The Rental Muscle Car

For various reasons that are not relevant at the moment, we needed a rental car for the next several days, so Krissy ordered one. I think she ordered up something along the lines of a Honda Accord; the rental place, however, spontaneously and without additional cost upgraded her to the brand new Ford Mustang convertible that you see here. Such is the inherent power of my wife. Fear her.

(Well, either that or it’s the fact no one rents convertible sports cars in Ohio in winter, which means it was on the lot when all the Accords were out. But still.)

I’ve never been much of a car person but I’ve always had a thing for Mustangs; in high school my friend Rob Lawrence drove around a ’65  and we had many adventures in that thing, and the residual good will I’ve had for the brand has continued on. I had a crush on the Bullitt Edition, and at one point I came very near to agreeing to write a book in exchange for a Mustang, the kibosh of which was put on by my wife, who pointed out that a) we already had two cars in a two car garage, b) I was the stay at home parent, so I would end up driving the minivan anyway while she drove the ‘stang, so maybe wait until the kid was a little older. So sensible, Krissy is.

More recently, in the wake of my contract with Tor, I considered buying Krissy a Mustang convertible, much like the one above, as a celebration gift and to acknowledge that the contract, and the excellence of my life in general, wouldn’t have happened without her. When I surreptitiously sounded her out about it, however, she indicated that she wasn’t in love with Mustangs like I was and that she could wait until Athena was in college for a car upgrade. Sooooooo, no convertible. Yet.

(As I never mentioned this to her before, when she reads this, this will be the first she knows of my plan — or more accurately, as she usually knows what I’m up to regardless, the first time I’ve acknowledged the plan. But! What Krissy has now is a convertible coupon, redeemable at the time of her choosing for the convertible car of her choice. Because she’s wonderful and the reason my life is also wonderful and also she would look sooooooo hot in a convertible. Love you, baby!)

Anyway, I’ve been driving Mustang about, marking really my first time in one of these vehicular creatures, and my verdict is… it’s nice, but I’m not entirely sure it’s me. By which I mean I get in the thing and while I still appreciate it looks cool and has a nice low rumble and the sixteen-year-old me is giggling, but the 46-year-old me can’t help notice there’s very little trunk space, no one under the age of six will want to be in that back seat — which you have to climb into, incidentally — and it gets something like 20 miles to the gallon. It’s the back seat especially that gets me. I’ve got a Mini Countryman, which is shorter than the ‘stang by a not inconsiderable margin, and yet it has four doors and legroom for actual humans in the back seats. And 27 miles to the gallon or such.

And also, let’s be real, I’m unlikely to get on the road and open the throttle and hoot madly as I do 130mph, trailing Ohio State Troopers behind me like angry flashing bees. That’s not who I am. The who that I am is really looking forward to electric cars that drive themselves because fundamentally I don’t much care about driving, I care about getting to where I want to go, and I would be delighted to have an automated automobile get me to where I’m going at a safe, unflashy, practical speed while I sat in it and read a book. That sounds pretty awesome to me, actually.

All of which is to say that while I’m enjoying the Mustang on a temporary basis — who wouldn’t? — I’m also of the opinion that on a more permanent basis, it’s probably not the car for me. I mean, I could be wrong. Someone buy me one with all the bells and whistles and we’ll see if I change my mind! But for the next car I buy for myself, it’s not on my radar. Which makes 16-year-old me a little sad. But then, 16-year-old me wanted a lot of things 46-year-old me would happily pass on. This is another one. If 16-year-old me gets too loud about it, we can always rent a Mustang again for a few days. That should do the trick.

109 Comments on “The Rental Muscle Car”

  1. We rented a Mustang a few years back. They are fun to drive but when you’re on vacation in california with a wife that overpacks it can be challenging to bring your luggage along. My first car was a 1964 1/2 which was among the first produced, but alas being a NY resident the 70s salt and snow had destroyed the undercarriage and I had to junk it. I always wanted another.

    The latest muscle cars are actually very economical fuel-wise. Check out for great reviews.

  2. Once a friend and I ordered a rental car for the island of Hawaii, we were on Oahu at the time. When we got to the Big Island, we found that they had send our small budget car to Maui instead. The only thing they could give us was a red Mustang convertible. We were crushed :)

  3. I have some of the same emotional attachment to Mustangs that you do. In the late 70s and early 80s when I was in high school, A 65 Mustang was the car to have. Since then, i’ve had rentals, one of my college friends had one. I actually hate the driving experience.

    New or old Mini Cooper would be much more fun (unless you’ve opted for the automatic, in which case, not sure it’s any fun)

    Since it’s a rental, make sure you turn off traction control and practice your J turns in it.

  4. I, too, have always had a thing for Mustangs. For my 35th birthday my wife rented me a convertible and we drove it around western North Carolina for the weekend.

    But, yeah, I’m waaaaay to practical to want to own one.


    for the convertible car of her choice

    Woah. Does a Lamborghini Aventador come in a convertible?

  5. Some years ago, all the rental agency had at Denver Airport was a sports car (don’t recall whether it was a Mustang, Camaro, Corvette, or something else). Since I was going up to a ski resort in the mountains, this was utterly impractical. I had to be really gentle on that accelerator going up snowy mountain roads.

  6. Want the hot, zippy fun of a racy convertible with a cool, eco-conscious electric motor? Get a Tesla Roadster! It doesn’t have the same growl as a Mustang, but it has a lot better acceleration and handling.

  7. A couple years back in LA I rented a Dodge Charger, which was cool on the outside but not a great drive on the inside, partly because it felt like the windshield was a slit. I’m just not cool!

