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We drove the Series 1 Mustang RTR Powered by Ford Performance
We drove the Series 1 Mustang RTR from the Mustang 55th show to Formula Drift and loved every mile of it
"Are you going to show me what this thing can do?" It's a question that many enthusiasts get when someone sits in the passenger seat, but when it's your teenage son asking, you feel a little tinge of pride. He was clearly digging on the 2019 Series 1 Mustang RTR Powered by Ford Performance, and who could blame him. It was a car tailored to attracted a younger demographic.
Founded by Professional Fun-Haver and championship drifter, Vaughn Gittin Jr., RTR Vehicles re-imagines Ford vehicles with his sense of style and performance. What began with dealer-installed upgrade packages for new vehicles has grown to include trucks, a parts line, and more.
"I started RTR just because I wanted to create something fresh for a new generation of Mustang owner," Vaughn Gittin Jr. said. "I kind of felt that the style and stuff was being repeated by the same people and kind of the same. I wanted to do something different and when I originally did it, it was just for that reason."
Having worked with Ford since 2005, he started the Mustang RTR line back in 2011 and has constantly expanded the brand. The company now offers a wide range of its own upgrade packages for Mustangs, but the Series 1 is a new venture that finds Vaughn and his team working in concert with Ford and Ford Performance to deliver a vehicle through the Blue Oval dealer network.
"It comes with a full Ford warranty and the big kicker is that Ford Motor Credit acknowledges it, is behind it, and offers loans for it with the package," Vaughn said. "This has been huge because, you know, we're still doing our dealer-installed packages, but our priority and focus is that we really want Series 1 to do well and so far it's seeming like it will."
Essentially the Series 1 fuses Vaughn's styling panache with corner-carving precision of Ford Performance's Handling Pack upgrade, and the Ford Track Pack 19-inch wheels fitted with RTR center caps.
"It's insane the amount of development, sign-off, and investment Ford does just for a set of springs and dampers," Vaughn enthused. "So, you know, we'd be foolish not to take advantage of that knowledge and development. I think it's a really cool collaboration."
While RTR Vehicles still offers its Spec 1, 2, and 3 packages, which offer more styling and performance upgrades, the Series 1 carries that aforementioned Ford backing, while still delivering the kind of performance that puts smiles on faces.
"It still has the DNA of what our suspension is, which is the adjustability for you to be able to put slicks on your car and make sure that you can have the balance that you want by adjusting the chassis to go out drifting," Vaughn said. "You can do that by just adjusting the sway bar. So we're really happy with the kit and happy to use it because it has gone through all Ford's validation."
Announced during the press conference from the Ford stage at last year's
SEMA Show, the Series 1 will soon be available at select Ford dealers around the world. Only 500 of these models will be created, and nearly 300 are already spoken for, so Vaughn's brand continues to expand.
Intrigued by the package, we arranged to drive the car from Charlotte, North Carolina — where the RTR operation is based and the car was on display at the Mustang's 55th Anniversary show — down to Orlando, Florida, where Vaughn was set to compete in Formula Drift's Round 2: Scorched. There we were scheduled to ride shotgun in his 1,200-horsepower Mustang RTR Spec 5-D, which made the goal of the road trip even more exciting.
The journey offered an opportunity to spend some quality miles behind the wheel, and experience the car in daily life for a couple days before returning it to the RTR team in Orlando. Along the way, it garnered a lot of positive comments — particularly regarding the color and RTR touches — wherever I brought the car, but nowhere was it more appreciate than in my own driveway.
With a combination of subtle additions and tasteful stripes, the Series 1 stands out from the average Mustang without beating you over the head with too much bling. It looks the part, and definitely appealed to a broad range of people.
While the looks are obviously a big part of the RTR recipe, it comes down to the driving experience to us. Series 1 packages begin on the solid foundation of the Performance Pack option before being elevated to Series 1 status. To that base you can opt for MagneRide or the analog suspension. The latter gets sharpened with a Ford Performance Parts Handling Pack.
Having recent experience with the Performance Pack Level 2, which is a bit stiffer than the base suspension, but still compliant enough to meet factory requirements, the Handling Pack suspension employed on the Series 1 is tighter in every way thanks to its 1-inch lower ride height courtesy of lowering springs. They are matched up with tuned front struts and rear shocks, as well as upgraded strut mounts, jounce bumpers, rear toe links, toe link-to-knuckle bearings, and sway bars.
