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Published on Sun, Jul 13, 2003

By: The LACar Editorial Staff



By HARVEY SCHWARTZ All Photos & © by Harvey Schwartz

Hot on the heels of the successful ‘sell-out’ of the limited production, 2002 Mustang Bullitt GT, Ford once again digs into it’s bag of legendary Mustang models and comes up with another winner in the 2003 Mustang ‘Mach 1’. Like the Bullitt, the Mach 1 will have a limited production run of 6,500 units.

Last year’s Bullitt GT had more retro looks and styling cues than performance upgrades. The Mustang ‘Bullitt’ GT styling was taken from the 1968 Mustang 390 GT that Steve McQueen raced around, up and down, on the streets of San Francisco trying to track down the bad-guys as Lt. Frank Bullitt of the SFPD in the famous movie ‘Bullitt’. Horsepower was increased only 5hp over the GT’s 260hp, and the ride height was lowered 1/2in. with a slightly stiffer suspension setting than the GT. The original Mustang ‘Mach 1’ premiered in 1969 as one of 3-new Mustang models. The Mach 1 featured a fastback body, an aggressively raked front air dam, a rear spoiler, ‘comfort-weave’ leather trimmed seats, and the now-famous ‘shaker hood scoop’ mounted directly onto the carburetor and fitted through an opening in the hood. The carburetor is gone now, replaced with electronic fuel injection and the hood scoop channels air directly into the intake runners, increasing the breathing for improved power and torque. The new Mach 1 is powered by a 4.6liter, all-aluminum, DOHC V8, the same V8 found in last year’s 305+hp Mustang Cobra. This high-performance engine makes use of specially calibrated cams; a modified upper intake to accommodate the ram-air system, a forged crank, and performance manifolds to produce more than 320hp at 5,750rpm and 325lb.ft of torque at 4,300rpm. Power is channeled to the rear wheels via a tough yet smooth shifting TremecTR3650 5-speed manual transmission with a tall 5th gear ratio for improved fuel economy and a Trac-Lok 3.55:1 rear axle.

The scoop and center power-dome hood are finished in low-gloss black. Though the shaker hood is very prominent visually, it is not the only feature that harkens back to the 1969 Mach 1. You also notice that the C-pillars feature a unique trim appliqué that gives the roofline a subtle throwback appearance. To enhance the low-to-the-ground appearance, the car features another Mach 1 cue, an air dam extension also painted low-gloss black. A wide, low-gloss black stripe with Mach 1 graphic, runs the length of the sides, just above the rocker moldings. The rear features a low-gloss black spoiler attached to the top of the rear trunk lid, a Mach 1 badge, and 2-3in. round, polished stainless steel exhaust tips. The bolder stance is the result of the body being lowered 1/2in. front/rear, and a firmer setup on the suspension. The Mach 1’s special handling package includes new front and rear coil springs with adaptive load and rate, Tokico high-performance struts and gas-charged shocks, unique front and rear stabilizer bars, plus added frame rail connectors to stiffen up the steel unitized body. The power rack & pinion steering gives excellent feedback from the road and has a very neutral feel. The new Mach 1 gets through the 300ft. slalom at 62.5mph, just 2sec. slower than the more expensive, more powerful 390hp supercharged Mustang Cobra’s 64.3mph, and remember that the new Cobra rides on a new, fully independent rear suspension. The Mach 1 is razor sharp in cutting through the curves.