  8. I have fond memories of bombing around in my friend’s hotted-up ’66 Mustang coupe when I was in my twenties, but it was never my kind of car. My kind of car was always either a two seater with a smaller engine but more responsive handling, or a totally utilitarian kind of thing like an Austin Taxi with a diesel engine. What can I say? I’m conflicted. ;-)

    The car thing goes deep, but I’m growing out of it.

  9. Have you had the top down yet?

    You leave the windows up and crank the heater to full blast.

    A technique from Car and Driver magazine.

  10. I dated a guy in high school who had a red ’66 fastback Mustang. I only drove it once – it scared me. I’m more of a VW Beetle/Golf person.

  11. In the small town I live in, all the owners of convertibles are asked to drive their cars in the small parades we have. 4th of July and Homecoming. It’s a wonderful way to bond with the kids and have loads of fun at the same time.

  12. My dream car as a kid was a T-top TransAm. I finally bought a mint condition 1999 WS6 a couple of years ago, whereupon I discovered that my dreams did not age well. It lasted a year before I sold it and went back to a boring old Mazda.

  13. A high school sweetheart had a ’65 “Tang” and it almost killer her with a carbon monoxide leak — it was 12 year old at the time. A year later I helped her change the alternator and fan belt. That car, and a friend’s Mustang II, cured me of any hankering for Mustangs or muscle cars in general. What excites me now is either a Tesla P85D, or an Mercedes / AMG Bi-Turbo C63 coupe.

  14. You had me at self-driving car where I can sit and read a book. I derive no pleasure from driving. It’s a chore to be discharged as efficiently as possible. I appreciate nice cars on an aesthetic level, but couldn’t care less whether or not I own one. Honestly, things like Bluetooth and connectivity matter much more to me that performance.

  15. My post-midlife-crisis car will be electric. Here in Quebec, with just about the lowest electricity cost in the world*, this would actually be a very practical choice. I work at home and only occasionally have to make the 20-km commute into town, for which electric would be perfect. No, it won’t be a Tesla either… though they’re spectacularly well engineered vehicles, they’re way outside my price range.

    * Though I was heartbroken to learn that hydroelectric power is not nearly so green as one might hope. The problem is the reservoirs: when the vegetation is left in place before flooding, it rots anaerobically and release methane that makes many (perhaps all) reservoirs carbon negative. Sigh. TANSTAAFL**.

    ** Not to mention violation of aboriginal land rights, mercury accumulation, destruction of key wetland habitats, etc.

  16. I feel like there is another blog post or series of tweets about things your 16-year-old self wanted that your 46-year-old self does not.

  17. I had a similar experience a few years back, renting a Crossfire Convertible on a solo trip. Drove like a dream, über fast, looked bitchin’ – but you didn’t get in, you strapped it on. I could only get my suitcase in it by strapping it into the passenger seat, and then only with the top down. It was cool opening it up to triple digits on the interstate across Indiana (for about sixty seconds, didn’t want to get a ticket!) but there was zero-point-zero practicality. I am old.

  18. I rented a Mustang a few years ago, and while it looked great, the ride was surprisingly bad. I figured it was because it was a rental car, though.

    But I have to admit that the cars that get 16-year-old me going are the big 1970s American luxury cars, like the Cadillac Coupe DeVille convertible. Handles like a boat, gets less than 10 mpg, but it’s huge and it just oozes style.

  19. Krissy’s interested in the mini cooper convertible? My Dad’s girlfriend just got the sport model with every possible upgrade–I was shocked at how nice it is–SUPER SPORTY!!! She’s loaded–could have afforded anything, but chose that Mini. It’ a really hot car, we’re all envious! The interior is amazing–feels like a high end cockpit. And handles like a sports car, I’ve been told. Good choice, you’ll love it. I’m glad you are able to spoil yourselves a bit, enjoy!

  20. When we went to Italy about ten years ago, our rental car was an Alfa Romeo sedan. I have no idea what model it was, but it was the best car I have ever driven. It was solid, had room for four people plus luggage, and handled well. But the car for me is my Prius. Good mileage, good Bluetooth, and being able to fit my double bass are the most important things for me. I agree with you and others here that the ideal car will drive itself. I’d love to spend that time doing something productive or sleeping.

  21. Rear-wheel drive & Ohio roads in winter are usually not a good combination. You guys really lucked out with the mild & snow-free weather we’ve been having! :-)

  22. I’d love to get an electric car, but they’re just not practical for me. I understand the range has improved somewhat, but they’re still too short-range. If I have an afternoon free and want to drive to the wildlife park, I want to get on the highway and drive there, not rent a gasoline car to make the drive.

    Besides, my apartment building doesn’t have garages, so there’s no place I could plug it in at night. And that’s going to be a problem a lot of places; there’s too many neighborhoods built before automobiles became a common feature of life, and running extension cords down to a car parked at the curb … you might as well put a “Worth Stealing” sign on it.

  23. On a side note – in that photo, is that your latest Coke Zero shipment being delivered as well?

    (Just kidding – it’s clear from your past photos that not only is this not your driveway but that you also have enough lawn space for it to be brought by cargo helicopter – which is much cooler.)

  24. Mustangs have always been my Dream car, ever since my senior year in HS when I had a ’79 version. That was the crappy, 4 cylinder Escort that Ford stuck a Mustang trim on. Loved that car.

  25. Around 15 years ago, my Win-The-Lottery fantasy was to hit the road with my husband in a convertible for weeks on end. Well, I figured that would not happen, but we could rent a convertible for ten days for a long road trip. We drove a sexy black Ford Mustang. It was fun but I discovered that when we had to put the top up, the driver had practically no way to see blind spots. We were nearly sideswiped twice. That cooled my love for convertibles.

