Thursday, October 10, 2013

#5 - 1988 Ford Mustang GT, Part 2

When we last saw our intrepid hero (that would be me), he was crashing his brand new Mustang...

Actually, and sadly, true. The simple fact was that I had an attack of stupid that night, spinning the car on a wet cobblestone street in Bremen, Germany. Eventually the car came to rest against a bus stop sign, creasing the passenger side door. A badge of stupidity.

The GT on a 1988 trip to Holland
My friend Joel was along for the ride, the first time he had been in a car with me since I had totaled the GTI in Denmark the previous Easter. After we stopped spinning, he turned to me and quietly said, "Man, I don't think I want to ride with you anymore."

Now that was funny, but also more than a bit ironic as Joel wrecked his share of cars while we served together. You see, that is sort of the deal with being a young combat-arms officer. With the expected lifespan of a tank platoon leader in combat against the expected Russian onslaught actually quantified at less than five minutes (thank you Rand Corporation), we really did not spend much time contemplating the future. I drove reckless and fast, caroused wildly, and lived to tell the tale. And that Mustang was a big part of the adventure.
It took a lot of paperwork to get past this sign.

While there are many Mustang tales to tell, I'll keep it to a minimum, beginning with driving it through Checkpoint Charlie and into Communist East Berlin. Under the agreements that governed post-war Germany, members of the Allied Powers had free access to all of the occupation zones. So while East Germany and East Berlin were behind the "Iron Curtain," my friends and I could visit there in the Mustangand cow the evil Commies into submission with my American muscle car.

And people said Reagan won the Cold War.

Transiting the Iron Curtain was a complex task, involving lots of paperwork and waiting. The communist border guards would make you sit for hours before stamping your paperwork and allowing you to enter. But once through you had surprisingly free access to most of East Berlin.  Due to exchange rates, shopping and dining in the eastern zone was very inexpensive... I'm talking five star meals for a few dollars. Flaming deserts!
The Trabant - the cutting edge of East Germany automotive technology
The sheer size and looks of the Mustang GT combined the V8's rumble on the narrow cobblestone streets would draw a crowd whenever I parked. Stunned "Ossies" literally stood and stared, jaws agape. Considering the average East German car of the time, that was actually not so surprising. Glasnost hell, the Mustang brought down that wall.

Back on the side of democracy and freedom the Mustang was not completely unknown. Several German teams raced Fox-bodied Mustangs in the popular DTM racing series and the cars sort of held their own against BMWs and Mercedes, sort of. Perhaps because of this I continually found myself challenged on the autobahn by M3s and 190 2.3-16s.

A Mustang GT chases an M3 in a 1989 DTM race at the Nurburgring.
It was on the autobahn that the aerodynamic inadequacies of the Mustang's many spoilers and wings became disturbingly apparent. These parts were designed for looks, not downforce. The Mustang could hit about 140 before running out of breath just short of redline. But at any speeds over 120 mph the GT got light and scary. Downhill sweeping corners were terrifying at high speed, as the car lost traction and began to float.

Funny thing, 140 (225 kilometers an hour) was about the top end for the M3 and Merc as well. Nobody would win these races, but nobody lost either. Occasionally we gave up and all pulled over to check out each other's cars. Maybe it was during these impromptu meetings that I began to realize that much of the fun in car enthusiasm was other enthusiasts. Funny that it was my Mustang that probably started me on the road to PCA.

And the Mustang GT? I brought it back from Germany in 1989 and promptly got three speeding tickets in as many months. Faced with losing my license, I traded it in on an Acura Integra. I never really missed the car, but in hindsight it was the perfect car for that part of my life. It was also the last V8 engined car I would ever own.

1988 Ford Mustang GT
Owned: 1987-89
Music: U2, Bananarama, and always, Elvis Costello
Rating: 4/5 (If it just had better aerodynamics I could have beat those darned Germans)