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The Story Behind An (Almost) Original Owner 1970 Boss 302
Boss of Ages: Bruce McKibben still has the 1970 Boss 302 he bought as a young man
For most truly afflicted Mustang aficionados, an exact trigger point for their love affair with Ford’s Pony car is hard to pin down. Not so for Seattle, Washington’s Bruce McKibben. “When the Mustang was released in early 1964, I was a sophomore in high school. The early cars didn’t seem to resonate with me, but my attitude started to change in 1968 when Bullitt hit the big screen and the word “performance” entered the Pony car dialogue. In March 1969, everything changed. I walked by a newsstand and the cover of Motor Trend displayed this unbelievably hot yellow and black Boss 302 Mustang. The graphics, spoilers, and slats made this car jump off the page, and I knew right away I’d own one someday.”
At the time, someday seemed a long way off for McKibben, who spent 1969 pursuing his Psychology degree at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana. But someday turned out to be 1972, when he purchased the very car pictured here. McKibben was excited when he discovered an ad in a Muncie newspaper for a red Boss 302 with 16,000 miles on the clock. Boss Mustangs were still extremely popular then—pre-Arab oil embargo—and rarely were advertised for sale.
McKibben made arrangements to see the car the upcoming weekend, only to be devastated when the owner called the next day to say the left rear quarter panel had just been clipped by an inattentive driver. He wouldn’t be denied and went to see the car anyway, new bodywork and all. Aside from the damage, McKibben liked what he saw, and made a deal with a price adjustment commensurate with repairing the body.
With a Boss to call his own, Bruce began to delve deeply into the world of the unique Trans Am-inspired Mustangs. He made friends with a local Boss 302 drag racer who along with helpful advice, warned Bruce of the telltale ticking noise that indicated original piston skirts cracking in the Boss engines. Sure enough, at just 20,000 miles, Bruce began to hear the noise. Choosing to make lemonade out of lemons, Bruce tore down the motor and rebuilt it using 12.5:1 pistons, a big Crower camshaft, and ported the cylinder heads per Ford’s Boss 302 Engine Modification handbook. Hooker headers and an Accel dual point were installed as well, and Bruce says that in this configuration he laid waste to quite a few Z28s and Trans Ams in central Indiana.
Clearly a Boss Mustang such as this isn’t much of a snow car. As a result, Bruce shuttled through the Midwestern winters in an unremarkable beater, leaving the ’70 idle for a time. One particularly harsh winter in the mid-seventies took a toll on the engine, leading Bruce to pull it out and tear it down for inspection. What was expected to be a brief stint in a garage turned into a 30-year hibernation. In the meantime Bruce owned a couple other ’70 Boss 302s, but by 1994 those cars were well behind him as he and wife Drew packed up and moved from Indiana to Seattle. Bruce’s first Boss 302 was still his, but continued to be kept in storage in Indiana. Careers and a young family will make you do crazy things, huh?
In 2006, McKibben had his Boss shipped to Seattle to begin a full-blown restoration. He turned the body over to Randy Sargent. Once he had the Boss stripped to bare metal, he discovered the 1972 quarter panel repair hadn’t been exactly done in an exemplary manner, and salty Midwest roads had taken a toll during the few years McKibben’s Boss was actually roamed the streets. Sargent dove into the project, bringing plenty of experience. Months later, the body emerged looking like new, replete with a PPG Concept single-stage topcoat in the original red hue. (auto trivia note: red Bosses have never been particularly common. According to Kevin Marti (www.martiauto.com), just 505 of the 7,014 1970 Boss 302s were painted red (code T), which is just above 7 percent.)
There are a couple of things we can say about McKibben that are relevant to our story. McKibben’s never strayed from his affair with high-performance cars, and he’s had his share of engine troubles with this particular car. After the Boss restoration was finished in 2008, he continued to drive enthusiastically. At one Mustang club open-track session in 2010, the engine dropped a couple of valves at around 6,000rpm, causing an immediate shutdown and significant damage. Was it bad luck or a careless professional engine build?
No matter, McKibben took the bull by the horns and bought a different 1970 Boss engine for a stroker build. He turned to Chuck DeBois at C&D Engine Performance, who built a Boss 347 using a SCAT 3.40-inch stroker crank, SCAT I-beam rods, and forged Diamond pistons. Helped by a Bullet solid lifter cam with .541/.557-inch lift and 232/238 degrees duration at .050, the new engine churned out 456 horsepower at 6,400rpm and 405 lb/ft of torque at a more usable 4,100 rpm. With plenty of experience to draw from, McKibben said the stroker did what he expected—fattening the torque curve and improving overall drivability on the street. To him, it’s a virtually perfect combination.
While McKibben enjoys exercising his Boss and blasting through the gears, his track driving has switched to a different platform. McKibben and wife Drew purchased a red 2013 Boss 302 a couple years back, which is the car on open track duties these days. McKibben now has the best of both Boss 302 worlds—classic styling and a rich ownership history, along with the heir to the throne and its world-class performance. It all started with one glimpse of a magazine cover. Well, before that it actually started with people like Larry Shinoda and Bunkie Knudson, but that’s a story for another day.