WHO’S THE BOSS?
1970 VS 2013 BOSS 302 MUSTANG
Those of us old enough will remember that when Ford unveiled the Mustang back in 1964, it was undoubtedly the greatest thing since canned peaches. For a start, this groundbreaking model set a new precedent within the industry by creating an entirely new class of sports car, and it met with immediate success and unparalleled sales across the US.
In truth, the Mustang’s recipe was quite simple: take an existing rear-wheel-drive chassis, such as the Falcon, design and build a sporty 2+2 coupé body, and drop an in-line six or V8 engine under the bonnet — the rest, as they say, is history.
Surprisingly, for an American car, the Mustang drove reasonably well and looked even better. However, it wasn’t long before dark clouds appeared to cast a shadow over Ford as it basked in the sunlight. While it may have invented the concept of the ‘pony car’, rivals quickly appeared in the arena to challenge the Mustang.
The folks over at GM, keen for a slice of the action, struck back with the Chevrolet Camaro, then went one better by introducing the track-capable highperformance Z28. Not only did the Camaro go headto-head with the Ford Mustang on the street and in showrooms, it also competed successfully in the TransAm series, winning the championship in 1968. Ford’s president, Bunkie Knudsen, watched Camaro Z28 sales climb from 602 in 1967 to 7199 in 1968, the additional exposure of the model in Trans-am racing rubbing off on the rest of the Camaro line-up.
As the ’60s wound up, there was only one thing left for Ford to do — hit back strong and hard. The eventual upper cut came in the form of the 1969–1970 Boss 302.
A Boss is born
The first Boss 302 rolled off Ford’s Dearborn assembly line on April 17, 1969, just 14 months after Bunkie Knudsen had taken over the reins at Ford Motor Company, and only seven months after the initial stirrings of a special high-performance Mustang programme.
Finally, Ford could sell what it raced and compete against the fast-selling Z28 on the street and on the racetrack. Some 1628 Boss 302s had been built by the end of 1969, easily enough to satisfy Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) homologation regulations.
The name ‘Boss 302’ raised a few eyebrows, with many commentators wondering where the tag had originated. The man credited with the car’s creation, Larry Shinoda — formerly of GM — was once asked about the project he was working on. As a quick response, and to keep what he was doing under wraps, he simply said, “I’m just working on the boss’s car!” Shinoda’s off-the-cuff reply obviously struck a chord with Ford’s hierarchy, and so the Boss 302 was born, having been created for a very specific mission — mastery on the racetrack.
To comply with the SCCA racing league rules, participating auto manufacturers had to sell a production version of any car entered in the Trans-am series. After losing the 1968 season to the more powerful Chevrolet Camaro, Ford was determined not to be outdone again, and it was this that spurred its engineers into action and led to the designing and building of an all-out-performance production Mustang.
The man credited with the Boss 302’s creation — Larry Shinoda
For starters, if it was serious about regaining the Trans-am series title, Ford needed a truly competitive engine. Its previous attempt at building a highperformance motor, the Tunnel Port Windsor V8, had resulted in that disastrous 1968 racing year. As it happened, Ford engineers had also experimented to successfully combine a Windsor block with Cleveland heads, ending up with the 4.9-litre (302ci) engine that eventually powered the Mustang, and Parnelli Jones, to victory in the 1970 Trans-am series.
While the Windsor/cleveland combination proved a strong and powerful one that would turn the Mustang into a winning race car, there was a lot more to it than just simply throwing a pair of fresh cylinder heads onto an engine block and heading off to the racetrack.
The Ford engineers’ strategic forward thinking, which recognized that the Cleveland heads had racing potential, meant the Boss 302 engine was the first to incorporate the Cleveland head design. They were convinced that after innovative engineering the larger heads could be fitted to the Windsor block. The Cleveland heads were in a staggered, cantedvalve arrangement, while an improved intake-port design gave the air/fuel mixture a straighter shot at the cylinders. Angling the valves also provided muchneeded space for the massive 56.6mm (2.23-inch)
intake and 43.6mm (1.72-inch) exhaust valves.
