The leaves were already falling in the coastal mountains of British Columbia; fading the horizon from its traditionally lurid green to a mottled amalgam of yellows and browns with only occasional lively spurts of emerald marking the stalwart conifers. As suburban hunters wheeled their new camouflage-covered ATVs into the beds of pickup trucks that'd seen decades of hard use, the sound of an approaching vehicle brought their heads, deer-like, popping up from behind their tie-downs and winch straps. With a face full of fresh air, still crisp with the bite of a fresh rainfall and thick with a sporadic fog prefacing the coming of fall around the distant treetops, I found myself in an oddly contemplative state, and headed eastbound.
Twisting and turning like a living creature into and around the mountains, the #3 Crowsnest highway traverses ancient floodplains, plays coy with more than a few riverbeds, and clings to scree-encased mountainsides. Requiring constant attention from the driver while simultaneously luring one's eyes away from the roadway, the views it offers are both breathtaking and humbling; too often being framed by white crosses roadside. With the mellifluous exhaust note from the much-lauded V8 splitting the complete silence, the big blue convertible's passage seemed almost criminal, and at the same time, perfect. Paired with the occasional wet sizzle of the tires over the still-wet pavement hovering in the shadow of the massive trees, the idling exhaust gave indication of an untapped reserve that Ford's specification sheet will confirm as 412 horsepower. Glancing in the rear view mirror and seeing nothing other than a pair of wet tire tracks to indicate my passage, I got to thinking about where, precisely, I was.
E.C. Manning Provincial Park, named after B.C.'s most influential Chief Forester, Edwin Manning, commemorates the man's enlightened existence and untimely demise in a plane crash circa 1941 with 70,844 hectares of some of the most lush, beautiful, and productive protected rainforest a man could ever hope to find. As a Chief Forester, Manning set a new standard of stewardship during his brief tenure from 1936 to 1941 by placing a huge emphasis on ensuring the existence of a conservation effort in order to preserve as much of British Columbia's natural state as possible for future generations' enjoyment. The park that bears his name is one of my favourite places in the world, and the road that passes through it is a pilgrimage I've made more times than I can count.
But, seated comfortably behind the wheel of the bluest car I'd ever driven, I was sure I'd never driven it like this. I'd blasted through its corners in Porsches at speeds that aren't legal anywhere in this country. I'd chugged up its steep inclines in old pickup trucks, eyes panning on the lookout for unclaimed campsites. I had, in short, enjoyed Mr. Manning's legacy as is my Canadian right. But it was only at a speed slightly below the posted limit, on a damp and cold morning bearing the last vestiges of summer, that I finally appreciated it... and I owe that to an equally historic automobile: the Ford Mustang.
I won't bore you with the nuanced details of Ford's latest Mustang, nor will I further delve into the oft-touted specifications; Google can inform you of the new cars near-perfect omnipotence. With access to an amazing combination of modern technology, great designers and engineers, and the healthiest bank account you're liable to find in Detroit, to expect anything less than sheer brilliance from the vehicle that's been Ford's prodigal son for the past 47 years would be foolhardy... but to expect it to have as much soul as it does would have even myself critical of one's sanity. After all, with their concessions to safety and a complete lack of innate history, there had yet to be a single contemporary car I'd come across that I found really tugged not just at my brain, but also my heart. Conversely, driving an old car, I can't help but think of the history that particular car represents; the world it was born into, the people it moved, and the lives it touched. And although none of the newest Mustangs can lay claim to the rich personal histories of older cars, this latest model had me pondering what lay in the store for it. Would a teenager thrill at its push-button-easy and oh-so lurid burnouts? Would it handed down from one generation to the next? Would it take its owner on the trip of a lifetime?
A few hours later, returning through Manning's often photographed west gate and headed back towards the unhealthy hum of civilization, I reflected on the Mustang's existence. Having finally reached a point at which I can honestly say that the car itself has reached mechanical perfection, Ford has delved deep into their own soul to imbue this new car with one of its own and the result is a car that transcends mere automotive bliss. It wasn't just fun to drive, it reintroduced me to the idea of driving as I enjoyed it when I first climbed behind the wheel at 16. At a time when the global economy is struggling to reach a state of normalcy, politics do little beyond boil the taxpayers' blood, and revolution screams across the headlines, to find an automobile that simultaneously reminds you of what's truly important while enticing you to slip the surly bonds of everyday life is to find a true treasure. And passing by the familiar spot where I'd looked in the mirror, and now seeing my tracks and the wet patch that birthed them faded into nonexistence by the noonday sun, it occurred to me: the Mustang, retro though it may be, is an homage to its storied history overlaid by the promise of a future to come. Let's just hope that the future it represents is as good as the car it is.
|Test model||2011 Ford Mustang|
|Trim level||GT Convertible|
|Price range||$24,549 - $65,249|
|Price as tested||$44,449|
|Warranty (basic)||3 years / 60,000 km|
|Warranty (powertrain)||5 years / 100,000 km|
|Fuel economy (city/highway/observed)||12.2 / 7.7 / 13.6 l/100km|
|Competitive models||Chevrolet Camaro, Dodge Challenger, Hyundai Genesis Coupe, Mazda RX-8, Volkswagen Eos|
|Value for price|