What A Mach-Ery: Ford’s Attempt To Cash In On Mustang Lineage

Car enthusiasts should be excited about electric vehicles…wait, let’s not start there.

I’ll start by saying I love the snarl of a big block with a monster bumpstick, the whine of a blower, and the smell of nitromethane as much as anyone else. That said, I’m also a child of the MTV, Internet, and video game generation. I grew up watching films like Jurrasic Park, Independence Day, Men In Black, and Fifth Element. That’s right – I’ll say it. At 30-years-old, I’m a millennial. (GASP!)

So, as much as I now love Bullitt and Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry, I always dreamed of what it would be like to pilot a flying car or hit 88mph in Doc’s DeLorean. And now that we are as close as we’ve ever been to anything like that, it seems everyone is resistant. Was I alone all those years? Am I the only one who wanted to drive something from the future? Where has everyone’s sense of wonder and curiosity gone? Think of the possibilities!

I mean, did you really imagine Luke’s Landspeeder was running on gasoline in Star Wars? Where would they even get gas in space?!

I didn’t see any petrol stations on Tattooine, did you? (photo borrowed from Brainsnorts.com.)

My point is this; I love everything that classic cars are and represent, but I have also been excited about the future of the automobile since I was old enough to hold a Hot Wheels. So, why aren’t people excited about what’s coming next? And make no mistake about it – they are what’s next.

I will venture to say the prospect of hot rodding an electric vehicle (EV) is in some ways just as thrilling, if not more, than building a conventional hot rod. (GASP!) I know, that’s blasphemy, the editor of a muscle car magazine doing anything other than lambasting the idea of a hopped-up EV. But, in some ways, it’s true.

It’s uncharted territory. It’s something that’s in its infancy, and we know very little about it. On that same token, we have the potential to be the first to unlock its real performance. If in these very early stages, we are already seeing performance to rival supercars coming out of economy cars, just think of what the future holds!

Now, sure, there is a burgeoning community of people who have already embraced the EV. Let’s face it though, up until now, they’ve been a bit of a novelty – we’re just reaching the tipping point. But, around the office, at industry parties with real gearheads, no one is excited. At least, none have professed themselves to be to me. Everyone seems to mock the EV – no pun intended (at least, not this time).

I get it. There were naysayers when the first gas-powered cars came out, too. Imagine yourself trotting along quietly enjoying the country scenery on your horse and buggy, when all of a sudden, a loud, obnoxious Model T rumbles by. On the same dirt road you’ve been riding on since you were two-years-old, no less – that bastard! But change is inevitable. Progress is inevitable, and the song remains the same today. People have places to go and people to see.

So, why aren’t people excited about what’s coming next?

We are talking about engineers who build the most advanced race cars, speed parts, and everything else that lives on four wheels. Yet, people are still resistant.

The E-COPO making its first pass at Pomona Raceway.

Last year we saw the E-COPO Camaro at the 2018 SEMA Show – a car that wheelied on its first 1320 pass, ever. This year, we saw the Mustang Lithium at the 2019 SEMA Show. We also saw the E-10 Electric ’62 Chevy Pickup, and an E-Crate Motor concept from Chevrolet Performance.

For all intents and purposes, gearheads should be chomping at the bit to get their hands on this technology. If the houses of Blue Oval and Bowtie are investing stock in the Performance Electric Vehicle market, why the resistance?

Chevy Performance had its E-10 electric C-10, and E-Crate Concept on display at the 2019 SEMA Show. Is it just me, or does that kinda look like a big block under the hood? All those orange wire looms and aluminum next to that old master cylinder kill me!

Is it, perhaps, the trampling of our beloved names, like Mustang?! We’re looking at you Ford Motor Company. Chevy isn’t innocent in all of this either; it did show up with an E-“COPO.” But, at least its electric power is wrapped in the svelte frame of an actual Camaro.

Let’s be honest, the new Blazer borrowed a plethora of design elements from the latest Camaro, as well. But, seeing similar design cues across a brand is nothing new – that’s to be expected. What they didn’t do is slap a Z/28 badge on it!

Ford, on the other hand, has clearly lost its damn mind by naming its newest EV offering after one of the greatest pony cars of all time. The Mach-E? More like Mach-ERY.

The Mustang Lithium is an EV we can get behind – especially with the 6-speed manual it was wearing at the 2019 SEMA Show.

Ford took one of the most muscular visages of vintage Detroit steel and turned its name into an amalgamation of two-parts soccer mom, and one-part clunky crossover. Honestly, we can’t even comment on the vehicle’s performance – that remains to be seen – but that’s not the point. The point is, “what’s in a name?” For Ford’s Mustang – well, everything. Its marketing department knew that and sought to cash in.

Maybe I’m old fashioned, but the “Mach” monicker typically makes me think of powerful fastbacks ponies, not bulky crossover SUVs. Am I the only one? (Photo courtesy of Mecum.com.)

I suppose you can’t really blame them. The first Mach 1 (1969) is one of the most visually striking performance cars of all time. But that’s precisely why this hurts so bad. It’s a car that’s beloved. Even people who aren’t Ford fans respect the Mach 1. It’s beautiful, it’s tough, it’s a damn Mustang!

Unfortunately, whatever the FoMoCo just launched, ain’t it.

So then, why name it that and leave all of your adoring fans in the lurch?

