When Ford called us with a last minute opening and an invitation to kick the tires on a 2010 Mustang GT at the Ford Proving Grounds, we openly embraced the offer. An aptly sized skidpad would be at our disposal to approach triple digit speeds and we would also be receiving expert instruction from none other than Tommy Kendall. However, there would be a small twist thrown into the mix as part of a larger production effort that would give journalists an insight into the world of Roger Keeney. Since Roger, 62 of Athens., GA lost his sight and thought he would never experience the exhilarating rush and the tactile sensations that arise from being behind the wheel, he had always dreamed of one day driving again.
We would be given the chance to perform acceleration and braking tests, as well as our favorite exercise on skidpads (massively smoke filled donuts), all while driving completely void of all sight, just like Roger.
As Ford set out to allow Roger to live out his dream, we watched with much excitement and admiration as Roger, under the direction of Tommy Kendall, took the center stage and confidently whipped the 2010 ‘Stang around the skidpad. You couldn’t help but feel an overwhelming sense of accomplishment and joy in watching someone truly live out what they had once never thought possible. Then it was our turn.
Things started with a rundown of the safety precautions, including a “release” command that, when shouted, meant we had to take our hands and feet off the controls and relinquish them to our famed instructor, who would in theory regain control with e-brake and steering input. This was a production car after all, which had not been modified in any way for the visually impaired, thus in an emergency situation the Instructor should be able to take over and bring things to a halt. Not to worry though, we had the advantage of seeing everything beforehand and unlike Roger, it had only been mere hours since we were last behind the wheel. That all went out the window as soon as the blindfold went on.
Nearly hitting the windshield of the convertible ‘Stang upon entry, even finding the seatbelt on the car became somewhat of a chore. Seat adjustments were made based solely on comfort and not sight, and there was a far greater connection to the steering wheel than ever before. After being given verbal directions on how fast and exactly where to proceed, the 2010 ‘Stang was on its way to the edge of the skidpad for a raw acceleration test.
3…..2…..1…..GO! And we were off, but now instead of seeing the landscape starting to streak by, there was simply the rush of the wind, the growl of the exhaust note, and the chirp of the tires as we were pushed back into our seat. By the time we hit 60, the palms were sweaty, at 70 there was a bit of a pucker, and by 80 we had apparently run out of room and were told to mash on the brakes, hard. ABS kicked in and brought everything to an abrupt conclusion, as apparently we were a little hard on the pedal. That was weird.
Next up we were guided towards the middle of the skidpad for some good old’ fashioned donuts, which the Mustang never has a problem with. Experiencing lateral g’s without any sort of visual makes for a bit of a roller coaster ride, it turns out, but as there was no fear of flying off the skidpad, this simply meant that it was more fun than scary.
Heading back there was a greater appreciation for the one thing that every one of us takes for granted not only when driving, but when living. The gift of sight is one that should not be taken lightly, and the next time you put yourself behind the wheel, whether it be the car of your dreams or your mother’s Camry, remember that driving is a privilege that not everyone has. Few if any visually impaired individuals will ever get to go through Roger’s driving experience, but we certainly commend Ford for giving him the opportunity. For readers who think that they too have a dream experience that the 2010 Mustang can fulfill, head over to htpp://www.the2010mustang.com and submit your own idea for the “10 Unleashed.”