The new model is the most track-ready Mustang every produced, but it is still suitable for daily driving.

COURTESY FORD MOTOR COMPANY - The 2021 Ford Mustang Mach 1 is styled to look like the 1969 original while allowing the owner to transform it from a daily driver to a serious race car with the flip or two of a switch. The new 2021 Ford Mustang Mach 1 replaces three different Mustangs discontinued this year. They include the Mustang GT with the Performance Package 2, the movie-inspired Bullitt version, and the Shelby GT350.

How can one Mustang replace all those models, you might ask. The answer is, by combining some of the best parts from most of the former models into a single package. The engineers did their homework, producing a track-ready version of the legendary Pony Car that can also be used as a daily driver. The Mach 1 more than lives up to the name of the original first introduced in 1969.

COURTESY FORD MOTOR COMPANY - Unique components on the 2021 Ford Mustang Mach 1 include the oversized exhaust that sounds as good as it looks.

For starters, the 5.0-liter V8 produces 480 horsepower, 20 more than the Mustang GT and the same as last year's Bullitt version, thanks to the intake manifold, throttle body and oil cooler from the GT350. Handling upgrades surpass the discontinued PP2 package by borrowing parts from the former GT350 and the continuing Shelby GT500, including a rear subframe with stiffer bushings and Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires. The Mach 1 also offers the Tremec 3160 six-speed manual transmission from the GT350 (although a 10-speed automatic is also available).

The result is far from a Frankencar, however. Special exterior trim, a unique Fighter Jet Gray paint job, and special decals make the Mach 1 look like an updated version of the original that continued, in one form or another (including a version of the Pinto-based Mustang II) through 2004. The interior also benefits from special trim and an adjustable digital dash that helps monitor all aspects of the car's operation.

COURTESY FORD MOTOR COMPANY - The retro styling of the 2021 Ford Mustang Mach 1 continues with the classic Pony Car interior, which can nevertheless be outfitted with just about every advanced automotive technology.

Surprisingly, given the power and Shelby-related upgrades, the Mach 1 is comfortable to drive on a daily basis. In Normal mode, the power was easy to control with the automatic transmission that came with our test car, while the ride was actually less harsh on bad pavement than some Mustang GTs we've tested in the past. Switching the mode to Sport+ increased throttle response and suspension stiffness as expected, but still not enough to make it unlivable for errands or commuting.

Stepping up to the next two modes made the Mach 1 harder to drive smoothly on city streets, however. As expected, the ride was much stiffer in the Track mode while the power came on much faster in the Drag Strip mode. When Ford says the Mach 1 is track ready, they mean it becomes track ready with the flip or two of a switch, while still being safe to drive to and from the track when the racing's over.

COURTESY FORD MOTOR COMPANY - The deep and well-bolstered front buck seats keep the driver and passenger in the 2021 Ford Mustang Mach 1 planted during hard driving.

Auto writers like to say this is Golden Age of Muscle Cars. By that they mean, even though the original American factory hot rods of the 1960s and early 1970s are the most collectible, the new ones are actually faster, handle better, and — thanks to advanced technologies — are much safer. Others include the performance versions of the Chevy Camaro, Dodge Challenger and Dodge Charger, the only sedan in the field.

It is not surprising that Ford is offering such a serious version of the Mustang. It is the name on the Fords being raced in Nascar and the basis of the Mustangs being raced in the Trans Am series, where it competes against modified Camaros and Challengers, just like the original Mach 1 did when it was first introduced.

COURTESY FORD MOTOR COMPANY - A comparision of the 2021 Ford Mustang Mach 1 and two originals.

Of course, the new versions are more expensive than the originals, but what isn't? And if it appeals to you, now is the time to act. The Mach 1 is already a limited-edition model. Increasing government emission standards could make it even harder to come by in future years.

Ford is smart enough to roll out an all-electric Mustang, which is actually a crossover with only a few styling cues from their current gas-powered model. It is an excellent all-electric vehicle, however, with a coming performance version that promises to give Tesla a run for its money. But if you enjoy the more visceral thrills of a vibrating V8, stiff suspension and roaring exhaust at speed, Ford will be glad to sell you a 2021 Mach 1.

COURTESY FORD MOTOR COMPANY - The classic Mach 1 logo beneath the rear spoiler on the 2021 version.

2021 Ford Mustang Mach 1

Base price: $51,720

MSRP as tested: $60,390

Type: Midsize coupe

Engine: 5.0-liter V8 (480 hp, 420 lbs-ft)

Transmission: 10-speed automatic

Modes; Normal, Snow/Wet, Sport+, Track, Drag Strip

EPA estimated mileage: 25/28

Overall length: 188.5 inches

Curb weight: 3,844 pounds

Final assembly: Flat Rock, Michigan

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