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APR 15, 2021 | By Charlie Henry

The Story Behind Ford's Stillborn Mustang Mach 2 ‘Road Sports Car’

Black and White Photo of Mach 2 on Track

On March 22, 1966, Ford’s Advanced Concepts Department received a request to “execute design-engineering studies on a Ford-Cobra-style vehicle.” This was the official beginning of what would become the Mach 2 program. An undated Ford document, titled Vehicle Engineering Department Summary of Activity in Past Years, identified three separate segments of the Mach 2 Road Sports Car in a “Mach X Vehicles” category.  These were, simply, Mach 2A, B and C.

The first product of the Mach 2A segment was a non-running chassis to validate the concept. That was followed by two complete, running prototypes. One of them, painted red, was built to production standards and loaned to the media for road testing. The other was a white race-only version that saw strenuous track testing. All three were designed in-house, but engineered and built by Kar-Kraft, a Ford contractor in Brighton, Michigan.

According to Don Eichstaedt, a Kar-Kraft engineer on the project, the Mach 2 was to be a stand-alone mid-engine sports car. It was also to be a test bed for new designs, concepts and engineering techniques. The car was not intended to be a mid-engine Mustang. It just happened to be prototyped on a Mustang chassis. Roy Lunn, godfather of the Ford GT-40 program and the Ford engineer in charge of the Mach 2 program, predicted the production car would be “a fine high-quality road vehicle.”From any angle, the Mach 2 was a clean, sporty design. Its light weight and 289 V-8 engine would give it great performance. Beauty shots like this showed there were serious thoughts about production.From any angle, the Mach 2 was a clean, sporty design. Its light weight and 289 V-8 engine would give it great performance. Beauty shots like this showed there were serious thoughts about production.

The Advanced Concepts Department responded to the March request on April 29, 1966, with a report titled Road Sports Car Studies. The report summarized the request and outlined the department’s initial study results. The request source is not identified, but program insiders say it most likely was Don Frey, Ford Division’s General Manager. The writer of the April report is not identified either, but it may have been Roy Lunn, as most documents found were signed by him.

According to the request, Advanced Concepts was to explore the affordable high-performance two-seat sports car market, specifically targeting the Chevrolet Corvette. The new car was not intended to compete with the high-end Ford GT-40. The request also contained a brief mention of creating a Ford product for Shelby American. Later documents suggest that Ford would provide partially assembled bare chassis and loose parts for Shelby to complete, or supply all components, including sheet metal, broken down for Shelby to build from scratch. This never happened.

The request specified that the car have a mid-ship engine, meet all emission and safety standards and accommodate a full range of accessories. A coupe body would be standard, with a roadster-type configuration optional. It had to retail for not more than $7,500. After an initial run of 500 units, production would climb to between 1,000 and 1,500 units per year. Production tooling costs were initially capped at $250,000. The request identified 1968 as the possible start of production.

The most intriguing specification in the request stated that the car be legal for, “and be a potential winner in,” SCCA A-Production and FIA Group III GT categories. The first production run would use the 289 V-8 engine backed by a ZF 5-speed transaxle. The weight of the street car was estimated at 2,650 pounds. The race version would weigh 2,400 pounds. It was also estimated that the race version would be competitive with the 427 Corvette, under “normal conditions,” probably meaning prepared by amateur racers. This estimation may have been based on Ford’s new 351 engine, as expecting a small-block 289 to run with big-block Corvettes was a stretch. “Specially prepared” Corvettes, purpose-built by professional racers for maximum power and minimum weight, were deemed to be superior and would have to be countered by equally prepared “Cobra-Mustangs.” A later series Mach 2, with the big-block 427 engine and a Ford transaxle, was mentioned as a consideration. It was only logical that the 427 would be a more realistic contender in A-Production and Group III.

Initial study results in the April report recommended using standard model-line components to meet the price, tooling, volume and timing objectives of the study request. Lower costs could be realized through the use of fiberglass or single-die metal-forming techniques. The objectives could also be met by using the underbody, front suspension and steering of the current Mustang.This is from an internal report.  Such reports were used to update the status of projects and, possibly, to ‘sell’ a project to management. In this case it appears to be summarizing the early Mach 2 program and promoting a second-generation Mach 2 proposal. Lee Dykstra, one of Kar-Kraft’s chassis engineers, is driving the red prototype on the banked high-speed section of the Dearborn Proving Grounds.

