Photographing the new Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 for Top Gear was pretty special for me… it reminded me exactly where my desire to shoot cars came from.
Back in 2014, I went on a road trip from New York to California and then all the way back home to Brooklyn again. 9,000 miles or so. I took pictures and blogged about the whole trip right here. At that time, I’d never worked as a photographer. I was just a dude, a not-so-gainfully employed dude and one who had been aching to put some miles on the Mustang he’d managed to buy while previously more gainfully employed. That trip and the resulting photos put me on the map over at Jalopnik, then one thing led to another and another and another and before my brain really squished itself around what was happening I had a new job: Real Life Freelance Car Photographer.
One of my favorite parts of that Mustang roadtrip was traveling down the entire length of Route 66. Some parts of the complete Route 66 experience aren’t so inspiring – increasingly dire towns clinging to the map with little more than road-stop hot dogs and corny merchandise – but once you’ve gotten into the desert part, between New Mexico and California, you’re treated to arguably the most cinematic landscapes and magical light you can find in all these states. And my dad was co-pilot for all of it. So it was one of those bucket-list-y type things, even though I don’t have a bucket, or a list, and as far as I am willing to believe neither I or anyone I love will ever die. That includes dogs.
So anyway, fast forward five years later to a parking garage in Las Vegas, and I’m heaving my camera gear bags into the trunk of a lime green 2020 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 – the carbon track pack car, the top dog, with the huge carbon fiber wing and those alien 20-inch carbon fiber wheels. It’s supposed to be the ultimate Mustang, under development for years, and virtually no one outside of Ford has driven one yet. I’m very impressed with how the day is going. Pat, the writer from Top Gear, drops into the driver’s seat. He asks me, in a soft English accent, “What do you say we drive out to Amboy?”
Amboy is in California, a whole state away from ours, but it’s an easy hour or so from Vegas on long, easy stretches of desert highway. Ever more stunning mountain ranges slide past our windows while the GT500 quietly and rapidly consumes an absurd amount of its fuel. Pat saying the town’s name sort of pokes some soft part of my memory, but I soon stop trying to remember why because WE ARE IN THE NEW GT500 WHAAAAAAAAAT.
We approach Amboy – not so much a town. Mostly a gas station. But the Roy’s Motel sign towering overhead is unmistakable and I get full-on deja vu. I’ve been here before. Five years ago. Right in this very spot. To take pictures of my Mustang. And I was with my dad.
I’ll pause here to recognize the logical, and likely conclusion to this story: I start to believe that Top Gear’s Pat Devereux is my father, after tearful hugs and significant sun exposure he finally agrees to this, and we live out our days in the desert as a father and son whose only possession is a stolen pre-production high-performance Mustang. I mean, weirder shit has *probably* happened out here.
Luckily, Pat is from England and is sophisticated enough that he would never, ever want me as a child or distant family member or maybe even, should you ask him, admit that he knows me, what with all my weird frothy desert fetish Mustang energy I got going on, so he just gives me a minute, and I take it to realize how totally amazing it is to be back here again, still doing something I love, and doing it for a living.
That’s it, that’s my story. Oh and the new GT500 is god damn incredible. Bless you, Ford. After Pat flew home I stole it and drove it to the Hoover Dam. Hooooo doggie.
Check out Pat’s even more cathartic experiences with the GT500 over at topgear.com