Planet R/Randy Lorenzen
February 18, 2003

So let's get the bad news out of the way first. The '03 Mach 1 Mustang is not available with a 428 or 429 Cobra Jet. Nor is there a drag pack option with 4.30 gears, NASCAR-style hood pins, or a spring-loaded, quick-open gas cap.

On the plus side of the ledger? Just about everything else. The Mach 1 is a true legend reborn, an instant classic that can run fender-to-fender with its reknowned forebearers from the '60s and '70s. In fact, in most respects, the latest from Ford's Living Legends department exceeds any expectations you may have had.

Let's face it, you have a better chance of dancing on the sun than seeing the rebirth of big-block factory Mustangs in this millennium. But who cares if the small-displacement stuff can mop the streets with most monster motors of yore? This is a definite case of cams over cubes. We'll skip the suspense and tell you that this is the quickest, naturally-aspirated, four-valve 4.6 Mustang we've ever tested. It blistered the Old Bridge Township Raceway Park quarter-mile in 13.13-seconds at 105.5 mph in bone-stock trim (with a 2.07 60-foot time).

For you Chevy lovers out there, the Mach 1 is quicker than the SS Camaro we tested in our August issue. I guess we 4.6 Mustang freaks don't need a blower to bash your now-extinct, big-inch F-Bodies after all.

There is so much more to the Mach 1 than rip-snorting acceleration. Obviously, the coolest part of the Mach 1 is the functional Shaker hood. At the press intro in Las Vegas, we found ourselves sitting in it, starting the 4.6 repeatedly just to watch the engine-mounted hood scoop dance around. Revving the four-valve-per-cylinder Mod Motor made it move quite nicely, as well. Who'da thunk it? Here we are in the 2003 model year, and, thanks to Team Mustang, there is a product you can purchase off the showroom floor with a cold-air-grabbing Shaker hood.

The last Ford to wear Mach 1 nomenclature was the star-crossed, oft forgotten '74-78 Mustang II--the originals, the legends--ran from 1969-73. To resurrect this name took guts--Ford had a lot to live up to (OK, maybe not as far as the '74-78 cars are concerned). Like the Bullitt GT of 2001, the Mach 1 is a complete package. From the Magnum 500-style rims to the seats with the gray piping and the front and rear spoilers, if this Mustang does not get your pulse racing, it may be time to call the coroner.

The Mach 1 fits nicely in the Mustang lineup, sitting both price and performance-wise between the 4.6 two-valve GT and the mighty supercharged, four-cam SVT Cobra. Throw the six-cylinder base car into the mix at the low end and the Saleen/Roush/Steeda cars on the high side, and you truly have a ponycar for every budget. One Ford public affairs person likened it to the current BMW 3-series; perhaps, but we think it's just a return to the original Mustang plan--a vehicle for every price point, from the straight six-cylinder coupe to the Boss 429.

Still, MIA is the model with the most powerful engine in a stripped-down package at a bargain basement price, but since every Mustang built comes with A/C, power windows, etc., I suppose that'll never happen. Our test vehicle was $29,290 (including delivery), basically splitting the difference between a nicely equipped GT and a Cobra. Ordering the automatic would push the price to $30,105.

Mo' Better Power
Contrary to what you may have read in another mass-appeal car magazine, the 4.6 engine under the hood of the Mach 1 is not the same as what came in the '96-98 Cobras (but it is the same engine used in the new Marauder). The cylinder heads are a new high-flow design (shared with the '03 Cobra), and the cams are different--all in the name of improved mid-range torque. On the intake side, Team Mustang picked 5.4 Navigator cams; on the exhaust, high-performance bumpsticks were specified, though we have no information on their specs just yet. There's more compression than before (10.0:1 versus 9.85). New exhaust manifolds were created and are port-matched to the heads. The mufflers have chrome tips and are tuned for a unique sound.

Air enters the 57mm twin-throttle body from both the Shaker hood and the usual fenderwell-mounted inlet. The aluminum intake, while similar in appearance to that of the '99/'01 Cobra, is unique, too.

"One of the biggest challenges to the Mach 1 was the key aspect, the key element of the DNA," said Scott Hoag, Mustang Nameplate Manager, who oversaw the development of this specialty Stang and the Bullitt. "What makes the Mach 1 is the Shaker hood. And, actually, there were a lot of people who were struggling [with the Shaker], trying to visualize it. How do you marry the Shaker system of yesterday on today's car--you know they'd say the lines don't flow and give a lot of reasons why we couldn't do it.

"So while we were arguing amongst ourselves over whether it was even possible, it was time for SEMA again. We were looking at different projects, and there was George Huisman and Classic Design Concepts. We gave him a car and said "try to bring back the essence of the Mach 1, but let's not call it that." We focused around the Shaker scoop. We really wanted to use the exact scoop from '69-70."