  26. Had the Camaros and Novas in my teens and 20’s and even a big block ’70 Impala when our daughter was born (15 years ago). Sold the Impala a few years ago and have a sensible AWD bubble thing that doesn’t get stuck in snow or mud and yeah, 27 MPG. Still bugs me. Once daughter is finished with college, figure I’ll do one more project car, but this time totally over the top. I want chrome things sticking up through the hood and little children staring in awe as I go down the road, never going over 30 MPH so the 9 MPG doesn’t suck the tank dry.

  27. Two years ago, after 200,000 miles, the engine in my red sports coup finally decided to call it quits. I opted to replace it with a Kia wagon because it had tons of room, it is comfortable and the price was too good to pass up. My 17 year old son keeps telling me I need to trade the Kia in on a sports or muscle car, and one day I will, but currently 90% of my driving is on the highway trying to get to and from work. I’ll stick with comfort for now.

  28. I got a rental Camaro convertible in Detroit last December. Fortunately the weather cooperated. The car was that unique blend of amazing and horrible that only American car manufacturers seem to be able to pull off. The 300hp V-6? Awesome. The car looked great. It was extremely red. On the other hand, it had a smaller interior and worse visibility than a Ford Fiesta. The bucket seats were sized for someone three or four inches wider than my 210-pound self. The suspension was nice and stiff but if you actually tried cornering hard the flabby stock suspension bushings (soft to keep the car quiet) and the body flex had you backing off in a hurry. Just a terrible, terrible car. It was entertaining for the sixteen hours I had it.

  29. The Mustang hasn’t really the “the Mustang” for many years anyhow. And a car like the Mustang, rear wheel drive and all, is more of a sometimes car for those of us that live where it snows, not an always car.

  30. You are sooooo right! I used to have a Saturn SC2 (went through 2 of them actually!), and you didn’t just hop into the car. The driver’s seat was so low slung you had to lie down into it! A 2-door, it had what was jokingly referred to as a back seat. But as a single woman in Denver, I loved it. It was just sporty enough without being flashy. It moved to Seattle with me when I got married, and lasted until we had a kid. NO WAY was I going to try and put a baby seat in and out of that back seat! We traded for a Honda Civic Hybrid. I sold the Saturn to my F-I-L, who was promptly offered $3k more for it than he paid for it. It was lots of fun to watch him or M-I-L maneuver into the car! BTW, when I met my husband, he said he had a ’65 Mustang, which sounded really sexy! Until I saw the beaten up thing he drove, which was badly in need of body work and a paint job!

  31. My dream car has always been a mid-60s Jaguar XKE, ragtop, British Racing Green. At 65, with the various problems my body has thrown at me over the last 15 years or so, I suspect I’d have difficulty getting into or out of one of those.

    Saw a sibling of the favorite car of those I’ve owned the other day, though – 1970 Karmann Ghia, *not* a convertible because I was in Erie, PA, and upstate New York. Had it from 1970 to 1976; would still love to get another if I won a lottery or something, but again, just getting into it kinda means, well, no.

    But that’s a lovely, lovely pony you’ve rented. :)

  32. I’ll never forget that magical spring weekend years ago when my then S.O. and I drove from Atlanta to eastern Tennessee and back in a rented Chrysler Sebring convertible. Ooh, baby! After that, when we needed to rent a car, we always got a Sebring convertible if we could. One time, the only convertible available was a Mustang, so we took it. Not nearly as comfortable as the Sebring, and the sound system wasn’t as good. Still, it was a convertible, and it was a warm winter in California, so we enjoyed it.

  33. Three words for you: Book On Tape! (Granted one of those word is an anachronism, but Book on MP3 just doesn’t ring for me.) All automotive occasions are improved by literary accompaniment.

  34. I have a slightly earlier Mustang convertible and you are entirely right about the lack of space and the back seat.

    We have taken it on a medium – long road trip with four adults and the adults in the back, who granted were smallish people, actually said that they found it comfortable – which surprised me as I would never fit back there with my wide shouldered six foot frame.

    My daughter (who is 9) loves the car tremendously and I also have a thing for Mustangs so for me, it’s worth it – but you definitely DO need a ‘practical’ vehicle to go along with it. In my case I kept my old Sunfire which, despite being a much smaller car, holds a LOT more stuff and carries more people comfortably.

    It’s nowhere near as cool though.

  35. You’ve got an actual 16-year-old in your household at the moment. Whey not chuck her the keys one morning and let her borrow it to drive to school?

  36. I really love driving, though I can feel that as I get older, I’m slowing down a tad. (Not that the state troopers on the NJ Turnpike can tell…)

    I have a large sedan with a beast of a V-6 that picks up like whoa and gets maybe 14 mpg city / 22 highway if I’m lucky. (At least part of this is because I drive like Imperator Furiosa, which is hard on the mileage.)

    The car is getting on in years, and I’m starting to save up for a replacement in, I hope, 4 years. I suspect I’ll buy a midlife crisis mobile, with even more pickup. Because DAMN I do love to drive. (If I had the money, I would totally buy a Tesla.)

    I think self-driving cars for them what don’t like driving is a wonderful idea. (And doubly for people who can’t control themselves, and text and yap on the phone while driving. PLEASE give them self-driving cars for the sake of everyone else!) I love the whole concept of community-owned self-driving vehicles, that pick up people at need and then go off to pick up other folks. I can’t wait for that to be a thing.

    The faster everyone else converts to community-owned self-driving vehicles, the happier I’ll be. There will be fewer cars overall, and I can get back to the joy of driving.

    That said, I’m very glad to be of an age that there will be self-driving cars when I’m old. I wish my mother had that option right now.

