5.0 Mustang & Super FordsCar Reviews
Ford Mustang Boss 302 vs. 302S - Street vs. Race
The Boss 302 Gives its race car brother A run at the track—and drives home with the air on
It's always fun to slither into a new-to-you race car, and with Paul's our worry about physically fitting turned out baseless. Your scribe is about 10 inches taller than Paul, not to mention rather broader abeam, but Paul has his car intelligently laid out so that while we were a little tight, fit was not a factor. The vice-like race seat meant no more hanging on with your upper body as in the street car, which is not only vastly less tiring and reassuring, it also better telegraphs what the car is doing. The seat is considerably lower than in the street car, so seeing immediately in front or especially over the hood to the right was not the same thing, but again, not a meaningful issue.
Of course, the racing steering wheel is also direct, and the shifter was light years ahead of the street car's. Paul custom machined his shift linkage from billet and ball bearings and it absolutely does not attach to the bodywork, so it offered extreme precision, a ton of feedback, and normal to light effort. Nice.
In fact, precision was the watchword with Paul's ride. As we got on track we found the power slightly better but identical in personality to the street car, and the overall size and general feel of the racer was practically identical to the street car, but, and it's a critical point, the race car was another world when it came to precision. It's no wonder, either, as the rubber and fluid-filled bushings that make life so civilized on the street were replaced by metal-to-metal bushings and bearings nearly everywhere in the racer. Furthermore, the race car is a hair lighter, and that weight is carried lower. Add in the stiffer spring, bar, and shock settings and you have a Boss 302 with new-found agility and precision, plus a touch more oomph.
With a power-to-weight ratio hovering between 8.2 and 9.0 pounds per horsepower—depending on how you measure it—the World Challenge racer provided zesty acceleration and top end similar to a NASA American Iron car. This is perfect, as it's enough to hold anyone's attention and provide good racing, but not as overwhelming and on the ragged edge as an American Iron Extreme car. That makes the World Challenge racer a great choice for even mildly experienced amateurs and pros alike, and if you have any inclination to try your hand at World Challenge racing we say go for it. The car certainly won't intimidate.
Naturally, with all upholstery and sound deadener missing, plus the all-metal suspension, there is that wonderful race car ambiance inside Paul's car. Pebbles and grit can be heard tinging off the bodywork, and the odd bonk and clank is a given. But with mufflers we didn't need or wear earplugs so we didn't have that layer of isolation. Probably the loudest noises were gear whine, wind, and exhaust in that order.
And maybe because it really still is a Boss 302 even after all the modifications, the take-away from Paul's car was balance. It was a joy to drive with the throttle through the sweepers, selecting just how much angle you wanted by breathing on the throttle. It made us wish we were going racing next season.
Quibbles came in the technical sections. Even Paul said he thought the rear shock dampening was a little stiff, and the rear would upset ever so slightly on bumps. The brake pedal was good but not ideal either, with a somewhat high breakaway force, then a hair of travel. This is something you'd like to get rid of, but if not, you could easily live with. It did keep us from screaming "Banzai!" and diving on the binders for the slow corners, however. Paul noted the ABS wasn't working on our test day, so that would have helped covered up the brake-pedal feel.