The 1969 Mach 1 - Ford’s Power Play
To properly understand the Mach 1, we must take a trip back in time. The year is 1969. The nation was in the midst of upheaval over the Vietnam War, values, and race relations. Young people flocked to Woodstock to embrace their free-living lifestyles. The space race was on, with Americans landing on the moon. US companies were expanding into new markets, looking for new ways to generate more profit. Productivity and employment were strong, and as Americans began to flex their buying muscles (by demanding more goods), companies sought to raise prices to capture the new hunger of the American consumer and further increase their profits.
The automotive world was no stranger to the intense competition for dollars. The muscle car performance wars were in full swing, with every company offering more powerful cars. Ford was desperate to compete with the likes of Chevrolet (who released the first gen Camaro), Pontiac with its Firebird and GTO, Mopar with their redesigned Dodge Charger and new Challenger, and even Plymouth with their newly modeled Barracuda and Road Runner.
Ford offered five new Mustangs for the 1969 model year, one of which was a performance option called “Mach 1”. The Ford Mach 1 was a definite grab for power, attempting to appeal to American’s love of muscle cars. Ford trumpeted the new option in commercials on every network they could, showing the car speeding along a desert highway, scorching the pavement. The sales brochure for the new Mustang invited consumers to create their own “power play” when driving it. Even though the car received mixed reviews when it was first introduced (Car and Driver hated it, claiming that the Mach 1 just didn’t deliver), the reviews didn’t deter over 72k new owners driving Mach 1s off of dealer lots in 1969 alone. The Mach 1 proved so popular that Ford dropped the GT trim level for 13 years.
The Features Of The Mach 1
Let’s examine what qualities made the Mach 1 one of the most famous Mustangs ever.
The Ford Mustang Mach 1 was only made one way, a SportsRoof configuration (aka Fastback), and was never offered as a convertible or hardtop. The designers made the Mach 1 larger than its Mustang counterparts, extending both the front and rear to increase its length by almost four inches (3.8 in). The wheelbase remained the same at 108 inches, but the roofline was lowered by over an inch. The wide stance and low profile offered an aggressive beast-like look, with a prominent nose and sloping roofline to the rear bumper.
The grille sported a quad headlight design (two lights were recessed inside the central front fascia, with two more positioned outside the chrome accent strip). The Mustang Mach 1 offered several eye-catching appearance options, including both black and reflective sideline decals with the words Mach 1 emblazoned toward the front quarter panel. A matte black hood treatment with hood pins, hood scoop (a Shaker hood scoop was taller and an option), and chrome gas cap. While the side louvers that had appeared on previous Mustang Fastback models were missing, there was an option for “Sport Splats” across the rear window.
The rear featured the three vertical taillights, undergirded with a chrome bumper stretching across the base. Dual chrome-tipped exhaust pipes were offered on the top four V8 engine models. The rear spoiler was another option, although it was more for looks than any practical aid to the car. At a weight of 3,254 lbs, the Mach 1 presented a bulked-up version of the American pony car.
The Engine And Drivetrain
Ford offered the choice of five different V8 engine choices for the ‘69 Mustang. The standard engine was the 351 Windsor V8, which could be ordered with a single 2bbl carburetor or 4bbl for extra performance. The 390 ci V8 was also offered, along with two 428 ci V8 engines, one with Cobra Jet Ram induction and larger intake manifold. While over 10k Mach 1s were equipped with the larger V8s, most were equipped with the 5.8L (351 ci), which produced 250 hp and had a 0 - 60 mph speed of 7.7 seconds. The Mustang had a high speed of 128 mph with the super Cobra Jet engine.
The Ford Mach 1 had three transmission options available. The standard transmission on the 351 cu in V8 was the 3-speed manual, with the Select-Shift Cruise-O-Matic and four-speed manual available. For the larger V8 engines, customers chose between the 4-speed manual and the automatic transmission.
The 7.0L (428 ci) Cobra Jet V8 was the most powerful engine, which could be ordered with Ram Air induction. The engine produced 335 hp and 440 lb-ft of torque. A unique “Drag Pack” option with the large 428 CJ engine with a limited-slip rear end of 3.91 or 4.30 could also be ordered. The car was swift on the track, posting 5.6 seconds, and most Mach 1s were equipped with competition shocks, reinforced springs, and an upgraded stabilizer bar.
Ford took care to make the Mach 1 a driver-centric vehicle. The interior of the Mach 1 featured vinyl high-backed bucket seats with teak-toned highlights on the instrument panel, console, and door panels. The large tri-spoke steering wheel featured the Mustang emblem in the center (where the horn was located), and three concentric holes on each spoke. The padded center console with a built-in ashtray was standard on the Mach one, as was the electric clock mounted conspicuously over the passenger glove box. Tilt steering was an optional feature, with the radio and environmental controls located toward the bottom of a center stack just beyond the gearshift mechanism.
While many automakers were more worried about the power and performance of their vehicles back in the sixties, the decade was also a milestone for safety features. When consumer advocate Ralph Nader published his expose on the dangers of the American automobile, the government quickly stepped in to enact regulations. The Mach 1 had several safety features ahead of its time, like three-position seat belts, safety glass windshields, front seat head restraints, crumple zones, and low-impact bumpers.
Cost And Value
The original MSRP for base Mach 1 was $3,122. The upper engine options cost more, but Ford kept the cost beneath other competitors (Mopar charged an extra $892 for the 426 Hemi option). The value of a 1969 Mustang Mach 1 in today's market ranges between $75,000 - 150,000 depending on the condition and engine that it contains.
The big block Mach 1 would be a prevalent model for Ford, lasting until 1978, selling over 72k models in 1969. The Mach 1 accounted for 24% of the total production of 299,824 Mustangs.