I’m not the kind of motorcyclist who thinks that cars are some kind of alien construct. I knew bikers like that in my youth, people who just didn’t drive, almost out of principle. But I like cars a lot, and I am hijacking this RoadRider blog post to mourn the passing of a rather special one.
My wife Peter and I lived in Dubai and Abu Dhabi for eight years. Cars are relatively cheap there, as is fuel, so we bought Peter a shiny new black Ford Mustang 5-litre V8 convertible in mid-2010. I loved driving it as much as she did, so later that year I got myself a four-year-old 2006 pale metallic green version, pictured here. Okay, being older it was a 4.6-litre V8 but it still stirred something within me every time I looked at it and every time I drove it.
That Mustang took me to work most days, when the desert heat was too much to make riding a bike a viable proposition. On cooler days we drove it with the roof down for that wind-in-the-hair feeling that you just don’t get on a bike, accompanied by that woofly V8 soundtrack and music from the excellent Shaker stereo. You didn’t have to go fast to enjoy the experience, but the ‘Stang would pick up its skirts and run if asked. The fact that its handling wasn’t up to modern European standards didn’t matter in a land of largely straight roads.
The car wasn’t without its problems. It started to make some grating noises from the rear end, announcing the need for two replacement half-shafts. Then the alternator died. I became on first-name terms with the booking clerk at the Ford main dealer in Dubai, where it was always serviced and repaired. He pointed out that as the car had been imported personally from the US by the previous owner any parts supplied for it would not be covered by guarantee, which seemed daft – all Mustangs were built on the same assembly line in America, regardless of where they were being shipped to. He was decent enough to ignore that rule, though, when the new alternator also failed after three months and they had to replace it again, which they did free of charge.
Other stuff went wrong, too. The engine just died in the middle of rush-hour traffic in Abu Dhabi one morning, signalling the initial alternator issue. Then the electric roof started to play up, needing manual assistance to get the left side up and on its way to the windscreen rail. The left-hand rear window needed a new lifting mechanism. The stereo started to retain CDs in the bowels of its six-disc storage unit. The AC needed regular re-gassing. A new battery was needed every two years – a common occurrence out there due to the heat. The roof fabric started to deteriorate, along with the leather on the driver’s seat.
But through it all I loved that car, probably more than any of the many I’ve owned over the years. It polished up beautifully and warmed the cockles of my heart with every drive. In eight years we put something like 60,000 miles on the clock, even though we had another car and several bikes to choose from. Eventually, though, the time came to leave the Middle East, which meant selling all the stuff we’d acquired over the years, and that’s not easy. The cars were the hardest to sell.
Peter’s black Mustang had long since been replaced by a V8 Jaguar XF, which had a warranty and service plan that made sense in our high-mileage existence, and we virtually had to give that away. There were just so many similar models on the market, all with far lower mileage. Despite lowering the price twice, we couldn’t get anyone interested in the Mustang. It had to stay behind, gathering dust and looking increasingly forlorn, to be used only on our infrequent trips back to the UAE.
I finally sold it a few weeks ago, the same day I cancelled my UAE mobile account, credit card and visa. I took it to one of those “we buy any car” places, knowing that I’d get nothing for it but just needing it to go somewhere. They checked it out online and found that it had been an insurance write-off in the US, then shipped to the UAE where the rules about fixing write-offs are less stringent. You’d never have known it had been written-off – it drove perfectly and delivered great motoring pleasure for eight years.
Now, with 100,000 miles on the clock and sounding like it would run for another 100,000, it fetched about £500 (2,500 dirhams). The scratches and dents it had picked up from five months in a Dubai car park will doubtless get painted over, someone will make a killing on the re-sale, and hopefully someone else will enjoy the pleasure of topless V8 motoring for a few more years. It even gave me a parting gift on its last journey to the acquiring dealer, coughing up the two CDs that had been firmly lodged in the entertainment system for months! Farewell, old friend.