A meeting with a Mustang: Behind the wheel of a true V8 legend

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A meeting with a Mustang: Behind the wheel of a true V8 legend

Ask anyone to name the most iconic car in film and the answer will likely be, "The Aston Martin DB5 from Goldfinger."

But press the issue further and it won't be long until the glorious green 1968 Ford Mustang GT from Bullitt crops up.
> The film is 45 years old this year but more importantly, the Mustang celebrates its 50th birthday in 2014 and what better way to really get under the skin of this slice of Americana than treating it to a few hard laps of a famous British racing circuit?

AOL Cars was invited down to Brands Hatch during a very hot, very busy MSV open track session to sample the delights of a Mustang Experience, a new offering from trackday specialists Classic American Muscle that allows punters to hop behind the wheel of vintage V8 muscle.

Gleaming in the sunshine was a selection of all-American Tarmac devourers in various states of vintage.

In bright white with eye-catching blue go-faster stripes was 'Hercules', a bulky 1965 Mustang coupe that features a 302 high-spec V8, close ratio 4-speed gearbox, disc brake conversion and what looks like a tin can covering the side exist exhaust.

It turns out that tin can is to placate the stringent race marshals at Brands Hatch who insist on vehicles emitting less than 105db from the exhaust. Hercules emits 110db uncorked.

Ant Webb, Director of Classic American Muscle and the owner of these precious specimens, says: "There's nothing better than the sound of a V8 roaring past but unfortunately we have to stick to the rules. You should hear Hercules on the open road, it certainly turns heads."

We are given a short briefing by the fully qualified ARDS instructors on hand and mainly warned about the amount of traffic on track but it's not long before we clamber into the low slung passenger seat of the retro machine for some brief sighting laps.

A meeting with a Mustang: Behind the wheel of a true V8 legend


The first thing to slap the senses is the smell: a heady mix of musty old deep pile carpets, WD40 and 98 RON petrol. It's the sort of fragrance one imagines the James Deans and Steve McQueens of yesteryear wore on a daily basis.

The instructor twists the stubby metallic key - which wouldn't look out of place hanging out of a padlock - and with a few pumps of the accelerator, the enormous V8 rumbles into life.

The guttural burble fills the cabin and with plenty of revs and a rather awkward stab at the long-shift gear lever, we are rolling away from the pits and onto the straights.

It is incredibly busy on the tight and twisting Indy Circuit but our instructor seems confident the Mustang will hold its own against the smattering of trackday heroes as he shouts instructions over the engine's incessant roar.

After two quick sighting laps, we are back in the pits and swapping seats. The experience day is designed to be just that, a proper experience.

"Some of these supercar experiences just don't cut it," says Ant. "You get in the car, do two laps and it's all over. "We are aiming to give our customers a good half day of driving a variety of vehicles. By the end of it, they will come away feeling like they've experienced valuable track time as well as being able to boast about driving some classic machines."

We find it difficult to disagree as we select first, pile on the revs and roll past the marshal at the end of the pit lane. "Stick to the right and let these Caterhams pass us," our instructor calmly informs us. "Then when it's clear, wind on the power."

The awkward gear stick with its spindly, 90-degree lever takes some shuffling before it slots into second but when it does, the 230-odd horses (some have likely fled the stable by now) are put directly into the black stuff below thanks to a distinct lack if nagging computer aids and electronic gadgetry.

Hercules hunkers down at the rear and rockets forward just before it's time to slam on the anchors in anticipation of Paddock Hill Bend. Luckily, the disc brake conversion has worked and speed is shed at an acceptable, if not completely comforting rate.

Eight or so laps zip by and the Mustang settles into a beautiful rhythm before its time to roll into the pits and repeat the whole experience in a slightly newer 1995 Mustang GT.

Punters will be treated to three Mustang drives should they opt for the full experience, which in our mind is a snip at just £249 but as a final treat, we were gifted a passenger lap in a jaw-dropping 1979 Corvette Stingray... 225bhp never felt or sounded so good.

To find out more about Mustang Experience – which runs at circuits up and down the country - visit the Classic American Muscle website .

Classic American Muscle

Classic American Muscle