In this edition of Muscle Car Milestones, we’ll take an in-depth look at the 1969-1970 Ford Mustang Boss 302. The 1969-1970 Ford Mustang Boss 302 was created for SCCA production-class racing homologation. That meant that in order to race the specially prepared 302 cubic-inch engine, street versions of the powerplant had to be created.
During the 1967 racing season, Ford dominated eight of the twelve SCCA Trans Am races in either the Ford Mustang or the Mercury Cougar. However, that supremacy was short-lived, courtesy of the Team Penske Camaro Z28, driven by Mark Donohue. In fact, Chevrolet dominated the 1968 season with 10 wins out of 13 races. Needless to say, Ford was not happy.
Adding insult to injury, not only did the Camaro Z28 rack up wins at the track, it scored big in the showroom. Chevy sold around 7,000 Z28s during the 1968 model year and those in the know predicted that number could triple for 1969. It was time for Ford to take action.
1969: Who’s the Boss?
Ford had recently hired Semon “Bunkie” Knudsen away from General Motors and made him president of Ford. Soon afterward, Knudsen brought on board Larry Shinoda, a former General Motors designer, to begin work crafting a Mustang to take on the Z28. The duo hastened to put together a team to create a Z28 killer and, thus, the 1969 Ford Mustang Boss 302 was born.
The 1969 Boss 302 was available exclusively as a Sportback fastback coupe and featured several distinctive features. The Boss sported a non-glare, matte black center plane painted hood, a blacked-out rear deck and back panel, and a black C-stripe side stripe. Other exterior features include a functional front spoiler, larger front fender wells to house larger tires, and Magnum 500 steel wheels with bright trim rings. To make the Boss 302 even more unique, Ford did away with the non-functional rear fender side scoops as well as the Mustang badging on the rear sail panels. Drivers wanting a sportier Boss 302 could opt for rear window sport slats, rear deck spoiler, and dual racing mirrors. The Boss 302 was available in Bright Yellow, Calypso Coral, Wimbledon White, and Acapulco Blue.
The Boss 302’s interior was based on the base model Mustang, but drivers could choose several options to dress up the interior. High-backed “Comfortweave” bucket seats, AM/FM stereo, and an 8,000-rpm tachometer are just a few amenities available for the driving enthusiast. And if you’re looking to check off air conditioning on the option list, you may be surprised to find it was not available in the Boss 302.
The Boss 302 was powered by a 302 cubic-inch V8 rated at 290 horsepower and 290 lb.-ft. of torque. Those in the know claim those numbers are somewhat conservative and actual output is closer to 350 horsepower. This engine comprised new cylinder heads with high turbulence polyangle wedge combustion chambers, canted valves for better gas flow, and a forged steel crankshaft. This powerplant also features a special high-riser manifold, Holley 780 CFM 4-barrel carburetor, and forged aluminum pistons. A Toploader four-speed manual is exclusively mated to the Boss. No automatic transmission choices were available.
Car and Driver reviewed the Boss 302 for their June 1969 issue. They praised the Boss 302’s styling and handling and even went as far to say “Without a doubt, the Boss 302 is the best handling Ford to ever come out of Dearborn – and it may just be the new standard by which everything from Detroit will be judged.” The reviewers also stated “Ford’s answer to the Z/28 rates an A. It’s easily the best Mustang yet – and that includes all the Shelbys and Mach 1s.”
Car Life got their hands on a Boss 302 in an interesting way. Instead of getting a test car from Ford, the editors were able to track down an actual Boss 302 owner and use this car for testing purposes. At the track, the Boss sprinted from 0 to 60 in 6.9 seconds and ran the quarter mile in 14.85 seconds at 96.15 miles per hour. Compared to the 1969 Chevrolet Camaro Z28, Car Life ran the Chevy from 0 to 60 in 7.4 seconds and finished the quarter mile in 15.12 seconds at 94.8 miles per hour.
1970: Back For Another Round
The Boss 302 went through a few changes for the 1970 model year. For starters, the exterior now featured a new hood stripe treatment. A black center stripe was accented with two thinner black stripes with that ran down the front fenders, doors, and rear quarter. The Boss 302 also sported a new front fascia that featured dual headlights within the grille and air inlets on opposite sides of grille. More color choices, including Medium Lime Metallic, Bright Gold Metallic, and Grabber Green, were also available. An optional shaker hood scoop would only set you back $65.
The interior featured Comfortweave high-back bucket seats in vinyl and luxurious carpeting. A Décor Group option could be ordered with a faux teakwood-grained instrument panel, deluxe steering wheel, and knitted vinyl or cloth and vinyl high-back bucket seating.
The Boss 302 was still powered by its namesake 302 cubic-inch V8. And it was still conservatively rated at 290 horsepower and 290 lb.-ft. of torque. The only available transmission was a close or wide-ratio four-speed manual shifted with a Hurst T-handle shifter.
Hot Rod magazine put the 1970 Boss 302 to the test for their January 1970 issue at Orange County International Raceway in Irvine, California. Their best quarter mile time was 14.621 seconds at 97.50 miles per hour. The magazine’s affection for the car was evident by stating “The Boss 302 is an exceptionally roadworthy piece of production-line car, again comparing almost straight across with the Z/28. It’s definitely the best handling car Ford has ever built, and that alone makes the car worthwhile.”
After a two-year run, Ford pulled the plug on the Boss 302. The Boss 302 was the SCCA Trans Am champ for the 1970, beating out the Chevrolet Camaro Z28 and the AMC Javelin. Out of eleven races, the Boss 302 was victorious six times. Parnelli Jones was the driver that helped Ford win the 1970 championship. The Boss 302 would return once again for the 2012 and 2013 model year before disappearing into the history books.