That mule debuted at the 2000 SEMA show in Las Vegas and was known as the "Shaker." It turned out to be the turning point in the project. The crowd at SEMA loved it, and it won a coveted design award from J Mays, Ford's styling and design chief. This led to the Azure Blue Mach 1 concept car that debuted in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in 2001, a Mustang that created an absolute sensation. The rest, as they say, is history.

Then there is the question of whether the Shaker actually adds performance to the Mach 1. According to Hoag (the owner of a '70 428 Cobra Jet Mach 1), the answer is absolutely.

"You have to be moving through the air before it works, so the dyno can't tell you that," Hoag explained. "Here's why I say yes. We have done some, I'll call it crude, evaluations on the dragstrip with the scoop open and functioning and blocked off. We had a noticeable mile-per-hour and elapsed time improvement having the ram air function.

"Of course, the trick is to control the air bypass by the air filter so the air doesn't go through the scoop and just push out through the fenderwell. Closing out the exit through the entrance is really how you can pressurize it and get a poor man's supercharger out of the scoop," he continued. "So it does work. It provides clean, fresh air and I will guess at about 80 mph or faster it creates some positive pressure at the air filter, which is accidentally about the same speed at which the '69-70 ram air started functioning."

The Shaker is positioned for function and aesthetics, although Hoag admits it could perform better if it was placed higher in the air stream.

In total, there is 305 hp at 5,800 rpm and 320 lb-ft of torque at 4,200. And while the peak power number sounds strangely low, it definitely drives a whole lot faster. The mid-range torque, so elusive on early 4.6 four cam engines, is there in spades. True, the stock 3.55 gears don't hurt, but this is a much improved mod motor. Interestingly, this motor feels a bunch stronger than it did in the Marauder we tested in the October issue. Weight is thine enemy.

The Mach1 is available with either the slick-shifting, TTC 3650 five-speed manual gearbox or the AOD-E automatic. The do-it-yourself tranny Machs afford a few benefits over their slushbox cousins. First, the automatic cars shift at a much lower rpm, which hindered our performance at the dragstrip. Second, the AOD-E doesn't have a rep as a high-performance piece--extracting the max from one will take time and money. Finally, the 3650 cars are electronically limited to a 151-mph top speed, while the automatics play dead at 126. Still, we're pleased that Team Mustang saw fit to at least offer the automatic.

All Mach 1s come with 3.55:1 gears with a heavy duty, high-torque differential. Those hoping to employ sticky tires would be wise to pony up for some 31-spline axles.

At the press preview at the Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, we were fortunate to get plenty of seat time with both versions of the Mach 1, although we were confident we could improve upon our times from that day. Not only is the Vegas track 2,800-feet above sea level, but the cars were being hot-lapped for hours.

As luck would have it, my first Mach 1 run was in an automatic version. It already had a couple of passes on it so it was good and warm. I saw it go a 13.90 cold. In the next lane was none other than Paul Svinicki of Paul's High Performance (Jackson, Michigan), on hand to assist that day. Seeing me in the right lane must have shaken him up good because he turned on the red light, handing me bragging rights for all eternity. Svinicki ran a robust 13.52 at 103.97 to my 14.15 at 98.36, which we thought was pretty good, all things considered. The rest of our day was spent with hot cars in the high-13s (stick) to low-14s (automatics). For the record, the redline on the AOD-E cars is quite a bit lower than the five-speed variants (5,800 versus 6,800), which would certainly account, at least partially, for the slower elapsed times. On the plus side, the automatic could chirp the tires in Second gear.

Back home at Raceway Park a couple of weeks later, we had a five-speed Mach 1 in gray and were pretty confident it would not only beat the 13.52 but at least match the 13.34 that our '01 Cobra tester ran in the September '01 issue. It did not disappoint. The monster Mach posted a 13.177 at 105.24 on its very first run. We backed that up with a 13.135 at 105.51 (2.07 60-foot). On our last pass, test pilot Evan Smith clicked off a 1.99 60-foot on the stock tires, but missed third gear. He was 7 hundredths better to half track so that would have been an easy 13.0-something run, on stock tires, without a single tweak.

