We launched FordNXT to cover the broad spectrum of Blue Oval performance. Today many of those vehicles are available the world over. From the Raptor in China to the Mustang in the UK, there is a global affinity for Ford Performance’s latest vehicles. Try as we might, however, we can’t help but look at these vehicles from an American viewpoint, so it’s always great to hear another perspective.
That’s just what we found in a recent video from English motoring filmmaker, TV presenter and writer, Paul Woodford who put together thoughtful introduction and comparison of the latest Focus RS and Mustang GT, the latter of which is newly available in the United Kingdom.
“The Mustang has been a springboard from which to launch Ford’s new line of performance cars. I tend to talk to people about the cars I’m going to film, and by far the most excited reaction I’ve had since an ’80s Audi Quattro has been for the Mustang,” Paul explained. “The Mini, Beetle and Fiat 500 have all shown us that retro sells, but it has to be done right, and given that the majority of UK motorists won’t recall ever seeing an original ’60s Mustang on the road, the reaction when the car first launched is a testament to the power of that original brand, and worldwide appeal for those ‘Coke bottle flanks,’”
We still dream of driving these two right-hand-driver performers across the pond, but until then we wanted to hear what Paul had to say about how the current versions of these iconic machines are perceived in the UK. While he only recently wheeled a Mustang for the first time, his passion for the pony car blossomed in his youth.
“I’ve never driven a Mustang before, at all. I have a model car collection, and one of my most treasured possessions is a 1/18 scale 1970 Boss 302 Mustang. One day, I will ‘replicate’ that in full scale. I was mad on Mustangs as a kid, but it won’t surprise you to learn that there aren’t that many opportunities to experience the previous US-spec cars over here,” Paul said. “My Dad lived in St. Louis in 1966-67, and his father had an original Mustang, in a burgundy color. It must have been his memories of that car which stirred something in me as a young petrolhead. He still has the license plate on his garage wall!”
Enthusiasts like Paul were clearly an audience Ford wanted to reach when it created the S550 platform and equipped it with an independent rear suspension and striking styling.
“Muscle cars have always been a celebrated part of motoring heritage, and the rarity of them over here in the UK means they almost take on a film star-like appearance when we see one on the road. OK, so the majority of original Mustang models were not pure muscle cars,” he explained. “But given that we’ve long had an affinity for engine sizes of 2.0-liters and below here, the Mustang has always adopted valuable English teenage boy wall poster space.”
Playing to the hearts of teenage boys is definitely a way to solidify a brand, but the latest Mustang apparently appeals to more the more mature enthusiasts as well.
“Perhaps it’s the perception of ‘muscle,’ or perhaps it’s the fact that the Mustang has appeared to us as a Hollywood hero on countless occasions that gives it legend status,” Paul added. “Actually, the first glimpse we got of the ‘new generation’ Mustang, was in the final shot of the film, Need for Speed. I remember saying at the time ‘They need to stop messing about and give us the Mustang over here.’ And they did.”
While the Mustang is iconic based on its reputation, absence may have made the heart grow even fonder for the pony car fans. When it comes to the RS moniker, enthusiasts in the UK and Europe hold those two letters in high regard. Where we worship Cobras and Shelbys stateside, they revere the RS. Fortunately the new Focus RS seems to have almost universal appeal among enthusiasts in the know.
“I’ve driven a number of RS-badged cars, including my dream car the Escort RS Cosworth (Thank you, ’90s.) right back to the original Escort RS models, and the more recent front-wheel-drive Focus RS. For me, this new RS Focus really does take us right back to where ‘Rallye Sport’’ first took hold of our imaginations,” Paul said. “…It’s important for Ford, to appeal to those people who have always been the keenest of critics for their performance cars. So past and current RS owners are an important baseline for this new car. But what’s exciting for a fast Ford fan like me, is that all of a sudden you’ve got people who have never considered a Ford before, raising their eyebrow when an RS thumps past in traffic.”
“I was talking to a friend who owns a Mk1 and this latest Mk3 Focus RS recently, and he wasn’t even aware of the old Advanced Vehicle Operations story associated with the original RS Escorts,” he continued. “As I said in my film, bloodline can’t be manufactured—it has to be earned. Ford has launched a car worthy of earning back that bloodline and the reputation that goes with it. The firm now needs to inject some of their valuable RS heritage back into the brand. This will most likely be done in the boardroom, not on the asphalt.”
Of course the inevitable question is which car an English car enthusiast prefers. In Paul’s case it is a matter of following his head or his heart.
“Everyone who has spoken to me about the film has asked me this. It’s such a tough one. If I were to put my money where my mouth was, I’d have to plump for the Focus, because it has that magic mix of practicality, performance and rarity. I also have three little boys, so my wife would prefer if we could fit them all in the car,” Paul confessed. “But my heart says Mustang, and so do my ears. The question is whether there’d be room in my garage for a Boss 302, and this new, reborn pony car. There’s definitely room in my heart for both!”
If you enjoyed Paul’s video, there’s a good chance he’ll put together more Ford footage in the future.
“I’m a life-long Ford fan, I’ve owned well into double-figures; my first road car was a Ford Fiesta, my first rally car a Cortina GT. If my wife allowed it, I’d still have posters of Mustangs and Escorts on my bedroom wall. So you can never rule out more Ford films. I’m keeping a close eye on a Sierra Cosworth that a friend of mine is building, for example,” he added. “I’ve already filmed a Mk2 Escort, a Capri, an Escort Cosworth and more besides. My films are a hobby, so I get to choose what goes in there. The trouble will be finding a 1970 Boss Mustang to add to the series. A full-size one, that is…”
If anyone in the UK has a Boss 302 hidden away, give Paul a shout. We want to see how excited he is to drive that historic machine after driving two of Ford’s finest modern performers.