As Oscar season ends, the Ford Flex takes us into movie memories
What would happen if Steve McQueen’s ’68 Bullitt Mustang consummated a relationship with the Griswolds’ Truckster from the National Lampoon’s Vacation? It would be an evil bushwhacker that could out-accelerate muscle cars with Clark & Co. onboard — something like the 2010 Ford Flex with EcoBoost.
Upon trading in his family’s Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser, Chevy Chase’s character, Clark Griswold, was suckered into taking home a "Wagon Queen Family Truckster" instead of the sport wagon he ordered. Based on a Ford LTD Country Squire, the movie car was tricked out by George Barris (also designed the Batmobile) with acres of fake woodgrain, a horrendously fugly front grille and four taillamps. In Christmas Vacation, the family drove a Taurus wagon with enough fake woodgrain to make a 50-ft. plastic pine tree sway in fear.
The hearse-square body of the Flex is flashed with a chrome grille, woodgrain-echoing corrugations in the bodysides and a cool brushed aluminum band across the tailgate. As with its siblings, the Flex would look great in highland green.
Steamroller 20-in. alloy wheels roll across America smoothly and grip like Bullitt’s ‘Stang.
The Flex would probably out-accelerate that dark green movie star. A 1968 Mustang GT fastback came with a 390 ci V8 that produced 320-HP (gross).
Although a bit heavier, the Flex stings with a twin-turbo 3.5-liter V6 that produces 355-HP (net) — enough to dust an old Challenger or Christi Brinkley’s Ferrari 308GTS.
Ford’s sophisticated all-wheel-drive system can shift up to 100 percent of the engine’s torque to the front or rear wheels to tackle the worst winter weather or grip the hairiest city corners. The Griswolds could have towed a 4,500-lb. travel trailer behind the Flex, although the vehicle would have to travel empty to achieve 16/22-MPG fuel efficiency on the way to Wally World.
Steve’s mother could have selected interior textures. Soft dash and door inserts have a Zen grass pattern on them while much of the rest of the interior is industrial modern. Front and rear heated leather seats should keep buns toasty warm. After their respective chase and desert flight, McQueen or Clark could have grabbed a beer from the optional second-row fridge.
The Griswolds would never have been lost if they had a voice-activated navigation that can also give you a five-day forecast in case amusement parks or ghost towns are in the plans. There are no tweed bench seats in this baby — it’s first class captain’s chairs all the way.
You’ll find no garbage bag airbags or thin-rimmed steering wheels either: Thick leather and head curtains are much better. You want all of the lights and outlets from Christmas Vacation? There are 110V domestic plugs and reading lamps aplenty. Easy fuel capless filling is located where it should be.
Aunt Edna would have sat in the third row seat, instead of slobbering on the kids, while devouring Sony audio from the music hard drive. After Edna’s demise, imagine the ease with which Russ and Audrey could have powered open the hatch, downed the third-row seat and wrenched her lifeless carcass aboard.
Of course, Clark would also have seen the old lady’s yappy dog on the rearview camera, and if not, would have picked up the little ball of teeth with rear sonar instead of accidentally dragging it into oblivion. These things also make parking easier than flying through the air.
There are many excellent Volvo bits under the Flex’ stylish skin. Much is shared with larger Volvos like the XC90, including a proper four-wheel independent suspension system, something a ’68 Mustang never had (nor a 2011 Mustang for that matter). Four-wheel anti-lock brakes come in handy on quick turns.
Flex has enough power and all-wheel grip to rip a giant spruce by the roots and haul it home. I would love to see Clark give McQueen the devil in a car chase.
There’s a good chance this boss would have its way with a ’68 Mustang. With a V6. While carting around the entire brood and dead Edna in back.
The Barris Truckster is in a museum and McQueen is pushing up posies, but you can roll on down to your Ford dealer and drive out in a Flex Limited for $42,010 … or, if you must, a Mustang GT for as little as $28,845.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 12, 2010.