  37. I grew in a family that loved Ford. My grandpa had both a grey Torino w/Hurst speed shift and then a more sedate ’66 Mustang sedan in burgundy. My Dad never had one but he was father of 6 kids so that might have been the reason. His cousin, Sonny, was single though and he would buy, then trade, a sports car annually. In 1969 my uncle Sonny bought a Mustang Mach 1. That was BOSS! BOSS I tell ya! The three oldest of us got to go for a ride with my Dad and Uncle Sonny and that car was nasty fast. I distinctly remember us kids sitting in the very tiny back portion of that beasty. Every time my uncle or Dad shifted we would all bump our heads on that huge rear glass. It was three bumps in rapid succession. We couldn’t stop giggling after a while.

  38. I get to read books on my commute. My wife may be able to convince me to move to the ‘burbs if there was a self driving car in the garage.

  39. If I could justify two cars one would be the cool car and one would be the car I actually drove. For the record, the car I learned to drive on was a ’70 two-door Fairlane that might as well have been a Torino as it had a small-block V8 up front.

  40. The other thing is at 57 I find my reflexes are starting to leak out of my fingertips. A driving challenge for me these days tends to be nursing home a less-than-optimal car from the Akron-Cleveland area to Arlington, Va. I should get involved in “Le Mons” series racing.

  41. In our big vacation to Yellowstone I had set up a sensible car for rental. However, when we arrived in Bozeman apparently there was a sensible car shortage. So we had our choice of a Hyundai Sonata or a Mustang Convertible. One of the best moments of my life was turning to my wife and asking, “So, how about it, babe, 10 days in national park driving a convertible or should I be my boring self?” Yea, kinda spoiled the time by having to put one of the suitcases in the back seat. But still, dayum that was a fun week.

  42. If the Mustang is no longer quite to your taste, I’d like to point out that Mercedes makes a convertible. So does Bentley. Just sayin’.

  43. I was middle-aged before I found the car that expresses my soul and satisfies my deepest needs: a Subaru Outback. All-wheel drive; starts right up in below-zero weather; room for four full-size guitar cases in the cargo area*; can u-turn in a residential street. But then, I’m old and live in Minnesota. (Heated seats!)

    *Without obstructing rear view!

  44. “…trailing Ohio State Troopers behind me like angry flashing bees.”

    My brain imagery processing center loves this line, lol….

  45. Beej writes:


    for the convertible car of her choice

    Woah. Does a Lamborghini Aventador come in a convertible?

    Cool, it’s time for another round of let’s spend Scalzi’s money in the comments!

    I looked it up; yes, Aventator convertibles exist and start at $440K.

    I have a much more economy-minded suggestion, a Panoz Esperante.

    If I recall, it contains quite a few Mustang bits, or at least the earlier ones did.

  46. I’m a big fan of renting specialty cars instead of buying them. :-) During the four years that I was living without a car in L.A. I tried out quite a number of vehicles, including a PT Cruiser, which I loved the look of but which turned out to be about as much fun to drive as a U-Haul truck.

    Being a lifetime fan of small, zippity cars, the bigger, growly, zoomy ones generally don’t impress me, especially given the absurdly inadequate fuel economy they all get. We did a BMW Drive for the Cure test event once and I did not love their sports model any more than I loved my old Honda CRX.

  47. — E says writes:

    The faster everyone else converts to community-owned self-driving vehicles, the happier I’ll be. There will be fewer cars overall, and I can get back to the joy of driving.

    I enjoy driving, and taking road trip vacations, but when I’m driving to work in the morning, in traffic, I would be fine with a self-driving car. I also like driving manual transmissions, but my previous car came in manual and automatic, and when push came to shove, I realized I wanted to commute in an automatic.

    I suspect that once we get to 90% self-driving cars, there will be pressure to ban manual driving, at least in cities. At that point they will likely be the cause of most accidents. Lots of science fiction makes the assumption that manual control of cars, particularly flying cars, is illegal in urban areas.

  48. I can (much too easily) pass as a fuddy duddy. So when I rent a car they’re generally trying to give me the Jeep cloth-top or some such. It’s not power. It’s the rental companies hoping they can palm off the “cool” car, who’s only real purpose is advertising coolness, on someone who won’t wreck it. If *you* had booked the rental, you’d be getting the 4-cylinder Civic.

  49. When I was in high school, I thought Mustangs were cool. A few years later (1970) I was hitchhiking on Mass. Ave. in Cambridge in all my hirsute splendor when I saw a long-haired driver in a Mustang approaching. I thought ‘Cool! This’ll be a great ride!’ Then he passed me by and I thought ‘This is the death knell of the hippie era.’
    A few (40) years later, I was back in Boston for a visit and all the rental co. had available was a Mustang. It worked out well because sitting in the vehicle for a few minutes revved up the latent asshole in me and I was ready to face Boston traffic.

  50. We all have our dream cars and nostalgia cars, and sometimes they combine. My parents bought be a Mustang (not a convertible) for my college graduation, because my dad thought it was “a good young person’s car”. I would have preferred a Porsche. Drove a rental convertible Mustang in Hawaii. Enjoyed the convertible factor, but didn’t think too highly of the car itself. Owned a Saab 9-3 convertible. Of all the cars I’ve ever owned it was by far my favorite. It was a convertible!!! And, being a Saab, it still had plenty of room. Never a problem with it until well past 135000 miles, and then it was on to a non-convertible. Last summer I had the pleasure of driving an M6 convertible. That was a car! If I win the lotto that will be my present to myself. IMHO the current iterations of the Mustang, Charger (I also had a rental Charger in LA) et al is to satisfy the inner teen boy’s nostalgia of the muscle car, with no regard for practicality or mileage (which the adult – even with his or her inner teen boy – usually wants). They look good, but don’t live up to expectations.

