?A steed for every need.? That?s how Ford described the 11 drivetrain combinations available by the Mustang?s fifth birthday in 1969.
By then, more than two million examples of the pioneering pony car had been sold ? a landmark it took Land Rover 57 years to reach with the Series Land Rover and Defender. Today, as the right-hand-drive, officially imported sixth-generation model arrives, sales are nearing the 10 million mark.
Yet the galloping ?Stang has barely created a tremor in the UK. There have been official imports before ? even right-hookers, as we?ll see ? but most of us fill the space between the legendary first-gen car and the outgoing model with little more than a fog of vague recollection.
Today, we?re joining the dots all the way from 1964 to 2014. We have each of the five generations of Ford Mustang on hand ? all privately owned, and all V8s, naturally. Now, there are online tracts dedicated to the minutiae of model years and variants should you wish to explore them. Instead, we?re going to sketch the outline of each car before shading in with first-hand driving impressions. So let the 40-pot cubefest begin?
This is genesis, the car that created a formula to last 50 years: sporting bodywork over a compact chassis (by American standards, at least), front engine, rear drive and live rear axle. Although notchback (read two-door saloon) and convertible bodies were available, as were straight sixes, it was the combination of fastback coupé styling and V8 power that best matched the Mustang?s performance pretensions and elevated it above the Ford Falcon upon which it was based.
Cue Tony Pook?s breathtaking, Signal Flare Red 1966 Fastback in GT trim. Although first-gen Mustangs were available through a UK concessionaire, Pook bought his last year fresh from Arizona following a thorough restoration. The Mustang was created with tinkering in mind, and Pook?s car features a transplanted engine, the original 210bhp, 289cu in (4727cc) small-block overhead-valve ?Windsor? V8 having been replaced by a 230bhp, 302cu in (4942cc) version of the same that runs a four-barrel Edelbrock carb.
Installed in the largely original interior, I drink in the distinctive layout, finish and details: twin-cowl dashboard with wooden inserts, thin-rimmed wheel embellished with mother-of-pearl, chromed switches and compressed speedo font.
The V8 fires into a steady idle and begins to bellow as I pull away. More pedal pressure and the bellow deepens then gains a growling overdub - a softer soundtrack than Frank Bullitt?s big-block 6.4-litre 390 GT?s snarling wall of sound, but classier, too. The car isn?t especially quick (think 8.5sec to 60mph), but the powertrain?s noise, keen throttle response and top-end poke prove extremely addictive.
The ride is loping but stable and isn?t the limiting factor when cornering. That falls to the delayed action of the over-assisted recirculating ball steering that?s further hampered by an understeer habit, as nearly 60% of the car?s 1400kg burdens the front axle.
Mustang II (1974?1978)
The white car here is the black sheep among our group. A spluttering economy, rising oil prices and tightened emissions regulations blighted the pony car sector and the Mustang had to adapt to survive. The original car had stretched to 4763mm by its final iteration and had once forged more ?than 500bhp (in 1969?s 7.0-litre Boss 429 special). Something smaller and cleaner was needed.
This time, the little Ford Pinto provided the underpinnings, shrinking the Mustang to 4445mm. During its first year, engines were limited to an almost unbelievably meek 88bhp four-pot and a 105bhp version of the 2.8-litre Cologne V6 later seen in the Mk3 Capri.
Yet it was a forecourt success, tripling sales to 386,000 in 1974. The 302 V8 returned in 1975, making just 122bhp. So equipped is Tony Wilcox?s notchback Mustang II Ghia.
Ghia spec includes the part-vinyl roof and a plump, cosy burgundy boudoir of an interior that?s mainly trimmed in velour and adventurously textured plastics. The big surprise is a starboard-mounted tiller, an official conversion supplied via Ford?s imports office in Mayfair. The Mustang II remained the only sanctioned right-hand-drive UK model until 2015.
Underpowered or not, it?s still a V8, rumbling at idle. It chugs endearingly under load and offers unexpected perkiness above 3000rpm, although progress remains stately. The primary ride is (almost) as forgiving as the plush upholstery, but sharper bumps resonate. The steering is far more responsive than in the ?66 but spookily light in constant-radius cornering.
This ?Stang kept the nameplate alive during a difficult period and deserves recognition for that.
?Fox body? (1979?1993)
These were still uncertain times, but upon the Fox platform (which supported myriad Fords, Mercurys and Lincolns) the Mustang was slowly and tentatively ushered back into performance territory. Facelifts in 1983 and 1987 modernised its design inside and out, rear leaf springs were at last dropped in favour of coils and a five-speed manual gearbox emerged.
