Eric English
January 12, 2015

We’ll admit to being a bunch of jaded Mustang fanatics, but it’s our honest opinion that retro styling has seldom made a bigger splash than it did when the ’05 Mustang made its memorable debut.

The visuals were an instant hit, and, likewise, enthusiasts were happy to embrace the healthy modular V-8s that came along for the ride. The new engines provided good power and fuel economy, butter-smooth drivability, and the potential for bolt-ons galore—it was all good, no? Well, to a few hearty souls, true high performance is all about cubes, carbs, and a big-lift camshaft, with the S197 serving as a blank canvas for some creativity and old school car crafting. Count Page Stevens and Jim Francis as members of this group of hardcore traditionalists.

Stevens has been a Ford enthusiast for decades, and found himself intrigued by the hubbub that preceded the new retro Stang in 2004. He made up his mind to have one of the first to arrive in his hometown near Portland, Oregon, yet from the start, Stevens had big plans to take it far beyond the norm. Current owner John Francis was general manager of a local Ford dealer at the time, and has been a friend of Stevens for years. The two tossed around ideas for Stevens’ soon-to-come S197. It wasn’t long before the fantasy of swapping in a Boss 429 began to get some real traction. Needless to say, such a swap isn’t for the faint of heart or inexperienced, so it was fortuitous that Stevens knew the parties that could make it all come together.

As a quick reminder to those who haven’t memorized the annals of vintage pony car history, Boss 429 Mustangs were built in 1969 and 1970 specifically to legalize the big-block Boss engine for NASCAR racing. Known as a homologation effort, it met NASCAR requirements that engines raced in competition be “production” engines, available in cars sold to the public. In street from, the Boss sported radical and massive cylinder heads with “semi-hemi” combustion chambers. In race form, the chambers were true hemispherical. Either way, the engine picked up a couple of nicknames along the way, such as Shotgun and Blue Crescent. Both the engine and car were truly exotic in the day and remain some of the most revered and sought after Mustangs of all time—roughly 850 were built for 1969 and 500 for 1970. With this as background, it’s no wonder Stevens decided to use the Boss 429 as the basis for his modern build.

Once the ’05 rolled off the transporter at Tigard, Oregon’s Landmark Ford, Stevens indeed found himself with one of the first new Mustangs to arrive in the Portland area. Teardown commenced almost immediately, with Stevens taking a two-pronged approach. Larry Kalsch began assembling a wicked 525-cube Boss engine, while Kreative Images in Wilsonville, Oregon, prepared the ’05 for a huge power infusion.

Perhaps surprisingly, a Boss 429 physically fits better in a S197 than in a ’69-’70 Mustang. Francis reports that while mucho custom work was necessary to get the swap accomplished, it involved no cutting or suspension revisions. It was a different story when the original Bosses were built, for they required major reworking of the inner fenders and shock towers to accommodate the big-block’s massive cylinder heads. The heads in Francis’ ’05 are a modern interpretation by C&C Motorsports, with full hemispherical chambers. Engine dyno numbers before it went into the car were 758 hp and 660 lb-ft of torque.

To aptly describe all that was done would take far more than a magazine feature, but the very brief overview includes a custom six-point cage, a beefy 9-inch rearend, Eibach suspension components, and Wilwood discs at all corners. Inside, it’s an amazing sensation to sit in Francis’ ’05 and fire up the 13:1-compression-ratio Boss Hemi. Everything around you says new and modern, but the car shakes and sounds unlike any mod-motor!

The build happened so quickly after the S197 debut that plenty of custom work had to be done to install the big discs, as no specific application yet existed. If you think the wheels look strangely familiar but are hard to place, you’d be right—they’re genuine Ford GT supercar forgings measuring 18x9 and 19x11.5 inches. As can be said about virtually every aspect of this car, they’re just right!

Once the engine arrived from Kalsch Machine, the Kreative Images crew got busy on a custom K-member to support the all-aluminum beast, and had Tom Phillips fab up a masterful set of custom 2 1/4-inch headers specific to the application. Stevens has a penchant for road racing, and so it was natural to back up the Boss engine with a Richmond five-speed with a 1:1 top gear—no doubt it makes for some fast and furious shifting when at full song.

So with all the talk about original owner Stevens, engine builder Kalsch, and car builder Kreative Images, when does current owner Francis reenter the scene? Well, it turns out that Stevens tends to turn cars pretty quickly. The joy of the build is a big part of what makes him tick. When Stevens mentioned his plans to put the car up for sale in 2009, Francis quickly stepped up to the plate. When he had made suggestions about the build several years earlier, little did he know that the opportunity to own the raucous ’05 would come knocking. Now that it has, Francis is enjoying one of the most unique S197s on the planet—and with no concealed weapons permit required!

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