This is from an internal report.  Such reports were used to update the status of projects and, possibly, to ‘sell’ a project to management. In this case it appears to be summarizing the early Mach 2 program and promoting a second-generation Mach 2 proposal. Lee Dykstra, one of Kar-Kraft’s chassis engineers, is driving the red prototype on the banked high-speed section of the Dearborn Proving Grounds.

The Mustang platform would result in a Mach 2 body height of 47 inches and a wheelbase of 108 inches with the 289 engine. Fixed seats and adjustable pedals were recommended to cut weight and simplify body packaging. The mid-ship engine dictated a forward luggage compartment, with the spare tire and gas tank in the rear. The body would be made of fiberglass, keeping the stock front and rear bumpers. The report mentioned, almost as an afterthought, the possibility of an alternate unique underbody. Considering the budget limitations, an easily modified existing chassis made more sense than a scratch-built “unique” chassis.

On September 1, 1966, the Advanced Concepts Department published a Road Sports Car Program Status Report. Again, neither the writer nor recipient were identified on this report itself but it repeated much of the April report, summarized progress and added new information. It noted that a complete underbody with mechanical components had been constructed. The report went on to say that the mocked-up underbody, along with a provisional clay body model, was revealed to management on May 2. The response to the showing deemed the program had considerable merit.  Unfortunately, no mention of “management” names has been found.

The September report followed up on the April mention of possibly creating a 427 version of the mid-ship car. It predicted that two to three inches would have to be added between the driver and rear axle to accommodate the bigger engine. It was believed that increase could be achieved by using a Cougar underbody. However, the report pointed out that a transaxle capable of handling the 427’s power was not available, and could not be produced at an “economically sensible cost” at that time. The report proposed the upcoming 351, with an upgraded ZF transaxle, in its stead.  The 289 in the 1968 production run would be replaced in 1969 by the 351.

The report also revealed that the styling studio had shown a full-sized clay body model to management on July 25. Modifications were suggested at that time, and had been incorporated. Styling was also providing services in layouts, interior and seating mock-ups and other aspects pertaining to the chassis. These services included the all-important drawings of how the Mustang chassis was to be modified to fit the proposed body.  Production components for the chassis and engine were critical to simplify fabrication and keep costs down. Fuel systems, wiring and other peripherals were unnecessary for a mock-up and too expensive to fabricate, so the first chassis would not be a running sample.

Since the 1967-70 model year Mustang platform was not yet available, a 1966 Mustang would be pulled off the assembly line for the program. It would be the foundation of the first chassis, which was needed to develop and prove the feasibility of the engine driveline placement within the body. A convertible Mustang platform was selected for its extra body-stiffening reinforcements and side sills, which were stronger than those of the hardtop cars. For clarity here, this first chassis will be referred to as the “feasibility car.” Once the 1967 Mustangs were in production, work and components would be shifted to that platform.The date of this photo, May 2, 1966, corresponds with the management reveal of the mock-up. It shows how quickly the studio and Kar-Kraft responded to the March 22 request. The 1966 Mustang is recognizable by the front suspension, lower frame rails, front crossmember, rocker panel and rear fender. The bumpers are stock and in their stock Mustang locations. The cut-down, sloping profile of the aprons, from the spring to the radiator support, is obvious. Sheet-metal duct work reinforces the aprons and directs air to the repositioned radiator.

The date of this photo, May 2, 1966, corresponds with the management reveal of the mock-up. It shows how quickly the studio and Kar-Kraft responded to the March 22 request. The 1966 Mustang is recognizable by the front suspension, lower frame rails, front crossmember, rocker panel and rear fender. The bumpers are stock and in their stock Mustang locations. The cut-down, sloping profile of the aprons, from the spring to the radiator support, is obvious. Sheet-metal duct work reinforces the aprons and directs air to the repositioned radiator.