And There's More
If straight-line acceleration was all there was to the Mach 1 saga, we say Ford has one very trick pony in its stable. But it excels on all fronts. The revised suspension with Tokico shocks and struts and different spring rates offers a near perfect compromise between comfort and handling. Even subframe connectors are standard. On the handling course, the car was completely stable until understeer took over. The stylists did an exceptional job on the graphics, the raised hood that incorporates the Shaker scoop, and the front and rear spoilers. (So what if the original Mach 1s didn't have these aero aids? Let Team Mustang take a few liberties if we benefit from it.) The front spoiler looks especially good on the yellow Mach 1, where it is the most noticeable. Bullitt owners will find the roof's C-pillar treatment familiar. Gone is the GT's honeycomb grille insert; it was shelved in the name of improved airflow and cooling. If we could change one exterior item, it would be side striping. It's reminiscent of the '69 Mach 1, but some felt it detracted from the overall effect.

Everyone was pleased with the Magnum-style 17-inch wheels. While they're not a direct knockoff of the originals, the flavor is retained and they complement the rest of the package nicely. (For the record, they are called the Heritage design.) They measure 17x8 and come wrapped in Goodyear P245/45ZR Eagles. Note that unlike Magnums, the Heritage wheels have gray painted centers and are cast from aluminum. Magnums had a chrome finish, too.

"We toyed around with different finishes and different paint colors," recalled Hoag. "In fact, the first car had wheels with black painted inserts. Getting a wheel that had the image and appropriate depth with today's wheel offsets is quite a challenge, so picking the correct colors was important. We went to a dark gray versus the black, and that [the gray] really helped us to get the depth. Making the 500-style wheel was a little more of a challenge than we anticipated."

The vintage theme, naturally, is carried over into the cockpit. The first thing that grabs your attention is the special leather "comfort weave"-style seats with gray inserts. Aficionados will remember that '70 Machs had gray stripes across the seat backs, the '69s had red. The comfort weave pattern had the feel of genuine '60s vinyl, and we mean that as a compliment. It's authentic. A tip of the cap to Visteon, which did the seats--not only do they look right, but the side bolstering is fantastic. The seats are extremely comfortable, and they worked amazingly well on the road course in Vegas.

The retro gauges first seen on the Bullitt are back; the only option (besides the $815 automatic transmission) is the Interior Appearance Package ($295), consisting of aluminum finish door lock posts, gray metallic center panel and shifter bezel, aluminum finish shift trim ring, stainless steel foot rest and pedals, aluminum shift knob and four-way head restraints.

One non-retro grade item is the braking system. This is totally modern, totally kick ass. Thirteen-inch vented Brembo rotors are used up front with twin-piston calipers; the rears are 11.6-inch vented units with single-piston calipers. We could not get them to fade on the road course, despite staying out there long after the other journalists were snacking on chips and iced tea.

If there is a downside to this car, it has to be its limited availability. Supposedly, only 6,500 will be built and that's it. Hell, there were 7,500 orders before the press introduction and not a single production car had been manufactured. Ford must rethink this strategy and offer the Mach 1 on a long-term basis. It's too good a Mustang to shelve after one year.

Kudos to Team Mustang. It nailed this one perfectly.

0303MM_MACH1LEADzoom

0303MM_MACH103zoom

0303MM_MACH101zoom
A 13.13 at 105.5 on stock tires? All we need is the Drag Pack option with 4.30:1 gears and the front sway bar deleted. Throw in a set of slicks and skinnies and you're looking at a mid- to low-12-second Mustang with a totally stock engine. Have mercy.
0303MM_MACH104zoom

0303MM_MACH110zoom

0303MM_MACH102zoom
Air enters the throttle body from both the traditional spot in the inner fender and through the Shaker scoop. There is an actual ram effect starting at about 80 mph, according to Team Mustang's Scott Hoag.

