Spring Makeover 2013

The first day of spring is fast approaching. The news might not mean much to folks in the Northeast or the Upper Midwest, where Old Man Winter is still brushing his icy fingers across the landscape, but in Florida the azalea blossoms are at their peak. That’s a sure sign of good things to come.

Personally, the promise of warm weather and abundant sunshine is my signal to prepare the Mustang for another season of travel. After six months of rarely getting out of the house—a self-imposed hermitage necessitated by a tight deadline for my next book—I am more than ready to get back on the road. Unlike last year, when I completed a 10,700-mile journey across the country and back, I don’t have any monster road trips planned. Instead, I hope to take at least one driving vacation of about two weeks’ duration, perhaps longer, and I might attempt a second trip if the schedule allows.

More importantly regarding the convertible, I have registered for a Mustang Club of America national show for the first time in years. Normally I don’t devote much time to car shows (see my post on May 25, 2012), due to the fact that most are held in boring venues. Spending eight hours in the blistering heat of a Wal-Mart parking lot is not my idea of a good time. But I’m willing to travel hundreds of miles to attend a car show in a unique, attractive setting. The event in question is the “Stars, Stripes, and ‘Stangs” show sponsored by the Blue Ridge Mustang Club, held during the 4th of July weekend at the Crowne Plaza Golf and Tennis Resort in Asheville, North Carolina. The resort provides a beautiful setting—not your average retail parking lot—and the agenda includes a cruise through the spectacular grounds of the Biltmore Estate on the night of July 4.

Having completed numerous lengthy trips over the past few years, I am willing to bet that my convertible is one of the most reliable, comfortable, and capable long-distance touring antiques on the road today. By signing up for a national MCA event, I am also committing myself to a lot of cosmetic work. Once the car is parked, all that really matters is how it looks. As such, I’ll be stacking my car against Mustangs that rarely, if ever, leave their enclosed garage. They won’t have thousands of miles of road grime in the engine compartment and underbody. Instead, they’ll have an engine bay clean enough to eat off of. In order to be competitive, I’ll need the help of my accomplice, Pop. He runs a mobile business, Pop’s Detailing, and does a fabulous job making vehicles look like they rolled off the showroom floor.

A gorgeous example of the attention to detail that  Pop gives my Mustang

A gorgeous example of the attention to detail that Pop gives my Mustang

I also plan to make a few changes before I start the summer excursions. For the past three years, I’ve been using an aftermarket stereo that has all the looks of a vintage radio, but with contemporary “guts” that enable iPod connectivity and connections to multiple speakers—even a subwoofer. However, I’ve never been fully satisfied with the sound performance of the USA-630, made by Custom Autosound. The iPod connection experiences a major volume drop, and I don’t care for the glaring neon green backlighting, which cannot be dimmed at night. I have been watching with great interest as another company, Retrosound USA, recently launched its Model Two stereo. The new head unit, which began shipping in February 2013, promises far more functionality than the USA-630. The iPod connectivity is fully licensed by Apple, and the display colors are almost infinitely adjustable, so that I can match the stereo with the red backlighting of my outrageously cool Dakota Digital VHX instrument cluster.

Restrosound units look "old school" but have modern digital components

Restrosound units look “old school” but have state-of-the-art functionality

In addition to making some upgrades, I need to schedule the convertible for a visit to my local body shop. While backing into my garage this winter, I scraped the right quarter panel against the vinyl-clad frame of the garage door, resulting in a half-dozen long scratches in the paint. Other things on the to-do list include a new fuel pump, some ignition work, and getting the driveshaft balanced. (Ever since completing the AOD transmission swap, which required the driveshaft to be shortened, I have felt a very slight vibration.)

An "öops" beside my garage door is going to cost me, sooner or later,

An “oops” with my garage door is going to cost me, sooner or later. Look closely, and you’ll see several horizontal scratches.

With spring right around the corner and big plans in the offing, I can literally feel the veil of the winter blahs beginning to lift. I’ll post some updates as the Mustang’s spring makeover progresses, and we will see you on the road!