IF YOU want to fall in love with driving all over again, you only need a long stretch of empty road and two minutes in a Ford Mustang GT.
These were my findings after collecting a right-hand-drive-converted 2010 example from Performax International, renowned as Australia's biggest and best in this complicated line of work.
With retro looks on one of history's most iconic car designs, these modern-day Mustangs are the epitome of attention-grabbing. Their rarity in Australia also boosts their profile: you'll only get in one here by private import or through professionals such as Performax.
It's a true heart-over-head purchase, though. If you want a brand new one (2012 model) Performax asks around $125,000 drive away (exchange rate dependent) for a right-hand-drive converted Mustang GT Premium with its latest 307kW 5.0-litre V8.
It's a lot of money, but you can't put a price on the happiness these cars offer. After all, you're driving a living legend and you're constantly reminded of the fact.
My test model was a black-on-black 2010 Mustang GT Premium with demo miles on the clock, and after a weekend of pure V8 rumble from a good ol' USA muscle car, it seemed worth every inch of its $99,990 price tag.
Inside, the Mustang GT Premium is pure theatre. The driver and passenger are treated to modern interpretations of classic 1960s ribbed leather seating and door inserts.
Seats are comfortably absorbing, and feature modern treats such as electronic adjustment and bum heaters to remind you this ain't the '60s anymore.
Rear seating is traditionally sportscar, however. It's time-consuming moving the front seats forward to clamber into the back, and once there, although the rear buckets are cosseting, space isn't generous for legs or heads.
The one-piece dashboard is soft to the touch and retains traditional Mustang design cues. A chunky stitched-leather steering wheel and old-school gauges also nod to Ford's glorious past.
The chunky gear knob and soft centre console continue the pleasing bygone era feel, but the sound system and steering wheel controls are suitably modern.
Importantly, the right-hand-drive conversion is superb. It feels factory good, there are no tell-tale rattles or squeaks and it is hard to imagine the car started life with its wheel on the other side.
If Ford could bottle its V8 Mustang sound it would make billions. It sounds more brutal, more rugged and somehow more vintage American than our Aussie Ford V8s.
In true muscle car fashion the GT is brilliant off the mark. Its 235kW and 440Nm of torque means 100kmh is reached in a shade over five seconds.
These Mustang GTs still feature an almost antique solid-axle rear suspension (helps keep costs down), meaning it won't trouble the likes of Porsche or BMW in the handling stakes.
Some nice fettling to the springs and shocks means it feels nicely responsive though, while turn-in is good and body roll is minimal.
It tends to understeer as the 19-inch tyres struggle for grip on tight turns, but boot some power down and a nice armful of oversteer is on offer before the electronic stability control kicks in.
This isn't as restrictive as most manufacturers' traction control systems however, retaining Dukes of Hazzard-esque oversteer fun. All driver aids can be switched off completely, allowing you to release your inner Smokey and The Bandit should the mood take you.
This is a range-topper in GT Premium guise, so it's a well-specced Mustang.
As well as the cabin's abundance of leather you get iPod and Bluetooth compatibility, cruise control, rear camera with screen in the rear-view mirror, a cracking sound system and front and side airbags. It features all you'd expect from a mid-priced car, but for those used to shopping in the $100,000-plus bracket, the lack of Sat Nav as standard will be a shock to the system.
If you love your modern Yank muscle, take a look at Performax's other offerings such as the better-handling Chevrolet Camaro or the ballistic Chevrolet Corvettes.
It's a V8 muscle car and you want practicality, too? Okay, the boot is acceptable if not huge, and although there's space for four adults, make sure the smallest go in the back.
Now stop worrying about such trivial things, grab a member of the opposite sex and hit the highway.
That Pony-car roar comes at a price. The big V8 sucks the fuel as any good muscle car has to, with a figure of about 12 litres/100km.
Take it for a proper play, however, and its drinking problem gets even worse.
Insurance won't be cheap, but resale should remain strong.
I didn't encounter anyone who didn't love the look of this GT Premium.
It's a bit galling to learn these GTs sell for about $35,000 in their homeland, but once the Australian import and luxury tax is added to the cost of Performax's excellent conversion it is a pricey toy.
You'll get better value for money in FPVs, HSVs and premium Euro offerings, but they all seem boring compared to this Mustang.
Model: 2010 Ford Mustang GT Premium.
Details: Two-door rear-wheel-drive sports coupe with right-hand-drive conversion.
Engine: 4.6-litre SOHC 24v Modular V8 generating maximum power of 235kW @ 6000rpm and peak torque of 440Nm @ 4250rpm.
Transmission: Tremec TR-3650 five-speed manual.
Performance: 0-100kmh in 5.3 seconds, top speed 240kmh (speed limited).
Consumption: About 12 litres/100km.
Bottom line: $99,990 drive away demo vehicle from Performax International. 2012 model Mustang GT Premium available from $125,000-$130,000 drive away depending on exchange rates.
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