2021 Ford Mustang Mach 1

PHOENIX — Since it was first introduced back in 1964 — almost 60 years ago — Mustang has been on the short list of cars most everyone wants to own. For decades Ford has created its own Mustang ecosystem with an interconnected stable of high-performance offerings like the Boss 302 and 429, Mustang Bullitt offered three times — 2001, 2008 and 2019, Mach 1 and the super rare SVT Cobra R, with only 300 copies ever built — all in red, to name just a few of many over the years.


Now, for 2021 Mustang history is again being featured with the revival of the Mach 1 first introduced in 1968 as a 1969 model available only as a fastback and distinguished by a matte-black hood, hood pins, hood scoop, front and rear spoilers, and a louvered rear window. There were numerous optional upgrades both inside and out and a choice of three engines starting with the base 351-cubic-inch Windsor V-8, to a 390 and finally the 428-cubic-inch Cobra Jet with its “shaker” hood scoop, a Ram Air intake option.

Over the years, for better or worse, the Mach 1 moniker came and went with offerings in 1970, and a new Mach 1 body style for 1971-73 as the muscle car era began slowing down. 1974 saw the introduction of the Mustang II, a low point for the pony car as most will agree. That year also saw the return of the Mach I but this time in the Mustang II powered by an embarrassing 105 horsepower 2.8-liter V-6 engine. It took 48 seconds to reach 100 mph from a standing start. In 1975 Ford added a 5.0-liter V-8 that struggled to spit out 140-horsepower.

Fast forward nearly 25 years and Ford brings back the Mach 1 for the 2003-2004 model years powered by a 4.6-liter, 305 horsepower V-8 available with either a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission. It can easily be summed up with one word — “meh.”

Now, after a long 17-year “Rip Van Winkle” like hibernation, Mach 1 returns to the Mustang lineup for 2021 as a limited-edition 5.0-liter 480 horsepower fastback only coupe filling the gap between the 460-horsepower GT and the 760-horsepower Shelby GT500 Mustang offerings. It’s faster, better handling, better sounding than the GT and much closer to the discontinued Mustang Bullitt with the same 480 horsepower and 420-pound-feet of torque. After my weeklong testing we deem it a legitimate success.

While introduced as a limited production model, Ford hasn’t commented on exactly what that means, nor did they address if it’s a one model year only. My guess is that sales demand will determine the answer to those unknowns.

While a far distant second to the GT500 it does get some of its performance parts including the standard Tremec 3160 automatic rev matching 6-speed manual transmission (including the same retro white cue ball shift knob as the Bullitt), oil cooler system, rear axle cooling system, rear toe link and lower diffuser, some of the Shelby’s unique suspension parts and tuning, intake manifold and oil-filter adapter. The Mach 1’s large lower front vents are also lifted from the Shelby GT350 that cools both the engine and transmission. Additionally, incandescent park and turn lamps are the same found on the Shelby.

Ford supplied us with a Grabber Yellow Mach 1 equipped with the 10-speed automatic transmission, Magneride damping suspension system, performance exhaust system, upgraded audio system, upgraded navigation works and optional 19” magnetic aluminum wheel.

While our Mach 1 didn’t include the $3750 optional Handling Package we strongly recommend buyers choose that option if you intend to spend any time on the track. That option includes tarnished dark-painted aluminum wheel, adjustable strut top mounts, revised chassis tuning, performance front aero splitter and performance rear spoiler with Gurney flap (not the massive carbon GT4 track wing from the GT500).

Behind the wheel one of the first things you notice is the melodic active valve exhaust system that rumbles and burbles from the driver-selectable Sport mode and perforated exhaust tips. Other selectable exhaust modes include Quiet, Normal and Racetrack. Selecting Track mode and the Mach 1 gets a whole lot louder as well as firming up the suspension and backing off the suspension control. In any mode other than Quiet, it sounds absolutely magnificent.

Our Mach 1 sprinted to 60 mph in 4.0 seconds flat as it attacked the corners and sharp turn-ins from the performance 40/R summer tires during our testing laps at the Radford Racing School and Track in Chandler, Arizona for an on-track performance driving experience. We didn’t get an opportunity to test top speed and Ford hasn’t released that number that I’m aware of.

On public roads we found the Mach 1 to be plenty civil with a button-down experience but still more than enough to get you into trouble if you’re unable to resist the continual challenges from those challenging you with their Camaro, Challenger and other performance-oriented cars.

Inside, the Mach 1 isn’t much different than the standard Mustang GT trimmings with the addition of a few cosmetic upgrades including an aluminum trimmed instrument panel, new sill plates, accent stripes on the seats and an engraved badge with the Mach 1’s chassis and build number.

Bottom line, it isn’t the quickest or fastest Mustang currently being offered however it does have such a sense of fun about it — and that’s the whole point of owning a Mustang, isn’t it? We applaud Ford for the return of the Mach 1. You’ll hear it coming.

Vital Stats
Base Price: $51,720
Price as Tested: $59,390
Engine, Transmission: 5.0-liter naturally aspirated 480 horsepower V-8 paired with a 10-speed automatic transmission.
EPA Fuel Economy: 15/23/18 – mpg, City/Highway/Combined
Seating: Four

Crash Test Safety Ratings: Highest possible overall 5-star from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Where Built: Flat Rock, Michigan

Competes With:
Chevrolet Camaro SS
Dodge Challenger R/T Scat Pack
Ford Mustang GT

Fab Features
An impressive “Track-Ready” performance bargain
Thrilling to look at and drive
Head-turning good looks

— Jim Prueter