Driven: Ford Mustang Mach 1

I think I’m supposed to tell you about the new Ford Mustang Mach 1. I’ll get to that, but first I’m going to indulge myself.

“The original Mach 1 was my genesis; I owe it almost everything.”


I’m from the Cape Flats but I lost my dad when I was 14 years old. These are conflicting situations for a young brown man trying to figure out who he would be one day. The prior meant I was destined for a long career as a petrolhead but the latter meant I lacked guidance. My world was chock full of interesting metal that I didn’t understand. And so, during my formative years I fell in love often. Whips such as my neighbour’s Datsun Skyline 2.8 GTX, my brother’s Jaguar XJ6, my cousin’s Ford XR6. I was a loose cannon, not knowing what it was that made these things special or why they appealed to me. I didn’t understand why the bright yellow E36 BMW M3 called my name, or why a local resident had two Nissans on this driveway that looked like nothing else I’d seen before. It was a Nissan 200SX and a 300ZX. This was in 1993, before The Internet entered our vocabulary and 14 years before cellphones got smart. I had no way of finding out more about these cars, what made them tick and in truth, I don’t think I was interested enough to actually make the effort. That’s when I saw it – less than 80 steps from my front door in the road around the corner, a gold sliver of metal that looked like nothing I’d ever seen before.

I knew what a Ford Mustang was, but this, despite wearing a Mustang badge was different somehow. Emblazoned on its wings was black lettering, ‘Mach 1’. It wasn’t the only black vinyl, there was a massive hockey stick-shaped stripe along its flanks. It looked massive, was incredibly sleek and sharp like a street shark. At this point while my car knowledge was weak, my movie knowledge was through the roof and immediately I was at odds with the fact that I’ve seen tons of car flicks (yes, that one too) but had never encountered something so special before. A unicorn, and there I was with no internet to save me from this vexation. This machine generated an aura. Machine. Mach1ne?

Eventually mankind rose to the level where they could provide me with an internet, specifically Altavista, a search engine before Google was ever uttered, from which I could descend into many a late night rabbit hole. But despite ultimately satisfying my knowledge about the origins and mechanicals of the Mach 1, more important was the way it made me feel at the time. Like there was so much more to cars than I thought there was, more than elementary, so much more than transport or a combination of metal, glass and rubber. The original Mach 1 was my genesis, I owe it almost everything. So imagine my emotions arriving in Somerset West to find Colin Lazarus’ immaculate ’71 Mach 1 locked into what looked like a Mexican stand-off with the new car.

Meet the 2022 Ford Mustang Mach 1, but don’t catch feelings, all 90 destined for South Africa have already been sold. It is the most track-focused ‘Stang yet, with attention to aero and cooling, just An Absolute Mach1ne TM.  Immeasurable levels of coolness drips from them both despite there being a 50 year gap between the two. See, people love special editions and the storied pony car from Ford, in addition to being iconic as hell, has a rich history in cinema and on the race-circuits making it ripe for collectability. It goes like this, in 1968 we got Bullitt, and in ’69 Ford produced the first Mach 1 fastback coupe. We had to wait till 2015 before Ford would build a right-hand drive Mustang which promptly arrived in SA and has gone on to sell 3430 units making it this country’s most popular sports car. But this isn’t that car, this uses the sleeker 2019 Mustang as its platform – the more technologically advanced facelift model with a digital interior and a ten-speed auto ‘box where the old car had a 6spd.

