Tom Wilson
December 12, 2013

With so many unsolved problems in the world, thank goodness the too-much-is-just-right crowd now has a legal supercharger for the Boss 302. It was getting hard to go on without one, what with only 444 hp in the exquisitely balanced, rpm-happy Boss. Imagine, not even close to 500 hp to the rear tires off the showroom floor. What was Ford thinking?

Luckily, J Bittle of JBA Speed has been on the case (for about 28 years now) and recently inked a deal with Vortech Engineering to be the sole developer and distributor of a 50-state emissions legal Vortech supercharger kit for the '12 and '13 Boss 302s. The resulting blower kits are just now hitting the streets, and with J putting us in his development car for a couple of breathless days of evaluation, we thought you'd like to tag along on this way-over 600hp ride.

It all starts with the hardware, and here there are no surprises. A Vortech V3 supercharger—that's a quiet one with helical gears—is the main attraction. Because there is no CARB-acceptable replacement for the hydrocarbon trap in the air filter box lid, the JBA installation retains the stock air filter assembly in order to remain smog legal. There is, however, a 98mm mass air meter included as part of the roto-molded, Vortech supplied air tubing, along with a large-capacity racing by-pass valve to vent excess blower air, an air-to-air charge cooler, and larger capacity fuel injectors. The whole shebang is given an all-important electronic integration by JBA's Bruce Tucker, with an SCT hand-held tuner included in the kit.

Because the V3 supercharger employs self-contained oiling, there is no need to break into the engine's lubrication system. For old hands, that means no one is going to drive a punch through your oil pan in order to install an oil return line. That's just as well because the Boss 302's cast aluminum oil pan doesn't take well to hammer and punch treatment. And thanks to the Boss's already high-volume fuel system, only a voltage-boosting module is needed to supply the necessary fuel to the big injectors.

JBA elected to keep a subdued presence on the outside of their Boss demonstrator. The supercharger does all the talking that’s needed.

Compared to the Mustang GT, the Boss kit development presented several fabrication challenges. Most are found near the oil cooler and lower radiator hose plumbing, where the Vortech's charge cooling ducts must also pass through. JBA techs worked up the necessary molded hoses, reshaped ducts, and trimmed fan shroud to suit. Similar changes were necessary around the throttle body, which sits higher in the Boss than in a GT, and there were wiring harness extensions to deal with as well.

Of course, the big deal here is the 50-state emission exemption, making the boosted Boss legal anywhere in the U.S. The calibration is written for 91-octane premium pump gasoline, a nominal 9 lbs of boost, and JBA guestimates—the combination has not been tested on an engine dyno—it generates 640 hp and 524 lb-ft of torque at the flywheel. On JBA's DynoJet, the rear wheel numbers are 571 hp and 472 lb-ft of torque at the rear tires. It's a lot of steam no matter how you measure it.

Pricing is listed at $8,195 for the kit with JBA asking an additional $2,000 for the installation. But, if you hurry you might get in on some early-bird specials that salesman J is offering.

One consideration so far is that the Track Key calibration, with its lumpy idle, is incompatible with the Vortech. JBA knows they can make the two play nicely together, but it's a task they'll tackle after getting the main kit fully sorted and selling.

There are a few options, starting with the blower finish. Satin is standard while polished or black is extra. There's an upgrade to 8-rib drive pulleys from the standard 6-rib arrangement if you really feel the need, and a $50 extended warranty that covers the supercharger for three years. A 1-year blower warranty is standard.

So much for the numbers, what really matters (besides bragging rights) is what does it feel like from behind the wheel? Very fast would be the glib response, but it's more accurate to say it's a Boss 302, but with more. It has a lighter, snappier feel than a Shelby GT 500, if that helps any, although the sledgehammer Shelby feels more muscular.