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Car of the Week: 1969 Boss 302 Mustang

The 1969 Boss 302 Mustang: If you’ve had a chance to own or drive one of these cars you’d probably agree with its original admirers: “Hey, man, this car is Boss!”

In the slang of the ’60s the word “boss” had a bundle of connotations. It meant “tough” or “awesome” (in the sense kids use the word today) and something that was “boss” was something every right-minded person aspired to. So, Ford picked it as a good name for its hot Mustang with the new 302-cid V-8.

Actually there were two Bosses. The first was a race-ready Boss 429 with Ford’s NASCAR racing engine and completely redesigned front suspension. Then came the Boss 302, which was intended for high-performance street use.

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The Boss 302 was Ford’s answer to the Camaro Z/28 and was as likely to wind up in the hands of a hard-working kid as a middle-to-upper income youth who wanted to put a little excitement into his life. The base sticker price was about 3,600 bucks, and there wasn’t much on the options menu. Buyers could have a close- or wide-ratio gear box, but not much else.

Trans-Am rules required 1000 copies be built for sale to qualify as "production” on that racing series, but Ford ended up turning out 1934 of the '69s. The Boss's high-output mill was rated at 290 hp at 4600 rpm, but that may have been conservative — other estimates put it a closer to 400.

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What made the Boss special was a beefed-up 302-cid V-8 with four-bolt main bearing caps, a stronger crankshaft and—most important of all—redesigned cylinder heads that allowed dramatically better breathing. These “Cleveland” heads (as they are called) were also designed to sit atop Ford’s 351 Cleveland V-8.

The Boss's high-output 302 V-8 was said to produce 290 horsepower at 4600 rpm, actual output was estimated at closer to 400. In stock tune, a Boss 302 could turn in 0-to-60 times of under 7 seconds and nudge the century mark in a standing-start quarter-mile.

While a Boss 302 in the hands of a collector is likely to be driven a little more gingerly than the paces original owners put these cars through, Ford built an rpm limiter to keep lead-footed types from blowing up the engine. Basically, the limiter worked by counting ignition impulses and not allowing the engine to exceed 6,000 rpm.

Besides the special 302 engine, a Boss can be recognized by the matte black paint on its hood and trunk, Boss 302 name swatches on its sides, a front spoiler and styled steel wheels. Its performance equipment includes front disc brakes and a four-speed manual transmission. The optional rear spoiler was obviously decorative. (If this feature had been functional it would have been standard, right?)
Unlike other performance cars of the period, the Boss 302 had exceptionally good street manners — although the firm suspension did broadcast tar strips and other pavement irregularities.

Open the door and the Boss became just another Mustang. The interior is attractive, but it also features the infamous Mustang “park bench” rear seat. That’s OK, though; the Mustang fastback wasn’t really designed to be a four-seater.

If you’ve had a chance to own or drive one of these cars you’d probably agree with its original admirers: “Hey, man, this car is Boss!”

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302 V-8: Overhead valve. Cast iron block. Displacement: 302 cid. Bore and stroke: 4.00 � 3.00 inches. Compression ratio: 10.5:1. Brake hp: 290 at 5000 rpm. Carburetor: Motorcraft four-barrel. Five main bearings. Serial number code 'G'.

Wheelbase: 108 inches. Overall length: 187.4 inches. Tires: C78-14 four-ply tubeless blackwall (E78-14 four-ply on small V-8-equipped models and F70-14 four-ply on large V-8-equipped models).

The 1969 Mustangs were introduced in September 1968. Model year production peaked at 299,824 units. The new fastback styling was called the "Sportsroof" treatment. Bunkie Knudsen was the chief executive officer of the company this year, but was in his last year at the helm. Ford Motor Co. chairman Henry Ford II fired Knudsen in August. Knudsen, of course, was famous for creating Pontiac's 'performance image' in the early 1960s. Part of his problem at FoMoCo was that auto sales were becoming less relative to high-performance marketing techniques in the early 1970s. Others, however, suggested that Knudsen was the victim of Ford's traditional family controlled management system. He had tried to overstep the limits of his power and, for doing this, was dismissed on short notice.

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The 1969 Mustang Boss 302 did well out of the box as a racer on the Trans Am circuit, and sold a respectable 1,934 units in its initial brief sales window. By the following model year, the '70 Boss 302 sales numbers increased approximately five-fold (6,318 produced). Rarity and high demand among muscle car lovers in general and Ford fanatics specifically for both years helps the value of this model to hover around the high five- to six-figure mark (current market correction factored in) in mint condition, with a slight increase (five percent) nod given to the first-year Boss.

1969 Mustang Boss 302
No. 1 condition: $88,000
No. 2 $61,600
No. 3 $39,600
No. 4 $17,600
No. 5 $10,560
No. 6 $3,520

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