Mustang GT California Special: South African Muscle Spotlight

  • Personal Connection: The article highlights the author's deep passion for the Ford Mustang, tracing back to childhood experiences.
  • Unique Features: It discusses the standout features of the limited-edition Mustang GT California Special, both inside and out.
  • Relevance Today: The article explains why getting a sixth-generation Mustang in 2023 still makes sense for South African consumers.

The venerable Ford Mustang has always been a strong polarizer of opinion. There’s no middle ground here; you either love it or hate it. I, for one, have always been a fan of this Dearborn pony car ever since my godfather handed me a copy of Peter Yates’ neo-noir action thriller film, Bullitt, back in 1999. Seeing Steve McQueen blast around the streets of San Francisco in his Highland Green 1968 Ford Mustang GT fastback was something of a revelation — one that introduced me to American car culture and the allure of the V8.

Table 1: Ford Mustang GT California Special Specs

Engine5.0L naturally aspirated V8 Coyote engine
Power Output330kW @ 7,000rpm
Torque529Nm @ 4,600rpm
Transmission10-speed automatic
0-100 km/h Time4.5 seconds
Wheels/Tires19-inch five-spoke alloy wheels, Michelin Pilot Sport 4 tires (255/40 front, 275/40 rear)
BrakesBrembo brake package
SuspensionAdaptive suspension
ExhaustActive quad-tailpipe exhaust system
Features12-inch digital instrument cluster, eight-inch Sync 3 touchscreen infotainment system, adaptive cruise control, 10-speaker Bang & Olufsen sound system, limited-slip differential, ventilated/heated front seats with GT/CS branding, and more.

In just 113 minutes, this obscure celluloid time capsule proved there was so much more beyond the all-too-familiar German cars I had obsessed over for most of my formative teenage years. Indeed, I no longer lusted after a Volkswagen Rallye Golf but rather a 1964½ 289 Fastback with a set of torque-thrust wheels and a lightly silenced exhaust system.

Though this fantasy never became reality (I ended up getting a Ford Fiesta 1.6 instead), I was fortunate enough to spend — and continue to spend — a considerable amount of time behind the wheel of a first-generation Mustang at race tracks around the country. You see being something of a car nut himself, my godfather picked up on my newfound affinity for Detroit iron and decided it would be a good idea to purchase a 1965 Fastback just before the early 2000s muscle car boom hit the South African market. Long story short, but what was supposed to be a modified weekend warrior quickly morphed into a full-on Shelby Mustang GT-350R replica with a 5.7l Ford Racing crate motor beneath its fiberglass hood.

Table 2: Personal Mustang Journey

YearMilestone
1999Introduced to Mustang via “Bullitt” movie
2000Godfather’s 1965 Fastback purchase
2000sTransformation into a Shelby GT-350R replica
2023Testing the Ford Mustang GT California Special

Running in Sunday Times colors, I made my local circuit racing debut in this incredible machine and in doing so realized what had always been one of my greatest ambitions.

Now I could easily write a thousand more words on my experiences in this car, but doing so would detract from the brief at hand. I suppose the purpose of this preamble was to get across that the Mustang and I share some history: it’s one of those cars I have a soft spot for, which is why I was thrilled to be offered a GT California Special as a long-term tester.

The Mustang GT California Special: A Unique Offering

One of a litany of special edition Mustang derivatives offered by the Blue Oval, the CS is basically a standard GT Fastback fitted with some go-faster styling mods. Limited to just 100 units here in South Africa, these include a gloss-black honeycomb radiator grille with red GT/CS badging, an extended front diffuser, grey 19-inch five-spoke alloy wheels, side air scoops, and a fixed rear wing attached to the boot lid. The bottom of the doors is home to multi-coloured side stripes featuring hidden “California Special” script that is near invisible in low light, but becomes way more prominent in strong sunlight.

Sink into the car’s comfortable cabin, and you will notice a couple of bespoke interior mods including black suede door inserts, GT/CS branded floor mats, and an instrument panel finished in carbon hex aluminum with a “California Special” script badge on the passenger side. The ventilated/heated front seats, also finished in black suede, feature GT/CS logos embroidered on the headrests and feature bold red contrast stitching.

Table 3: Mustang GT California Special Features

Interior FeaturesExterior Features
Black suede door insertsGloss-black honeycomb radiator grille with red GT/CS badging
GT/CS branded floor matsExtended front diffuser
Carbon hex aluminum instrument panel with “California Special” script badgeGrey 19-inch five-spoke alloy wheels
Ventilated/heated front seats with GT/CS logos and red contrast stitchingSide air scoops
12-inch digital instrument clusterFixed rear wing attached to the boot lid
Eight-inch Sync 3 touchscreen infotainment system with smartphone mirroringMulticolored side stripes with hidden “California Special” script
Two USB ports
On-board navigation
Adaptive cruise control
10-speaker Bang & Olufsen sound system with a subwoofer neatly mounted in the boot

The standard features list is generous too, with highlights coming in the form of a 12-inch digital instrument cluster, an eight-inch Sync 3 touchscreen infotainment system with smartphone mirroring, two USB ports, on-board navigation, adaptive cruise control, and a 10-speaker Bang & Olufsen sound system with a subwoofer neatly mounted in the boot.

Yeah, you get a decent amount of swag for your dough here, and that’s before you even factor in the Mustang’s headlining feature: an old-school naturally aspirated 5.0 Coyote V8 engine pumping out 330kW at 7,000rpm and 529Nm of torque at 4,600rpm. Meshed to a 10-speed automatic transmission (unfortunately there’s no more option of a manual), performance is brisk, with Ford claiming a 0-100 km/h time of 4.5 seconds.

A Brembo brake package is standard, as is adaptive suspension, a limited-slip differential, Michelin Pilot Sport 4 tires (255/40 front, 275/40 rear), and an active quad-tailpipe exhaust system, the timbre of which can be adjusted from mild to balls-out dragster wild.

Though some might question the logic of getting a sixth-generation Ford Mustang as a long-termer so late in its life cycle (especially as the seventh-generation model is already on sale in the US), the fact that you can still walk into a Ford dealership and buy one makes it relevant to our local consumer base. Besides, purchasing one in 2023 means you benefit from years of behind-the-scenes bug-fettling; meaning you are probably going to get the best Mustang ownership experience for your money.

Regardless, it’s going to be loads of fun putting the Lucid Red Ford Mustang GT California Special through its paces over the next three months. Watch this space for updates.

Table 4: Ford Mustang GT California Special Key Information

Odometer on Delivery9,008km
Current Odometer9,249km
Average Consumption10.3l/100km
Price as TestedR1,154,900

The Ford Mustang GT California Special is not just a car; it’s a piece of automotive history, a symbol of American muscle, and a thrilling driving experience. It’s a car that captures the essence of the open road, the roar of a V8 engine, and the spirit of adventure. As I embark on this South African journey with the Mustang, I look forward to sharing more insights and experiences with you in the coming months. Stay tuned for updates on this iconic pony car’s performance, style, and the unique stories it continues to create on South African roads.

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