Mustangs and 1960's Fords

Boss 302

Picture of Boss 302 Mustang

In the 1960's, various "stock car" racing classes such as SCCA TransAm needed to be based on real "stock" cars that were available to the public with minimum quantities (like 1,000) sold the public. The actual quantities built were 1,628 in 1969 and 7,013 in 1970.While Ford won this series in 1966 and 1967 (with Shelby built Mustangs), the Camaro won easily in 1968. Ford responded by building a special Boss 302 engine and including special handling suspension on the Boss 302.

Boss 302 Engine

The Boss 302 Engine used cylinder heads based on the 351, although don't expect to get a Boss 302 just by bolting 351 Cleveland heads on your 302 or 5.0: the cooling passages are different (see something like the Fordnatics mailing list archive for more information).

This car seems to be a 1970 model, based on the color (the 1969 model was only available in Wimbledon White, Bright Yellow, Calpyso Coral and Acapulco Blue) and the valve covers (1969 models had chrome valve covers). Given a choice, I'd get one in white or Grabber Blue.

White 1970 Boss 302 Mustang Blue 1970 Boss 302 Mustang

1970 Boss 302 engine with shaker hoodThis white 1970 Boss even has the shaker hood.

Performance wise, the Boss 302 only came in second place in the TransAm series in 1969, but won in 1970. Rated horsepower was 290hp at 5800 rpm (remember, back then they rated "gross horsepower", ignoring the power drain of the alternator, water pump and so on). An important aspect of the Boss 302 was the handling and suspension, but in a straight line, the Boss 302 was a high-fourteen second car in the quarter mile, and 0-60 in a little under 7 seconds. The Taurus SHO in stock form is a mid- to low-fifteen second car (although with mild changes and a good driver, people have run in the high fourteens), and also does 0-60 in under 7 seconds. The Boss 302 definitely looks faster though!

Another 1970 Boss 302 Mustang in Grabber Blue Boss 302 engine compartment Boss 302 Engine compartment Boss 302 interior

I took pictures of this blue Boss a few years earlier. It might be the same car, but I don't know. The interior of this one is quite spartan: no glove compartment, and no radio. Any color you want as long as it's black. Seems to be a real dilemma though, owning a car like this and not seeming to be able to drive it much.

1967 Shelby GT350

67 GT350 1967 Shelby GT350 engine compartment

I'm not sure if this was an original Shelby or a replica, but it does have the Shelby badge on the inner fender. By 1967, the Shelby was on its way to becoming just an option package, but still had engines that were not available in other Mustangs -- not even the GT's. The "HiPo" 289's in 1966 used mechanical valve lifters in the K-code engines. The Shelby's had an even more radical cam.

1967 GT350

1967 Shelby GT350 Engine bay of 1967 GT350 Another view of the engine bay of 1967 GT350 Tag warning you to drive the car every 21 days

This car shows what happens if you don't floss your teeth. What's the connection? Well, this car was restored by my dentist! He got it out on the west coast somewhere so I assume the sheet metal was all sound. Obviously lots of work went into getting everything just so, including the chalk marks. He claims he doesn't use the dental tools in the restoration, but I don't believe him. It doesn't look like it's been driven more than 25 feet in the last 21 years, let alone every 21 days.

GT350 Race version

GT350 Race version GT350 race engine

Shelby did build some special race versions of the GT350 in 1965 and 1966. I didn't make any notes as to whether this was an original GT350 R or not, but it's definitely set up for racing: no headlights, heavy duty aluminum radiator, and pretty much open exhaust. The owner was brave enough to start it up and let someone try to drive it around the lot. It was definitely LOUD, much louder than any of the other cars I've heard at a car show.

However, there is at least one thing even a plain six cylinder Mustang can do better than this: idle. The guy had to keep revving the engine to keep it running, and after stalling half a dozen times trying to get out of the parking space without crashing into the next row of cars, the owner took over and made one turn around the parking lot. I think the slowest he could get it to go (without just coasting) was about 25 MPH. Definitely a completely different animal from the Mustang my old seventh grade English teacher drove.

