Car Lust--Ford Mustang Boss 302
I've been doing a little bit of introspection lately, and in the course of that introspection I've realized I've done a really poor job of representing muscle cars. Okay, I started off with a few bona fide muscle cars, but after that most of the muscle car-related Car Lusts have been poseur muscle cars, or cars like the Chevy Cavalier Z24 or Shelby Charger. Don't get me wrong--I love those cars--but frankly my inattention to true, glorious muscle cars is scandalous and unrepresentative.
I've also realized that the only love I've thrown the Ford Mustang's way, in the form of dubbing the Mustang II a poseur muscle car, was pretty backhanded. Happily, Anthony Cagle responded with a post extolling the virtues of his Mustang II. Well, no more of this shabby treatment.
In the Mustang's 40+ years of life, the 1967-1970 Mustangs are my favorites--they're beautiful and aggressive, and somehow haunting. They avoid the bland innocence of the first Mustangs, the elephantine dimensions of the early 1970s Mustangs, or the ... well, I've already beaten up the Mustang II enough. There's something about these Mustangs that's timeless--a fact obvious in the success of the new Mustangs that borrow their looks heavily from the '67-70 Mustangs.
Besides the looks, this generation of Mustang was also available in a variety of interesting flavors, with all of Ford's performance engines of the time. That includes the 428 Cobra Jet, Ford's creme de la creme performance engine, as well as the more basic big-block 390. This particular Car Lust, however, focuses on the Mustang Boss 302--which made up in flinty-edged aggression whatever it might have lost in cubic inches.
The Boss 302 has a lot going for it--for starters, one of the cooler muscle car names of all time. Remember, back in the late 1960s, "Boss" was a hipster word used as we'd use "cool" or "sweet." For example: "You burned your draft card--boss!" I love the audacity. The modern equivalent would be the Dodge Stoopid-Fresh Challenger, the Toyota Celica Awesome, or the Mitsubishi Totally Ill Eclipse. In the realm of great muscle cars, only the Pontiac GTO Judge can compare.
The colorful name was actually a bit inappropriate, because the Boss 302 was remarkable mostly for its single-minded intensity. The Boss 302 was packed with a high-compression, high-revving small-block V-8, a four-speed manual, front disc brakes, and a heavy-duty suspension--all of which made the Boss Mustang the closest thing to a to a street-going race car American automakers were putting out at the time.
There's a good reason for that. At the time, Mustangs, Camaros, Javelins, and Barracudas were engaged in mortal combat in the wildly popular SCCA Trans-Am series. The series later featured purpose-built tube-frame race cars, but at the time it was contested by modified production cars. As you'd expect, every manufacturer went to extremes to get the most trick hardware certified for Trans-Am; certification meant limited street production. The Camaro Z-28 and the Boss 302 Mustang, though bitter rivals, were in fact very similar. Both boasted 302-cubic-inch engines and high-potency performance hardware meant to easily translate to the Trans-Am series.
Both were gorgeous, and both were as close as Detroit got in the late 1960s to producing a high-revving, great-handling sports sedan.