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A SA road trip in a Mustang was more than just a drive

2016-11-04 10:56

Sean Parker

Cape Town - The older I get the more I don't seem to bother about birthdays, yeah they seem like too much admin to be honest. 

And being a 27-year-old millennial, I knew I rather wanted to experience something amazing than spend bucks on something frivolous. 

What to do? A road trip? With who? None of my friends were able to take leave on such short notice and I felt like nine months into the year I needed some time off alone. 

Which wheels

Which car epitomises a 'road trip' car? Well, it needs to be North American, because, popular culture has embedded that into me. 

Lazy V8 engine, automatic gearbox and a comfortable suspension were the prerequisites. Quite a tall order if you think how every Tom, Dick and Hyundai turbocharges their engine. 

That's when Ford came through for me and I managed to bag a rare 5.0 GT Fastback...

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The plan was simple: collect the car from OR Tambo international airport and head to Mpumalanga, sampling arguably some of the country's best driving roads. 

I had heard murmurs from Joburg motoring hacks about these ribbons of tarmac in the North East of the country. These pothole-less, smooth as a baby's bottom winding roads that would make grown men glee with joy. 

I found them alright, from the R532 that took me from Sabie to Graskop. The Mustang impressed as I meandered by way through massive pine plantations painted with a dark green hue.

On Day 2 I set out to do some sightseeing: I got back onto the R532 and then turned off onto the R534 (a 15km loop) which took me to God's Window. 


God's Window.

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The roads were glorious and there was more to come. 27km of mostly traffic-less roads lay between God's Window and the stunning Bourke's Luck Potholes on the R532. Part of the Panorama Route, how it possible that one road can possess this much beauty? 

These stretches of road gave me a chance to revel in the lusty V8-powered Mustang. the 5.0-litre engine produces 306kW/530Nm.

Its power delivery is like listening to a tenor singing a beautiful song: sonorous, deep, powerful and soulful.

In fact, that's what the Mustang feels like to drive. It's thin-rimmed steering wheel felt like shaking my father's hand: comfortable, familiar and safe. 

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The Mustang was billed as one of the most anticipated cars of the 2015 and its the type of car that has something special. And whenever I stopped for lunch or to top up the fuel tank, I was met with wide-eyed schoolboys who wanted to go for a drive, or petrol attendants that clambered like a royal rumble to have the 'honour' of serving me (but mostly the car). 

The Mustang became the conversation-starter:

The Mustang represents to the man-on-the-street what we love about cars: great design, a rumbling engine and uniqueness.

I swear, if someone rode in on a unicorn, the droves of people that ogled over the 'Stang wouldn't have looked up.  

I was pulled over by cops who asked how much the car cost, how big the engine was and who I was? It was baffling to me. 

But I had all the time in the world for the kids, petrol attendants and petrol heads who loved the Mustang at first sight. 

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At the end of the three days, the freedom of being in a muscle car on some of South Africa's best roads you can think of one of the best experiences I've ever had. 

But there was one more piece of tarmac to tackle on Day 3: Slaaihoek road in Machadorp. Accessed by turning off the R541, this 32km stretch of road turned out to be the key to motoring nirvana. It seemed I had kept the best for last. 

My first run was tentative, sussing out the camber and the state of the road. Thankfully there were hardly any mining trucks ferrying supplies down to the Nkomati nickel mine at that time (it was a late Wednesday after all).  

It was on this road that the Mustang really came into its own: linking apex after apex like a crossword puzzle, its weighty steering and over torque band came to the fore with beautiful urge. 

It was glorious. But it wasn't just about how the car turns-in or how much traction it has, although that is an element of it, but it was more about the way the car makes me feel. A more emotional side of the test. 

To sum it up: the Mustang hits you right in the feels. Three days of driving, of sharing the car with everyone I met along the way made it the best trip I've ever been on. It was almost a motoring pilgrimage. Searching for the best roads in a rare car, I couldn't have asked for a better birthday present. 

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Read more on:    sean parker  |  mpumalanga  |  cape town  |  road trip

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