Jim Smart
October 18, 2006

We wish there was a way to put the sound of Terry Snyder's '69 Boss 302 on paper. When Terry started the engine, we knew there wasn't modern roller-cam technology inside. Instead, the beast was as temperamental as a Colorado thunderstorm. It was hard to start and fussy as hell when awakened. The 16 stamped-steel rocker arms thrashed out a familiar beat, one we used to hear four decades ago on road race courses around the country. When Terry cracked the throttle, onlookers were startled and goose bumps rose in places they had never risen before.

We discovered Terry's Boss during Mustang Plus' Restomods In Reno show. At first glance, we knew the car wasn't conventional because the original 780-cfm Holley had been replaced by Autolite's limited production in-line four-barrel carburetor and its special Cross Boss manifold designed for SCCA Trans-Am competition. Terry's period-correct Boss 302 engine is also equipped with parts from the old Ford Muscle Parts program.

When Terry rolled out onto the road around Reno's Hilton, all eyes were on the yellow Boss. When he pinned the butterflies, two BFGoodrich Radial T/As broke loose, getting Terry and his Boss sideways. His authentic Sun Super Tach was smacking seven grand as he navigated the gears. Banging second broke the tires loose again. Thrusting the '69-vintage Hurst shifter into third got Terry and his Boss to speed in a hurry. And just for fun, he did it a bunch more times for our camera.

Terry's desire to own a Boss 302 dates back to the Trans-Am races in the late '60s. Terry attended many of those events when he owned a new '69 Mach 1. After an aggressive two-year search, he unearthed a '69 Boss 302 in Connecticut. Terry was concerned about rust and other body damage, but rolled the dice and bought the car anyway. He was pleasantly surprised to find there was no rust or damage, just evidence of a former vinyl top, which seemed odd for an all-business, first-year Boss 302.

With his Boss 302, Terry knew he wanted the look and feel of the Trans-Am days, yet something docile enough for the street. That's easy to do if you apply today's technology-roller cam, precision carb tuning or fuel injection, and electronic ignition. But he viewed that as cheating and lacking in authenticity. He wanted the look, feel, and sound of a genuine Trans-Am Boss 302 that was street legal.

He looked to Ford publications of the period, primarily the Boss 302 Engine Modifications and Boss 302 Chassis Modifications books, as his blueprint. Following the Ford performance guides would get Terry a restoration based on the Trans-Am cars he admired. He started with the Boss 302 engine, which is balanced and blueprinted with forged high-compression pistons, new valves, a custom-ground Crower mechanical camshaft, Hooker Super Comp headers, and, of course, the Autolite Cross Boss induction.

Terry tells us the Autolite in-line carburetor and intake were conceived by Ford for Trans-Am competition, but eventually were mandated off-limits by the SCCA. However, you could order one from your Ford dealer. As a result, quite a few hit the streets for those with healthy bank accounts and the knowledge to tune the trick carbs. Only a few survive today in actual use. Terry says that because the race-oriented, in-line carburetor doesn't have a provision for vacuum advance, he went with the 289 High Performance dual-point ignition, which doesn't use vacuum advance like the original Boss distributor. The crankcase ventilation system is Terry's own fabrication effort, along with the billet air cleaner.

As you might imagine, Terry stayed with the car's close-ratio Top Loader four-speed and 31-spline, 9-inch Traction-Lok rearend with 3.91:1 gears. The tall cogs provide the high-revving engine with a mechanical advantage coming out of turns.

When Terry took delivery, the car had power steering and brakes, which he promptly removed. Terry opted for big Lincoln front disc brakes and slightly smaller discs in back. The upper control arms were lowered to broaden negative camber adjustment. All suspension components were replaced with competition-proven pieces from Cobra Automotive-large sway bars, traction enhancing pieces, and more. The wheels are genuine Mini-Lites, just like they used on the Trans-Am Mustangs. Koni adjustable shocks get the job done on street or track. Terry also relocated the battery to the trunk for better weight distribution.

Inside is a custom cage that reaches to the front torque boxes and rear spring perches to both stiffen the body and keep occupants safe. Competition shoulder harnesses were installed for the same reason.

Because originality was important to Terry, he kept as much as he could salvage. The front buckets needed to be reupholstered, but the rear seat and door panels are factory original. Because Terry couldn't find exactly what he wanted for a steering wheel from 1969, he found a Grant wheel that felt good and looked authentic for the period.

Terry Snyder understands why the Boss 302s were conceived. Drivers like Parnelli Jones and George Follmer went after GM, Chrysler, and American Motors with these cars in brute competition. And because Terry was there to see it all first-hand, he was qualified to build this fitting tribute.

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Boss 302 Facts

  • 1969 production: 1,628 at Dearborn assembly plant
  • 1970 production: 7,013 at Dearborn and Metuchen, New Jersey
  • Street versions built to meet SCCA Trans-Am homologation requirements
  • Boss 302 development mule was a '68 Mustang GT hardtop
  • Stripes, front spoiler, and optional window slats and rear spoiler designed by Larry Shinoda, who also created the Boss name
  • Boss 302 engine has a unique four-bolt main block with screw-in freeze plugs that originated with the '68 302 Tunnel Port engine
  • Boss 302 cylinder heads are poly-angle valve 351C castings machined for the 302 block
  • Boss 302 connecting rod is basically a 289 C3AE forging with 3/8-inch bolts. The 289/302 used 5/16-inch rod bolts
  • No Shaker hoodscoop for 1969
  • Optional Shaker hoodscoop for 1970
  • Special pulley sizing for high-revs, including larger alternator pulley
  • Autolite In-Line Four-Barrel Carburetor disapproved by the SCCA
  • Reinforced big-block shock towers
  • Kelsey-Hayes single-piston front disc brakes
  • Staggered rear shocks
  • Front and rear sway bars
  • Heavy-duty front spindles
  • Ford deleted quarter scoops on '69 Boss 302
  • Ford shifter used on '69 Boss 302, Hurst for 1970
  • Ford Top Loader four-speed
  • Nodular iron "N" case 9-inch Traction Lok with 3.50:1, 3.91:1, or 4.30:1 ratio
  • Won '70 Trans-Am championship with cars built by Bud Moore and drivers, Parnelli Jones and George Follme