Jerry Heasley
September 1, 2007
Photos By: The Mustang Monthly Archives

This past January, Ed Meyer set a world record when his '69 Boss 429 brought $605,000 at the Barrett-Jackson collector car auction in Scottsdale, Arizona. With only 1,358 Boss 429s produced-859 in 1969 and 499 in 1970-this special Mustang is rare, but not as rare other musclecars. The record price on Ed's '69 has stirred considerable interest amongst owners and enthusiasts around the world.

People are asking what makes the Boss 429 so valuable, particularly Ed's concours example. Was this '69 some sort of special variant? Did it have an S-motor with the NASCAR-type crank, rods, and pistons? Was it a T-code or A-code 429? Did the engine type matter above and beyond that it was an exotic racing Hemi with aluminum heads?

For answers, we went to the recognized Boss 429 gurus: Bob Perkins and Ed. We ran into Ed in June at the '07 Mid-America Ford & Shelby Performance Meet in Tulsa.

Ed told us the well-known facts: The fastbacks came with special 429 Hemi engines that were designed for making NASCAR power, not for installation in a Mustang. They should have gone into larger Fairlanes, but Bunkie Knudsen, the new president of Ford, wanted to give the Mustang a performance boost, especially since Camaro was coming out with an all-aluminum 427 ZL1 option and Plymouth would soon put its '70 'Cuda on the road with a 426 Hemi.

The Boss 429 was Ford's new engine for NASCAR competition. To homologate the Hemi-headed powerplant, Ford had to offer at least 500 units for public purchase in a regular production automobile. The Mustang required special engineering to fit the aluminum-headed big-blocks. Kar Kraft, the same outside shop Ford hired to build Thunderbolts in the early '60s, set up a special assembly line in Brighton, Michigan, to turn out Boss 429s. It was there that Kar Kraft completed the assembly and installed the engine with its hemispherical combustion chambers (actually a semi-hemi design), big valves, and a bulletproof bottom end.

Was the $605,000 a fluke? Actually, much less talked about is the $489,500 that another Boss 429 brought at the same auction. Others sold at B-J in the $250,000 range, which is nearly the amount our research shows a concours Boss 429 is worth today.

George Waydo from K.A.R., a classic-Mustang retailer in Columbus, Ohio, told us about a Pastel Blue Boss 429 that was recently offered to him for $175,000. He asked Rick Parker, a dealer at Signature Auto Classics in Columbus. In George's opinion, Rick is more familiar with Boss Mustangs and felt the market was $175,000 to $190,000 on this particular car. George believes the market on a "nice Boss 429" is $190,000 to $195,000. Prices vary according to condition and the number of original parts. Rick recently sold a Boss 429 for $157,000-after the record sale.

We asked different enthusiasts at the Tulsa Mid-America Shelby Meet for their opinion on the $605,000 Boss 429. The consensus was the price at B-J was not, as one collector said, "the real world."

Ed restored his early-production Boss 429 for the '07 B-J auction after reading an '06 interview with Craig Jackson, one of the principals in the auction. According to him, the Boss 429s were undervalued compared to the Hemi 'Cudas and ZL1 Camaros. For the record, a '69 ZL1 Camaro brought more than $1 million; a '71 Hemi 'Cuda convertible brought $3 million. Prices would surely go up, and Ed figured 2007 would be the year of the Boss 429.

Bob has long thought of the Boss 429 as the ultimate in Mustang muscle. He's been collecting and restoring these cars for decades, and when we talked to him in June, he had just bought a 4,000-mile original Boss 429. In addition to being knowledgeable, he's also opinionated when the subject turns to Boss 429s or "Boss-Nines," as the cognoscenti frequently abbreviate their most cherished Mustang.

Bob delved into the Boss 429's glory in an area that took us off guard. Instead of gushing over the aluminum-headed engine with its heavy-duty crank, rods, and pistons, he says, "The Boss 429 was the first American car to come with 60-series tires."

Wide, low-profile tires are great, but how big a deal are they? Shod with the fatter F60x15 Goodyear Polyglas GT tires, Mustang test mules were breaking spindles and strut rods on the bumpy section of the Dearborn test track. Bob explained a major issue most of us don't know about Boss 429s: "Because of the big tires, Ford had to reengineer the suspension. Everything on the '69 Boss 429 front suspension is unique except the lower control arms."

It's a well-known fact that Ford lost money on every Boss 429. The reason is much more than the special Kar Kraft assembly line in Brighton. "There are more than 300 unique components on these cars," Ed says. "I counted them all. That includes the special bolts and hardware, drivetrain, and suspension. That's why it cost so much to get the engine in. And that's why Ford lost money."

Even more interesting is a fact that may hold the number-one clue to the value of the $605,000 Boss: The first 50 cars are even more specialized in their construction with 12 parts unique to their early build. Ed's Boss was among those 50.

In addition, many published sources, including well-known books and magazine articles, have credited these first 50-sometimes they cite the first 100-Boss 429s as having better quality and workmanship for shipment to high-profile dealers.

