The legacy continues for the Boss 302 Mustang.
The Mustang was getting beat up and having it’s lunch money stolen during the late sixties. The pony car segment was crowded and competitive. Ford needed something new to capture checkered flags and adoring consumers. The result was the Boss 302 Mustang – a legacy that continues with the 2012 Boss Mustang.
Before the dawn of 1970 Ford had a problem. The commanding lead they had enjoyed in the pony car segment was diminishing on racetracks, and in showrooms. During the sixties, the performance of the Mustang had been eclipsed by the small and big block offerings available in the Chevrolet Camaro. To add insult to injury, Roger Penske’s Camaros had won the SCCA Trans Am series back to back in 1968 and 1969.
After introducing the 428 Cobra Jet in mid 1968, Ford chose a new recipe to reclaim their performance edge. A new power plant would be coupled with a redesigned chassis for 1969 with the goal of taking back the Trans Am championship.
The Original Boss 302
The Boss Mustang was designed by Larry Shinoda (a former GM employee) with distinctive style and functional aerodynamics. The louvers and fake scoops on the side of the car were gone – replaced with a sloping C pillar and rear side window opening – a graceful derivative from the previous year coupe. But just as important as the new stance of our favorite pony – This Mustang used a tunnel-port 302 Windsor block mated with 351 Cleveland heads. The resulting 290hp defined the Boss 302. It was time to try and take back the racetrack.
That was a significant challenge. This was the high water mark of American road racing. Manufacturer support was behind each of the big race teams:
Ford – Bud Moore – Boss 302 Mustang – Parnelli Jones / George Follmer
Chevrolet – Chaparral – Camaro Z28 – Jim Hall / Ed Leslie / Vic Elford
Plymouth – All American Racing – Cuda – Dan Gurney / Swede Savage
Dodge – Autodynamics – Challenger TA – Sam Posey / Tony Adamowicz
Pontiac – TG Racing – Trans Am – Jerry Titus
AMC – Roger Penske – Javelin – Mark Donohue / Peter Revson
That’s a tough crowd.
The Boss 302 showed promise in 1969. Four factory backed cars, driven by two teams, (Carrol Shelby and Bud Moore) had great success early in the season. The Boss 302 won 4 of the first 5 races before falling victim to a pattern of attrition the remainder of the season. The car was fast but unable to unseat the Chevy Camaro in 1969.
April 19, 1970
Bud Moore returned to Laguna Seca in April of 1970 with two Boss 302 Mustangs and a determination to reclaim the championship for Ford. Drivers Parnelli Jones and George Follmer did not disappoint. Jones took the pole and only gave up the lead once while in the pits. The Boss Mustang won the race leading second place Donahue (Team Penske – now driving an AMC Javelin) by 40 seconds. Follmer would place third rounding out the podium, and setting the stage for a title and driver championship.
“Jones won again at Lime Rock Park, followed by a Follmer victory at Bryar Motorsports Park. Jones then took his third victory of the year at Mid-Ohio in June. Donohue made things interesting in his Javelin, but two more victories for Jones at Seattle and Riverside sealed the championship for Ford and the Boss 302. The title was a bittersweet one for Ford and the Blue Oval faithful, though. They had achieved what they set out to do by taking the Trans Am title in 1970, but it would also mark the end of factory involvement for Ford in motor racing for more than a decade.”
The Boss is Back.
Mark Twain once said, “History doesn’t repeat itself – but it does rhyme.” In 2009 Ford launched a program to bring back some historical repetition and celebrate the 40th anniversary of Parnelli Jones’ championship season with a new Boss Mustang – the Boss 302R.
Like the 1969 and 1970 Mustangs prepared for SCCA Trans-am, in order to be eligible for racing in the Grand Am series, Ford needed Boss Mustang production vehicles available to the public. The 2012 Boss 302 is available in standard and Laguna Seca (LS) trim.
Once again rhyming with history – the Boss 302R did well its first year in competition, but not spectacular. Developed by Multimatic Motorsports, the Boss 302 regularly qualified and finished in the top 10 spots – but were a distant challenge for the dominant BMWs.
It’s April 1970 All Over Again
Almost 41 years after the first race of the first Boss 302 champion season, April 11, 2012 another school bus-yellow Boss Mustang wearing the number 15 gets its first win in the Grand-Am Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge. Joe Foster put the car on the pole at Barber Motorsports Park and never looked back.
Jack Roush also had a great run in the #61 Boss 302R Mustang at Barber running as high as P2 – and that team went on to win the following race at VIR in May.
The reigning BMWs of the series are getting serious challenges from the Boss 302R Mustangs as history indeed continues to hum along. It’s great to see the Boss back in action.