“When you kiss the redline on this cutie, she wails like a banshee in the depths of hell.” Not my words, Carol, the words of Steve Coogan in Saxondale, his post-Partridge sitcom from 2006. Lead character Tommy Saxondale is middle-aged ex-roadie turned pest controller who loves all things 1970s, including prog-rock bands, double denim and his Ford Mustang Mach 1.
The Mach 1 was a factory-fit performance kit, first introduced in 1969, with stiffer suspension, wider wheels and up to 380hp from a 7.0-litre Super Cobra Jet V8. Now the Mach 1 name is back on the modern Mustang, priced at £56,955 and boasting an even brawnier 460hp.
Best of all, Ford’s press car is Grabber Yellow with black stripes – the same colours as Tommy’s classic 1973 ’Stang. Phwoar.
It really does look far out (or whatever people said in the seventies). The bulging bonnet, powerful haunches and fastback roof are textbook muscle car, while a new front grille and boot spoiler hark back to the original Mach 1.
On paper, the Mustang’s rivals include the Audi A5 and BMW 4 Series, but only a Jaguar F-Type matches it for raw kerb appeal.
That emotional sucker-punch becomes a knockout blow when you fire up the V8. With a new intake manifold and oil cooler, the Mach 1 only has 10hp more than a standard Mustang GT – and its 0-62mph time of 4.8 seconds lags behind some hot hatchbacks.
Yet there’s no substitute for cubic inches; even at idle, its growl gives me goosebumps. At this price, remember, the F-Type only has four cylinders.
Baby’s got the bends
The Mustang still has a Drag Strip mode, along with Line Lock for tyre-smokin’ burnouts, but the Mach 1 also pays some heed to going around corners. Chassis mods include new front and rear subframes, firmer front springs, stiffer anti-roll bars and retuned Magneride adaptive dampers.
A new splitter and rear diffuser also help boost downforce by 25 percent. The result is a car that feels less all-at-sea on a British B-road, with accurate steering and taut body control.
If you want to go sideways, you can, but the Mach 1 is too polished to play the all-out hooligan. That doesn’t mean it has morphed into a flighty sports car, though. It remains quite a physical experience, with a heavy six-speed manual shift – a 10-speed auto is optional, if you enjoy pulling paddles – and a sense of weight shifting that betrays its 1,851kg heft.
Besides, the engine is still the star of the show. The naturally aspirated 5.0-litre V8 pulls like an Amtrak train, its gargling snarl swelling to a battle cry that tingles every fibre of your being. Or as Saxondale might say: “When you light up the rear tyres on this mutha, it screams like a Bee Gee with his fingers trapped in the car door.”
Hitting those high notes also makes you forget about the plasticky cabin, blocky Sync 3 media system and (ahem) 22.8mpg fuel economy. Such mundane matters wouldn’t have troubled Tommy – although he did drive a Renault Kangoo on weekdays – and they’re not a deal-breaker here. When cars have so much character, you can forgive their faults.
Ford of Europe says all its cars will be electrified by 2026 and full EVs by 2030. And the pony car has already been reinvented as the battery-powered Mustang Mach-E, of course.
I’m not convinced the Mach 1 is worth £9,000 more than a Mustang GT, but with both living on borrowed time, perhaps it’s worth going all-out. You can keep your electro; I prefer classic rock.
Tim Pitt writes for Motoring Research
TOP SPEED: 166mph
FUEL ECONOMY: 22.8mpg
CO2 EMISSIONS: 284g/km