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Ford rolls out its first Mustang Mach 1 since 2004

Henry Payne
The Detroit News

With signature matte-black hood stripe, howling V-8 engine and extensive handling upgrades, the legendary Mach 1 Ford Mustang has been reborn for 2021.

Purists might miss the hood shaker and grille lights, though.

Ford unveiled the special edition Mach 1 in its birthday suit on Tuesday after teasing the car in camouflage two weeks ago. With 480 horsepower (nearly double that of the original, 250-horse coupe that debuted in 1969) and 420 pound-feet of torque like the outgoing Mustang Bullitt special edition model, Mach 1 features a unique fascia, paint scheme and performance pieces from its sibling GT350 and GT500 track monsters.

The 2021 Ford Mustang Mach 1 features 480 horsepower, stiffened suspension, and a handling and appearance pack (car at fore) to turn things up a notch.

“It is the new pinnacle of 5.0-liter, Mustang performance,” said Mustang marketing chief Jim Owens, who says Mach 1 is defined by three criteria: handling, straight-line speed and style.

Likely to start around $50,000 when it hits dealers next spring, the Mach 1 is the most capable, 5.0-liter V-8 engine-fired stallion in the sixth-generation Mustang stable. It will reside in the middle of a performance lineup that ranges from the affordable 2.3-liter Ecoboost High Performance turbo-4 cylinder model all the way to the track-stomping $70.000, 760-horsepower GT500. The last Mach 1 was produced as part of Mustang’s fourth-gen, 2004 lineup.

The retro-inspired Mach 1 returns, not uncoincidentally, as Ford launches its Mach E, the first electric SUV ever with a Mustang badge. If the Mach 1 symbolizes Mustang’s dominance of pony car’s past, Ford hopes Mach E represents promise for its all-electric future.

Mach 1 and Mach E were spied circulating Pontiac’s M1 Concourse race track together last week, gaining footage that may appear in future marketing campaigns.

The 2021 Ford Mustang Mach 1 (fore) shares signature elements with the original 1969 Mach 1 (rear) like black hood strips, front splitter, and unique grill.

The 2021 Mach 1’s wardrobe pays homage to previous generations that sold from 1969-1978 and 2003-2004. A signature, low-gloss black stripe is prominent on the hood, as are rocker panel stripes down the sides. Unlike the ’69 original, the Mach 1 logo is separated from the stripe to stand alone behind the front fenders. The rear fascia is also painted matte black similar to predecessors.

An appearance package is available in Fighter Jet Gray with a choice of three stripe colors: white, red, and orange. Brake calipers are painted orange.

Purists will be disappointed that the 2021 Mach 1 is not optioned with a shaker (a hood scoop poking through a hole in the hood) for better engine breathing as in previous generations. “The 5.0-liter engine is focused on performance output, and it didn’t need (the shaker),” said Owens.

Budget issues may have been in play given massive amounts of money Ford is spending to bring the Mach E to market.

Another signature piece of hardware – twin lights in the grille - also are compromised compared to past models. Where the 1969 Mach 1 used the grille lights for extra lighting at night, the round inserts are plastic-capped and for show only on the new car.

“We have no doubt some of our customers will punch them out for increased cooling modifications,” smiled Owens.

The 2021 Ford Mustang Mach 1 (fore) builds on the heritage begun by the original 1969 Mach 1 (blue and red in back).

The Mach 1 will be track ready.

Cooling the 302-cubic inch beast within was a priority of engineers. Two heat exchangers and other hardware are added behind the unique Mach 1 fascia for better breathing. A huge, new underbelly pan with special airfoils for cooling and downforce is the vehicle’s most significant aero upgrade, and the Mach 1 gets extensive suspension upgrades like bigger sway bars and stiffer springs.

Out back, bazooka-sized, 4.5-inch chrome exhaust tips signal the Mach 1’s intentions.

Buyers who want even more capability can add a Handling Package that consists of sticky Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires (a step up from standard Michelin 4S treads) wrapped around unique 19-inch wheels. Also included are a rear spoiler taken from the GT500, upgraded front splitter and aero tweaks around the fenders. Ford says it will increase downforce on track by 150%.

The 2021 Ford Mustang Mach 1 (left) is timed with the Mustang Mach E, the first electric Mustang SUV.

Inside, purists will revel in the standard, manual, six-speed shifter (with rev-matching for the first time) topped off by a cue ball. An automatic 10-speed transmission is also available. Behind the fat steering wheel is a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, and the dash is stamped with a chassis number badge.

In addition to Fighter Jet Gray, the Mach 1 can be dressed in an array of Skittle colors including Velocity Blue, Twister Orange and Grabber Yellow.

Seating can also be had with right-hand drive in foreign markets where the Mach 1 will also be sold. Mustang is the best-selling two-seat sports car in the world across 147 countries.

Henry Payne is auto critic for The Detroit News. Find him at hpayne@detroitnews.com or Twitter @HenryEPayne.