Donald Farr
Former Editor, Mustang Monthly
February 1, 2004

On January 15, 1969, the first Boss 429 Mustang rolled off the Kar Kraft post-assembly line in Brighton, Michigan, to usher in the Boss era of Mustang performance. For the next two years and a few months, Boss 302s, 351s, and 429s would set new standards for musclecars, not only for Ford but for the musclecar movement in general.

In April 1969, the Boss 302 became the second of the series, although technically Ford designer Larry Shinoda first came up with the Boss name specifically for Ford's new competitor to Chevrolet's Trans-Am. Naturally, the name fit the 429 as well, especially since both the Boss 302 and Boss 429 engines were homologated for racing--Trans-Am for the Cleveland-headed 302 and NASCAR for the hemi-headed 429--in production Mustangs. Both cars were produced in late 1969 through 1970.

With racing activity banned at Ford, the Boss 351 arguably became the best of the lineage. The combination of medium-displacement and large-valve, large-port Cleveland heads produced a more streetable performance engine, one that propelled the larger '71 fastback body style down the quarter-mile in under 14 seconds.

In this article, we're celebrating some of the best of the best Bosses. Three and a half decades after that first Boss 429 hit the street, the Boss Mustangs are still among the most revered of the Mustang musclecars.

Baddest Boss 429

How you can argue with a Boss 429 with a Hampton 6-71 blower sticking out of the engine compartment?

In 1970, lawyer and drag racer Al Eckstrand put together a Lawman Racing Team, consisting of two 780hp Boss 429 Mustang drag cars and six 428 Cobra Jet Mach 1s, to tour U.S. military facilities around the world. It was during the Vietnam War, and servicemen were happy to see some of the musclecars from back home. Of course, Ford also hoped they would visit their local Ford dealer when they returned to the United States.

Two Lawman Boss 429s were built, one for Eckstrand demonstrations in Southeast Asia and the other for use as a show car in Europe. The first car was destroyed at sea when an 8-ton ship container fell on it, so Eckstrand hastily finished the second car, which was flown by Air Force transport to the south Pacific. Over the next three years, the Lawman United States Performance Team performed demonstrations to an audience of over 240,000 servicemen.

In 1999, Eckstrand reacquired the Lawman Boss 429 from Sam Eidy, who had purchased the car and maintained it as a tribute to Eckstrand. The car had its second debut, with Eckstrand by its side, at the Carlisle All-Ford Nationals.

Most-Optioned Boss 351

Like most performance cars, the majority of Boss Mustangs were delivered without a lot of extra-cost, extra-weight options. Paul Woodlief's '71 Boss 351, however, is loaded with 15 extras, making it both a luxury car and a high-performance machine. According to the report from Marti Autoworks, Paul's Boss was special-ordered as a "marketing vehicle" with power windows, tilt steering, Rim-Blow steering wheel, AM/FM, console, fold-down rear seat, Mach 1 interior, Interior Convenience Group, Deluxe seatbelts and warning light, tinted glass, rear-window defroster, power steering, rear spoiler, and Magnum 500 wheels, plus "no charge" special-order Grabber Orange paint (the car is currently painted Medium Yellow Gold).

According to Paul, "It was 'sold' to the Ford Marketing Corporation Detroit District Sales Office for $3,592. The factory sticker price was $5,198."

Best '69 Boss 302 Restoration
According to Boss restoration guru Bob Perkins, "To my knowledge, there has never been another '69 Boss 302 restored to that level of authenticity." He's talking about Danny Guerra's yellow '69 Boss 302, a 13,000-mile car that Perkins restored in 1982 using either the original equipment or N.O.S. parts.

"It was a great car to start with," Perkins says. "It's 100 percent virgin sheetmetal--not even a rust repair." The car still has its original "no-size" Polyglas Goodyears, and the exhaust system is N.O.S., right down to the hangers and clips. The correct shocks, belts, hoses, and battery cables--"all the trick stuff," in Perkins' words--are still on the car.

Guerra keeps the car in storage, refusing to drive it because he doesn't want to risk wearing out the tires or creating moisture in the exhaust system. The car has been done for over 20 years, but Perkins says, "It is still better than any other one out there. It was ahead of its time."

