ROYAL OAK, Mich. — My red 2021 Mustang Mach 1 was dressed for the Woodward Dream Cruise.
Muscled torso covered in black tattoos. Front spoiler out to here. Wicked black Magnum wheels. Mesh fascia with flared nostrils. Quad tailpipes the size of ship cannons. Swaggering down Woodward Avenue on Saturday morning, I noticed a Mustang Shelby GT350 pull up next to me, its high-strung, "Voodoo" V-8 engine gurgling menacingly.
"How do you like it?" its jockey asked about my Mach 1 before correctly noting: "It doesn't seem to have much growl."
Then, to make the point, he downshifted the GT350 —SNORT! — stomped the pedal and — WAAUURRRGH! — ripped up the strip with a shriek that sounded like a T-rex gargling razor blades.
The Mach 1 is not the GT350.
One of the most memorable names in Mustang lore (not to mention one of the coolest badges in all autodom), Mach 1 debuted in 1969 and brought distinctive style and power to the pony lineup. In my three decades cruising Woodward, the first-gen Mach 1s are instantly recognizable in their bright colors, black tats, rear wings, bulging hoods and outrageous wheels.
Conceived as the ultimate, V-8-powered grand touring (GT) model, the Mach 1 was the bridge between street-focused 'Stangs and the twin-striped, trophy-winning GT350 track monsters made by Carroll Shelby's shop.
After many years in the wilderness, Ford has successfully returned to that formula with its current sixth-generation Mustang. These are golden years. Producing the most extensive Mustang menu ever, Ford has offered ferocious Shelby GT350 and GT500 models as the ultimate expression of V-8 muscle. But for those who just want a GT with a few more calories, the Bullitt and Mach 1 special editions are on offer, too.
My 480-horse $58,490 tester deftly straddled the line between comfort and performance.
Framed by retro-Mustang elements like aviator air vents, T-shifter and engine gauges, the interior tech blew away pony enthusiasts who hadn't been in a 'Stang for 10 years. A stunning 12.3-inch digital cluster transformed according to drive mode. Need system info? I toggled through menus with steering wheel buttons. Voice commands and finger swipes controlled the console touchscreen, while windshield wipers and high-beam headlights activated automatically when needed.