"We went with more of a track suspension because we feel like we're diving down into more of a hardcore consumer," Vaughn said.
He was speaking our language. At the first available opportunity during the trip to Florida, it was time to drop the hammer and ascend a sweeping onramp. The Series 1 planted four corners and kept body roll at bay as it clawed around the sweeping turn. As we fed the RTR more throttle, it just kept digging in and pulling. It felt great, and this prototype example had a little something special under the hood that is most definitely not part of the package — a Ford Performance TVS blower.
Yeah, the Series 1 doesn't include any engine upgrades, but you are welcome to have a participating Ford Performance dealer install one of these positive-displacement blowers to a Series 1 or any other new Mustang if you like. In this case, you can rest assured that the Series 1's Ford Performance suspension is up to the task of planting that power reasonably well on street tires.
The taut Ford Performance underpinnings definitely reveal more of the road imperfections than a stock suspension would, but its controlled tuning gobbles them before they can spoil your fun. Having cruised the Series 1 for 700 miles or so, I can say that it is definitely livable in everyday use, so long as you are used to driving performance cars.
When it came time to answer that inevitable question posed by the curious teenager, I was happy to oblige. Of course, I already knew the answer before I banged through a few gears until the rapidly building speed required that I back off. As I let off the loud pedal and coasted back down to a reasonable rate of speed, I turned and asked if it was fast enough? The answer was emphatically and affirmatively, "yes." And, just as Vaughn sets out to do, he put smiles on faces again.
It definitely was fast, but more importantly it is reasonably attainable in as-sold form. If you are one of the 500 buyers, the Series 1 Mustang RTR will only set you back an extra $7,500 on top of the price of your Performance Pack-optioned EcoBoost- or Coyote-powered Mustang. Better yet, the total price can be financed through Ford Motor Credit, which makes it more palatable to add the upgrade to your new car.
So, if you want a naturally aspirated Mustang that's Ready to Rock right off the showroom floor and is backed by Ford's warranty and credit, the Series 1 is an attractive bang-for-the-buck proposition that is sure to stand out. It also happens to be quite the fun road-trip ride
RTR Ownership Experience
You should definitely buy a Mustang, specialty or otherwise, because you love it. Such a machine should be your pride and joy because it tickles your fancy, but a side effect of owning a specialized variant is getting attention. Whether or not that's your thing, it will bring out the curious, build bonds with other owners, and become a conversation starter wherever you drive it.
"There's a thing about having an RTR that you can't explain it, but I call it the owner's experience. All of our customers come up, and say 'You won't believe that all the time you get stopped,' and 'People wait for me to come out of the gas station,'" Vaughn said. " We try to explain that there's a really cool owner's experience. You don't know about it until you get it. But there's one that happens."
Over the years I have witnessed the RTR vibe from behind the wheel and when owners come together at an event where Vaughn is meeting, greeting, and having fun behind the wheel. That group seems to be growing, especially with the advent of the Series 1.
"I think people are learning that we have well-developed, thought-out, and engineered cars that you can buy complete packages. So I think that the next step is focusing on bringing awareness to our vehicles and what makes them unique," Vaughn said.
And, don't just think that experience is for the younger crowd. During Formula Drift's Round 2: Scorched event, Ron Skow and his wife Ann made the drive up from Venice, Florida, in their new Mustang RTR just to meet Vaughn, and ever the humble Fun-Haver, ventured into the parking lot to check out their machine. Only two weeks old, this Mustang RTR was the pony car they had been searching for and when Ann fell in love with it, the car joined the couple's stable, and they joined the RTR club.
Series 1 Mustang RTR Features
RTR Windshield Banner
RTR Upper Grille with LEDs
RTR Lower Grille
RTR Front Splitter
RTR Rocker Splitters
RTR Gurney Flap
RTR Rear Diffuser
Decklid Trim Panel with Ford Performance/RTR badge
RTR Fender Badges
Serialized Illuminated Door Sill Plates
RTR Puddle Lamps
RTR Graphics Package
RTR Serialized Dash Plaque
RTR Embroidered Floormats
RTR Shift Knob
Ford Performance Parts GT350 Strut Tower Brace
Ford Performance Parts Handling Pack or optional MagneRide Suspension
Ford Performance Parts Track Pack Wheels, 19x9.5-inch front and 19x10-inch rear
RTR Center Caps
Black Lug Nuts
Ford Performance Parts Hood Struts
Serialize, Laser-Engraved Radiator Cover
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