The Silver Boss
You're right, Ford didn't offer the '70 Boss 302--or any '70 Mustang, for that matter--in silver. But the original owner of Dave Houston's '70 Boss 302 special-ordered the car in Light Gray Metallic, a Thunderbird-only color in 1970. Frankly, the black stripes really look good on the bright silver exterior. Houston's Boss 302 is also well-optioned with black deluxe interior, Convenience Group, fold-down rear seat, and power steering.

"I don't plan to ever sell it," Dave says of his unique Boss. "I will be delivering pizzas at a third job to keep it!" Smokey's Trans-Am Boss

On January 10, 1969, Ford produced seven 351-powered Mustang fastbacks destined for duty as Trans-Am Boss 302s. Three went to Bud Moore, three to Shelby, and one to Kar Kraft to be converted to Trans-Am specs for Smokey Yunick, longtime NASCAR competitor and a close personal friend of then-Ford President Bunkie Knudsen. The car was even painted in Yunick's trademark black with gold color. Although Yunick never entered the car in Trans-Am competition, it was prepped at Yunick's "Best Damn Garage in Town" for NASCAR's Grand Touring Division and entered in one race at Talladega. A broken rocker arm ended its day and career in NASCAR.

In 1989, the Smokey Yunick Boss 302 was located and purchased by vintage race car collector Ross Myer, who restored the historic Boss to its original Trans-Am specifications.

Smokey's Trans-Am Boss

On January 10, 1969, Ford produced seven 351-powered Mustang fastbacks destined for duty as Trans-Am Boss 302s. Three went to Bud Moore, three to Shelby, and one to Kar Kraft to be converted to Trans-Am specs for Smokey Yunick, longtime NASCAR competitor and a close personal friend of then-Ford President Bunkie Knudsen. The car was even painted in Yunick's trademark black with gold color. Although Yunick never entered the car in Trans-Am competition, it was prepped at Yunick's "Best Damn Garage in Town" for NASCAR's Grand Touring Division and entered in one race at Talladega. A broken rocker arm ended its day and career in NASCAR.

In 1989, the Smokey Yunick Boss 302 was located and purchased by vintage race car collector Ross Myer, who restored the historic Boss to its original Trans-Am specifications.

Basic Boss
These days, you seldom see a '70 Boss 302 without most, if not all, of the visual trimmings. Because so many of today's Bosses have all four of the popular exterior options--rear spoiler, rear-window louvers, Shaker hoodscoop, and Magnum 500 wheels--many enthusiasts believe those components were all standard with the Boss 302 package. In fact, it's rare to see a Boss in its most plain-Jane configuration, with 15-inch corporate hubcaps and trim rings, bare decklid and rear window, and flat hood.

According to Kevin Marti's Ford production data, the rear spoiler was the most popular of the '70 Boss 302 exterior options, with more than 65 percent of the cars equipped from the factory with the decklid bolt-on. The rear-window louvers were another popular option at 49.7 percent, while the functional Shaker scoop came attached to the air cleaner on 48.3 percent of the Boss 302 engines. A smaller 37.6 percent of buyers opted to replace the hubcaps with Magnum 500s.

In a flip-flop of his usual research method, Marti crunched his data to see how many '70 Boss 302s were not equipped with any of the exterior options. The computer spit out that 1,077 of the 7,014 '70 Boss 302s, just over 15 percent, came without any of the popular exterior options.

For a car that was produced as a bare-bones racer, it's cool to see a Boss 302 like Robert Cobb's yellow Boss 302. The Boss was ordered with only one option, the console, making it one of the lowest-optioned Boss 302s in existence.

The Boss Shelby
This one is still being researched, but it is known that this '69 G-code (Boss 302) fastback was sold to Shelby-American and was, at some point, equipped with a '69 Shelby console, a rollbar, and "Cobra GT" interior emblems. Apparently, the car was destined as a prototype for a possible Boss-powered '70 GT350 prior to the decision to pull the plug on Shelby production. Built very early in the '69 Boss 302 production run, on April 21, 1969, the Shelby Boss carries an 84 DSO (for Home Office Reserve) and a consecutive unit number that begins with "48,"--Ford's in-house code for Shelby Mustangs--as opposed to the standard Mustang numbers that begin with a "1," as in 100001.

George Huisman, who once owned the car and performed much of the research, says it appears the car never received the Shelby exterior fiberglass. During his ownership, Huisman found four Shelby-American GT350 emblems under the carpet.

The '69 Shelby Boss is currently undergoing a restoration in Indiana.

