Detroit - Driving some of the most iconic Fords around Detroit underscores the fact that we often miss out on some of the coolest cars in the world.
It’s not just Fords mind you but many other brands as well, but when you’re in Motor City Ford is really all that counts.
There’s a simple solution to that, we joked when we visited Detroit for the unveiling of the new Mustang recently, and all it required was changing our roads to driving on the “wrong” side of the road and we’ll get access to fantastic left-hand drive cars.
It’s not going to happen, but when you can imagine your ideal five-car garage, why not let the mind wander unrestricted. Then you get to drive cars like the Mustang Shelby GT500, Bronco Raptor and if EVs are your thing, the F150 Lightning and the Mustang Mach E.
We had the privilege of spending some time behind the wheel of each one which is why we lamented the fact that there’s almost no chance of us regularly ripping up the tar or dirt in any of them.
But to let your mouth water a bit, let’s start with the Shelby GT500.
There’s not a petrol-head in the world that wouldn’t want one simply because it’s a Mustang and everything that it stands for.
From when it was first introduced in 1964 the public has been mesmerised by it with a cult following and is Ford’s longest surviving production car.
From the moment you press the start button and the four exhausts burst into loud action the Mustang screams good old-fashioned internal combustion engine driving.
With a 5.2-litre Supercharged Cross Plane Crank V8 pushing out an eye-watering 559kW and 847Nm coupled to a seven-speed automatic transmission this is Mustang nirvana.
The interior is not unlike the standard 5.0-litre Mustang available locally, with some unique Shelby touches in the dash and Recaro seats, while the exterior sports the twin GT stripes, a large rear wing and strategically placed Shelby decals.
Because the Americans, especially in Detroit, see anything less than a V8 as a cop-out, no one gave us a second glance as we drove the predetermined route in maximum exhaust note mode.
Because it’s a Shelby albeit straight off the production line, the ride is quite firm even in normal mode but the Yanks keep things well-maintained so there’s not a pothole to be found, making the drive as you would expect from a sports car with silly performance figures.
We let the traffic ahead of us clear a path and then use the flaps to gear down, and floor the accelerator which would see it lunge forward with the accompanying soundtrack producing equally impressive smiles from us.
The “normal” Mustang doesn’t top the list of best handling cars but briefly giving it a bit of stick on some corners, the Shelby suspension felt as though it would be a lot of fun on a track day.
We were keen to push the limits, but various static and mobile traffic and police authorities kept us honest and our hosts would have been none too pleased to fork out bail for a couple of over enthusiastic Saffas.
Ford Bronco Raptor
On the other end of the scale, and equally impressive in its own right is the Bronco Raptor. It’s bonkers and the type of vehicle that only the Americans would make as an out of the factory desert racing vehicle that’s street legal too.
Unlike some other manufacturers, Ford has managed to update a classic keeping the original Bronco blueprint but making it all things 21st century.
Just looking at it there’s no doubting what it’s made for and it’s the kind of vehicle South African off-roaders would clammer for.
The twin-turbo V6 3.0-litre EcoBoost engine under the flat bonnet is good for 307kW and 598Nm and is coupled to Ford’s 10-speed automatic transmission.
It’s under the exterior though that all the magic happens.
Ford Performance developed special axles used in their Bronco DR race truck, upgrading the solid axle Dana differentials fitting larger driveshafts, an upgraded transfer case with crawl ratio gears and a higher capacity clutch.
As with our local Ranger Raptor, Ford collaborated with Fox suspension to develop a system unique to the Bronco including suspension height sensors and other sensors at each corner that monitor conditions independently hundreds of times a second and then adjusts tuning accordingly.
It has 332mm ground clearance thanks in part to enormous 37-inch all terrain tyres on 17-inch rims.
They’re the kind of modifications you occasionally run across on an off-road course that owners have mortgaged their homes for.
Unfortunately we didn’t get an opportunity to play in the dirt but managed to make a wrong turn into parts of the city that had a number of “speed control devices”.
You know what happens then, don’t you?
Exactly. They become challenges which the suspension and wheels hardly feel while you keep an eye on the clock to see how much time you have left before you’re expected to be back at the staging venue.
It burbles and screams in Baja mode as you play with the accelerator with South African colleagues whooping in joy while constantly reminding you that a Coke won’t convince the cops to let you go on your merry way.
Driving into the parking lot and seeing all the cars we’ll never get to drive at home prompted us to Google the Minister of Transport’s mail address to inquire about changing which side of the road we drive on.
On second thoughts though, let’s just get him to repair and maintain the current road (and rail) infrastructure.
Read our thoughts on the Mustang Mach E and F150 Lightning here