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On freedom, noted author George Orwell once said, ‘Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two makes four. If that is granted, all else follows.’ There’s certainly no questioning his logic, but there’s more to freedom than just getting the basics right. With Motoring attaining the age at which you’re allowed to exercise your choice and voice your opinion, I liberated my inner self on the vast tarmac expanses of Rajasthan in one of the most vocal ways there is — the Ford Mustang GT’s V8.

With Ford Motor Co. realising that they must no longer deprive righthand-drive markets of the gem the Mustang is, the car is soon becoming a more frequent sight, even in markets like India where the odd tax structure doesn’t really favour importing cars. Regardless, Ford has made a proposal the Indian automotive enthusiast can’t afford to ignore. Who cares if your pockets aren’t deep; the Mustang represents freedom and equal opportunity to all. Which is very much like the ‘American dream’ I briefly lived.

My journey began in Jaipur, where the sun-soaked city roads, perennially late commuters, and the hugely impressionable schoolchildren witnessed what was one of the most striking cars in the Pink City. Keeping in mind that being the capital of Rajasthan, Jaipur gets its dose of good-looking, even exotic cars frequently, that’s quite a compliment, isn’t it? Soon enough we found ourselves clambering out of the city traffic, onto the smooth(er) highways, looking for the ideal setting to enjoy motoring freedom.

What impresses the most about the Mustang, apart from its history and sharpened (for this generation) looks, is the way it decimates distance. It’s far from your ideal track car, but for touring, it’s easily one of the best options out there. There’s quite some weight on the Mustang which becomes evident in corners, but also adds to the overall stability of the car. Don’t hurl it and it will continue to please with good composure in corners, too. The steering’s best left in ‘Normal’ mode as it’s a good compromise between driveability and knowing exactly where the car is going — in isolation, neither is achieved, though.

The national highway connecting Jaipur to Ajmer (our next stop) is devoid of any real corners for most part. But that’s where the Mustang came alive, with its slightly laidback GT capabilities. The fact that the car was running non-stop since the morning, tackling city traffic followed by our escapade, reinstated that sportscars live up to their everyday usability hype quite well — and the Mustang, more so. What we might have not encountered on the highways, but only occasionally in the city, were potholes, and needless to say, the Mustang handled them very well indeed. In fact, if we were to tackle the same stretch in a crossover, we’d have turned into bobblehead dolls.

The Mustang’s brakes also deserve a mention because despite the weight, they don’t have a problem in dissipating speed nor do they pose any issue even in prolonged stop-go use. And then there’s the engine that comes with magical numbers that read ‘5.0-litre’, ‘V8’, and ‘396 bhp’. The car’s character would certainly have suffered had there been a lesser engine, but despite our archaic import laws and affinity towards everything economical, the V8 has found its way in.

At the risk of sounding lyrical, let me tell you how much of a difference a mere badge (and a few innards) can make. First of all, there’s the burble. Unlike most other cars that retail at a similar price point, the Mustang depends on its engine noise to make the driver (and the onlooker) happy. To hell with the idea of getting a loud aftermarket flatulence-can, because in this case the symphony’s at the front and not the back. You also realise that it’s not just about how fast you can go in the Mustang (of course, you can; ask Bullitt!) but also about soaking in the noise, revelling the wonderfully spacious cabin, and enjoying the ability to go anywhere as long as the roads are well-laden and wide. That’s what freedom is all about, isn’t it?

By the time we neared our pitstop for the day, the sun had already set, and the Mustang still showed no signs of fatigue. Which is when I realised that being on the road, driving an all-time favourite car and making progress is what I dreamt of as a kid. If you’re reading this, I’m sure you agree. So as Motoring turns 18, our 400-km journey coincidentally helped us celebrate the fact that we had become old enough to make our own choices, to enjoy our freedom, but all of that without being irresponsible. Or something like that.

They say the morning after is always boring. I never got what they meant, but it’s almost a given that they weren’t talking about this morning. Because the Mustang, in all of its bright Race Red glory, was ready to take on the journey ahead. The car, despite its width, is fairly docile in the city. And although there are eyeballs popping at you faster than on a film star, the Mustang’s quick enough to make a getaway from the crowds that love to live dangerously, taking selfies while riding in front of a well-behaved (but equally ferocious when enraged) pony car.

Moving on, the road towards Udaipur is anything but straight, hence it doubles up as a good workout for both the car and your biceps; the latter’s not true if the Mustang’s steering is set to ‘Normal’. What you encounter while turning is that the car hates being unsettled, but that’s only the start of it. With the electronic nannies in place, it doesn’t lose composure, but it never inspires enough confidence to switch off the driver aids — irrespective of how heavy and/or precious your family jewels are. Show some respect, stay smooth, and then it rewards with the ability to carry some speed into the corner. Brake before turning in and accelerate your way out of the corner — that’s the easiest (and most effective way, in my opinion) of enjoying the Mustang. The power sent to the rear wheels pushes you out of the corners and you can sense how different that is to a regular, front-wheel-drive car, even at the same speed.

Rajasthan is a fairly peace-loving state, but the locals are enthusiastic, loving, and more often than not, awestruck. The latter more so when seeing in the flesh what they’ve mostly heard about: a car that lets people enjoy the equality but without them having to break the bank. Also, when going through a tunnel, the car brings immense amount of happiness and V8 goodness that others just cannot. But it’s still far from perfect, the Mustang; apart from being heavy — which is okay as long as it has the GT badge on it — the seats lack side bolstering, and the steering could do with more feel.

As expected, we reached Udaipur before we (and Google Maps) estimated. The glow in people’s eyes followed, even as we disembarked the car. The feeling of being at the centre of everyone’s attention might make you forget that it’s actually the car that makes you the hero. It just gives you the freedom to explore your limits and, in our case, even at barely five-tenths, the Mustang won our hearts.

The Mustang has a history so long that even if we decided to feature one article a day on Motoring’s website, we would easily be able to continue doing so until the next generation arrives (the next generation of the writers, that is, not the Mustang). The first one arrived in 1964, offered the American middle class the ability to enjoy motoring but without having to break the bank. But having faced a recent failure with its luxury brand Edsel, Ford management wasn’t too willing to take the risk. Thankfully they took the leap of faith, and allocated $75 million for the car’s development — mind, it wasn’t a whole lot of money! In a record time of just eighteen months, the car was ready.

Fifty years hence, the car is in its sixth generation, a huge advancement of whatever Ford has sold with ‘Mustang’ branding. It still comes with a V8 (other engines available elsewhere, but why should you care, because the mahoosive V8 is so good) and is as much of an icon as it was back in the day.

With all due respect, if I were to rephrase George Orwell’s freedom quote, it would be something like, ‘Freedom is the freedom to choose where to go, as long as it’s in the Mustang.’ For what the badge of the wild horse has always stood for is nothing but freedom.

BY Paranjay Dutt
PHOTOS Limin Mathew and Rohan Dayal

[This story was originally published in our January 2017 issue]