Courtesy of Ford Motor Company
May 20, 2011

Since the late ’60s, Ford has been masterful at building specialty Mustangs.

There’ve been enough late-models alone to make us drool. The SVT Cobra, Cobra R, Bullitt, Mach 1, and Shelby GT500 all have a special place in our hearts. And let’s not forget Ford’s turnkey racecars, the FR500S and Cobra Jet--all are winners. Even the Track Pac V-6 gets 30-plus mpg, can tear up an autocross, and runs high 13s with a tweak or two.

Imagine this--it gets better as Ford introduces yet another specialty model--the 2012 Boss 302.

Meet the new Boss, a track-ready version of the already-potent Mustang GT. And while the ’11 5.0 features world-class refinement, impressive on-track performance, and great styling, the Boss overflows with engineered enhancements normally found on racecars, not OE production models--there is no fluff. If the base GT can run with today’s handling benchmark, BMW’s M3, then the Boss blows it off the map.

"The team at Ford wanted to offer their fellow Mustang enthusiasts something really special," said Chief Mustang Engineer Dave Pericak. "It’s a beautifully balanced factory-built racecar that they could drive on the street. The Boss 302 isn’t something a Mustang GT owner can buy the parts for out of a catalog. This is a front-to-back re-engineered Mustang, with every system designed to make a good driver great and a great driver even better."

A Little History

After a 37-year hiatus, the timing and technology was right for Ford to bring back the Boss. The original Boss 302 Mustangs, first offered in 1969, were designed to dominate in SCCA Trans-Am racing with a high-revving (290hp) small-block V-8 and outstanding road-holding capabilities, said Darrell Behmer, who oversees exterior and interior design at Ford. The package carried over to 1970, when American racing legend Parnelli Jones won the coveted Trans Am championship behind the wheel of a ’70 Boss 302. Ford also built the Boss 429 (Boss-9) but mainly to gain homologation for use in NASCAR. In 1971, its last year, Ford built the Boss 351, a Cleveland-based plant with solid lifters, 330 hp, and gobs of low-rpm grunt.

Be the Boss

For it’s grand re-introduction of the ’12 Boss 302, Ford (not-so-secretly) brought it to the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance for display. It was a smashing success. Ford then invited us to Monterey, California, for a great road drive, followed by an all-out lapping session at the famed Laguna Seca racetrack, the likes of which is rarely seen at press introductions.

We arrived in Monterey on a cool afternoon and slipped behind the wheel of a Race Red Boss for the first leg of this test. Our jaunt included a spirited cruise up and down the scenic Pacific Coast Highway, a section of road that my driving partner, Hot Rod magazine editor Rob Kinnan, called "one of the best drives in America."

The Boss evoked emotion at first glance--it stirred images of those fantastic Trans Am racers emblazoned with factory stripes, high-winding small-block engines at full song, and legendary race drivers like Parnelli Jones, George Fullmer, and Dan Gurney. I was so anxious, I wanted to jump in and drive--fast--and that we did!

Glued to the supportive Recaro seats, Kinnan and I wheeled the Boss, stretching the wonderful 5.0-liter engine to the 7,500 redline on the twisty mountain roads. Its sound is pure, and loud too, which brings me to speak of the 444hp naturally aspirated work of art.

Not just a re-flashed combo, the Boss is a "modded" blower-free, high-revving solider that is ready to kick and scream for you. It is seriously hot rodded, starting at the top with a revised intake developed on Boss 302R and Daytona Prototype engines. The intake is a runner-in-box design with short, straight runners fed by a common plenum and a throttle body mounted front and center. It feeds CNC-ported heads (which take 2.5 hours to cut) with hollow valves and sodium-filled exhaust valves that are 1mm larger than the base 5.0.

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