If A Faster Horse proves nothing else than the fact that we all have our own “Mustang” story, then the documentary film is already a winner in my book. For me, I suppose my father had a little something to do with my infatuation and affectionate love for the legendary pony car. You see, my dad had a little makeshift shrine in our basement devoted to his 1964 1/2 red convertible that included pictures of it, the original window sticker and whatnot. One of his most famed tales is how he almost walked away from that new vehicle deal over a hundred dollar disagreement with the salesman. Now between you and me, one-hundred dollars seems like chump change today, but back then that would be like saying you owe me seven-hundred and fifty-two dollars. Come to think of it that is still chump change. Alright, my dad’s just cheap. There I said it! However, he taught me the value of money and how to manage it so there’s always a silver lining. I suppose that since my room was decorated with posters like the Cobra branded logo on my bedroom door and the models I crafted were all Ford Mustangs had a little something to do with my obsession over the muscle car too. I remember this one model fondly. It was a black 1980 Cobra Mustang that had that infamous, large Cobra logo on the hood. I loved that car!
Thinking back, I would have to say my first Mustang experience harkens back to my high school senior year. My friend Randy, who went on to serve our country in the U.S. Navy, had a red fox body Stang. That car was no bigger than my dad’s 1985 model Ford Escort, but man could that little pony haul butt with its manual transmission, V8 engine and light bodyweight. I was instantly smitten by the speed and gallop of the vehicle. However, it wouldn’t be until another twelve years before I found myself behind the wheel of my very own, first Ford Mustang. I remember it like it was only yesterday. I was about to get married the following year, but I recall driving my 2001 F-150 up to the Ford dealership in the summer of 2004 with hopes of trading it in for something a little smaller and more maneuverable in tight parking spots, namely a Ford Escape. A few hours later, an X-plan deal was struck at the dealership. I returned back home later that evening and my fiancé asked me how it went. I said I made a purchase and needed a ride to the dealer tomorrow. She instantly looked perplexed and questioned me as to why I still had my truck and didn’t drive my new vehicle home that night. I had to admit, that screaming yellow color did me in. I always had a fervor for bright yellow sports cars and I don’t know why. So nevertheless, I now was a two vehicle owner, but more importantly, I frickin’ owned a Mustang now. Life would be good!
Living in Cleveland, OH you have to understand two basic laws when it comes to driving nice cars, particularly rear-wheel drive muscle ones. The winters are long and they suck. They wreak absolute havoc on your cars there with the salt they employ to melt the frozen roads. It’s like how Cookie Monster devours cookies, salt will eat your car whole. So if you can, and you have alternate transportation like me and my truck, you store your nice car away for the winter and Staybil becomes your best friend. Second, the summer season is known as orange barrel season. Sure, the four months out of the year where it’s really nice makes for fantastic cruising weather, but beware of roads torn apart by construction crews that you’ll not want to take your prize possession down. So needless to say, I put very low mileage on my 2004 Mustang up there. However, that actually worked out to my favor as when the new body style rolled out for the 2005 production year, I could only hold out a year before I broke down and traded my yellow baby in (only loss $1,300 on the ordeal) for the 2006 GT Premium model I still have currently, my Dark Angel. I think you can probably put two-and-two together and deduce that she is black in color (exterior and interior), and of course, sexy in every which way.
Yes, Dark Angel was and still is my pride and joy in life. You know that famous line in Fight Club where Tyler Durden’s character says the things you own end up owning you? Well, that couldn’t be anymore true. Dark Angel owns me, not the other way around. If I had one true love in Ohio, she would be it, not my wife who ended up screwing me over years later. It wasn’t the car’s fault. I promise. Haha. So anyway, I babied Dark Angel every year I had her up there. She got nothing but the best TLC from me. As fate would have it, in February 2013 I ended up taking a job offer down in Austin, TX. I was excited by the fact that finally I could drive Dark Angel every day of the year if I so chose to. After searching futilely for a car shipper I could entrust her care to I decided to drive her down from Ohio to Texas with only mere 3,100 miles on her odometer. What was even more shocking is the fact that I took her out in the snow. I felt so terrible about it, like a bad parent who just realized they hit their only child too hard. As soon as I got down to Memphis, TN I bribed a sales lady into letting me take my pony through a touchless carwash at an Audi dealership. You have to get that salt off under the carriage somehow.
So it’s now September of 2015 and I’m sad to report I have nearly seventeen thousand miles on Dark Angel, but hark…who goes there? That’s right! We have a new stallion in the stable. Thanks to a sneaky test drive ploy at a local Ford dealer, I successfully converted my girlfriend, a lifelong Camaro fan, into a proud owner of a white 2015 GT Premium with 50th Anniversary and Performance Package. It’s an amazing vehicle, night and day different compared to my 2006, which feels ancient compared to the tech built into this one. I guess you can say our garage is looking a little salt and pepper these days, but most importantly the contents of our garage are proverbially a wet dream to me. Now granted, it took awhile for that new S550 body style to grow on me, but once it did I have never looked back. Some nights I can barely sleep, relentlessly haunted by what my next Mustang purchase should be. I have had chances to buy a few 2015 GT Premium Limited Edition models, but my gut tells me I should wait it out and see what they have in store for the 2017 GT model (maybe a small performance bump or wishful thinking like that) or even perhaps I can get lucky and score an allocation for one of those mythical unicorns, what dreams are made of, a GT-350, if and only if, I can get a salesman to take me seriously and find one with a very low ADM (that should be illegal). However, I digress. All this talk about the new S550 platform is really a nice segue for what we’re really all here to discuss today, David Gelb’s A Faster Horse.