Best Modern Boss
John Coletti, former Mustang business planning manager and current SVT chief, is a man who likes a challenge. In 1994, shortly after the new SN-95 Mustang debuted, Coletti decided to drop a big-inch Boss 429 into a '94 Mustang in a response to Chevrolet's Rat-power prototype Camaros. Utilizing a NASCAR-spec Boss 429 engine, the huge powerplant was prepped for modern fuel-injection and other updates by Roush Racing. Coletti even called on Larry Shinoda, originator of the Boss name and '69-'70 graphics, to create a new stripe package for the '94 Mustang body style.

Best Boss Barbeque Pit
Well, not exactly; but that's one recommendation for this '70 Boss 302 front clip that was rescued by the combined efforts and donations from 26 members of the Boss 302 Registry. After the clip appeared for sale on eBay, the registry forum lit up with fears that the clip would be purchased by some unscrupulous character who could cut out the VINs and add them to a regular Mustang fastback, then sell the car as a real Boss 302. As a preventive measure, Registry members contributed the cash to purchase the clip, then had member Jim Kelly pick it up. According to Registry Webmaster Randy Ream, "The VIN plates and remaining ID of the car are in the care of the Boss 302 Registry. The actual clip and remains are in the care of Jim Kelly, who is considering turning it into a barbeque pit."

Best Low-Mileage Collection
Bob Perkins has a knack for locating low-mileage Mustangs, particularly if they are Boss cars. His current collection includes a 900-mile '69 Boss 429, a 1,500-mile '70 Boss 302, and a 2,800-mile '71 Boss 351, all displayed in Perkins' replica of a '60s-era Ford dealer showroom.

Bob obtained the Black Jade Metallic Boss 429 first, purchasing it shortly after it was offered to him at the Mustang Club of America Grand Nationals in 1981. It was originally owned by a collector who paid $1,000 over sticker to get his hands on one of the rarest high-performance Fords ever built.

The detailing on Bob's '70 Boss 302 is incredible, thanks to foresight by the original owner, who parked the car after it dropped a valve at the dragstrip. When Ford refused to honor the engine warranty because the rev limiter had been disconnected, the owner parked the Grabber Orange Boss on jackstands and wisely preserved it by spraying the undercarriage and engine bay with 90-weight oil. According to Perkins, the Boss 302 has the best-preserved engine, chassis, and suspension he has ever seen on a Boss 302 Mustang.

The Boss 351 remains exactly as Bob bought it from its second owner in 1983. Originally purchased by an airline executive, the car was driven infrequently; due to a company strike, the owner feared it would be pounded by bricks if he drove it to work. When the original battery failed around 1975, the Boss was parked for good. One oddity on the car is the Mach 1 hood striping, which is apparently an assembly line mistake. The Boss 351 hood striping did not taper off at the front corners.

Best Boss That Wasn't a Boss
Model year '72 kicked off with less than a bang. Gone were the Boss 351 and 429 Cobra Jet engines, leaving only a 266hp 351 Cobra Jet to hold down the Mustang's performance image. Later, though, Ford unleashed the R-code 351 H.O., a 275hp option for all '72 Mustang body styles. Essentially, the H.O. was a Boss 351 with open-chamber heads, as opposed to the higher-compression, closed-chamber heads used on the Boss 351, and flat-top pistons, also for lower compression. Otherwise, the 351 H.O. was a Boss 351, including the Boss's four-bolt-main bearing block, nodular-iron crankshaft, forged rods, solid-lifter camshaft, aluminum valve covers, dual-point distributor, aluminum intake, rev limiter, and Autolite 4300D spread-bore four-barrel carburetor. Also like the earlier Boss 351, the 351 H.O.-equipped Mustangs received the Hurst-shifted four-speed, 9-inch rearend with locking 3.91 gears and 31-spline axles, Competition Suspension with staggered rear shocks, and dual exhaust. Air conditioning was not available, another Boss trait.

Super Boss 429
The Tasca Ford dealership in Rhode Island was great at marketing Ford performance. When the Boss 429 was introduced in early 1969, Tasca received the seventh car off the Kar Kraft assembly line to use as a prototype for a possible "Super Boss 429" that Tasca considered building for retail sale. The result was the multi-hued "Super Boss," a car that was utilized as a showpiece for the Tasca program. With its 494ci Boss 429 engine, the Super Boss was campaigned by Tasca Ford throughout the Boss 429 production run during '69-'70. Tasca even made a standing offer of $1,000 to anyone who could beat the Super Boss.

