I am not normally an envious man, but a photographer friend moved to the US several years ago, and when I see pictures of him flying his plane over vast Californian landscapes or down the Pacific coast, or working on his classic car in the sunshine outside his large garage, I do think ‘yeah, I fancy a bit of that’.
The chief designer of the Jeep Wrangler once told me that, in winter in Michigan, he pops his snowmobile on the back of his pick-up truck, unloads it a short drive away from home and then can cruise for hour after hour on hundreds of miles of deserted track.
I’m not convinced about the healthcare costs, the risk of being shot or the predilection for plastic cheese with every meal, but there are definitely things about America that I could bond with.
Muscle cars with a shedload of power are another of them. Sure, we have modified cars in the UK, perhaps more diversely than ever. There’s the old cliché that ‘finance killed the scene’, but there’s still plenty going on these days. Earlier this month, there was a sold-out Reunion festival for cars of the Max Power generation, Volkswagens more than two decades old are ‘slammed’ as often as not and modifications haven’t really gone away. But it’s not quite as easy or popular here as it is in the US to buy Detroit muscle and a load of hot-up parts off the shelf, then find a garage in any given town to do the work and leave you with nigh-on 800bhp of V8 to the back wheels. That’s supercar territory for executive saloon prices.
But if you’re prepared to look, you will find it. In north London, that might be at Clive Sutton, that longtime purveyor of Americana, and such is its expertise and experience in the sector that it now even does the normal things, like a configurator, finance and a warranty for some of the wildest Ford Mustangs that your money can buy. Such as the one we have here, the new CS850GT.
We’ve driven a few of Sutton’s Mustangs before, most recently one with a mere 800bhp. Yeah, I know: that’s barely worth getting up for. This one, then, has even more oomph – 847bhp and 665lb ft – to make what Sutton says is the most powerful Mustang offered in the UK for those who would think Ford’s own Shelby GT500 is a bit limp, with its paltry 760bhp, and a lot too left-hand drive.
Highlights of the CS850’s 5.0-litre V8 include a Whipple supercharger, a vast intercooler, a dramatic-sounding active-valve exhaust system (from an even more dramatic-sounding Australian company called XForce) and some new engine management to make it all hang together.
Given that Sutton makes it easy for you to tick a few boxes and hand over £115,000, this is one of the more straightforward ways to get a lot of brand-new muscly Americana. But let me introduce you to Gary Handa and his rather different tack.