Spending four days with the Ford Mustang Mach 1 has taught me that money really can buy happiness.
At a South African price of R1,154,800, I would say there are no better sports cars for the money.
Nothing at this price gives you the heritage, the presence, the power, and the absolutely amazing sound that the Mach 1 so effortlessly provides.
If you want one, however, you are out of luck. All 90 units of the Mustang Mach 1 that are destined for South Africa are already sold out.
I was lucky enough to test drive one of the last Mach 1 cars while it was still Ford’s property – and the experience is seared into my memory.
A track-focused Mustang
The Ford Mustang Mach 1 is said to be the most track-focused Mustang ever. It was fitted with bits from the GT350 and GT500, along with a few of its own exclusive aerodynamic features.
It remains a 5.0-litre, V8, American muscle car, though, and its rear-end is eager to play around – albeit less than its siblings.
It’s both frightening and exhilarating having 338kW and 529Nm at your disposal, and the Mach 1’s track-ready personality urges you to test what it’s made of.
After a few minutes in the car, my first impression was that it felt civilised and reserved, and not quite like the limited-edition Mustang I was expecting.
This led to lots of fiddling around in the settings menu to try and figure it out.
A flick up on the sturdy drive mode switch to set the car to Track, and a small adjustment in the instrument cluster to open up all the exhaust valves, quickly made me realize what I was sat in.
All at once, the tailpipes echoed a deep and beautiful note, and the steering and suspension stiffened up noticeably.
A few seconds later, the digital speedometer told me I has unleashed the beast.
With every upshift of the 10-speed automatic, it thrashed me back into the seat and I could feel the rear wheels pulling ever so slightly to the side before quickly catching grip and lunging forward.
This remains true whether you’re flooring it at 0km/h or 100km/h – the Mach 1 does not let up.
The words of the man that handed over the keys echoed in my head over the weekend: “Watch out for speeding tickets, they are easy to get in this car.”
Putting the Mach 1 through my idea of testing involved five stops at the petrol station over the span of four days.
After a three-hour highway cruise and checking to see if the accelerator pedal can actually reach the back of the footwell, the behaviour of the Mustang became more familiar.
While it’s a user-friendly car, do not think that you can just get in and push it to its limits. It demands a decent level of respect from its driver.
If you treat it with this respect, though, you are in for an incredible experience.
When you hook up the Mach 1 just right, it feels like you’re floating on a fire-breathing cloud.
This is intensified by the fact that it can reach 100km/h in just 4.4 seconds. With slippery roads and little time to prepare the tyres, I managed to clock a 5-second sprint on the built-in acceleration timer.
Around corners is where the Mach 1 stands head-and-shoulders above its stablemates, however. It’s not called the most track-focused Mustang ever for no reason.
It swerves and sticks around bends like nothing I’ve experienced before – flat, smooth, and fast – and slingshots out the other end at any pace you desire.
Admittedly, living with this Mustang is not as easy as a four-door sedan.
The wide and long fastback has low-down seats and slender windows, which makes visibility out the sides tricky.
If there is one thing I also missed during the four days, it was parking sensors.
Sitting deep in a car this wide and long knowing where the diffuser and front lip are located is vital.
Ford provided a reverse camera, lane departure warnings, and front impact alert to make up for this, however.
Additional features like Apple CarPlay, a Bang and Olufsen sound system, electric seats, and seat heating and ventilation then made the Mach 1 a perfect daily driver.
That is, if you can look past fuel consumption.
You don’t buy a muscle car with a massive engine for its fuel efficiency, but I was surprised to find out just how thirsty this Mustang can be.
Over the four days, I drove out around three tanks of petrol while averaging 14.5l/100km.
In the Mach 1’s defence, it was highly efficient on the open road if you’re cruising in 10th gear at 2,000rpm.
With a heavier foot and more corners to play with, don’t expect much more than 300 kilometres out of its 61-litre tank.
The Ford Mustang Mach 1 is the most exciting car I’ve ever had the privilege of driving.
While it’s not the most expensive or the most powerful vehicle I’ve been behind the wheel of, it certainly stands out above everything else for the passion it injects.
This was the case when a good friend of mine, who has been an anti-Mustang evangelist since the first models arrived in South Africa in 2015, spent a few minutes in the car.
As soon as we got out, he was searching online to see which Mustangs were on offer.
The Mustang might not be everyone’s favourite car, but it is impossible not to acknowledge the brilliance of the Mach 1.