GT. Shelby GT500. Super Snake. Bullitt. King Cobra. Boss. These are just a few of the awesome names that have adorned Ford Mustangs dating back to 1969, but “Mach 1” is way up there in coolness. Ford is bringing the Mustang Mach 1 back for 2021, meaning now is as good a time as any to look back on Mach 1 history. After all, while Mach 1s may not have been capable of breaking the sound barrier, they often looked like they could—and usually added an extra dose of performance and exclusivity to Mustangs through the ages.
1968 Ford Mustang Mach 1 Concept
Technically, there was no 1968 model-year Ford Mustang Mach 1. The model was introduced in ’68 for the 1969 model year. There was, however, a Mustang Mach 1 concept car, pictured here.
Even though it previews the longer, lower, blockier ’69 Mustang’s appearance, the Mach 1 concept isn’t much different from an earlier, 1966 concept car. Ford changed some grille detailing for 1968, while keeping the basics the same, meaning a two-seat layout, 302-cubic-inch V-8, and intake scoops scattered all over.
1969 Ford Mustang Mach 1
Leaping from concept car to reality, the Mach 1 joins the 1969 Ford Mustang lineup as a performance-bent option. Available only on the fastback body—sorry, odd notchback—the Mach 1 package is distinguished by a matte-black hood decal, hood pins, a standard hood scoop, front and rear spoilers, and a louvered rear window.
Mach 1s also include an upgraded suspension, teak wood interior trim, and some extra comfort and convenience features. Chrome dots the exterior, glinting off the gas-cap door, wheels, bumpers, and side trim.
Buyers are offered an embarrassment of engines, from the standard 351-cubic-inch Windsor V-8 to a 390 to a 428-cubic-inch Cobra Jet. Three-speed manual and automatic transmissions are available, as is a four-speed stick.
Think that hood scoop is neat? That’s only the half of it—Mach 1 customers can choose between the included scoop with integrated, rear-facing turn signals; a “shaker” scoop; and on the 428 V-8, a Ram Air intake option.
1970 Ford Mustang Mach 1
For 1970, Ford doesn’t mess with the Mustang Mach 1 much. The round running lamps in the ’69 model’s grille morph into slimmer square units, while the taillight surround turns black. Ford also removes the Mach 1’s side “intake” scoops from behind each door.
The only mechanical changes implemented for 1970 are a switch from 351-cubic-inch Windsor power to Cleveland V-8 power (with identical displacement).
1971-73 Ford Mustang Mach 1
By 1971, the Mach 1’s performance starts to slow down, kicking off a decade that will be tough on performance and signal the end of the muscle car era. There’s a new body style, but also added weight that hampers performance, and a controversial fastback profile. But there are still some highlights: a new big block V-8, some cool induction options, and plenty of appearance goodies like spoilers, scoops, and stripes.
Under the hood, the base ’71 Mach 1 features an uninspiring 302 V-8 down to a piddling 210 horsepower thanks to emissions controls. The more traditional 351 Cleveland comes in several flavors, but the big (literally) news under the hood is the 429 Cobra Jet engine. Not nearly as exotic as its 428-cube predecessor, it’s still a potent motor making more than 370 horsepower. Ford will drop this engine the following year, so ’71’s the last chance to get it.
There are plenty of options aimed at track rats, too, like the Drag Pack, various axle ratios, and even a Ram Air option to actually utilize those hood ducts.
For 1972, rated horsepower is down, which is a real bummer for a performance machine like a Mach 1. That’s due to a change from SAE gross to net measurements. How much actual power is lost on the street is up for debate, but the optics are bad. And remember, the 429 is gone, too.
Otherwise, the differences between the ’71 and ’72 are minimal—save a real gem in the form of an R-Code 351, essentially a low-compression version of the Boss 351 engine. With all the bad news for ’72, the R-Code motor is a highlight and a reasonably potent performer.
The 1973 Mach 1 is largely unchanged, with some very minor aesthetic revisions on the front fascia—the grille design, fog lights, and headlight bezels—and wide side-stripes down its flanks and across the decklid. Oh, and an optional vinyl roof style is added. The R-Code 351 is dropped, as well. The year 1973 is the last year for the facelifted first-gen Mustang—next year, the controversial Mustang II will flop onto the scene.
1974-78 Ford Mustang II Mach 1
The Mach 1 is severed from its image of speed when it’s applied to the Mustang II for 1974. This Mustang generation, often referred to as a low point for the pony car, blackens even the Mach 1’s eye.
Where should we begin with the Mustang II’s issues? Besides the car’s misshapen appearance, there are its Pinto-based underpinnings. Oh, and the Mach 1 iteration gets a 2.8-liter V-6 engine as standard. Ugh.
In 1975, Ford mercifully throws the Mustang II Mach 1 a bone—only a symbolic one—by adding a V-8. The 5.0-liter Windsor V-8, choked by emissions equipment, coughs out 140 horsepower. Mach 1 sales gradually fade throughout the Mustang II’s short tenure, and the trim level isn’t resurrected when Ford rolls out the first fox-body ‘Stangs in 1979.
2003-2004 Ford Mustang Mach 1
Nearly 30 years go by without a Mach 1 Mustang when, suddenly, Ford reintroduces the trim to the 2003 Mustang. This descendant of the last Mach 1’s Fox-body predecessor assembles a collection of retro cues and offers a mild performance boost over regular Mustang GTs.
The original Mach 1’s black-stripe package, five-spoke wheels, and chin and decklid spoilers inspire similar pieces on the 2003 Mustang Mach 1 and look surprisingly good. Ditto the retro fabric on the seats inside, as well as the old-school fonts on the gauge cluster. Ford barely changes the design for 2004, adding only a set of “40th Anniversary” badges to commemorate the Mustang’s 40th birthday.
Choice is one aspect of the original Mach 1 that fails to reappear on the 2003-04 models. Ford only offers a 4.6-liter V-8 engine, paired with either a five-speed manual or a four-speed automatic transmission. This DOHC, 32-valve V-8 inherits its higher-flow heads from the SVT Cobra, and makes 305 horsepower.
Ford sharpens the Mach 1’s chassis by way of stiffer springs, Tokico shocks, and extra bracing, while adding Brembo front brakes. The Mach 1 once again goes to sleep thanks to another Mustang redesign, this time with the introduction of the fully retro-styled 2005 Mustang.
2021 Ford Mustang Mach 1
After yet another long hibernation, the Mach 1 returns to the Mustang lineup for 2021. The world has changed since 2004—the regular Mustang once again offers four-cylinder power, but the top-end Mustang Shelby GT500 spits out more than 700 horsepower. Oh, and every Mustang has an independent rear suspension, making this Mach 1 the first with such a setup.
The new Mach 1 combines the Bullitt Mustang’s higher-output 5.0-liter V-8 with several aerodynamic and chassis enhancements, with Ford promising it will deliver “the pinnacle of handling” for any Mustang this side of the Shelby GT350.