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The History Of A Storied Badge: The Ford Mustang Mach 1

A Look At The 2021 Ford Mustang Mach 1 And The Generations Of Mach 1 Mustangs That Came Before It

Ford Mustang Mach 1 Three Generations

Following a 17-year hiatus, the Ford Mustang Mach 1 is back. Since its debut in 1969, the Mach 1 has come and gone in the Ford Mustang production line. Across all makes and models, Ford Mustangs have a distinctive look that you simply won’t confuse with any other car. And the Mach 1 is no different — somehow keeping the iconic Mustang look with a unique flair all its own.

With the return of the 2021 Mustang Mach 1, there’s no better time to delve into the illustrious history of the Mach 1, from 1969 to the present day. And if you’re eagerly awaiting the 2021 limited edition we’ve outlined the specs and other amazing features you can expect from the latest Mach 1.

What Makes The Mach 1 Different Than Other Mustangs?

Ford’s current Mustang lineup includes thirteen different models, with base prices ranging from $26,000 to $73,000. The Ford Mustang Mach 1 has historically fallen roughly in the middle of the Mustang lineup in terms of pricing — making it a value performance option. Since its first release in 1969, the Mach 1 has been the performance-oriented package of the Mustang, favoring speed with its V8 engine.

The Mach 1 takes features from both the Mustang Shelby and the Mustang GT and melds them into a unique beast of its own. If you favor power and speed along with improved handling dynamics, the Mach 1 might be calling your name.

“Mach 1 has always been that bridge between base Mustangs and the Shelby models. From a style and handling perspective, the original Mach 1 managed to stand out as unique, even in the Mustang lineup – and as the name implies, it could really move.” – Ted Ryan, Ford Heritage Brand Manager

2020 Mustang Models From Least To Most Expensive (Rounded Base Price): 

  • Mustang EcoBoost ($26,000)
  • Mustang EcoBoost Premium ($31,000)
  • Mustang EcoBoost High-Performance ($31,000)
  • Mustang GT ($35,000)
  • Mustang GT Premium ($39,000)
  • Mustang GT Performance Pack 1 ($40,000)
  • Mustang GT Performance Pack 2 ($48,000)
  • Mustang Mach 1 (ESTIMATED $47,000)
  • Mustang Bullitt ($47,000)
  • Mustang Mach-E ($60,000)
  • Mustang Shelby GT350 ($60,000)
  • Mustang Shelby GT350R ($73,000)
  • Mustang GT500 ($72,000)

The Complete History Of The Ford Mustang Mach 1

The first Mustang model was introduced to the public in 1964. The original Mustang started the “pony car” craze. The Pony Car is marked by affordable pricing, high-style exteriors, and performance-oriented features. According to an article about the Ford Mustang’s first debut at World’s Fair in 1964, Henry Ford himself said; “The Mustang was conceived as a ‘working man’s Thunderbird.”

Four years after the initial release of the Ford Mustang, the Ford Mustang Mach 1 was revealed in 1968. By 1969, the Mach 1 became available to the public.

First Generation (1969-1970)

1969 Model

1969 ford mustang mach 1
(Photo: Ken Morris)

The first concept car that became the Mustang Mach 1 was introduced in 1968. There were minor changes to the concept car which debuted as the Ford Mustang Mach 1 in 1969. The ’69 Mach 1 was a two-door fastback with SportsRoof body style. Along with that, it came standard with a 5.8-liter Windsor V8 engine that boasted 250 hp. And if that wasn’t enough ponies under the hood, the ’69 Mach 1 had engine upgrade options that ranged from a 6.4-liter V8 that produced 320 hp to the top tier 7.0-liter Cobra Jet V8 which bumped horsepower to 335.

The interior of the 1969 Mach 1 featured wood trimming and comfortable seating. The exterior had a showy yet tasteful side-stripe with twin-set headlamps, a shaker hood scoop (just for show), side scoops, and chrome exhaust tips. All-in-all, the original Mach 1 was designed to mix performance with comfort and style. It wasn’t made for aggressive performance on the track or the drag strip like the GT350 or GT500. But it was made to be eye-catching when cruising on the highway with just enough get-up-and-go. To this day, the ’69 Mach 1 is a quite coveted car, especially for drivers who love a good dose of nostalgia (and quality) embodied in a vehicle.

