Ford seems to be on a roll lately. Of all the American car companies, they seem to be the most innovative right now, from the Ford Fiesta to the Fusion and all the way up to the F-150 with its recently-announced line of new engines — which include the amazing EcoBoost V6 that gives it an 11,300 pound towing capacity. With a V6. But the most famous car in their lineup isn’t being forgotten, and Ford has just made a big announcement: the Boss is back for 2012!
Now, let me get this out of the way: I’ve never been a Mustang fan. I grew up a Chevy guy so I was always on the Camaro side of the fence as a kid. Then my engineering side started blossoming and I became a huge fan of the Corvair and its four-wheel independent suspension, rear-engined design, turbo-charged engine… which naturally progressed into a love of Porsche. And, let’s face it, the Falcon-derived Mustang (with the most un-interesting engineering imaginable) killed my beloved Corvair. And as far as racing goes, I’m into road racing and open-wheel racing, not drag racing and NASCAR. How could I possibly like the Mustang?
Well, I have to say that this is the first Mustang (well, the second if you count the Mustang Bullitt from a few years back) that has really caught my eye. And you know what? I like what I see.
Let’s start with the legend: everyone has heard of the Boss 302. From 1968 through 1972, Chevy and Ford battled each other in what was considered the “golden era” of the Trans Am road racing series. Both cars competed in the Over 2 Liter class (where engines were limited to 5.0-liters, or 302 cubic inches.) In 1968, the Camaro Z/28 beat the Mustang soundly and won the series championship. Ford’s answer was to develop a new 302 cubic inch engine. Due to the rules, the engine had to be offered in a street car, so former GM stylist Larry Shinoda (who styled the 1962 and 63 Corvair Monza GT and SS show cars, among other things — bonus points right there!) came up with the unique styling and the name Boss 302, and put it into production. This allowed Ford to race the car in 1969 and 1970. Ford didn’t win the championship in 1969 (although they came close) but they did win it in 1970. Parnelli Jones even set the track record at Laguna Seca in 1970 in a Boss 302.
So, now you know the history (and why both the Camaro Z/28 and Mustang Boss 302 had 302 c.i. engines). So what makes the new 2012 Ford Mustang Boss 302 more than just a graphics package? The answer is that this car is set up for some serious track fun.
Let’s start with the engine: a high-revving 5.0L V8 producing 440 horsepower and 380 lb-ft of torque, achieved with a new intake and more aggressive camshafts. I love the thought of a small, high-revving naturally-aspirated V8 as opposed to, say, the supercharged V8s in the Shelby GT350 and GT500. You control this engine with a new short-throw 6-speed manual with an upgraded clutch. And you’ll be surrounded by the sweetness of that sound thanks to the new quad-outlet exhaust the features two exhaust outlets at the rear and two side exhaust outlets in front of the rear wheels. Cool!
Next up (and the most important part for me) is the chassis. No, they haven’t upgraded that ancient live-axle rear suspension for a modern IRS setup. But Ford has thrown in an adjustable suspension and upgraded brakes so you can hit the track with confidence. Ford claims it will pull over 1.0g in the corners, and they said they even benchmarked the BMW M3 when tuning the suspension. They even claim the new Boss 302 will lap Laguna Seca quicker than the M3. (And I’m guessing it will be a heck of a lot cheaper too.) This will be the best-handling Mustang ever built. Wow!
So it sounds like it has the goods to be a great “drivers” car. But it also has the looks to back it up. Again, I’ve always been critical of the Mustang’s styling. I know, I know, I’m probably one of the few in the world… but apart from the 1966 Shelby GT350, I’ve always thought Mustangs were ugly. I’ve always preferred the more flowing, European-like styling as opposed to the chunky styling of the early Mustangs or the big bloated styling of the late-60s/early 70s Mustangs. I won’t even mention the Mustang II, and comparing, say, the 1987 Camaro IROC-Z to the 1987 Mustang GT… well, back when I was in high school there was no comparison in my mind.
Even with the current generation Mustang, I appreciated the nod to the classic Mustang styling cues, but thought it was still a little bulky for my tastes. To be honest, I don’t really like the new Camaro styling either. Again, I appreciate the nod back to the 1969 Camaro, but it is just way to big for my tastes. I like the styling of the Challenger, but it is just too big too. At least the Mustang is smaller than either of its competitors, and the most recent revisions to the Mustang’s styling, they’ve tried to make it looker a little smaller and sleeker. But I still am not a big fan. But for some reason, with the Boss 302, I think the styling works. It gives off just enough attitude, and it fits a car called “the Boss.” Inside the car, I’m not totally sold on the interior, but the Alcantera steering wheel is a nice addition, and I love the available Recaro seats. Overall though, I think I could live with the rest of the interior just fine.
The Mustang Boss 302 looks like the total package. But what if you want just a little bit more? Well, you are in luck, because Ford will also be offering a limited number of Boss 302 Laguna Seca models, which feature more body stiffness, a stronger chassis, an aero package lifted from the Ford Racing Boss 302R, and even a cross-brace in place of the rear seats. It will also come standard with some features that are optional on the “base” Boss 302, like the Recaro seats.
So there you have it. The new 2012 Ford Mustang Boss 302 and Boss 302 Laguna Seca. To me, it looks like they’ve just fired the winning shot in the current pony car war with Chevy (and Dodge).
“But wait,” you say, “doesn’t Chevy have the Z/28 coming out?” Well, yes… GM has officially announced that the Camaro Z/28 will make a return in 2011. It sounds like history is about to repeat itself right? You can even picture a 2011 Camaro Z/28 (with a high-revving 302 V8 of course) painted in the famous Mark Donohue-Penske racing scheme battling it out with a 2010 Mustang Boss 302 in the orange Panelli Jones livery, harkening back to the glory years of Trans Am.
Well, not so fast… it seems the General lost the spirit of the Z/28 in its upcoming Camaro that sits above the SS. Instead of a high-revving 302 V8 and a car geared for serious track use, Chevy is going to give us a supercharged 6.2-liter V8, 20″ wheels, and none of that Trans Am-series nostalgia. Of course it will be fast with over 550 hp, but it will be heavy and just doesn’t get me excited at all. It’s a pity, because Chevy could’ve just added a supercharger to the Camaro SS to satisfy the horsepower-hungry, and really made the Z/28 true to its roots. I think Chevy really dropped the ball on this one, as the upcoming Z/28 will pay homage to the Trans Am legend in name only.
But… back to the topic at hand. Will this finally be the Mustang that brings me over to the dark side? Stay tuned!
Check out all the photos and the video below, then tell me your thoughts on the new Boss 302.