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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
5/26/2004

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.

Little GTO

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

 

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That was interesting. That also was a very old Mustang platform. The new Stang will be 10 times better. Then again the GTO was not built as a Mustang challenger. It was built for people who drive Bimmers. GM needs a real Mustang challenger and not ten years from now.
 

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I think that was biased. The editor did everything he could to "uphold the honnor of the mustang". He said he tried hard in both cars but you know he didn't. He even insulted the GTO at every oportunity. He picked apart the GTO like a C&D editor. I guess you can't expect to find a fair comparison in a magizene dedicated to one car.
 

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Originally posted by silverado_13@May 29 2004, 02:17 PM
He picked apart the GTO like a C&D editor. I guess you can't expect to find a fair comparison in a magizene dedicated to one car.
this has probably been coverd before in another thread somewhere else on this site but im just throwing my 2 cents in.
speaking of C&D i was watching the episode where they test the GTO. at the end of the test the narator goes off by saying something stupid like "even thought the new GTO has a v-8 350 hp and is RWD after killing off the firebird GM expects us to get exited? i dont think so." the GTO is everything that GM is lacking in there entire car line up. RWD v8 big power whats not to be exited about??
 

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Uh... if Evan Smith wasn't driving the GTO hard, then please show me numbers that are better. Of course there's bias towards the Mach 1 there, but the GTO is not any faster - as was said in the article, it is a driver's race. Yes, the goat has more power, but it's also much heavier, thus negating the power advantage.

A lot of people defend the looks of the GTO by saying that the original wasn't that much different from other Pontiac cars of the time. But it got your blood pumping when one pulled up to a stoplight next to you, because it had an intangible bad-*** quality to it. From a distance, the current GTO can easily be mistaken for a J-body, and up close the looks don't offer any excitement. You can't sell a car just on name recognition alone. It has to offer something unique, to stand out from the crowd. The GTO doesn't really do that. Yes, it's unique to GM in that it's a RWD V8 that's not an expensive Corvette. But there are other fast cars on the road these days, and the closest competitor in price and power is the Mach 1. However, when the Dodge Magnum R/T and Chrysler 300C hit the streets (in a month or so), they will also be competitors in price and power. Maybe a bit slower overall, but the Magnum R/T is pure muscle car. It's a big, comfortable family car that just happens to have a huge Hemi engine crammed under the hood. That's what the muscle car era began with, and that's what the GTO was once upon a time. That is what made the GTO such an awe-inspiring car for it's day.

The GTO is not your family car with an exceptionally big engine under the hood. It's a sports coupe. Thus, the "family car" styling excuse doesn't fly.
 

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haha, listen to yourself: you call the 5.7 hemi "huge"! if this is huge, than the ls1 is the same and the ls2 is... what? gigantic??!?
also, did you saw the size of the chrysler 300 nose? the 5.7 is not "crammed" inside, I can tell you that-hehe-

altough the mach1 may be slightly faster despite the smallish buzzer engine, the gto "as is"-note that me too I'm not overly excited about the exterior- is LIGHT YEARS ahead of the rustang junker. The bmw-like refinement of the gto is something the rustang can only wish to acheive.
There is also the issue about the modding potential of the ls1. with the smallish 4.6 only a blower can save it...

To put it in simple words, despite the somehow equal prices those cars are hardly competing: each one adresses different customer categories, the gto ones beeing in a upper, more refined, educated class. Come to think of, that's why the exterior styling is more on the bland side, when was the last time you saw a bmw with hood scoops?
 

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They tested at Automatic GTO versus a MANUAL Mustang Mach 1.... If that's not biased, I don't know what it -- slush boxes are always slower. With a stick shift, the GTO would destroy a Mach 1 with the 350 horse LS1. Don't forget, in a few months that the GTO gets the new 6.0 V8!

The Mach 1 is out of its league
 

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Originally posted by ColoradoZQ8@May 30 2004, 10:07 AM
They tested at Automatic GTO versus a MANUAL Mustang Mach 1.... If that's not biased, I don't know what it -- slush boxes are always slower. With a stick shift, the GTO would destroy a Mach 1 with the 350 horse LS1. Don't forget, in a few months that the GTO gets the new 6.0 V8!

The Mach 1 is out of its league
The author mentions his launch technique of 3000 rpms to allow the right amount of clutch slip. It was a manual.
 

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I don't have much to say about the GTO, but I will say that I am a GM fan and always loved the Camaro's and Firebirds and would not buy a Mustang. But I would have to take the Stang over this GTO. The car is not unique, it looks like every other ugly front end that pontiac has on all there cars that I am sick of and I would just call it a GTO Grand Prix!! As you can see I am not happy about it! All I ask is if they bring back the Camaro I want it to make you stare at the car every time you look at it enjoying the style and power it has to offer. My third Gen Z has more style then the new goat! :angry:
 

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yes, I agree, any thirdgen looks better than anything on the road...
I'm not happy either with the actual gto, but I can understand their reasons to making it the way it is. What I hate is that his presence means the demise of the firebird, and that's killing me...
 

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It is good to see an article comparing a Mustang to a GTO. Is the Mustang a competitor. Only people's wallets determine what they are looking at. Both cars are around 30K with RWD and a V8.
Does anyone expect a Mustang mag to say forget the Mach 1 go buy a Pontiac?
Considering where the mags bias are this is a good article for the GTO. Much like the Benz/GTO comparo from Motor Trend from a month ago.
If a Pontiac mag did a BMW M3, Mustang, vs. GTO comparo who do you think the editiors would pick?
If GM did not have the GTO then all we would have is the CTS-V and the Vette as performance cars. In this case three is better than two.
 

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I am a huge fan of the GTO. The fact that a Mach 1 can beat it by a foot in the quarter mile just doesn't bother me too much. Like the author said, it's a drivers race. And as it was pointed out before, do you really think he's going to find the GTO as the winner? The only thing that I don't like about the GTO is the fact that they called it a GTO. Obviously, this car is not a GTO. If they were to take a G6, cram the LS1 into it and put a giant hood scoop on it, then THAT would be a GTO. But otherwise, this is the perfect sport coupe for Pontiac, well done.
 

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Originally posted by azhimel@May 30 2004, 09:15 PM
B) I thinks its time for a new Camaro design contest, what
ya'all think about that?
As the guy in charge of contests on this site, I believe that the last Camaro contest is still pretty fresh. I don't think we will see any new entries that are that revolutionary and different from the last ones. I would wait at least until next year for another Camaro contest.
 
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