The “Pinnacle of Handling” For Mustang GT-Based Models.

The “Pinnacle of Handling” For Mustang GT-Based Models.

Ford engineers have leaned on the Mustang’s handling performance since the previous-generation model, working to make the car feel like a much smaller, tighter sports car than its long hood covering a big V-8 would suggest. With the 2021 Ford Mustang Mach 1, the car’s developers say this one has reached the top of its handling and aerodynamics game.

Taking it a step further in the hyperbole department, the 2021 Ford Mustang Mach 1 reaches “the pinnacle of handling,” according to Mustang and Shelby marketing manager Jim Owens, in terms of the way it “corners left, corners right, and goes in a straight line.” Put into more accurate terms, the Blue Oval expects the 2021 Ford Mustang Mach 1 will reach the pinnacle of Mustang 5.0-liter handling performance, and not quite the level of a Shelby GT350 or GT500 when it goes on sale next spring.

Such handling prowess comes courtesy of the 2021 Ford Mustang Mach 1’s unique magnetic ride-damping calibration, plus a larger downforce front splitter, new front-lip wheel openings, new lower front fascia shape and grille, and a plethora of GT350 and GT500 parts. There’s a stiffer steering I-shaft, new electric power-steering calibration, stiffer anti-roll bars and front springs, a new rear subframe with stiffer bushings, and the rear toe-link from the GT 500.

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Ford further pointed out that the most important aerodynamic feature is a new underbelly pan that extends 20-inches further than the one on a Mustang GT Performance Package model. Despite all of the upgrades, Ford intends the new Mustang Mach 1 for more than just the racetrack: The Mustang crew said the Mach 1 is calibrated to be a smooth operator on public roads, when its driver chooses the standard setting for the dynamic ride-control suspension.

2021 Ford Mustang Mach 1: Engine, Transmissions, and Handling Features

Powered by the Bullitt Mustang’s 5.0-liter V-8 with 480 horsepower—up 20 ponies from the standard Mustang GT’s V-8—and 420 lb-ft of torque, the 2021 Ford Mustang Mach 1 will be available with a six-speed Tremec manual transmission with a rev-matching feature, a twin-disc clutch, and short-throw shifter. An improved 10-speed automatic, newly calibrated for quicker, sharper shifts, is optional.

Perhaps surprisingly, after hearing everything Ford said up front about the Mach 1, there will still be an optional handling package, which apparently is “pinnacle plus,” available only with the manual gearbox. It adds an even more-downforce-producing front splitter and front wheel-lip moldings, a rear spoiler with a Gurney flap, and GT500 rear-tire spats. There’s also a different front fascia and lower valance, and a two-piece upper grille with a low-glow pony badge. Finally, the handling package also offers a new hood-stripe design available in red, white, or orange.

There is no shaker-hood option, but Ford’s archives and heritage chief, Ted Ryan, explained it all: When the 1969 Ford Mustang Mach 1 premiered—designed to celebrate back-to-back SCCA Trans-Am championships—the shaker hood was an extra-cost option. The 2021 Ford Mustang Mach 1—the first Mach 1 in 17 years—won’t even get the shaker as an option, because of its new aerodynamic nose and two additional heat exchangers. Plus, the car’s engineers would rather direct the 5.0-liter’s rumble to the interior rather than let it leak out from under the hood. And, “We had enough cooling already,” Owens said.

The new front end does sharpen up a design that already was the best-looking Mustang in decades, and Ryan said the Mach 1’s target customers “are already a Mustang fan, whether they already own one or not.”

2021 Ford Mustang Mach 1: Interior and Exterior Features

The new 2021 Ford Mustang Mach 1 will be available in 10 paint colors, and though bereft of shaker hood, there is a modern interpretation of the 1969 Mach 1 badge on both front fenders and on the rear panel above the license plate. It also gets a GT500 rear valance and 4.5-inch dual exhaust tips. A five-spoke 19-inch wheel is standard, with a 20-inch premium track wheel with a spider-web design optional.

Inside, special features will include a dark turned-metal instrument panel, new doorsill plates, an updated center touchscreen, new floor mats with contrast stitching, and unique Mach 1 seats with accent stripes. Order the six-speed manual and you get a cue-ball shift knob. Each Mustang Mach 1 will come with a passenger-side dashboard badge featuring the car’s chassis number—which brings us to the topic of availability.

2021 Ford Mustang Mach 1: Limited-Production Model

Ford plans for the 2021 Mustang Mach 1 to be a limited-edition model, though in typical Ford marketing fashion, program managers wouldn’t say how limited it will be. With sales falling across the automotive industry for anything that’s not a truck or an SUV—and with sales of the Mustang line already holding onto top market-share of a quickly slipping segment—the number could be limited by the market as much as by anything else. Like other Mustang models, the Mach 1 will be exported to other markets, including right-hand-drive versions.

2021 Ford Mustang Mach 1: Price

As for price of the 2021 Ford Mustang Mach 1, it’s too early for the manufacturer to talk about it. With the latest Mustang Bullitt climbing to an ATM-visit short of $50,000, we’ll bet it’s going to be tough for Ford to keep this model priced less than maybe the $52,000 mark. Still, that’s nearly $10,000 short of the next step up in Mustang Performance, the Shelby Mustang GT350.

Regardless, maintaining a viable performance sports coupe pony car in today’s market is no easy task. But the engineering and marketing teams who put together the 2021 Ford Mustang Mach 1 are doing a pretty good job of extending the nameplate.

2021 Ford Mustang Mach 1 Highlights:

  • On sale in spring 2021
  • Limited-production model—but precisely how limited is unknown
  • 0-liter V-8; 480 hp, 420 lb-ft
  • Price estimated at $52,000
  • Ford promises best handling for a Mustang GT-based model
  • Optional Handling Package for even better performance
  • Aerodynamic downforce-producing upgrades
  • Stiffer steering I-shaft
  • New electric power-steering calibration
  • Stiffer anti-roll bars
  • Stiffer front springs
  • New rear subframe with stiffer bushings
  • Rear toe-link from the GT 500
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