Don Hardy works at Ford?s Dagenham engine plant and is a Fox hunter of the legal kind, owning several and co-founding the ?Fox Doctors? owners club.
By the time his 1987 car was built, carburettors had been dropped altogether, and his High Output V8 (still the venerable 302) makes a decent 225bhp. Drop-tops were reintroduced after their Series II absence, but Hardy?s is one of a few tin-top GTs adapted by coachbuilder American Sunroof Corporation into two-seat convertibles designed to court Mercedes-Benz SL fans with a bodykit, fared-in roof mechanism and lashings of hide to embellish the two-tone plastic interior.
Despite the oddly high seating position that brushes my head against a roof cross member, the Fox has a lower, sportier stance than the Mustang II. The speedo goes up to only 85mph, but contemporary tests put the car?s top speed at just under 150mph, with 0-60mph taking 6.4sec. It?s tractable from below 2500rpm, meaning kickdown isn?t essential for overtaking, yet some of the ?66 Fastback?s bellowing urgency is revived in the Fox?s 4000-5000rpm sweet spot.
The steering is much improved, too - not quick, but consistent and with some feel - and although the ride remains soft with occasional jitters, body control is far neater than before. It?s a driving experience that?s easily recognisable ?as a Mustang?s.
In the light of the 2015 Mustang?s entry-level 2.3-litre Ecoboost engine, an apposite side note to the Fox?s story is the 1984 limited-run, twin-spoilered SVO, which used a turbocharged version of the Mustang II?s 2.3 to make 175bhp with the help of an IMSA racing-bred intercooler. The SVO impressed at the time with its combination of performance, composure and understeer-curbing set-up.
SN95 and ?New Edge? (1994?2004)
The Fox platform was heavily modified rather than replaced for the SN95-generation car (introducing range-wide all-disc brakes in the process) but it was the end of the line for the small-block Windsor V8, retired in 1995 after three decades of Mustang service. Although the SN95?s 302 produced a still-conservative 215bhp, there was a final flourish for the Windsor in the stroked 300bhp 5.8-litre SVT Cobra R road-going racer.
A 3.8-litre Essex V6 anchored the range, but the GT?s engine bay was filled with a 16-valve SOHC version of Ford?s new modular 4.6-litre V8. Initially no more powerful than the 302, its output rose to 260bhp for the 1999 facelift that also sharpened the exterior to fit Ford?s global ?New Edge? design language.
After a 30-year canter, the Mustang finally broke into a gallop again in 2003. The New Edge SVT Cobra - ?the first (and until 2015 the only) Mustang with independent rear suspensiovn - produced 390bhp using a supercharged 32-valve DOHC version of the 4.6 V8 to hit 60mph in 4.6sec. The Mach 1 badge, introduced in 1969, was revived to sit below it, bringing us to Kevin Mortimer-Hampson?s car.
Its extrovert exterior is countered by a conservative cabin: plastic-heavy but functional, with gentle nods to early Mustangs. Upon ignition, the ?shaker? air scoop justifies its name, quaking atop a naturally aspirated 32-valve 4.6 that makes 305bhp in stock form but more like 360bhp here, thanks to intake and exhaust upgrades and a custom remap. The engine note is higher-pitched than the small block?s but still aggressive, and the exhaust tone is moreishly thunderous. From 2800rpm, there?s real clout, too.
Although the suspension is factory-lowered, the ride is extremely comfortable, yet the accompanying dive and roll are stable. A chunky aftermarket short-shift kit requires little articulation between five manual ratios but takes two deliberate movements, and the over-light steering doesn?t reassure. But the Mach 1 proves a barnstorming cruiser, and great fun for it.
It was back to the future when the next Mustang was previewed at the 2003 Detroit motor show; the GT concept traced the silhouette of the original Fastback and borrowed plenty of exterior and interior details. The S197 production model retained most of that atop Ford?s D2C platform, which was related to the Jaguar S-Type?s. New front suspension was influenced by the Mondeo, yet the modified rear axle remained solid.
But the new car was also more than 150mm longer and wider than the original and around 300kg heavier. Indeed, Patrick Howson?s 2005 car makes the ?66 Fastback look delicate and petite. Although a V6 engine and convertible body were available, like most S197s imported to the UK, Howson?s is a GT coupé featuring a 300bhp 24-valve version of the 4.6 V8 equipped with variable valve timing.