    May your wife trade her certificate in on an M6 convertible. Or at least an M4 convertible. Or even the M235 convertible, since she is of the practical nature.

  51. I loved my Mustang! Alas, it was only mine just short of four years. The winters in the Boise area had been mild for nearly a decade, but as soon as a sports car became my primary means of transport, Mother Nature decided to dump more snow than in previous years. Rear-wheel drives are horrible in snow. Just horrible. Ironically, it’s the only car I ever owned that I never got in any find of fender-bender in. I don’t have kids, so the impracticality of the car didn’t bother me much. It looked hot, and I loved to blast some Joan Jett while tooling around town. It’s the only car I ever owned that garnered lots of glances. As a high school teacher, my students loved that I had the coolest car in the parking lot as well.

  52. Because she’s wonderful and the reason my life is also wonderful and also she would look sooooooo hot in a convertible. Love you, baby!

    Aw, that’s the sweetest thing I’ve read all week.

  53. I have the Mustang’s under-achieving second cousin, the last of the Ford Escorts. Got it ten years ago, when it had about 40,000 miles. Not eye-pleasing in any way, and never really was, even (especially?) with the weird skateboard-like “spoiler” stuck on the trunk lid.

    But the thing about it is that it’s got 230,000 miles still on the original clutch. It’s been all over America, but most of that mileage is East Coast city driving. I’ve had to put a few thousand dollars into repair bills, but that’s over a decade. And it gets around 35 MPG. Honestly I’m tired of driving the thing, and I’m not going to put any more money into repairs, but now I need to see if it’ll make it to 300k. I think it’s got a good shot.

    So against that experience, while I like the idea of electric cars as much as anyone*, I’m not going to pay real money for one until the battery technology has about 20 years of experience behind it. I’d be even happier getting driven around in a self-driving vehicle. But I’ll be gone by the time either of those options are available in new used (i.e., relatively inexpensive) form.

    * They’ll always be a novelty until charging is as quick and easy as pouring liquid fuel into a tank.

  54. If Mustangs aren’t Krissy’s thing, some of the BMW convertibles are quite swish. The 1 series are still quite pricey, but I bought a used low-mileage 2002 M3 last year for under $20K CDN. AND I LOVE IT. It even has a backseat that’s not outrageous. It’s only drawback is that it’s a guzzler.
    Most fun I’ve had in a car. Ever.

  55. Hey, if you can’t have a little fun with a rental car, when can you?

    My earliest “car” memories are of my parents’ 65 Ford Mustang. Alas, they had to sell it when we moved across country, because it wasn’t the car for transporting two adults, two kids, and two cats thousands of miles. I think my folks always regretted that they had to give it up.

  56. The best way to get to Key West is to fly to MIA, rent a Mustang convertible and drive down US 1, as slowly as possible.

  57. @Bryan L., I’m with you and OGH, to the eternal dismay of my male relatives: grew up working in a shop and being hauled out to stock car races on the weekends, only to fail my driving test 3 times; finally passed at 24, when I had a kid and his father was working on the other side of town. I’ve never enjoyed it: I’m too familiar with what can go wrong with a car, and the aftereffects. (Ask me about cleaning deer guts out of an undercarriage!)

    As I’ve mentioned before, I have a progressive visual impairment that’s already cost me night driving and will mean surrendering my license at some point. The Brom doesn’t mind driving me around, but I hate the feeling of dependence, and there aren’t a lot of cabs where we’re moving next month. If I had the option of getting into an electric Zipcar equivalent, telling the car to take me somewhere and kicking back with my tablet? That would be amazing.

  58. @Epiphyta:
    I actually had the opposite problem growing up. I’m surprisingly good at getting from point A to point B as quickly as possible without speeding excessively or breaking other laws (pro tip: it’s not about maximizing the fast, it’s about minimizing the slow). So I was actually tasked with driving the family around, particularly on family vacation, much to the dismay of my siblings. Many times my father silenced dissent by saying “Let the boy drive. I don’t have all day.”

  59. Take a good look at Subaru Outback and Forester. I bought an Outback a year ago, as the first new vehicle I’ve had since 1979. I have to tell you, I LOVE that car. Just like the commercials say. No, it’s not perfect, but still, the best vehicle I’ve ever owned.

  60. Last time we were on the Big Island, we were offered a Mustang convertible because they were out of the sensible compacts. I admit, taking that thing along the twisty roads north of Hilo was good fun, but visibility was rubbish, and the thing is only practical in convertible mode if you don’t have any hair to lash your eyes and get tangled into a single mass. We also lived in fear of someone taking a box cutter to the roof because there is nothing that screams ‘Tourist!!! Rob me!!’ like a convertible in Hawaii. It did have enough oomph to make it up the mountain to Volcanoes National Park easily.

  61. Purple speed trap magnet. Probably has a special license plate to let the local authorities know it’s a rental. . .

  62. deliberately rented a Mustang convertible, for my 40th birthday.. drove it up to 14 000ft in the CO mountains and down again. Driving for me is purely utilitarian so it was very strange to spend a day just driving for the fun of it. My small boys loved the car.. I liked it a lot, though it didn’t handle or accelerate as well as my AWD Subaru Legacy turbo wagon ;-)
    My wife’s dream car is a Saab convertible. The Mustang is my lottery car, but I’m trapped in a minivan for the foreseeable future..

  63. As a teenager I desperately wanted a Mustang. Read Mercedes Lackey’s Chrome Circle a few too many times. Living in Boston there was never any question about me getting a car: absolutely not.

