Donald Farr
Former Editor, Mustang Monthly
November 15, 2010
Photos By: Courtesy Ford Media

It was one of Ford's best-kept secrets. In fact, team members were not even allowed to use the "B-word" in company meetings or hall conversations, although Ford dealers got a private hint during a dealer show last spring when a '70 Boss 302 rolled up behind Ford's president of The Americas Mark Fields as he talked about special edition Mustangs. And with Boss 302R race cars competing at tracks around the country, it seemed like only a matter of time before a new Boss would hit the street. On August 13, the Boss was out the bag when Ford announced the new Boss 302 Mustang for 2012.

Ever since 2001 when Ford began issuing special-editions based on vintage Mustangs (Bullitt, Mach 1, California Special, and Shelby GT500), there has been much speculation about the possibility of a new Boss model. With the introduction of the '11 Mustang GT and its new 412hp 5.0-liter engine-conveniently displacing 302 cubic inches-the time was right to bring back the Boss.

The small team of engineers, stylists, and designers who worked on the project knew they were dealing with a hallowed name. "We weren't going to let Boss become a sticker and wheel package," said Mustang chief engineer Dave Pericak. "We couldn't put that name on a new Mustang until we were sure everything was in place to make this car a worthy successor. We were either going to do it right or not do it all."

Based on the equipment and specifications, they've done it right. Like the original '69-'70 Boss 302s, the new version has unique engine components, for both 440 hp and high-rpm durability, and a suspension that transforms the car into the "best handling Mustang ever," a description that Car & Driver gave the '69 Boss 302. Visually, it pays homage to the '69 with C-stripes but thankfully doesn't try to copy the '69-'70 spoilers and window slats, which would look dated on the updated '10-'12 styling. The '12 Boss 302's front splitter and rear spoiler are decidedly modern.

Reportedly, the '12 Boss 302 will be available in early 2011. Pricing has not been announced, although we assume that the sticker will fall somewhere between a standard Mustang GT coupe and the Shelby GT500. Production will be limited; according to one source, it will be more than '69 (1,612) but less than '70 (7,013).

As for secrets, word is out that the Boss 302 is set for at least a two-year run. The '13 model, we hear, will feature graphics more like the '70 Boss 302.

Just as the '11 GT's new 5.0-liter provided the 302 cubic inches for bringing back the Boss name, the new four-valve engine also gave engine engineers a great 412hp platform to build on. Although realizing that supercharging would be the easiest way to add more power for a Boss model, the 5.0-liter engineers assigned to the Boss project decided early on to stay true to the original Boss 302 by sticking with a naturally-aspirated engine. They even enlisted help from two members of the '69 Boss 302 design team.

"We understand and respect the heritage of the name and the history behind the original engine," said Mike Harrison, Ford's V-8 engine program manager. "The first Boss 302 was a specially-built, free-breathing, high-revving small V-8 that gave it certain characteristics on a race course-and we capture that essence in the new engine."

The original Boss 302 engine built its reputation on its ability to breathe via large-port, large-valve Cleveland cylinder heads. For the '12 Boss 302, engineers also looked to improve breathing, this time with a new intake manifold and aluminum heads with CNC-machined ports and chambers. The composite intake, developed for Boss 302R Daytona engines, is a "short runners in the box" design that helps to eliminate lag when the throttle is snapped open yet produces peak power at high rpms. To take advantage of the racing intake, the intake/exhaust ports and combustion chambers are CNC ported, a machining process that takes up to 21/2 hours per head. Exhaust valves are sodium filled for heat dissipation.