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  • Writer's pictureRachelle Lister

Phoenix Rising - Part One

This will, undoubtedly be the most personal blog I will ever write. This is the story of my pride and joy, of the car I learnt to drive in, the car that gave me my first taste of freedom.

To start at the beginning, and to give you a better understanding of why this ordinary looking Mustang came to mean so much to me. I heard my first Ford Mustang long before it came into view. My two sons were at a football camp (American Football that is) on the local American Airbase, when I heard a deep rumble in the distance. It was the sweetest sounding engine I had ever heard up to that point. I asked one of the football coaches what that noise was, to which he replied, "That's a Mustang". I vowed there and then that I would own one. Now I must make it clear that up until that pivotal moment in my life, I had no desire to learn to drive, no interest in cars and quite frankly thought that anyone who cherished an inanimate object and treated like their youngest child, well, they needed professional help!!!

It was sometime later, after everyone telling me I was insane, and it was the most ridiculous thing they had heard, I finally was able to buy my dream car. My Great Aunt had died and left me some money in her will, with the instructions to 'Go and buy a dream' with it. So the hunt was on. I knew nothing about cars, let alone Mustangs, although I had become slightly obsessive with the Mustang and had ogled over several styles, years, models etc online. I had decided with my budget that a 1999 model upwards (known as The New Edge) was what I wanted. I had spent hours at a time trawling through page after page of online ads. Now this idea might not sound so insane until you realise that, at this point, I had no idea how to actually drive!!!

Anyway, after months of looking for my first car.......there she was.....on the internet, I hit the 'Buy It Now' button literally within minutes of her being advertised. She was the one. Now the next problem was going to get her, she was a four hour drive away from where we lived at the time, and I obviously needed someone else to drive her home for me!

I pulled up to the house where she was sitting on the drive, gleaming in the sunlight of a June afternoon. I remember looking at her and thinking she looked a lot smaller than I was expecting, you see I hadn't actually seen a New Edge model in the flesh as it were. I was used to seeing the later model (known as an S197) which, by comparison, is much larger. Now the surprise of her size didn't detract from that 'love at first sight' feeling I had. My dad had taken me and my boyfriend at the time the 200 miles to go and collect her. Rather sadly, needless to say, my boyfriend got to drive her first. This was his first experience driving a left hand drive car, he said he felt like he had to take his brain out of his head, turn it 180 degrees and put it back in, as everything felt 'back to front'. I am pretty sure I actually managed to keep an inane grin on my face all the way home. I'd got her, I'd bought not just my first car, but she was my dream car and I was in love. I finally understood those millions of people who love their vehicles, who are obsessed with them. The penny had dropped. I got it. I was one of them.

The next morning a very brave friend came around to ride shot gun. The mustang was insured, the 'L' Plates were on and I was about to be let loose around the Fenland countryside, not just driving, but driving an american icon, a legend, my dream. I can honestly say that that first drive went so much better than either of us expected, everything seemed instinctive, like she had been made for me, we were totally in tune with each other, woman and machine. The love just grew and I grinned like a window licking retard for the entire time I was behind that steering wheel. I felt free, invincible.

It was obvious that my next hurdle would be passing my driving test. I was eager to get on the road without a wing man as soon as possible. Needless to say I did pass my driving test a few months later - otherwise this story would never have been written!

In the following two years my life changed almost beyond recognition. I got heavily involved in the Mustang scene, not just in Britain but also in America, picking their brains for information whenever I had an issue, asking for advice and making some great friends along the way. I did however, find that information was seriously lacking in this country and that the majority of garages were extremely reluctant to do anything more involved than an MOT. This meant I had to learn how to do routine maintenance, parts replacements etc myself. I felt that I could not possibly be the only Mustang owner in the country who found themselves in a similar situation and that often the advice from fellow owners in America was not always relevant to us, with parts, willing mechanics etc being readily available across the Atlantic, whilst being almost impossible to find over here. This lead to my starting up a group on Facebook 'Ford Mustang UK' so that those who sought advice, friendship and expertise had a British based source to use. I attended many American car shows across the country and even tried my hand at drag racing, which I would, wholeheartedly recommend to anyone seeking an adrenaline rush! I soon become a bit of a celebrity within the Mustang family, with strangers stopping to chat to me at events, both my Mustang and I became familiar faces to the majority of Mustang owners.

Life couldn't have been much better, I had the car of my dreams, an American Legend no less, I'd gained independence, freedom and a new global family.

It was a cold drizzly November evening on my way home from work, along windy Cambridgeshire country lanes, through scenic villages, and as usual I was grinning whilst driving home. It was my then boyfriends birthday 25th November 2014 and my world got turned upside down. After a 40 minute drive home, I was about to turn right into my drive, just waiting for the traffic to pass, when I heard the loudest bang, I was thrown forward and then pinned to my seat by the seat belt. The stereo flew out of the centre console and into the back of the car. I was suddenly hurled two house lengths further up the road. I had been hit at 50 miles per hour (in a 30 mph zone) whilst stationary. My worst nightmare had been realised. Within seconds there were crowds of my neighbours around my car. I couldn't stop crying, this was far more than just an accident, this was my dream shattered, this was the last piece of my Great Aunt gone, my perfect life over. She was leaking fuel all over the road, my boyfriend told me that the fire brigade was on its way and if I couldn't get out of the car by myself then I would be cut out - with the obvious option being that they would cut the roof. The drivers door was jammed, there was no escape from that side of the car. I had to climb across to the passenger seat to escape. An off duty policeman, happened to be walking his dog and witnessed the entire thing and had told me that if I had been in a smaller car, with such an impact, I would not have been able to 'walk away'. But I didn't want to walk away, I wanted to stay with her. She had given me so much and I just couldn't say goodbye.

I remember sitting on my front door step, chain smoking, crying and getting angrier by the second with the driver who had hit me. His vehicle was unrecognisable after hitting me and he needed to be cut out of his vehicle as the engine had gone through the firewall and was pinning him in. I had a multitude of friends and neighbours preventing me from going up to the guy, I was vying for blood. It soon transpired that he had been texting whilst driving and had simply not seen the four rear lights, the three brake lights nor the right hand indicator! It didn't take long for the paramedics to come over to check how I was. They proceeded to tell me off for not taking them seriously, they just couldn't understand that I really didn't care how I was, I was far more concerned with my Mustang. I needed to know if she would make it!

Phoenix Rising - Part 2 - Following Shortly

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