MUSTANG DOOLALLY; BRITISH FANS IN FRENZY AS SCOT STEERS CLASSIC MUSCLE CAR INTO SHOWROOMS.
They were some of the coolest, sexiest screen icons ever – Steve McQueen, Farrah Fawcett, Sean Connery and the Ford Mustang.
McQueen careered his down the Russian Hill in San Francisco, Farrah Fawcett took on the boys with her Cobra II in Charlie's Angels and 007 famously flipped one on to two wheels to escape down a narrow alley.
And one of the world's most famous cars will soon be available to buy in Europe for the first time – and with right–hand drive for the UK.
The announcement has sent a frisson of excitement throughout the motoring industry and the thousands of fans who just love the car dubbed The Pony.
Mustangs also celebrate their 50th anniversary this year – so no pressure then for Moray Callum, the Scots designer behind the new model about to be set loose around the world.
Ford now operate a global car policy. Any car they make has to be built to match customer expectations from Detroit to Tokyo, Melbourne to Dundee and all points in between.
They have to comply with regulations on the continent in which they are being sold and the country in which they will be driven.
Specifically, in this case, the new Mustang had to appeal to European customers who have a high standard of expectation, a keen sense of what they want from their cars and an eye on price So how do you do all that with this +- – both on the forecourt and at the petrol pumps.
iconic, gas–guzzling American muscle car? Moray, born in Dumfries and now one of Ford's top design directors, said: "We wanted to avoid trying to change the Mustang to make it appear more European.
"The people who want this car see it as an American icon and it needed to be the car designed for America that the rest of the world wanted as opposed to changing it into something that was not true to the brand.
"Mustang was the one nameplate that people desired, that people really asked the US to bring to Europe.
"We were invited and we wanted to join the party."
The Mustang has a significant resonance in America where it first came off the production line 50 years ago and has not stopped since. It epitomised the height of the country's car building industry.
Within Ford, the Mustang still ignites passion. It is seen as one of the pillars of the brand and there are still enough people within the company who remember the launch of the first one to make most designers nervous.
Moray said: "It's a car with a lot of passion around it. People have grown up with it so there is a huge emotional connection with the Mustang but at the same time, there was a desire in the company to move the car on.
"But I was well aware that people still had to walk into a room, look at it and say, 'Wow, that's a Mustang'."
The cars that will arrive on UK forecourts within the next 12 months will be the first ever right–hand drive Mustangs.
But the profile will remain unmistakably Mustang as Moray has brought back the legendary Fastback with its echoes of Steve McQueen's Bullitt car.
The famous shark bite nose is there too, leaning forward in the kind of way that is alien to modern cars. And then there are the tail lamps, another strong Mustang signature.
But it is the engines that are causing the most controversy among the purists.
The two that will be available in Europe are the 5–litre V8 and the EcoBoost 2.3–litre 4 cylinder.
In a strange nod to modern technology, the entry level will be the V8 while drivers can move up to the 4 cylinder with its efficient 300bhp engine. Motoring writer Chris Russon can't wait to get behind the wheel. He has driven a Mustang before but never one made for this country.
He said: "We've not seen it before with that EcoBoost engine and while it should have the power, whether it has the soundtrack that the Mustang is legendary for remains to be seen.
"It is the epitome of American muscle cars – a true US automotive icon – and it has been a long wait for it to come to the British market.
"Handling is going to be critical. It is going to need to be tuned for British driving tastes and that has always been the Achilles heel for American muscle cars.
"On American highways, they are brilliant. But on British roads and lanes, they don't have the responsiveness and feedback we are used to getting in our sports saloons.
"It is hopefully going to have some very careful engineering."
Aware of the expectations surrounding his car, Moray has added a little sweetener only available through modern technology.
The new car will have a launch control app for excellent take–off wheel spin.
He said: "We shouldn't really encourage it but you can do it. You can decide when to accelerate off and what kind of revs the clutch will allow you to depress.
"It's all about personalisation in terms of driving dynamics – the suspension, the steering and the ride.
"You will be able to personalise this Mustang like never before to your exact driving style."
It is a philosophy that Henry Ford himself would have approved of – not only to give people a car but to give them more than they can expect to attain.
Moray's Mustang may not satisfy everyone but if he has managed to pull off a European version, then it is true Ford genius.
He will have grasped the challenge and produced a performance car, the recognisable successor of a genuine American icon.
Asked to sum up his work on the Mustang and the new car he has created, Moray is impressively modest.
He said: "As a boy, I probably dreamed about designing cars but designing cars that are as important as this kind was beyond my ambitions. I am proud and privileged."
It doesn't handle and the back end is wild.. but it goes big time
Car enthusiast Brian Preston, who owns two Mustangs including one exactly the same as Steve McQueen's in Bullitt, explained its enduring apeal.
He said: "The back end is wild. It's like driving an old–fashioned pram with strings on it. It goes big time but it gives you a real buzz.
"It doesn't handle but I don't worry about that. It's the way it is.
"I think the new car looks great but you have to buy the V8. The other one is only half a car.
"You are buying the car for the grunt. When you turn the key you want it to sound like a Mustang."
Brian is a fanatical Mustang enthusiast who has built and rebuilt a string of the muscle cars in the garage next to his home in Gorebridge, Midlothian.
There was the 1966 candy apple red coupe with red seats and red cloth, the 641/2 coupe and then the white Shelby with the blue stripes that was created for the Olympics.
But his pride and joy is the 1967 Fastback – exactly the same as the one McQueen bumped down the streets of San Francisco.
Brian said: "It was in bits when I got it. The engine and the gearbox were trashed and the chrome wasn't right but the body was good.
"This is the car I always wanted. It is just such a fantastic shape – it is the holy grail of Mustangs.
"I think the new one looks great but for me, there will be nothing to match the Fastback.
"I used to drive it everywhere but I was never out of the petrol station – it only does about 15mpg.
"My wife Lorraine likes driving it too. We'd take if out on a Sunday and go for a spin – but not in the rain. I try not to get it wet."
Lorry driver Brian is so passionate about Mustangs that he even visited the warehouse he gets his spares from when he was on holiday in Florida.
He describes working on the cars as his drug. He is totally addicted and at the moment, besides the 67 Mustang, he also has a red Mach 1 Flowmaster just like Sean Connery had in Diamonds Are Forever.
The new Mustang will get its big screen debut in Need For Speed, which will be out in America next month.
Actor Aaron Paul will drive the 2014 model in the movie based on the video game series.
He will join a select list of stars who have got behind the wheel of the iconic car.
King of cool
The car chase from Bullitt, top left, was recreated for a 1997 Ford Puma advert. Digital technology was used to show Steve McQueen – who died in 1980– driving the new model, bottom left.
DON'T MISS MAIL MOTORS PAGE 53
"This car inspires passion..the new one had to look like a Mustang
IT GOES LIKE A BULLITT Mustang enthusiast Brian Preston and his lovingly restored 67 Fastback – the same model driven by film icon Steve McQueen
POWER AND GLORY Moray insists the new model, right, stays true to its roots