Ford Mustang Boss 302 vs Mach 1: two-trick ponies – Simon Hucknall @Classic & Sports Car

Ford Mustang Boss 302 vs Mach 1: two-trick ponies – Simon Hucknall @Classic & Sports Car


Like watching an episode of Countryfile with incidental music by Motörhead, wrestling this 1970 Boss Mustang along sinuous roads against a bucolic English backdrop rankles a little.

It’s no fault of the car, a more perfect example of which would be hard to find.

The Mustang Boss 302 (left) and Mach 1 represent a golden era for Ford’s famous pony car

It’s more that the Boss 302’s headbanging soundtrack conjures memories of epic car movies – BullittGone in 60 Seconds (the ’74 original, of course) – or even Jim Morrison’s part-homage to his beloved GT500, HWY: An American Pastoral.

And none of those, as I recall, were set in North Yorkshire.

Then you start to acclimatise to this heavy-metal American.

A race car for the road, the Boss’ 302cu in V8 met the requirements for the Trans-Am road-racing series

Sure, there’s no vertiginous urban landscape to get it airborne, or a vast, arid vista to admire from its vinyl Hi-Back bucket seat as you spool through The Doors’ songbook in your head.

But its unruly appeal fast becomes infectious: just muscle the Hurst shifter into first, watch the Shaker bonnet-scoop snap to one side as you stab the throttle and then giggle inanely as the Boss unleashes a torrent of V8 mayhem down the road.

It’s no sophisticate, but my god is it engrossing

The Ford Mustang Boss 302’s V8 engine makes 290bhp and 290lb ft, and thrives on revs

For the observant among you, this Mustang – a 1969-built, 1970-model-year Boss 302 – matches neither McQueen’s 1968 390 GT nor ‘Toby’ Halicki’s 1974 Mach 1, which were produced before and after this 1969-’70-series car.

But to me they all speak of that magical era, shortly before Detroit’s V8s were finally neutered by regulation.

Talking of Mach 1s, we also have one joining the Boss today, equipped with a Cleveland 351cu in V8 and automatic transmission: the same series and basic design as the 302 but, as we’ll find out, a demonstrably different car to drive.

One the road, it’s clear that the Boss 302 was designed with racing in mind

Much of that contrast came from the Boss being a race-bred homologation special, versus the Mach 1 having a more user-friendly road set-up.

Following the initial furore around the original launch of the Mustang in 1964, Ford had started to lose ground to General Motors after it introduced the Chevrolet Camaro in 1967.

Worse still, the Camaro Z/28 was beating the Mustang on track – an important marketing arena for both companies – including taking victory in the high-profile Trans-American Championship in 1968

Optional Sports Slats and a matt-black spoiler are clues this is no ordinary Mustang

So, coinciding with the introduction of the new 1969 Mustang, Ford offered up its own entrant for the Trans-Am road-racing series: the Boss 302.

Designed to meet Sports Car Club of America regulations that dictated an engine displacement of under 305cu in, like the Z/28, the Boss 302 needed to spawn a road version to comply.

What emerged from Ford’s Metuchen, New Jersey factory in 1969 was in effect a race car for the road.

Read on

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