Despite it coming in four colours internationally, Ford SA says you can have any colour you like as long as its Fighter Jet Grey, so if you’re a fan of orange, red and yellow, this is why you duck. But look, grey certainly seems to be the sportscar colour of the year, and the Mach 1 looks a treat dressed in it. In each muscly corner you’ll find 19-inch Dark Tarnish alloy wheels, real throwback stuff. A GT500 rear diffuser underlines its athletic arse, where an active-valve exhaust makes all the right noise. Peeking behind the hoops are large orange brake calipers to match the orange piping on the Mach 1 decals. And you’ll find more Mach 1 detailing when you get to the cabin where the badge lives on the (heated and cooled) seats, scuff plates as well as a Mach 1 plaque on the dash, featuring its specific chassis number. Collectible, remember? It’s pleasant and well-appointed in here which is journo for ‘there’s cool shit in here’, such as the 12.3 inch LCD instrument cluster and a decent infotainment touchscreen and media system.

Blissfully, but first a shopping list. Paired to the new 10-speed auto is Ford’s boisterous five-litre V8, featuring open-air induction, an oil cooler (plus auxiliary oil cooler) allowing it deploy a healthy by all standards 338kW and 529Nm. Sans forced induction, or as the Yanks say, ‘all motor’. Also here is the GT500’s rear subframe, and if you want to row your own cogs the Shelby GT350’s manual TREMEC 6-speed box (same as the Bullitt edition) – notable for its ability to be flat-shifted with rev-matching tech. I don’t know man, I just drove the auto. The Magneride 2 adjustable suspension features stiffer springs now, then there’s the 6-pot Brembo calipers serving a cooled brake system, plus an array of fins and aerodams. The helm has even been recalibrated for a more flavourful feel. The result is a 4.4 sec sprint from zero to hundred in the auto, or 4.8 sec in the manual. Let it run to 400m and you’ll cross the line in 12.6 sec. Oddly, the auto tops out at 249kph while the manual will max out at 267kph which is notable. Of course, none of these matters when you’re in the beast’s belly, thumbing at the Start button and stirring it into life. Which I do, emitting a rowdy eight-cylinder bark, then a grumble not unlike sitting in a sleeping den of lions. To which I say ‘yaaa!’

The roads of Rooi Els, Clarence Drive and beyond to Hermanus and back to Somerset West became a theatre, a sound stage for eight shouty cylinders and a maniac at the wheel. The Mach 1 machs you do things, like chase the red line even when the skies have opened up and the roads are all greasy with rain. Step one, practice safe driving. Step two, seek out dry sections and let the rev needle soar. Even so, I’m not going to pretend I had track-like surfaces or conditions on which to test the mettle of the Mach 1, this was public roads at a measured pace – but I was measuring with a five-litre bucket, so there’s that. My 300km spent with the Mach 1 did however reveal a taut chassis (more than I would have assumed at first) that can do racecar things like be pointed scythe-like at apexes. The motor revs with urgency and purpose, this is not a lazy V8. And the soundtrack that accompanies a hard charge, well that’s worth the price of admission alone. Because this is a movie car, so must do all the movie car things.

As I pulled into our final destination, all I had left to do was render the Mach 1 into that least desirable of states. Off. As the metal ticked itself cool, ditto the rubber, fluids and my brain, I was given pause. I welcomed this time to reflect on what I’d just experienced and of course this car’s place in the world. This isn’t just a movie car, it’s The Movie Car, and I’m a movie guy.  But in order to be screen candy there’s a list of prerequisites. Be special, inspire feelings, but have the athletism to back it up. The Mach 1 does, but as I mentioned at the start all 90 units have been sold (75 auto, 15 manual), so you can’t have one. Just like you can’t have a unicorn. Doesn’t mean stories haven’t been written about unicorns, and I imagine stories will be written about this car, or better yet, captured on film. Personally, I don’t need to own one – I never owned the original and look how that changed my life.

Quick Stats:     Ford Mustang Mach 1 5.0 V8 Auto
Price:                 R1,203,800
Powertrain:       5.0l V8, rwd, 338kW, 529Nm, 10-speed auto
Performance:    249kph top speed, 12.6sec 0-400m

Ford Mustang Mach 1 5.0 V8 Auto R1,203,800
Ford Mustang Mach 1 5.0 V8 Manual R1,182,100

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