Andrew van Leeuwen
March 29, 2006
Contributers: Andrew van Leeuwen, Brian White Photos By: Brian White

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When thinking of Australia, it's usually sunny beaches, kanga-roos, and tall glasses of Foster's that spring to mind. Now the Land Down Under is becoming world renowned as the native habitat of a rare new beast, the Boss 290.

Australia's musclecar history is highly celebrated at a local level. Cars such as the hot hatch Holden Torana A9X and the GTHO Ford Falcon series have aged in spectacular fashion, morphing into local icons as the years wear on. While it's been Holden dominating the modern performance scene in local times, the release of the Boss 290-powered Ford Performance Vehicles GT-P has raised the bar. By creating not only a potent powerplant, but a complete package, the new GT-P is not a musclecar, it's a super car. [Ford Performance Vehicles is the Aussie-equivalent of the U.S. Ford Special Vehicle Team.--Ed.]

From an American perspective, the most fascinating aspect of the FPV GT-P is the Boss 290 powerplant. The name Boss 290 is a throwback to the Boss 302, the special engine fitted into the '69-'70 Mustang. The 290 part of the modern moniker refers to the standard power output of 290 kilowatts, converted to American horsepower, which is 388 ponies.

In basic terms, the Boss 290 is a hybrid version of the American Ford powerplants. FPV has taken the best parts of each V-8 engine com-mercially available in the United States and put them together into one tarmac-chewing weapon. Obviously, there's more to it than that, but this seemingly forms Ford Australia's basic design principle. The motors are hand-constructed in Campbellfield, Victoria, and are currently the only production V-8s built in the Land Down Under.

Measuring 5.4 liters (330 ci), the Boss 290 block is of cast-iron construction. The forged-steel crankshafts undergo a special balancing process before installation, supposedly reducing the stress on the internals. As the engines are handbuilt, fastidious attention is directed at the general engineering of the bottom end compo-nents and their suitability to one another. The pistons are Australian made, and determine a compression ratio of 10.5:1.

The way in which the Aussie 5.4L V-8 differs from those available on a commercial basis in the United States is largely due to the cylinder heads. The 290's heads were originally based on the '00 SVT Cobra R units, using double overhead camshafts per bank. There are some small improvements over the Cobra design, mainly involving the inlet porting. Matched with four valves for each cylinder, the twin-cam setup offers an impressive balance between torque and revs. Subtle tweaks such as hollow camshafts contribute to the 290's rapid throttle response--impressive for a power plant of its size.

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The inlet and outlet features of the Boss 290 surpass expectations for what is essentially a factory car. Fully manufactured in Oz, the inlet manifold has been developed as a truly multi-purpose component. Meticulous research into trumpet length matches the cylinder heads perfectly, helping create the amazingly wide rev range. A fly-by-wire throttle system links up to a 75mm throttle body, with the filter system again based on the SVT Mustang Cobra. The fuel system uses a Bosch 4.0 bar pressure regulator and multipoint spray injectors. A Delphi high-flow pump with a rate of 150 liters per hour is also used. The factory exhaust is made of stainless-steel and features a 4-into-1 style with 13/4-inch diameter. While it bellows a beefy growl, the local exhaust manufacturers have quickly set about making some aftermarket units that sound even better.

The final result is a V-8 configured unlike any other in Ford's global empire. In terms of performance, the Boss 290 really proves it is in a class of its own. In addition to the 388 hp, the torque figures are just as spellbinding, with 383 lb-ft of pure pulling power. These figures easily surpass an American V-8-powered Ford in straight-out-of-the-factory mechanical trim, bar the Cobra and GT supercar.

As president of the Western Australian FPV Club and the proud owner of the stunning FPV GT-P used for this photo-shoot, Andrew Green knows a thing or two about driving a Boss 290-powered car.

"It's a lot of fun; you can say that much," Andrew says. "It's really smooth. Your mother could go shopping in it, or you could race it around a circuit."

According to Andrew, it's the motor's capability to rev hard while still making big torque that makes it the leader of the V-8 pack. "The 290 is a very revvy motor, but it still pulls hard from down low," he says. "It really flies from nothing to 6,000 rpm, and if you were really serious about racing, it would rev harder than that."

While the Boss 290 is available in four FPV models (two utilities and two sedans), it's the GT-P that presents the most complete package.

In terms of rolling stock, the GT-P packs an impressive setup. The suspension package was developed in Australia with the help of Ford's professional touring-car race drivers. The product was definitely competition-inspired, with double wishbone front suspension and independent rear suspension. To make managing the power a little easier, Ford also developed a torque-sensitive LSD and a trick traction-control program.

The brakes are mighty impressive, as well. The GT-P models are fitted with an upgraded brake package in comparison to the standard GT model. In a joint venture with brake manufacturing giant Brembo, the GT-P features a four-channel ABS system, which offers massive stopping power. The front discs are cross-drilled and measure 355x32 mm. They are clamped by four-piston calipers that are painted bright red as if purposely to draw attention. The rear discs measure 330x28 mm.

Style-wise, the car's aesthetics scream Aussie muscle. The car is low and mean, with the "power bulge" bonnet, as coined by Ford's marketing gurus, giving the car street cred by the bucket load. There are some interesting color options, with the two shades of blue (the darker one shown here) seemingly the most popular. There are some decal options available, with two stripes running along the car's lower sides and a "Boss 290" sticker available to emphasize the edges of the bonnet's bulge. Nineteen-inch rims with wide directional tires finish off the classic musclecar style.

When it comes to the interior, the GT-P starts to show its luxurious side. There are understated pleasures throughout the inside of the car, including the GT-P logos embroidered into the suede seats, and the buildplate sitting proudly in the console. Blue dash lights offer an aggressive look to the dials, while an Aston Martin-inspired starter button adds a unique flavor to starting the motor. It's almost as if the classy interior acts to help justify the AUD $76,000 it costs to get one of these on the road, although most would agree the Boss 290 is justification enough. In case you're wondering, that price tag equates to around $55,000 in American greenbacks.

So, the next time you're holidaying in Australia, don't just look out for kangaroos, and koalas, and crocodiles. Look out for the most ferocious creature of them all, the Boss 290.