Friday, August 17, 2018

Is Ford actually going to miss the 50th anniversary of the Mustang Mach 1?

Photo by Bill Hayward for Auto Enthusiasts Newsblaster.
By Bill Hayward
Fall is just a few weeks away. We’re already deep into end-of-model-year season and the new model-year launch season. The launch of the 2019 Mustang Bullitt edition has been essentially a year-long process, and the Bullitt press cars are out and working their way through the journalistic food chain.

But the model year we are entering is 2019. And 50 years ago, something very big in the history of Mustang happened: the launch of the first Mach 1. 1969 was an important year for Mustang performance packages. In addition to the Mach 1, the Boss 302, Boss 429, Shelby GT350, Shelby GT500 packages were available.

The Mach 1, available only in the “sportsback” (basically just another word for a fastback) design, was the most widely sold of these performance variants. It came standard with the legendary Windsor 351 cubic-inch V8, which was good for 250 horsepower and 355 foot-pounds of torque with a two-barrel carburetor, and 290 horsepower and 385 foot-pounds of torque with a four-barrel carburetor. 390- and 428-cuibic-inch V8s were also available.

Not to be overlooked are the visual changes that came to the Mustang in 1969. Though generally considered styling variations on the first-generation Mustang, this in my opinion does not do justice to the significance of the changes. The overall length and width increased. In particular, the front-end looked larger, more modern and more aggressive. One effect of this change was a gain in size up front to accommodate Ford’s big-block V8 engines.

Comparatively speaking, the ’64 though ’68 Mustangs looked older and more dated once the ’69 and ’70 variations—clearly a response to the performance street cred that Camaro, Firebird, and GM and Chrysler muscle cars of the era were gaining—came out. Although they were all still being built on the basic foundation of the venerable Falcon platform, to some enthusiasts—myself included—the ’69 and ’70 Mustangs were different enough to warrant setting apart as a separate Mustang generation.

More importantly, there are also some Mustang fans—also including me—who see 1969 and 1970 as the pinnacle years for the Mustang from a styling perspective. Starting in 1971, it was all downhill for the Mustang for a long time. ’71 through ’73 Mustangs looked basically like overgrown Mavericks—and, lest we forget, the design that eventually became the Maverick was at first conceived as a new-generation Mustang. The ’71 through ’73 Mustangs looked like bloated, overweight self-parodies.

And then there were the malaise-years Mustang IIs—which are in my opinion maligned a bit more than they deserve. But even the Fox bodies, which did have a certain level of coolness cred all their own, pale in comparison to ’69 and ’70. It wasn’t until 1994 that Mustangs really started to look like Mustangs again.

A lot can be said about the generations of Mustang from 1994 to the present, but that is really more suited to a separate article. The point here is that ’69 and ’70 were the last truly great model years for the Mustang for a very long time, and you can make a strong case that the Mach 1 performance variants are the most exemplary representatives of those model years.

Yes, Mach 1 was brought back briefly in 2003 and 2004, but this timeframe was not the benchmark occasion like a 50th anniversary is. So how can Ford possibly be missing the boat, seemingly entering the 2019 model year with no acknowledgement of the Mach 1? How, possibly, could they be bypassing the Mach 1 in favor of the Bullitt? Couldn’t there be room for both?

Perhaps Ford is indeed considering other plans for the Mach 1 name, which has been rumored. Rumors have varied from a four-door crossover (gasp) Mach 1 to an all-electric variant of the Mustang. While it has been proven beyond doubt that electric cars can be badass and cool, an electric car at this stage seems a little too specialized for a nameplate with a history as glorious as Mach 1.

But the bottom line is that the 2019 model year is upon us, and there has been no official acknowledgement one way or another regarding plans for the Mach 1. Contact attempts by Auto Enthusiasts Newsblaster to two Ford spokesmen involved with the Mustang line have been met with silence.

So it indeed looks like Ford is going to let this landmark anniversary pass. And that, Ford, is really a shame.

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