Mustang Boss 302

Book Review

by Ryan King

During the 1960s and early '70s, performance sold cars.

Lee Iacocca understood that and under his tenure at Ford, the Total Performance marketing campaign was born. The lynchpin to the success of Total Performance was an old automotive adage: "Win on Sunday, sell on Monday." To do that, you had to compete, and you had to win.

The Mustang Boss 302 was the culmination of Ford's Total Performance campaign.

In an effort to contend in the ever-increasing competitive atmosphere of 1960's sports car racing, Ford unleashed the 1969 Boss 302 on the streets and the hard-cornering, high-winding Pony Car forever left an indelible mark on the Mustang's image as a performance icon.

Written by noted Mustang enthusiast and historian, Donald Farr, Mustang Boss 302: From Racing Legend to Modern Muscle Car is the story of how the Boss came to be.

The Book

Chapter 1: 1963-1968 Ford Goes Racing

Almost 50 years ago, as the Muscle Car Wars reached their zenith, the battle for supremacy was waged across a multitude of theaters. One of those theaters was sports car racing, specifically SCCA (Sports Car Club of America) Trans-Am racing.

Essentially developed for a special breed of car, the American two-door V8-powered sedan, Trans-Am racing was provided as a professional venue to pit Mustangs, Darts, and Barracudas against one another to bring in spectators to SCCA events. It worked, and by 1969, the hotly contested racing class was heavily backed by manufacturers and featured some of the top racing talent of the day. For the first two years, the Ford Mustangs fielded by Carroll Shelby and driven by Jerry Titus had taken the championship, but, in 1968, when Ford decided to exert more control over the factory-backed racing efforts, disaster struck. The teams were still the same, but the equipment was no longer the same bulletproof tech developed by Shelby, and thus the Camaro took the crown.

It was out of the ashes of the lost '68 Trans-Am season that the legend of the Boss 302 would emerge.

Chapter 1 takes a look at the events that lead up to the development of Ford's Total Performance effort to put America's Pony Car back on top of sports car competition.

Chapter 2: Building the Boss

Unhappy with both the Trans-Am loss in '68 and an article disparaging Ford's lack of street performance credibility, Lee Iacocca wasn't impressed. It fell onto Henry Ford II's new hire to return the Mustang to performance prominence, Bunkie Knudson.

It took just seven months to develop the Mustang Boss 302. Ford's answer to the Z28 Camaro came to fruition in April of 1969, homologating it for competition in the SCCA Trans-Am series. Featuring a specially-developed engine and significantly altered suspension for performance driving, the Boss was ready to take it to the streets and tracks against its nemesis. Where its predecessor, the Shelby GT-350 was a hot rod, albeit built by some very skilled professionals, the Boss 302 benefitted from the backing and development of entire divisions within Ford – and benefit it would.

Chapter 2 covers the development of the Boss 302 from engine, to suspension, to body mods, and styling alterations. Although it may not seem like it, the Boss 302 was a significant departure from the stock Mustang. Its innovation lay in the tiny details which turned it from a pedestrian performance car into a real corner burner.

Chapter 3: 1969: Look Out Z28, Here Comes Boss 302

1969 1/2 marked the introduction of the legendary Boss 302. Rated at 290 horsepower, the diminutive powerplant would become a legend that would stay with the Mustang until its second coming 45-years later.

Although not yet perfected, the first year of the Boss model would re-energize the Mustang's performance image and prepare it for domination of its Camaro Z28 competitor.

Chapter 3 delves into the production Boss 302, its launch, and even a glimpse at the only Shelby Mustang to be powered by a Boss engine.

Chapter 4: 1969 Trans-Am: Boss for the Track

During the late '60s, Trans-Am racing was one of the top racing series in the country and for good reason. The hard-core battles being fought by the automakers had reached a fever pitch.

The 1969 season provided a host of daunting challenges for the Mustang's newest model, the Boss 302. The difficulties came from every direction: development, production, qualification for Trans-Am, racing, and the competition itself.

In Chapter 4, the trials and tribulations of the Boss's first racing season are explored in detail, along with its successes and/or failures at each and every race.

Chapter 5: 1970: Hot Performance, New Graphics

1970 was the second and last year of the original Boss 302. It also happened to be the pinnacle of the breed. The finishing touches that had to be shelved in order to meet production deadlines for the 1969 model year were employed and production was more than quadrupled.

This chapter covers the production of my personal-favorite Boss 302 – the one from 1970 – and all its details. It also includes a look at the very, very rare prototype 1971 Boss 302, of which there were only two made, and only one known to exist today.

Chapter 6: 1970 Trans-Am: Championship Mission

The 1970 Trans-Am season was the most hotly contested season in its then, five year history. All four major manufacturers were fully engaged and pushing for success.

The Mustang all but locked it up from the very beginning.

Just as the Mustang began by dominating the 1969 Trans-Am season before its program was wiped-out half-way through, the Boss came out again and took commanding control of the series, which it held on to until the end.

It also marked the end of the majority of factory involvement in the series and the Boss 302.

Covering the most competitive year of the first five years of Trans-Am racing, Chapter 6 follows the trials, tribulations, and triumphs of the Boss 302 that would cement its nearly mythic status for decades.

Chapter 7: Forty Years in Waiting

Anticipation.

