Pony Car Perplexing Problems and Puzzles
You see, the breeding is all wrong! While the squishy suspension and vague steering is excellent for the open roads of Route 66, in the old world you have plenty of roundabouts, crossings or even worse, the dreaded tight city corner where the 16-footer has problems. Show thouse to a Challenger and the steering would have a heart attack!
Don’t get me wrong, there’s bound to be an odd fan of the Mustang, the Camaro or the Challenger here or there. But the way i see it, it’s just novelty value. The casino owner, the rich tattoo artist or the business success guru will all share the ‘American dream’, making them price candidates for time in the saddle. It’s much the same thing as a Greenpeace activist buying a Prius for the family, but it’s still a case of form over substance.
But there’s a price to pay. Instead of the affordable Mustang with its rudimentary live rear axle, a British buyer could be looking at something like £35,000 for a decent import. Which kind of defeats the purpose, since ‘Pony car’ describes a an affordable, highly styled car with a performance-oriented image, and that kind of money will get you plenty of BMW style, performance and... orientation.
We’ve just learned yesterday that the next Mustang coming in two years will have independent rear suspension. There’s no turning back now - Ford is making it into a more relevant car for our times. The proportions will be sportier, the engines more economical (potentially turbocharged) and it still needs to be a poser. In a word: much much better and completely modern.
But why would Ford build such a car? For the photographer flashes, for the gazing eyes and for doubling its performance image. There can be no doubt that Toyota did a great job with the GT 86, which is getting the Japanese automaker plenty of attention. Whether or not this will translate into hatchback sales is yet to be seen, but the fact of the matter is the the Toyota Corolla sold 300,800 in three months and the Ford Focus came second with 277,000 units. That’s the price all automakers are after with their coolest cars: the attention.
As always, condescendence will be appreciated, so every pony car that wants to make itself into a global audience will first do so in front an smaller audience. I call these the 'motor show auditions', and I say motor show because that’s what they call auto shows in Germany, France or Switzerland.
However, as Boromir would say, one does not simply make a good car and expect it to sell. No, back in 1999 the Japanese at Honda managed to skillfully pull 240 horsepower from a naturally aspirated 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine. The S2000, because that’s what we’re talking about, was a reasonable success story but never to the extent that was expected. One of its less agressive, but more European rivals, the Porsche Boxster survives to this day.
If power means you’ll be spending time at a gas station in Toulouse, Birmingham or Warsaw, than forget it. But think of it the other way around. If you're exercising your bicep muscles to pump gas into a Camaro, people will ask you “is that American” and voila - instant recognition.
Speaking of the Camaro, that too is expected to become lighter and a bit smaller with the next generation. I call it ‘engineering by the decade” - in the 2000s automakers discovered carbon fiber for performance cars, now they discoverer that they can do the same for us regular folk’.
Did I say carbon fiber? I meant aluminum and high-strength steel. I didn’t mean to get your hopes up that high. Whatever the case, these fifth-, sixth- or seventh-generation pony cars can not be expected to change this much. But what we're going to see is the American pony crossbred with the European stallion. And affordable, highly styled cars with a sports-oriented image are, for lack of a better world, awesome.