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The 2021 Ford Mustang Mach 1.Courtesy of manufacturer

It’s back.

What’s back?

For the fans, it needs no introduction. To the outside world, this special edition Ford Mustang looks like any other Mustang, but to those diehards and aficionados, the Mach 1 is a one-way express ticket to life, liberty and the pursuit of unadulterated speed.

Ford revives the Mach 1 moniker every so often for special editions, just as it has done with other fondly-remembered labels from Mustang history such as Bullitt, Boss and Shelby.

Despite what it looks like, the Mach 1 isn’t just about capturing baby-boomer nostalgia for the cars of their youth. If it were only about that, the current Mustang Bullitt – an homage to the 1968 Steven McQueen movie Bullitt – would suffice. Ford wants more.

Ford hopes the new performance-oriented Mach 1 can bring in new buyers.Courtesy of manufacturer

First, Ford wants to win new buyers, which it hopes the more performance-oriented Mach 1 will do. Ford’s internal sales data shows that racetrack-focused special editions like the Boss 302 and Shelby GT350 have successfully wooed customers out of other sports cars and into Mustangs, said Jim Owen, consumer marketing manager for the Mustang.

Second, the timing of the Mach 1’s latest reincarnation conveniently coincides with the arrival of the Mustang Mach-E, Ford’s all-electric SUV, which is due out later this year. The company is trying to strengthen the link between its famous muscle car and its new electric SUV, which share little apart from a name.

The new Mach 1 fits into the Mustang hierarchy just below the high-performance, high-priced Shelby models. It’s made up primarily of components pilfered from those Shelby cars, including the GT350’s intake manifold and the GT500’s rear-axle cooling system and lower diffuser. The Mach 1 shares the Bullitt’s 5.0-litre naturally-aspirated V-8, which makes 480 horsepower and 420 lb.-ft. of torque. The motor is paired with two new gearboxes: a Tremec six-speed manual or a 10-speed automatic. The chassis features new and stiffer suspension components in order to cope with a day at the local racetrack.

The Mach 1 gets its own unique set of stripes.Courtesy of manufacturer

Crucially, the Mach 1 also has new set of stripes, which Ford points out are actually reflective stripes overlaid onto other stripes. With all those speed stripes, you would expect this machine to burn some serious rubber. The company did not, however, provide performance figures.

For those that weren’t around for the 1969 Mustang Mach 1, some context is necessary. America was about to land on the moon. The rivalry between the Mustang and Chevy Camaro was at its hottest. Gas was cheap. And Ford Aerospace, the company’s defence division, was doing a roaring trade making Sidewinder air-to-air missile parts for the U.S. military.

The Mach 1 capitalized on all the excitement around speed and aviation by – well, Ford basically stuffed some bigger engines and racier suspension into the fastback Mustang and called it the Mach 1. Credit where credit is due: it’s a great name.

The Mach 1 heritage dates back to 1969.Courtesy of manufacturer

In 1971, the second-generation Mach 1 had a memorable role in the James Bond flick Diamonds Are Forever. Sean Connery led police officers on a car chase through Las Vegas that ends when the massive Mach 1 tips sideways and squeezes through an alley on two wheels.

Not ringing any bells? Then perhaps you’ll remember the vintage Mustang Mach 1/Boss 429 mash-up from the recent John Wick movies. It was driven by the titular hitman, played by Keanu Reeves. (If there was any doubt as to the level of nostalgia for old Mustangs, consider the fact that an American company – Classic Recreations – is selling replicas of John Wick’s car for prices starting at US$184,900.)

The new Mach 1 simultaneously harks back to all that history while looking forward to the brand’s electric future and to bringing new customers into the Mustang fold. Other than Porsche, no car company is as adept as Ford at capitalizing on its past models for current sales.

The interior of the 2021 Mustang Mach 1, expected to arrive in dealerships next year.Courtesy of manufacturer

The 2021 Mustang Mach 1 should provide a good blend of track performance and daily usability – not to mention a heavy dose of nostalgia – for those whose budgets can’t stretch to the $76,000 Shelby GT350.

Ford has yet to announce a price, only saying the Mach 1 will arrive at dealerships in the spring of 2021.

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