California Dreamin’, Mustang Style

We’re doing a little California Dreamin’ here, top down in a throaty V8 Mustang California Special, Mamas & the Papas on the stereo. Life is good.

   And the ‘pony’ car we’re riding here is a sweetheart; a 2016 GT Convertible with retina-searing Race Red paint, a 5.0-liter V8 under the hood and the super-cool California Special package.

Ford Mustang - 2016 GT Convertible California Special in Race Red

   The California Special pack was a must-have option on Shelby and GT Coupe Mustangs offered by California Ford dealers way back in the late ’60s. Now they’re red-hot collector items.

   For 2016, Ford has brought it back as a $1,995 option on the V8-powered Mustang GT Premium fastback coupe and ragtop models.

2016 Mustang GT Convertible - the California Special - automotive review with Howard Walker

   And it’s worth every cent of the asking price. It adds gorgeous black-painted 19-inch alloys, a deeper front splitter, a unique grille, subtle hood and side stripes, and a retro-looking trunk-mounted wing.

   Inside, the seats are trimmed in rich ebony leather with sexy black suede inserts and red contrast stitching. There’s also a unique aluminum dash with ‘California Special’ badging, and plusher carpeting with red stitching.

   Yes, you can get all this Californication in the rakish Mustang GT Fastback, but if you live here in Florida, why the heck would you not want the convertible? It’s like going to Charley’s Crab and ordering the prime rib.

Interior of the 2016 Mustang GT Convertible - California Special

   So, twist the handle on the windshield header, toggle the switch, and in the time it takes to say “Which way to Malibu?” the canvas top has powered back and you’re feeling that warm sun on your face.

   And while Mustangs these days can be had with fuel-sipping 2.3-liter EcoBoost four-bangers, there’s nothing like a big ol’ V8 for putting a smile on your face. And Ford’s latest 5.0-liter 435-horse Coyote V8 that powers the GT is a peach.

   Blip the throttle and it sounds like Schwarzenegger gargling with roofing nails. Punch it, and this Motown thoroughbred will giddy-up to 60mph from standstill in under five seconds. That’s quick.

2016 Mustang GT Convertible

   Of course fuel economy is pretty dreadful. While EPA figures show 15mpg city and 24 highway, my week of admittedly mostly around-town-let’s-blip-the-throttle driving, saw an average of, er, 13.8mpg.

   But life’s too short to worry about gas mileage. Just drop the top, crank up the stereo and head to the beach.

   And this is one fun-to-drive roadster. The steering is nicely-weighted and precise, the six-speed automatic shifts sweetly, though rather lazily, and there’s grip-a-plenty from the 19-inch rubber. While the ride is firm, it won’t loosen your dentalwork.

the 5.0 motor in the 2016 Mustang GT Convertible, California Special

   While you can still have fun in a base V6 Mustang Convertible for just over $30-grand, you’d love this V8-powered GT ragtop which kicks off at $42,795. My California Special tester, with optional 6-speed auto, thumping 12-speaker stereo and nav, topped out at $47,575.

   As for the sheer joy of a little California Dreamin’ in a red Mustang convertible? That’s priceless.   

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