Since its introduction in the mid ‘60s, the Ford Mustang has captivated people like no other sporty American car. Whereas the Corvette is generally more expensive and exclusive, the Mustang has a much broader appeal. It is a car that can be part of someone’s midlife crisis for sure, but it can also be a car that’s been in the family for decades, a high school student’s first car, or even a car that someone buys with the paycheck from their first “real” job. Because of the level of familiarity that Americans have with older solid-rear axle Mustang designs, the current generation was a paradigm shift for the storied brand. Independent rear suspension and sharp, confident new styling provided a contrast from the previous generation Mustang, or any Mustang ever for that matter. Despite the sheer ubiquity of the Mustang, this month’s interviewee, Daniel, who’s always loved sporty American cars, didn’t have much interest in them until recently.
While working at a gas station in 2014, Daniel watched a customer pull up in a brand new 2015 Mustang. Daniel wasn’t aware that Ford had introduced a new generation of the Mustang, and initially assumed that the car was something much more expensive like a Jaguar or a Maserati. When he walked around and spotted the familiar pony badge on the front grille, Daniel was awestruck. He had never known that American cars could be so stylish and exotic-looking. Not long after, reviews of the Shelby GT350 began to flow to the public and Daniel knew that he absolutely wanted one.
A couple years after that chance encounter with the new Mustang, Daniel began a much more lucrative job in an airline dispatch office. With his more substantial income, he knew what he had to do: buy a GT350. The only problem was that he had never driven a manual transmission car. Nonetheless, Daniel felt undeterred. After buying his new 2016 Shelby GT350, he drove across the street from the dealer to the large empty parking lot surrounding the local horse racing track. There, Daniel got in some practice with driving the car before setting off for home. He described it as being a “run before you can walk” moment. On the way home, Daniel was even challenged to a race by the driver of a Camaro, which he politely declined. This was the first of many adventures that Daniel’s had with the car.
Since buying his GT350, Daniel has had a lot of cool adventures with it, which include a trip to attend a special premiere of Ford vs. Ferrari, where he met Aaron Shelby, grandson of Cobra creator Carroll Shelby. He even got to drive his GT350 on some twisty Texas hill country roads. As part of the purchase of his GT350, Daniel was also given free admission to the Ford Performance Driving school in Utah for a day of driving instruction. This entire experience certainly made the relatively high purchase price of the GT350 worth it, but the best part for Daniel was riding around the school’s track at full speed in Ford Transit vans driven by the instructors. This Sabine Schmitz impression constantly worried the students, who feared that the vans would tip over, but it stuck with Daniel for obvious reasons. His time out driving on the track also convinced him that he didn’t really need to make any performance modifications to the car. It was great from the factory.
Something that Daniel didn’t expect when buying his GT350 was how many friends he would make in the car community, particularly in local Mustang groups. Daniel often goes to car shows and on highway cruises with his local 6th generation Mustang club. Though he already has one of the rarer Mustangs in his club, Daniel has also taken the liberty of adding a few accessories to his Mustang for a little extra flash when showing off his car at a show. Underneath the hood are some aesthetic modifications including a color-matched strut bar complete with black racing stripes, a matching cover for the radiator(also with racing stripes), painted radiator brackets, and a fuse box cover emblazoned with Shelby’s iconic Cobra logo.
A resonator delete has also been done in order to get more volume from the exhaust, allowing Daniel to more easily show off the fantastic Voodoo V8 engine. While it is tempting and very possible to turbocharge or supercharge the Voodoo, Daniel doesn’t plan on doing either, opting to keep it naturally aspirated. In doing so, he mostly decided against doing what him and many other kids did to their in-game cars during the ‘90s and early 2000’s. Though Daniel has been a gearhead since his childhood, the fact that he’s become interested in Mustangs more recently probably explains his more conservative decision. In fact, if you told Daniel when he was a kid that he’d absolutely want a Mustang as an adult, he probably wouldn’t have understood why.
When Daniel was a kid, his father had a small Mazda econobox with a manual transmission. Often, he would sit in his father’s lap and pretend to shift gears with him as they drove along. He also often went with his parents to car shows and to see new models in dealerships. Despite growing up often being around cars, Daniel credits his becoming a gearhead with the variety of racing video games that he played as a child as far back as 1997. His favorite car from this time was the Dodge Viper, a car that he still really likes today. Just like with Daniel, the Viper captivated so many young kids with its almost cartoonish proportions, and face-shredding V-10 power. Daniel absolutely loved the Viper and has wanted one since he was a kid. However, in today’s market, Daniel realizes that a car like the Viper just isn’t worth it. Rising used prices and the fact of the Viper being rather unrefined, uncomfortable, and difficult to drive make it hard to justify, even as a non-daily driver for the average enthusiast. Fortunately, Daniel’s GT350, with it’s beefy, track-focused aura, fills a Viper-shaped hole in his life.
Because Daniel’s love for Mustangs is a recent development, anyone reading this might be quick to ask why he didn’t just buy a GT trim car. The answer is pretty clear if you consider a few things we’ve already mentioned before. When Daniel was a kid, way before he ever liked Mustangs in particular, he really wanted to own a Dodge Viper. However the Viper has some previously mentioned issues and is best used as a track car. While the 6th generation Mustang is very much a jack-of-all-trades, the Shelby GT350 is a track car with a beautifully engineered flat-plane V8. It is not just another Mustang, and that focus on handling and performance is likely what appealed to Daniel. Not only could it scratch the same itch as a late ‘90s Viper, but it came with a warranty, a box of exclusive Shelby goodies, and the aforementioned performance driving school experience. A brand new Viper from 2016 came with a similar warranty and was better refined than ‘90s models, but cost 50% more than the GT350. Everything considered, the GT350 is better value for the money than any Viper, old or new, and it can still claim to be inspired by Carroll Shelby. If you, like Daniel, were enamored by the Viper as a kid, you should definitely look into a GT350 instead. It even lets you turn off the traction control whenever you want.