Maybe you’d rather not cop to the retro craze that’s so hot right now, but understanding the importance of the 2003 Ford Mustang Mach 1 requires an appreciation of history. Think back some 30 years ago, when big-blocks ruled the strip, long before street racing included nitrous-injected sport compacts. We’ve tested the Mach before, but it’s now available with an automatic transmission. We felt it was worth a run down the 1320.
All time-machine cues are present: Front and rear spoilers? Check. Magnum-style wheels? Check. Shaker hood scoop? Oh, yeah. Open the hood to see the wall-to-wall 4.6-liter, four-valve per cylinder, DOHC Ford V-8 (think Boss 429). Output is 305 horsepower at 5800 rpm and 320 lb-ft of torque at 4200 rpm. There’s a choice of transmissions: A five-speed manual or four-speed automatic, each connected to a 3.55:1 Traction Lock rear axle.
The engine breathes through a functional ram-air shaker hood scoop and a modified upper intake. Other go-fast hardware includes specially calibrated cams, high-flow cylinder heads, a forged crank (cast with the automatic transmission), and performance exhaust manifolds. Suspension changes are a half-inch drop in ride height (as compared to a GT), new front and rear coil springs, revalved Tokico struts and shocks, Mach-specific anti-roll bars, and frame rail connectors to enhance rigidity. ABS and traction control are standard.
The Mach I cleared our 600-foot slalom at 63.6 mph, just a tick slower than the IRS-equipped Cobra (64.3) and solid-axle Bullitt (66.0). Ford engineers explained why the Mach 1 was slower through the cones: The Bullitt’s engine (cast-iron block and two-valve aluminum heads) has a lower center of gravity than the Mach 1 (or Cobra) engine, with its aluminum block but heavier four-valve heads. This Mach 1’s acceleration off the line is tricky but resulted in a big-block-humbling 13.88-second quarter-mile run at 101.91 mph. We recently tested a Mach 1 five-speed and ran a 13.2-second quarter at 106.7 mph. This automatic-equipped car showed a slight power dip just after the second-to-third-gear shift, which felt like timing advance being dialed back or a transmission ratio choice just a little off. The Mach 1 will still rip ’em into second. Shifts are torquey-firm at part throttle, kicking in at full throttle with downshifts just a toe-squeeze away.
The new version of the Mach 1 makes all the right muscle car moves and will satisfy anyone who’s lusted after, but didn’t buy, the original.
|2003 Ford Mustang Mach 1|
|Base price||$28,680 / $30,465|
|Vehicle layout||Front engine, rwd, 2-door, 4-pass coupe|
|Engine||4.6L/305-hp V-8, DOHC, 4 valves/cyl|
|0-60 mph, sec||5.6|
|1/4 mile, sec@mph||13.88 @ 101.91|
|Braking, 60-0 ft||120|
|600-ft slalom, mph||63.6|
|On sale in U.S.||Currently|
This article was originally published on October 29, 2003.