Used 2003 Ford Mustang Mach 1 Premuim
- Available V8 power, variety of trim levels, healthy dose of American attitude.
- Archaic structure, aged design.
Ford Mustang years
Used 2003 Ford Mustang Mach 1 Premuim for Sale
Edmunds' Expert Review
Fittingly, the Ford Mustang is the last surviving member of the "pony car" breed. For 2003, it's never been better.
The Ford Mustang debuted in April of 1964 as either a coupe or convertible with six or eight cylinders under the hood, and became a national sensation. Ford sold hundreds of thousands of Mustangs, convincing General Motors and Chrysler Corporation to release their own variations on the theme. By the late 1960s, the Mustang competed against the AMC Javelin, Chevrolet Camaro, Dodge Challenger, Plymouth Barracuda and Pontiac Firebird. But, like Elvis Presley, the Mustang had evolved from a lightweight and simple sporty car into an overweight and flashy muscle car. By the time the oil crisis of 1973 hit, the Mustang had lost its edge in terms of performance and appeal. Reborn for 1974, the Mustang II rode on a Pinto platform to save development costs and improve fuel economy. Emissions regulations had stifled performance, and the convertible model had disappeared from the lineup. The mid-1970s represented a dismal time for the American automobile industry, and the emasculation of the Ford Mustang is perhaps the greatest example of what went wrong in the middle of this decade. Not surprisingly, sales reached an all-time low during this period of time. Still, Ford wasn't ready to give up on the Mustang. In 1979, it was completely redesigned. There was even a performance model with a turbocharged 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine, and a stripes-and-decals Cobra version. The new Mustang proved popular, and by 1982, Ford had endowed it with a relatively strong (for the time) V8 engine and the GT designation that continues today. General Motors released a sexy new Camaro and Firebird duo in '82, so Ford countered by continually updating the Mustang GT and engineering a special turbocharged performance model called the SVO. In the late 1980s, Mustang enthusiasts heard that Ford planned to replace the rear-drive model with a front-drive car based on a Mazda. Recoiling in revulsion, these purists bombarded Ford with hate mail, effectively convincing corporate brass to keep the all-American Mustang as it was and release the new vehicle under development as the Probe. This delay meant Ford needed to market the existing and aged Mustang beyond its expiration date until a suitable replacement could be styled and engineered. To retain buyer interest, Ford kept boosting power and improving the Mustang in subtle but effective ways. The new car arrived in 1994 wearing retro styling cues such as tri-bar taillights and a side scoop. Inside, a dual-cowl dashboard provided plenty of pizzazz. A coupe and convertible were available, with either a V6 or V8 engine. A Cobra model with added horsepower and special performance upgrades paced the Indianapolis 500 that year. In 1999, the Mustang was updated with boxy new styling and more power. The Cobra was said to make more horsepower than it actually did, which made buyers who wanted tire-smoking launches more than a bit upset. The 2003 Ford Mustang appeals to those who love the burble of a V8, the handling of rear-wheel drive and the appeal of a legendary car with long and storied history.
Trim levels & features
Two body styles and four trim levels are available for the 2003 Ford Mustang. Base models have a V6 engine. GT, Mach 1 and Cobra get a V8. Coupes are available in each trim, while the convertible is limited to the Base, GT and Cobra. The Mach 1 and Cobra contain plenty of special equipment to justify their higher prices. The limited-production Mach 1 includes a massaged V8 engine making at least 300 horsepower, a functional shaker hood with ram-air scoop, special interior detailing, unique alloy wheels and exterior trim and a lowered, retuned sport suspension. Upgraded brakes with ABS and traction control come standard. Substantially updated for 2003 is the SVT Cobra, which makes 390 horsepower and 390 pound-feet of torque thanks to the addition of a supercharger. A new six-speed manual transmission is standard. Larger wheels and tires, stiffer springs and a tubular cross brace are included. Functional hood vents are added, and minor styling modifications distinguish the 2003 model from previous versions. Cobra convertibles have a cloth top, while both cars get new seats with upgraded leather and suede upholstery.
Performance & mpg
Standard on the base Mustang is a 190-horsepower 3.8-liter V6. Step up to the GT and you'll get a 260-horsepower 4.6-liter V8. The Mach 1 will make at least 300 horsepower and 300 pound-feet of torque when it debuts. Cobra models have a new supercharger and produce an astounding 390 horsepower and 390 pound-feet of torque. Base, GT and Mach 1 models are available with either a five-speed manual or a four-speed automatic transmission. The Cobra comes with a six-speed manual gearbox.
Dual front airbags are standard. GT, Mach 1 and Cobra models come with antilock brakes and traction control. The 2003 Ford Mustang coupe received five-star crash test scores for the driver and passenger. Side-impact testing resulted in three-star scores for both front- and rear-seat occupants (convertibles received a two-star rating for front-seat occupants in the side-impact test). The Mustang has not been subjected to an offset crash test.
Mustangs are crude by modern standards, but continual updating, low prices and a brash character keep the Base and GT models competitive with the more refined sport coupes on the market. The Mach 1 and Cobra carry higher price tags, but offer far more performance and cache due to their stout powertrains and low-volume production. The Cobra is the most sophisticated Mustang, the only one in the lineup with an independent rear suspension. The Mach 1 is a terrific blend of power and handling, while the GT is a great daily driver that allows for tail-out thrills on command. Even budget-minded shoppers will find fun and value in the V6 models.
