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The New Mustang Mach 1 Heads to Dealers. Here's why it matters.

2021 ford mustang Mach 1

No, it's not because it's called Mach 1 or the heritage that comes with the name, although that's pretty cool for Mustang fans. There are few cars out there that have the widespread track use of Mustangs. A combination of affordability, a decent RWD platform with endless aftermarket support and the potential to be competitive when properly set up makes them a staple in most track paddocks in North America. But being popular for track use comes with some headaches for manufacturers. It means that the car will be pushed hard by its customers and that will inevitably lead to discovering weak links . 

The vast majority of factory main-stream performance cars have limitations on track when pushed to hot lapping pace. That's not to say they are all equal - some are, without a doubt, far more durable and dependable than others - but nearly all require modifications. Mustangs are no exception. And their popularity also means those weak links are discovered fast, and marketing departments playing fast and loose with "track ready", "race car for the road", and similar claims make matters worse for manufacturers. 

1969 to 2021 Mustang Mach 1

Bring up track-driven or track driving Mustangs, and you'll likely find two camps... the camp that says Mustangs are useless on track because of [insert any number of limitations] and the other that says it is the best out there and all it needs are a few mods. The reality, however, is somewhere in between, as is always the case with hyperboles. That's where the Mach 1 comes in.

Tremec in, Getrag out

After over 11 long years of customers complaining and griping since the first generation Coyote 5.0 litre V8 showed up in the MY 2011 Mustang GT, Ford has finally returned to Tremec for a trans to put behind the 5.0 litre V8; a Tremec 3160, same unit as the one in the Shelby GT350 and GT350R, although ratios might be different. That "somewhere in between" has all of a sudden got much better.

2021 Mustang Mach 1 Interior Recaro

The Getrag MT-82 was not a weak trans overall but had a number of weak links that manifested themselves especially when pushed hard. Judging by the most common complaint which is missed shifts at high rpms, including my own experience and how it improved, the most likely cause of the problem is a clutch that favoured modulation and light effort for streetability, therefore sacrificing proper engagement at high load/rpms. Combine that with a remote shifter that was not as rigid as it should be to provide better NVH, and missed shifts were all too common. 

There are other complaints, namely broken shift forks or synchro's but it doesn't matter where you stand on those. I doubt they are the root cause of the problem or failures. The lock out is likely a result of twisting/misalignment in the trans due to torque and g forces (I essentially only ever experienced it in turns) combined with the slack in the shifter. This lock out and imperfect engagement in the clutch at high rpms would put unnecessary load on syncrhos and forks, a very likely cause for premature failure, plus it is possible that a few failures are simply unavoidable due to manufacturing defects - warranty items like in every car - that are made worse due to the bad rep of the trans. When I replaced my clutch, the problem virtually disappeared.

2021 Mustang Mach 1 front grille

Regardless of the reason, the departure from the MT-82 is something that cannot be overstated. Ford has made several special editions and performance packages - namely Brembo, Track Pack, Performance Pack, and Performance Pack Level 2 - that all kept it and even a couple of fairly special models like the Boss 302 (S197) and the Bullitt (S550 using the revised MT82-D4) that all still kept the trans, which makes this switch even more welcome. And that's not all.

The Good Stuff

Sift through the marketing mumbo jumbo and you'll find lots of good upgrades. Another complaint from quick drivers is heating issues on the PPL2, particularly the rear diff. That should be no more at least for street cars (i.e. not race prepped). The new one will finally come with a diff cooler, another first for a 5.0 litre Mustang. Trans also gets cooling and there is increased oil cooling by 50%, with increased capacity in the form of an air to oil heat exchanger instead of relying on the coolant to oil which some people call an "oil heater" since it can't keep the oil cool if the coolant temperature isn't low enough. 

2021 mustang mach 1 side shot mesh wheels

And as usual, you get a whole bunch of suspension improvements namely:

- stiffer anti-roll bars
- stiffer front springs
- recalibrated ABS, power steering, and AdvanceTrac, 
- retuned magnetic dampers (MagneRide in Ford speak)
- stiffer rear subframe bushings and toe links from the GT500
- 6-pisten brembo front calipers and larger brake booster from the PPL2
- revised spoiler/pan cover with additional underside airfoils and passages to increase downforce and brake cooling
- 22% more downforce than the standard GT with the Performance Pack
- 3.73 rear end with Torsen LSD
- strut tower brace
- stiffer steering shaft
- 19x9.5" front and 19x10" rear wheels wrapped in 255/40/19 and 275/40/19 PS4 tires
- Dual mode exhaust with quad tips (worth the price alone for the noise).

There is also an available Handling Pack, that dials everything up to 11 in the form of more downforce (150% more than a GT PP) and upsized 19x10.5" front and 19x11" wheels in place of the standard 19x9.5" and 19x10" wrapped in 305/30/19 front and 315/30/19 rear tires (likely Michelin Sport Cup 2's like I compared to RE-71R's here). On top of all that, you also get adjustable strut mounts, which Ford lawyers are probably to scared to call camber plates. Cost is $3,500 USD for the Handling Pack, which should've probably come standard.

2021 mustang mach 1 decal

To go with the added grip, cooling, and downforce, Ford slaps the Shelby GT350 intake manifold on to help breathing and power goes up to 480 hp and 420 lb-ft torque which matches the Bullitt. And of course, prerequisite Mach 1 cues including decals, logos, dash plaque, cue ball shift knob, and subtle features so it can be called a Mach 1. Ford says this will be the most capable 5.0 litre ever and I have no doubt that will be the case. They are heading to dealers in Canada and the US now, and it probably won't be long before one of them pops up on your local track. I just hope Ford makes enough of them and dealer mark ups don't stick around...

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  1. Are there any downforce numbers other than % improvement, and at what speeds this is likely to make a difference for the new Mach-1?

    1. No published numbers, unfortunately. The PP2 package makes 60 lb. at 80 mph. The GT350R made 300 lb. and the GT500 with the Track Pack makes 550 lb according to an early interview with FP on Hot Rod mag. I would expect the Mach 1 to land somewhere between the GT350R and the PP2, although it is a wide range of course.


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