IMAGINE a merry-go-round where all the ponies are Ford Mustangs. In their gaily colored tack, each looks a little different, but they are all kind of the same. As the years pass, maybe you jump on, ride for a while, and fall off. If you get tired of your mount, or if it gets mange, another Mustang is always rounding into view.
Except there are fewer ponies now. Our subject this week, the 2021 Ford Mach 1 Premium—eyes lolling, tongue out—enters the lineup while three other, special-edition Mustangs leave the carousel: the Shelby GT350; Bullitt and the Performance Package Level 2. The Mach 1 is, in fact, a mélange of retired horse meat, incorporating the naturally aspirated 5.0-liter V8 from the Bullitt; the Tremec-manufactured six-speed manual transmission with the twin-disc clutch from the GT350; magnetic dampers, stiffer sway bars and front springs from the Performance Package 2; and—on those graced with the optional Handling Package—what Ford calls the “magnetic swing spoiler with a Gurney flap.” Squirrels call the front splitter the Scythe of Doom.
In other words, to many, the perfect Mustang. Yet with all the assembled motorsport kit, the Mach 1 isn’t knocking down any records. Car and Driver recorded 4.3 seconds from 0-60 mph and a 12.6-second ¼-mile, with the manual gearbox. Like the previous generation of Chevrolet Corvette, the Mustang’s traction is limited by weight transfer: The front-engine car can sling only so much of its weight rearward over the driven wheels during those first instants at full honk.
Born on the cusp of disruption, the Mach 1 is a post-petroleum baby. While heroically quick by legacy standards, it is quietly outrun by any number of electrics, in the field or in the pipeline—including Ford’s own Mustang Mach-E GT, due this fall. It’s just the nature of the mechanisms.
So if it can’t blow the doors off libby tree-lovers in their Teslas, why does the Mach 1 get out of bed in the morning? It’s there, between the lines of Ford’s press release, which dares to invoke the word “nostalgia.”