In 1970, the intake valves were slightly reduced in size to a diameter of 55.6mm to allow increased low-end torque (in theory) for slightly quicker initial acceleration, while the exhaust valves remained the same. These heads also featured steel spring seats, adjustable rocker arms, screw-in rocker studs, and pushrod guide plates.
Other technical details included a unique mechanical cam with ‘high-lift’ design and a forged-steel crankshaft, balanced both statically and dynamically. All this mechanical rotating mass was fed copious amounts of fuel through a massive 780cfm Holley carburettor breathing through a purpose-built aluminium intake manifold.
To efficiently vent exhaust gases, new cast-iron exhaust manifolds were designed specifically for the Boss 302 — the gases being fed into a transverse muffler system (for 1969 only), which helped give the Boss its unique and revered exhaust note. The end result was a dedicated sports car with all the credentials to go
Trans-am racing. Few creature comforts or options were included as standard on the initial 1969 Boss 302 — this car had one purpose: to make it around a racetrack faster than any other car.
Us-based insurance companies back in the late 1960s were quick to pounce on any vehicle with even the most modest of performance aspirations, so it wasn’t uncommon for manufacturers to fudge their listed engine-performance data. Officially, the production Boss 302 produced 216kw (290bhp) at 5800rpm; however, its track-going counterparts were accurately found to produce as much as 350kw (470bhp).
As far as transmissions were concerned, with that much power on tap, the only option was a four-on-the-floor Toploader gearbox with a Hurst T-handle shifter to swap the cogs around. The gearbox could be ordered with either close- or wide-ratio configuration, both of which delivered power to one of four rear ends: A-code (open) 3.50:1, S-code (Traction-lok — Ford’s official name for its limited-slip differential) 3.50:1, V-code (Traction-lok) 3.91:1, and W-code (Detroit no-spin) 4.30:1.
However, the Boss 302 wasn’t just about dropping a race-bred high-performance V8 between the shock
Bob’s car is one of the last Boss 302s and comes complete with a Ford certificate of authenticity and unique build number
towers of a road-going ’69 fastback Mustang. The 302 engine demanded serious respect, so modifications to the suspension set-up were introduced — including heavy-duty front coils, tube shocks, and rear leaf springs — to make the 302 competition-ready.
To control wheel hop, which can have a less-than-desirable effect on a car’s ability to get off the line quickly, staggered heavy-duty Gabriel rear shocks were used.
The Mustang’s chassis was slightly upgraded for 1970. The competition suspension was standard equipment with the addition of a 21.5mm (0.85-inch) rear anti-roll bar tucked between the fuel tank and rear axle housing. A quick-ratio steering box with a 16:1 gear ratio was also part of the standard package, and, if you wanted power-assisted steering, it was a case of ticking the relevant box on the options list.
With the Boss 302 engine and other necessary upgrades, the Mustang 302 was finally ready to compete.
Sadly, in August 1970, Ford quietly discontinued the Boss 302, and, in November that same year, announced that it was withdrawing from motor racing altogether. Matthew Mclaughlin, then vice president of Ford’s sales group, stated that foreign-import car sales had forced Ford to design, build, and market the
Maverick and Pinto compact cars — stealing both time and money from the company’s racing budget.
Yet, as the street version slipped away, the Boss 302 Trans-am race cars remained heavily embroiled in battle on the circuit. With George Follmer finishing second place at Donnybrooke on July 5, 1970, Mustang had held a 22-point margin over the Camaro midway through the series. The street cars may have gone, but, on the track, the Boss 302 track cars were just hitting their stride.
The legend returns
The 1970s saw American muscle in a sorry state of affairs. A lost decade of performance machines meant that Ford had little else to offer other than its Cobra II and King Cobra Mustangs. With a miserly two-barrel carburettor version of the 5.0-litre (302ci) as the top performance option, there wasn’t a lot of muscle-flexing going on behind those fancy decals.
