BEHIND ENEMY LINES
MOTOR Magazine Australia|July 2021
FORD ENTERS NEW TERRITORY AT MACH 1 AND ENGAGES A FORMIDABLE OPPONENT
CAMERON KIRBY

IN OCTOBER 14, 1968, the famously benign Switzerland initiated an unprovoked military attack on its diminutive neighbour, Liechtenstein. The target was the Malbun ski resort, which was hit with five artillery shells in a dominant show of force. It would have been quite a shock for the largely defenceless European microstate, which occupies an area roughly a hundred square kilometres smaller than the regional Victorian city of Bendigo. That is if it hadn’t been for one thing. Switzerland, the larger aggressor both in terms of physical size and outright power, initiated the assault completely by accident and apologised profusely.

Thankfully, the only casualties were a handful of outdoor dining chairs.

This, oddly enough, goes some way to explaining Ford’s accidentally hostile strategy with the Mach 1 Mustang.

When the Mustang first landed in Australia in 2016 the flagship 5.0-litre V8 powered GT cost a smidge less than $60K, making it a natural rival to the final Holden Commodore SS-V, and not much else. Its relative affordability paired with 306kW of naturally aspirated V8 power and iconic coupe styling made it a sales hit, and it’s easy to understand why.

Now five years later, in a perfect display of mission creep, the flagship Mach 1 Mustang costs more than $80,000, putting it in the same financial ballpark as cars it never intended to compete against on initial launch.

Ford has made small incremental bumps in performance and exclusivity to match the increased price, with 345kW now being deployed by the special-edition ’Stang (along with a raft of new go-fast mechanical additions), of which just 700 are coming Down Under.

The most important updates for the Mach 1 sit underneath its more aggressive bumper treatment and retro badging, with the induction system, intake manifold, oil cooler and 87mm throttle bodies lifted from the Shelby GT350. Initially, the track-focused ’Stang was intended to be fitted with a Torsen limited-slip differential as standard, but the final specification ended up somewhat other than expected (see sidebar). All righthand drive Mach 1s are instead fitted with Ford’s own mechanical limited-slip differential instead of the Torsen unit, which is identical to that found in the Bullitt and GT Mustangs. Despite the change, Ford says the Mach 1’s diff is still fitted with the requisite cooler to ensure performance remains unchanged. Scott Newman’s track test in MOTOR’s May issue, and our day of hard driving for this comparison, would indicate that customers are at no great loss because of the swap.

Despite the noble intent of these upgrades, Ford has. perhaps inadvertently, found itself marching with a heavy foot into the territory of a car that speaks more quietly yet carries a very big stick – the Toyota Supra. It’s only fair then that we bring the pair together to see if Dearborn’s hero can hold its own against the pride of Japan, or Graz if we’re being accurate. The Toyota is smaller, less powerful, and more expensive than the Mustang, but wears a badge of honour from narrowly vanquishing the MercedesAMG A45 S in a previous comparison test. Game on.

Both cars are exclusively rear-driven and utilise torque converter automatics (10 ratios in the Ford and eight in the Toyota). The variant we have here is the full-fat Supra GTS, but as we’ve noted before, the entry-level GT offers exactly the same performance credentials with 10 grand slashed from the price tag, which is only a couple of thousand dollars more compared to the Mach 1.

These cars fight in different weight classes. March 1 is carrying an extra 284kg of heft, which you can’t escape behind the wheel. It’s also 410mm longer, with an extra 250mm between the axles. Interestingly, the Supra has the wider front-track of the two. You get a larger cabin and rear seats in the Mustang because of the physical differences, but the extra size and weight play against it dynamically, and the back seats are practically useless.

When it comes to firepower, the Mustang has the edge, with its naturally aspirated 5.0-litre V8 producing 345kW and 556Nm. The Supra uses a BMW-sourced 3.0-litre turbocharged inline-six-cylinder, which now produces 285kW and 500Nm after a power bump late last year. Where the previous 250kW example would only reach peak power at 7800rpm, the updated Supra gives you 285kW from 58006500rpm, while the peak torque figure remains unchanged but is spread across a larger window of 1800rpm-5000rpm (previously 1600-4500rpm).

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