Mustang MonthlyFeatured Vehicles
1970 Ford Mustang Boss 302 - Something to Prove
Richard West makes his point that restored Mustangs can drive just as good as unrestored Mustangs
Sometimes it's best to keep your opinions to yourself. Several years ago in a Hoofbeats editorial, I made the comment that restored Mustangs never drive as good as unrestored Mustangs. Richard West begged to disagree and set out to prove me wrong by tracking me down at the Ford Nationals in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, to offer me a road test in his '70 Boss 302. He wanted to prove that his restored Boss drives just as good today as it did when it was new.
Richard should know. He bought the car brand-new in May 1970.
At the time, Richard was 19 years old, working part time at a local gas station, and driving a white '65 Mustang. He preferred the aqua color on a friend's '66 convertible and was seriously considering an aqua repaint for his Mustang when another friend pulled into the station with a yellow Boss 302. “I had heard of them but never seen one,” Richard said. “I'd never seen anything like it—spoilers, stripes, everything that anybody with a Mustang wanted to do with it.”
Instead of a repaint for his '65, Richard decided he wanted a Boss 302. His mother was against the idea—she thought it looked too much like a race car—but his father rode with him to McFayden's Ford Center in Omaha to check on a trade. By the time Richard finished checking off the option list—4.30 gears with Detroit Locker, rear spoiler, Shaker hoodscoop, Magnum 500 wheels, Interior Décor Group, power steering, tachometer, and AM radio—the price jumped to $4,389. With $1,100 trade-in for his '65 Mustang and his parents listed as co-owners, Richard ordered his Boss 302 and signed off to pay $110.73 per month for the next three years.
Richard also remembered his friend's aqua '66 Mustang. Spotting a Gulfstream Aqua Thunderbird at the dealership, he requested the same color for his Boss 302. But when the car arrived, it was painted a similar Dark Aqua Metallic, a standard Mustang color but rarely ordered. According to Kevin Marti's Mustang…By the Numbers book, only 1,171 '70 Mustangs were painted in F-code aqua. Of those, only nine were Boss 302s. Richard's was the only one with black Deluxe interior.
For six years, the 4.30-geared Boss 302 served as Richard's daily driver. He made many of the era's usual modifications—air shocks, Cragar wheels, and headers—and also added the popular rear window slats. In the late 1970s, the engine spun a bearing, so Richard parked his Boss until the early 1990s when he embarked on a three-year restoration of the 30,000-mile Mustang in his two-car garage.
Photo GalleryView Photo Gallery
Which brings us to last year's Ford Nationals trip when I met up with Richard and his Boss during a Friday afternoon get-together at the home of Randy Ream, head guru of the Boss 302 Registry. After several years of ragging on my restoration comments at Carlisle, Richard was finally getting me into the driver's seat of his Boss to prove a point.
We'd have to hurry. Dark clouds on the horizon and a fast-moving green and yellow blob on the iPhone's weather radar indicated that rain was on the way, and the last thing I wanted to do was slosh Richard's immaculate Boss through rain puddles. Opening the driver's door, I was greeted by a buzzing sound: Richard's Boss still had its functioning warning buzzer that was added at mid-1970 to alert drivers that the key was in the ignition. Many owners disconnected the obnoxious noise-maker. Richard's still worked.
Having owned an unrestored Boss 302 for 12 years, I had a reference point for comparison. Only my Boss did not have power steering or a Detroit Locker differential. The first thing I noticed as I turned from the driveway onto the street was the clunks and pops from the locking rearend as it ratcheted around the turn. Thanks to the 4.30 gears, the revs climbed quickly to get the high-winding Boss into its power range in a hurry. Just touch the throttle and the Mustang leaps ahead.
Out on the highway, I have to agree with Richard that his Boss drives much better than most restored Mustangs, although I have to admit that I’m not a fan of 1970-era power steering, which I find too sensitive and lacking in road feel. But even with reproduction Polyglas Goodyears, Richard’s Boss steers and handles with the authority you’d expect from a car that was designed as the "best handling street car—bar none!" Richard says his Mustang drives, rides, and feels just like it did when he drove it away from McFayden’s Ford Center in 1970. I would have to agree.
After all, it wouldn’t be smart to argue with the original owner.
Original Owner Stories
If you’re a longtime reader and seem to recall seeing Richard’s Boss 302 before, your memory is spot-on—we featured the aqua SportsRoof on our August 1994 cover. Here are some of Richard’s memories of the Mustang from that issue:
Taking delivery: "They (the Ford dealership) put it on the showroom floor. When I got there, I said, 'Get it out of here! That’s my car!’ I didn’t want it in the showroom because people were sitting in it!"
Modifications: "Over the years, I’ve had a giant .600 lift cam in there, 850 double-pumper carburetor, headers, everything. And if you didn’t have air shocks on your car, you couldn’t hang at Gino’s parking lot. I threw the original shocks in a pile along with the carburetor and other stuff. Luckily, I kept it all."
The wedding: "Unlike other people who jump in a limo, we ran out and jumped into the Boss. I smoked the tires leaving. There was not one can or piece of crepe paper tied to it. My buddies knew that if they put shoe polish on Rich’s car, I’d come out of the tux and kill them!"
Drag racing: "I bought it on a Wednesday and that weekend I was at Cornhusker Dragway with it. The salesman I bought it from was also there. He went under the hood with me and pulled off more vacuum lines than I did. I only ran 14.8s that day but I knew I could do better. The first week I had it, I didn’t even know how to get out of the hole."
Mom’s commuter: "The idea was that Mom would use the Boss once or twice a week but she couldn’t handle it. She’d be doing two mph making a turn and the locker rearend was going 'eck, eck, eck.’ She had a fit."