The retro-style dual-cowl dashboard has aged well since 1994. Instrumentation is simple and straightforward, if sometimes hard to locate and reach. Of particular interest is the old-fashioned pull-out headlight switch mounted to the lower left side of the dash. Seats in the Base and GT models are flat and featureless; the Mach 1 and Cobra versions get seats with stiffer bolsters and greater adjustability.
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Features & Specs
More About This Model
It's been 33 years since the original Mach 1 Mustang hit the streets, but ask anyone who's ever seen one and they'll describe it as if it were sitting right in front of them. With its menacing shaker hood scoop (named so because it was mounted on the engine and therefore "shook" when the throttle was blipped), flat black body trim and optional 428 Cobra Jet V8, the original '69 Mach 1 was certainly a sight to behold and a competitor to be feared. Among the various Mustangs produced during the muscle car era of the late '60s and early '70s, the Mach 1 stood out from the rest -- and still does to this day.
For 2003, the Mach 1 is back again, this time as part of Ford's "Living Legends" lineup. The idea is simple: take some of the most memorable Ford vehicles of the past and recreate them for modern-day consumption. Maintain the style and performance that made each particular model a legend, but do it in a way that not only pays homage to the original but improves upon it as well.
Never having piloted an original Mach 1, our impressions of the new model don't have the added insight of direct comparison, but like most attempts to recreate the past, the modern version is probably dead-on in numerous ways and not even close in others. One look and it's obvious that there wasn't much stylistic license used when it came to the exterior. It's got the shaker hood scoop, the air dam and the black rear deck spoiler just like the original. The extended rocker panels are there, too, along with side scoops and all-new 17-inch wheels similar in style to the original mags used in '69. It doesn't have the awe-inspiring presence of the original but the modern demands of aerodynamics and fuel efficiency don't always allow for the proportions and size that made yesterday's street machines so visually dynamic.
The all-new engine could be accused of the same lack of character if it weren't for the fact that it generates nearly as much horsepower as the top-shelf 428 did in its day. The ultramodern dual-overhead cam V8 extracts a very respectable 305 horsepower and 320 pound-feet of torque from its comparatively small 281 cubic inches of displacement. Combine that with significantly better mileage and less maintenance and air conditioning and...well, you get the picture.
Credit for the extra 45 horsepower over the standard 4.6 can be attributed to high-flow four-valve heads, higher compression (10.1:1), specially calibrated camshafts and port-matched exhaust manifolds. A specially tuned stainless steel exhaust system finished off with chrome tips completes the upgrades. It sounds burly enough to wear "Mach 1" badges, but we would venture to guess that the original still holds a slight advantage in this area.
Anyone who's acclimated to the standard 4.6 in the GT will notice the Mach 1's extra juice immediately. Unlike the revisions in the Bullitt Mustang that resulted in barely discernable differences in power, the Mach's substantial improvements return results you can feel. The Mach 1 is also aided by a shorter 3.55:1 final drive ratio, so sub-14 second quarter-mile times shouldn't be much of a problem. The Mach uses the same five-speed manual transmission found in the Bullitt, although a standard four-speed automatic is offered as well.
Suspension upgrades for the live axle Mach are nearly identical to those used on the Bullitt. Higher-rate front and rear springs lower the car half an inch, while specially tuned Tokico gas-pressurized shocks provide the dampening. The front stabilizer bar is carried over from the GT (23mm) while the rear gets a solid 23mm bar in place of GT's hollow unit. The Mach 1 also uses the same brake system upgrades as the Bullitt with 13-inch Brembo rotors and calipers (painted black) up front and slightly larger rear rotors (11.6 inches) as well.
Not surprisingly, the Mach 1 performs much like the Bullitt, with a tighter, more stable feel in the corners and a slightly stiffer ride everywhere else. The beefier brakes are a welcomed improvement, but they're still not powerful enough for serious track duty as they faded considerably after repeated hot laps. Those gathered for our media preview drive recalled that the Bullitt seemed to feel more balanced on the track, but the Mach definitely has an edge when it comes to usable power.
Although we spent most of our time behind the wheel staring at the rumbling hood scoop, we did manage to take in some of the Mach 1's throwback styling cues. The black leather "comfortweave" seats look like respectable reproductions of the original trim (albeit with considerably more lateral support), while the retro gauges make for a clean-looking instrument cluster. An optional interior trim package includes gray accents for the instrument panel, center stack and shift bezel in addition to aluminum pedals and an aluminum shift ball and boot ring. The extra dose of shimmering trim brightens up the otherwise unremarkable interior, so if you're planning on buying one don't forget to mark this $300 option.
With only 6,500 Mach 1s scheduled for production, they're likely to fly off the lots as fast as they tear down the drag strip. While the modern version isn't exactly the street king that the original version was, it still has more than enough guts under the hood to rattle a few nerves and put a smile on your face. But then again, like so many other recreations of late-'60s legends, the new Mach is missing that aura of originality that can't be added like an options package. For those who experienced it firsthand, it will never be the same, but for those who only had the chance to admire the original Mach 1 from the pages of a magazine or a dealer brochure, this all-new "living legend" is a dream come true.
Used 2003 Ford Mustang Mach 1 Premuim Overview
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Should I lease or buy a 2003 Ford Mustang?
Is it better to lease or buy a car? Ask most people and they'll probably tell you that car buying is the way to go. And from a financial perspective, it's true, provided you're willing to make higher monthly payments, pay off the loan in full and keep the car for a few years. Leasing, on the other hand, can be a less expensive option on a month-to-month basis. It's also good if you're someone who likes to drive a new car every three years or so.