The 34-year-old returned to Formula 1 this year after his accident in 2011
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Hennessey Mustang GT350R – long-term review
Family affair: 2018 GT350R meets 1966 GT350R
Dang it… as they’d say in the US. Somewhat annoyingly, my time with the Hennessey Mustang GT350 R is up. And it’s all down to that pesky and rather inconvenient thing called ‘The Law’.
See, being a left-hand-drive, US-registered car, we could only ever drive the track-focused super Stang in the UK for six months. After that, it has to be subjected to Individual Vehicle Approval (IVA) – an assessment to make sure it’d comply with Blighty’s roadworthy rules and regulations. Which, among other things, would mean changing all the lights and indicators, adding awkward fog lights and numberplates (ruining its clean look) and making sure it passed protrusion and noise tests. Which, given it’s got quite a few sharp edges and is the loudest thing we’ve ever had in the Top Gear Garage, could be tricky.
But safe to say, it’s been six months of learning. Unlike a lot of cars which you can get in and get the grasp of quite quickly, it’s taken me pretty much the whole tenure to get under the Stang’s yellow skin in order to extract its performance. If anyone were to take the Mustang, I’d tell them to proceed with caution. It’s an absolute brute, one where you have to manage your inputs effectively or it’ll bite back. But in an age of electronic this and flappy-paddle that, it’s engaging to have a car where you have to properly co-ordinate your hands and feet to get the best of it. You also need a few brave pills to unleash its 850bhp.
For most, 526bhp and 429lb ft from a 5.2-litre flat-plane-crank V8 is adequate. Obviously not in Texas, as Hennessey strapped a 2.9-litre supercharger to it and so transformed the car into something I’m not scared to admit is – at times – terrifying. In every gear, the revs build and build, the anger intensifies, speeds get silly and you brick yourself as wheelspin kicks in at triple digits. Even on a warm, dry day, flooring the throttle is something you have to build yourself up to. Is it thrilling? Hell yeah. Necessary? Probably not. And being LHD, set up for the track, low, thirsty and lacking back seats, it’s not the easiest thing to live with here. But it’s an event. And I’ve never driven a car that gets this much positive public attention. Apart from my neighbours, who’d castrate me with a spoon if I did another 5am cold start.
As a little treat before it left the garage, I took the GT350 R to meet its grandad, an original 1966 GT350 R. With 430bhp and a fully stripped-out interior, its mentality is still the same as the new one. And nothing is quite as iconic as the original Mustang’s shape. Will this one be remembered in the same way in years to come? I wouldn’t be surprised. But even with Ford recently rolling its 10 millionth Mustang off the line, this rambunctious yellow stallion has left me with incredible memories and some exhilarating ‘moments’ I’ll never forget. And that’s what proper car ownership is all about.