Eric English
February 3, 2010
Photos By: Jim Smart

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For understandable reasons, most enthusiasts immediately think Mustang when the phrase "Boss 429" is tossed around in conversation. Narrowing the definition even more, it's likely that the term elicits visions of beautifully restored stock Boss 429 Mustangs, as that's where most of the activity is concentrated in today's market. Certainly the '69 and '70 Boss '9 Ponies are a crown jewel of many a Ford lover's collection-or dream collection for most of us, and yet the biggest Boss has a tradition far beyond the 1,356 (1,358 w/2 Cougars) Mustang SportsRoofs that rolled through Kar Kraft's Brighton, Michigan, assembly line beginning January 15, 1969. We'll be exploring the legend of Ford's Shotgun big-block over the next several pages, and most of our featured vehicles will be anything but chalk-marked stockers-just what you'd expect from a magazine whose title leads with "Modified," right?

At its elemental best, the Boss 429 should be described as an engine, not a car, and is without a doubt the most exotic powerplant installed in a production Ford of the era. Of course the reason for a street version at all stemmed from Ford's primary goal for the near-exotic derivative of the 385 series engine-NASCAR stock car racing. While admittedly less of a force than it is today, stock car racing had gone big time by the late '60s, and championship caliber performance garnered prestige and showroom sales for the manufacturers at the top of the heap. In order to run the Boss 429 in its stock cars, Ford had to manufacture at least 500 street versions to homologate (legalize) the engine for competition. Obviously the requirement didn't mandate that the street engine be installed in the same model as that being raced, else the Boss 429 the car, would be a Torino or Cyclone. An educated guess would say the movers and shakers at Ford corporate, including big chief Bunkie Knudsen, likely decided that the marketing hype for their new supercar would be best directed at the hotly contested ponycar/musclecar market. Anyway, Ford subcontractor Kar Kraft was tapped for conversion from run of the mill Mach 1, to aluminum-headed monster, and the rest is history.

As it turns out, history has been kinder to the Boss 429 Mustang than the press of the day. Today, the car is revered in most circles, and yet most of us know that as constructed, the biggest Boss was something of a dud in terms of performance. Leading up to the car's introduction, the automotive press was drooling with great anticipation of a "12-second Mustang," but in reality, a stock Boss 429 Mustang never even broke into the 13s in any period test we've seen. More mainstream 428 Cobra Jets handily outran the B9s, and the car was almost universally panned by enthusiast magazines of the day-deemed a "stone" by some. In the end though, the lack of stock performance has done little to diminish the significance or desirability of the Boss 429 Mustang-it remains one of the most unique cars ever built by the Ford Motor Company. It was truly purpose-built, even if that purpose is sometimes a bit misunderstood.

Stock Cars
If the Boss 429 was a failure as a street supercar, it certainly prevailed in the discipline it was intended for. Nineteen sixty-nine would be a banner year for Fords in NASCAR, a double whammy result of the new Talladega and Cyclone Spoiler II bodywork, combined with B9 power. While the aero bodies were legalized in time for the Daytona 500 on February 23, 1969, the first race for the Boss 429 was a month later at the Atlanta 500. Cale Yarborough was victorious in a Wood Brothers Cyclone Spoiler II, followed in Second Place by David Pearson in a Talladega, and Ford/Mercury would go on to win 30 of the 54 races that season. Ford earned the manufacturer's championship, and David Pearson walked away with the driver's championship. You could call it near-total domination.