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2004 Mustang Mach 1 Road Test
Ford trots out a long-legged runner for Mustang's 40th anniversary
By Bill Roebuck
Thoughts of Mustangs and muscle cars usually go hand in hand. It wasn't always so, as Ford, which launched the Mustang as a 1964-1/2 model to great fanfare on April 17, 1964, lost the sporty focus of the car in the 70s and early 80s. These models suffered from Mustang sallies, as they were the somewhat anaemic versions of the marque.
However, one of the most coveted earlier editions was the 1969 Mustang Mach 1, which was named the "quickest four-person production car ever tested" by a popular automotive magazine of the era. A unique feature was its shaker hood scoop mounted directly on to the carburetor and fitted through an opening in the hood.
"Mach 1 is the favourite, the most memorable and most collectable of Mustangs," says Torrey Galida, a vice-president at Ford of Canada in Oakville, Ont. The 2004 edition of the GT Mach 1 coupe recently tested certainly reflects those 1960s roots. It had tons of tire-spinning power to go with its blazing orange colour.
The handling is impressive, crisp in the corners, with a very controllable feel in the steering wheel in everyday driving. The ride is firm enough to be sporty, but not harsh enough to be uncomfortable. Throughout the week-long test, I began enjoying the coupe more each day.
But what the GT Mach 1 is really about is simply this: Pretty much anyone can get to 100 km/h in under six seconds, no finesse needed. And you can leave skid marks in first AND second gear.
The current Mach 1 -- badged as a 40th Anniversary Edition on both front fenders -- has a 32-valve, 4.6-litre V-8 that produces 305 hp at 5,800 rpm (it feels more powerful than that, even at lower revs).
The Mach 1 is priced at $37,895, a long way up from the starting MSRP for a 2004 Mustang coupe of $23,495. Our tester had an interior upgrade package worth $470, bringing the total price with the AC tax and delivery to $39,410.
What do you get for your money? The base Mustang, available as a coupe or convertible, is powered by a 193-hp, 3.8-litre V-6. Options include a Mach 460 audio system with in-dash six-CD changer.
The Mustang GT, also offered in coupe and convertible versions, gets a 260-hp, 4.6-litre V-8, plus the Mach audio, side scoops, fog lamps, 17-in. wheels, cloth GT sport seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, a stainless steel dual exhaust, upgraded suspension tuning and limited-slip differential.
The 305-hp GT Mach 1 adds the functional shaker hood scoop, unique 17-in. wheels with an original Mustang logo in the centre, "comfort-weave” black leather seats reminiscent of the material unique to the original 1969 Mach 1, a rolled-tip dual exhaust and unique suspension tuning with lowered ride height.
The Mach 1 engine gets its horsepower boost over the standard Mustang V-8 with specially calibrated cams, a modified upper intake to accommodate the ram-air system, a heated PCV, a forged crank in the manual transmission, and performance exhaust manifolds.
Both the V-6 and V-8 engines were improved for 2004, with stiffer accessory drive brackets and better bearings. The suspension was retuned; it's a modified MacPherson strut at the front and a four-bar link suspension in the rear. Weight balance is 57 percent front, 43 percent rear, which Ford says boosts the car's agility.
Power rack-and-pinion steering is standard on all Mustang models. I wasn't sure if it was a visual aberration caused by the large hood scoop, but the Mach 1 seemed to pivot quickly around its centre on turns.
SHAKE IT UP
Probably the first thing that catches the eye about the GT Mach 1 is that shaker on the hood. It's not just an ornament that harks back to days gone by. An actual ram-air scoop, it channels fresh air to the intake to increase engine breathing and optimize turbulence for improved power and torque.
However, unlike the old days when the shaker was mounted on top of the carburetor, the current version is mounted on the intake manifold, and directs air through a secondary filter box to the intake. The intake also pulls cool air from the front grille.
The trouble is, the engine is so smooth, the shaker doesn't actually shake very much.
A five-speed manual or four-speed automatic are available. Anti-lock and four-wheel disc brakes are standard on the Mach 1 and GT but optional on the V-6 models. Traction control also is available.
Our test model was painted an impressive Competition Orange. There was no missing it in the parking lot, that's for sure. That colour plus Screaming Yellow and 40th Anniversary Crimson Red are new for 2004. Special 40th Anniversary versions of the V-6 and GT models also are being offered this year; they include exterior and interior enhancements.
It was surprising how quiet the Mustang is on the road. Ford introduced expandable foam seals around the body in 2003 that seems to make quite a difference. There is no body creaking and no noticeable wind noise -- just a nice engine and exhaust roar on hard acceleration. Otherwise, it's as quiet as a mild evening breeze.
The leather seating on our tester proved to be quite comfortable. Rear passengers don't fare so well, as legroom and headroom are tight and there are no rear-seat headrests. However, the seat backs fold on the coupe models to extend the cargo-carrying capacity.
Highlights of the interior are the aluminum-look trim and a smooth, aluminum shifter ball for the manual transmission that fits the hand perfectly.
Ford has already revealed an all-new design for the 2005 Mustang, which is to be released this fall, but the current model's attributes make it a viable alternative that's available right now.
The current Mustang, in its many iterations, certainly gives plenty of bang for the buck. And with fewer than 5,000 built for 2004, this Mach 1 may become the next "most memorable and most collectable of Mustangs."
© 2004, Bill Roebuck, CarTest.ca