What does the Ford Mustang mean to America?

2018 Ford Mustang GT in Terlingua, Texas

A pencil-straight imaginary line connects Portland, Oregon, to Terlingua, Texas, about 1,800 miles, unbending and uninteresting between two disparate towns at near-opposite poles of the U.S.

We found their connection in a 2018 Ford Mustang GT, and in the story of how the Ford Mustang became shorthand for America.

For two months, Motor Authority editors buckled into a 2018 Ford Mustang GT to look for the people and the stories that helped make one of America’s most vibrant and iconic cars.

Over the days, weeks, and thousands of miles, a rich picture emerged of an America that seemingly has no straight shots, except for the one that runs from April 1964 to 2018:

-Generations of owners in Portland gathered to tell us why their Mustangs meant so much, why they spent the money they saved to buy or restore their heroes;

2018 Ford Mustang GT (Matt Dayka/For Motor Authority)

-The streets of San Francisco, immortalized for car fans by Steve McQueen’s “Bullitt” Mustang, showed us something more than a car chase: it’s gritty, raw, and complicated;

-Carroll Shelby’s Xanadu in dusty West Texas, a failed venture turned inside joke race team, spoke more about the man to us than his legend.

And we discovered the deeper meanings for the car named after one of America’s lasting images. The mustang—the mutt of the Wild West—once was idolized and then it was marginalized. Then it was rescued by a determined woman, and now those wild horses live in outposts like Nevada’s Palomino Valley and in Arizona, where some men now find second chances on horses that are on their last chance.

We look at the Mustang we drove in intricate detail: What makes the GT? What made the Mustang? And what’s the future for performance among an onslaught of electric cars?

We stopped along the way to drive the Ford GT, a halo performance machine that costs nearly 10 times more than the performance machine we arrived in, too.

Along the way, the people and stories we found brought us and our readers closer to America and its legendary pony car.

There are many roads from Portland to Terlingua worth taking.

We took a few of the undiscovered ones, and hope you’ll come along for the ride.

For two months, Motor Authority crisscrossed the U.S. in an automotive icon seeking stories about the Ford Mustang’s place in American history. These are our stories from the road about its owners, its history, and its status as an evolving symbol of our relationship with cars in America.

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