnacle of man’s capabilities (Aston Martin, Ferrari). In fact, the word “exquisite” shouldn’t be allowed anywhere in the promotional flyer. But that doesn’t make the goal any less important. Everyone deserves a little fun.
And it doesn’t have to be exquisite to be fun; it doesn’t have to be the best. Think on this: I can (kinda) do a back flip off a dock. Who cares that the judges at the Olympics would be looking for fractions and negative numbers, or just vomiting in their mouths a bit. It’s no less fun for me. If you can’t enjoy stuff that’s a bit more basic, maybe you need to relax your sphincter a smidge.
Back to that Ferrari – MY Ferrari – it is over 20 years old. The Mustang is 3. They now have pretty close to the same mileage on them. If you are good at maths, the Ferrari has it’s work cut out for it in the fun-per-unit-time competition.
The last maintenance bill on the Ferrari is just a bit below the trade-in value of the Mustang. I am not making that up, I have all the records. When I saw it, when I held it in my trembling, unbelieving hand, I threw up in my own mouth a bit. Ferrari people demand records of everything that happens to their cars, and how much it cost. Why would you want to keep a memento of being robbed? I planned from the beginning to do all the work on this car myself, so I am somewhat insulated from these intrusions. But that’s not everyone’s cup of tea, and it didn’t take long before I got to take a big swig of my own brew: I heard a funny noise. That’s never good…
Not everyone wants to be beholden to a small network of specialized shops that require open access to a home equity line to keep their car running properly. Nor do they find joy in having a car in varying states of disrepair for literally months on end while they go after what is likely a bad bearing in the transmission (fingers crossed).
Fast forward some additional time and the transmission is in Houston being rebuilt. Eventually it will be shipped back and a few more 6-packs will see it re-installed. It will likely be spring. No worries, I chose this path, and I knew what the scenery would look like. In the meantime, the Shelby is pushing up against 30,000 miles and had another $160 service. And it still drives and feels and sounds just as epic.
Power to the people: the ‘Murican beast is simply the better car, providing the absolute most fun per unit time of any car I have owned, all wrapped in a functional package that is accessible to just about anyone who really loves cars.
I am going to miss it…Because I am getting ready to drive it to Houston – where the ill-fated transmission is languishing – and exchange it for another chapter in this ongoing story. Another time McClure…