It happened gradually. First, seeing a Cortina MK III when I was a kid in the 70's. In my teens, a friend had a MK 1 Escort RS2000 and he asked if I fancied a go. I was driving a Fiesta 1.1L at the time, so I'd never driven anything with the Escort's abilities. It was small, nimble and handled like a go-kart - a character I'd never experienced.
How did that passion develop?
While working in Australia, someone asked if I was a Ford or a Holden man. I watched the V8 Supercar series to learn about Ford Falcons and Holden Commodores. On a family holiday in Perth, we rented a Ford Falcon. I couldn't believe how good it was - there was a mix of styling, ergonomics, a great engine and handling that all fast Fords possess. I was a Ford man from that point.
What was your path to owning your Mustang?
I always wanted to own an American muscle car. I loved the '69 Dodge Charger from The Dukes of Hazzard, and spent my childhood looking at Custom Car magazines. Years later, I watched the original Gone In 60 Seconds with my son - with the yellow long-bonneted 1973 Mustang fastback 'Eleanor' - and the thought of owning a classic 1970s fast American Ford felt like a wonderful idea. As a complete coincidence, an ad appeared on a classic car website for a '71 Mustang. This was the first classic car I had the time, ability and money to own, so I jumped at the chance.
She was born on September 1970 for dealer stock, with the 351 M-code V8 and optional factory-fitted four-speed Toploader manual, a Hurst shifter, a locking rear-end, and an 8-track. There are no electric windows or A/C, so the dealer clearly bought her for one thing - to go fast in a straight line. The engine currently produces around 300bhp, and she's still quick today, with a 0-60mph of 6.5 seconds. She came to the UK in 1976 and remained highly original, having spent 18 years being stored in a barn. Eventually, she was brought out of hibernation and I bought her from a local Ford enthusiast. I had her fully re-commissioned by a highly respected local Mustang specialist. She's done a genuine 48,000 miles from new.
Have you done anything to your Mustang since?
I've made a few subtle changes under the skin, but nothing to alter the original looks. I've added a Holley 600 four-barrel carburettor, an Edelbrock intake, ceramic headers and a 2.5" Flowmaster exhaust. She still has that period-correct eight-track stereo.
Absolutely. She's shorter and narrower than my L322 Range Rover, but she looks huge because she's so low to the ground. Just like a Capri, that long nose and low height is deceptive. When you accelerate, the lazy burble from the exhaust turns into an angry roar as the bonnet lifts, and the rear-end squats. Then the secondaries open on the Holley, and you get a second-wind of acceleration. Don't believe the myth about American cars not handling. The 351 V8 sits mostly behind the front axle and is 100kg lighter than big-block 429's. The handling is good, with a keen, direct turn-in, and decent levels of feel. The Mach 1 setup helps. Ford knew what they were doing.
What are your favourite memories with the car?
I often pick up my 15-year-old son from school. His friends didn't believe him when he said his dad has a Ford Mustang. Now he brings his friends along. We share a deep passion for the car. It's the same with my six-year-old daughter. We went to a classic car show. I wanted to look at other cars, but my daughter wanted to stay with 'Eleanor'. Like any kid, she's into all sorts of stuff, but all she wanted to do was park herself next to the Mustang and clean the wheels. I don't have any other cars that have ignited her passion like this. It reminds me of cleaning my dad's car when I was that age. She always begs to sit in the front seat, even though she can't see over the bonnet.
What is it about performance Fords that make them stand out for you?
Fords aren't just blue-collar cars. They've had massive integrity to stand the test of time in terms of design, engineering and appeal. You can trace that lineage through every Ford performance car - from the Capri to the Mk1 RS2000. There's a great community - kind and gentle, with an awful lot of passion and knowledge. And they're not just elitist about performance models. They love base models just as much. I was at an event where I was parked next to a 2005 Ford GT, and the owner was as enthusiastic about my car as I was about his.