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2010 Mustang GT Convertible brings back memories

In this green age, guilt comes with loving fast, loud and thirsty cars. But there's magic lurking beyond that guilt and if you let it go, you can travel through time to a treasured memory.

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In this green age, guilt comes with loving fast, loud and thirsty cars. But there's magic lurking beyond that guilt and if you let it go, you can travel through time to a treasured memory.

Driving a 2010 Mustang GT convertible to Port Dover on a caressable summer night, the years dissolve away. In 1965, I lived in Lima, Ohio. Our high school boys basketball team was 25-1 and ranked number 1. The Shawnee Indians would lose in the state championship but won a prize they would never forget.

"We had our year-end banquet at the Ford engine plant in Lima," recalled Bruce Burden, a junior on the team. "The plant manager made a speech, then pushed a button, a curtain opened and there were 12 brand new red Mustangs waiting for us."

Though the cars were supposedly for the players' mothers to drive, they never saw the keys.

"I didn't have any trouble getting girls to ride with me," said centre Denton Sullivan.

What the moms did do was keep a record of that sweet time. When I asked Sullivan if he had any photos of the 1965 fastback, he unearthed a box of slides set aside by his mother. There he is in his driveway, at 6-foot-8, towering over his little brother, a friend and a dream car.

"Can you imagine giving a bunch of 16-, 17- and 18-year-old kids brand new Mustangs? They must have been crazy," he said.

Prior to the windfall, Burden always shared a car with his brother, usually a wreck.

"The Mustang was as fast as can be, and I remember I was grounded a lot after I got it," he said.

Those red Mustangs were the Passport to Cool in the mid-1960s. The current badge of cool – the Mustang GT – stirs up nostalgia and goodwill wherever it goes.

My convertible tester priced out at $43,849, from its base price of $41,199. The 19-inch machined aluminum wheels are a $1,200 option.

Muscle car makeovers require a deft touch, paying homage to the past while acknowledging today. The Mustang GT is beautiful and at ease in its mostly new sheet metal. From the windshield forward, there is a glamorous flex to the muscle. The side view across the hood looking at what Ford calls the powerdome is a lesson in expressive sculpture. The bulge lets more air in to cool the engine, allowing breezes to blow over a 4.6 L V8.

Face on, the Mustang is a polished picture. Headlights, fog lights and turn signals line up in a single plane, anchored by the first new Mustang emblem since 1964. From head to tail, the design is a lesson in restraint without sacrificing personality.

And this car does have personality. The V8 gargles in a low register as it sits on standby with its sensible 315 horsepower. A five-speed manual transmission has no quirks and feels familiar. It's eager to go fast but not twitchy; a straight-line cruiser for people with time to spare for showboating.

At the Cruzaders Car Club cruise night at Hamilton Harbour, it attracted a heavy breathing crowd. People loved it. It upstaged HMCS Haida when I parked it in the lee of the World War II destroyer. Two elderly bookworms gave it a brisk thumbs up in front of a bookstore.

Later, I crested a hill on Hwy. 6 South to see an orange Mustang with Roush enhancements, surrounded by OPP, being loaded on a trailer. The driver looked unhappy. Maybe that's why I kept things serene in the GT convertible.

The rear-wheel drive Mustang can do 0-to-100 km/h in less than 5.5 seconds. But what's the rush? At the end of a straight, the lazy dog cornering of the GT will alert you that the car is a bit of a period piece with its vintage solid rear axle. Brakes are workmanlike but not outstanding, and remember to tap them before hitting railroad tracks because the vehicle's shake and bake is far from subtle.

For the wind-in-your-hair set, the soft top folds down quickly after opening two latches; breezes in the cabin are tame; and on cool cruises, the heater set to "toast" keeps things cozy. Top down or up, the trunk holds the same amount of stuff: interior cargo volume is a compact 380 litres.

Front seats are superb – I could see crossing the country without a complaint. Contrasting stitching matches the same treatment on the feels-good-in-your-hands retro-designed steering wheel. Vintage graphics on the speedometer and tach seemed genuine but not everyone I showed them to liked the treatment.

There isn't much storage in the front and the one sizable bin in the centre console is difficult to open from the driver's seat. The biggest interior design flaw might be the infernal latches that fold the front seats forward for access to the back. It's awkward to get them to work – even with two hands.

Seating in the back is passable but exiting requires strength and agility. Trunk space is usable but the stubborn remote function on my key only worked in one of three attempts.

There are other muscle cars that try to freeze time. The Dodge Challenger and Camaro SS have more horsepower but don't mix beauty with brawn the way the Mustang does.

A week with the Mustang wasn't long enough but a summer might be too long.

I like memories where they belong – in the past, a bit hazy and probably sweeter.

"It seemed that spring, every time you came to a stop sign there was another red Mustang to wave at," said Burden.

Maybe, maybe not. But the picture is a pretty one.

Freelance writer Kathy Renwald can be reached at kathyrenwald.com

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