To this point in the project, no mention of Mach 2 or Mustang as a name has been made. Available documents refer only to the Road Sports Car.  The Mach 2 (or, alternately, Mach II) designation appears sometime between January 20 and June 30 of 1967. The 2A designation came even later. Who came up with the name is uncertain. Gene Bordinat, Ford’s Vice President and Director of Styling, created the original rendering of the car and could have named it then. Since the project was now in one of the Design Center’s styling studios, the name could also have originated there.

Rumors have circulated saying the project was developed secretly in a hidden studio in the basement of the Design Center. In light of the documents, and photographs in an open studio, it’s clear the program was hardly secret and management was certainly not kept in the dark. Jerry Morrison was the studio lead on the Mach 2A. Bud Magaldi, a few other designers and a studio engineer named Bob Huzzard did the bulk of the body design work on the feasibility car. Magaldi went on to create the Shelby Cobra body illustrations, and also designed the stillborn Mustang station wagon proposal. Magaldi, a designer trainee at the time, recalls the usual steps for such a project began with concept art -- in this case, Bordinat’s work. Sketches based on the art were made, then came discussions on how the prototype might be built. Full-size drawings and a clay model came next. Lofting drawings -- which showed body shape, curves and dimensions -- followed. When everything was settled, fiberglass panels were made from the clay.The engine and transaxle fit nicely in the former trunk, with room for a spare tire. The crossmember, with the top of the shock absorber showing, was an off-the-shelf piece from an unknown vehicle. It required only slight modifications. A half-shaft U-joint is just visible. Note the tidy sheet-metal work in the quarter panels and the integral roll bar/window frame.The engine and transaxle fit nicely in the former trunk, with room for a spare tire. The crossmember, with the top of the shock absorber showing, was an off-the-shelf piece from an unknown vehicle. It required only slight modifications. A half-shaft U-joint is just visible. Note the tidy sheet-metal work in the quarter panels and the integral roll bar/window frame.

Fiberglass body shells were usually mounted on rectangular studio frames made of square tubing. The simple flat frames, similar to the lumber carts at home-supply stores, supported and stabilized the body shells, and casters enabled moving them around the studio. The frames were somewhat universal and could serve multiple projects. These frames may have given rise to erroneous reports that the Mach 2 cars had square-tube frames. In reality, neither the 1966 feasibility chassis nor the 1967 Mach 2 prototypes had square-tube frames.

The studio did not have the capability of constructing the underbody, so that work was farmed out to Kar-Kraft. How Kar-Kraft actually became involved in the program is not exactly clear. Roy Lunn was the Ford executive responsible for Kar-Kraft, which was a privately held engineering company contracted exclusively to Ford (but it was not owned by Ford). Some speculations have Lunn in on the program from its inception; another says he found out about the project and then promoted Kar-Kraft as the builder of the car. Since Kar-Kraft had a broad contract with Ford, the most likely scenario has the studio approaching Lunn with a work order for Kar-Kraft to engineer and build a chassis.The body in the far background, with the blacked-out hood, is believed to be an early clay model of the Mach 2. This belief is supported by the side scoop barely visible in front of the rear-wheel opening. The modified front apron and stock rear fender of the feasibility car are well defined. The body behind the chassis is the fiberglass shell for the finished prototype car. That body was never installed on the feasibility chassis.The body in the far background, with the blacked-out hood, is believed to be an early clay model of the Mach 2. This belief is supported by the side scoop barely visible in front of the rear-wheel opening. The modified front apron and stock rear fender of the feasibility car are well defined. The body behind the chassis is the fiberglass shell for the finished prototype car. That body was never installed on the feasibility chassis.

When the Mach 2 drawings arrived at Kar-Kraft, Lunn gave the project to Ed Hull, an engineer extraordinaire who was a Ford employee assigned to Kar-Kraft. It was said that Gwen, Roy Lunn’s secretary, “knew everyone and could do anything.”  She got the ball rolling by arranging for the Ford Rouge Plant to provide a bare metal -- or body-in-white -- convertible body shell for the program. Larry Elliott, one of the top fabricators at Kar-Kraft, picked up the body from Ford and brought it back to Kar-Kraft’s Haggerty Street shop in Brighton. He recalls that the line foreman was not very happy about his assembly line routine being interrupted. Elliott painted the body light blue and set it up on a steel surface plate. This was to become the feasibility car.Here’s the light-blue 1966 feasibility chassis parked beside the Kar-Kraft shop. The stock appearance and the height of the apron at the spring tower can be seen. The Mustang windshield frame has been removed. A windshield frame was fabricated out of small-diameter tubing to represent the Design Center’s laid-back design.