By European yardsticks, it?s not sophisticated, but the S197 is a far slicker proposition than any of its forebears in both quality and dynamics, from the upgraded interior finishes to the well-weighted, progressive steering and vastly improved body control. There?s even a heightened appetite for cornering, partly due to a front-end mass that?s closer to 50% than 60%.
The five-speed auto ?box doesn?t get the best from the V8 and the screaming aftermarket exhaust isn?t quite equalled by the engine?s performance; 4000rpm is needed before it really starts to heave. (For full fireworks, see the 653bhp supercharged 5.8-litre GT500 from 2013.) But this is still a 5.2sec-to-60mph car and the most complete Mustang so far.
A 2010 makeover was followed by the introduction of the new Coyote version of the modular V8 - a 5.0-litre, 32-valve DOHC unit good for 412bhp. And it?s this engine and the S197?s retro design ethos that form the building blocks of the 2015 Mustang.
It has been a treat to drive these diverse cars, each one an idiosyncratic character that reinterpreted the Mustang spirit for its time. For our time, there?s independent rear suspension, right-hand drive and official UK sales. We could be the luckiest ones yet.
Before the ??Mustang? name was signed off, ?Avanti?, ?Allegro?, ?Torino? and ?Cougar? were all considered, the last even being realised into a feline badge on late pre-production cars.
Although other horse emblems were considered, the winning sketch came from Phil Clark, designer of the Mk1 Capri. In some applications, patriotic red, white and blue bars were added and a ?corral? border was applied on the grille to enclose the horse. In 1963 modeller Charles Keresztes revised Clark?s design in clay before finalising it in a wooden sculpture, and the badge has barely changed since.
Read our full review of the latest Ford Mustang
Mercedes-Benz has issued an official design sketch of the upcoming C-Class Cabriolet, which will make its global debut at the Geneva motor show next month, before going on sale in the UK this summer.
Accompanying the image is a short statement, saying: "For the first time in the history of this model series, there will also be a C-Class Cabriolet. The sporty four-seater with a soft top is based on the successful coupé version."
Set to join saloon, coupé and estate versions of the fourth-generation C-Class in an ever-burgeoning Mercedes-Benz line-up, the C-Class Cabriolet has previously been spotted testing in the run-up to its launch. While the car's styling remains similar to that of the C-Class Coupé, a longer rear deck is expected, as well as a windscreen-mounted air deflector and a deployable wind break. The car's interior will be identical to that of other C-Class models.
The rear-wheel-drive convertible will be offered with the same six-cylinder petrol and four-cylinder diesel engines as the coupé. Included in the line-up will be a C450 Sport model, which will feature a 362bhp twin-turbocharged 3.0-litre V6 engine and will be capable of reaching 62mph in less than five seconds. A plug-in hybrid model based on the C350e is also planned.
A high-performance Mercedes-AMG C63 Cabriolet should join the range before the end of 2016. Like the saloon, it is expected to be powered by AMG's twin-turbocharged 4.0-litre V8 engine with 469bhp in standard form and 503bhp in range-topping C63 S guise.
As with other models in the range, the C-Class Cabriolet will be offered with two different suspension systems. The car?s standard set-up will feature conventional springs and dampers, but Mercedes-Benz?s AirMatic arrangement will be optional.
Read more Geneva motor show news
You can easily spot one of the 250 flooded write-offs at Michael Douglas Auto Salvage in Carlisle.
Not only because it has the word ?floody? scrawled on the windscreen but also because it?s covered with a film of brown silt.
Move closer and you can see the heavy condensation on the windows, dirty water in the headlights and a tide mark in the engine bay. Open the driver?s door ? being careful to stand back to allow the stench of sewage and flood water to escape ? and water sloshes in the door pockets, while silt covers the floor, the seats and much of the fascia. The steering wheel is a circle of green mould.
It and the other flooded cars started arriving at the breaker?s yard in December, soon after storm Desmond and then storms Eva ?and Frank did their worst ? and they?re still coming.
?People have had more urgent problems to deal with, such as clearing their flooded homes,? says owner Michael Douglas. ?Many people are only now thinking about what to do with their flooded cars.?
The Association of British Insurers says that as a result of December?s storms, its members have received 5600 claims for flood-damaged vehicles. It expects the total value of these claims to be about £26 million, a figure that applies to comprehensively insured cars that are covered for flood damage.
Most will be written off and their owners paid a settlement cheque by the insurer to cover its replacement. The most seriously damaged ones will be declared category A or B write-offs, and will then be scrapped or crushed.
The less seriously damaged will be flagged as category C or D. These ?can be returned to the road after repair, although a category C car must be inspected first.
