2003 Ford Mustang Mach 1 Retro Review: Shake ’n Bake

2003 Ford Mustang Mach 1 Retro Review: Shake ’n Bake

Perhaps you prefer not to face the retro craze that is so hot right now, but understanding the importance of the 2003 Ford Mustang Mach 1 requires an appreciation of history. Remember about thirty years ago, when the big blocks reigned on the strip, long before street racing included sports compacts injected with nitrous. We have tested the Mach before, but it is now available with an automatic transmission. We thought it was worth going down 1320.

All the time machine signals are present: front and rear spoilers? Check. Magnum style wheels? Check. Scoop hood scoop? Oh yes. Open the hood to see the 4.6-liter wall-to-wall, four valves per cylinder, DOHC Ford V-8 (think Boss 429). Power is 305 horsepower at 5800 rpm and 320 lb-ft of torque at 4200 rpm. There is a choice of transmissions: a five-speed manual or a four-speed automatic, each connected to a 3.55: 1 Traction Lock rear axle.

The engine breathes thanks to a dynamic air shaker hood scoop and a modified upper intake. Other ultra-fast accessories include specially calibrated cams, high-flow cylinder heads, a forged crank (cast with automatic transmission) and high-performance exhaust manifolds. The suspension changes are a half inch drop in ride height (compared to a GT), new front and rear coil springs, upgraded Tokico struts and shock absorbers, specific anti-roll bars to Mach and chassis rail connectors to improve rigidity. ABS and traction control are standard.


The Mach I completed our 600-foot slalom at 63.6 mph, just a slower tick than the Cobra equipped with the IRS (64.3) and the Bullitt with solid axle (66.0). Ford engineers explained why the Mach 1 was slower through the cones: the Bullitt engine (cast iron block and two-valve aluminum heads) has a lower center of gravity than the Mach 1 (or Cobra) engine , with its aluminum block but heavier four-valve heads. Accelerating this Mach 1 off the line is tricky, but resulted in a humble 13.88-second run over a quarter-mile at 101.91 mph. We recently tested a five-speed Mach 1 and achieved a 13.2-second shift at 106.7 mph. This automatic fitted car showed a slight drop in power just after changing from second to third gear, which looked like a time advance or a slightly shifted gear choice. Mach 1 will still tear them apart in second. Torque changes are firm at the partial throttle, accelerating at full throttle with downshifts at a few pinches.

The new version of Mach 1 does all the right muscle movements because and will satisfy all those who want, but have not bought, the original.

2003 Ford Mustang Mach 1
Base price$ 28,680 / $ 30,465
Vehicle layoutFront engine, rwd, 2-door coupe, 4 passes
Engine4.6L / 305hp V8, DOHC, 4 valves / cylinder
0-60 mph, dry5.6
1/4 mile, dry @ mph13.88 @ 101.91
Braking, 60-0 ft120
Slalom 600 feet, mph63.6
Skidpad, g0.82
Available in the United StatesCurrently

This article was originally published on October 29, 2003.

The Ford Mustang Mach 1 Retro Review after 2003: Shake ‘n Bake appeared first on MotorTrend.

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