Here’s the light-blue 1966 feasibility chassis parked beside the Kar-Kraft shop. The stock appearance and the height of the apron at the spring tower can be seen. The Mustang windshield frame has been removed. A windshield frame was fabricated out of small-diameter tubing to represent the Design Center’s laid-back design.

Hull started work on the feasibility car by having the trunk floor of the body cut out. He came up with a clever design for a cradle that located the 289 engine, Colotti transaxle (not a ZF, as mentioned in earlier reports) and independent rear suspension in the cutout. The whole package fit like the car had been designed that way in the first place. The cradle for the driveline was fabricated from round tubing, but did not constitute a full frame. The new rear suspension shortened the wheelbase almost an inch. The floor pan was not shortened, but the overall body length came down eight inches. The independent rear suspension design came from Klaus Arning, Ford’s brilliant suspension guru. Arning had patented the design, which was first used on the Mustang I concept car. Bob Riley provided engineering drawings to adapt the suspension to the cradle and body and Larry Elliott performed the fabrication.

Hull’s design allowed easy access to the driveline and suspension. By removing the crossmember and two bolts, the engine and transaxle dropped out through the bottom as a unit, leaving the suspension in place. Note how the round tubing cradles the transaxle. This is the white race development car, but its design was basically the same as that of the feasibility car. By the looks of the components, the car had seen some serious miles on the track.Hull’s design allowed easy access to the driveline and suspension. By removing the crossmember and two bolts, the engine and transaxle dropped out through the bottom as a unit, leaving the suspension in place. Note how the round tubing cradles the transaxle. This is the white race development car, but its design was basically the same as that of the feasibility car. By the looks of the components, the car had seen some serious miles on the track.

The low, sloping design of the Mach 2 body’s hood and front fenders required modifying the vertical side panels, or aprons, of the engine compartment. This was done by taking out wedge-shaped sections from the top of the aprons. The cuts began just in front of the spring towers and ran forward to the radiator support. The horizontal top apron flanges, to which the fenders bolted, were then carefully bent down and welded to the reshaped apron. The aprons were also slightly tapered in at the front and the radiator support was cut down to match the new apron contour. The body design also required lowering the radiator and tipping it forward. Elliott did the apron work and fabricated ducting to pick up radiator air from beneath the bumper.
When the 1967 Mustang platform became available, work started on what would be the red and white Mach 2A prototype vehicles. Ed Hull once again drew up plans based on Design Center drawings. The engine cradle, rear suspension and engine were taken from the feasibility car, but the Colotti transaxle was replaced by a ZF unit. Don Eichstaedt was tasked with reworking the front of the chassis to better fit the Design Center’s body.  This time, most of the front apron sheet metal was cut out to better accommodate the drooped front nose of the Mach 2 body.

Since the running prototype was to represent a possible production car, the new front end had to allow for storage space. One criterion for that space was the ability to stow a golf bag. Eichstaedt designed a new front structure to not only house a golf bag, but also a radiator while supporting the body and anchoring the suspension. Koni adjustable shock absorbers and revised lower control arms were installed. Otherwise, the spring-tower height, suspension and steering remained stock.Eichstaedt’s redesign of the chassis front was supposed to make room for a golf bag. By the looks of the finished body, it seems one would be hard pressed to fit in much more than a change of clothes, a pair of shoes and a box of golf balls.Eichstaedt’s redesign of the chassis front was supposed to make room for a golf bag. By the looks of the finished body, it seems one would be hard pressed to fit in much more than a change of clothes, a pair of shoes and a box of golf balls.