1970 Model 

1970 ford mustang mach 1
(Photo: Sicnag via Flickr)

When Ford rolled out the 1970 Mustang Mach 1, there were a few significant aesthetic changes. Most visibly, the twin-set headlamps were swapped out for smaller square lights integrated into the grill. The second lights were replaced with two horizontal vents. The taillights similarly got a makeover, and the side scoops were removed. And lastly, the mid-body stripe was widened and lowered to the rocker panel.

The interior of the vehicle was left virtually unchanged — the only exception being there was now a locking steering column which was required by law for all cars beginning in 1970, and Ford slightly revised the bucket seats. In terms of performance upgrades, the main change was a switch in the standard engine package from a Windsor V8 to a Cleveland V8 with 300 hp, a 50 hp bump from the 1969 model. The Mach 1 continued to be offered with a three or four-speed manual transmission and a three-speed automatic gearbox.

First Generation: Part 2 (1971-1973)

The Mustang Mach 1 models spanning from 1971 to 1973 were marked by more powerful engine options and a larger, longer, lower, and heavier body style than the previous models.

1971 Model

1971 Ford Mustang Mach 1
(Photo: Steve Lagreca)

The next iteration of the first generation Mustang Mach 1 was introduced in 1971. The ’71 Mach 1 featured a unique hood design with dual scoops on all models. While still sporting a SportsRoof fastback body style, this model features a longer hood and shorter rear deck with almost no decklid in the back. The front grille was redesigned to drop the horizontal vents and move the headlights out to the edge of the grill. It still retained the classic matte black Mach 1 graphics and added a mid-body stripe back.

In terms of performance, this model came standard with a new big-block 4.9-liter V8 capable of only 210 hp. Unfortunately, the added weight and decreased power of the ’71 model ended up hindering the overall performance greatly. With that being said, the  ’71 Mach 1 could still be majorly upgraded with the option for a 7.0-liter V8 Cobra Jet engine for a much more respectable 370 hp and 450 lb.-ft. of torque.

1972 Model 

1972 ford mustang mach 1
(Photo: Sicnag via Flickr)

The 1972 Mach 1 model featured minimal trim changes compared to the ’71. Notably, the type font for the Mustang badge changed from uppercase block lettering to cursive lettering. If you want to distinguish between a ’71 and ’72 Mach 1, looking for this font change is the easiest way.

Unfortunately, in terms of performance, the engine options for the ’72 Mach 1 actually decreased from the ’71 model. Notably, there was no option for a 429 Cobra Jet engine. Instead, this model most commonly was configured with a Boss-351 engine with 275 hp.

1973 Model 

1973 ford mustang mach 1
(Photo: Sicnag via Flickr)

1973 marked the last year for the first-generation Mustang. The changes to the 1973 Mach 1 were largely aesthetic. It got an updated wider stripe, a revised grille design, fog lights, and new headlight bezels. The turn signals were moved and the bumpers were revised, but largely the ’73 looked and drove very similar to its predecessors. The engine options lineup was unchanged.

Second Generation (1974-1978)

Facing public criticism along with new federal regulations following the oil crisis of 1973, Ford launched the second generation of the Mustang in 1974 with a heavy focus on fuel economy. The Mach 1 was one of four models available in the Mustang II lineup. These models, spanning from 1974 to 1978, became known as the Ford Mustang II Mach 1.

1974 Model

1974 ford mustang mach 1

For the 1974 model, the standard engine was downsized to a 2.8-liter Cologne V6 producing a mere 105 hp with no engine upgrades offered. While the general consensus was that it should’ve been a V8, the V6 engine performed well. Customers had the option to add the Ford Rallye Package which upgraded the car with a traction lock LSD, a sport exhaust, added cooling, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. So even though the ’74 Mach 1 didn’t exactly crush any land speed records, driving it at least felt the part.

Even with the downgraded engine and reduced horsepower, sales of the Mach 1 did not go down — they starkly increased. With the ’74 model, the Mach 1 notably was offered as a hatchback instead of the classic Sportsroof fastback body seen in previous Mach 1 models. The ’74 model still had much of the classic styling of a Mustang — including the side-scoops and the iconic front grille. And the interior was made for comfort with thick-pile rugs and luxurious upholstery.

1975 Model

The 1975 model luckily added back the V8 engine. And perhaps it goes without saying that this made major performance improvements for this new generation of the Ford Mustang Mach 1, bringing the car back up to 129 hp and 213 lb.-ft. of torque. The Rallye Package was still offered for this year, bringing the ’75 Mach 1 a bit closer to its roots.

