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Ahead of the 2021 Release: A Retrospective Look at the Original Ford Mustang Mach 1

It was a highly anticipated, thrilling announcement in June of this year when Ford announced that it would be re-releasing the Ford Mustang Mach 1 in 2021.

Heralded with spy shots, rumors, new (veiled) grille designs and a great deal of deliberation from fans, the release of Mach 1 will replace the Bullitt, bridging the gap between the Mustang GT and the Shelby.

Not since 1969, when the very first Mach 1 was released, has the Mustang line offered this many iterations of the beloved car.

Since its introduction, the Mustang Mach 1 has been a veritable icon. Named for the technical term for the speed of sound, Mach 1 was created at a time when speed and style meant everything; it was released just a few short months after the introduction of the supersonic Concorde Jet. Ford liked the name because it connoted jet-age performance.

To celebrate the rerelease of this legendary piece of automotive history, let’s run through the life of the Ford Mustang Mach 1, starting back where it all began.

The Pre-Mach Mustang Legacy

From the very beginning, Ford’s original Mustang was beloved for being the ultimate combination of style, sport and affordability. Available in coupe or convertible models, the Mustang had a bit of the same flair that made the Thunderbird such a success.

One problem? Aside from the limited production of Mustang Shelbys, there was no other specific performance model of the Mustang on the market. Ford released the 289 Hi-Performance until the end of 1967 and followed it up with the 390-cubic-inch four-barrel that came in with 320 horsepower.

However, these were met with a lukewarm response. Ford needed a new performance model of its otherwise hugely successful Mustang.

Competition Enters the Scene

It didn’t take long for more “pony cars” to enter the scene. Inspired by the flourishing sales numbers of Mustangs upon their introduction, Chevrolet developed the Camaro to compete, releasing it into the market in 1967. Ford needed to up its game.

Ford worked to boost the Mustang’s reputation in 1968 with the faster, suped-up 428 Cobra Jet. Its car developers wanted to improve their image and their street cred with a powerful, speedy pony car. Why? They realized that the Mustang GT didn’t appeal to young markets, but that the Shelby was too pricey and too hard for car fans to get their hands on. They needed a car that fit squarely in between these two models.

While this was happening, Chevy’s Camaro and Pontiac’s Firebird released new models that combined a powerful ending with modern styling. They equipped their cars with killer engines and decked them out with hood scoops, mag-style wheels, chrome tailpipes, redline tires and accent stripes. The aesthetic of the car became as important as the engine itself.

The Birth of the Mach 1

Not long after the debut of the Camaro in 1966, Ford began experimenting with a new class of Mustang. Called the Mach 1, the body of this concept car was longer and lower to the ground and had a more muscled appearance than previous iterations After some tweaking, Ford previewed the new and improved Mach 1 on the auto show circuit in 1968 with updated styling. It was met with great excitement and enthusiastic anticipation.

The 1969 Mach 1 production model continued to make news. It was loaded with performance styling features of the era:

  • Side accent stripes
  • Blackout hood treatment
  • Hood locking pins
  • Racing-style mirrors the same color as the body
  • Styled wheels and white-letter tires
  • A faux hood scoop
  • Optional rear-deck wings and rear-window louvers

Over 72,000 Mach 1 models were sold in the first year. So how did the Mach 1 production model review?

Car and Driver praised the look, saying, “Outwardly, the Mach 1 is a blend of dragster and Trans-Am sedan. In a year when every manufacturer offers hood scoops, Ford outdoes them all with an AA/Fuel dragster-style bug catcher sticking right out through a hole in the hood.” It praised the new optional Shaker hood, which looked great and served a purpose, to bring in cooler intake air.

The Mach 1 wasn’t just a stock model; it was loaded with lots of potential for customization at different tiers:

  • The base Mach 1 had a 351 Windsor engine with a two-barrel carburetor and a single exhaust. It offered 250-gross horsepower.
  • Up a step was the 290-horsepower M-code 351, which cost only $26 more. It had a four-barrel carburetor and dual exhausts with options for a three- or four-speed manual transmission or a three-speed automatic transmission.
  • The 428 CJ was top of the line for the Mach 1 family. The engine was upgraded to a Super Cobra Jet and was outfitted with some strengthened hardware to accommodate the quicker revving.

Showing Off the Mach 1

The Mach 1 wasn’t alone in the Mustang family, sharing attention with the Boss 302 and Boss 429 models as well as the Shelby, but Ford wanted the Mach 1 to be the all-around GT choice and set about promoting it as such.

Ford started building a national rally team of expert drivers to put the Mach 1 in the spotlight and share its strong GT performance with the public. Their road rallies were meant to emphasize the timing and precision of the Mach 1 over raw performance.

These cares weren’t just impressive technically, they also accounted for driver comfort and luxury. With vinyl bucket seats, a center console and faux-teak trim on the dash, doors and console, the Mach 1 looked just as great inside as it did on the outside.

