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Motortrend Boss First Look - August 2010

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First Look: 2012 Ford Mustang Boss 302
This Boss is No Hog
August 13, 2010
/ By Frank Markus

"The name Boss 302 resonates with the ponycar faithful, as it was first applied to a Mustang that was engineered to turn and stop as well as it blasted out of the staging blocks. Built in response to the SCCA-bred Camaro Z/28, with help from a few ex-GM folks like Larry Shinoda, it conformed to the Trans Am series displacement limit of 5.0 liters or 302 cubic inches, and boasted heavy-duty front disc brakes and 15-inch rolling stock spinning on reinforced spindles, big anti-roll bars, beefier shock towers, and of course that solid-lifter small-block wearing 351 Cleveland big-valve heads. Penske's Camaros clung to the Trans Am trophy in the Boss's debut year (1969), but Ford won in 1970.

It resonates for me personally as well. I still vividly remember my one and only drive in a 1970 Boss 302 one January day in 1982. That drive ended with the engine seized on the shoulder of Interstate 40 between Little Rock and Memphis. It was on its last legs when we set off to bring the car home for a scheduled engine-swap. It made beautiful music on its way to oblivion, though. Its restoration is still in progress, and I hope to drive it again when it's finished.

This resurrection of the storied Boss nomenclature is no mere graphics package marketing ploy. The Mustang team channeled the spirit of that original project to create a true race car for the road, employing a holistic approach that enhanced, upgraded, lightened, and optimized the whole car for the purpose of vanquishing its archrival on race circuits like Laguna Seca. Oh, and the Mustang's rival? Ford is no longer sparring with the Camaro. It's gunning for BMW's M3.

On paper the cooking-grade Mustang GT with the Brembo Brake package looks M3-competitive in terms of raw numbers. But to improve the odds of its live-axle pony in a full-on track attack, Ford further enhanced the chassis by raking it, lowering the front by 0.4 inch and the rear by 0.04 inch, and fitting old-school five-position adjustable shocks and struts. Damping alterations are made using a screwdriver on the top of the rod from under the hood and in the trunk, just as one did on the Gabriel shocks back in '69/'70. Position 1 is about equal to the GT Brembo Brake setup, and the others get progressively sharper.

The electric power steering can be adjusted for three levels of assist from the instrument cluster menu. Traction, stability, and anti-lock control systems are also reprogrammed for the Boss' track-star mission. Special lightweight 19-inch wheels 9.0 x 19 front/9.5 x 19 rear, shod in Pirelli PZero summer rubber, frame the same 14.0-inch Brembo front/stock 11.8-inch rear brakes, though the rear calipers are fitted with Performance Friction pads, and the brake shields are vented. Even the flexible brake lines have been reinforced so they expand 30-40 percent less than the GT's, to preserve a reassuringly firm brake-pedal feel. While the principal improvement is meant to be in fade resistance and pedal feel, stopping distances from 60 mph are also said to shrink by 3 feet. On the skidpad, Ford claims the Boss is the first non-SVT Mustang to exceed 1.0g lateral grip.

Modifications under the hood are modest, but effective. A new intake manifold features a large plenum with short velocity-stack type runners optimized for high-rpm running. To raise the redline from 7000 to 7500, forged pistons and rods are fitted along with race bearings and a lightened valvetrain. Cooling is enhanced with a larger radiator that's sealed to the opening. New cams are controlled by the same variable timing mechanism and the grind serves to broaden the torque curve (though the peak drops from 390 to 380) and boost peak power output from 412 to 440 hp. But even better than how it goes is how it sounds. Removing 11 pounds of sound-deadening material and re-tuning the GT's "sound tube" (which works like a speaker, broadcasting intake plenum vibes at the firewall) admits plenty of intake music, while a true quad-exhaust takes care of the rest.
We're not talking about four chrome tips out the back. This setup sends most of the exhaust out through the typical dual 4-inch exhaust barrels, but two additional pipes positioned opposite the crossover pipe lead to just ahead of the rear tires, sending a small amount of exhaust out each side through a restrictor plate that is required to meet sound requirements but "might fall out if you loosened two bolts." They're mainly tuning elements, but they result in a unique aural experience, and they're sized and shaped to be easily replaced with aftermarket exhaust-dump valves for folks who drive their Bosses to and from their race weekends.
The power flows aft through a racing-style clutch with upgraded friction materials to a close-ratio six-speed manual topped by a short-throw shifter and on back to your choice of limited-slip differentials spinning 3.73:1 gearing (transmission gearing is unchanged). There's a traditional multi-plate locker with carbon-fiber plates, or a Torsen torque-sensing unit. Expect 0-60 times in the very low fours, and a top speed of 155 mph.

To set the Boss apart visually, chief designer Darrell Behmer took inspiration from Shinoda's '69 production car as well as the Bud Moore/Parnelli Jones race cars. The front fascia and grille include blocked-off fog lamp openings and a splitter cribbed from the Boss 302R racecar. A rear spoiler complements the look and aero effect of the front spoiler, resulting in a 50-percent reduction in lift with ideal front/rear balance. Finally, the C-stripe, roof panel, and spoiler are painted white or black to coordinate with the chosen paint color (Competition Orange, Performance White, Kona Blue Metallic, Yellow Blaze Metallic, or Race Red). Inside, there's a unique steering wheel wrapped in Alcantara, cloth seats with suede-like inserts for lateral grip, a black ball shifter, unique cluster graphics, "engine-turned" dash panels, cloth door panel inserts, "Powered by Ford" step plates, and optional Recaro buckets designed by the Mustang team for the GT500. (They come bundled with the Torsen diff in the Boss's only option package.)

There will be two models: the totally streetable Boss 302, and the track-optimized but still street-legal Boss 302 Laguna Seca, a limited run of which has been planned. That version will be offered in black or silver with red on the hood, roof, C-stripe, mirror caps, rear wing, and the cross-brace that goes where the deleted rear seat would, improving torsional rigidity by 10 percent. Another visual cue: The faux gas cap in back says Laguna Seca and features the track map. Other improvements: Pirelli Corsa tires on unique wheels that are a half-inch wider in back though the tire sizes are the same (255/40R19 front, 285/35R19 rear).
Suspension changes to match the tires and vehicle mission include softer front and firmer rear springs, a bigger rear anti-roll bar, and damper settings that are virtually all firmer than the mainstream Boss (setting 1 or 2 roughly equals setting 5 on the base Boss). The front splitter is far more aggressive, and almost identical to the full-on Boss 302R race car's, and the rear spoiler is replaced with a more aggressive wing. The combined effect is a net downforce of 90 pounds at 140 mph. Special ducts cool the brakes; the Torsen/Recaro package is standard; and there's an auxiliary gauge package to monitor engine oil, coolant, and total performance.

The team's original goal was to build a Boss that could spank a BMW M3 on a demanding track like Laguna Seca, and Ford claims the Boss shaves 2 seconds off the GT/Brembo's lap times here. We're prepared to bet big money that a couple seconds will be enough to accomplish that mission. (Disclaimer: We have some inside info we'll be dropping later in August.) Stay tuned, and place your orders now for Boss sales, which will begin in spring 2011. All Ford is saying about pricing is that it will be between the GT (figure about $37K optioned as close to this as possible) and the GT500 ($49,495). The Mustang Team members and key project consultant Parnelli Jones -- who set the Laguna Seca lap record in a Boss back in 1970 -- all hope fervently that those who end up buying Boss 302s don't mothball them as collector items, but race them. And win."

A lot of good details in this.

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