Brad Bowling
April 1, 2007

Dave Haymond's 1995/2006 Mach III Replica
Mach, (pronounced "mok.") is a measurement of the speed of sound, which lies somewhere between 740 and 760 miles per hour at sea level, named for 19th-century Austrian physicist Ernst Mach.

Ernst had no idea when he first used theoretical mathematics to probe the mythical 'sound barrier' that his name would one day make Mustang enthusiasts rise to attention like caffeinated meerkats, but we are confident he would have enjoyed watching the Shaker hood dance back and forth while getting rubber in three gears. The term Mach 1 migrated from science nerd culture to everyday English in 1947 when Chuck Yeager flew faster than the speed of sound in an experimental Bell X-1 aircraft at an altitude of 45,000 feet.

Twenty years later, Ford Motor Company applied the name to a chopped-top, high-performance fastback prototype that drummed up excitement on the 1968 car show circuit. Although the dark red design study bore some resemblance to previous Mustangs, it departed from the Pony car formula with its aerodynamic front, covered headlights, exposed fuel filler cap, unusual hinged Plexiglass side windows, exaggerated side scoop, six-outlet exhaust tailpipes and European-style working rear hatch.

Mustangers did not know it at the time, but this one-off Mach 1 was a stylized preview of the line's '69 SportsRoof model - the first street Mustang to be available with a Mach 1 performance/appearance package. With its range of V8 power (from a base 351/2V to a 335-horse 428 Super Cobra Jet) and land speed record stripes and spoilers, the new Mach 1 was a certifiable hit; Ford sold 72,000 of its 300,000 Mustangs with the new package in 1969 and maintained roughly the same total production ratio for '70.

No sooner had the '69 Mach 1 arrived in showrooms than Ford stylists unveiled the "Mach 2" - a mid-engine coupe designed to test the company's interest in the sexy sports car market. Powered by a 351 Cleveland V8 and five-speed manual transaxle, the Mach 2 and its Italian-esque Mach 2-B successor were not so much part of the Mustang family as they were the GT-40 program; the pointy pair quickly evolved into the DeTomaso Pantera, which was sold and serviced through Lincoln-Mercury dealerships.

The Mach 1 Mustang was Ford's most popular performance model from 1969 through the end of the Mustang II era in 1978, when it was dropped as the company simplified the Pony car's lineup of packages and accessories.

The rich history of the prototype and production Machs gathered dust for the next 15 years, until 1992, when Ford's SN95 Product Planning Manager John Coletti convinced his bosses that the world needed another wildass Mustang show car. After all, General Motors would display its re-designed Firebirds and Camaros at the upcoming Detroit Auto Show in January, but the next-generation Mustang would not be available in time to steal GM's thunder. Starting with a budget of zero dollars, Coletti so thoroughly sold the project that he was able to get two identical show cars built in less than six months. He justified the unplanned expense by making the "Mach III" an integral part of the '94 Mustang's publicity campaign, explaining the show car would contain elements of the new Mustang, but at a "next level" of execution.

Both Mach IIIs started life on pre-production SN95 chassis that had been used for research and development. Coletti's team chose the Lincoln Mark VIII's 4.6-liter double overhead camshaft V8 to be the Mach III's engine, to which Powertrain Development added a billet steel crankshaft, twin throttle bodies, Eaton supercharger, intercooler and unique ethyl glycol-injected intake manifold. The 450-horse cammer was backed up by a Borg-Warner six-speed manual transmission. Tipping the scales at 3,000 pounds, the little roadster was reported to be capable of hitting 60 miles an hour from a standstill in 4.5 seconds and reaching 180 with a long enough road.