It‘s a beautiful Florida summer day. Upon arriving at Matthews-Currie Ford in Nokomis, Florida, the timing is uncanny. The side doors of the dealer showroom swing wide a white 2018 Mustang rumbles out into the open air of the dealer lot. This isn’t just any second-gen S550, however. This is a new Mustang RTR Spec 2, and it’s time to take it for a spin.
RTR makes something for everyone and that’s what makes them great! — Kevin Wisneski, Matthews-Currie Ford
“We chose the Mustang RTR line for three reasons: flexibility, relevancy, and availability. Customers can purchase one already made into a Spec1, 2, or 3 or can buy a bone-stock new or pre-owned Mustang — from a bare EcoBoost to a loaded Performance Pack 2 with every option. They give the customer the ability to work within their budget,” Kevin Wisneski, Customs Manager at Matthews-Currie Ford, said.
Those ready to rock styling elements subtly set this Mustang apart from the everyday pony cars. These cars have long been known for their signature wheel design, and the rear of the car features a black wing lip and an RTR trunk logo.
If you aren’t familiar with the Mustang RTR, these hotted-up pony cars have been available since 2007. From the active mind of one of the most famous Mustang drivers around — Vaughn Gittin Jr. — these vehicles embody his spirit. A Formula Drift champion and viral video superstar, JR as his friends call him, had an epiphany. He wanted to offer a more modern take the Mustang, one that reflected his personal aesthetic and was ready to rock.
“Vaughn and his team are hot right now. Their products are becoming more of the flagship line among the available options. RTR is attracting a huge audience to its drift events and is expanding its line to the F-150. Vaughn and his company also have a huge social media presence and following,” Kevin added.
Under the hood, the 2018 Mustang RTR Spec to is largely as Ford created it. The Spec 2 upgrade focuses on appearance and suspension upgrades and relies on the already healthy, 460-horsepower Gen 3 Coyote 5.0-liter engine Ford offers.
Available To Rock
Now you can see why the vehicles produced by RTR Vehicles carry those three letters, but they are all built to follow the company’s motto: “Available to All, Not for Everyone.”
For your scribe, the car was made available for the day, so we could sample its charms and snap a few shots for your viewing pleasure. Sliding into the lipstick-red leather seats, this car feels oh so familiar. The aeronautic-inspired S550 interior is a classic, and this Premier-optioned example throws in all the goodies.
Likewise, the interior is pretty much as Flat Rock created it with the exception of the RTR-embroidered floor mats that were not yet installed. This example featured red seats, which really popped against the dark interior and white paint. The Mustang RTRs do receive serialized dash plaques, but ours didn’t wear one yet.
Most prominent of the other options is the vaunted 10R80 10-speed automatic transmission. Our most recent adventures in new Mustangs were all manual cars, including the latest Bullitt, so it was fun to sample the automatic again. Its brisk shifting and integration with the drive modes make it the first automatic to truly tempt your scribe. Manuals still have a fun-to-drive edge, but this auto is a performer.
After adjusting the power seat and mirrors, we idled off the dealer lot. We were keen to give this pony the spurs, but it would be kind of rude to launch off the lot in Drag Mode. Instead, it remains civil in Normal until we hit the onramp toward Sarasota in search of greener photographic pastures. In Sport+, we dropped the hammer and the Michelins gripped the asphalt as we rocketed onto the interstate.
Along with the wheels, the real calling card of the Mustang RTR is its signature front grille with built-in LED lighting. The latest version also wears bumper inserts, hood vents, rocker splitters, quarter splitters, RTR graphics, and RTR badges. In all, the package subtly moves the car up-market with a performance slant.
These new Mustangs are so smooth and powerful you have to rein yourself in to not drive like a nut all the time. Once on the freeway, we adjusted the settings for a Sport exhaust but Normal driving mode. This is a great default setting for everyday duty and served us well in traffic. The car sounds fun, but doesn’t beat you up, which is nice for a car with a tuned-up suspension.
If you know anything about Vaughn, you know he is all about performance. Whether he is sliding around the Nurburgring in his Mustang RTR or racing his Brocky Bronco off-road, he is about performance. As such, handling improvements are a key part of the RTR recipe. This particular model benefits from the standard RTR Tactical performance front and rear sway bars, but eschews the adjustable dampers and lowering springs because the car features the factory MagneRide option. In deference to its high-tech suspension, Ford Performance’s application-specific springs got the call.
It’s the little things that set the Mustang RTR apart, including the stripes, vents, badges, and signature grille. The latter really stands out at night thanks to its built-in LED lightning.
As a result, this Mustang’s handling is a bit sharper in the corners and a little tighter, but its dynamic adjustability augments that grip when needed and cushions the ride when it’s appropriate.
What’s always appropriate is that Gen 3 Coyote power, which the auto trans really maximizes. However, being true horsepower junkies, we couldn’t help but wish our chariot for the day carried the Spec 3 designation (see sidebar), but that fleeting want passed.
We haven’t driven the Mustang RTR Spec 3 — yet — but we have driven supercharged S550s. As such, it is safe to assume that the Spec 3 is right up our alley. With that Ford Performance/ROUSH TVS 2650 supercharger giving the RTR just the kind of tire-smoking performance it deserves, this option is definitely one louder. As you can see, AmericanMuscle.com, which offers the individual RTR parts for sale, enjoyed its time with the top-of-the-line Mustang RTR.
Our urge to appreciate the subtle RTR styling didn’t fade as quickly. Even when we weren’t peering through a lens, it was difficult not to steal a glance while walking away from the car. All those little touches (see mods sidebar) really add up to an alluring look that says performance without beating you over the head.
“The RTR offers just the right amount of styling to be distinct be noticed yet not be so over the top that the cars become unapproachable to people that aren’t in a certain income bracket,” Kevin said. “RTR makes something for everyone and that’s what makes them great! A kid in college can pull up to a car show in his Spec 2 EcoBoost and be as proud of his as the retired Mustang collector in his loaded Premium and still feel unique!”
As we were driving the Mustang RTR, we wondered why it didn’t have a signature dash plaque. Turns out that it did, but it wasn’t installed yet because unscrupulous types like to steal these out of cars on display. However, the plaque for the 15th example built in the 2018 model year will be installed for its new owner. (Photo Credit: Kevin Wisneski, Matthews-Currie Ford)
These special Mustangs are available at dealers around the world, but at Matthews-Currie Ford it is really easy to step up a Mustang RTR. You don’t have to order a pre-built car, instead you can select the base car you want and have it upgraded on site.
“We can order RTR complete kits, and let it sit in the parts department until a customer picks out any Mustang on the lot. Then we can convert it to a RTR in days so it is what the customer wants. They aren’t forced to take options or colors or power levels they may or may not want.”
2018 Mustang RTR Spec 2 Features
• RTR upper grille with LED lights
• RTR lower grille
• RTR front chin spoiler
• RTR bumper inserts and turning vanes
• RTR hood extractor vents
• RTR rear diffuser
• RTR rear spoiler
• RTR decklid panel
• RTR rocker splitters
• RTR rear quarter splitters
• RTR fender badges
• RTR floor mats
• RTR shift knob
• RTR graphics
• RTR Tactical Performance front and rear sway bars
• RTR serialized dash plaque signed by Vaughn Gittin Jr.
As we returned from the coast in the Mustang RTR, we could definitely understand the allure of making any model ready to rock. Thoughts ofslaying tireswith the man himself flashed through our mind. Alas, we had to return the key fob and leave the car in the showroom for its future owner, who will undoubtedly love driving this car.