This isn't the first Mustang GT we've reviewed here, so I'll keep the impressions short and to the point. The retro styling is great. It pushes emotional buttons and it fits this car perfectly. The interior works well, too, with a throwback look that's in keeping with the exterior, and the unique-to-Mustang steering wheel that helps tie it all together. Yes, there are some chintzy plastics in play here, but they're generally out of sight or otherwise unobtrusive (lower door panels, speaker grills that would look more at home in a Jeep Wrangler, etc). The loaner's premium package that adds stitching to the dash hood in a stitched hide and the contrasting, metal-look trim is patterned to simulate either turned aluminum or carbon fiber (flip a coin). The booming audio system uses basic, straightforward controls, but keeping it off may be a better bet anyhow. That makes it easier to enjoy the Mustang's exhaust note. Underpasses beg for a blip of the throttle, and parking garages are instantly transformed into a Carnegie Hall of V8 clamor.
The 300-horsepower 4.6L V8 offers excellent, immediate power, is seamlessly channeled rearward via the car's 5-speed manual. The live rear axle isn't an issue. It's like anything else, respect the car, learn it, and it won't give you any fuss. Highway merging and passing are mere afterthoughts, as the 'Stang's got more than ample juice on tap, and the car will cruise at highway speed while pulling down around 20 mpg. Not bad. There's no wind deflector, but buffeting seems fairly manageable. (Then again, my short hair isn't easily mussed.) Local, low-speed driving's a blast too, as even the most mundane tasks (a trip to the supermarket, for example) are transformed to impromptu cruise nights.
I'd have been content to simply enjoy a weekend of open-air motoring with the Mustang, but the town of Trumbull, CT issued a call for convertibles to participate in its annual Memorial Day parade. I volunteered the Mustang and was told where and when to be. When Monday arrived, I jumped in the car and motored on over to the parade's staging area. Being new to this kind of thing, I wasn't quite sure what to expect, though the mob scene I came upon wasn't exactly surprising, either. A parade looks very organized when the participants are lined up and marching/driving by. Until folks start heading onto the route, however, it's a portrait of organized chaos.
The parking lot was jammed with people, and an eclectic bunch of vehicles that would be driving in the parade. On one side, a semi trailer was loaded with with hay bales and several local little league teams. There was also the obligatory contingent of Shriners, little red replicars at the ready. Their "staff car," a VW Thing done up in red, white and blue, sat idling nearby. Everywhere you looked, there some vehicle was taking on passengers. Fire/Emergency trucks lined a nearby side street, and a pair of Humvees ducked in and out, looking for a place to park and waiting for the festivities to kick off.
A brace of convertibles had shown up ready to take part in the parade. In addition to "my" GT, I counted a pair of classic Mustangs, a pair of Eldorados, a K-car LeBaron, a VW Bug, a big Ford LTD, a Cutlass, and a beautiful flag-festooned Model A, among others. The idea was for us to all line up, take on vets, and hit the route. We were split into two groups in the staging area, and after a short wait, the first set of cars and passengers rolled out.
Meanwhile, the group I was in waited. Our cars were still empty. After asking one of the vets helping get things organized what to do, we were told to pull into the parade line, as we'd be able to take on passengers at one of the first corners along the route. I jogged back to the Mustang and eased it behind the local American Legion marchers. One of them ambled over to check out the 'Stang, complimenting its looks and giving the car an approving smile before he walked back to the fellas from the post. In the meantime, the aforementioned Model A had taken up position behind me. Being a Ford guy (obviously), its owner was also interested in the GT, and we chewed the fat about our two cars for a couple of minutes until one of the men from the Legion gave a wave. Time to go.
I fired up the 'Stang, and other marchers walking to their places smiled or gave the 'thumbs up" sign as it roared to life. Behind me, the Model A's owner responded by giving his car a rev and blasting its old-fashioned ''aaah-OOH-gah!" horn. Rumbling along, the orange Mustang was grabbing all kinds of attention. Even the district's State Senator smiled and waved his approval as it eased by. As we passed through the first intersection, one thing became obvious: no passengers were waiting to jump into my car or the one behind me. We were now just part of the parade.
If you've never participated in something like this, do so if you're given the opportunity. It's a lot of fun. The veterans marching directly in front of me were treated like rock stars, garnering loud cheers and standing ovations from the crowd as they passed. They were all smiles as they waved back and acknowledged the spectators lining the thoroughfare. The gentleman bringing up the rear seemed to know everyone in town, bantering with the folks and enthusiastically waving to everyone he made eye contact with. Not long into the parade, the American Legion marchers stopped and gathered around one of their members. The temperature was up around 90 degrees, and one of the men had apparently started to feel the heat in earnest. Someone motioned for me to pull up, and he climbed into the passenger seat for a spell. After a quick introduction, I put the car back in gear and was back underway with my new companion, a local Korean War veteran. We rode together for a bit, and he waved to the cheering crowd from the passenger seat. After a few minutes, he was reinvigorated and decided to jump out and rejoin his comrades in front of us.
From there on in, I rode solo, shadowing the Legion from a few feet behind. As it turns out, the Mustang itself was a big hit. "Nice car!" was a frequent refrain, and predictably, more than a few disembodied cries of "Light 'em up'" wafted over the curbside. Age seemed not to be a factor, either, as the compliments were just as likely to come from kids as they were from moms and dads. I chuckled at one point when I overheard a father explaining to his elementary-school-aged son, "See that? That's daddy's midlife crisis right there, kiddo."
Things were proceeding nicely when one of the men from the Legion again signaled for me to stop. He smiled and pointed behind me, and when I turned around, a pair of A-10 Thunderbolt IIs came streaking down the parade route, practically buzzing utility poles, waggling their wings for the delighted crowd. Goosebumps, people. The mean-looking jets circled around and back a few more times, putting on quite a show before heading off into the distance.
Shortly thereafter, we reached the end of the route, and it was over. I said goodbye to some of the folks I'd met earlier, jumped back in the car, and headed home. The parade was a wonderful experience. The veterans I met were charming, and the reaction they got from the people lining the parade route was inspiring. My daughter (she's four) came up to me afterward and said, "Daddy, when the veterans went by, I did this," and she brought her little hand up in a salute. "It's called a salute." (It came out as "sa-woot.")
"I saluted them," she said, beaming.
As did we all.