The original Tasca Ford Super Boss is now owned by Ford drag racing restorer and collector Brent Hajek.

Fastest Factory Boss
While the Boss 429 racked up some impressive mid-13-second times in magazine road tests, it was the Boss 351 that consistently performed up to Boss standards, running in the high 13s in almost every magazine dragstrip test of the day. Motor Trend magazine, in its January '71 issue, tested a brand-new Boss 351 in a comparison between the Boss, a 429 CJ Mach 1, and a run-of-the-mill 302 hardtop. In the quarter-mile, the Boss 351 registered 13.80 at 104 mph, besting the big-block Mach's 14.61/96.80 by more than half a second and 7 mph. In fact, the 13.80 is the quickest magazine time we've found for a stock Mustang musclecar.

Most Famous Trans-Am Boss
No listing of best Boss Mustangs would be complete without the No. 15 Trans-Am Boss 302s driven by Parnelli Jones during the '69-'70 seasons. Built and campaigned by Bud Moore Engineering, Parnelli's Boss 302s won seven of the 24 Trans-Am events they entered during the two-year span, with five of the victories coming during the '70 season to help Ford win the Trans-Am Championship.

Oddly enough, Parnelli's Boss 302s, like the other competition Trans-Am Bosses, did not start out as street Boss 302s. Rather, they were special-ordered 351, four-speed fastbacks that were completely dismantled and rebuilt to racing specifications by Bud Moore.

Lowest-Mileage Boss 429
As far as we can determine, Bill Kagle's 54-mile '69 Boss 429 is the lowest-mileage Boss 429 in existence. However, unlike Bob Perkins' 900-mile unrestored Boss 429, this one has been restored.

Formerly owned by Perkins (would you expect anything else?), the white Boss was originally ordered for Super Stock drag racing. The engine was pulled and sent to engine builder Ed Pink in Southern California. But, by the time the engine was built to Super Stock specs, the NHRA rules had changed, so the owner dropped the engine into a more competitive Maverick instead.

As a result, the Boss 429 Mustang was stored for many years before it was acquired by Perkins. Kagle purchased the car from Perkins, then employed Perkins to perform the restoration. Why a restoration with just 54 miles? Well, the original owner had the white body custom-painted in pearlescent candy red, which had to be completely stripped before receiving a repaint in the original Wimbledon White. When Perkins completed the restoration, using all original or N.O.S. parts, the Boss 429 was concours perfect.

Best-Optioned Boss 302
When we put out the call for "best Bosses" on the Boss 302 Registry Web site (, John DeMartino was quick to respond with his well-optioned '70 Boss 302. John ordered the factory invoice from Lois Eminger, and it came back on two pages. The special-ordered Lime Metallic Boss was originally equipped with the rear spoiler, Traction-Lok differential with the optional gear ratio, Convenience Group, clock, Shaker hoodscoop, sport slats, fold-down rear seat, console, power steering, AM/FM radio, Decor interior (an unusual Medium Ginger cloth and vinyl), tinted glass, Deluxe seatbelts with warning light, heavy-duty battery, Magnum 500 wheels, and tachometer. The sticker price was nearly $5,000.

DeMartino, who has owned the Boss 302 for over 24 years, says the car still has its original paint, exhaust, interior, and matching-numbers drivetrain. It's also equipped with a number of dealer-installed items, like Koni shocks, one-piece export brace, hood locks, and an aluminum "Boss 302" oil pan.

Best Boss Engine
While the Boss 302 was a small-displacement engine with large heads, and the Boss 429 was a large engine with a small camshaft and carburetor, the Boss 351 was just right. After all, the Boss 302's big-port, big-valve Cleveland heads, which were borrowed from the 351 that was scheduled to debut in 1970, were designed specifically for the 351 Cleveland engine, upon which the Boss 351 is based. With 330 hp to match the Camaro Z/28's 350, the Boss 351 also boasted better low-end torque, unlike the finicky Boss 302 or exotic Boss 429. All in all, it's the best all-around Boss street engine.

