I was sitting in my Ford Mustang in the car park at Carnoustie Co-Op after giving a talk to the local Probus Club.
Two elderly ladies came out of the supermarket with their shopping bags and spent a couple of minutes walking round the car oohing and aahing at the Mustang’s flared wheel arches, two-tone paint job and its four exhausts.
Tinted windows meant they didn’t see me inside the car and I refrained from firing up the engine so as not to startle the old dears.
That the Mustang attracts so much positive attention from people you might not suspect would be into cars is no surprise. Ever since Steve McQueen drove one in Bullitt, the Ford Mustang has been an iconic American muscle car.
Now in in its sixth generation, the Mustang has been on sale in right hand drive in the UK for around seven years.
Most muscular Mustang
I spent a week with the new, range topping Mach 1 model – the fastest version of the car ever to be offered in the UK.
Its 5.0 litre V8 engine has been remapped to produce 454bhp, up 10bhp on the standard V8 Mustang.
Handling has been improved as well, thanks to an aero package that adds 22% more downforce.
Of course half the pleasure of owning a muscle car is its appearance and Mustang Mach 1 buyers have not been short changed here.
A deep front splitter, a boot spoiler and a pair of air intakes in the front grille differentiate it from other versions of the Mustang and nod towards the original 1969 Mustang Mach 1. Mach 1 owners also get exclusive paint colours, while quadruple exhausts ensure you’ll be heard before you’re seen.
What does all this cost? Ford charges £57,000 for the Mustang Mach 1. That’s a hike of £11,000 over the standard Mustang, so it’s certainly a car for fans of the model.
Buyers can opt for a 10-speed automatic or the six speed manual transmission my car came with, which has a funky golf ball style gearknob.
Hitting the road
Press the start button and the engine rumbles into life. Unlike most performance cars, which rely on turbochargers to boost the output of modestly sized engines, the Mustang generates huge amounts of easy power from its 5.0 litre V8.
Press the accelerator and you shoot forward, accompanied by a deep bass roar from both engine and exhaust.
Zero to 62mph takes 4.8 seconds and the Mustang Mach 1’s top speed is 166mph.
The Mach 1 has been given firmer front springs, stronger anti-roll bars, and stiffer suspension. The power steering has also been tinkered with to give more feedback.
All of this means the Mustang handles better than ever before. Not that this was difficult. The Mustang has always been a car designed for American roads, which are long and wide with a corner every 50 miles or so.
The big Mustang still doesn’t hustle round corners with the aplomb of a lightweight hot hatch, but it does feel much less unwieldy than before. It has tremendous grip and the improved steering makes it easier to place the car through tight bends.
The Mach 1 is the most performance oriented Mustang Ford makes. On top of Normal, Snow and Ice, Sport, and Track modes there’s even a Drag Race mode which optimises the car for straight line speed.
On longer and more relaxed drives the Mustang is surprisingly good. I drove from Dundee to the centre of Edinburgh and back. At 70mph in sixth gear that big V8 settles into a relaxed burble.
The suspension is smooth for a performance car and the seats are comfortable as well. The interior is well kitted out and has Ford’s easy to use touchscreen infotainment system. This is a car you could live with everyday – as long as you can stomach mpg in the low 20s.
Occasionally a manufacturer manages to create a modern reimaging of a classic car that works really well. BMW did it with the Mini. Ford has certainly done it with the Mustang.
Given the climate emergency and our need to reduce CO2 emissions it doesn’t feel like there will be a place for V8 muscle cars for too much longer. Indeed, it’s already rumoured the next generation Mustang will have hybrid or fully electric power trains.
If this is the V8 version’s swansong it’s a very good one.
0-62mph: 4.8 seconds
Top speed: 166mph
CO2 emissions: 284g/km