Mach 1 vs. GTO
Can Ford's middleweight Mustang take out Pontiac's fire-breathing heavyweight? Strap in as we find out.
Evan J. Smith
Muscle Mustangs & Fast Fords
Choose your weapon: Ford's Mach 1 or Pontiac's GTO. Both are bonafide muscle machines with a strong pedigree. Each has a lively past filled with big-block engines, striking stripes, functional scoops and a street fighter's caliber. Ford fans waited 25 years for the mighty Mach to return and in 2003 it did with a vengeance. In only one year the modern Mach 1 proved its worth, scoring impressive numbers in MM&FF testing. In fact, it proved itself to be the quickest stock Mach ever.
The question is whether the new GTO is an honest contender.
It's been 30 long years since Pontiac Motor Division sold a vehicle with the Gran Turismo Omologato nameplate and this rendition of "The Great One" promised to pick up where the legend left off. It features a 350hp LS1 that can be backed by an automatic or a six-gear manual tranny, it has a performance axle ratio and a few other tricks up its sleeve.
Currently there are three hot Mustangs in Ford's lineup and you may be wondering why we picked the Mach 1 and not the Cobra or GT to face off with this Torrid Red Poncho. While the GT is a great car for the $23,000 asking price, it's not exactly in the price or performance range of the more expensive GTO. At just over $30,000, the Pontiac is priced right between the Mach 1 and the SVT Cobra. And based on performance reports on the GTO seen in brand-X magazines, we were quite confident that a Mach 1 vs. GTO shootout would be a tight head-to-head matchup. Besides, if the Mach 1 could trailer the Goat, if I dare call it that, the Cobra would most certainly mop it up. Lastly, we wouldn't want the GM faithful to cry foul about the higher price tag of the SVT, or about its factory supercharger for that matter.
Astute readers of MM&FF will note that we've tested both the '03 and the '04 Mach 1 in past issues where we recorded quarter-mile elapsed times of 13.13 and 13.15, respectively, both at 105 mph. In fact, we have hours of seat time in these cars and most of you know the story behind them.
Nevertheless, we'll give you a little background. Like the original, the '04 Mach 1 offers up style and performance at a reasonable price, in this case about $29,000. It has loads of content, including a throwback appearance package. Interior improvements include cozy, supportive bucket seats with the "comfort weave" pattern and retro gauges. The Interior Upgrade Package ($345) consists of aluminum finish door lock posts, gray metallic centerpanel and shifter bezel, aluminum finish shift trim ring, stainless steel foot rests and pedals, aluminum shift knob and four-way head restraints. A five-speed manual is standard, or you can opt for the four-speed automatic. The Mach 1 also has big disc brakes with ABS and some hot colors, which are not offered on the GT.
Best of all, the Mach gets a functional Shaker hood scoop that feeds the 4.6 fresh air. It also feeds your ego and serves as a constant reminder that you're not in just any Mustang. One look at the Mach and you'll know this is no cookie-cutter auto. It has charisma, and with colors like Azure Blue, Torch Red and Competition Orange even the most comatose motorists will take notice. Though, ultimately, the proof is in driving it.
The stripes, scoops, wing and wheels give it flare and the DOHC 4.6 engine has the power to back it up. The Mach also has a good sound, nice handling and braking, and it's quicker than virtually anything from the '60s or '70s. You'll find this to be a pleasurable car to drive, whether in day-to-day traffic or wide open at the track. The suspension is sportier than the GT and it gives the car a light feel. When pushed hard the Mach understeers a bit, but with 335 lb-ft of torque you can apply throttle and counter with controlled throttle oversteer. And those who may grace the twists and turns will love the 13-inch Brembo discs that are grabbed by twin-piston calipers.
Smartly, Ford released the Mach 1 near the end of a model run, which should make it an instant classic. Who knows if the tradition will continue with the '05? Simply stated, Ford's modern Mach 1 hits the mark.
Quite frankly, the GTO has some big shoes to fill. The original '64 model was named after a Ferrari and in some circles the GTO gets credit for starting the whole musclecar era, we give it kudos for that. To make it work, Pontiac engineers stuffed a 389-inch engine (from its larger car line) with optional Tri-Power induction into the intermediate-sized Tempest. It was an instant winner. The GTO lasted until 1974 when the gas crunch and insurance hikes all but squashed the American musclecar from existence. Ironically, like Mach 1s past and present, the '74 GTO employed a functional Shaker hood scoop, albeit one that faced rearward.
But Pontiac fans can rejoice as the GTO rides again in 2004. In case you didn't know, this "new" GTO is actually built by our friends in the land "down under" and only 18,000 will come over to North America the first year. The chassis, which is marketed under the Holden brand (GM's division in Australia) as a Monaro, has been around for about five years and it even has a version of the LS1 engine in it. "Basically, Bob Lutz of GM went to Australia and drove the Holden Monaro. He was impressed with the performance and decided that it would make a great GTO for the U.S.," stated Thomas A. DeMauro, editor of High Performance Pontiac, a sister mag to MM&FF. So, PMD moved the controls to the left side, they reskinned the nose and dropped in one heaping serving of LS1 and whamo--instant GTO.
The 350-horse all aluminum V-8 is backed by a 4L60-E four-speed automatic, but a Tremec six-speed manual is optional. All GTOs get an independent rear suspension and a 3.46:1 rear gear ratio with limited-slip. Now let's climb in and go for a ride.
Grab the door handle, pop the door open and the first thing you'll say is, "Where did my GM car go?" Surprisingly, you'll be greeted by a modern interior with fit and finish we're not accustomed to in similarly (or even much higher) priced GM cars.
The GTO has true 2+2 seating with bucket seats (four of them) that are comfortable and supportive, not to mention good looking. Once in the driver's seat your hands reach out to the sporty leather-wrapped steering wheel. The six-speed shifter is within close reach, although it sits a little too far back in the console for my liking. Down below, your feet manipulate three machined pedals and your eyes fixate on a dash that's color coordinated to the body. Speaking of the body, there's a lineup of bold color choices, including Torrid Red, Impulse Blue, Phantom Black, Cosmos Purple Metallic, just to name a few. The gauge layout is pretty neat, the only thing missing is an oil-pressure gauge.
The center console flows smoothly into the center stack, which is packed with the usual items, plus a dot-matrix backlit display for functions such as the trip computer and the annoying "overspeed alarm" that sounded off with a bling, bling, bling, at 100 mph.
The GTO is certainly no F-body. First off, it's no pony car. It's bigger dimensionally and it feels bigger, but that's not all bad. With a MacPherson strut suspension up front and an IRS arrangement in the back, the GTO offered a nice balance between impressive cornering and a smooth, luxury-like ride. The steering felt accurate, but it leaned more in the turns than the most recent F-bodies or the Mustang. There wasn't a squeak or rattle to speak of; the only noise we heard was the throaty rumble emitting from the dual exhaust. Word has it that Pontiac engineers listened to a '64 GTO in order to replicate the sound.
It seemed like everyone we encountered liked the sound and power of the Gen III LS1, and they liked the interior as well, but most felt the exterior falls short. Some say the nose looks too much like other Pontiacs, but I like it.
Full Article Here - and test results