Pete Epple Technical Editor
November 1, 2009
Photos By: Patrick Hill, Kevin DiOssi, Team MM&FF, Justin Cesler

The introduction of a new project car is an exciting event. There's a certain level of anticipation as an idea becomes reality. During a conversation amongst the MM&FF staff, we realized there hasn't been a Four-Valve project since our beloved Superfly, Destroyer of Hideous Camaros graced the pages of Muscle quite a few years ago. Jim Campisano's '97 Cobra was at the forefront of Mustang and Four-Valve technology for its time, and still to this day delivers a level of performance matched by few Four-Valve SN-95s.

This also sparked a discussion about the perfect daily driver. And although if you had this conversation with five different people you would come to five different conclusions, it gave us a great idea for new project car.

As the majority of the Muscle Mustang's staff prepared for the move to Florida earlier this year, I got in gear by selling my clapped-out Jeep. I then jumped in the moving truck, and headed to Tampa knowing I needed a new means of transportation once I arrived. I soon made the decision to get a Four-Valve-powered Pony, so I searched eBay and Craigslist for the perfect candidate. The initial search found a slew of high-mileage '99 and '01 Cobras. Although a few Snakes were near perfect, the good ones seemed to slip away; the rest didn't leave us with that warm, fuzzy feeling.

After a month of looking all over Florida, an '03 Mach 1 came up in a search and I realized I had been overlooking another great Four-Valve Mustang. Luckily for us, the popularity of the Terminator Cobras has driven the price of the Mach 1s down dramatically, placing them perfectly within our budget (about $10,000). Within two weeks we saw an ad on Craigslist for an Azure Blue '03 Mach 1 with a few mods and just over 84,000 miles on the clock. Wasting no time, we called the number and sealed the deal.

The factory frame connectors add some stiffness to the chassis, but this won't work for what we intend on putting our Mach 1 through.

As our newest toy (and my new daily driver) was backed off the trailer, we knew we made the right choice. Our mildly modified Mach was sporting a cold-air intake, Accufab throttle body, Magnaflo X-style pipe and after-cat, as well as some dressier wheels, which complement the exterior hue nicely.

First and foremost, our Mach 1 must serve as daily transportation. Handling and braking will be key, as we plan on running numerous open-track and autocross events, but we don't want to sacrifice ride quality-as there is nothing worse than getting in a car that isn't reasonably comfortable to drive everyday. We also plan on drag racing the car, so the suspension needs to be versatile enough to handle hard launches and powershifts without blowing the tires off.

Team MM&FF wasted no time and put the Mach to the test. Within the first week, we strapped it to the dyno, drag raced it, and made an attempt at navigating the cones at an autocross before we had parts to change. Our baseline started on the Mustang Dyno at the MM&FF office in Tampa. It spun the rollers to a respectable 285 rwhp and 293 lb-ft of torque, and a second run backed up our numbers. The next endeavor put us at Bradenton Motorsports Park for its Thursday night test and tune. After a failed attempt to get traction on our first pass, we swapped on a set of Mickey Thompson drag radials in place of the rock-hard (insert your favorite chain auto parts store here) specials that took up residence on the rear wheels. Being one of seven cars heading down the strip when the night got started, we were able to make plethora passes, altering our launch and shifting techniques in an effort to get the best possible time and speed. Once the rain rolled in after our ninth pass, we ended our trip with a best e.t. of 13.52 at more than 102 mph-respectable considering we weren't overly aggressive on the launch, we weren't powershifting, and we were dealing with the tropical Florida climate.