The documentary tells the story of the legendary Ford Mustang, most notably all the blood, sweat and tears that went into creating the 2015 model. Now that’s not to say A Faster Horse does not touch upon the Ford Mustang’s rich history, because it definitely does, but the main focus of this tale is the S550 body, otherwise known as the sixth-generation of Ford’s pony car. Director David Gelb (Jiro Dreams of Sushi) and crew follow the team entrusted with upholding the legacy of the brand as the Mustang undergoes a complete redesign for 2015 and if that wasn’t enough, the pony is about to gallop out unto the global market. While David’s film explores the parallels that exist between past and present day Mustang, the real meat and potatoes here is the recounting of the history of the car told through the many interviews with the passionate men and women ultimately responsible for bringing the 2015 and past models to life, not to mention all the other lives that have been touched by the product and continue to be shaped by it. The film was written by Mark Monroe and produced by Grammy Award winning Nigel Sinclair (Foo Fighters: Back and Forth) along with White House Pictures’ Guy East, Nicholas Ferrall and Alessandro F. Uzielli.
So it’s no secret, there are hundreds of Ford Mustang clubs all over world. Heck, I personally belong to two of them, Mustang Club of America (MCA) and its regional club in Austin, TX, Mustang Owners Club of Austin (MOCA). The universal appeal of the Mustang brand transcends generations across not only across the assembly lines, race tracks and cruise-ins, but also in the world of film. Think about it. Why are we all here reading this site? It’s because we all share a love for movies and the film medium. And guess what? Movies love the Mustang. From the historic first unveiling of the pony car in Goldfinger to the revolutionary debut of the new 2015 body some fifty years later in last year’s Need For Speed, the Mustang is a star in its own right in the world of Hollywood. Don’t believe me? Let’s list some more examples like Drive, Bullitt, Bull Durham, Gone In 60 Seconds, A Thomas Crown Affair, John Wick, the Fast & Furious films, I Am Legend and so many more. You get the “picture.”
I’ll admit. We kind of got a little off track in the paragraph up above, but not really in my opinion. It’s all relative to not only the subject matter found on this website, but also what we’re discussing here too. You see, A Faster Horse was filmed prior to the fiftieth anniversary of the Mustang, what you now know as the debut of the sixth-generation model. Ford was in the painstaking process of launching a complete redesign of the car and like any good tension baked into a well crafted screenplay, jobs are on the line and expectations of millions rests squarely on the shoulders of our main character here, Chief Program Engineer Dave Pericak. Dave must become the visionary for Ford’s legacy customers and a whole new generation of Pony owners like Henry Ford and Lee Iacocca once did. No pressure huh? Wrong! Perica must unlock the secret of what makes every Mustang owner and their relationship with their Stang tick. How you all do it, bring the new customers in and the old ones back while still recapturing the magic and desire in an affordable package is the key to success here. We know the eventual outcome of the product, but the bumpy road travelled to just get here is what A Faster Horse is all about or as David Gelb like to say “It’s a story about teamwork, leadership and trying to stay true to your vision when everyone else is trying to tell you what to do.” Hell, that sounds like my now life. Haha. I digress.
So first things first. A Faster Horse is a documentary. It’s a moving one, especially for this Mustang aficionado, but it’s not a fast paced one. The cuts are slow, deep and deliberate, and much to my surprise (I mean I’ll take it anyway I can get it) there’s a lot of history on display here. If you think you’re walking into an 80-minute documentary just on the building of the sixth-generation Mustang, think again. Did you ever want to know what drove Henry Ford into becoming one of the greatest innovators of our time? A Faster Horse is for you. Yes, there’s many meanings behind the moniker of the title here given within the film, but make no mistake, the history of the Ford brand is a rich and proud one that’s clearly on display for all to see here. I’m just telling y’all this so you didn’t come into this hoping to see some fast paced music video just because it’s directed by the guy who most recently did The Lazarus Effect. Now that I got that warning out of the way, what do you say I show you around what you can expect to find here and if you don’t mind, I’d like to share a few of my favorite takeaways from A Faster Horse. Seatbelts are not required for what comes next.
We start the engine in A Faster Horse by learning that what we are about to see is not something just anybody gets to see. Oh no! We’re going deep behind the scenes in this historic documentary. We’re going behind locked doors into the design room where the very first Mustang was designed (and even underground where prototypes are stored). So here’s the deal. This documentary is nearly five years in the making. It all started way back during the economic downturn of 2009 when Ford decided to revamp the Mustang, and not just for the usual American audience, but for the global one too. This was probably not the best of times to gamble with your brand like this considering it was a devastating year filled with layoffs everywhere and of course that dreaded Detroit bankruptcy that nearly killed the American auto industry. So here we are and it’s five years from Job 1 announcement to the first model.
