The year was 1969. Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper and Jack Nicholson starred in the biker classic, Easy Rider. More than 450,000 people converged on Bethel, New York for the Woodstock Music and Art Fair. But, there’s more…

The Mustang Mach 1 takes to the streets to do battle with Camaros and Chargers — armed with the 428 Cobra Jet engine and a menacing, soon-to-be famous, “shaker” scoop.

The Mach 1 Sportsroof production model took on a definitive drag racing theme with it’s aggressive flat-black hood, integrated rear spoiler, front air dam, and racing hood tie-downs. The interior featured “comfort weave” bucket seats and a three-spoke “Rim Blow” steering wheel.

Photos: Ford Motor Company

The 1969 Mach 1 smashed sales and performance expectations with more than 72,000 units sold and 0-60 times of less than seven seconds. At the NHRA Spring Nationals, Danny Ongais drove Mickey Thompson’s Mustang Mach 1 to the first of two major victories.

The Mach 1 nameplate has played an important part in the history of Mustang and Ford. The legendary name helped define muscle-car performance, the sport of drag racing and Hollywood chase scenes including the original movie thriller: Gone In 60 Seconds.

Fast-forward… November, 2002: The all-new Mach 1 is introduced. The car features the return of the “shaker” scoop with 305 horsepower and 320 foot-pounds of torque, a redesigned “comfort weave” interior, Heritage wheels, an extended black air dam and rear spoiler, and a classic Mach 1 paint scheme.

Team Mustang, flush with success from their first theme car experiment — the 2001 Bullitt Mustang — set out to repeat that history. The new car would feature: An all-aluminum, 4.6-liter DOHC modular V-8 engine with four valves per cylinder, 17-inch, 5-spoke Heritage wheels with the galloping pony logo inspired by the 1969-1973 Mustang’s Mach 1 wheel design, 1960s-style comfort weave trimmed black leather seats, black extended front air dam and rear deck lid spoiler, body side scoops, modern color schemes and badging that captured vintage cues.

“Mach 1 is a glance in the mirror of Mustang’s storied past, but it’s steering straight into the future of Mustang,” said Jim O’Connor, Ford group vice president at the time. Indeed, for many competition-inspired 1999 and 2001 Cobra owners, this was the car they had really wanted. With it’s improved power output, straight rear axle and lower weight, the Mach I was a drag racer’s dream.

Like the Bullitt edition, the 2003 Mach I was slated for a limited production of 6500 units. Instead of the Bullitt’s hologrammed ID tags, the Mach I featured a unique “R” code for the engine designation in its vehicle identification number. (In 1969, the 428 Cobra Jet engine used the same code.)

Unlike the Bullitt Mustang, Ford decided to continue the production run for a second year and eventually built a total of 9500 copies in the 2003 model year. The market became saturated and unsold Mach’s sat on dealer lots for months, even while delivery of 2004 models was ongoing.

A couple of new colors and minor changes distinguish the 2004 Mach from its predecessor. Screaming Yellow and Competition Orange livery attempt to recall the “Grabber” colors from earlier generations. 40th Anniversary badges adorn the fenders, where a tri-bar Pony logo used to sit. A few more horsepower (310 versus 305) and a few more cost reduction steps serve to distinguish the Mach I in its final year.

To the faithful, this was a wise approach, for the Mach I specifications were about as ideal as many would wish for. Contrary to popular assumption, the Mach engine is not the 2001 Cobra motor. Aside from the obvious presence of the Shaker intake scoop, several less visible changes were made. The Mach cylinder heads were new, high flow versions for the four-valve engine. The intake camshaft was adopted from the 5.4-liter modular motor and an all-new exhaust cam was developed. The exhaust manifold was also new, being port-matched to the new cylinder heads.

The interior treatment provided some new components, successfully breaking the “carved from a single piece of plastic” look of the GT models. Patterned leather seats paid tribute to the comfort weave vinyl of the early Machs. Many other interior components had seen earlier use on special models…the Bullitt and the 35th Anniversary models, to be specific. The Interior Upgrade Package included 4-way headrests and gunmetal painted center console trim.

Chassis treatments delivered enough performance to match the engine upgrades. Larger brakes (13″ front, 11.6″ rear) raised stopping power to the level of the Bullitt, while an upgraded differential was specified. Bolt-in sub frame connectors added a minor degree of chassis stiffness and the suspension was lowered by a half-inch to assist handling, along with revised springs and dampers. A new Heritage wheel design was coined for the Mach I, inspired by those of previous generations. Wheel dimensions and tires remained the same as the GT model, however.

Possibly the single, most unique feature of the Mach I — after the Shaker hood scoop — will be found in the exhaust system. Again finding inspiration in the past, the dual exhaust displays chrome “rolled” tips at the rear bumper and the most unique sound from an unmodified Mustang in at least a couple of decades. It is rumored that some Mach I owners have never turned their Mach 460 stereo systems on for more than a minute or two. The airwaves simply cannot compete with the song of this 4-valve exhaust!