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2003 Ford Mustang Mach 1

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San Francisco:  Almost exactly 39 years ago, the Ford Mustang debuted at the New York World's Fair. No one knew it at the time, but a record 417,000 units would sell that first 12 months. People just went nuts for the new Mustang pony car.

In 2003, the Mustang has driven all its competitors out of business, and remains the best-selling convertible in America. By 1969, the Mustang was growing. That year, the new larger car came in three new models, including the Mach 1 Fastback. The Mach 1 featured an air dam up front, a spoiler in back, and the "shaker" hood scoop.

That manly air feeder was attached directly to the carburetor, stuck out of the hood for all to see, and actually shook when you stepped on the throttle. For 2003, Ford has revived the Mach 1 as part of an ongoing celebration of Ford's 100th birthday and the Mustang's upcoming 40th anniversary, and the "shaker" hood scoop is Back!

Although today's performance cars leave older cars in the dust, few have the overt macho character of the Mach 1. Ford lowered the car a half-inch, tweaked the roofline, applied a retro-flavored airdam extension to the nose, popped a spoiler on the decklid, and striped the side. And they even brought back the shaker hood scoop, which protruded blatantly as I rumbled through town. The 17-inch Magnum 500 wheels complete the aggressive picture, with upgraded 13-inch front rotors with performance calipers behind them.

Best of all, the Mach 1's 4.6-liter, dual-overhead-cam V8 is pumped up from 260 horsepower to a hearty 305, and every one of those ponies sings a deep and sinister tune. My Torch Red test car let me control all that power through a five-speed manual with a cool aluminum shifter ball. My tester earned surprisingly good mileage figures of 17 City, 25 Highway, way better than the '69 could muster.

The Mach 1 rides on a unique sport suspension with new front and rear coil springs, Tokiko struts and shocks, and stabilizer bars front and rear. This thing out handles its predecessor, and likely behaves better on the road than most of today's cars as well.

My Mach 1's interior was trimmed in a silver and black motif that would do any Oakland Raiders fan proud. The deeply bolstered black leather bucket seats feature a "comfort weave" design reminiscent of the original car. The silver accents include not only leather sections but also plenty of aluminum on the shift boot ring and pedals. Gray trim pieces complement the real metal and give a cool, high tech feeling to an interior that otherwise wears a dated, swirling 1990's design. The position of the seats, controls and steering wheel tip off drivers that the original 1979 Fox platform still sits beneath the updated Mustang body.

Despite its historical platform, the Mustang has acquired its share of updates over the years. Now, you get second-generation airbags, antilock brakes with traction control, an antitheft alarm system, power rack-and-pinion steering, fog lamps, variable intermittent wipers, and a rear window defroster. The standard sound system is the thoroughly modern Mach 460 audio system with a six-disc in-dash CD changer.

I felt like the kid I never was roaring around town in the Mach 1. The exuberant shape, the willingness of the rumbling V8, and the sureness of the upgraded suspension make for a lot of pleasure as the road flies by. The manly shift lever, reliable but hardly "buttery," the tightly condensed digits on the retro 150-mph speedometer dial, and the raft of standard equipment make it a joyous labor to drive.

The Mach 1 is a one-price, fully loaded model. My ride had a MSRP sticker price of $28,370 plus $625 for delivery and $295 for an Interior Upgrade package. This package features Bullitt door locks, Bullitt pedals, Cobra 4-way head restraints and a GT leather shift knob. If you want much of the appeal of a Mustang without the overt muscle, Mustangs start at just $18,320.

As part of the beginning of the Mustang's yearlong 40th Anniversary celebration, Ford announced at the New York International Auto Show that three special editions are coming for the 2004 model year. The 40th Anniversary Edition coupes and convertibles get commemorative paint colors, including crimson red, as well as special wheels and interior upgrades. Only 5,700 will be produced.

The 2004 Mystichrome Cobra model is a series of just 1,000 cars with special color shifting exterior paint, which looks green, blue, purple, or black depending on viewing angle. It boasts a mighty 390 horsepower V/8 engine, thanks to a supercharger. The Mach 1 returns for 2004 with two new eye-popping colors - Screaming Yellow and Competition Orange. Fewer than 5,000 2004 Mach 1s will be produced, a smaller amount than the 2003s built.

But best of all, an all-new 2005 Mustang is on its way. Concept versions show a return to some of the historic shapes, reinterpreted for the new 21st century. The Mustang has always been about image, even in the dark days of the 1970s when performance couldn't match the look. Now, real performance, real looks, and genuine anticipation once again fuel demand for the world's favorite pony car. By Steve Schaefer AutoWire.Net - San Francisco

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Byline:  Syndicated content provided by Tony Leopardo AutoWire.Net
Column Name:  The "shaker" hood scoop is Back!
Topic:  2003 Ford Mustang Mach I
Word Count:   936
Photo Caption:  2003 Ford Mustang Mach I
Photo Credits:  Ford Internet Media
Series #:   2003 - 19

Download the Microsoft Word version here:   2003 Ford Mustang Mach I

Download the original image file here:  2003 Ford Mustang Mach I 165k

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