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The History and Evolution of the Boss 302 Mustang

Boss 302 Mustang

Ford began production of its Mustang line in 1964. Just five years down the road, it produced one of the most highly desired racing editions in the history of the brand. The Ford Mustang Boss 302 made its debut in 1969 and was produced through 1970. To fully appreciate the inherent value of the Boss 302 a working knowledge of its history and evolution helps to enhance an understanding of its significance in automotive history as well as of the brand. It's a model that has gone down in the annals and here is a more in-depth inspection of the elements that combine together to make this such a special edition Mustang.

The debut of a masterpiece

Ford's pony cars were an instant success with racing enthusiasts as well as with the general public. The brand had introduced a new class of street care as well as track cars to the world and each new model year was met with anxious anticipation. Five years into its infancy Ford's Mustang line welcomed the Boss 302 into the herd in 1969. This was the performance car that would move to the front of the line to earn the title of legend among the variants of the Mustang. Its name was derived fairly because of its aggressive presence that commanded attention with the 302 cubic inches V-8 engine, hence the name Boss 302.

A different approach to design

Boss 302 Mustang exterior

Ford could have put the 312 in an updated version of the previous Mustang models, but the design team decided to go one better and create a vehicle that would fit around the engine. Larry Shinoda is the designer behind the Boss 302. The master of automotive design is credited with giving the car its name. When asked about what he was working on at the time, he told the that it was "the boss's." This was a humorous approach to keeping a sworn secret during the Boss's development. The name stuck and it was used to title the vehicle. The Boss 302 took inspiration from the new design of the new 1969 Mustang but there were distinct differences that set them apart. It was a sibling with its own abilities and personality.

Born to race and destined for the streets

Ford's intention for the Boss 302 was for the track, but there were a few requirements that had to be satisfied before it would be allowed to take on any Sports Car Club of America racing league track. There was a mandate for a production version of a model to be sold in order to race in the Trans-Am series. Ford was obligated to produce a production model of the Boss 302 if they ever wanted it to see the track. With a definitive mission burned in their hearts, the design team set out to build a production performance car to market while preparing their special track variant. simultaneously. This would put their talents to the test.

Development of the engine

Boss 302 Mustang front

Work began in Cleveland on the 351 cubic inch engine that would become the power plant driving the Boss 302. Cleveland heads were applied for the Windsor block to produce the Boss 302 engine that would carry its namesake across the finish line and ultimately win the title for the 1970 Trans-Am series. The heads had not yet entered production which is a significant event in the history of automotive engineering. They were oversized for the block and were modified with 1.71-inch exhaust valves and 2.23-inch intake valves Ford engineers had their work cut out for them in making it all work seamlessly for the track. When all was said and done the engine weighed 500+ pounds. The small-block V-* emerged with a 3-inch stroke and a 4-inch bore with a special high lift design for the mechanical cam, which was another unusual feature for its day. A special 780 cubic feet per minute Holley carburetor breathed with the aid of an aluminum intake and the forged steel crankshaft gave the engine dynamic and static balance. The recorded stats for the Boss 302 engine were 290 bhp with 290 lb-ft of torque for the production models with track versions reaching 470 horsepower.

Following a tradition

The Boss 302 followed the legendary Carroll Shelby's GT350 that tore up the track at LeMans. Ford had already established a reputation when it took on Ferrari, but at home, its biggest competition was the Chevrolet Camaro. the Boss 302 achieved a higher number of road-racing successes thanks to the skillful driving of Parnelli Jones. Although this high-performance street-legal race car was only made for two model years it made an impressive showing.

The First Generation Boss 302

Boss 302 Mustang side

The first generation of the Mustang Boss 302 spanned from 1969 through 1970.

The engine was born of the need for homologation for racing specifications. It's worth noting that Larry Shinoda was previously employed at GM and was recruited for the task of styling the Boss 302. He helped to develop the remarkably aggressive aesthetic with a reflective C-stripe but it was set apart from the production Mustangs for 1969 by the elimination of the fake air scoops. You could opt for a blackout hood and black horizontal rear window shade. The production model was also decked out with a rear deck wing and a front spoiler which was new for the Mustang.

Updates for the 1970 Boss 302

The 1970 model of the variant saw an updated grille inserting two vents on the outer portion of the headlights and a reduction from four headlamps to a set of duals in the grille opening. The Boss 302 also received stripes running along the top of the hood, Other changes for the production model included competition suspension as a standard feature, a Hurst shifter, a redesigned dual exhaust system, cast aluminum value covers eliminating the chrome and slightly reduced intake valves. Ford sold 7.013 of the production models at an MSRP of $3,720 apiece.

The evolution of the Boss 302

Boss 302 Mustang interior

The ride height of the 1970 Boss 302 was lowered with disc brakes in the front, reinforced shock towers, heavier spindles, and larger sway bars. The Boss 302 V8 engine was mated with a four-speed manual transmission. The top speed for the production model remained at 98 mph with no big change in acceleration which remained static at 0 to 60 mph in 6.9 seconds. A special option was offered by Ford offering a deluxe interior option for enhanced creature comforts.

