Ro McGonegal
January 25, 2016
Photos By: Chad Burdette

Extremely difficult, certainly, but not impossible—washing two cats at the same time, that is. That’s how 34-year-old travelling pineapple salesman Chris Merriner describes driving his Boss 302 over 180 mph. It’s a handful, to be sure, but one that he wouldn’t quit in a lifetime. Once he’s left the mark, it’s on the gas, off the gas, gear change, manage the boost, and log each pass—nearly as distracting as trying to bathe a pair of felines simultaneously. Merriner says, “So it’s a cluster, and I’m always busy in there because these cars were never meant to go this speed.”

Speed, this speed. For the past decade or so, the interest in top-end “racing” has grown like kudzu, spreading across the country east of the Rockies. The usual slalom, braking, handling, and quarter-mile program has been done to death and they are tired of it. They want that adrenalin-saturated passage of going as fast as the car can go. One of the more popular organizations for testing their limit is WannaGOFAST, an outfit hosting facilities in six states. Since Merriner is a Floridian, he races there (Ocala), but he also crosses Texas, Virginia, and Georgia state lines.

“I bought the [Boss] specifically to turbo it,” says Merriner. “Tore it down at 1,300 miles to install the turbo kit. This car seems very basic when you look at it. All the gauges and anything else that says ‘fast’ is tucked away and hidden during street duty. If you do not know the car you would never suspect.”

Though Merriner followed the usual path of modification to the chassis, suspension, and interior, he put most of the effort in the motor. The cylinder block wisdom is simple: If you’re looking for 1,000 hp or more, you will do well to sleeve the cylinders to keep the bores straight and strong and promote torsional stiffness under high-boost pressure. In anticipation of that conversion, Tim Eichorn at Mustang Performance Racing in Boynton Beach, Florida, did the machine work and the mechanicals, and fixed the block with Darton sleeves. For a completely forged lower end, Eichorn joined a new Boss crankshaft with custom Diamond 10:1 pistons and Oliver connecting rods. He put a billet oil pump in there too, and put some bigger valve springs (for the stock camshafts) on the otherwise stock cylinder heads.

Lately, Hellion Turbo’s twin hairdryer packages have been flying off the shelves and on to unsuspecting Coyote motors. Merriner’s combination includes Precision 62mm turbochargers, an air-to-air intercooler, a Turbosmart boost controller, and Hellion four-into-one tubular shorties channeled to a 3-inch system. Nourishment is provided by 95-lb/hr Injector Dynamics feeders and three staged Walbro 465 fuel pumps monitored by a FORE Innovations pressure regulator. Whether he’s taking his daughter to school or cranking the Boss out the back door for all its worth, Merriner’s setup is programmed for E85 fuel.

As such, it was tested in mid-January, but Merriner says he had to keep the tuner’s name under wraps because of government clearance requirements. But he sent us the chassis dyno chart that read 1,145 hp and 1,018 lb-ft of torque at 20 psi. All righty then! How to hold this in line? A McLeod twin-disc RXT1200 clutch assembly and steel flywheel precede the T-56 Magnum, which passes grunt to 3.31:1 gears in the 8.8-inch axle.

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Since the Boss was built for acceleration in a straight line and not for handling or cornering under another kind of pressure, Merriner upgraded the chassis and suspension accordingly, combining Ford P springs on the stock struts in front and rear, and braced the body with Whiteline adjustable 33mm and 27mm bars. He cinched the front and back halves of the car together with Stifflers frame connectors. The front control arms are original; the rear control arms are adjustable (both upper and lower) from UPR Products in Lake Worth, Florida.

As for the energy-grinding proposition, Merriner says, “Most people think that the half-mile is about the acceleration part. Actually, it’s more about braking, stopping, using that next half-mile to slow the car safely. I don’t use a ’chute. The [14- and 11.8-inch] Full Tilt Boogey two-piece rotors, braided lines, and Hawk pads are more than enough.”

We’re going real fast here (183.2 mph at this writing), so we need some high-speed rubber and wheels to get us there. Merriner went to Weld for its 77B hoops (18x9.5 front, 18x12 rear) and capped them with Mickey Thompson 275/40 Street Comps followed by chunky 345/35 ET Street Radial IIs.

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Outside, the ghost-white body is nondescript. Merriner removed the Boss logos, slapped a faux gas filler cap on it, and made up its face with Roush upper and lower grille pieces. Were anything to give away the stealth, it would be those oversize rollers—if you could see them in time.

For such a ferocious beast, the Boss doesn’t give away anything on the inside, either. A rollcage is on the to-do list. The gauges are discretely tucked away out of sight, and the surroundings are just as anonymous. The only hint of something nefarious is the Laguna Seca rear seat delete package. Aside from the cleanliness of the installation, the X-brace adds a measure of rigidity to the chassis. Ever the obfuscator, Merriner even removed the logo.

“The Boss rides and drives perfect under normal throttle,” he says. “I have taken it on many seven hour road trips as well as around town with zero issues, but under full boost, I am definitely putting in work in the driver’s seat. This car has been a love-hate relationship. I typically do most of my own work and it has been my first Mustang build. I got wronged by a shop and it took most of 2014 undoing the damage. However, it is a blast to drive. My 4-year-old loves it, and her face lights up whenever she goes for a ride. This is one of my favorite things to do with the car.

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