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Mustang vs The States: the final leg

  • 10,840 miles ago, I picked up the Stang not knowing if we'd even get to this point.

    You think we've forgotten, don't you? Well, we haven't. Yes, the final destination of LA is just a couple of tanks of gas away, but we still need to find a way to get to Hawaii. We said the plan was to do all 50 states, to celebrate the Mustang's 50th birthday, and we still have every intention of making that happen. Every intention, d'ya hear? The only small problem is we haven't yet quite worked out how. But there's no rush, for once. By burning time and rubber so furiously for the past couple of weeks, the crew has made up more than a day's worth of time. So we decide to take the scenic route towards Los Angeles while we make a plan. In the glittering, Brylcreemed Sixties, the Rat Pack of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr would wrap up their shows in Vegas then sashay off into the desert-bound for Palm Springs for their traditional post-show party in the basement of the Caliente Tropics Hotel.

    Pictures: Rowan Horncastle

    Mustang vs the States: leg one

    Mustang vs the States: leg two

    Mustang vs the States: leg three

    Mustang vs the States: leg four

    Mustang vs the States: the final leg 

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  • Rather than take the government-monitored freeway, they took another route across country. So we did, too. It's fair to say that the party-hungry Rat Packers didn't hang around. So neither did we. Despite owning a raft of huge, questionably styled American barges - Dean Martin had a rare Dual-Ghia Coupe, Sammy Davis got around in a 1935 Duesenberg SSJ replica, and big Frank had a penchant for Jags in his later years - Sinatra also had a taste for supercar-level speed in the form of an orange Lamborghini Miura, with orange carpets. No such styling taste issues in the Mustang.

  • Despite more than an average year's worth of use and abuse, it still feels as strong and true as the day I picked it up in New Hampshire. The New Car Smell is long gone, as Tom says, replaced by Eau de Teenager's Fetid Bedroom, but mechanically the car's still as eager and good to go as ever. We can't go as fast as we'd like, thanks to the ever-present laser-eyed arm of the law. But we can steer as quickly as we want, which, now we've got up into the hills above Palm Springs, is turning out to be a revelation.

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  • The last time we were up here in a GT500 and Fiesta ST, the old Stang was having trouble staying between the kerbs, the back end squirming around like a room full of preschoolers. This one is a picture of handling calm. True, as Ollie noted, sixth gear is way too long for anything other than fuel-saving cruising, even with the low-geared rear axle, but second to fifth gives you more than enough choices to row it along at speed. Just don't get me started on that noisy Torsen diff.

  • After a hard day of trying to rub the tread off the tyres and reduce the brake discs to wafers, we stopped at Roy's Hawaiian restaurant in Palm Desert in the vain hope it might give us some inspiration on how to get to the volcanic islands 2,500 miles away. Then, in a flicker of tiki flame, it hit us. If we just simply ignored the deadline, stuck the car on the boat for a week or two, and then brought it back a lot later, we could easily bag our 50th state and the story would be complete. Ford wouldn't miss our car - it had 49 others in LA to let other people drive. And even if it did, well, it's always better to ask for forgiveness than permission...

  • With that plan voted on, seconded and passed unanimously by our crew of two, early the next morning we casually checked the shipping times and had an immediate, chilling realisation - the next and only container ship to Hawaii in the next week was leaving Long Beach in two hours' time. Journey time from Palm Springs to Long Beach? Two hours fifteen on a good day. Cue a cartoonish three-second blur of doors opening, closing, engine starting and wheelspin, followed by two hours of white-knuckle, adrenaline-drenched traffic dodging on the way into LA.

  • "That's it!" says Rowan, pointing at the harbour as we crest the hill into Long Beach. "Which one?" I say, seeing 50 identical ships. All are about a mile away as the crow flies but we have to navigate 20 traffic junctions to get there. With 10 minutes to go, in true Gone in 60 Seconds style, we launch the Stang down the hill, over the bridge and scream towards the dock. Or where we think the dock is. The place is so big - it's the biggest commercial port in the world - it's hard to know for sure. I'll jump this damn thing onto the boat if I have to. We Must Make It.

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  • But as we round the final corner to the dock, it's crushingly clear that that ain't going to happen. Our last hope of getting to Hawaii is edging slowly away from the dock on its journey west towards the US's 50th state. So we are left to watch it and our hopes disappear slowly from view. But, as horribly disappointing as it felt at that moment, the feeling didn't last long.

  • OK, so we didn't make it to all 50 states, but we tried and hit 49. Rest assured there are plans afoot to take care of this little piece of unfinished business. You didn't think TG would let this go, did you? But the most important thing is that the new RHD Mustang will be on a much more important boat soon - one to the UK. We've had to wait over 50 years but, after 11,175.50 miles and more behind the wheel, we don't just think, we know, that the wait has been worthwhile.

    Click through the gallery for more images from this leg, then hit the blue words below for the next one. 

    Mustang vs the States: leg one

    Mustang vs the States: leg two

    Mustang vs the States: leg three

    Mustang vs the States: leg four

    Mustang vs the States: the final leg

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