If you are going to suffer high fuel and repair bills, you may as well own something interesting. After buying an almost new Honda Civic for its fuel economy and reliability, both of which it failed to deliver, we wanted something a little more fun. This was how we ended up with my wife’s favorite vehicle of all those we’ve owned.
We seriously looked at two cars this time around, the first of which was a very funky Subaru SVX. I really enjoyed its oddball sliding windows and lovely interior, and it ran and drove very nicely to boot. My wife liked it but didn’t love it, and there were some lingering doubts that it could break down and leave us with a very expensive repair bill. At the time, I wasn’t all that mechanically savvy, so we kept looking.
That weekend there was a multi-dealership sale going on at the local mall. A big department store, Eaton’s, had just gone out of business and their empty space had been turned into a large interior car mall. At the time we were avid campers, and my wife fawned over a brand new Pontiac Aztek and its built-in tent. Luckily, its price tag was well beyond our budget. I eyed up an early 1980s Cadillac in yellow, complete with a vinyl roof. While I’m a small-car guy at heart, I’ve always had a soft spot for that generation of full size Cadillac, for reasons I can not readily explain. It was well under our budget but my wife, in no uncertain terms, vetoed that one.
We eventually found something we could both agree on in the form of a 1996 Ford Mustang GT. It had an automatic, which was a little bit of a bummer; however, that’s something I’ve always thought was much more acceptable on a big-engined car, making it a reasonable concession. A pair of racing stripes ran the entire length of the car. If it had been yellow and not red, I think it would have been my wife’s ultimate dream car.
What sealed the deal was that the dealership waived the inspection of our ailing Civic and its again-failing gearbox. When I asked if they needed to test drive our car, the salesman declined, actually saying that there was no need since Hondas never break–and this was a Ford dealer! They agreed to a straight trade: our 1998 Civic for their 1996 Mustang GT. We celebrated by taking a weekend road trip to Calgary and I, of course, got my first speeding ticket in years on the way back. A red Mustang is not subtle and does not blend into traffic.
While new for the Mustang in 1996, the 4.6 L OHC V8’s horsepower rating was a slightly lame 215, but the car proved to be great fun nonetheless. As a bonus, it actually managed to turn in better highway mileage than our faulty Civic. Even better, our Mustang was anvil-reliable and we never had even a hint of an issue with it.
I still owned my 1978 Z28, so for a time we owned two pony cars. Even though they were almost two decades apart in age, we took the opportunity to compare and contrast. The Mustang was a base, stock GT, and the Z28 had had a few power train modifications, namely headers, dual exhaust, aftermarket intake filter, ported valves and some sort of mild aftermarket camshaft. I never had the Camaro on the dyno but I’d suspect it was making roughly the same amount power as the Mustang, perhaps with more torque. The Z28 did, however, feel faster, but that was likely due to its lower seating position, louder exhaust and manual transmission. The Z28 felt more composed in the corners, with less body roll; still, I suspect the Mustang actually had superior abilities that it demonstrated with less drama. The Mustang was very much more of a sedan-like experience, and it beat the Camaro in fuel economy and highway cruising hands down. A close-ratio four-speed gearbox and a performance 3.73:1 rear axle meant the Z28’s engine was spinning very fast at highway speeds, while the Mustang felt like it could glide along for hours at any speed.
In the end, we sold the Mustang before we moved back to the big city of Calgary. Our insurance would have tripled in cost which I, as a recent university graduate, couldn’t afford. For a short time we once again used my Z28 as our sole summertime vehicle and took public transit in the winter. However, it wasn’t long before we bought something else. Stay tuned.