It was a birthday celebration for both Ford and myself.

I was turning 51. Ford was launching the new 2014 Mustang, marking 50 years of continuous Mustang production.

My friends at Ford decided to surprise me on my birthday by delivering the new 2014 Mustang GT to test drive.

Even though I had to give it back at the end of the week, it was quite a birthday gift.

Although Iím a year older than the Mustang, Iíve been a Pony car fan since I first became interested in cars as a little boy.

Like most boys in the 1960s, I collected Matchbox cars and the Mustang was my favorite.

I must have been 5 or 6 when my Uncle Elmer bought a Mustang convertible. I remember begging him to take me for a ride. I remember riding in the back seat with my cousin Wanda and feeling the rush of air on my face and feeling like I was on top of the world.

All these years later, I still get that same feeling every time I climb behind the wheel of a Mustang.

I have to admit, I got a lump in my throat when they handed me the keys to the new 2014 Mustang GT on my birthday.

This car is pretty special ó and not just for sentimental reasons.

I love the design, which is fresh and bold, but stays true to the Mustangís heritage. The same goes for the interior. While the instrument panel features new cluster graphics that are easier to read ó and the seats are extremely comfortable ó thereís a touch of retro in the design flow that lets you know immediately youíre riding in a Mustang.

For 2014, the rear-wheel drive Mustang is available in coupe or convertible body styles both available in base or GT trim options.

The four-passenger Pony car is powered by a 3.7-liter V-6 engine (305 horsepower) in the base model, while the GT is powered a 5.0-liter V-8 generating 420 horsepower.

For those who need to ask about its performance, let me respond by saying if it had wings it could fly. Thatís why I wasnít surprised when Ford produced a U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds Mustang GT Edition, which was sold at auction with proceeds donated to charity. The 2014 Mustang GT is certainly fitting of Top Gun status (and yes, I know Top Gun is the Navy, but Iím a Navy vet and I still bleed Navy blue). †

While the 2014 model stays true to Mustangís iconic heritage, this is a very modern car loaded with state-of-the-art technology.

One of the options for 2014 is a 4.2-inch screen with Track Apps, which enables the driver to monitor performance ó including g-forces, acceleration times in quarter-mile and 0-60 times, along with countdown starts.

And the Shaker Pro audio system is incredible. I really liked the Sync AppLink that provides voice control of smartphone apps to Pandora and other music sites.

What a great vehicle to celebrate Mustangís 50th birthday ó and my 51st.

For those in the market for a performance-oriented coupe or convertible, the 2014 Mustang is an absolute must for the test drive list.

Neal White has been covering the automotive industry for more than 20 years and is affiliated with the Texas Auto Writers Association.

The Nuts and Bolts

MODEL:

2014 Ford Mustang

4-seat coupe or

convertible †

Rear-wheel drive

Trim packages:

Base, GT

PRICE RANGE:

$22,000-$42,000

ENGINE:

3.7L V6 (305 hp/280 T)

5.0L V8 (420 hp/390 T)

TRANSMISSION:

6-speed manual

6-speed auto w/SelectShift

EPA: 19/18 mpg city, 31/25 mpg highway (V6/V8 AT coupe)

FUEL: Regular unleaded (Premium unleaded recommended for GT)

STABILITY CONTROL:

AdvanceTrac electronic stability control

BRAKES: ABS

LENGTH: 188.5 inches

WHEELBASE: 107.1 in.

WIDTH: 73.9 inches

HEIGHT: 55.8 inches

WEIGHT: 3523-3792 lbs.

TRACK: 61.5/62.1

(front/rear)

FUEL TANK: 16 gallons

TIRES: 18-, or 19-inch

CARGO: 13.4/9.6 cubic feet (coupe/convertible).