One of the more awesome Ford projects of the ’60s never made it to the production line, but that doesn’t prevent us from drooling over it today. Here’s the story of the Mach 2, the Mustang-based mid-engine GT.
You could say that Ford’s Total Performance program of the 1960s was an embarrassment of riches. For car enthusiasts, there was almost too much to take in, with multiple campaigns in drag racing, NASCAR, Formula 1, and Indy cars, not to mention the Cobra and the Ford GT. With so much going on, a few of the Dearborn automaker’s projects have nearly have slipped into obscurity. Take for example the 1967 Ford Mach 2, a fascinating mid-engine, two-seat GT that was actually based on a production Mustang floor pan.
Fortunately, our good friend Charlie Henry, a former employee of Kar-Kraft, Ford’s private performance skunk works, has chronicled the Mach 2 project in his recent book, Kar Kraft: Race Cars, Prototypes, and Muscle Cars of Ford’s Specialty Vehicle Activity Program (which we highly recommend—read our review here). Relying in part on Charlie’s detailed research and personal observations, here’s the Mach 2 story.
Designed by the crack Ford studio team headed by styling vice-president Gene Bordinat, the Mach 2’s exterior sheet metal was thematically similar to a number of Ford projects. Simulated air intakes in the rear deck give away the engine location, and you can see bits and pieces of the Bordinat Cobra, the Cougar II, and even the production Ford Mustang. Look closely: That’s a ’65 Mustang rear bumper beautifully integrated into the Mach 2’s Kamm-effect tail.
As difficult as it is to imagine, the Mach 2 was a Mustang underneath, too. Ford based the mid-engine, V8-powered GT on a production Mustang floor pan—a ’67 convertible, to be exact, which was selected for its reinforced rocker sills. Engineering and construction was handled by Kar-Kraft, Ford’s performance contractor, where the staff installed a small-block Windsor V8 and a German ZF four-speed transaxle in the rear of the chassis. (A Bud Moore-prepped 302 was installed at one point, according to some sources.) Front suspension was production Mustang, too, to keep the production costs low, with disc brakes at the front and Galaxie drums at the rear. Curb weight was said to be just 2644 lbs.
Two complete examples of the Mach 2 were constructed: a seldom-seen development mule in plain white paint, and a fully detailed version in red lacquer that debuted at the Chicago Auto Show in March of 1967. The red Mach 2 (also named the Mach II with Roman numerals in some Ford literature) was fully functional and roadworthy. Selected members of the press were allowed to drive it at Ford’s Dearborn Proving Grounds, and it can also be seen as part of the convoy in the amazing home movie filmed by Kar-Kraft employee Larry Lawrence in the summer of 1969—you can view the video here.
Unfortunately, we know how this turns out. The Mach 2 program, as delectable as it was, was not approved for production and both prototypes were reportedly destroyed. (The expensive and fussy ZF gearbox was said to be one major objection.) The story doesn’t end quite there, however. When Semon “Bunkie” Knudsen became president of Ford in 1968, he brought with him Larry Shinoda, his favorite GM stylist. Shinoda revamped the Mach 2 concept with longer, sleeker bodywork (below) and space for a 429 CID big-block V8. However, this vehicle, known as the Mach 2C, never made it past the studio glider stage. The DeTomaso Pantera was already in the pipeline by then, and there was no need for a second mid-engine, low-volume sports car in the Ford family of cars.