Jerry Heasley
March 1, 2008

It's hard to believe that a Boss 302-powered '69 Shelby Mustang, the only one ever built, has stayed nearly unknown for all these years. Now the car has been fully restored to the way Kar Kraft assembled it in 1969.

Near the end of Shelby's '65-'70 production run, Ford and Shelby planned to use Boss 302s as the foundation for a special run of 36 GT350 fastbacks. Essentially, the cars were going to be Boss 302s in Shelby clothing. Furthermore, each Boss Shelby would be Grabber Yellow with black stripes and black interior. Interestingly, Dearborn Assembly provided an early production Boss 302 in Acapulco Blue, one of the four available colors for '69 Boss 302s, as a pilot car.

The solid-lifter, Trans-Am-bred Boss 302 was a perfect fit for the Shelby. After all, Shelby Mustangs got the top engine offerings. Or did they?

Ford's introduction of the 428 Cobra Jet on April 1, 1968, provided a healthy dose of in-house competition for the Shelby GT500, which was powered by the lower performance Police Interceptor 428. Shelby quickly remedied this situation by introducing the '6811/42 GT500KR with Cobra Jet power in the spring of 1968. In mid-April 1969, in-house competition from the small-block side arrived with the Boss 302 Mustang. Shelby had upped the ante for the '69 GT350 by going from '68's 302-4V to the 351-4V Windsor, which matched the Boss 302 at 290 hp. But the Boss 302 was clearly the performance leader in the small-block lineup with features including four-bolt mains, canted valves, and a Holley four-barrel on an aluminum intake. The design had more potential than the 351W.

Nothing had higher performance in the Mustang lineup than the Boss series. Ford homologated the Boss 302 for Trans-Am with a run of production Boss 302 fastbacks in 1969 and 1970. The Boss series also included the '69-'70 Boss 429s and the Boss 351 for 1971. These cars came from Ford's Bunkie Knudsen, who defected from General Motors to become president of Ford in January 1968. He brought with him Larry Shinoda, the talented designer who created the Boss name and image. With Boss Mustangs competing against his GT350s and GT500s, Shelby could see the writing on the wall. Figuring his time at Ford was over, he ended his program in June 1969, with leftover '69 Shelbys sold as '70s updated with front spoilers and hood stripes.

Luckily, this Boss GT350 pilot car escaped after the program was scrapped. Although there are still mysteries and unknowns surrounding this particular '69 model, the following facts are clear.

Ford's Dearborn Assembly plant built this Mustang with a Shelby consecutive unit number on May 6, 1969, just weeks after '69 Boss 302 production began. The car carries a Boss and Shelby VIN, 9F02G482244-the G denotes the Boss 302 engine; the consecutive unit numbers beginning with 48 were designated as Shelbys. From the car's inception, it was an executive order, with DSO number 9999. The car is listed in the Shelby American World Registry with its G-code VIN conspicuous among the M-code (351) and R-code (428 Cobra Jet) numbers.

Mustangs from the "48" series went to the A.O. Smith Company in Southfield, Michigan, for final assembly into a Shelby Mustang. However, Ford shipped 9F02G482244 to Kar Kraft, the same facility where Boss 429s were built on a special assembly line.

A "999" report from Ford's Customer Assistance Center reveals this '69 Shelby GT350 was built May 6, 1969, with the 302 H.O. engine, a close-ratio four-speed transmission, 3.50 Traction-Lok, power front disc brakes, Acapulco Blue exterior paint, a knitted high-back bucket interior in black, F60x15 tires, a rear sports deck, the deluxe appearance group, an AM/FM multiplex radio, tinted glass, deluxe seatbelts, racing mirrors, a heavy-duty battery, and a tachometer with a 140-mph speedometer.

The car's current owner, who has requested to remain anonymous, contacted Carroll Shelby for more information about the car. Carroll explained that the engineers on the project are all deceased, including Shelby-American's head engineer, Fred Goodell. Shelby himself didn't spend much time in Dearborn in the late '60s. He never saw this Boss 302-powered GT350.

The current owner wanted to call this '69 GT350 a prototype. However, Carroll was more comfortable with "pilot car," which is more appropriate because prototype implies extensive engineering and mechanical work. In reality, 9F02G482244 was a standard Boss 302 with Shelby fiberglass and equipment, including front fenders, a grille, a hood, foglamps, side scoops, a unique interior trim, a rollbar, and other Shelby-specific features.

When the current owner restored this car to the concours condition seen here, he took note of the factory-drilled firewall holes to carry the foglights unique to the Shelby. Boss 302s, of course, didn't come with foglights.

A previous owner found a set of Shelby wheel centercap decals and an extra foglight switch under the original carpet. Another past owner, George Huisman, owner of Classic Design Concepts in Detroit, researched Ford Archives and had no luck finding original photographs, despite his access. It's possible Ford didn't document the car with photographs.

The car also proved to be the only '69-'70 Shelby with manual steering. Another unique feature is what's known as a "single-key locking system." One key opens the trunk and the doors. Other Mustangs, of course, used separate keys.

At this stage of the car's saga, we enter a gray area. Speaking with past owners, the current owner believes the Boss GT350 stayed at Ford for about two months. Then a Ford engineer, whose name is unknown, managed to get the car. He removed the stripes, fiberglass, and scoops to make the Shelby less noticeable. The Shelby items that remained included the interior, rollbar, roof snakes, and five-spoke Shelby wheels. The engineer kept the car for about 10 years before selling it in 1979 or 1980.

Luckily, the car survived major rust damage in its journey through the 11 owners who took the car from Michigan to Texas to Kansas to Tennessee, then back to Michigan and finally to Indiana. Other than replacing the quarter-panels, metal repair was minimal. During the restoration, the owner checked close to 50 date codes on the sheetmetal. "Ninety-five percent of them were stamped within two weeks of the build date," he says. For example, a sheetmetal date of 4-24-3D decodes as April 24th, third shift, Dearborn.

The interior is 75 percent original. The transmission has the original VIN stamp, and the original C8FE block is stamped X48. The C7FE crank, rods, and heads are original for this Boss 302 as well.

As a final check on originality, Carroll Shelby and Edsel Ford II have signed documents citing this Boss 302 Shelby as the one and only Shelby built with a Boss 302 engine. Shelby even signed the glovebox door with his autograph and the words "One of One."