When the chassis and full fiberglass body for the red prototype were finally ready for one another, the chassis was again set up on a surface plate.  The body was unstressed, meaning it rode on the chassis and did not contribute to the structural strength of the vehicle. A 3M brushable adhesive was applied to the body and chassis, and the two pieces were mated. The adhesive was supposed to set overnight, but for some reason it did not.  By morning, the team noticed that the adhesive had oozed out and dripped onto the surface plate. Although 3M was quite apologetic and rushed to put things right, the issue supposedly caused the car to miss an unspecified show.Here’s the white race development mule with its lightweight fiberglass body. The exhaust headers exit the cut-out rear panel and the bumpers have been removed. The car was test driven by Lee Dykstra and Allan Moffat.Here’s the white race development mule with its lightweight fiberglass body. The exhaust headers exit the cut-out rear panel and the bumpers have been removed. The car was test driven by Lee Dykstra and Allan Moffat.

The second Mach 2 prototype car that was developed, finished in white, was built as a development mule for racing. An October 2, 1967, Advanced Concepts Department document states, “The Mach 2 is likely to be classified as class A-Production, together with the 427 Corvette and the 427 Cobra.” The Mach 2 engine for the program is not identified, but the 351 was the most likely candidate. The document goes on to predict that the Mach 2 would be superior to the 427 Corvette in competition, based on the simple premise that the Mach 2’s performance would fall between a GT-40 and 427 Cobra, both of which outperformed the big Corvette. Like any race car, the Mach 2A race mule was stripped of all non-essential items and prepped for competition. It received a lightweight version of the Mach 2 body. Chassis modifications, settings and race components were to be developed with this car. The 351 production engine was not available at this time, so the current 289 was used. Whether the engine was modified beyond race headers is not known.

Lee Dykstra, another Kar-Kraft engineer who worked on the Mach 2, did dynamic testing of the race car at the Dearborn Proving Grounds. He drove the car into the first turn at speed, and the chassis naturally started to flex (roll angle or twist). Dykstra was then startled by a very loud bang in the passenger compartment. It turned out that when the chassis twisted, it distorted the body, and that caused the thin roof panel over the passenger compartment to buckle and make the popping noise.This is the Mach 2 on Ford’s Dearborn Proving Grounds. The red car handled well, but still experienced some body roll, as seen here. Due to lower speeds, this roll is not as severe as that experienced during high-speed testing of the white race car.This is the Mach 2 on Ford’s Dearborn Proving Grounds. The red car handled well, but still experienced some body roll, as seen here. Due to lower speeds, this roll is not as severe as that experienced during high-speed testing of the white race car.

Ford’s Experimental Garage, often referred to as the “X Garage,” was contacted to arrange a test of the chassis. The engineers there set the car up on the torsional stiffness rack to see how it performed. As Dykstra put it, the twisting of the cut down mid-engine Mustang chassis was “horrible.”  Cars of that time measured around 10,000 ft-lbs/degree of twisting force on the rack, but the Mach 2 prototype didn’t even come close. The X Garage engineers recommended areas where additional reinforcements could be added to the chassis. It turns out that because the fiberglass body of the red road car was much thicker, it did not suffer from the same distortion issue.These are the two Mach 2 prototypes in the Kar-Kraft shop. They could be in-between engineering or publicity assignments or awaiting disposition.  The car on the right is Fords G7A Can Am car.These are the two Mach 2 prototypes in the Kar-Kraft shop. They could be in-between engineering or publicity assignments or awaiting disposition.  The car on the right is Fords G7A Can Am car.

The feasibility chassis and both prototype cars stayed at Kar-Kraft throughout the program – and even after it ended. According to a May 23, 1969, Engineering Vehicle Register, they were officially “in storage” at Kar-Kraft until they were scheduled to be crushed. The feasibility chassis and white car did meet that fate. However, the white one did not go peacefully: The gas tank was not fully drained, per crushing requirements, and as a result, the car exploded in the crusher’s jaws.

The remaining red road car is a bit of a mystery. Early on, Ford would call Kar Kraft to have it appear at media or other special automotive events and car shows. Even after its show career, Kar-Kraft continued to use it in parades and other activities, such as an engineering fair at Purdue University. It is not known whether the car was still at Kar-Kraft when the company closed in November of 1970, or if it had gone back to Ford sometime earlier. At any rate, it disappeared around that time.

