My family has owned a 1965 Mustang, “PAX 138,” for almost a decade now. I drove it for six years, and I loved it. It was admittedly low tech, but it was a blast to drive. You could feel the road, and the car responding to you, in ways that most modern cars hide. Plus, it’s simple enough under the hood that I could actually work on it, which was really fun.
It’s elderly, though, and it had started to get temperamental in its old age. It didn’t help that it was my only car, so even though I don’t drive much, I probably put more miles on it than it would have liked. I loved working on it, but I wasn’t quite passionate enough to spend the time on it that it probably needed. Eventually, I admitted that it wasn’t cut out to be an everyday commute car any more. So, with a heavy heart, I bought a new one, a 2006 Mustang GT.
First, some background. Before the ’65 Mustang, the only other car I’d driven was an ’80s era Mercury Sable, which is basically a rebranded Ford Taurus. So, the 2006 Mustang is the first truly modern car I’ve driven for any length of time.
Whoa. After driving a 40-year-old car for six years, driving a modern car was culture shock. It amazed me enough that I wrote down the differences I noticed. Here are a few of the features I noticed in the 2006, in no particular order.
- Lots of obvious functional differences – computer-controlled fuel injection instead of a carburetor, electrical ignition (no points or distributor!), 315 horsepower, computer-controlled transmission, etc.
Also, lots of obvious safety features – anti-lock brakes, air bags, and traction control, among others.
The idle speed is noticeably slower. OK, it’s adjustable on the ’65, so I could have turned it down…but still. This was the first difference I noticed, and one of the hardest to retrain my muscle memory for.
I can’t work on it! I mean, I could try, but there are so many computers that I’m sure I’d break something. I loved being able to work on the ’65, mostly because it was so simple. It had an engine, a driveshaft, a transmission, a cooling system…and that was pretty much it. :P
The ’65 was originally built for leaded gas, which we obviously don’t use any more. So, to compensate, I had to fill it with at least 89 octane. The 2006 is happy with regular.
…but it’s less gas-happy in general. It officially gets 18/25 MPG, which is a lot better than the ’65.
The handling and suspension are shockingly tight, mostly due to the variable sway bar in back. The ’65’s suspension wasn’t bad, but the handling was nowhere near the same league.
Similarly, I can’t feel the road in the 2006, or the speed I’m driving. 30, 60, and 90 feel remarkably similar. The tires start to whine at 110 (er, or so I’ve heard), and the handling gets jerky above that…but below 110, it’s hard to intuit speed. This is the main thing I miss about the ’65 – I really felt the road, and felt like I was driving, in a way I don’t feel in modern cars.
Sound insulation. The 2006 has it, the ’65 definitely doesn’t.
- Keyless entry. Gotta love toys.
Dashboard controls (heater, AC, defrost) and steering column controls (headlights, windshield wipers) are totally different. For example, the ’65 had a foot switch to turn on the brights. :P Evidently, though, these controls are now standardized, so I won’t have to re-learn them again. That’s nice.
On a related note, the defroster is much faster and more powerful, and there’s even rear window defrost!
The turning radius is way smaller.
The headlamps and taillights are way stronger. Plus, there are fog lamps. Whee!
There are headrests!
Unfortunately, they get in the way of looking over my shoulder to check my blind spot when changing lanes. I guess I’m just supposed to use the mirrors. That’s going to be hard to retrain for.
Side and rearview mirrors are significantly larger.
- The electronics, and most noticeably the stereo, stay on after I turn off the ignition! They turn off when I open the door. Very unsettling.