0303MM_MACH109zoom

0303MM_MACH105zoom

0303MM_MACH108zoom

0303MM_MACH106zoom

0303MM_MACH107zoom

2003 MUSTANG MACH 1 SPECS
POWERTRAIN
Engine type: 4.6L DOHC V-8
Displacement: 4.6L, 281 ci
Horsepower @ rpm: 305 @ 5,800
Torque lb.-ft. @ rpm: 320 @ 4,200
Redline (Automatic): 5,800 rpm (6,250 fuel cutoff)
(Manual): 6,800 rpm (7,050 fuel cutoff)
Compression ratio: 10.1:1
Bore and stroke: 90.2 mm x 90 mm (3.55 in. x 3.54 in.)
Fuel system: Sequential multiport electronic fuel injection
Fuel requirement: Premium (91-octane minimum)
Exhaust system: Stainless steel with chromed rolled tips
EPA est. fuel economy: 17 city/25 highway (manual)
17 city/23 highway (automatic)
Transmission type: 5-speed manual or optional 4-speed automatic
Final drive ratio: 3.55:1
Gear ratios (manual): 1st - 3.38; 2nd - 2.00; 3rd - 1.32; 4th - 1.00; 5th - 0.62; Rev. - 3.38
(Automatic): 1st - 2.84; 2nd - 1.55; 3rd - 1.00; 4th - 0.75; Rev. - 2.32
Chassis Construction
Type: Unitized body
Steering And Suspension
Front suspension
Type: Independent, modified MacPherson strut with separate spring on lower arm and stabilizer bar Springs Helical coil, rubber-insulated, unique linear rate
Shock absorbers: Integral with Tokico strut, gas-pressurized, Hydraulic, unique valving
Stabilizer bar: 26.5 mm (1.04 in.) solid
Rear suspension
Type: Four-bar link with coil springs on lower arm, unique horizontal axle damper and stabilizer bar
Springs: Helical coil, rubber-insulated; unique linear rate
Shock absorbers: Unique axle damper, gas-pressurized, hydraulic
vertical Tokico shock absorbers with horizontal axle dampers, unique valving
Stabilizer bar: 23mm solid (.905-in.) solid Steering
type: Power-assisted rack-and-pinion
Overall ratio: 15.3:1 on center
Turning diameter, Curb-to-Curb 38.1 ft.
BRAKES
Brakes: Aluminum dual-piston, custom anodized painted
Rotors: 330 mm x 28 mm Brembo vented (13 in. x 1.1 in.)
Rear calipers: Single piston
Rotors: 296 mm x 18 mm vented (11.6 in. x 0.708 in.)
ABS/T.C.: Standard
Misc.: Subframe connectors
WHEELS AND TIRES
Wheels: 17 x 8-inch Heritage (5 spoke)
Tires: Goodyear 245/45ZR17 Eagle ZR45
DIMENSIONS
Wheelbase: 257.3 cm (101.3 in.)
Overall length: 465.3 cm (183.2 in.)
Overall height: 132.9 cm (52.35 in.)
Overall width: 185.6 cm (73.1 in.)
Tread width (front/rear): 152.9 cm (60.2 in.)/153.9 cm (60.6 in.)
Curb weight: 3,465 lbs. (manual) 3,475 lbs. (automatic)
Weight Distribution
(Front/Rear): 56.7/43.3 (fuel full)
Head room: 96.7 cm/90.17 cm (38.1 in./35.5 in.)
Shoulder room: 136.1 cm/132.3 cm (53.6 in./52.1 in.)
Hip room: 134.1 cm/120.3 cm (52.8 in./47.4 in.)
Leg room (maximum): 108.2 cm/75.9 cm (42.6 in./29.9 in.)
Aerodynamics
Coefficient of drag (Cd): 0.36
CAPACITIES
Passenger/Luggage/Fuel capacity
Luggage capacity: 10.9 cu. ft.
Passenger volume: 83.0 cu. ft.
Total Interior volume: 93.9 cu. ft.
Liftover height: 28.3 in.
Fuel tank capacity: 15.7 gal.
PERFORMANCE
Quarter-mile: 13.13 @ 105.51
PRICE
Base MSRP: $28,995 (includes $625 delivery & destination)
Interior appearance package: $295
Total as tested: $29,290
Options
Automatic transmission: $815

MACH I VS. MUSTANG GT
MACH I
Front suspension 4.6L DOHC V-8
springs: 600 lbs./in. linear (lowers car 1/2 in.)
*450 lbs./in. linear
Struts: 35mm piston, Tokico valve shocks
*32mm piston, valve shocks
Stabilizer bar: 26.5mm (1.04 in.) solid
*26.5mm (1.04 in.) solid
Brakes
Front
calipers: Twin-piston aluminum painted
*Twin-piston aluminum
Rear
Calipers: Single-piston
Rotors: 296mm (11.6 in.) vented
*267mm (10.5 in.) solid
ABS/T.C.: Yes
*Yes
Misc.: Subframe connectors
*N/A
Engine
Engine type: MOD 4.6L DOHC V-8
*MOD 4.6L SOHC V-8
Displacement: 4.6L, 281 ci
*4.6L, 281 ci
Horsepower @ rpm: 305 @ 5,800
*260 @ 5,250
Torque lb-ft @ rpm: 320 @ 4,200
*302 @ 4,000 (manual)
Compression ratio: 10.1:1
*9.4:1
Bore and stroke: 90.2 mm x 90 mm (3.55 in. x 3.54 in.)
*90.2 mm x 90 mm (3.55 in. x 3.54 in.)
Fuel system: Sequential multiport electronic fuel injection
*Sequential multiport electronic fuel injection
Fuel requirement: Premium (91 octane minimum)
*Regular (87 octane minimum)
Exhaust system: Stainless steel with chromed rolled tips
*Stainless steel with poished rolled tips
*DENOTES MUSTANG GT