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RETURN OF THE CRAZY HORSE

10 December 2004
Ford relaunches Mustang in a blaze of 60s retro

When it arrived in 1964, the Ford Mustang was the coolest thing on the planet.

Fast and sexy, it sold in unheard-of numbers and took on Hollywood, starring in two Bond movies and Bullitt by the beginning of the 70s.

Since then, like many of the groovy young things who queued round the block to buy it, the Mustang turned steadily beige.

It got weaker and more hopeless through the decades until finally it arrived in the new millennium in need of a stairlift and a nurse.

Now with the 2005 model, Ford claims to have gone back to the 60s to re-create the fun and thrill of a proper Mustang.

Right. Well, their approach isn't exactly the same as in the 60s. Ads for the original said: "Mustang Hits the Starting Line, Full Bore!" In the bumf about the new one you'll find "The 2005 Mustang helps occupants stay safe".

Wow! That'll draw the kids. 

The new model looks like a 1967 Mustang, probably the prettiest one of all. Unfortunately, Ford has also carried forward some of the 60s technology that went with it. The 2005 Mustang features a live rear axle - a Stone Age suspension set-up that doesn't allow the rear wheels to move independently to soak up bumps. The interior is the usual American tacky rubbish, and the 4.6-litre V8 gives just 300bhp, not much for such a big engine. There's a six- cylinder version, but a Mustang without a V8 makes as much sense as a lawn mower with cardboard blades.

And yet there's some magic to this car. There are European saloons with big V8s, but it's as if they're ashamed of their engines - they muffle them under a bonnet full of cotton wool.

Not the Mustang: it's like having a really big dog on a chain, rumbling at low revs, growling as you pull away and then howling and yelling for all it's worth when you really go for it. Despite being American and rather stupid, it feels lithe and small.

Best of all, being in one is like being in a film. Look in the mirror and you expect to see a black Dodge Charger hard on your heels.

In the States, prices start from around 13,000. But an imported one will cost you between 20,000 and 30,000.

There will also be right-hand drive conversions, if you can wait a couple of months. Ford has no plans to import them officially - but that may change.

Lucky owners will be buying more than a car - they'll be paying for an experience.

THE FACTS

Ford Mustang: Two-door coupe

On sale: Now (Special import only from Stangs.co.uk)

Prices: 20-30,000

Engine: 4.0 petrol, 4.6 V8 petrol

THE RIVALS

Vauxhall Monaro: Monstrous 80s throwback is a glorious celebration of power and noise. Simple and crude - a true muscle car. 28,650-35,595

Nissan 350Z: Brilliant coupe is thrilling to drive thanks to a powerful 3.5-litre V6 and composed handling. Good value too. 24,500-27,000

MG ZT V8: Muscle car in disguise looks like your granddad's Rover 75, but with a 260bhp V8 shoehorned in and rear-wheel-drive. 28,295 - 33,490

Richard Hammond, (Mirror Newspaper, Top Gear), 12 Dec 2004