    When I got to college my orientation guide was this super cool girl with a purple Mustang. Be still my heart! Until I got inside and there was no front passenger seat. And the time it shot flames at the people working on the engine.

    And so died another dream to the dread practicality. Now i have a Subaru, but I demanded originality and insisted on red.

  64. I now find that I get more excited by getting 40+ mph out of my Altima on long drives on interstate highways then I get out of a car’s acceleration, top speed, or handling.

    This, more than the number of years I have spent on the Earth, is the convincing sign that I have reached middle age.

  65. When I 1st saw the picture I thought for sure the commentary would be along the lines of: “Don’t worry, Krissy is OK…just a little shaken up”

    Then I read the commentary of the post and looked at the photo again, realizing it was *not* a fender-bender-documentation-pic, and the mustang was *not* arguing with the Cola delivery truck.

  66. Yea. No.

    One aunt drove a T-bird and another drove a Mustang so I’ve always associated smallish convertibles with chain-smoking, cheek-pinching, overly-perfumed older relatives. My sister had a red Mustang (’98?) however after a year or two she was driving one of those monster pickups with the back row of seats. Said she was tired of expecting passing truckers to vacuum her up under their wheels.

    My favorite car was a Honda Accord SE. Nice drive, comfortable and just peppy enough to satisfy. Drove the crap out of that car and never stopped enjoying it although now that I live in a big city with truly awesome public transportation, I’m finding that not being a car owner is even more of a thrill!

    Oh, and just to pile on the fogeyness, I turn down ‘courtesy’ upgrades at the rental counter. I enjoy the roar of the big engine for about 20 minutes and spend the rest of the rental period cursing the truly crappy design that the car company squeezed the engine into.

  67. Having lived in central Ohio and moved to Wisconsin (not sure what I was thinking there), I’m going to suggest forgetting the convertible and going for a car with a built-in seat warmer. One of my former bosses had one, and it was so awesome to ride with her the winter. Unless the convertible also has a seat warmer, in which case – best of both worlds.
    The rental is a snazzy looking car.
    Congrats to your wife on her coupon for the car of her choice at the time of her choice (’cause that’s what you really seem to be offering her).

  68. Mustangs are iconic. I opted for the Fiesta ST. I think it’s a reasonable compromise between utility and fun. 4 door hatch back. The back seats are a squeeze but that’s not a problem for me. I had a Ranger pickup for 23 years and used the jump seats in it maybe ten times. The ST is as fun as all the reviewers say it is. 50 year old me let 15 year old me drive and he totaled it. Now I have a 2016 and higher insurance rates. I think my ST is the same color as your rental,Kona Blue.

  69. I own a 2008 Bullitt, it is a joy to drive! You can find a used Bullitt for about $17K, test drive one, the ride is smoother than the GT, and the power is subtle yet always ready, which fits into its sleeper look. This weekend should be pretty nice, put the top down, take it out on a nice straight road and let it out a bit. If you don’t at least laugh out loud for pleasure, see a doctor because you might be dead.

  70. Buy the Mustang. You need not drive it yourself, Athena could take care of that for you.  You could even read a book as she does so.

    When you talk about new car after kid goes away to college, how could she drive the car for you once that happens?  In light of this, there is no time to lose.  You should acquire a Mustang this very evening.

  71. I feel like I must be the only person here who doesn’t understand the appeal of the convertible. Hair tickling my face. Sunburn (or rain). Too hot or too cold. Needing to wear a hat to keep the sun out of my eyes but also needing to worry about it blowing off. Other things blowing out of the car. Poor visibility with the top up. And all of that except the last applies to being a passenger as well.

    I’m perfectly happy with my 2003 Accord EX with navigation that I bought new and the only thing I wish it had that it doesn’t is bluetooth so I could use my phone with the car’s speaker system. I wouldn’t mind having the hybridness and mileage of my husband’s Prius, but my car is still the more comfortable of the two for long trips. Including heated seats, which are nice to have at times even in California.

  72. My first car was a 4 cylinder 1981 white Mustang. I still miss it.

    A friend of mine has a ’65 hard top v8 Mustang in British Racing Green. Sadly, it sits in her garage because (a) it drives in gallons per mile and (b) it was bought in California, so it has no heater to speak of (at least not in polite terms in a Canadian winter).

    Is there such a thing as a practical sports car? Pretty please?

  73. For several years, we were a 1 car family – my husband commuted an hour each way to work and I bicycled the 6 miles to mine. But about two or three times a year, I would need a car, and I took great pleasure in my short-term rentals. All of the joy of a new car without any of the hassles! I drove everything from little sporty cars to a massive 4-door pickup. But nothing, alas, as cool as a Mustang convertible…

  74. Dear John,

    The self driving/electric car thing totally appeals to me, too. I’m fine with driving. I’m fine with driving long distances. Mostly I consider it a waste of my time. If I could do something better with that time, I’d be generally happy. At the very least I could make photographs out the window without risking life and limb.

    In truth, the only modern car I seriously lust after (and have ever lusted after) is the Tesla Model S. I want one soooooooo badly.

    [In case someone is wondering why the Model S and not the X, it’s because I’ve never driven a Model X. If you don’t want to get hooked, fergodsakes don’t EVER test-drive a Tesla. Take up crack; it’s less likely to be addictive.]

    Unfortunately, it would be an utterly frivolous purchase. I ran the numbers, based on the amount that Paula and I drive each year––for what a Tesla would cost, I could just hire a taxi or town car anytime I wanted to go anywhere and do anything in the greater Bay Area. Over the likely life of the car it would cost me about the same amount per mile.

