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2018-03-17 08:01

Charlen Raymond

Image: Wheels24 / Charlen Raymond

Rosendal, Free State - When the current generation Ford Mustang came to South Africa in December 2015, it was an immediate sales success for the Blue Oval.

Over the course of 2016 and a tad into 2017, sales averaged around 100 units per month. But as 2017 progressed, that figure now stands at around 60 units. Still, it remains the best-selling sports car in South Africa today; outselling some very competent, and potent, machinery.

Epic road trip

To kick of their year and, to a certain extent, celebrate the Mustang’s success in South Africa, Ford invited a few media representatives on an epic road trip in its halo product. Catching the early morning flight from Cape Town to OR Tambo International in Johannesburg, all we were told by Ford was that this would/could be the most epic drive of 2018.

Important details were missing, like where we’d be driving to, where we’d rest our weary bodies after a full day of driving and activities, and where we’d eventually end up. But, said Ford South Africa, this is a road trip and they were our guides. We’d just have to follow in the ‘Stangs and trust when they said that this trip would be epic.

Okay then… Our stallions of choice, all fitted with the six-speed automatic gearbox, were the 2.3 EcoBoost and 5.0-litre V8 GT. Both in Fastback and convertible configurations.

Gauteng to Free State Following the brief brief on what the next couple of days will hold, we set off out of the buzzling Johannesburg traffic en route to the Free State.

At this point in time no one had any idea of where we’re going, but in the spirit of it being a road trip, we trusted our trip advisers. The first derivative on offer was the Mustang GT, fitted with a naturally-aspirated 5.0-litre V8 engine (306kW/530Nm).

Trotting out of the city and on the highways didn’t seem to bother the GT too much, but initial reaction to throttle inputs were a bit slow. This could be attributed to the lack of a turbocharger. And the gearbox, though not troublesome, also had a few hesitant moments before cogging the next gear; albeit up or down. But very briefly I shoved my motor journalist tendencies to the side and opted to rather enjoy the trip for what it is: an adventure into the unknown (literally) in one of the most recognisable cars to yet to grace our roads.

The road took us out of Johannesburg, past Vanderbijlpark en route to Bloemfontein. Only thing is, we never saw Bloem. Instead we took a turn to Lindley and from there to Rosendal - my word that town is small! I swear, when the Mustangs pulled through the town, residents came out in hordes to marvel at these cars.

Children were running around posing with every passing Mustang and we duly obliged by indulging in their fantasy of getting up close with one of SA's best-selling sports cars.

Rosendal is one of those places that even Google Earth would give a miss, but the character of the town can compete with the very best of what any major city in South Africa has to offer.

Former '7de Laan' actor, Chris van Niekerk, who played Francois Rossouw (owner of Oppiekoffie) has his own little coffee shop in the town complete with a cosy theatre. Then there is the husband-and-wife team from Kaboedel who make their own glass products in ovens with soaring temperatures of more than 820 degrees! The roads here are more clay than anything else and it will confuse the living daylights out of anyone who goes there for the first time, but the character of the place is so… homely.

Park for the night

After visiting Rosendal for a few hours and getting to know some of the locals, we saddled up our cars and headed back to the main road, to our layover spot for the evening. Thanks to it being late afternoon and traffic having dimmed down quite a lot, it was an opportune time to stretch the GT’s legs.

The engine, though punchy with a deep sound, cruised beautifully without complaint. Tuning the dynamic settings and steering feel also made the experience more engaging, but even with the steering feel set to sport, it was quite light at speeds. There was almost no difference to how it felt in the comfort setting.

Off the R70 we took a shot left on a gravel road that continued for little over 20km to a farm deep within the mountains, called Moolmanshoek. A privately owned game reserve with some of the most beautiful, most epic views one could ask for.

Suddenly two Ford employees jumped into four Mustangs and positioned them at the bottom of a big lawn. And within a couple of moments, barely three minutes, a herd of horses came running over the meadows - right in between the four cars.

At speed! It was an absolutely amazing sight to behold, these horses running at full gallop, missing the cars by inches and gifting us with perhaps the single biggest highlight of this trip.

Oh, that little stunt with the horses wasn’t rehearsed. Once the dust had settled and everyone came back to their senses, it was time to freshen up for supper and then shutting some eye for the evening. Because tomorrow promises to be an epic day.

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