There was little to consider. The 2005 Ford Mustang GT Premium coupe was delivered to my driveway. The car was torch red. The day was beautiful. The airwaves were full of politics. I grabbed several discs from my Ray Charles "Genius & Soul" collection and hit the road.

It was a beautiful escape -- 300-horsepower V-8 engine roaring, Ray singing "Born to Lose" on the eve of a national election, and miles of highway stretched before me.

I have a theory about cars, especially American icons such as the Ford Mustang, which has been around in one form or another since 1964. I don't care if they are "all-new," which is what Ford's marketers claim the 2005 Mustang to be. Nor am I terribly concerned about how fast they can move from 0 to 60 miles per hour, or if they can beat comparably engineered cars in what the people at Motor Trend magazine call "grudge matches."

That's all silly to me.

The things I want from a car like the Mustang are memories, a sense of time and place, the illusion of freedom, the delusion of controlled destiny. I want it to become my magic carpet, to whisk me away from the world's ugliness and tensions, if only for a moment. I want romance, and if there is a car that can give me that and the other craved psychic rewards without the intrusion of sloppy handling, squeaks and rattles, mind-numbing expense or various and sundry other discomforts, I want that car.

I want this Mustang GT Premium.

It is retro without being saccharine, sweet with no bitter aftertaste. It honors the past with traditional external Mustang styling cues -- the famous long hood, C-scoops on the side panels, three-element back lights and the chromed horse on the grille. Similar homage is paid to the past in the interior, most notably with the deep-set chrome-ringed gauges on the instrument panel.

But there is no slavish copying here, no mindless grafting onto the new what was disturbing about the old. The outside sheet metal, for example, is better proportioned, rising higher at the waist and the rear, thus giving the car a truly sporty look. The rear sail panels above the trunk line, once solid visual obstructions, now include windows designed to minimize those former blind spots.

The new Mustang's nose looks as aggressive as ever -- more like the snout of a shark than a horse. But Ford has made a welcome bow to European styling here by adding two round, jewel-like headlamps in the center of the grille.

Inside, there is more space for heads, legs and posteriors than existed in previous Mustangs. Lots of things change in 40 years -- human bodies chief among them. It makes sense for wider bottoms to beget wider seats.

That does not refer to chronological age, per se. Take a look around your local human landscape. There are many people in their teens, 20s, 30s and 40s whose physical girth far exceeds their fiscal worth. How many hamburger and french-fry combos have been sold in the United States since 1964?

Anyway, Ford wants to sell its new Mustang to more than nostalgic baby boomers, and to a wider audience than exists in North America. The company is looking at twenty- and thirtysomethings here . . . and in Europe.

To get those people, the new Mustang has to offer what previous Mustangs didn't -- impeccable quality. That means flawless sheet metal and paint, perfect fit and finish inside and out, and high-grade interior materials, all of which happily are part of the 2005 Mustang.

There has been some whining, mostly in the automotive magazines, about Ford's use of a 1960s-type live rear axle, as opposed to a more sophisticated -- and more expensive -- multi-link, independent suspension in the rear of the car. I suppose that having the more modern suspension matters, especially in the Mustang GT Premium, if your intent is to take the rear-wheel-drive car racing.

But I have no such intentions.

I'd buy the Mustang as a cruiser, a personal therapy machine designed to take me away from the maddening crowd and all of its contentious concerns of the moment. I'd fill my pockets with greenbacks and hit the road, Jack. Either the daytime or the nighttime would be the right time. I'd crank that big V-8 engine, let the good times roll, and there's no way I'd ever let the sun catch me crying.