    Slight exaggeration there–– the Tesla would have some resale value, and costs for taxis and town cars will rise. But it’s approximately true. Fundamentally, there’s no way this is an economically-justifiable purchase.

    It is tempting me, though, to write another novel. Well, the carrot dangling at the end of the stick, anyway. “Be a good author, Ctein, and you can get a toy!”

    Our next car will certainly be all-electric, but realism says it’s likely to be something like a Tesla Model 3 or a Chevy Bolt.

    My life is a tragedy, you know.

    pax \ Ctein
    [ Please excuse any word-salad. MacSpeech in training! ]
    — Ctein’s Online Gallery
    — Digital Restorations

  75. What is all this angst about not getting a Mustang because the 16 year-old you and the 46 year-old you view a Mustang from a different perspective?

    I have an 89 year-old colleague who has been driving a Mustang (a blue convertible – I *swear*) for the last 3-4 years. Why?

    “I just felt like it.”

    He is a LOT further removed from 16 years of age than YOU. :-)

    – Tom –

  76. “And also, let’s be real, I’m unlikely to get on the road and open the throttle and hoot madly as I do 130mph, trailing Ohio State Troopers behind me like angry flashing bees.”

    You can always visit Germany and find out what it’s like to drive upwards of 200 kph.

  77. That is really the heart of the so-called “mid-life crisis” isn’t it? You can actually afford all the things your teenaged self dreamed about. And the unfair bit is that a middle-aged woman in a sports car is considered very differently than a middle-aged man in a sports car.
    Me, I love to drive. And I will drive pretty much as fast as the vehicle will go. Which is why I have always stuck to large, ponderous creatures. Protection against poor impulse control!

  78. Tammy rented a purple Mustang when she was Writer-in-Residence at Alpha one year, and – I guess her inner sixteen-year old is a bit closer to the surface than yours is, Scalzi, because she loved it! I drove the Hybrid SUV we own up to meet her for Confluence, and she’d just grin at me from her Mustang and go, “Mine’s cooler….”

  79. I rented a mustang for a CA Highway 1 road trip in 2011. This be the steed in question:

    As I said at the time:

    A Mustang is a nice car to drive. It’s big, comfortable and looks quite pretty when you’re standing next to it. There’s a nice burble from it when you put your foot down and when people decide to race it at the lights it usually wins.

    But it’s not designed for dealing with curves much, and especially not for dealing with curves on hills. For one thing it understeers quite noticeably at any speed above about 30mph, so you’re always slightly concerned about how far you actually need to turn the wheel. For another thing the gearbox is absolutely stupid. There’s so much lag when making a hill start that you find yourself pushing the gas down even harder, assuming that you hadn’t opened the throttle enough in the first place, whereupon the car finally notices that you’re trying to go faster, or indeed go at all, downshifts and drops a ton of fuel into the engine all at once, resulting in the car shooting forward in a wild and uncontrolled manner. Which when you’re on a mountain road is something of a bottom-tightener.

  80. The solution is, let the Mrs. buy something practical but still hot, and borrow it once in a while. There are boring mini-vans and exciting SUV’s. Self-driving electrics? Bleah. Driving can be *fun*, why shouldn’t it be?

  81. Looks absolutely gorgeous … shame about the fuel economy, but that’s not really what cars like that are about.

    (Have to admit to having had a good giggle at the 20/27 mpg quoted … I’m British, and if I was getting fuel economy like that I’d be under it with a torch, looking for the leak!)

  82. @Frank Van West: once upon a time my folks and my brother and I went down to Key West, but I could only stay for the weekend while they could stay for the whole week (work issues). I did the opposite – rented a ragtop in Key West and drove it up US 1 back to Miami, watching the sun go down in the west as I went north.

    That was a wonderful drive.

  83. One year, for spouse’s birthday, I arranged one of those “ultimate driving experiences” – drive a Lamborghini or something similar around a “track” in the Met Life stadium parking lot. Successful on several fronts, not the least of which is that I don’t have to worry about finding the funds for Lamborghini insurance in the budget.

  84. Never had dreams about a car – the only dream I had was about a house. After getting the 100+ year old house, the car dream became “I want something that will hold more than one 2×4 at a time” and bought a Hyundai Touring. Nice mileage, great cargo space, sturdy enough to haul my small garden trailer and heated seats – really, really love the heated seats. I will never buy a car without them. The moon roof is wonderful. I wish cars still had the side wing windows, though.

    If I won the lottery, I’d get a chauffeur and spend the drive reading…

  85. Every time someone does a “where’s my jetpack?” panel at a con, I want to ask where my electric self-driving car is. I don’t love driving but I do like going places. And I’m utterly crap at directions. Putting in an address and sitting back with a book while my car drives me will really be the future.

    For now, my little Honda Fit is the best car I’ve ever owned. The only improvement it needs is a chauffeur and the money to pay them with.

  86. So, when I turned 54 I couldn’t resist the siren call of the convertible anymore. In a fit of pseudo-practicality I bought a used Infiniti G37 convertable (I told myself I was being practical because, well, it was used and a used car is more practical, right?). A wonderful car. Totaled it in 2 and a half months. Then, in a fit of manly self rationalizing I convinced myself I damned well deserved to have a convertible for more than 2 1/2 months of my life, I went out and leased a brand new Infiniti Q60 convertible (same car, different name). Love the car. Great car. Looks cool. A real treat to drive. Should have bought a used Tesla.

    My wife, on the other hand, managed both rational and cool with a Mini Cooper Countryman. Many days she’s smarter than me.

  87. Do what I did. Get a Jeep Wrangler hardtop. It has removable Freedom panels (sort of like a T-Top) or you take the entire top off in about 15 minutes. You never have to worry about doing 130 mph and you have a vehicle that can easily handle Ohio winters.