Cars with third-party cover ?are not insured for flood damage. ?As a result, depending on its condition, the owner of a flooded ?car has little choice but to sell it as scrap to a vehicle breaker such as Michael Douglas, for around £90.
However, experts are concerned that desperate owners who cannot afford to scrap their car (or even owners of comprehensively insured cars who cannot afford to lose their no-claims bonus) may be tempted to dry it out and sell it on to an unsuspecting buyer. Admittedly, ?the nature of modern vehicles, with their complex electrical systems, means that only the least flood-damaged cars could pass undetected, but it?s a risk nonetheless.
Earlier this month Neil Hodson, deputy managing director of vehicle information company Cap HPI, warned car buyers to be on the lookout for rising numbers of ?flood-damaged cars entering the ?car market in the coming months.
?There?s a danger that some car owners may try to sell on their flood-damaged vehicle, once its interior has dried out and it has been cleaned,? he said. ?Omitting its history will leave the new owner in the dark about its real condition.?
James Carswell, of Scotia Vehicle Inspections in Glasgow, has inspected hundreds of flood-damaged cars in recent weeks and fears that many third-party-insured cars will be sold on in a dangerous and contaminated state.
?I expect hundreds of flooded third-party vehicles will come onto the market,? he says. ?I went to Otley in Yorkshire to inspect a flood-damaged Ford Transit mini-bus recently. It should have been scrapped, but the owner said he couldn?t afford to and that instead he?d fix it up and sell it on.?
December?s floods are not the ?first to have struck UK towns and cities. Michael Ward, a used car inspector based in Bradford, recalls examining a Suzuki Vitara for a customer when the car was advertised for sale shortly after ?the city was flooded in 2007. ?The car had no write-off history, ?but Ward suspected that it had been the victim of flooding.
?The metal frames under the seats and dashboard were badly corroded,? he says. ?I advised ?my customer not to buy it.?
Ward agrees with Carswell that previously flooded, third-party-insured cars are those most likely to be sold on, but he says they won?t necessarily be the older cars usually associated with this level of cover.
?Many fleet cars are only third-party insured and I expect some of the least damaged will be offered for sale without their history being disclosed, rather than being scrapped,? he says.
Carswell says it?s not only mainstream but also classic cars ?that are destined to be repaired and sold on. ?I have inspected over two dozen classics in recent weeks, all of them flooded mid-refurbishment,? he says. ?Their owners had each accepted an average £15,000 insurance settlement, which some planned to spend on repairing the car before selling it.?
Back at the breaker?s yard, ?Douglas reflects on the human tragedy behind each of his 250 flooded cars. ?For people who lost their homes in the floods, losing their car was the last straw,? he ?says. ?Without a car, how do they ?get their kids to school? How do ?they get to work??
One can only hope that in their desperation to be back on the road, they don?t buy someone else?s ?dried-out ?floody?.
Tips on how to ?avoid buying a flood-damaged car
Check the windows - open and close
Sniff the seats ?and headlining
Check the carpets are dry and the windows free of condensation
Look for premature rust
Check under the bonnet for discoloration and ?a tide mark
Check that all the dashboard lights work
Check if the windows steam up after you ?turn on the heater
Check the light clusters for trapped water and condensation
Take it for a drive, checking for smooth running and no wheel bearing noises
If in doubt, have ?it professionally inspected
The Cholmondeley Pageant of Power, held annually on the picturesque Cholmondeley Castle estate near Chester, has been renamed Cholmondeley Power & Speed for 2016 and has been launched with a raft of new features.
The event, now in its ninth year, moves away from what had become its usual clash with Le Mans to now run on 10-12 June.
For 2016, the event's central theme will be 'Supercars, Past Present and Future' and there will be a new road test element on the event?s opening day - Friday 10 June - which is dubbed Motorshow Live, during which car makers and dealers will offer prospective customers a chance to drive new cars on the track, which is regarded by those who know it as one of the best of its kind in Europe.
Cholmondeley drew record crowds last year, says event director James Hall, and has considerable potential for further expansion. ?We have a racetrack that rewards power and speed and felt it was time for these key factors to be better represented in the event name.
?We?ve teamed our new name with a revised format that allows us to offer manufacturers a hands-on experience for their guests, who will see first-hand what makes our track special,? says Hall.
Unlike other weekend motorsport festivals, Cholmondeley combines its motorsport action with speedboat action on an adjacent lake, army manoeuvres in an adjacent field and a series of air displays.
See more pictures from 2015's Pageant of Power