Jim Smart
August 27, 2007

Have you ever wanted something so badly it was all you could think about? Meet Ed and LuAnn Finn of Klamath Falls, Oregon. They've wanted a Boss 302 since 1969. Life being what it is-raising a family, doing the grind, earning a living-having a Boss 302 just wasn't in the cards for a long time.

Three years ago, Ed and LuAnn decided to go after the car of their dreams. Their search began on the Internet where they discovered this Medium Red '70 Boss 302 SportsRoof in Tacoma, Washington. Tacoma is hundreds of miles from Klamath Falls-a long way across Oregon and Washington. Viewing the car-let alone buying it-wouldn't be easy.

When the Finns arrived in Tacoma to buy this Boss 302, they were told it had been sold. You can imagine their disappointment. Destiny being what it is, the buyer wigged out. Amen. They took possession and headed for home. It was a euphoric experience, a moment 35 years in the making.

Boss 302 isn't just a name late Ford stylist, Larry Shinoda, conceived for a really hot Mustang. The Boss 302 Mustang had a very specific mission rooted in SCCA Trans-Am racing. That you could buy one from Ford for the street was strictly a matter of SCCA homologation requirements. Ford had to build a specific number of streetable examples in order to compete.

Originally known as the Trans-American Sedan Championship, the Trans-Am's first race was staged at Sebring, Florida, on March 25, 1966. Mustang dominated the Trans-Am in 1966-67 with Group II sedans, but fell from grace in 1968-69 with a string of unfortunate mechanical failures and crashes. Chevrolet dominated the Trans-Am Series as a result of Ford's misfortune. Ford had a horrible season in 1968 with the 302ci Tunnel Port Mustangs, which failed with great regularity all year long.

You can imagine the frustration of one grenaded engine after another. The 302ci Tunnel Port became something of an industry joke because it failed so often. The problem was those hideous Tunnel Port heads with ridiculously high powerbands. Racers had to spin them well beyond 8,000 rpm to make power. Racers scattered 302 Tunnel Port bottom ends all over racetracks from coast to coast.

When Ford engineers tried 351C head castings on the four-bolt main 302ci Tunnel Port block, the corporation's fortunes began to change. That first year, 1969, Ford's new Boss 302 engine performed remarkably well. But a string of bad crashes are what hurt the Mustang most. In 1970, Ford went racing with a mindset to win, and did. Parnelli Jones and George Follmer in Boss 302 Mustangs went after Mark Donohue and Peter Revson in AMC Javelins, Jim Hall, Vic Elford, Milt Minter in Chevy Camaros, Sam Posey in a Dodge Challenger, and Swede Savage in a Plymouth 'Cuda. By one squeaky point, Ford took its third Trans-Am Manufacturer's title that year with the Boss 302 Mustang.

Perhaps this is why the Finns always wanted a Boss 302 Mustang. They associate the car with winning and the sheer excitement of driving a steed everyone still loves 37 years later.

You can't help but love the Boss 302. Ford's aggressive approach to styling yielded the best-looking Mustang fastback ever-the '69-'70 SportsRoof. Wrap the slippery SportsRoof body in Boss 302 graphics and give it the rich sound of a throaty, canted-valve, big-port Cleveland head small-block with mechanical lifters and you have an unbeatable ride.

It's the Boss 302 driving experience that wins us over. Goose the throttle and listen to Boss power-that sweet sound of 16 properly adjusted rocker arms thrashing out a tempo we're all familiar with. It's like the 289 High Performance V-8 on steroids. Walk back to the tailpipes and listen to the main difference from a Hi-Po-the throaty bark of Cleveland cylinder heads.

When you grab the Boss 302's Hurst shifter and roar through the gears, it's a whole different driving experience thanks to a close-ratio Ford Top Loader four-speed transmission. Because this Boss 302 has 3.91 gears, getting down to business happens quickly as it's all about power and gearing. Ford's short-lived Boss 302 engine likes to rev because that's where it makes power-up around 6,000 rpm. Tuned properly, this car makes plenty of torque with the revs up high, too. One of the first things you notice is the absence of low-end torque. Unless you're packing 3.91 or 4.30 gears, don't expect the big hole shot because the Boss 302 is about revving.