1966 Shelby GT340H (Hertz rental car)

1966 Shelby Hertz Sign with background on this 66 Shelby Hertz Interior with Carroll Shelby's signature on the glove compartment Hertz "Rent A Racer" license plate frame Close up of Hertz logo on the wheel hub Left side of 1966 GT350H

After Carroll Shelby made a few GT350's for racing in 1965, the Hertz rental car company heard about the cars and arranged to buy some for their rental fleet. There are numerous legends about these cars, maybe even true, about people renting them for the weekend to go racing, or more outrageously, swapping out the highly modified engine for a plain six cylinder. This license plate frame supports the legend, but I can't see Hertz promoting this.

1968 Shelby GT500

1968 Shelby GT500 428 Dual-quad engine in 1968 GT500

In high school, I used to walk past a Lincoln Mercury dealer that had a GT500 this color in the lot. It was even a convertible. I didn't have a driver's license, so I only vaguely wanted that car rather than having a full, deep seated lust. Since I only lived a little over a mile from school, it would have been about as silly as the Bill Cosby routine where he wanted a car that would go at least 180 MPH so he could get to work in less than a minute (Cosby got a specially made Shelby Cobra that went 200 MPH, and Bill used it for one of his comedy routines).

GT California Special

1968 GT/California Special

Ford made a number of special versions of the Mustang for different areas of the country in the late 60's. The GT/California Special is one of the most striking with a Shelby-style rear deck and simulated brake scoops. This particular car is absolutely breathtaking. Sure, it lives in a trailer now, and therefore looks immaculate. This one has a 390 cubic inch V8. Personally, I think it would be a little more interesting with a 4 barrel 302. After 1968 and ignoring the Boss 302 engines which were very different, Ford didn't have a 4 barrel 302 again until 1983. Of course, 1968 was the last year for the "small" big block 390's in Mustangs as well.

1966 GT Convertible

1966 GT Convertible

The owner of this car had been traveling all over the country looking for a GT, and ended up stumbling on this one after he'd basically given up. I'm not sure whether many GTs would have had the extra luggage rack. The trunk is small enough though that you'd want extra space.

1967 K Code

1967 K code Mustang fastback Sign with information about the engine Close up of VIN stamped on inner fender

At first, this looks like just another fastback. Maybe you notice the GT package (fog lights and side stripes). While this wasn't the end of the line for the 289 (which Ford used one more year in Mustangs before replacing it with the now famous 302), this was the last year that the 289 "HiPo" engine with "K" in the Vehicle Identification Number was used. Ford used the 390 cubic inch FE (for Ford/Edsel) as their top of the line engine. Shelby still used the K code as the base of their engines before jumping all the way to the 428 engine the following year for the G500. The close-up shows the VIN stamped into the inner fender with the model year, plant code and engine code highlighted.

Mustang II

Mustang IIIf the late 60's were the heyday of Detroit musclecars, the 70's were the dark ages, largely brought on by rising gas prices. From 1974 to 1978, Ford came out with the Mustang II. They advertised it as returning to the roots of the original Mustang, with a smaller body and smaller engine. The reaction at the time was it was just a slight sheet metal change on top of Pinto, forgetting that the original Mustang was just different sheet metal for the Falcon, Ford's economy car that was the equivalent to the Pinto.

Although Ford built over a million Mustang II's (compared with one million Mustangs by the end of the 1966 model year), you don't see many Mustang II's at car shows. They're mostly unwanted and unloved, except for their front suspension and steering which are pretty much the standard replacement for street rodders who want independent front suspension. In fact, the Mustang II front end is so popular that their are reproductions of these being built, even if few people want anything to do with any other parts of these cars.

SVO Mustang

SVO Mustang from mid 80's 2.3 Turbo engine in SVO Mustang SVO Mustang engine bay

By the mid 80's, Ford started to come out of the dark ages introducing the "5.0 H.O.", daring to produce a small car with a V8 engine tuned for more power, and not just to power a land yacht. At the same time, Ford's Special Vehicle Operation (SVO) did some work with turbo-charging a mid sized 4 cylinder engine. The SVO Mustangs were built from 1984 to 1986. I don't know which year this car is. They did quite well compared with the 5.0 HO, but couldn't compete with a 351. In any case, it's much easier to sell 8 cylinders as a muscle car. However, it really is amazing at how much space is left in the engine bay of the SVO. And with the engine must closer to the center of the car, they're supposed to handle real well.


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Last modified December 2, 1997
All pictures taken by the author
Tom Teixeira