Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Fast that I Choose

Is not this the fast that I choose?
Isaiah 58:6

I know that many people may find it hard to believe that Isaiah, writing so many centuries ago, could be talking about my Mustang.

Amazing, right?

Actually, Isaiah is proclaiming a message from God. He isn’t claiming to have come up with this on his own. Still, it’s amazing.

But I don’t think there is a better fast than my Mustang. It is the best kind of fast there is.

I have been thinking about this because the Mustang turned fifty last week. Not my Mustang. Mine is a 2012. But the first Mustang was introduced fifty years ago last week. You may recall that last week was called “Holy Week.” I don’t think that’s a coincidence.

The golden anniversary has been the occasion for much nostalgic reflection.

In her Sunday column in the New York Times, Maureen Dowd wrote, “It’s weird to be jealous of your car. But I am. Men look at my car with such naked lust, their eyes devouring the curves and chrome, that I often feel as though I’m intruding on an intimate moment. Women like it, too. . . . But the icon evokes a special feeling in men. It’s the Proustian madeleine of cars, stirring old dreams and new. Guys sometimes follow in the American beauty’s dreamy wake, by car or by bike, and leave mash notes on the windshield with their numbers, pleading for me to sell it.”

But Dowd has no intention of selling her 1965 convertible. When the first Mustangs were introduced, they were called 1964 and a half’s, but officially they were 1965’s. They looked good then and they look good now.

I have been a car guy since I was a small child and I was interested in the original Mustang, but in those years my car lust was directed toward MG’s and Austin Healey’s. I loved the Mustang Steve McQueen drove in “Bullitt,” but I was more taken with Dustin Hoffman’s Alfa Romeo in “The Graduate.”

When I told Elaine I was writing a blog about the fiftieth anniversary of the Mustang, she asked what that had to do with “Thinking Faith.” I was momentarily speechless, and she asked if my text would be, “I came that they might have acceleration and have it abundantly.” I did not laugh. In the first place, acceleration is a good thing. In the second place, I thought that really would be a good text. The original, not the edited version. Wasn’t the Mustang an illustration of “abundant life?” And finally, I could not understand how once again something that seemed so obvious to me was not obvious to everyone else.

It’s about nostalgia dressed up as a theology. It’s about how we always think the past is better than the present. Like the people of Israel, in the wilderness, wanting to go back to Egypt. But faith is always about being called into the future. Like the angel telling the women at the tomb that “he is going ahead of you to Galilee.”

One of the underlying themes in the Mustang anniversary is our longing for the past. This comment from the Mustang facebook page is a good illustration:

“Apparently, the Ford Mustang today celebrates it's 50th birthday. While the current models aren't nearly as well-designed and iconic as the ones built in the 60's and early 70's, this is still an impressive milestone. . . . They sure don't make them like that anymore… Happy Birthday!”

The current models aren't as well designed as those from the 60's and early 70's? Seriously? Does he know anything about new Mustangs?

I can appreciate the skepticism. I could not believe it when I saw the first advertisement for the new 3.7 liter V6 Mustang. They claimed 305 horsepower and 31 miles per gallon. It seemed impossible. But it’s true, at least the MPG part is true. On trips I always get on the high side of 30. The record number for me was a little over 34 mpg on a trip from Rhode Island to Maine. I have no way to measure the horsepower. I can tell you that it’s not just fast, it’s scary fast. It is, with a nod to Isaiah, the very best kind of fast. And did I mention the 6 speed transmission?

In 1964 the original base Mustang came with an inline six that produced about 85 horsepower (by today’s measurement methods), and the basic V8 delivered about 150 horsepower. Don’t even ask about the gas mileage. If you want a V8 today, you can get 400 horsepower and 25 mpg or 500 hp and mpg in the low 20’s on the highway.

Make no mistake, the old muscle cars were fast. A Steve McQueen type Mustang with a 390 inch V8 (6.4 L) would do zero to 60 mph in 5.7 seconds and run the quarter mile in 14.1 seconds. That’s very fast. According to the road test people, that would make it just a few ticks slower than a new V6.

In his letter to the church in Philippi, Paul speaks of “forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead.” There’s a new 2.3 liter turbocharged four cylinder available on the 2015. It’s supposed to have over 300 horsepower. It will be lighter and should get both better gas mileage and better performance. They really don’t make them like they used to.

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