By Eric Barton
Ponce de Leon landed in Florida in 1513, possibly looking for magical waters that would stop him from aging. Hernando de Soto copied him two decades later, but neither man ever found the secret to immortality.
Our search for the Fountain of Youth was far easier. We found it early one Friday morning while heading north on A1A toward Palm Beach County. Behind the wheel of the new Mustang GT, the rising sun sparkling off the choppy ocean to the east, years just seemed to tick off as the tachometer climbed.
It’s like that in the Mustang, a car built for fun, a car that has the effect of turning grown people into giggling teenagers.
That starts thanks to the sound. There was an open spot heading from the light at Sunrise Boulevard, so the Mustang barked and howled through first and second gear. The speed limit came quickly, but it’s that millisecond-seeming trip to slightly too fast speeds that can make you feel 16 again.
The engine is a big part about what makes the Mustang special. It’s eight cylinders, 5.0-liter of course, and it produces a growl Gandalf would recognize. Under the hood is the spirit of Rosie the Riveter, the stout men and women who toil on production lines, and all the engineering spirit of ’merica.
Traveling north into Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, the traffic picks up, and the engine became a constant chug-chug into idle. It’s never quiet, this car. Driving it slow is maybe the only challenging time behind the wheel. Just try and downshift smoothly. A slow start at the light at Galt Ocean Mile is jerky, the Mustang clearly wanting an open stretch.
Approaching the Broward-Palm Beach line, the traffic cleared up. In the other lane, a parade of cars headed south to untold commutes. In front of us: a few quick curves before the bridge over the inlet, and the hefty Mustang glides through them like a car half its considerable size.
It does feel big. All that muscle car brute has to go somewhere, so stretched out in front is a double-creased hood that looks bigger than most Manhattan apartments. Between the canopy of banyan trees along A1A, the hood of the Mustang’s glossy paint can catch the glare of the sunrise and the reflection of passing palm fronds, a distraction for drivers coming out of modern cars with hoods that dip out of sight.
Otherwise, though, the Mustang is a decidedly modern car. The interior in the 50th anniversary edition stands up to any overseas rival, with stitched leather everywhere and technology like a backup camera and touch-button start. There are also touches to bring out the kid in us, like aircraft-style toggle switches and a speedometer featuring, in all-caps, “GROUNDSPEED.”
All those fancy bits do come at a price, in the low 40s with everything, equal to a sporty BMW 4 Series. This also isn’t a cheap car to own, with our weeklong drive eating up gas at an Al Gore-alarming rate of about 10 miles per gallon. For those who want that out-of-school-for-the-summer feeling without spending so much, the six-cylinder starts in the low 20s and still packs more horsepower than you’ll ever really need on South Florida streets.
But that sound in the GT. Heading into Hillsborough Beach, the Intracoastal starts to lap up to the west side of the road. A slow truck turns off in front of us, and now it’s time to open up the Mustang again.
First gear. Second gear. Windows down, the engine roars, like F-16s spooling up on an aircraft carrier, duck hunters firing at once, a chorus of angry grizzlies.
Ponce de Leon and de Soto were just too early. Hitting third gear in the Mustang GT, with sky-blue waters glimmering in the periphery, that’s where we find the Fountain of Youth.
Al Packer Ford, West Palm Beach, alpackerfordeast.com; AutoNation Ford Delray, autonationforddelray.com; AutoNation Ford Fort Lauderdale, autonationfordfortlauderdale.com; AutoNation Ford Margate, autonationfordmargate.com; Plantation Ford, plantationford.com; Pines Ford Lincoln, pinesford.com; Pompano Ford Lincoln, pompanoford.com; Sawgrass Ford, sawgrassford.com; Wayne Akers Ford, Lake Worth, wayneakers.net.