Performance enthusiasts practically turned their backs on new cars during the ’70s, and, instead, they focused their attention on previously owned Boss 302s and other ’60s muscle cars. These gas guzzlers were absolute bargains at a time when fuel prices had been driven out of control in the aftermath of the 1973 OPEC (Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries) oil embargo.
Perhaps thinking of past glories, Ford was tempted to resurrect the Boss name on a few occasions during the life cycle of the retro-styled 1994–2004 Mustang. As well, the Mach 1 programme was reconsidered for the Boss name in 2001 and again in 2003, but, after much discussion, the idea was eventually shelved.
That all changed in 2011 — now the Mustang was underpinned by a viable platform, and, with a healthy 307kw (412bhp) engine on the way, it seemed an appropriate time for the Boss to reappear. After 40 years of
rejecting Boss proposals, Ford could see light at the end of the tunnel with the best Mustang GT ever on the horizon, as well as a new 5.0-litre V8.
The next step for Ford’s development team was to research the original 1969–1970 Boss 302 and its rich Trans-am heritage. The team was unanimous in its decision that the new Boss had to be a track-worthy street car.
Supercharging seemed a logical option to pack more of a punch behind the newly designed 302 engine, but, as the original Boss was powered by a high-revving, naturally aspirated power plant, tradition won over, and the idea of forced induction was quickly put aside. The original Boss was, indeed, a legend, and it was agreed that the highly regarded Boss name would not appear on the side of any Mustang unless a legitimate successor could be created.
Finally, Ford’s development team felt confident it had all its ducks in a row, and the decision was made to pursue the path towards a modern-day Boss 302. Before all that hard work could become reality, though, there was one major hurdle — sign-off from senior management.
Ford also came to the conclusion that if it was going to get the project off the ground, it needed a high-level champion — someone who appreciated performance and understood the significance of resurrecting the legendary Boss moniker. That person was Jim Farley — group vice president of global marketing, sales, and service.
Farley was fairly new to the position, and, as luck would have it, his grandfather was Henry Ford’s 389th
Ford stayed true to its word by keeping the free-flowing, high-revving 5.0-litre V8 engine au naturel in the Boss
employee. In addition, his grandfather had been a childhood friend of Bunkie Knudsen, the man who originally approved the Boss 302 programme during his time as Ford’s president.
Farley was regarded throughout the Ford network as someone who appreciated both Mustangs and performance — so he was the perfect person for the job if the Boss 302 was to ever see the light of day.
There were certainly no hopes or promises as the Boss 302 project commenced in 2008, during the darkest days of a global recession. Amid a world of financial insecurity and crisis, the American auto industry was almost crippled to the point at which the US government had to bail GM and Chrysler out of certain financial ruin. Ford weathered the credit-crunch storm and stayed committed to the Boss 302 plan.
It surged ahead, despite growing concerns about offering a road-going track car at a time when auto manufacturers worldwide were well and truly clambering onto the ‘green’ bandwagon. In a world very much focused on the negative effects of global warming and other environmental issues, it seemed that the very idea of a revived Boss 302 ran counter to the prevailing trend for clean energy and hybrid cars. However, the Mustang team threw caution to the wind and remained steadfast, adhering to the original brief of producing a car that would appeal to hard-core enthusiasts.
A new Boss hits the street
The legend returned to the roads once again in the form of the track-oriented 2012 Boss 302, which was unveiled at the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion at Laguna Seca. This was truly a track car for the street, and, according to Ford, it was the quickest, best-handling production Mustang ever offered by the company.
Ford stayed true to its word by keeping the freeflowing, high-revving 5.0-litre V8 engine au naturel in the Boss. This V8 screamer featured a revised plenum / velocity-stack combination, camshafts with a more aggressive grind, and cylinder heads that had been treated to Cnc-machined ports and chambers for better air flow across the entire rev range.