Best Boss That Never Made It
One quarter Shelby, one quarter Boss 429, one quarter Mustang, and one quarter Cougar, the Quarter Horse Mustang was a quarter horse in more ways than one. Kar Kraft built this big-block Mustang as a proposed replacement for both the Shelby and Boss 429. Interestingly, Ford's proposal for the car came in September 1969, around the same time Henry Ford II fired Bunkie Knudsen, the Ford president who supported the Boss 429 program. Prior to Bunkie's firing, there had been talk about a possible '71 Boss 429.

Even though Knudsen was gone, Ford continued with the horsepower theme to sell Mustangs, so the Quarter Horse was explored because the Shelby was soon dropped (November) along with the Boss 429 (January).

Officially, the Quarter Horse was known as the "Composite Mustang" because it used parts and pieces from cars already in the Ford lineup. The formula was simple: take a chassis from a Boss 429 and mix it with a dash of Cougar XR-7, the fiberglass fenders and hood from the '69-'70 Shelby, and the fastback body and interior of a Mustang. To make it different from the Shelby, the Ford production studio, still headed by Larry Shinoda, placed a large Mustang running horse in the center of the grille and filled in the Shelby hoodscoops.

Two prototypes were built, the Grabber Blue Quarter Horse seen here and a Candyapple Red version.

Best Boss Clone
When is a Boss not a Boss? When it doesn't have a real Boss engine, right? Well, maybe not. Who would have told Larry Shinoda, the man who created the Boss name and graphics, that his Boss 302 prototype, with a 428 Cobra Jet engine, wasn't a Boss?

While coming up with the Boss 302 striping, spoilers, and rear-window louvers, Shinoda used a '69 CJ Mach 1 as his working prototype. It received early painted-on C-stripes (without the "Boss 302" on the fenders), blacked-out headlight and rear-panel treatment, front and rear spoilers, and the wild rear louvers. About the louvers, Shinoda told us in a 1981 interview, "When the Ford people first saw them, they about seized up!"

Shinoda used the Bossed-up Mach 1 as his everyday transportation, as evidenced by the driveway photo with his daughters, Karen and Lisa. When Shinoda left Ford in 1969, he purchased the car and took it with him. He later sold it to a tailor in Brighton, Michigan. No one knows what happened to it from there.

So, was the boss's Boss really a Boss?

Last Boss 302
The last Boss 302 built was a Trans-Am body-in-white, completed by Bud Moore Engineering and first raced by George Follmer in the St. Jovite '71 Trans-Am on August 1, 1971. According to owner Brian Ferrin, "See, the rumor was true--there is a '71 Boss 302. It's now in my garage."

Best Boss That Never Was
Although very little information exists about the car or exactly why it never made it to production, Ford nearly produced a Boss 302 for 1971, as evidenced by PR photos of a '71 fastback with "Boss 302" decals. The photos even appeared in some of the "new car" magazines in the fall of 1970.

Apparently, Ford initially planned to continue the Boss 302 model for 1971, then switched to the Boss 351 at the last minute when factory support for the Trans-Am series was discontinued. Without Trans-Am, there was no need to build a unique small-displacement engine for homologation.

The decals for the '71 Boss 302 appear to be identical to the Boss 351 versions that made it to production. In fact, for a number of years, the '71-style Boss 302 decals were listed in Ford's parts manuals. That shows how close Ford came to offering the '71 Boss 302.

It would be interesting to learn more about the '71 Boss 302 used in Ford's publicity photos. Based on a fuzzy photo that turned up recently in the old Petersen Publishing (Hot Rod, Car Craft, etc.) photo archives, the prototype car was actually equipped with a Boss 302 engine.

Most Illegal Speeding Ticket
At the Shelby American Automobile Club's SAAC-6 convention in Dearborn in 1980, Joey Flowers, the owner of a wild, supercharged '70 Boss 429, received a City of Dearborn speeding ticket for going 150 mph in a 45-mph zone at the intersection of Michigan Avenue and Evergreen. That's 105 mph over the limit. His fine? Only $25 for a "civil infraction."

The Last Boss
According to the Boss 351 Registry (, the last Boss 351 built was assembled on July 27, 1971. That also makes it the last Boss Mustang ever produced. To date, serial number 1F02R230227 has not been located.

The Few and the Proud
For such a revered performance car, Ford produced a relatively small number of Boss Mustangs: only 11,796 over a three-year period. That's less than two percent of all Mustangs built during 1969-1971.

'69 Boss 302: 1,628
'69 Boss 429: 849
'70 Boss 302: 7,014
'70 Boss 429: 500
'71 Boss 351: 1,805