1976 Model

There were no significant changes to the 1976 Mach 1. While the 2.8-liter V6 was the standard for the ’76 model, the V8 engine was also offered with a slight bump in power to 134 hp and 247 lb.-ft. of torque. Buyers had the option or either a 3-speed automatic or 4-speed manual. In the same year, Ford also released the Ford Mustang II Cobra II which became the Mustang to own.

1977 Model

While it wasn’t good news at the time, the 1977 Mach 1 model did not sell well for Ford, producing the weakest sale numbers of all prior Mach 1 models. The decrease in sales of the Mach 1 came largely in part to the release of the Cobra II in the previous year, as the Cobra became the more desirable Mustang model to own.

1978 Model 

The 1978 model was seemingly the end of the Ford Mustang Mach 1 for good. With the Cobra II yielding the top-performance for Mustang sales and the release of the limited edition King Cobra, Ford seemingly had little reason to continue producing the Mach 1 model. Across the board, everyone thought this was the end of the Mustang Mach 1.

Fourth Generation (2003-2004)

However, 25 years later in 2003, the Mach 1 returned to Ford’s lineup with great performance upgrades. The new generation of the Mach 1 was upgraded to modern power. Along with that, both the 2003 and the 2004 model resembled the 1970s design of the Mach 1 for vintage Mustang lovers. And, let’s face it, that kind of nostalgia was exactly what was needed in the early 2000s.

2003 Model 

2003 ford mustang mach 1
(Photo: Sicnag via Flickr)

The 2003 Mach 1 was revived with a few key throwbacks to its heritage. Right off the bat, you’ll notice the black stripe on the hood paying homage to the ’70s Mach 1 models. Along with that, the 2003 Mach 1 had five-spoke weels similar to the original Mach 1. To top off the retro vibe, Ford also fitted the car with a ’70s inspired instrument cluster and other retro-interior styling touches.

With this model, a 4.6-liter V8 engine came standard, and buyers had their choice of either a 5-speed manual or a 4-speed automatic transmission. Producing 305 hp and 320 lb.-ft. of torque, this pony car held its own with the Ford Bullitt and SVT Cobra models of that year. And it wasn’t just power upgrades. The ’03 Mach 1 was equipped with a stiffer suspension, upgraded brakes and exhaust system, and a functional hood scoop for an all-around performance-oriented package.

2004 Model 

The most notable thing about the 2004 model, which retained all the upgrades of the 2003 edition, was that it was released during Mustang’s 40th birthday. With that, there is a special badge to commemorate forty years of Mustang’s iconic and high-performing cars. In terms of performance, the 2004 model had the same 4.6-liter V8 engine as the 2003 Ford Mustang Mach 1 model.

Fifth Generation (2021-)

Seventeen years later, another generation of the Mustang Mach 1 begins with the 2021 Mach 1. This vehicle will undoubtedly elevate the Mach 1 name even further into its well-regarded performance legacy.

2021 Model

2021 Mustang Mach 1
After a 17-year hiatus, the all-new Mustang Mach 1 fastback coupe makes its world premiere – becoming the modern pinnacle of style, handling and 5.0-liter V8 pony car performance.

The 2021 Ford Mustang Mach 1 is anticipated to be the most track-capable Mach 1 in history. Advertised as limited-edition, it is uncertain how many 2021 Mustang Mach 1s will be produced.

It’ll boast an independent rear suspension — making it the first Mach 1 with the modern chassis technology. Along with that, it will have a higher-output than its predecessors with a 5.0-liter V8 engine. The chassis enhancements are similar to the features in the Mustang GT Performance Pack 2. The engine is similar to the Shelby GT350. And it will have the same brake booster as the Mustang GT Performance Pack Level 2. With that, you can expect optimal all-around performance.

2021 Mustang Mach 1

This wonderful beast will produce 480 hp and 420 lb.-ft. of torque. With an engine oil cooler and an oil filter adapter, engine oil cooling will be increased by 50%. It’s important to note that the 2021 Mach 1 will be available with a Tremec 6-speed manual from the GT350 or a 10-speed automatic. To read more about the 2021 Mustang Mach 1 while waiting for the official release of this incredible car, check out our article from the reveal back in June of 2020.









Joybeth Sullivan
About Joybeth Sullivan

Joybeth Sullivan is an accomplished content creator. She does it all as a writer, photographer, and videographer. Her work has been published in local and international outlets. She graduated from the University of Georgia in May of 2020 with a dual-degree in English & Film. Today, she is based out of Denver, CO. When she isn't writing, you can find her on long drives in the mountains with her husky, Newman, riding shotgun.