To achieve maximum engine revolutions, all the internals were made lightweight, while a specially crafted race-spec crankshaft, along with more robust main and rod bearings, kept everything together at high engine speeds.
To keep those light 19-inch racing alloys wrapped in Pirelli P Zero rubber firmly planted on the blacktop at track speeds, the car got fully adjustable shocks, as in the original Boss 302, plus higher-rated coil springs, stiffer suspension bushings, and a larger rear stabilizer bar. By twisting adjustment screws on the top of each shock, a driver can select from five progressively firmer settings. The retuned speed-sensitive electric steering system featured three different options — comfort, normal, and sport — and there were also three settings for the traction and stability system: on, off, and intermediate sport.
The 2012 Boss had two ignition keys, one with a silver Boss logo and the other with a red Boss logo. For those who wanted to go out and play, the red key — dubbed the ‘Trackey’ — activated Tracmode powertrain
control software within the car, providing full race calibration and two-stage launch control without compromising the factory warranty. There was also a Laguna Seca version of this new Boss, which added further suspension and interior enhancements on top of the already capable Boss modifications.
For 2013, the Boss 302 received nothing more than a cosmetic makeover, including the addition of new reflective graphics (similar to those used on the original 1970 Boss), 1970 Parnelli Jones–style School Bus Yellow paint (as seen on our featured car), and Sterling Gray accents on the track-focused Boss Laguna Seca. HID headlights and Led-surround tail-lights were also fitted.
It’s important to remember that the 2013 Boss 302 was designed to go fast, so Ford opted not to offer things like weight-adding audio systems or the heated leather seats often found on other high-end performance vehicles. The only high-tech gadget onboard this racer was Ford Sync — a voice-activated in-car connectivity system that gives drivers core handsfree features, services such as voice-activated calling via a Bluetooth-connected mobile phone; control of a Usb-connected digital music player; 911 Assist, the automated emergency calling service that is free for the life of the vehicle; and Vehicle Health Report, the on-demand diagnostic and maintenance information service. In addition, an LCD touchscreen enables the driver to monitor performance measures such as g-force, acceleration times in quarter-mile and 0– 60 increments, and braking times complete with automatic and countdown starts.
The 2013 Ford Mustang Boss 302 also had the highest-tech suspension system of any non-svt Mustang to roll off the factory assembly line, with the most powerful naturally aspirated V8 that Ford has ever packed under a bonnet. Changes were few for the 2013 Boss 302, but why mess with the best Mustang ever built?
Now for the bad news — 2013 was the final year for the incredible Boss 302 package. When Ford introduced the modern Boss for the 2012 model year, the company stated that it would only run for two years — so sadly, the Boss name has gone once again.
The Ford Mustang is probably the most successful and respected American sports car of all time. The legendary 1969–’70 Boss 302s have stood the test of time as an exemplary example of the best engineering and design American had to offer at the time; there are few cars with a short two-year production span that have left such a mark on the performance-car landscape.
As for the 2012–’13 reincarnation of the Boss — it’s hard to imagine Ford will ever produce another dedicated high-performance road/track machine, or one wearing the Boss 302 label for that matter, that’s aimed fairly and squarely at the hard-core enthusiast market. Mind you, I hope I’m wrong!
Parnelli Jones & George Folmer in their Bud Moore Engineering ‘69 Boss 302’s
Optional Hurst T-handle shifter to swap the cogs around
The first Boss 302 styling prototype appears in this photograph with Shinoda and a Cougar Eliminator This styling prototype later became Shinoda’s personal vehicle A 1968 prototype was a Mach 1 dressed up with Boss Graphics. Notice the early rear spoiler and sports stars. Quarter panel scoops were covered
Right: Parnelli Jones at Riverside International Raceway, October 4, 1970
Left: Parnelli Jones inspired livery for the 2013 Boss 302 Mustang
Top: Boss generations at Daytona Left: Mustang in SCCA (Sports Car Club of America) series livery