And? It was quiet. Ford added 55 extra pounds of sound insulation so the occupants of the vehicle could enjoy a fast—and quiet—ride.

An Undeniable Sales Success

The Mustang Mach 1 hit the ground running once it hit the market in 1969. Ford built and sold 72,459 Mach 1 1969 models, outselling GT-equipped Mustangs more than 10 times over. GT Mustangs sold only 6,694 models in 1969, and so Ford focused most of its efforts on the Mach 1 for 1970.

While the Mustang Mach 1 sold well, it wasn’t necessarily without some critique from automotive reviewers.

Car and Driver praised the styling of the car but wanted the performance to match. Citing the 59:41-percent weight distribution and narrow Goodyear Polyglas GT tires, it expressed concern about the agility and performance of the vehicle.

Even so, the commercial success of the Mustang Mach 1 was enough for Ford.

The 1970 Mach 1

The Mach 1 came back with a brand-new look in 1970. The taillights were recessed, and the fake rear-brake scoop was eliminated for a sleeker, more streamlined look. The Mach 1 also was equipped with an exciting new detail: model badges instead of decals.

Additionally, designers narrowed the black-out hood and added “sport lamps” to the grille, which acted as a second set of parking lights.

This new 1970 model dropped the 290 engine, and the 350 Windsor was replaced by the 351 Cleveland engine, named for its manufacturing location. The 1970 Mach 1 also had a dual exhaust system and a rear stabilizer bar.

Despite these improvements, the pony car market was starting to dwindle in success. Ford’s Mustangs remained at the head of the pack, selling just over 191,500 cars in 1970, with Mach 1 accounting for nearly 41,000 of models sold.

Too Big for Its Own Good

While the pony car market was starting to fade, Ford released an even bigger Mustang. Design work on this “bigger is better” Mustang started in 1967 because Ford hypothesized that the market would call for even larger, more powerful engines.

This gamble didn’t pay off, though. The 1971 through 1973 Mustangs proved to be the least popular iterations of the car. The Mach 1 had a near-horizontal roofline which was met with mixed feelings, but car enthusiasts were not happy to hear that the base engine of a Mach 1 had been weakened to a 302, two-barrel engine rated at only 210 horsepower. And the 1972 Mach 1’s net rating showed to be much lower, at around only 140 horsepower. Ford was downgrading the Mach 1 to keep the base price low, aiming to keep the sticker price below $3,300.

Sales of Mustangs remained low but consistent between 1971 and 1973. Ford sold around 410,000 Mustangs during this period, and nearly a quarter of these sales were the Mach 1. The final nail in the coffin for Ford’s original Mustang—including the Mach 1—was the advent of the Mustang II. It shared the same standard engine as the 1971-1973 Mustangs, but with a lighter body, the Mustang II had slightly better performance.

The Rebirth of the Mach 1

In 2003 and 2004, Ford revived the Mach 1 Mustang. This model closed out the SN95 and Fox 4 platform with a revised version of the 2001 Cobra engine. And just like the 1969 and 1970 iterations of the Mach 1, the 2003 and 2004 Mach 1 engine inhaled a portion of its air through a Shaker hood scoop, hearkening back to the golden age of the pony car.

Following a 17-year hiatus, the upcoming 2021 limited-edition Mach 1 is poised to be the most powerful version of the car yet with a 480-horsepower engine and 5.0-liter, V8 track-ready performance.

It’s set to honor the original model’s aerodynamic shape with a new front fascia and grille shape for better cooling, improved speed, and styling including low-gloss magnetic and black accents, hood and side-body stripes, and reflective surfaces.

Sitting in a corral with other Mustangs like a GT, two Shelbys and an EcoBoost option, Ford’s 2021 Mustang lineup is set to be nearly as powerful as it was in its 1969 heyday, much to the excitement of Mustang lovers everywhere.

The Right Insurance to Protect Your Beloved Mach 1

You can’t get insurance for a Mustang Mach 1 just anywhere. After all, it’s been your dream car for as long as you can remember. Having your car detailed to perfection is one thing; getting an auto insurance policy with the right coverage is another.

Classic Mustangs like the Mach 1 aren’t just part of automotive history, they’re part of our collective history as a nation. You need an insurer who understands the magnitude of your vehicle.

At Classic Auto Insurance, we have tailored classic car insurance coverage plans that are as unique as your car to protect your legacy for years to come.

Collector and Classic Car Insurance for Less

Your Mustang Mach 1 is legendary. Protect it with Classic Auto Insurance. We’ll customize a policy to fit your needs.

Classic Auto Insurance offers affordable, Agreed Value coverage for a variety of collector, classic and custom vehicles. And our staff of experts loves classic cars as much as you do.

We’re standing by to answer your questions and give you a quote. Call us today at (888) 901-1338 or get a quote online to learn more about how we’ll be there for you and your iconic Mustang Mach 1.

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