As might be expected, rumors began circulating about the red Mach 2 Concept car. It went here . . . it went there . . . it was surreptitiously “appropriated” and never made it to the crusher. One story even has it in the hands of a foreign manufacturer. Another says a Ford employee bought the car’s remains from a Detroit wrecking yard that was sometimes used by auto manufacturers to dispose of scrap vehicles, and that it may still exist in a garage the Detroit area. However, no supportable or certain disposition has been discovered to date.The red Mach 2 Concept car (the color in this aged photo is distorted) is seen callously parked behind the Kar-Kraft shop with other cast aside projects – a Boss 302 Maverick prototype and a front clip from the G7-A Can Am car. The Maverick’s presence indicates the picture may have been taken some time in 1970, well past the Mach 2’s corporate usefulness. The car may have been waiting for its final disposition at this time.The red Mach 2 Concept car (the color in this aged photo is distorted) is seen callously parked behind the Kar-Kraft shop with other cast aside projects – a Boss 302 Maverick prototype and a front clip from the G7-A Can Am car. The Maverick’s presence indicates the picture may have been taken some time in 1970, well past the Mach 2’s corporate usefulness. The car may have been waiting for its final disposition at this time.

The second segment of the program , the Mach 2B, was an extensive study that came oh-so-close to production. The “Mach 2B” reference first appears in a Third Quarter Objectives Ford document. The project was now known as the Mustang Mach 2, and a full product proposal was in place by October of 1967. The Mach 2 seemed ready to go, but the initial proposal -- an extension of the Mach 2A work -- was rejected by Ford management. That’s likely because the 1967-69 Mustang chassis, upon which the Mach 2A was based, would be out of production before Mach 2B production could begin. Stockpiling a two-year supply of those chassis was out of the question, both logistically and financially. Additionally, the ZF transmission restricted engine size, and there was no provision in the program for an automatic transmission.
The Mach 2A concept was then “reconstituted” to use either the 1971 Mustang underbody or the 1970 Delta underbody. “Delta” was Ford’s internal code name for the Maverick. The Delta platform was chosen over the Mustang because it was believed the Delta chassis would be easier to modify and still accept the desired big-block engine. Development work on the Mustang-based 2A stopped, while new product plans were drawn up. This version of the Mach 2 was to compete with an upcoming Corvette, which Ford believed would have a mid-ship 427 engine installed by 1971 or 1972. Two clay models were revealed, one in October of 1967 and the other in November.This full-scale clay model is the first of two proposed next-generation Mach 2 styles on a clay modeling platform. Its Mach 2A heritage is apparent.  Note the ‘Mustang Mach 2’ placard on the bumper and the Mustang badge in the grille. The grille and headlight surrounds echo the 1967-68 production Mustangs. This version lost out due to undefined ‘manufacturing feasibility problems.This full-scale clay model is the first of two proposed next-generation Mach 2 styles on a clay modeling platform. Its Mach 2A heritage is apparent.  Note the ‘Mustang Mach 2’ placard on the bumper and the Mustang badge in the grille. The grille and headlight surrounds echo the 1967-68 production Mustangs. This version lost out due to undefined ‘manufacturing feasibility problems.’

On October 10, 1967, Roy Lunn sent a letter to George MacFarlane, Sales and Engineering Manager of A.O. Smith Corporation in Ionia, Michigan, which had been selected to manufacture the Mach 2 fiberglass body and assemble the car. The letter asked MacFarlane to prepare a financial proposal for building 11,000 or more Mach 2 cars over the 1969-1971 model years. MacFarlane quickly replied, committing his company to pitch in $2.8 million towards production tooling, dies and engineering. In an October 16 planning meeting, Lunn gave A.O. Smith the go-ahead to commence underbody production engineering.

Ford’s Product Financial Analysis Department projected, in a November 17, 1967 document, a retail price comparison of the Mach 2 against a new Chevy Corvette. The Mach 2 -- with the 351 4V engine, 5-speed manual, limited-slip differential, nylon tires, air conditioning, AM/FM radio and mag-type wheels -- would sell for $4,300. A 1968 Corvette, similarly equipped, listed for $4,160. Another analysis projected that the Mustang Mach 2 could turn a profit of $3.9 million.

