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SA to Lesotho in a Ford Mustang: Day 4

2018-03-21 07:00

Charlen Raymond

Image: Wheels24 / Charlen Raymond

OR Tambo International, Johannesburg - That night, at the Golden Gate Hotel, it rained as if the heavens were being paid to unleash a flood on the Eastern Free State.

Around 3am I was woken up by the rain knocking on my bedroom’s sliding door. It was a beautiful sound and it rocked me back to sleep. After breakfast all the Mustangs were pulled into the driveway, ready for the final stretch back to Gauteng.

It will be a few hours until we hit Johannesburg traffic, but before then the open fields of the Free State lie waiting.

Open spaces and landscapes as far as the eye can see. No heavy driving lined up, no strenuous mountain passes to contend with, no driving until the sun goes down…

This is going to be a reflection on the past few days away from the hustle and bustle of the city’s rush. I got into the driver’s seat of the 2.3-litre Mustang convertible, but there was no way that the cloth roof was going to be put down. Not with temperatures promising to be around the 30°C mark.


Open plains

The Free State is known for being one of South Africa’s provinces with the most open plains. A mountainous area with a near endless supply of hilltops and blue skies. And, it provides one of the most spectacular road trip sceneries anywhere in SA.

It’s a slow drive through the Golden Gate nature reserve, seeing that an animal could cross the road at any given moment.

The roads twist and turn and curve up and down the mountains. A scary moment came when the convoy suddenly came to a stop after one of the media noticed a car at the bottom of a cliff. Hazards on, everyone jumped out and waited on news from below as one of the contingency scaled the cliff.

The scene looked fresh, they said, as the orange vehicle looked as if it went off merely moments ago. Fortunately, there was no one in the vehicle, but it was a timely reminder just how dangerous these mountains can be. If a driver, whilst on an expedition, misjudge the pass and crash to the abyss below, it’ll be a miracle if he/she gets noticed soon after.

But we carried on and made our way out of the reserve and back onto the highway. And just like that there were more cars; gone is the tranquillity of the open plains. That Mustang, though… Since 1964 the Ford Mustang has been captivating onlookers with its muscle car design and big V8 engines. It’s basically a case of the two being synonymous:

Mustang and V8 engines 

But when the current-generation Mustang came to market at the end of 2015, Ford added a turbocharged 2.3-litre four-cylinder engine to the line-up. Quite a departure from the naturally-aspirated engines…

Driving the convertible on the highway, the 2.3-litre engine sounded pretty muted in comparison to the V8. It’s not a bad thing, but given that the Ford Focus RS has the same engine (albeit with more power), it sounds a heck of a lot better than the Mustang.

The Mustang, of course, is aimed at an entirely different audience than the Focus RS, and it has to be this way to enhance the part of its credential as a cross country tourer. The car, with its 233kW and 430Nm power outputs, had no trouble galloping up an incline or overtaking slower traffic. It felt relatively balanced when driving sedately; thanks in part to the rear-wheel drive setup.

Once back in Johannesburg and the car parked before taking the short drive back to the airport, there was a sense of wishing that this trip would not end.

On the one hand there were so much more to explore and to see in South Africa, while on the other it was good getting to know the most popular muscle car in the world. The rear seats are pretty useless, but travelling through countries with someone to make it worthwhile with ranks up there with the best moments one could have.

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