  88. Furrysquid, Americans are blessed (or cursed, depending how you think of it) with much lower fuel prices than the UK. I get 14/22 (if I’m lucky) city/highway, and my car is only 8 years old. Big engine + big car + aggressive New Yorker at the wheel = very poor gas mileage!

    But gas is only $2.15/gallon by me. That’s… (does math)…just under 40 pence/liter at current exchange rates. If I buy gas in New Jersey, which I do roughly every other fill up, it’s even cheaper, more like $1.70/gallon (31 p/l).

    If I had the money to afford two cars, I would consider a cheap electric car (e.g. the Leaf) for a commuter mobile and use the Beast strictly for road trips.

  89. I’ve spent a couple “weekends with the girls in other cities” in Mustang convertibles, and that is IDEAL, let me tell you. During a warm season, pack all your middle-aged chums into it and turn up the music, drive around with the top down. Recommended.

    I want a self-driving car so bad. Or a Tesla. Actually, a self-driving Tesla. But alas I will have to settle for my current Prius.

  90. If the Ohio Troopers are anything like the Pennsylvania ones they’ll just call in a helicopter.

    Friend back i the day had a 71 Mustang Fastback, 351 Cleveland, 4bbl carb, and headers into a dual exhaust with glass packs. Limited-slip rear. Racing flats. The original owner bought it new, got sent to Nam, dry-docked it in a barn, and didn’t come home. My friend bought it in 81, with 800 miles on it, and had it worked on by an expert. It was basically a race car.

    Going down the Pennsylvania Turnpike see these skids come down in front of us. “It says POLICE on the bottom of that helicopter.” So we pulled over, cop pulls up behind a few minutes later, leans in the window, “Son, do you know how fast you were going?” “No sir, the speedometer pegs at one hundred and ten.”

    We got wrote up for one mile an hour under where he would’ve had to arrest us (hey, the driver was honest!), and a couple other things, and told us never to go that fast in Pennsylvania again.

    I learned how to drive on ice in that car. “Don’t touch the gas, don’t touch the brakes, don’t make any sudden moves.”

  91. This is when you realize you got old. When you’d rather have a vacuum, or a new stove or a new furnace rather than the flashy stuff. I do wish they made the “mommy cars” in cool colors. I have a CRV, love it to bits (although I wish it had a moonroof). I just really don’t understand why they don’t make car colors more interesting. Purple, or pink, or flowers. Or customizable interiors in fun colors… I don’t want flames on my car, I’d rather have flowers, or a Rainbow Connection paint job. Do you know how many damn white CRVs there are out there? ARGH. Just because I am 45 does not mean I don’t want fun. *sigh*. I too would love some kind of electric car for the majority of the population. However, all our roads and bridges are going to fall apart by that point anyway. I learned to drive in a Buick wagon. My first car was cool, electric blue Neon, first year they made them. I still miss my baby,

  92. What you *need* is an extended summer vacation in Europe concentrated in Germany with a rented convertable, like a Merc or a BMW and drive it on the Autobahn where there is no speed limit. The excitement of really pushing you car to its max speed and still feeling safe to do so is a really amazing feeling that anyone should have at least once in their life. I am not a car head, but that thrill really got to me.

  93. What you need is a car that’s no longer available new: A Saab 9-3 convertible. Fun to drive, good visibility and plenty of room in the trunk. Plus it knows how to cope with winters.

    Although I’m driving a VW Rabbit at the moment, I still miss my Saab wagon that GM wouldn’t sell to me for a fair price during their bankruptcy :-(

  94. I also have a spouse who magically gets upgrades because he is awesome, or maybe it’s because the rental staff has seen him many times and knows he’s not destructive or suddenly and inexplicably unpleasant. It’s pretty cool.

  95. @ __E:
    Yes, I realise that fuel is cheaper in the US.

    It’s just that the fuel consumption stats in the original post look mildly hilarious when you’re used to getting somewhere between 45 – 55 mpg (depending on weather, roadworks, how much rubbish you’ve got in the boot, boats and bikes on the roof etc etc) out of a family-sized diesel hatchback that’s nearly old enough to vote, but still has enough grunt that you have keep an eye open for the gatso.
    Not so much YMMV, as you gas mileage may vary? ::o)

  96. A lot of muscle car people here… My second mid-life crisis vehicle is a Mazda Miata – the first was a full-sized pickup. It isn’t as fast as the Ford Mustang – even the 6 cylinder Mustang is faster – but it consistently gets rated the most fun car to drive. I forget who said it; but, “It is more fun to drive a slow car fast than a fast car slow.”

    My ‘regular’ car is an automatic transmission and I missed being able to drive a standard transmission. Since I needed a summer beater I figured I may as well get something fun. The Miata has been stupid fun. On nice weekends my wife and I will take it around the finger lakes for an afternoon drive. If I had a hardtop I could take it out on the Watkin’s Glen International track on ‘track day’. Its handling is so unlike what most people expect that I have passengers grabbing for hand holds the first time we take a corner a lot faster than you would want to in a ‘normal’ car then they marvel at how flat the car stayed.

    I live in upstate New York and get a good eight months a year driving it (needing gloves and a hat in the early spring and late fall). Visibility with the top up is quite poor; but, why drive it with the top up. If it is raining, drive faster or take the other car. Since you can get a good quality used Miata for around $10K you can afford another few reasonably priced cars before you get to the Mercedes or BMW M4 prices.

    Like Class VW Bug and Jeep Wranglers, drivers of Miatas will often greet each other with a wave as they pass. In today’s world – especially the NY ‘just get out of my way’ – it is nice to have a little community here and there.

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