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Wednesday, August 18, 2010


My torrid love affair with a 2011 Mustang GT: Day 1

Back in June I received a mysterious email from someone claiming to work in the public relations department of the Ford Motor Company. She was looking for bloggers in the Portland area to write about the company's 2011 line. I shot her back a message that said, more or less, "what's the catch?" After all, I hadn't updated my blog in months. There was no catch. In exchange for blogging/twittering/YouTube'ing about one of their vehicles, I'd get to use it for a week, free of charge.

She gave me three options: a Fiesta, an unnamed luxury car or a fully-loaded Mustang GT with a V8 engine. I made the obvious choice but there was just one little problem I hadn't worked out...

Prior to last Friday, when the Mustang showed up in my driveway, I hadn't driven a car with a manual transmission in nearly a decade. Eeeep!

I was terrified of the car. Petrified. I mean, look at the photo below. This monster may as well be KITT from that update of Knight Rider that aired briefly on NBC a few years ago (see above). While the Mustang didn't speak to me in the voice of Val Kilmer, I can communicate with it by pushing a button on the steering wheel. It was stuck in foreign language mode and a robotic woman's voice kept telling me to "S'il vous plaƮt parler d'une commande."

It took no less than 30 minutes to get the car to switch back over to English. It didn't come with an owners manual so figuring out how to throw it into reverse was also a chore. It requires the driver to press *down* on the stick, otherwise it'll stay in 1st. In exchange for finding the solution to this riddle, the Mustang rewarded me with a video screen that popped up on the rearview mirror feeding a live view of the driveway via a camera located above the trunk. The video even featured helpful lines to prevent me from crashing into the trash cans.

My dad, who also lives in Portland, decided to tag along with my on this maiden voyage on Friday evening after I finished a volunteer stint at the Tualatin Crawdad Festival. He boasted of his exploits back in the early '80s in his old manual Volkswagen and told me that teaching me how to drive this beast "wouldn't be a problem."

We made it a grand total of four blocks before the engine stalled.

By this point, it was 9:45 PM. I tried to get the Mustang going again but failed miserably. The engine roared and the back wheels spun, causing a small plume of burnt rubber smoke to fill the air. Within two minutes, an hysterical old lady was making phone calls in her kitchen. We could hear her entire, incredibly loud conversation through an open window.


I gave up and let my dad take the wheel. I trotted over to the sidewalk to explain the situation to the lady but she was either ignoring me or so caught up in her delusion that we were going to pillage the neighborhood that she couldn't hear me. After fighting with the ignition for another few minutes, my dad started muttering under his breath and finally admitted that he hadn't driven a stick in over 25 years. So there we were, stuck in a residential neighborhood with a bricked, super-charged $40,000 automobile. After hanging up on her neighbor, the old lady was now calling the police.


I pleaded with her to explain to the 911 dispatcher that we were merely having engine trouble and finally, finally, it dawned on her what was going on. "Oh, I guess they're just having problems with their car. They don't know how to drive it. Tee-hee!" Then she started joking with dispatcher about how incredibly stupid I was.


Off in the distance, I could hear a siren approaching. My dad chuckled, jumped out of the car and decided to walk back to the house. "Have fun dealing with this one, kid," he said, heading off into the night.

The old lady had woken up her sister and now they were both on their porch, dressed in nightgowns, calmly watching the Mustang as if it was a float in the Rose Parade. I made another attempt to get the car moving but finally gave up. I broke out my AAA card and meekly called for a tow.

Emasculating? Humiliating? You betcha'. A tow truck showed up 20-minutes later and the driver started geeking out over the car. "IT HAS LEATHER INTERIOR? AND A SUPER-CHARGED V8 ENGINE WITH A 5 CYLINDER...." I couldn't really understand the rest of what he said in his weird, "car-talk" language. I was much more interested in playing with the Sirus Satellite Radio and finding BBC 1.

"I, uh, think, uh, I should drive this car back to your place," he sputtered. "Because, uh, hooking up to the tow truck would damage it....yeah, yeah. You know how to drive automatic, right?"

This was the evening that just kept on giving. He handed me his keys and I drove his tow truck back to my house so he could buzz around the block and gun the engine, further terrorizing the old ladies. In my driveway, he pleaded with me. "I'm off in thirty minutes. I will drive back here, we'll go out to Banks and I will teach you how to drive this puppy. I know just the spot where there are no cops that will screw with us."

Maybe it was the fact that it was now approaching midnight or that I didn't quite trust a random tow truck driver I had just met but I turned him down on his offer.

True story. All of it.

So I stormed inside and vowed to never even look at the Mustang again. I made a solemn vow to not go anywhere near it. The vehicle would be a decoration in the driveway until its pick-up date.

Worst. Volunteer. Writing. Assignment. Ever.

Now did I stick with this plan? Stay tuned for part two of this exciting saga!

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