During my trip to Los Angeles late last year to launch the electric Ford Mustang Mach E, we had the chance to see a variety of cars, new and old, both at the LA Auto Show and the Peterson Museum.

We also got the chance to drive in the mountains in a selection of Mustangs, proper petrol powered ones instead of electric and not SUVs like the Mach E. This was going to be fun.

Our route sounded promising. The Angeles Crest Highway is a single lane highway running through the San Gabriel mountains, east of the city. I didn’t know it at the time, but it forms the last part of the iconic Route 66 before it reaches LA.

The history of the road is interesting too. Construction started in 1929, so right at the start of the depression. Most of the work was carried out by prison labourers who were imprisoned at a facility called Camp 37 which has since been demolished.

The work came to a halt in 1941 on account of World War II and resumed in 1946. The road finally opened in 1956. There were immediate plans to turn it into a proper freeway but these were quickly abandoned once it was realised how difficult it would be given the terrain.

As it stands now, the 106km route rises as high as 2,100m and gives commuters an alternative route into LA, mornings and evenings.

Outside of these times, it largely seems to be a recreational route, used by tourists and car nuts alike. It truly is one of the best driving roads I’ve ever been on and the scenery is spectacular.

It also has to be said that it’s a dangerous road, with a lot of single vehicle and motorcycle accidents, lots of them I’m sure caused by drivers whose enthusiasm outweigh their talents.

Down through the years, it has also featured in various murders, not so much the murders themselves, but a drop off point for the bodies of the unfortunate victims. Like I said, an interesting route.

Of course, being Hollywood adjacent, it inevitably has featured as the backdrop to a number of movies, including Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo, where it doubled for the French Alps.

Instead of vintage Beetles, we had a choice of Mustangs to drive, everything from four cylinder ecoBoosts to V8s and a selection of Shelby Mustangs, in both GT350 and GT500 guises with either 526bhp or a whopping 760bhp.

We drew lots to decide what to drive and I did badly, ending up with an Ecoboost. At least it had the High Performance Pack, consisting of a modest 20bhp boost to 330bhp from the 2.3 litre turbo engine. It’s actually the engine from the Focus RS, which is more highly tuned than the standard Mustang unit.

It also benefits from a revised suspension, with uprated dampers, springs and anti roll bars, in addition to a strut brace, 19” wheels and some extra body addenda.

My next problem was navigating my way out of the city. We were given a road book to follow but as I was driving on my own it wasn’t much good to me.

The obvious solution was sat nav but surprisingly, my car wasn’t fitted with it. I had to rely on my phone to get out of the city. Fortunately, there was a handy vent on top of the dashboard with gaps that could have been made to stand a phone in. It was the next best thing to a built-in system.

I didn’t get stuck in any of Los Angeles’ famous traffic jams on the way out and within half an hour I found myself driving on a sublimely twisting mountain road which climbed steadily until there were breathtaking views on either side.

I didn’t have much time to enjoy them though as I was too busy enjoying the drive. Despite being down on power over some of the other Mustangs, my Ecoboost gave a very good account of itself on a very challenging road. Even though Angeles Crest is a country road, it’s wide enough to accommodate the full size American cars that typically drive the route. It’s also well paved, with none of the potholes or undulations that you might expect on a secondary road in Ireland. Most of the traffic I encountered either consisted of pickup trucks, which tended to move out of the way quickly, obviously used to faster traffic. The rest was made up of other enthusiasts, either in sports cars or on bikes.

At the top of the road, we all had a chance to regroup and I grabbed the keys to a Shelby 350GT to check it out. With over 500bhp and rear wheel drive, I expected the car to be a bit of a handful but it was a real pussycat, able to put the power down well with minimal interference from the traction control system. It might have been a different story in the wet though.

Even with the stiffer springs and dampers, the ride was still quite comfortable and it really drove just like a Mustang, albeit a bit quicker.

Since I drove up the mountain in an Ecoboost, I was supposed to go down it in a Shelby but luck wasn’t with me again. All the Shelbys were mysteriously taken so as a consolation prize, I took a convertible V8, happily fitted with satnav this time. I lowered the roof to enjoy the sounds and the late afternoon sunshine and thoroughly enjoyed the drive down.

By the time I reached the city limits, traffic was beginning to build for the evening rush hour and as I approached the hotel where I had to drop the car, I discovered that the satnav didn’t quite know where the entrance to the car park was located. Neither did I and quite a few Mustangs were circling in increasingly heavy traffic until one by one, we picked out where we needed to go.

It wasn’t the best way to end a memorable drive but the sounds emanating from the underground car park almost made up for the frustration outside. A cacophony of rumbling V8s and the odd shriek from a highly tuned inline four all reverberating from the concrete walls was a fitting way to end our drive through Angeles Crest.


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