California Blue – Ford Mustand GT CS

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The Ford Mustang has been on sale around the world for 60 years in 2024, but we’ve only had them available here in the UK since 2015 (not including LHD imported models etc). The big question is, was it worth the 51 year wait? I’ve always been a fan of the Mustang, and that even extends to that slightly dodgy design period in the early 90s but the current generation is probably one of the prettiest models since the ’64.

The Mustang GT California Special was first launched way back in 1968 as a limited run car as a marketing idea to boost sales ahead of the Camaro, Javelin and Firebird competition cars and the GT/CS has been a regular special edition car over the years and the most recent model is a wonderful homage to that original ‘Stang from the sixties.

In 2022, when the latest California Special appeared, petrolheads all across the land cheered at the thought of a naturally aspirated 5.0-liter V8 powered Pony Car in a time where more and more manufacturers are favouring smaller displacement powertrains with turbo and electric assistance – the lates Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG being a prime example. But no, Ford have stayed true to the formula with this one and offered up the CS in full-fat guise. And this theme of remembering the good old days stays clear and present with the rest of the car, maybe a bit too much in places…

Under the skin, the CS is a Mustang GT Convertible that has been dressed up with some delightful retro-inspired cosmetic changes like the beautiful 19-inch grey American Racing-inspired wheels that hawk back to days of street racing in California back in the sixties. Other upgrades include a honeycomb front grille and these lovely black racing stripes along the lower sides of the car. There’s also a larger front splitter and some grey side skirts and a rear diffuser and a lot of “GT/CS” badges, just in case you weren’t sure what you had ordered.

Inside is much of the same with regards to badging and you get black leather seats with red stitching and a few little bits of extra trim, but other than that, you get the same digital dash, infotainment system with CarPlay and Android Auto and then option of a 6-speed manual transmission or a 10-speed auto. The car I drove was fitted with the 10-speed auto and despite it not being as “racy” as one might want a hot-rod styled Mustang to be, it’s a very nice and smooth ‘box. My only real gripe with the interior was the fact that this 2023 model had wired CarPlay, and not the more up-to-date wireless option. Other than that, it was all typical Mustang.

Now, depending what kind of consumer you are, that is either a good thing, or a bad thing. From the eyes of a modern sportscar buyer who wants the latest technology and all the gadgets, the £60,600 asking price demonstrates some questionable value for money. Despite the digital dash and 8″ infotainment screen, and even with the upgraded 12-speaker Bang and Olufsen audio system, the inside feels dated and old – which does make sense as this is a kind of “end-of-the-line” model before the new Mustang hits the streets in 2024/2025. The roof mechanism is also the old-school manual release type I’ve not seen in a car since I drove our old X100 Jaguar XKR back to the UK a couple of years ago.

However, if like me, you’re not in it for the tech, and your average purchase is made by that beating organ in your chest that pumps your blood around your body, and not the one in your head that fills you with anxiety on a daily basis, then the Mustang is forgiven for all its shortfalls because it is, after all, a V8 Mustang. The 5.0-liter V8 under the hood produces a modest 444bhp and 529Nm of torque, and the 0-62mph time is a fairly relaxed 4.5 seconds (4.8 seconds with the six-speed manual) but it sounds wonderful. Every time you give it a little tickle with the right foot, it delivers this fantastic old-school feeling rumble from the quad exhaust system at the back. This, paired with the optional MagneRide adaptive suspension makes for a proper classic feeling grand tourer.

Everything about the Mustang GT/CS is everything I would have wanted it to be. Flawed, yes, but this only adds to its charm. I would say it’s a shame that we won’t see many of them on the road, but this does sort of add to the occasion and joy when you do see one. The bright Grabber Blue paint with those stunning five-spoke 19″ wheels in the summer sun creates a look that perfectly represents the cars evolution over the last half a century.

The California Special was designed to symbolise what Mustang stands for, which is the joy of driving and the freedom of the open road and I feel that it executes this perfectly in a kind of Bruce Springsteen, denim jacket wearing, cold beer drinking kind of way and it quickly reminds us that sometimes the simpler the set up, the better the drive. A good engine at the front with all the power going to the rear wheels, an open top and a pretty design is literally all you need to make a truly memorable driving experience, and the Mustang has been nailing this for over 50 years and they’ve still got it mastered.