DRIVEN: What’s it like to tear up the Western Cape in a Mustang Mach 1?
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CAPE TOWN - There aren’t many options left when it comes to a good old fashioned normally aspirated V8 engine. Quite a few with a single or twin turbo, for now at least, but when it comes to sports cars there’s only the Lexus RCF and LC 500, and in this case the iconic Ford Mustang in Mach 1 guise paying homage to the original 1969 classic. Only 90 have been brought into the country all in metallic Fighter Jet Grey and if you’re not one of the lucky ones to have it registered in your name, sorry, they’ve all been spoken for.
The Mustang has remained the world’s most popular sports car for the past 50 years, has featured in more films than any other car and in 2018 the 10-millionth Mustang rolled out the original factory in San Jose, California while locally Ford sells between 50-60 units a month.
And it doesn’t matter where you find yourself, the Mustang will attract admiring glances and requests to leave black lines when you pull away, such is the attraction of this muscle car, more so than any other on the road.
In this Mach 1 version the engineers have designed the most track focussed Mustang to date with a host of additions to the already exhilarating GT delivering another one for the record books.
With increased performance cooling systems, better aerodynamics, brakes and a tweaked engine it’s not difficult to understand why the whole batch has found homes.
Under that recognisable bonnet the 5.0-litre V8 has been tuned to provide a “reward-to-rev” character with a high-performance Open Air Induction System, intake manifold and 87mm throttle bodies with low-pressure port fuel injection and high-pressure direct fuel injection that delivers 338kW of power and 529Nm of torque putting power exclusively to the rear wheels.
It also has a flat plane crankshaft that will allow you to easily and gloriously take the rev counter to 7000rpm.
There are two transmission options available, the TREMEC six-speed manual gearbox derived from the Shelby GT350 and a 10-speed automatic gearbox with an upgraded torque converter and unique calibration. Both transmissions get a dedicated oil cooler, rear axle cooling system and limited slip differential for optimised transfer of power to the tar.
Interestingly of the 90 units, only 15 are manual and the balance automatic.
Underpinning the more track focussed Mustang there are a number of aerodynamic enhancements such as a two-piece upper and lower side grille, a new front splitter, undertray, rear spoiler and performance rear diffuser. The lengthened undertray uses dedicated fins to direct cooling to the six-piston Brembo red brake callipers.
Ford says it needs to look fast even when standing still and this time the marketing people weren’t using hyperbole.
Never mind standing still, it’s no slouch on the road either.
From the moment you slip into the sports seats and push the start button you’re immediately reminded why V8s have a special place as four large drain pipes at the rear thunder into action even before you’ve decided what mode to select.
We drove the automatic version on some of the Western Cape’s delightful roads and passes with gentle slopes, curves and long straight sections and there’s much to be said for cruising around in a dinkum American muscle car including smiles, whistles and whoops we got along the way.
I drove the V8 five-litre GT a while ago and commented then that despite its looks and sound it would be a difficult car to master around the track with suspension on the soft side and quite a bit of wallowing around corners. It is more a Grand Tourer than a racing snake.
This Mach 1 will be a whole lot better with the improvements in torque delivery, suspension and steering. I think a track day would be a heap of fun but ultimately you’d still want to put your overnight bags in the boot and head for the great wide open roads.
Floor the accelerator and the magnificent sound of the engine puts a cheshire grin on your face as the gears grip and hurtle you forward. Not in a jolt-you-into-your-seat kind of way, but more of a push that becomes a gentle shove as the needle hits the red line, the exhausts howl and the next gear takes over.
I appreciated the stiffer brake pedal and decent feedback from the steering wheel, especially with the long bonnet stretching out before you, as we wound our way through the twisties and past slower traffic and tractors.
And if you just want to idle along and still have the exhaust clearing its throat you can set the volume via one of the options shown on the 20cm digital instrument cluster.
Driving along we chatted about competitors in the segment, similar cars and the German offerings. The Mustang may not be as sophisticated or flawless but it’s exactly that that sets it apart.
And while good looking cars will always attract attention, they’re just not a ‘Stang.
PRICING (Sold out)
FORD Mustang Mach 1 5.0 V8 6MT R1 182 100
FORD Mustang Mach 1 5.0 V8 10AT R1 203 800
The 2021 Ford Mustang Mach 1 comes with a six-year/90 000km service plan, four-year/120 000km warranty, three-year/unlimited mileage roadside assistance and a five-year/unlimited mileage corrosion warranty in South Africa.