What’s a classic American road trip without a flat tire in the middle of nowhere?
[You’re reading part of the Mustang Challenge series, a loosely bound concept that was created to inspire others to get out and explore the country in their cars. In this Mustang Challenge, two Canadians are touring the USA for the first time, traveling for 26 days through 13 different US cities while traversing over 8,000 miles behind the wheel of a 2016 Mustang GT. This is one post in a series of many. To read the previous articles and to follow the series, jump to the bottom of this page.]
We should be in Nashville right now, cruising down Broad Street soaking up the Music City atmosphere. Instead, I sit here in Philadelphia, mildly miserable and marginally hung over, typing this report.
Mildly miserable, not because of a small headache (rather, the events that caused a headache were quite fun), but because we should be in Nashville, and we’re not. It only took a short 60 minutes from departing the 2016 American Muscle car show, driving our new to us 2016 5.0L GT, before tragedy struck. In fact, one could make the argument that the headache is not from partaking in a social evening of drinking, but rather of having to ditch the Mustang 90 miles away and sheepishly call for Andrew and the Focus to spearhead a rescue mission.
The Day Started Well…
Prior to the evening, our day had been going great. We stocked up on a few road trip necessities in the morning (sports drinks, water, cookies & ice), bought ourselves a couple pre-paid burner phones like the thugs we are, and finally set off in the Focus to find Maple Grove Raceway.
It was a short but fun ride to the raceway. After punching the address into our GPS, the route we were given comprised solely of back roads full of twists and turns, which, even in the station wagon, released some adrenaline. We assumed full rally mode with Alex, as the co-pilot, barking out the upcoming turns and I whipping the poor wagon for all it was worth. The 25-minute ride passed quickly and we were finally pulling up to Maple Grove were behind the gates lurked 3,000 various Mustangs, but more importantly, lurked our Mustang. Somewhere in this throng of American muscle awaited our 2016 coyote-powered racing machine.
We snaked through the entrance, heading for the main show area towards where we thought we might find our new ride. Many must have laughed at our expense, wondering what was going on as this derelict, rusted out station wagon clacked its way through a sea of pristine Mustangs and their respective owners. Nonetheless, we shamelessly plugged on, ignoring all the snickering and head scratching that followed our entrance. Intuition paid off and we spotted what was supposed to be our ruby red road trip ‘Stang in a tent parked alongside all the other major sponsors. Given our celebrity status, we brazenly pulled the Focus right up to the tent and dumped it there. A thorn among roses, no doubt.
We quickly hopped out, grabbed a sports drink each from the trunk and began exploring. It was immediately evident that this car show embodied some serious money. Rows upon rows of gleaming Mustangs – Foxes, SN95s, S197s, S550s, even several first gen Pony cars – every generation was represented. Every so often, a happy owner, wanting to display the raw power of their car would fire up and briefly redline, causing an ensuing echo of sinister power as other owners answered the cry to battle. Truly a formidable sight, and an even more exhilarating sound.
Alas, the end of the show drew near. For some, this may have been sad, for the Mustang festivities were now over. For us, it was the most exciting part, as finally, as we had previously agreed upon, Andrew, Alex and myself would be exchanging the keys to our respective cars. Andrew gets the Focus, Alex and I get the Mustang.
The cars were pulled together, a camera crew was assembled and the three of us stumbled through an extremely embarrassing and sweaty video introduction of the swap that was about to take place. Hollywood acting job over, Alex and I loaded the Mustang as fast as we could and blasted off. We had done it. We had successfully exchanged my turd of a Focus for a shiny, V8 6-speed Mustang GT. And off we went, into the sunset and heading towards Nashville. Or so we intended.
About 45 minutes from leaving Maple Grove, I, being the pilot for the first leg of our 10-hour drive, was greeted with an in-dash warning that our front right tire was low. None too happy and somewhat concerned (I had just opened the ‘Stang up about one minute prior), Alex and I deliberated pulling over immediately or pressing on to the next exit, 2 miles away. We opted for the latter, which proved to be the right choice. We pulled off, and luckily for us, saw a service station just 500 feet down the road. We parked the car, jumped out and confirmed that yes indeed, the front right tire was very, very low on air. Great – a nearly new car with just under 20,000 miles on the odo, not even 100 miles down and we have our first problem. And unfortunately, it got worse.
I circled the car real quick and when I got to the front left tire (driver tire), I heard air leaking out of it too. Upon closer inspection, the air was leaking from the valve stem. What in fact had happened, on both wheels, is that the valve stems were too long and as the wheel rotates, the stems hit the massive Brembo brake calipers that come with the Performance Package. Thus, we didn’t have one flat tire, but two. The Mustang had a fresh wheel and tire package installed on it just for the American Muscle car show. Unfortunately for Alex and I, the wheels selected for the car (orstang-wheels-tires.html the valve stems installed) were not correct for a Performance Package equipped ‘Stang, and we were the lucky ones to test out and find out that this was the case. On the current wheels, the valve stem location is not correct to use a standard length valve stem and a 90-degree stem must be used. A small oversight, but with major ramifications!
It’s 8:30 on a Saturday evening, no one is open to help us out. Nonetheless, we made several phone calls and everyone came to the same consensus. The car could definitely not be fixed tonight, or perhaps not even at all – or at least in the local area. Sure, we could get the valve stems replaced, but we would simply be faced with the same problem later down the road.
We could try 90-degree valve stems, but no one in the area had any. Unable to move the car, Alex and I started walking down the road looking for a place to eat while discussing what we could do. In what was a stroke of luck, just 5 minutes down the road we found Legacy Sports Bar and Grill. We ordered a rack of ribs and a few beers ($2 on Saturday) each and promptly called Andrew to fill him in on the situation. Two hours later, Andrew showed up with a 100% functioning Ford Focus to cart us back to Philly. We’d have to leave the ‘Stang until Monday before it could be fixed.
We didn’t make it to Nashville, but the night wasn’t a total loss. We were able to get drinks and some food, which was our plan once arriving in Nashville anyway.
But so far, Focus 1, Mustang 0. Who would’ve thought?