Ford Mach 2 Concept (9) - Copy

Perhaps more than at any other time, the 1960s represented a battleground for the automotive industry, and there were few bigger rivalries in the US than the one between Ford and Chevrolet.

Having captured the public’s imagination with the launch of the Mustang in 1964, Ford now set its sights on taking on the lauded Chevrolet Corvette by offering its own two-seater sports car.

And so, in March 1966, Ford’s Advanced Concepts Department was tasked with “executing design-engineering studies on a Ford-Cobra-style vehicle”.

Ford Mach 2 Concept (8)

Initially referred to simply as the ‘Road Sports Car’ (the Mach 2 name wouldn’t be used until the first half of 1967), it was envisioned as a standalone mid-engined sports car, which would initially be offered as a coupe prior to the introduction of a roadster.

Far more than just a svelte road car, the vehicle was also intended for competition use in both the SCCA A-Production and FIA Group III GT categories, lending it further legitimacy in the minds of performance-focussed enthusiast.

Ford Mach 2 Concept (6)

Known as the ‘Mach 2A’, the first and perhaps most notable iteration was prototyped on a 1966 Mustang chassis, but was intended to be a totally separate model. Wearing sleek, fibreglass bodywork, it was to be powered by a mid-mounted 289 cubic-inch (4.7-litre) ‘Hi-Po’ V8, and would feature independent rear suspension for sharper handling.

In total, three were built: a non-running chassis and two running prototypes. The latter comprised a red ‘production specification’ car which was loaned to the media for testing, and a white ‘track only’ example.

Ford Mach 2 Concept (2)

All three were designed in-house by Ford’s Gene Bordinat and the Special Vehicles Group, but they were engineered and built by Ford contractor Kar-Kraft in Brighton, Michigan.

By 1967, the white race car was ready for testing, with Kar-Kraft taking the vehicle to the Dearborn Proving Grounds, where it was sadly discovered that there were severe issues with its torsional stiffness.

Ford Mach 2 Concept (3)

While the engineers at Ford’s Experimental Garage proposed a fix in the form of additional chassis reinforcements, the ‘Mach 2A’ project was ultimately abandoned, with the feasibility chassis and white race car both being crushed in 1969.

The red road car continued to be displayed and showed at various media events, but disappeared around November 1970 when Kar-Kraft closed its doors. Its location or even continued existence has never been confirmed, and the photo shown below is believed to be the last known image of it at Kar-Kraft’s facility.

mach2 at Kar Kraft poss 1970s

After this, Ford began development of the Mach 2B and later the Mach 2C, but again, both projects were beset with problems and were ultimately abandoned.

As a result, the automotive world would have to wait until the introduction of the RS200 rally homologation special in 1984 before it would see another mid-engined Ford on the road to follow the GT40. The story offers a tantalising glimpse into what could have been; a mid-engined competitor to the Corvette, more than 50 years before Chevrolet itself would move that car’s engine behind the driver.

Images courtesy of Ford Motor Company.

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