Since the Finns brought this car home three years ago, they have been researching its history. According to the Marti Report from Marti Auto Works, this Boss 302 Mustang was sold new in Cincinnati, Ohio. Its trek thereafter is sketchy at best. It sat disassembled for 20 years until it underwent a full-scale rotisserie restoration. Ed and LuAnn purchased it completely restored. All they have had to do now is drive it and take care of regular maintenance.

The Finn's Boss 302 shows some signs of wear and tear-minute signs that it is driven occasionally. There are stone chips and traces of road dust that help us understand this car's driven status. They bought it to drive and enjoy. Perhaps this tells us something about trends in the classic Ford hobby: Even meticulous concours restorations are hitting the road these days because enthusiasts want the driving experience as well as craftsmanship. This means we've come full circle, getting back to what Ford built these cars for to begin with.

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The Details
'70 Mustang SportsRoof Boss 302
Owner: Ed and LuAnn Finn, Klamath Falls, OR

Boss 302
4.030-inch bore, 3.000-inch stroke
Steel Crank
Forged I-beam connecting rods
Forged pistons
290 hp at 5,800 rpm
290 lb-ft of torque at 4,300 rpm
Mechanical camshaft with 0.477/0.477-inch valve lift and 290/290-degree Duration
2.19-inch intake valves
1.71-inch exhaust valves
780-cfm Holley 4150 carburetor
D0ZF-A dual-point/dual diaphragm Autolite distributor
Factory cast-aluminum valve covers

Close-ratio Top Loader four-speed

3.91 Gears
31-spline axles

Factory dual-exhaust system

Factory Boss 302 Handling Package

Front: Single-piston Kelsey-Hayes disc
Rear: Drum

Front: Magnum 500, 15x7
Rear: Magnum 500, 15x7

Front: BFGoodrich Radial T/A, P235/60R15
Rear: BFGoodrich Radial T/A, P235/60R15

Standard black vinyl interior
Full instrumentation, including 8,000 rpm tachometer

Medium Red with Boss 302 graphics
Shaker hoodscoop

Boss 302 Quick Facts

Block has four-bolt main caps
Block has screw-in Welsh-style freeze plugs
3.00-inch stroke steel crankshaft
Special hardened pushrods
Adjustable stud/fulcrum style 1.73 rocker arms
Cleveland 4V head castings with Boss 302-specific coolant passages
Factory 6,150-rpm rev limiter
C3AE forged 289 rods with 31/48-inch rod bolts
Forged TRW pistons designed for Cleveland heads (original equipment)
Windage tray with special Boss 302 oil pan
'69 Boss 302 heads have 2.23/1.71-inch intake/exhaust valves
'70 Boss 302 heads have smaller 2.19/1.71 intake/exhaust valves
290 hp at 5,800 rpm
290 lb-ft of torque at 4,300 rpm
780-cfm Holley 4150 4V carburetor with dual-plane aluminum manifold
Stamped steel chrome valve covers in 1969
Cast-aluminum valve covers for 1970. Some early '70 units had steel covers
Large alternator pulley to reduce revs
Pulley sizing specific to Boss 302
Carter higher-capacity fuel pump
Thermactor emissions system

Ford close-ratio Top Loader four-speed
2.32 First gear
Some early cars were fitted with the wide-ratio Top Loader with 2.78 First gear
9-inch nodular iron rearend with 31-spline axles
Axle ratios were 3.50, 3.91, and 4.30

Special front disc brake spindles
Special front and rear sway bars
Wider 15-inch steel or Magnum 500 wheels
Goodyear Polyglas GT bias-belted tires

1969 Production
1,628 units produced
Dearborn, Michigan, assembly plant only
Introduced on April 17, 1969, to compete with Chevrolet's Z/28 Camaro
No Shaker hood available for Boss 302
Standard and Interior Dcor Group available

1970 Production
7,023 units produced
Dearborn, Michigan, and Metuchen, New Jersey plants
None produced at San Jose, California
Shaker hood available
Standard, Interior Dcor Group, and Sports Interior available

Boss 302 Registry

Mustang Boss 302
Ford's Trans Am Pony Car
by Donald Farr
While this book is no longer in print, it is sometimes available used from eBay and through private sale.