I have a bit of a morbid streak. At art museums, I will often stare into the eyes of the subjects of portraiture, and bother myself with their “quintessence of dust.” It’s less a fact that I am destined to the same fate than it is the idea that I’m staring into the past, fresh and new, and the paradox makes my mind race. Machinery leaves the same impression. This is my dad’s old ’99 Mustang, weeks before he traded it in on a new 2012 Mustang. It no longer exists.
Dad ordered this car new in January of 1999, and delivery took an agonizing four months; well, it was agonizing for me–those matters don’t have much of an effect on Dad. The “new edge” look may be somewhat polarizing these days, but at the time, the new ’99s proved popular and, in our case, hard to get. Aside from a fresh restyle, Ford gave the GT a healthy dose of horsepower. While the ’96-’98 Mustang GTs were fairly weak-kneed by many standards, the ’99 was the first of many steps in the right direction.
Photo courtesy: Car and Driver
The 4.6 produced 260 horsepower, an increase of 35 over the ’98. Even with the automatic, the GT was capable of low-to-mid 14 second quarter-miles, and its passing power was suitably impressive. Out on the freeway, hitting the gas at 70 would get you into trouble immediately. Sure, the concurrent Camaro Z28 was faster, but at least the Mustang was close and there was no chance that “Ford guy” Dad was buying a Camaro, even if Car and Driver reservedly preferred it over the Mustang in ’99.
When I took these pictures, the Mustang had endured 12 years and 110,000 miles of Michigan weather, and it still looked great (other than those floor mats!). I had a say in the order process, so the car was pretty well loaded, with traction control, leather, “Mach 460” sound system, and power everything. The color proved to be uncommon; Dark Satin Green Metallic was only an option for the ’98 and ’99 model years. In retrospect, it was almost too muddy looking, for lack of a better term, but it contrasted well with the saddle interior and brown trim. This Mustang also cemented my opinion that V8 Mustangs are among the most reliable cars ever. In all those years, it only required a front wheel bearing and an IAC solenoid (although I suspect the 1-2 accumulator spring in the transmission broke…it shifted pretty hard toward the end).
When something is a part of one’s life for so long, it’s tough to speak of it in the past tense. Roughly a year after my dad traded it in, the new owner apparently stuffed it into a ditch to avoid a wayward dog. Although all carbon-based life forms apparently survived, the hydrocarbon emitting ones did not. Where it ended up or how much survived, I can’t say. It was, however, the end of the road for an old family friend; the mellow burble from the pipes coughed one last gasp, and all was silence.
I’m probably too sentimental about machinery, which is why I have a hard time selling anything. It’s a quirk of my personality to wonder where the bones lie, so to speak, and this Mustang is no exception. Is its engine powering another ’99 GT somewhere, or did someone buy it to transplant into an old Crown Victoria? Did its rear axle find a home underneath an old muscle car, like a GM A-Body? Could the yard salvage a wheel or two to replace one bent by Michigan potholes? Did the essence somehow endure despite the oncoming inferno? None of us has an answer, of course, but I can’t help but look into those headlights and wonder.