Saturday, August 3, 2013

#5 - 1988 Ford Mustang GT, Part 1


Old car enthusiast rule: After you wreck a fast car, always buy a faster car...

Following the untimely demise of the Volkswagen GTI in the spring of 1987, I set out to find a replacement that would be effective on the autobahn but that I could also take back to the U.S. in 18 months. I needed to buy a new or used American spec car. My 1977 Porsche 911 was German specand honestly it was not that reliable a car anyhow. Luckily there were some good options available.

By the mid 1980's Ford and GM had reignited the muscle car wars with new models of the Mustang, Camaro, and Firebird. Freed from the emissions-choking malaise of the late carburetor era, fuel injection and early engine management computers made the small block V8 relevant again. With top speeds of 140+ these cars represented a relatively inexpensive way to join the big BMW and Mercedes speed trains flying down the German highway network.

For some reason I have always been more of a Ford guy than a GM guy. Comparing the Mustang GT and Camaro IROC-Z, the Ford looked to be the better, and more modern choice. It was also a bit smaller: important on narrow European city streets. My mind made up, I bought a train ticket... Huh?

Service members stationed overseas who want to buy a new American car are at the whim of the Army/Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES). The nearest AAFES Ford concession was in Fulda, hundreds of miles to the south. I headed down on a Saturday and ordered a 1988 Mustang GT in dark gray with gray cloth. Leather was only available in the convertible. The car came standard with a 5.0 High Output V8 rated at 225 horsepower; and of course I chose the five speed manual transmission. I then waited patiently for my dream car to arrive. I waited, and waited, and waited. Months flew off the calendar, just like in old movies.
I ordered the exact color combination as in the brochure.
By late September I was impatient. The guy who sold me the car had no answers. Remember, this was 1987: no internet, no email, no nothing. Your choices were phone, if you had a number; or mail, if you had an address.

Finally somehow I tracked down the phone number of the Ford dealer in New Jersey responsible to get cars headed to Europe through customs at the Port of Newark. They didn't know anything. I begged the guy to go and look for my Mustang. When I called back 15 minutes later (the middle of the night in Germany) he had found the car
in the back of the lot covered in dust. A paperwork error. He promised to get it rushed out the next day.

Zweihundert funf und zwanzig Pferdestärke
A mere month later my new car arrived at the Port of Bremerhaven, Germany. I got the call late on a Friday afternoon. A friend set a speed record in his Peugot 205 GTI getting me to German customs so I could have the Mustang before the weekend.

Later than night I wrecked it.

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