By Stuart Grant
Mach 1: 761mph – the speed of sound and one of the most highly regarded special-edition Ford Mustangs ever made. With rumours of the name returning to the blue oval’s brand in 2021 doing the rounds at the moment, we thought it worthwhile to track down a ’71 model to tell the powerful story.
Mind you, this isn’t the first mention of the Mach 1 rebirth being bandied about in recent times: in 2012 Ford thought of launching an electric crossover vehicle under the banner, but thankfully market research and an outcry from the fans quickly saw this idea dumped and the Mach E badge was used instead. Travesty avoided, let’s move back to the real deal Mach 1.
Following the disappointment of the 1950s Edsel, Ford needed a boost in sales and image, and it came in bucket loads with the launch of the Mustang at the 1964 World’s Fair in New York. It blew the doors off any competition by offering the ultimate combination of affordability and performance, and the sales streamed in. In 1965 a whopping 559 000 units were sold and ʼ65 was even better, with sales passing the 600k mark. Although a dip to 472 000 was seen in 1967, the numbers were still mind-blowing for any motoring sector.
Of course the competition, spearheaded by Chevrolet, Pontiac and Dodge, responded and the fight for the best American performance car took flight. From ’67 Chevy’s Camaro led the pony car tussle ahead of the Mustang but as the battle evolved, more was needed. And more meant more power, of course. The late ʼ60s answer came in the form of the big-block engines, with the Camaro, Pontiac Firebird and Dodge Charger sidelining the smaller Mustang somewhat.