The other day, I found myself behind what — to me — is a relatively new and undoubtedly modern Mustang GT from the mid-’90s wearing “antique” tags.
Holy tempus fugit!
Was 1994 really 25 years ago?
Yup. It was.
And this ’94 Mustang GT is now an antique which means I am, too.
Both of us began our careers at the dawn of the Modern Car Era. Port fuel injection was just then replacing Throttle Body Injection which was basically an electronic carburetor often mounted on an intake manifold the same as the ones that had carbs underneath them since the era of the Model T.
They were “wet flow” — air and fuel — just like a carb except more accurate and finely sprayed.
No more choke. And no more “warming up,” either. You just got in and went. The switchover to TBI and the overdrive transmission changed everything and ushered in the era of the Modern Car.
Overdrive gave the best of both worlds. Leverage down low, for excellent acceleration and gearing reduction once rolling, which made it possible for a car like the Mustang GT in this short video to cruise-control for hours at 90 with its engine turning the same RPM as a pre-modern car with a non-overdrive transmission would have at 60.
High speed legs and great gas mileage.
I drove a brand-new same-year Mustang GT press car from the DC ‘burbs to my sister’s wedding in Tahoe almost across the country. It averaged 28 MPG on the open road with a V8 under its hood.
Have cake — and eat, too.
A glorious time for cars—they were just modern enough to be vastly better as cars than all the cars which preceded them. This was in terms of ease of use, ease of starting, absence of stalling and long-haul running but without the suffocating, nudging, nannying electronic effrontery which afflicts current cars.
There were no “assists.” No one seemed to feel the need. You got in, drove often having a lot of fun in the process.
The Safety Cult had not yet risen.
People still loved cars back then, too. They formed emotional bonds with them. Kept them just like this Mustang, which still looks new despite being almost too old to be drafted.
Part of the reason for the forming of bonds was that cars weren’t yet disposable appliances as new cars are. Wrenching on cars was still common because people could—ordinary people; not people with engineering degrees or the operational equivalent.
This Mustang GT still had a 302. The same basic small-block Ford V8 (no overhead cams, variable valve timing or turbos) that was available in the 1964 Mustang GT just fuel-injected rather than Holley carbureted but probably two-thirds of the parts interchanged.
Also the knowledge.
If you knew enough to wrench competently on the ’64, you knew enough to do most of the wrenching on the ’94.
That’s no longer the case.
Or the budget.
A 2019 Mustang GT costs about $6,000 more, in inflation adjusted dollars, than the ’94 GT stickered then. It’s much more powerful and much quicker. But its power and quickness don’t matter much if you can’t afford them.
For most people under 35, formerly the age bracket that bought cars like the Mustang, ponying up another $6k is not feasible, especially when owners must also come up with the mordant payment to the insurance mafia and (in many areas) the annual we’ll-let-you-hold-onto-it tax (property tax) based on the car’s value.
So, today, older guys like me drive the new Mustang and throw it away after a few years.
Ordinarily, younger guys would step up for seconds, but the new Mustang is as complicated and expensive to fix and keep running when almost used up as it was when it was new and warranted. Most younger guys haven’t got the means, tools or skills to fix them and know it and therefore don’t buy them because they can’t afford to pay someone else to keep their used Mustang going.
It becomes a throw-way about 12-15 years out.
It is doubtful that, 25 years from now, any of the new cars I am test driving today will be seen wearing “antique” vehicle tags. They will have been recycled long before then.
But unless they outlaw them, cars like this ’94 GT will probably still be around.
Hopefully, I’ll still be around then, too!
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