At the same time, work on the mechanical components continued. The 1969 Mustang instrument cluster was originally planned for the Mach 2B.  However, in this application it restricted vision and even legroom. That issue was resolved by fitting a 1968 Cougar XR-7 cluster to the Mustang dash panel and air conditioning evaporator. The clutch-pedal effort was deemed too high and the shifter vague. The brake balance was less than ideal and the engine overheated. Interior ventilation needed improvement, and NVH (noise, vibration and harshness) issues had to be addressed.  These and other typical prototype problems were being ironed out both on the drawing boards and on the test track.This is what the Mach 2 would have looked like, had it gone into production. The car’s front end was intended to ‘predict’ the 1971 Mustang’s appearance. Note the asymmetrical front grille treatment, often done to provide two perspectives of a design. In this case, one side represented the car with single headlights, the other side with dual lights. The license plate clearly reads ‘Mustang Mach 2.’ The dark car beside the clay is the original red prototype Mach 2A.This is what the Mach 2 would have looked like, had it gone into production. The car’s front end was intended to ‘predict’ the 1971 Mustang’s appearance. Note the asymmetrical front grille treatment, often done to provide two perspectives of a design. In this case, one side represented the car with single headlights, the other side with dual lights. The license plate clearly reads ‘Mustang Mach 2.’ The dark car beside the clay is the original red prototype Mach 2A.

With the Muscle Car wars raging, the planned engine for the Mach 2 program was upgraded to the Boss 429, with a manual transmission. An automatic was specified as an option. Ford documents relating to the Mach 2 program driveline generally refer to just “transmission,” but it’s likely safe to assume that is shorthand for “transaxle.” While the ZF transaxles could handle the torque of the 351 V-8, they would have been hopeless behind the big-block 429 engine. This issue was raised back in September of 1966, when the 427 was first introduced as a possible engine in the Mach 2A. It was still a problem in the early phase of the Mach 2B.  According to a 2nd Quarter 1967 Performance Against Objectives report, projected transmission costs were delaying the program. The uncertainty of a suitable transaxle would plague the program to the very end.

Development costs for a transmission that could stand up to the 429 engine were estimated as high as $11.5 million. A March 20, 1968, document projected that the Mach 2B program would be financially feasible if a transaxle could be brought in for $2.5 million -- a discouraging gap, to say the least. In a January 29, 1968, letter to Hank Gregorich, Chief Engineer of Ford’s Transmission and Chassis Division, Roy Lunn emphasized the importance of resolving the transmission issue. He explained that the driveline components choice was driven by the need to counter the suspected mid-engine Corvette. Lunn then diplomatically asked for Gregorich’s support. Gregorich’s reply has not been found.The rear of the Mach 2B clay seems to take a cue from the Torino and Mustang Mach 1. A more pronounced ‘fastback’ appearance has been created by extending the rear window surround.  The bumper appears to still be from the 1966 Mustang. The clay model in the background is likely  the first Mach 2B clay version. The shorter gentleman in the photo, with glasses, is believed to be Roy Lunn.The rear of the Mach 2B clay seems to take a cue from the Torino and Mustang Mach 1. A more pronounced ‘fastback’ appearance has been created by extending the rear window surround.  The bumper appears to still be from the 1966 Mustang. The clay model in the background is likely  the first Mach 2B clay version. The shorter gentleman in the photo, with glasses, is believed to be Roy Lunn.

Gregorich had been deeply involved in developing the 4-speed transaxle for the all-conquering Ford GT Mk IV Le Mans car. Whether he considered that unit for the Mach 2 is open to speculation. That race-specific transaxle was most likely way too expensive, and not conducive to production on a large scale. A “conventional” 4-speed manual transmission was designed, said to be by Kar-Kraft, and sent to Ford’s Transmission and Chassis Division for evaluation. No further mention appears.

On June 10, 1968, Don Frey wrote a letter to Donald Tope, Ford’s Vice President of the Transmission and Chassis Division. Frey referred to an earlier study of the feasibility, timing, tooling and costs of proposed manual and automatic transmissions and asked that the study be reinvestigated.  He mentioned the transmission as a critical factor in Mach 2 development and that, perhaps, an outside supplier might be considered. (Other internal documents infer that outside suppliers had already been contacted.) Also mentioned was the Job One date, now set for September of 1970, and the projected production volume of 10,000 units annually. To some, the letter was a carefully worded plea for help, and shows how desperate the situation was.