44 years is a lot of anticipation.

That's how long it was before Ford developed another Boss 302 Mustang.

The Boss 302 had become such a mythical icon that the true aficionados within the walls of Ford felt they simply couldn't reproduce the magic of the original Boss without all of the pieces in place.

When the S197 Mustang debuted and development began on a new 5.0, the people and the car and the engine all fell into place.

Chapter 7 delves into the anticipation and politics behind the creation of the new Boss 302.

Chapter 8: Project 747

Project 747 is where the revival of the Boss happened.

To be honest, I wasn't very familiar with the development of the newest Boss 302, so this chapter was as much a revelation for me as it will be for a lot of readers.

The story, however, is fascinating and Chapter 8 explores not just the tale, but the process. If you're like me, that's like finding a treasure trove packed with awesome. The Boss 302 is an amazing car and its narrative shows why it became so astounding.

Chapter 9: "R" is for Race

Here's a twist, when the Boss began its racing career in 2010 as the Boss 302R, it used a stock factory engine.

Let that sink in.

Instead of a special suped up version of a factory engine, it hit the road course and was competitive with the engine that they plunked between the shock towers of the street car. Granted, they did change its tuning a bit, but that was it. In fact, the racing program was where the engine was tested and vetted as a production engine.

Chapter 9 covers the Boss's debut as a race car in the Grand-Am Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge series. Although plagued by the teething issues associated with sending an untested car right into racing, it proved to be a potent performer, none-the-less, and that performance was adapted directly into the street cars, ultimately making the Boss 302 a real track-capable car right off the showroom floor.

Chapter 10: The Boss is Back

In 2011 the Boss 302 returned to the 2012 Mustang line-up for another special two year run. Unlike the 1969 Mustang, however, there weren't major refinement issues such as missing suspension pieces for the first year.

Like the original car, however, the Boss had a number of special design and engineering elements that made it substantially better than the standard Mustang offerings. Those special pieces were in the body, interior, powertrain, exhaust, suspension, brakes, wheels, tires, and even in the computer programming, which was available in two flavors: base mode and TracKey – a special mode that alters the way the engine runs specifically for race track duty.

Chapter 10 delves into the many differences between a Mustang GT and the tweaked Boss 302 which – until the debut of the new Shelby GT-350 & GT-350R – was considered the very best factory Mustang ever built, and for a damn good reason: it drove like no other factory Mustang ever built.

Incidentally, the 2013 is my favorite of the two.

Chapter 11: Laguna Seca: Boss to the Extreme

When the best isn't good enough, make it better.

Of course, better is in the eyes of the beholder. Better in this case is more raw, more elemental, more Mustang-y.

Entirely track-focused with just enough street built into it that the government allowed it to still prowl public roads, the special shorter-run Laguna Seca model of the special short-run Boss 302, was intended to be just shy of the Boss 302R race model – basically a race car with a license plate.

The body, interior, suspension, wheels, tires, and even parts of the powertrain were improved over the base model Boss to refine it into a real track star, capable of running with higher powered exotics on a road course.

Chapter 11 is the final chapter of this book and it dives into the mods done to the Boss to make it a serious contender on the race track.

Appendix A: 2012-2013 Boss 302 Technical Specifications

The title says it all, it's a list of the special components used on the Boss 302 that differentiate it from the Mustang GT – although, it doesn't cover every component that differentiates the Laguna Seca from the base Boss. You'll have to review Chapter 10 for those gems.

Appendix B: 1969-70 Boss 302 Technical Specifications

Again, the title speaks for itself. It's a list of what makes the '69-'70 Boss special, at least from a parts standpoint.

Appendix C: 1969-70 Boss 302 Magazine Articles

Aptly named and valuable for historical research into the original Boss 302, I personally find Appendix C to be a welcome resource as I prefer to do my research carefully before making any purchase or starting on any project.

Appendix D: 1969-70 Boss 302 Drag Test Results

For those of us who like to enjoy life a quarter mile at a time (in addition to a turn at a time), this is a list of the original Boss 302's published drag times – which is nice because hunting that information down in magazines is both time consuming and expensive.

Appendix E: 1969-70 Boss 302 Options

For those restoration and history buffs, this list picks up from where Appendix B leaves off, cataloguing the factory options for the original Boss 302 in both '69 and '70.

Conclusion

1969 was a long time ago.

A time when performance sold cars and created legends.

One of the most legendary cars of that era was the Boss 302 Mustang. It dominated race tracks, performed like a race car right off the showroom floor, and cemented the Mustang's mystique as a performance car for the ages.

For over 40 years, that legend remained locked away in people's memories and in the history books. However, in 2010 Ford brought that legend back to life through the passion and efforts of die hard Mustang enthusiasts within the Ford Motor Company, developing three new models that embodied that legend by creating the best all-around purist factory Mustangs the world had ever seen until that time.

In Mustang Boss 302: From Racing Legend to Modern Muscle Car, Donald Farr does an excellent job chronicling the Boss 302's development, life, and successes that spanned more than four decades.

I highly recommend picking up a copy for yourself, there are so many facets to this book that make it a captivating and worthwhile read.

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For more information contact Motorbooks on the web at www.motorbooks.com, by phone 1.800.826.6600, or by email at customerservice@motorbooks.com.