I’m counting the sleeps left until I get to play with one of my favourite classics: my ’66 289 GT Mustang.
If that phrase sounds more like something a seven-year old schoolboy might use to gauge the time left to opening a much-anticipated Scalextric set on Christmas morning, then perhaps I should explain: my 'Stang is stored 6000 miles away in my native South Africa so it’s not a car I get to enjoy that often. In fact, once a year on my yearly escape to the sun is about it.
The annual countdown was delayed as the worst of the UK’s winter weather held off until a couple of weeks ago (thanks to a particularly long stint of unseasonably dry weather) but with the plummeting temperatures and early sunsets, the mental clock began with earnest and my thoughts have turned to firing up the Mustang for the ritual blast around the scenic Cape Peninsula to air its tonsils and get into the holiday spirit.
The first outing is usually followed by giving Elvis (as it was nick-named by my other half) a wash and polish before installing the latest part from California Mustang.
Then the trusty V8-engined coupe quickly slides into the routine of trips to the beach, running errands to the centre of town and cruising – windows down – along Cape Town’s foreshore in the evening.
The trips are interspersed with the odd run further afield, usually to visit close friends in Stellenbosch and another in Franschhoek, which gives me a chance to hit my favourite stretch of road – Route 61 over the Franschhoek Pass – a 5-mile stretch that propels you out of the lush Winelands into a dry southern fynbos landscape (below) that could be a stretch of America’s famous Route 66, were it not for the white centre line and string of cars hugging the left-hand side of the road.
Then there’s the scenic drive around Chapman’s Peak (lead image above) – between Noordhoek and Hout Bay on the Cape Peninsula – to look forward to. It’s a pass so precarious (it has specially engineered nets in places to limit the threat of fatal rock falls) that it was famously used in the 1980s to illustrate Mercedes-Benz’s reputation for life-saving safety features after a bloke accidentally drove his W123 off the edge one night and lived to tell the tale, despite plunging 300ft on to the rocks below.
This year my bout of yearning has been stronger after a couple of mates and a family member recently joined the Pony club.
First up was German friend Guido Bass, who turned up at this year’s Eurotour in Belgium with a smart ’66 289 Notchback (below) that he bought as an antidote to the complexity of his Citroën DS – the knowledge that the 'Stang relies on good old-fashioned cart-style rear springs and a live axle to keep it off the tarmac providing warm relief from the French beauty’s complex hydro-pneumatic suspension wizardry, which had plagued Guido (and his wallet) no end.
Then, a couple of months on, my Uncle John in Australia e-mailed to say that he fancied a similar stint of motoring simplicity to offset the don’t-drop-a-spanner-or-you’ll-never-find-it view that frightened him whenever he opened the bonnet to the look at the (invariably steaming) V12 engine of his Jaguar XJ-S.
John’s chosen classic respite was a ’67 Notchback (below) that had been imported unseen from the US by a local who was after a concours queen, but quickly realised this example didn’t fit the bill but was also too good to pull apart and restore.
Buying the 'Stang helped my uncle avoid another bout of chronic Ford Falcon-shaped depreciation; the ubiquitous Aussie saloon being his then choice of daily drive but one that was on its last legs. From a mechanical point of view, the switch to the Stang wasn’t as momentous as the 30-year age gap in design, with the cars sharing pushrod V8s and live axles.
And then, just when I got used to the fact that enjoying mine was still months away, an e-mail from my mate Georg Groeneveld in Cape Town arrived, its contents bragging about a ’66 289 Convertible (below) that a mutual mate, Christo Wiggins, now has the keys to. It seems, after years of trying to buy mine, he’d stumbled over a smart, one-owner-for-27-years example owned by the chairman of the local Mustang club.
The iPhone photos that followed a day later of it, roof down in sunny Cape Town (while I was lying under my Jag fixing a fuel-tank sender in freezing conditions) almost had me heading to the doctors for Prozac but I consoled myself that, by the next morning, it was one less sleep to go ’til I got to play with Elvis.