More power means you need bigger and stronger brakes so Ford makes use of the Cobra’s big 13in. vented rotors up front/10.8in. solid rotors in the rear. These power-assisted brakes are clamped with performance calipers that shorten stopping distance from 60mph to 0 to just 119ft. The Mach 1’s performance, ride quality, and braking are further enhanced with Goodyear P245/45ZR17in. Eagle performance rubber, wrapped around by 17X8in. 5-spoke, retro-styled, Magnum 500 aluminum alloy wheels. Performance specs for the Mach 1 are much better than last year’s Bullitt GT. You get to 60mph from a standstill in only 5.3sec., with the 1/4mi. coming in just 13.8sec. at 102.5mph. Sitting in the new Mach 1 is another ‘blast from the past’. The shaker hood scoop is in plain view, not obtrusive, but awesome to see as you drive. The 6-way power-adjustable front bucket seats are very comfortable, have increased lateral support and are trimmed in one-of-a-kind ‘comfort weave’ black leather that is reminiscent of the material that was unique to the original Mach 1. The center stack and shifter bezel are painted in a gray accent finish and highlighted by an aluminum shift boot ring and a great feeling, solid aluminum shifter-topped ball. The accelerator, brake, clutch and dead pedals are polished aluminum for added high-performance looks. The gray-backed analog instrument cluster features unique retro dials with a 150mph speedo, 8,000rpm tachometer and smaller gauges for fuel, oil pressure, engine temperature and volts. Bright LED lights warn you of system or safety failure. Mach 1 comes standard with the premium Mach 460 AM-FM stereo radio with a 6-disc in-dash CD changer, and 8-speakers to help melt away the many miles on your journey. Also standard are power windows/door locks, a beefy, leather wrapped and tilting steering wheel with the electronic cruiser control buttons on the center spokes, a powerful AC/Heater, dual aero-styled power-remote side mirrors, split-fold rear seats, tinted glass, fog lamps, all-speed traction control, theater lighting, thick pile carpeting, front/rear floor mats, passive anti-theft system with alarm, and remote-keyless entry with remote trunk opener.

Standard safety features include improved head impact safety with new A-pillar, headliner, sun visors and a revised D-ring seat belt attachment. The firing strategy on both driver and passenger-side airbags also has been updated. The 3-point front safety belts have pretensioners to tighten the lap and shoulder belts in the first moments of a crash. Energy-management retractors gradually slacken the safety belt, if necessary, to help reduce the force of the belt on the occupant’s chest. BeltMinder provides a gentle chiming reminder to buckle up. Mustang has added anchorages in the rear seat to implement the industry standard LATCH system for child safety seat attachment. The Mustang also features front/rear crush zones, steel, side impact beams in each door, and energy absorbing steering column. The trunk features a ‘glow-in-the-dark’ latch to open. A smile quickly came to my face as I approached the beautiful Azure Blue clear coat painted Mach 1. A larger smile came over my face as I twisted the key in the ignition and turned the powerful V8 engine on. The sound of the V8’s throaty growl really widened my smile, and as I lit-up the tires and quickly made it out of Ford’s lot, the biggest smile on my face started to hurt.

Wow, what fun and excitement you can have piloting this new, awesome version of one of the most famous models in Mustang’s long, glorious history. The Mach 1 is real high-performance driving fun. The loaded Mach 1 that I tested was reasonably priced at just $28,370.00. It is the ‘biggest- bang-for-the-buck’ winner in the under $30,000.00 class of sporty coupes. COPYRIGHT:2003:HARVEY SCHWARTZ

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Name of vehicle: 2003 Ford Mustang Mach 1 Price: $28,370.00 Engine type: 4.6liter V8, aluminum block/heads, DOHC 4-valves per cylinder Horsepower: 325 at 5,750rpm Torque: 315 at 4,300rpm Drive configuration: front engine/rear-wheel drive Transmission type: 5-speed manual overdrive transmission Front suspension: independent, modified MacPherson strut with separate spring on lower arm and stabilizer bar. Lowered 1/2in. Rear suspension: non-independent four-bar link with coil springs on lower arm and stabilizer bar. Lowered 1/2in. Wheels/tires: 17X8in. Heritage alloy wheels front/rear wrapped by Goodyear P245/45ZR17in. Eagle radials Brakes: Front-13in. power assisted vented disc. Rear-11.6in. power assisted vented disc Overall length: 183.2in. Overall width: 73.1in. Overall height: 52.7in. Curb weight: 3075lbs. EPA mileage: 17mpg/city, 25mpg/highway 0-60mph-5.6sec.

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