As I said before we follow in the footsteps of Chief Program Engineer Dave Pericak and his team as we learn not only how to churn out a successful product, but a profitable one. When I say profitable I just don’t mean a money making machine for Ford. I’m talking about all the late night bickering and board meetings it takes to discuss design, money management and the most feared issue of all…when you hear that’s all the money you have to work with. And believe me folks, astonishingly that happens here. That’s what makes this story so thrilling and captivating. As the world eagerly awaits what the new Mustang will ultimately look like, we get an inside view of what it’s like to have that whole world literally on your shoulders. As another design engineer said in the film, I wouldn’t want that job. Yes, he was successful, but we all know how easily it could have gone the other way. Thank the heaven and stars the Magic 8-Ball was on Dave’s side.
Why did I just mention a Magic 8-Ball? What else do you think Dave and his team used for a decision making tool, persuasive bats and hammers? No spoilers! Haha. What I think David Gelb did most righteous here is he answered the age old question of how do you build a car. That may stump most when asked, and there may be a little too much history here to my liking, but in the end I think he captured the essence of all the hard work and team camaraderie that goes into manufacturing a once in a lifetime car from all the mind boggling madness and parts on the assembly line to the clay prototype models mocked up to visualize the real deal on wheels and all. After all, now that the Ford Mustang is going global, it HAS to compete with the Audi and BMW models overseas. However, answer me this seriously guys and gals. Who wants to buy an Audi for over forty thousand dollars with a little 2.0 liter engine (I don’t care about it being turbo charged) when for less than that you can have a world class sports car, inside and out, fueled with iconic American muscle, the Coyote 5.0 V8 engine. Rev those engines baby! That was a rhetorical question. We all know the answer to that! Moving on…
One of the most interesting parts of the film for me because I lived it was the inclusion of the social media posts over the past several years. They chronicle the bashing by ignorant people over the looks of the car. Yes, people, it looks very different. I was once like the lady they interviewed in here in the Ford parking lot. I kept saying I hope this new Mustang body wins me over some day, but I have to admit…it took some time. Like countless others, as evident in this documentary, I took to the forum boards myself and spent countless hours arguing with friends and fellow Mustang enthusiasts over the looks of the upcoming model. Who’s the winner in all of this? It definitely wasn’t me as I was made to eat my words as all I think about and obsess over now is the day when I will personally own a S550 (with a V8 of course) of my own. The stressful question? What options? Stripes? Color? Not only do I need a faster horse to hold my own against the new Camaros (or maybe a 2017 GT-500 to take on the Hellcat), but I need a bigger garage. I know, real world problems, huh? Haha.
So I already kind of explained what you’re going to find here and what I love about David Gelb’s artistic direction and visual style here, but what I didn’t tell you is I have decided to take away two important life lessons from this all. The first one is the fact that a car is actually a rolling work of art. Think about it. We all love the sound of the V8 Mustang, but what if it looked like a Toyota Prius. Would we still love it? Hell no! I know beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but come on. There’s nothing like a glossy race car red finish or running the back of your hand over the free flowing fastback surface on the rear of the S550 model. It’s simply sensational and okay, orgasmic. Haha. There! I said it! However, let’s think about it another way. In the film a good point is made that I want you to chew on. You know a car is beautiful when you actually take the time to wash it and keep it clean. I know many people scoff at me for spending four hours every weekend washing and waxing my pony, but guess what peeps? I love doing so! It relaxes me and makes me happy seeing her clean as she can possibly be. I live for that black mirror gloss I achieve all over the body of the car. You don’t see people that passionate or concerned about their Toyota Prius do you? I’ll leave it at that as I drop the mic, point being made.
I did say I had two important takeaways, right? I absolutely did. So I already mentioned this in the first sentence of my review, but if you’re still with me reading this review, then I really think this will sink in this time. I really want you to focus as this next lesson is going to hit you like a brick in the face when you realize I’m right. Repeat after me. Everyone has a Mustang story. You don’t have to had owned one to have a Mustang story. Think about it. Whether you love them or hate them, sometime or somewhere in your life you know you have a story that involves a Mustang. The sooner that you admit that you do the sooner I can end this fifteenth paragraph in this review and let you get on with your life or get your Mustang’s motor running on the open road (just watch out for those potholes up North). All I have to ask Ford is can I direct the documentary for the seventh-generation Mustang in five years or so when they go back to the design stage again? You never know unless you ask, right?
So there you have it folks, David Gelb’s A Faster Horse premieres digitally for download on Vimeo October 9th or theatrically in limited release possibly near you on October 8th. For theaters and showtimes or to pre-order it on Vimeo, hit up the official website at www.fasterhorsefilm.com. Leave any comments of praise down below. I’m happy to interact. Enjoy!