Ford Mustang Mach 1 review

By: Mark 'Higgo' Higgins, Unique Cars magazine, Photography by: Guy 'Guido' Allen

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Revival of a legend

Ask someone to name any model Ford and chances are it'll be Falcon, Model-T or Mustang. And while the first two have come and gone the Mustang continues, holding the official crown as the most popular sports car in the world.

Introduced April 17, 1964, with great fanfare and 22,000 orders taken that same day, the Mustang -  brainchild of Lee Iacocca - wasn't looking so clever by the end of 1968.

Sales were down, way down.

In 1966 a total of 607,000 Mustangs were sold, a record that stands to this day, but by the end of '68 sales were roughly half that. 

It was still the benchmark muscle car, but against a growing number of competitors Ford had to do something, and fast.

Fast it was, the Mach 1 Mustang was Ford's response, the name paying homage to Chuck Yaeger, the first pilot to break the sound barrier. Ford slipped the Mach 1 between the GT, SVT Cobra, and the Shelby models.

Available only as a fastback or SportRoof in Americans called it, the Mach 1 became famous for its shaker bonnet scoop and was so successful by the end of 1969 Ford ditched the GT in favour of the Mach 1 that accounted for a quarter of total Mustang sales that year.

It wasn't until 1982 a GT badge resurfaced on a Mustang.  

While Americans have been waiting for 17 years for a Mach 1 Mustang to sit in a Ford showroom once again, Australian buyers have been waiting over a half a century.

 

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Finally in 2020 Ford Australia confirmed the Mach 1 would arrive on our shores in 2021 and like the Bullitt before it, only 700 examples were coming.

In every way the Mach 1 is a very different beast to the standard V8-powered GT, with higher performance and a track-ready set up resulting in a purer feeling car. It's like the step up from a GT Falcon to a GT-HO or a GTR Torana to an XU-1.

After living with a Twister Orange manual Mach 1 for a couple of weeks, there are a couple of things I can guarantee.

One, the wait has been well and truly worth it and two, you'll feel like you are back in your youth when driving it.

 

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When you see the new Mach 1 with an original 1969 model as featured in issue 456 of Unique Cars magazine, it's easy to understand where the inspiration and styling cues for the new kid came from.

The Mach 1 sits lower than the Mustang GT and its bespoke 19-inch alloys wrapped in Michelin Pilot Sport 4 tyres help fill the guards. The Mach 1 has a unique two-piece grille, a new front bumper with ducting to cool the front brakes, a large front splitter, a Shelby GT500 rear diffuser, a small boot lip spoiler and underbody aero aids that all add up to increase downforce by 22 percent.  

Inside the dash fascia has a darker hue and there is a Mach 1 badge above the glovebox with the vehicle build number. Standard fare includes Mach 1 gearknob, a leather-wrapped multi-function steering wheel, dual-zone climate control, a 12.3-inch customisable digital instrument cluster, an 8.0-inch infotainment colour touchscreen featuring Ford’s SYNC3 software, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, satnav, a 12-speaker B&O sound system and FordPass Connect.

Safety wise the Mach 1 has eight airbags, autonomous emergency braking, traction and stability controls lane departure warning, lane keep assist, cruise control, automatic high beam, auto-levelling headlights and a reversing camera.

Lurking below the long, vented bonnet is a naturally-aspirated Coyote 5.0-litre DOHC V8 with four valves per cylinder and variable camshaft timing.  Power is boosted by 6kW due to the Shelby GT350 induction system, motion control valves, 87 mm throttle body and fettled engine management software. To ensure it is up to the stresses of track days it runs an auxiliary engine oil-cooler.

 

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The Mach 1 puts out 345 kW @7500rpm and loves to rev, its booming exhaust note is down to the bigger diameter, active-valve performance exhaust and quad 4.5-inch outlets. Torque is a muscly 565Nm@4600rpm and it's good for a low 4 second 0-100km/h time.

The Mach 1 introduces the Tremec TR-3160 six-speed manual gearbox to Mustang and it has a very different feel to the six-slotter in the GT.

The twin-disc clutch is heavier and offers more feel and the shift-throw shifter means a flick of the wrist is all that's needed between cogs. The shifts are surprisingly light, but a bit notchy when cold. Making your downshifts sound like a pro is rev matching technology as the pedal setup doesn't allow for genuine heel and toe downshifts.

For those not wanting to kick a clutch pedal, a no-cost option is the 10-speed auto with an optimised torque converter and unique software calibration, plus a secondary air-to-oil cooler to cope with track days and high-speed driving.

There are several drive modes including, normal, sport +, racetrack, drag strip, snow/wet and the customisable my mode. Steering modes extend to sport, comfort and normal.

To sharpen the Mach 1s dynamics there are unique chassis improvements. These include MagnaRide electronically adjustable dampers, a stiffer front anti-roll bar, springs and subframe bushes. At the rear we have an independent layout with monotube dampers, a stiffer subframe, along with the toe-link used in the Shelby GT500 and a limited slip diff with rear axle oil cooler.

The anti-lock brake package comprises a larger brake booster with cooling via undertray fins to the  380x34 mm vented front discs with Brembo six piston callipers and 330x25mm vented rear discs with single piston callipers.

Behind the wheel of the Mach 1 is wonderful and it is one of those rare cars, regardless of price, you just want to keep driving. In fact, you invent excuses to drive it and always take the long way.

After going back-to-back with the Mach 1 and a manual GT it was easy to feel the substantial differences between the two.

It's a personal thing but I immediately felt 'at one' with the Mach 1. The stiffer, track-focused suspension made the car feel more tied down and it relayed every bump and dip through the seat and wheel. I liked that and it didn't detract from the good ride quality. 

The Mach 1 turns into corners sharply with high levels of lateral and tyre grip and plenty of feedback through the wheel. For a big, heavy car it feels light on its toes and is far more agile than you'd think. Hats off to the Ford engineers.

Get a bit heavy with your right foot and it's keen to step out at the rear, so you must give it respect. Smooth and progressive throttle applications that best capture its broad spread of power and torque is the trick.

On tight or flowing roads and even around town, the Tremec six speed box is a gem to use and I'd opt for it over the auto any day. And the meaty brakes offer enormous stopping power with no fade even after continuous hard applications. 

While I have no doubt the Mach 1s setup is most beneficial on a racetrack, it is also the best Mustang I have driven on the road.

Priced at $83,365 plus on-road costs for the manual or auto Mach 1, it's close to twenty grand more than the standard GT, itself a terrific car. But if you love driving, stop reading this and get to your Ford dealer now as there are less than 50 of the 700 left. You will not be disappointed.

 

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Vital Stats

2021 Ford Mustang Mach 1
Production run:           700

Engine:                        5.0lt DOHC V8

Power:                         345kW@7500rpm

Torque:                       565Nm@4600rpm

0-100km/h:                  4.2sec (est) 

Top speed                   250km/h (est)

Gearbox:                      6-speed manual or 10-speed auto

Suspension:                 MacPherson strut -front

                                    Independent with MagnaRide Damper control (r)

Brakes:                        380mm (f) 330mm (r) vented discs all round

Price:                           $83,365 + ORC

 

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