Ford Mustang Mach 1: time for one last blast

David Linklater
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Just as it was back in 2021, the Mach 1 is still surely the most accomplished factory Mustang ever officially sold by Ford New Zealand... that you can't actually buy. All but one of the 50 examples allocated to NZ were spoken for before they even rolled off the boat, the exception being one that was retained by Ford for marketing and media purposes. 

And yes, Ford has still got it. Which is why we've got it again. We thought it an ideal time for a bit of Pony Car reflection, given 2023 is the year of the new seventh-generation Mustang (more towards the end than now, though) and this Mach 1 is undeniably the best iteration of the current shape ever sold here. Any excuse, right?

What makes it so special? It's based on the standard Mustang 5.0 V8 six-speed manual, but aside from the retro-cool stripes and wheels, gets a lot of hardware from the Shelby GT box of goodies, including aero, intake hardware for the engine (which goes up from 339kW to 358kW) and suspension subframes.

The steering and MagneRide (magnetic) dampers have been tweaked, there are big Brembo brakes and a limited-slip differential with its own cooling system.

In short, it's a beautiful blend of old-school muscle and new-generation technology, and it's certainly the most powerful, best-handling Mustang ever officially sold in NZ.

It's also thematically appropriate for this Mach 1 to now belong to history, rather than the showroom. Heritage is a big part of the appeal of Mach 1, which was introduced as a performance and handling package in 1969 and has appeared sporadically over the years to give the Mustang a bit of a gee-up.

Mach 1 carried through a facelift (featured in the movies Diamonds are Forever in 1971 and Gone in 60 Seconds from 1974, by the way) and downsized second-generation Mustang to 1978, but was then parked up until 2003.

In 2001, a special Bullitt-edition Mustang, celebrating the Steve McQueen movie from 1969 and its famous car chase, was so well received that Ford decided there was true appeal in heritage branding and developed that car into a new Mach 1 for 2004. And then promptly parked up the Mach 1 brand for another 17 years.

But a similar thing happen with this latest model. In 2019 Ford produced another Bullitt-themed Mustang to celebrate 50 years of the movie, including modified engine (345kW) and suspension. It was so well received, Ford again picked up the basics and developed that car into the Mach 1 we see here (including the retro cue-ball gearshifter).

But there is a new seventh-gen Mustang on the way, which we had a look at in Detroit last year. It's a lot more high-tech but also pays its respects to muscle-car tradition. So don't panic, there will still be a V8 and there will still be a manual.

But will there be a Mach 1, now that the name is transitioning into electric with the Mach-E (also headed for NZ this year)? Don't know... can't wait to find out.


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