It’s been more than 50 years since the first time, and close to two decades since the last time a Mach 1 badge has appeared on a new Ford Mustang. And now it seems the wait won’t be much longer for those holding out until the next time it happens. The announcement has come down from the big brass in Dearborn, Michigan that the Mach 1 is to return, taking its place atop the ladder of Ford’s 5.0-litre V8 Mustangs.
The Mach 1 badge, as its name suggests, has always been synonymous with the fastest Mustang you could buy short of venturing into the realm of Shelby or Boss badges. The name was inspired by fighter pilot Chuck Yeager, the first man to break the sound barrier. In turn, the Mustang Mach 1 broke 295 speed and endurance records during its debut year.
Really, we should have seen this coming. The last time Ford built a Mach 1 it was in the early 2000s, not long after the 2001 Bullitt. Sound familiar? This time around, the 2019 Bullitt’s engine tune powers the Mach 1. And that’s just the way Ford’s chief program engineer for the Mustang wants it.
“I love the way the Bullitt motor pulls all the way to redline, it’s one of the best 5.0-litres we’ve ever done,” Carl Widmann, the aforementioned program engineer says. To bring you up to speed, this setup included an air box and intake manifold from the Shelby GT350, as well as an 87mm throttle body.
“As we’re going through how to set up the powertrain,” Widmann says, “we went through how to get as much power into the engine as we can, but also have all the lift balance we need at high speed. We decided to go with the Bullitt’s setup for the motor, that open air box gives you that nice, visceral V8 sound from the 5.0-litre. It really gave us the V8 power all the way to 7500rpm we were looking for from this vehicle.”
Even though this means the Mach 1 will have familiar outputs of 358kW and 570Nm, you can rest assured the Mach 1 won’t just be ‘Bullitt Part 2’. There’s a host of engineering that’s gone into making the Mach 1 a more track-focussed car than the GT or the Bullitt, and the question of cooling is the first to be answered.
While Ford says the standard 5.0-litre GT wasn’t built to be a track car, especially not with its 10-speed auto, the Mach 1 will borrow a more intense cooling system from its Shelby-badged bros. The entire front bar of the Mach 1 has been altered from the standard Mustang to account not only for a design which features some retro styling cues, but also to accommodate its new cooling system.
“The trick to this is really to engineer the Shelby’s cooler setup which is two side air-coolers,” Widmann says. “There’s an oil cooler on one side for the engine oil which improves that cooling by about 50 per cent, and a transmission oil cooler on the other side which hooks into either a manual or automatic transmission. This gives us flexibility for both track performance and as decent straight-line car with an automatic transmission and the power of the Bullitt motor.”
As mentioned, the Mach 1 will be available with either a 6-speed manual or a 10-speed torque converter. The former is actually the Tremec unit borrowed from the GT350 upgraded with revmatching, and with the GT’s twin-disc clutch and short-shifter. The latter, however, is Ford’s 10R80 auto fitted with an air-to-oil cooler that increases cooling by 75 per cent. The rear axle also gets a cooling bump, provided by the system from the GT500, which also lent its rear diffuser.
In terms of making sure this new cooling setup was up to the task, the team behind Mach 1 had a surprising target to meet, according to Widmann. At Michigan’s Grattan Raceway, where Ford performs a fair amount of its testing, the baseline for endurance was set eight years ago.
“It’s a short track, but we ran endurance setups and the target was… the 2012 manual Boss . That’s really what our goal was. Different vehicle of course, the [Mach 1] is a lot faster than the 2012 Boss, but that’s the target we have from the archive. We go to that track and we know how many laps that car did.”
Furthering the Mach 1’s track credentials is the suspension setup which is unique to the model. Widmann says since the adaptive Magneride is standard on all Mach 1s, it allowed the team to use the sway bars and springs to create a more focused setup with software learnings borrowed from the Shelby-badged cars. The wheels all around the car were also widened by half an inch (now 9.5-inches wide at the front, 10 at the rear) to provide more grip. An optional handling pack for the manual model also adds a larger front splitter, a ‘swing’ spoiler with a Gurney flap, and rear tyre spats from Shelby GT500.
The full suite of aerodynamic enhancements – designed with the know-how of a NASA aerodynamicist – to the Mustang’s body for the Mach 1 create a more stable high-speed lift balance, while the overall downforce is 22 per cent more than a GT with Performance Pack Level 1 fitted. This increase jumps all the way to 150 per cent if the Mach 1 is optioned with the Handling package. Underneath, there’s an underbelly pan unique to the Mach 1, which extends further back along the car to increase airflow, as well as air foils which direct air to cool the brakes. But some of the more visible changes on areas like the Mustang’s new face were implemented not only with aero, but also with retro in mind.
“It’s got an aggressive look for what is an aggressive vehicle,” Widmann says, pointing out the changes made from the standard GT’s front end.
“We spent a lot of time cleaning up the front end for that facia, the splitters and grilles, the colour-matching, to give some beauty and simplicity to it, but also so that all the heat exchangers get the airflow that they require to meet that aggressive work on the track that we’re looking for.”
While the front grille in particular is a big part of the familiar styling of the Mach 1, Widmann says customers missing that last little Mach 1 touch in the fog lights need not be upset that regulations prevent Ford from fitting them as new.
“We really wanted fog lamps in [the grille] but regulation-wise you can’t have them there, like the classic running lamps from the 1960s. So, we’ll kind of leave that to the aftermarket teams. Those [shapes] pop out and I’m very confident aftermarket will figure out how to come up with something to go in there.”
Production numbers and any word on whether the Mach 1 will make its way outside of the US are being kept hush by Ford for now, but we’re told it will be a “relatively low” production run with American customers expected to start taking deliveries around Q2 2021.
Ford Australia's official statement to MOTOR was that "The Mach 1 news is specific to the US. Here, in Australia, we're proud of Mustang R-Spec as our halo model, with the 2020 GT and 2.3L High Performance models offering greater value and choice for this iconic nameplate."