The Mach 2B progressed as far as three clay models. There is no evidence that an actual unit was built on a Delta platform. All advanced engineering work was done on the two Mach 2A prototypes, and that work would have been easily transferred to the Maverick platform. As late as September 30, 1968, the basic product package design was nearly complete, a staff organization chart was in place and cost studies were in full swing. However, a Third Quarter Performance report states, “… completion of the product proposal has now been postponed until the year-end to enable alternative programs and drivelines to be evaluated.” There’s that pesky transaxle issue again! Unfortunately, no further mention of the Mach 2B appears in available documents.The Mach 2C had a certain Italianesque look to it, likely possibly influenced by Larry Shinoda’s previous work at GM.The Mach 2C had a certain Italianesque look to it, likely possibly influenced by Larry Shinoda’s previous work at GM.

A third Mach 2, known as the Mach 2C, surfaced early in 1969, rendered by stylist Larry Shinoda. Shinoda arrived at Ford in 1968, well after the Mach 2A and during the Mach 2B programs. Whether this was an extension of the Mach 2B or a totally independent project isn’t known. His design featured a mid-mounted big-block engine with a rear-hinged deck like the GT-40’s. But quite probably the transaxle was still an issue.
The Mach 2C ended up as a design and costing project only, although a non-functional model was made and a product proposal submitted to satisfy top management’s interest. As usual, “top management” are not identified in any of the available documents. Certainly, the big players included Shinoda and likely his pal, Bunkie Knudsen, a GM exec who had replaced Lee Iacocca as Ford Division president. As of June 30, 1969, formal presentations seeking approval to build a Mach 2 prototype went to management. Projected costs eventually far outweighed the perceived market price as the final gasp of the Mach 2 saga, which then died. Sadly, the Mach 2C closed out Ford’s Sports Road Car adventure of the 60’s.
The Mach 2A prototypes showed a lot of potential, both on the road and on the race track. The design was stylish, the car was reportedly fun to drive and there seemed to be a market for this kind of vehicle. The studies indicated that the car might be rather easy and inexpensive to build, and it was well-received by the media. The Mach 2B looked even more promising. So, why was the program dropped when it was so close to being launched? Transmission issues aside, no single major reason has been found to specifically answer that question.Mach 2 side photo from drivers side with rear hatch open

Despite its finished appearance with an engine and finished interior, the Mach 2C was a non-running mock-up. It was most likely built on a simple flat platform, not on a DeTomaso Pantera or other production chassis. Its fate is not known, but it probably disappeared when Shinoda left Ford.

Based on the information available to the hobby today, several issues contributed to the fall of the Mach 2 program. All three segments of the project were beset by delays, changing objectives and drawn-out planning. The program always seemed to be one platform behind production. By the time the 2A was ready to go, its platform was going away. By the time the 2B was close to reality, the platform had not been fully developed and the Pantera was coming on board. The DeTomaso Pantera was supposed to be a ready-to-go car (although it needed Ford re-engineering before launching). With its 351 v-8 engine and existing transaxle, it fit the market which the Mach 2 had targeted. The biggest factor seems to have been the elusive transaxle. It was a major financial and engineering stumbling block all the way through the program and, apparently, it was never resolved. What’s more, Ford’s decision to get out of racing at that time could have played a part, and may even have been the final nail in the coffin.

Whatever the reason, or reasons, behind the demise of the Mach 2, automotive fans lost out on a remarkable little sports car.

FORD PERFORMANCE PHOTOS / COURTESY FORD ARCHIVES and AUTHOR SOURCES

References:

--- Kar-Kraft – Race Cars, Prototypes and Muscle Cars of Ford’s Special Vehicle Program (2017 – Car Tech Books)

--- Various released Ford internal documents

--- Car & Driver magazine: May 1967

--- Don Eichstaedt, Larry Elliott, Lee Dykstra and Bud Magaldi

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