L.A. Drives: Galloping off to Agua Dulce in a classic Mustang GT
Take an L.A. Drive through the Angeles National Forest in custom car builder Bodie Stroud’s 700-horsepower 1965 Mustang G.T. 700S.
The canyon roads between Burbank and Santa Clarita offer some of the region’s most enticing driving routes. But which ones make the best L.A. Drive?
To find out, we borrowed a customized 1965 Mustang GT 700S from the garage of Bodie Stroud — valued at about $275,000.
Stroud is a Sun Valley-based hot rod designer whose custom cars have been featured on the History Channel’s “American Restoration” series. Examples of his handiwork can be found in the private garages of Tim Allen, Johnny Depp and Johnny Knoxville.
The affable designer, who started in the car business as a custom painter before turning to building bodies, chassis and suspensions, spent two years turning the classic pony car into a supercharged 700-horsepower road warrior.
It felt like it wanted to run. So we left Sun Valley, going fast up Sunland Boulevard, past the 210 Freeway, down Oro Vista Avenue and onto Big Tujunga Canyon.
The narrow two-lane road parallels a creek for a bit, and shortly leaves civilization behind as it climbs into the Angeles National Forest. Soon we were in a high desert landscape of bleached rock — a local version of Death Valley, without the searing temperatures.
That gave us the chance to see how well the modernized Mustang handled the tight, twisty turns.
Big Tujunga Canyon Road turns into Angeles Forest Highway and runs almost due north in long, higher speed straightaways. Though this road is an alternate route into Los Angeles for Palmdale and Lancaster residents who don’t want to drive Highway 14, it was almost deserted while we were there.
We turned west on Aliso Canyon Road, a lovely winding two-lane strip that loses altitude through a series of sweeper turns and winds up running along the Santa Clarita River.
From there, via Soledad Canyon Road and Escondido Canyon Road, it was an easy jog over to the quiet town of Agua Dulce. We gave our horses a rest and tied on the feed bag at the Sweetwater Café, a pleasant husband-and-wife operation that serves good breakfasts, burgers and salads.
This wild lunar landscape should look familiar, even if you’ve never been there. Over the last 70 years, parts of “The Lone Ranger,” “Star Trek,” “Blazing Saddles” and the big bomb “John Carter” have been shot there, along with hundreds of other TV shows, TV commercials, music videos and movies.
To get home, we hit Highway 14 and headed for I-5, though Sierra Highway makes an equally good route and offers good eating opportunities at the fine French restaurant Le Chene and, farther south, the Halfway House Cafe roadhouse.
By the time we’d gotten back to Bodie’s shop, we’d driven about 100 miles of great Southern California roads, and enjoyed another great L.A. Drive.
Where to Start: Sun Valley, between I-5 and 210 freeways.
What we drove: Custom 1967 Mustang GT 700S
What to see: Big Tujunga Canyon, Vasquez Rocks
Where to eat and drink: Sweetwater Cafe, 33310 Agua Dulce Canyon Road.
Total drive distance: About 100 miles
Total drive time: 3 hours