Eric English
January 7, 2007

Step By Step

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Mufp_0702_04z Ford_mustang_boss_302 Front_viewMufp_0702_05z Ford_mustang_boss_302 Front_viewMufp_0702_07z Ford_mustang_boss_302 Engine_view
Gaze at this Tony Oddo Engines (TOE)-built Boss 302, consider the 2,200 cfm represented by this pair of Holley Dominators, and disregard everything you know about over-carburetion. While it may sound crazy, this is no cobbled-together affair, rather the system that Ford engineers worked up for the '69 Trans-Am effort.
Mufp_0702_08z Ford_mustang_boss_302 Engine_view
John reports there's no progressive linkage here; instead, all eight barrels open in direct response to throttle input. Is there a better definition of all or nothing?
Mufp_0702_09z Ford_mustang_boss_302 Front_cabinMufp_0702_10z Ford_mustang_boss_302 Center_consoleMufp_0702_11z Ford_mustang_boss_302 CageMufp_0702_12z Ford_mustang_boss_302 Front_cabinMufp_0702_13z Ford_mustang_boss_302 Rear_viewMufp_0702_14z Ford_mustang_boss_302 On_trackMufp_0702_15z Ford_mustang_boss_302 On_track

If it's said a picture is worth a thousand words, it should also be said that pictures simply can't do justice to certain subjects. We'll do our best in this instance, but the fact is, images can't relate many of the best attributes of John McClintock's '69 Boss 302 vintage racer. It's hopeless to convey the inspiring sound of an over-500-horse, 8,000-rpm small-block-there's simply no way to waft the sweet exhaust odor that comes from 112-octane race gas and a 12.5:1 squeeze, and it's nigh impossible to translate the excitement of an original road-race {{{Mustang}}} traveling at 140 mph. Indeed, any true race car is best experienced in the flesh, at speed, so if you happen to have a chance to hit a stop on the West Coast vintage Trans-Am circuit that John frequents, you should most assuredly seize the day.

Now that we've told you what we can't do, let's dive right into what can be done to permanently etch John's awesome Trans-Am Mustang into your consciousness-and that is to tell its story. Fact is, other than starting life as a 351-4V/four-speed Dearborn-built Mach 1, nothing about this SportsRoof's early days were ordinary.

A young privateer road racer named Warren Tope seemed to have the keys to the proverbial candy store through his father, Donald, who just so happened to be president of {{{Ford}}}'s transmission and chassis division. The backdoor FoMoCo connection becomes obvious when looking at some of the original paperwork which John possesses, documenting the sale of the car to the Sr. Tope's division on December 17, 1968, predating actual Boss 302 production by several months. The original invoice is an interesting read itself, with unusual notations such as "D Tope," "Intra-Company Allowance," "Special Dealer Accounting Adjustment Credit," "Tax Exempt-Schedule A Credit," and shipping destination of the Livonia plant service garage. From what John has gathered through his research, the car was immediately prepped for racing, not only in the junior Tope's shop down the street from Ford headquarters, but also during late nights at Ford's racing subcontractor, Kar Kraft Engineering.

During the '69 season, Tope raced the car frequently in local A-Sedan races, then added five Trans-Am events to the mix in 1970-along with updated sheetmetal and many of the modifications that Kar Kraft performed on the Ford team cars. Despite the quality preparation, Tope wasn't able to compete in Trans-Am at the level of the corporate efforts, though he remained a force in A-Sedan-winning the Central Division championship in 1970 and the '71 SCCA runoffs in Atlanta in this very car.

Interestingly, Tope bought a leftover Bud Moore Boss 302 when Ford pulled the plug after their '70 championship and had both cars at his disposal during the '71 season-the '69 being oft driven by Gene Harrington. In 1972, Dick Roe bought the car and raced in two Trans-Ams, while still-later owners campaigned it in IMSA. No doubt as the years went by, many of the original unique bits and pieces were replaced by more current components, though John is particularly pleased that Ford's special lightweight rear glass has remained throughout. Following the sale of this '69 racer, Warren Tope continued his racing career in a variety of venues, including NASCAR, but was tragically killed while leading a race in a Can-Am McLaren in 1975.

McClintock purchased his Boss 302 in 2000 from Victor Brown, who'd started a period-correct restoration/rebuild during his 10-year ownership. Though in pieces, some real gems came along in the sale in the way of Kar Kraft suspension pieces, the correct-for-1969 dual-Dominator induction, and more. John had plenty of experience to draw from as he dug into the project, having extensive seat and wrenching time on another privateer Boss 302 and a '65 GT350 vintage racer. In terms of hardware, the car is much as it was during the '69/'70 racing campaign-as it must be to compete in the highly regulated world of vintage racing. Now wearing the Stark Hickey Ford livery that appeared during some of its Trans-Am appearances, the combination of the original Candyapple Red hue and white Boss stripes makes for one of the most striking road warriors we've seen. As per the day, original magnesium Minilite wheels hide a combination of {{{Lincoln}}}- and Mustang-sourced four-wheel discs, while Kar Kraft spindles and lower control arms, Koni double-adjustable shocks, and a Panhard bar represent the bulk of important suspension components.

Of course, the real beast of the combination lies beneath the hood, where one of the most radical induction systems ever seen on a small-block road racer remains. The rules in 1969 were pretty liberal when it came to carburetion, and engineers developed this dual Holley Dominator arrangement which required a sideways orientation and offset distributor to clear the massive dual quads. The intake itself is an individual runner style, meaning there is no open plenum beneath the carbs as there is on traditional single- or dual-plane manifolds. When queried, John explained he's one of just a couple current competitors to run the dual Dominators, and with the expertise of engine builder Tony Oddo, seems to have the combination really dialed in.

Other critical drivetrain pieces include a full floating 9-inch rear, equipped with 4.00-4.{{{57}}} Detroit Locker pumpkins, depending on the track-including everything from Laguna Seca to Lime Rock. Perhaps more notable is what John terms a "white stripe" Kar Kraft Top Loader, whose unusually tall 2.13 First gear proves a big help when exiting tight corners. During such maneuvers, grabbing low gear instantly has the Boss in the meat of its powerband, while many competitors are lugging through in Second.

The results of John's painstaking restorative work and race prep debuted at the {{{Monterey}}} Historics in 2002, and what the car may have lacked in front-runner capability back in Trans-Am's good ol' days is clearly a non-issue now. Well sorted with help from good friend Randy Gillis, and powered by a second-to-none small-block with as much as 527 hp at full song, this one's a threat to lead the pack at any venue on the current circuit. Former team cars may still enjoy a leg up in terms of notoriety, but since every effort today is essentially that of a privateer, their once-competitive edge has pretty well evaporated. In the end though, winning and losing is secondary to simply enjoying unique pieces of automotive history in the way they were intended. Our hats are off to John-and everyone else who makes vintage Trans-Am the thrill show that it is.