My wife and I recently took a road trip to Tennessee. Prior to the trip, I had the brilliant idea of making a detour to the Tail of the Dragon, a semi-famous road on the North Carolina-Tennessee border, popular with motorcycle and sports car enthusiasts. This trip was taken in the DudeStang (my 2014 Mustang GT, for any new readers). My wife is a good sport when it comes to my occasional car-related request so she was willing to go along with this particular detour. We left a little bit later than originally planned, arriving to the vicinity of the dragon around 6:30 PM, and were met with some light rain. At one point we were stuck behind a slow moving mini van, with a gaggle of Porsches on our tail. Eventually the van turned off and we were leading a pack of Porsches to the dragon. Given the light rain and my desire to not ruin the fun of the Porsche patrol, I pulled off to let them pass. My wife and I counted, no exaggeration, 30 Porsches, mostly 911s with a few Boxters and Caymans sprinkled in. Oh and there was one C7 Corvette at the end. It was quite a site to behold.
We made a stop at the Tail of the Dragon gift shop, which is off the road just before you enter the dragon. Of course we had to stop in and grab a magnet, and there was the added joy of a random assortment of vehicles in the lot for me to geek out on a bit.
Eventually we made our way to the dragon. I’m sure I’m not the first person to make this observation but the experience of trying to stay on the road while not being distracted by the beautiful fall colors is…a challenge. I do love my car but the dragon is definitely one of those roads that made me think about what it would be like to own a sport compact like a Civic Type R or Subaru WRX STI. Before you jump in with a comment about true sports cars, please know that I am 6’5” and over 240 lbs so I don’t even bother daydreaming about Miatas or S2000s.
The drive was fun but eventually we got stuck behind a slow-moving RAV-4 and that, combined with the wet roads and reduced visibility, made for a pretty slow-moving end to the dragon. We drove along a beautiful area (Calderwood Lake I believe) but couldn’t see much because it was pretty dark at that point. Maybe half an hour later, driving on a pretty flat, straight road, I heard a noise like something bouncing up to hit the bottom of the car and the Mustang’s shifter mechanism “dropped”. That’s the best way I can describe it but I heard a grinding sound and pulled over immediately. I determined pretty quickly that the sound was the shifter mechanism grinding on the drive shaft. My initial theory was that the nuts holding the shifter bracket to the floor pan (see photo below for reference) had somehow come off.
I wasn’t completely sure so to be on the safe side, we had the car towed to nearby Lenoir City. While the tow truck driver was trying to figure out the best way to tow the lowered DudeStang, it started raining. Fortunately it wasn’t a torrential downpour.
Lady was a good sport about the whole experience and it helped that the tow truck driver was a fellow Mustang enthusiast and lover of dogs. We were able to find a hotel for the night. The next day was a Sunday unfortunately, so the local Ford dealer was not open. I took the car to the only auto shop that was open, a Firestone, and they put the car up on the lift and confirmed my theory was partially right, but it wasn’t the nuts that had come off. The screws completely sheered off from the floor pan of the car. They weren’t able to fix it so we stayed another night in Lenoir City. It didn’t seem like there was a lot to do but it didn’t help that it was raining most of the day and we didn’t really want to take the car anywhere.
Perks from our time in Lenoir included trying Dr. Pepper Cream Soda for the first time. Quite delicious. Would absolutely drink again.
We also had a late lunch from a place called Buddy’s Bar-B-Q. This place is in a gas station, which I feel like can really mean it’s either the bomb dot com or really sketch. Fortunately, this place was the former. I had smoky wings and a “hawg back potato” with beef. Would recommend both.
We were unable to get an appointment for the DudeStang at any of the nearby Ford dealerships so I decided to just show up at the closest one when the service department opened. The service department folks at Lenoir City Ford were very friendly and professional and despite being all booked up with appointments, they were able to fit me in and get the DudeStang fixed up before lunch time. We got back on the road and made it to Nashville with no further problems.
My updated theory is that when I put my stock shifter back in (I was having some fitment issues with the Steeda shifter), I might have tightened the shifter bracket nuts down too hard and that, combined with the switchbacks on the dragon, may have contributed to the bolts sheering off. To help avoid a similar issue in the future, I went ahead and ordered a shifter support bracket made by a company called Blowfish Racing. I haven’t had time to install it yet but I’m hoping to do so in the next week or two. Stand by for more pics and a video (if I can get around to editing it) from our trip to Tennessee. Thanks for reading.
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