Introduced in 1969, the Mach 1 debuted with the Boss 302 and Boss 429 Mustangs. Unlike the Boss Mustangs, the Mach 1 continued to be produced through the second generation. Since then, the nameplate has reemerged for the fourth and fifth generations.
Each generation brings something slightly different to the Mach 1 name, but the general theme is performance on a budget. The Mach 1 doesn’t claim Shelby or Boss performance specs, but it’s definitely sportier than your average Mustang.
First Generation Mach 1 (1969-1973)
1969 Mach 1
The Mach 1 was one of four new Mustangs introduced in 1969. The other three were the Boss 302, Boss 429, and Mustang Grande. While the Boss Mustangs focused on performance, the Grande focused exclusively on comfort.
The Mach 1 was a perfect in-between point. It offered some performance features but also was flush with comfort features. The Grande’s special sound package and comfortweave knit seats were included, as was the GT’s suspension package.
Ford’s plan was to create a Mustang that was fun and “civilized.” While the Boss Mustangs were race-ready, the Mach 1 wasn’t a performance car for a track.
The first Mach 1 was only available as a fastback. Nearly everything else was customizable though. The standard exterior accents were a nonfunctional shaker hood scoop, hood pins, a black hood stripe, side scoops, and chrome exhaust tips. The Mach 1 also had a bold stripe located about halfway up on the body that included the Mach 1 name.
While the Boss and Shelby Mustangs had single options for engines, transmissions, and rear axles, the Mach 1 allowed owners to select from a wide range. Like the 1969 GTs, the Mach 1 did need to come equipped with a V8, but it could range from the standard 5.8L Windsor to a 428 CID Cobra Jet.
Many performance Mustangs were only sold in very limited quantities. Fortunately, this isn’t the case for the Mach 1. In 1969, the first year of the Mach 1 sold 72,458 units. This is especially impressive considering the Boss 302, Boss 429, GT350, and GT500 were all also available for sale that year.
1970 Mach 1
Even though it had only been out for a year, there were significant changes made for the 1970 Mach 1. The side scoop was lost, and the black hood stripe trimmed down. The fog lights were moved and two grille openings were added.
The mid-body stripe was changed out for a thick rocker panel decoration. The extruding aluminum molding included the “Mach 1” name.
1971-1973 Mach 1
The Mustang underwent a major redesign in 1971, and the Mach 1 was updated alongside it. The larger body dimensions led to increased curb weight and worse handling. The profile of the Mustang fastback was changed, which led to some serious blindspots.
The Mach 1’s long lines made it look like a much larger vehicle, which wasn’t really a “good” thing.
In these final three years of the Mustang’s first generation, no major changes were made to the Mach 1. The most notable difference between the 1971 and 1972 Mach 1 was that “Mustang” was written in script instead of block letters. Engine options also decreased, as the 429 CID Cobra Jet was retired.
Second Generation Mach 1
When the Mustang II lineup launched in 1974 there were four available models. A two-door notchback, a three-door hatchback, the Mustang Ghia, and the Mach 1. As the sole performance option the Mach 1 was the only Mustang that came standard with a V6. The other three all used a four-cylinder. Like other Mustangs produced from 1974-1978, the emphasis was on fuel economy rather than performance.
Though fuel economy was the Mustang II’s primary concern, it still had sporty features. Exterior stripes, a chin spoiler, and wide oval tires were standard. Mach 1 customers also had the option of adding the Rallye Package.
The Rallye Package included:
- Traction-lok limited-slip differential
- Steel belted white letter tires
- Extra cooling equipment
- A sport exhaust system
- Leather-wrapped steering wheel
Competition grade suspension with stiffer springs, a rear stabilizer bar, and adjustable shocks were also added.
Sadly, even with the Rallye Package, the Mach 1 disappointed performance car enthusiasts. At 2,800 pounds, the 105 hp engine could only offer so much acceleration.
So, for 1975, Ford offered a 302 CID V8 engine. This was largely a symbolic gesture though, as the V8 was only capable of producing 122 horsepower.
While it’s easy to look back and call the Mustang II a disappointment, it did save the brand. 380,000 Mustang IIs were sold in 1974. Of those, 44,046 were Mach 1s.
But by 1975, the Mach 1 already saw a massive decline. Only 21,000 were sold in 1975, a more than 50% decrease over the previous year. Not helping the Mach 1’s situation, Ford introduced the Cobra II in 1976. By 1977, the Mach 1 only sold 6,719 units.
It was no surprise that the Mach 1 was passed over as Ford went into the Fox Body generation.
Fourth Generation Mach 1
The Mach 1 didn’t return until 2003. When it did return though, it returned with style. The fourth-generation Mach 1 borrowed some of the exterior features first seen on the 1969 model. A matte black hood stripe, shaker hood scoop, rear spoiler, and chin spoiler created an attractive and sporty appearance.
Inside, the instrument cluster was meant to be reminiscent of a classic Mustang’s dashboard. A machined aluminum shift ball brought a touch of flavor to each gear shift.
Unlike the original Mach 1s, which had a robust choice of engines, the fourth-generation was limited to one. A 4.6L OHC V8 engine. This engine could produce 305 horsepower and 320 lb-ft of torque. The Terminator Cobra made 390 horsepower, and the GT made 260. This made the Mach 1 the perfect middle ground between the 2003 Mustangs and 2003 SVT Cobras.
The price point was even better than a middle ground though. The GT cost $23,705 and the Cobra cost $33,460. The Mach 1 only cost $28,705. For $5,000 you got an impressive selection of exterior mods and 45 additional horsepower. It was a heck of a deal.
The Mach 1 was also available with an automatic transmission option, unlike the Cobras. This made it a great choice for drivers who wanted a sportier drive but sometimes preferred to relax at the wheel.
Ultimately 9,652 Mach 1 Mustangs were sold in 2003. An additional 7,182 were sold in 2004.
S550 Mach 1
In 2021, the Mach 1 nameplate is returning. As before, Ford promises that the Mach 1 will bridge the gap between the GT and the Shelby Mustangs. Like the New Edge Mach 1, the 2021 will offer both an automatic and manual transmission.
Check out our news article for the latest information about the Mach 1 Mustang.