Well, it’s funny – look back to the beginning of this op-ed, where I described my desire to pilot a flying car at a young age, and you might find some semblance of rationale. The free thinkers at Ford back in the day created a concept car circa 1959 and called it the LevaCar Mach 1.

Showcased on the Ford Rotunda in Dearborn, Michigan, the prototype used three “levapads” to float along on a cushion of air. Without going into too much detail about the prototype itself, we saw what Ford was after. It was a visionary. It pushed the envelope of what we thought possible at the time – and here we are again.

A full-size display of Ford’s Levacar Mach 1 concept. (Photo courtesy of Hemmings.com.)

Just like in ’59, we’re reaching for the stars in more ways than one, and Ford is trying to be clever. Still, it knows as wells as you and I do, there is only one real Mach, and it came out in 1969. But, I won’t beat that dead horse any longer…pun definitely intended.

I suppose I shouldn’t drag the thing through the mud for the name alone. Let’s examine the top-selling points that inspired Ford to give this new “Mach-E” such a lofty place on their pedestal of Mustang lineage.

Put all the Mustang badges you want on this thing – I still just see another crossover appliance.

The top three selling points are as follows:

  1. Price
    1. According to Ford’s website, the cost for its new (sigh*) Mustang, will range from $43,895 for the Select version, to $60,500 for the GT. With the Tesla Model X starting somewhere in the neighborhood of $80,000 and no other real competition in sight, this bodes well for Ford. Oh, and these prices exclude federal tax incentives of up to $7,500.
  2. Performance
    1. This is where things get interesting. Ford boasts its Mach-E will have between a 240- and 300-mile range, depending on the trim package selected. That’s pretty impressive, considering the range most EVs possess at the moment. Not only that, but it’s projected to have an estimated 459 horsepower and 612 lb-ft of torque.
    2. They even say the GT model will sport a 0-60mph time that’ll edge out the most impressive modern muscle. That’s right; Ford claims the Mach-E GT will have a mid-3-second 0-60 time. That’s quicker than the current Mustang GT (4.2 sec), Dodge Challenger Scat Pack (4.3 sec), and even the mighty Camaro SS (3.9 sec). Bold claims for sure, but entirely possible, if what we’ve seen from similar EVs is any indicator.
  3. New Technology
    1. This is where I start to worry about the vehicle for any reason other than its usurped name. Up until this point, it actually sounds like a fantastic new EV. But, they had to go and mess with Pandora’s box. If crossover drivers aren’t already distracted by their cell phones and vanilla frappes, they’ll certainly be entertained by the vertical 15.5-inch center screen, in addition to a 10.2-inch information cluster in front of the driver.
    2. But worry not, the car will most certainly correct for any errors of inattention by taking over and simply driving for you. Perhaps that’s a stretch – then again, maybe not. Using its hands-free driver-assist system, which the company plans to activate through an over-the-air update, maybe someone else can pilot your SUV while you take a snooze. Or is that only for Tesla drivers? Wait, that’s not how it works. But, that hasn’t stopped several people from falling asleep at the wheels of driver-assisted rides already.

I wonder how difficult it would be to remove that Mustang badge…

Seriously, has no one been paying attention to any science fiction movies? Have we learned nothing from Terminator and Skynet? EVs are not the enemy – Artificial intelligence is! I can’t speak for anyone else, but I don’t want someone’s car to smash into me because they didn’t download the latest firmware update. And at the same time, I’m totally put-off by the idea that someone even has the ability to “update” my car “over-the-air.” That’s a little too Orwellian for me.

If what Ford Executive Chairman Bill Ford said is true, “If any car is going to wear the pony, it can’t just look like a Mustang, it’s got to drive like one, it’s got to feel like one, and it has to have the soul of one,” then how can a computer be doing the driving? And for that matter, it doesn’t even really look like a Mustang, apart from the taillights. But I digress…

Extended-mileage range, performance numbers, and new tech will never be enough to make me forget I love the Mustang and the real Mach.

Stunning scenery like this is always more enjoyable from the inside of a fast sports car. Maybe people will take the time to look up from their touch-screen monitors to enjoy it.

It’s because of all of this betrayal that boomers and millennials alike are resistant to all things EV. They’re doing it wrong. Give it its own identity, make it more accessible, make it fast and sexy, and the people will come. Ford got some of those ingredients right, but forcing it on us by stuffing it in a plus-sized wrapper and calling it a Mustang because it has sequential taillights isn’t going to work. All you’re going to do is make Mustang fans sad…or mad.

Then again, I guess there are more people in the market for a practical, sporty crossover than those shopping for a modern sports car. So, maybe it will be a success. It does come in at a handsome price point, and it seems to have several things going for it. But, one thing it will never really be is a Mustang.

Ford even had the audacity to display it in Grabber Blue, an iconic Mustang Mach 1 color.

So, whether you’re a fan of Ford’s new Mach-E, or if you like the idea of electric vehicles and automated driving experiences, I say, don’t be resistant to what comes next. But, let’s not lose our heritage in the process.

Ford, Chevy, Dodge, please don’t sell us all down the river to make a few bucks off hipster families. Push the envelope again, give us the EV’s we want, and the ones we need – but don’t brand our best horses with your shapeless-SUV irons.

VC out.

About the author

Vinny Costa

Fast cars, motorcycles, and loud music are what get Vinny’s blood pumping. Catch him behind the wheel of his ’68 Firebird. Chances are, Black Sabbath will be playing in the background.
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