Bob dispels this theory. As a restorer who has taken the cars apart and visited with former Kar Kraft plant manager, the late Vern Tinsler, Bob has intimate knowledge of the Boss 429 construction. The specialty of the first 50 cars lies in their crudeness, not their high quality. The first of any series is prone to assembly problems. Bob mentioned "big holes in the firewall to feed battery cables," which was part of relocating the battery to the trunk. The fiberglass hoodscoop was a problem. According to him, Kar Kraft had trouble applying the enamel paint, which was full of dirt, and decided to switch to lacquer.

These early cars also came with a battery tray up front. Kar Kraft removed them, leaving the mounting holes. Later cars don't have these "imperfections."

Ed picked up the story with the most obvious difference in the early '69 Boss 429s. Ford delivered early cars to Kar Kraft with 428 Super Cobra Jet engines, stamping the fastbacks with the Q engine codes for a 428 CJ without ram air. They also had the Drag Pack option, turning the CJ into an SCJ. Installing a 428 SCJ at Dearborn Assembly and pulling it a few days later at Kar Kraft didn't make economical sense.

The Boss 429 was designated as engine code "Z," as denoted by the fifth digit of the VIN. On the early cars with Q-code engines, Ford changed the Q to a Z on the door data plate and cowl VIN tag. But the fender apron stampings remained "Q."

Bob looks upon most of the differences of the early cars as missing "trick parts." For example, they didn't have the rubber terminal over the positive battery cable in the trunk or the reinforcement brackets under the battery tray. These variations are attractions to some collectors. They're history that, when accurately restored, an early Boss 429 will tell. Restoring one of these first 50 cars involves keeping the crude features intact.

How cool are the early '69s? Ed claims his Boss 429 was the first one of the early cars restored correctly and completely with the 300-plus unique parts and the dozen unique parts of the early (Q-code, 428 Super Cobra Jet) cars.

There were three engine variants of the Z-code Boss 429, known as the S, T, and A codes, as denoted by an 820-S, 820-T, or an 820-A, respectively, on the aluminum tag on top of the engine.

The S-code was the first Boss 429 in 1969. It features a hydraulic camshaft, along with heavy-duty crank, rods, and pistons. The T-code, introduced mid-way through the '69 model year, is still a hydraulic-lifter engine. Ford lightened the rotating mass to make the engine a quicker-revving street fighter.





At the beginning of the '70 model year, Ford introduced the mechanical cam to the Boss 429. Collectors aren't sure if every 820-A Boss 429 was a solid-lifter engine, but every A-motor had the lighter crank, rods, and pistons.




Bob sees no value difference from one engine to the next. Some collectors tout the S-motors as being more desirable. Others favor the quicker-revving T-motor with hydraulic lifters. Others prefer the A-motor with its mechanical cam.




Restoring a Boss 429 with N.O.S. parts has become a hobby for rich men who compete to have the better Boss. The players must begin with a righteous car. Low mileage doesn't always count as with an old drag car that has been cut and butchered. Original carpet, seats, and door panels are a prerequisite-reproduction parts for the Boss 429 deluxe interior aren't high quality.Original and perfect sheetmetal is another must.




The second requirement is original parts. N.O.S. battery caps, for example, fetch $3,500. An original battery, minus the caps, goes for $7,500. Correct F60 Polyglas tires, without the size designation-called "no-size tires"-bring 10 grand. An N.O.S. exhaust system, if one can be found, brings $25,000. Bob recently sold a set for $20,000-without the H-pipe, tail pipe, hangers, and clamps.




Boss 429 production continued for '70 with what most enthusiasts consider minor changes. The body style looked similar. The '70 no longer utilized those 300 unique parts: spindles, rotors, strut rods and bushings, upper control arm spring seats, front springs, shocks, and so forth. For '70, Boss 429s used the Boss 302 suspension.




Because they were so unique, the '69 Boss 429 may turn out to be the more valuable of the two model years. Today, people paying the big bucks haven't differentiated a great deal between the two model years as far as price. The $605,000 on one of the first 50 built in 1969 may be a sign of what the future holds.




One Day In BrightonFord thought enough of the Boss 429 program to send a photo-grapher to the Kar Kraft facility in Brighton, Michigan, to document the first cars coming down the assembly line. These photos, apparently taken on the first day of production, January 15, 1969, document the building of the first Boss 429s at Kar Kraft.




Shocking Shock TowersFor years, books and magazine articles have stated that Kar Kraft reworked and widened the shock towers of production Mustang fastbacks on the assembly line to fit the Boss 429 engines because they were wider than the shock towers of the regular production Mustang. Bob Perkins says, "Kar Kraft, in its old location on Merriman Road in Livonia, Michigan, might have cut and beat on the shock towers of the preproduction Boss 429 Mustangs to figure out if it could fit the engine to begin with. Job 1 (KK1215) has the same shock towers as the last '69 built."




Similar to the Cobra Jet and Boss 302 shock towers, Boss 429 shock towers were also reinforced compared to a regular small-block V-8 or six-cylinder. Ford sold complete Boss 429 shock towers left and right. Kar Kraft didn't pull the front fenders off the Boss 429 on the assembly line. The engines were installed, but the shock towers weren't widened for engine clearance. Boss 429 shock towers are OEM and have Ford part numbers, D0ZZ-16055-B for the left side and D0ZZ-16054-C for the right.