The Ford Mustang Boss 302 racer

We've discussed the particulars of the necessary production models of the Boss 302, but the original intention was to build a high-performance race car that would tear up with tack in Trans-Am racing. Previously, Penske Camaros had taken the honors of first overall, along with the Pontiac Firebird, Team Chaparral Camaros, and AAR Barracudas. Ford directed their energies towards a car that would take the victory from its competition. The first few races were not that successful as Ford was losing a lot of time in the pits. In 1960, it was discovered that the Firestone tires were a source of trouble so they made the migration to Goodyear. They brought a manager on board to choreograph pit stops and improve efficiency. Allan Moffat, Canadian driver joined the Boss Ford team driving the Boss 302 in Australia under the Coca-Cola sponsorship to win roughly two-thirds of his racing events in the Australian Touring Car Championship between the years 1969 through 1972. In 1970 he placed number 6, 2nd in 1971, and in 1972, he placed 3rd.

Special limited editions of the Boss 302

Boss 302 Mustang interior 1

In 2007 Steve Saleen along with Parnelli Jones designed a limited-edition Mustang that paid its respects to the 1970 Boss 302. The variant was called the Saleen/Parnelli Jones S302. Saleen built a 302ci in 2007 with a high revving engine that cranked a total of 400 horsepower and 390 lb-ft of torque. We can't forget the multiple reproductions of the Boss 302 complements of Matchbox and HotWheels with their diecast reproductions of the models in toy form. Getting back to this rare original, we can't overlook the value of a fully restored original. Two of the 1969 models sold for $530,000 for the pair in 2007.

The Second Generation Boss 302

After 1970 production of the Mustang Boss 302 ceased with the exception of Saleen and Jones' limited editions. It wasn't until 2012 that Ford decided to revive the legendary racer for another two model year stint. From 2012 through 2013. Once again the engineers and design team at Ford put their heads together to develop a special edition 2012 Boss 302. The revived model featured a host of modern upgrades including the 2011 GT 5.0-liter Coyote V8 engine but it came out with some enhancements for 'the Boss." A few tweaks include the high flow intake from the 302R, revised camshafts, a forged rotating assembly, and CNC ported heads. The 2012 model generated 444 horsepower with 380 lb-ft of torque. The engine was matched with a 6-speed MT-82 manual. Exhaust sound was enhanced with side pipes featuring attenuation discs for a deeper and more robust growl. The new iteration maintained the same DNA of the original Boss 302R which was the racing version. Between 2012 and 2013, Ford sold a total of 2,000 Boss 302 vehicles.

The Boss 302 Laguna Seca

Boss 302 Mustang back

The Boss 302 Laguna Seca is a special edition variant that was made for a single model year in 2012-2013. A total of 750 of them were produced by Ford. This was a 2-door that was offered under the 5th generation Mustang platform. It came equipped with a 5.0-liter V-8 engine. This variant was a limited production run that was made to bridge the gap between the Boss 302R race track edition and the Boss 302 production variant. Every effort was made to design a race car that was street-legal without sacrificing the racing features. Most notably, the rear badge of the Laguna Seca features a map of the track to signify its intention. This was a highly upgraded version of the regular 2012-13 production models. It was equipped with a Torsen limited-slip rear differential, a larger rear stabilizer, and revised suspension tuning. There were no rear seats in the Laguna Seca but it did come with a cross-car-X-brace for structural integrity in lieu of back seats, giving it the feel of a track car. This car was offered in a choice of Ingot Silver or Black exterior colors. Buyers could opt for red accents and a red roof.

2013 Laguna Seca Boss 302

Ford offered the 2013 version of the Laguna Seca Boss 302 in a new color choice. It was offered in Black and in a School Bus Yellow. You could also place an order for matte silver reflective stripes. This model was adorned with a larger rear spoiler and a beefier front splitter.


Boss 302 Mustang 1

The Ford Mustang Boss 302 is a legendary car that was originally created for the track, but also made for the streets. Racing regulations made it necessary for Ford to design a production model for sale that was street legal, so they complied. In the end, the racer ended up being a success on the track. The Boss 302 disappeared until 2012 when it was produced in a limited production run with an interesting variant that presented a street-legal race car in the form of the Laguna Seca Boss 302. Once again, Ford enthusiasts were thrilled with the production of one of the most beloved muscle cars in the history of the brand. The Boss 302 was only released for two brief runs that were limited to just 2 model years each. This enhances their collectibility and overall value. The Boss 302, 302R, and all other variants will go down in the history books as one of the most unique models to roll off the lines at Ford.

Benjamin Smith

Written by Benjamin Smith

Benjamin Smith is one of the managing editors of Moneyinc. Ben's been focusing on the auto and motorcycle sector since 2005. He's written over 1000 articles in the space and continues to learn about it each day. His favorite car is "any Bugatti" and he's a die hard Harley Davidson fan.

Read more posts by Benjamin Smith

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