Tom Wilson
July 19, 2007

Mark was only too ready. A mainstay on the Boss Registry Web site (www.boss302.com), he had already offered G.S. his services on an enthusiast's basis just so he could say he had touched Parnelli's Boss. Now the car was coming to the flower farm.

The unibody and piles of boxes were set aside until Mark finished his neighbor's car. Thinking he'd better get started, in June he began dragging out boxes and investigated the body. What he found wasn't pretty. Aside from the painted body work, what he had was a dirty Boss 302 that someone else disassembled. "A painted basket case" was Mark's description. Then the call came.

It was Parnelli, the legend Mark had yet to meet, and he wanted to know if his car would be ready for an event at the Petersen Automotive Museum in November. "Uh, sure," Mark mumbled, still in awe that he was talking to Parnelli Jones.

After hanging up, Mark began pacing in the shop. "What have I done?" Mark wailed. "It took me three and a half years to do my Boss, and now I've promised Parnelli Jones his car in five months. What have I done?"

What Mark did was assign himself the personal challenge of delivering Parnelli's car. "I asked myself if I was a car guy or not," says Mark. Then he got to work.

Finishing The Job
Although the Boss was in Mark's shop, it was still a team effort led by him and G.S., as well as their many subcontractors. With the car disassembled and painted by G.S., Mark concentrated on his strength of fastidious attention to detail. He disassembled and organized everything. While the Hurst shifter was rebuilt by Toploader Heaven, the 9-inch rear axle with 3.50 gears and a Top Loader transmission went to drivetrain specialist Jed Jacops for a mechanical overhaul. Logging the first of many hours with the pressure washer and blast cabinet, Mark cleaned and painted the parts their correct colors.

G.S. built the Boss engine with a rumpity-rump cam, MPG Head Service port plates (a cool trick for the large Cleveland ports), TRW forged pistons, and a mechanically proper 780-cfm Holley. Parnelli didn't want the car's original Shaker hoodscoop because the Trans-Am racers didn't have them, so the otherwise highly prized ram-air system was replaced with a standard air cleaner.

Parnelli did want power steering, however, and his car didn't have it. He picked up a tired Boss 302 power-steering system, and while Mark ended up replacing most of it, it included a $1,000 Boss-specific pump pulley and fluid cooler. The existing Boss 302 oil cooler was correctly installed and the radiator enlarged to a four-core using the original tanks.

As a non-concours car, Parnelli didn't need to spend $2,000 on an authentic Boss 302 air filter or another $1,600 for air injection parts. He didn't need an $800 rev limiter, either-he has one of those in his head.

The four-in-one headers are from F.P.A. and connect to a Dr. Gas X-shape crossover, 2-1/2-inch tubing, and DynoMax mufflers. Because of the tight fit around the staggered rear shocks, 211/44-inch tailpipes were fitted. The whole system suspends from correct Ford hangers and sounds righteous.

A tremendous amount of work went into the undercar area. The suspension had been media-blasted in place. By the time Mark got it, he had to remove it, reblast the rust off, install new Ford bushings, and paint everything. AMK Products supplied the concours-correct undercar hardware, saving a lot of time. Mark says Parnelli wanted his car to sit low, so G.S. performed the Shelby drop in front and cut half a coil from the 620-lb/in front springs. The rear leaf springs were just right with their 36-year sag. The sway bars remain stock; the Koni single-adjustable shocks were rejuvenated by Mark via media-blasting, paint, and new stickers.