Ford gave the green light only once before: In 1968, management approved a special Mustang - a car that sacrificed nothing in its quest to be the best all-around road-going performance machine ever created by Ford Motor Company. That car became the 1969 Ford Mustang Boss 302, and it remains one of the world's most sought-after examples of American performance.
Forty-two years later, Ford has given the green light again.
The team of Ford engineers, designers and stylists - all Mustang enthusiasts to the core - that created the groundbreaking 2011 Mustang GT has distilled a new model to its purest form, strengthening, lightening and refining each system to create a race car with a license plate. Its name: the 2012 Mustang Boss 302.
Philosophy and powertrain
"The new Ford Mustang Boss 302 completely redefines Mustang capability," said Mark Fields, Ford president of The Americas. "That the Mustang team was able to take the current Mustang GT - already a world-class performance car - and refine it further for peak track performance shows the commitment Ford has to this car and its legions of fans."
Driving the 2012 Ford Mustang Boss 302 was intended from the outset to be a visceral experience, packed with raw, unbridled performance across the spectrum: Acceleration, handling, braking, and top speed are all equally matched for perfect balance on a car operating within the framework of legally defined safety, noise and emissions regulations.
"The team at Ford wanted to offer their fellow Mustang enthusiasts something really special - a beautifully balanced factory-built race car that they could drive on the street," explains Dave Pericak, Mustang chief engineer. "The Ford Mustang Boss 302 isn't something a Mustang GT owner can buy all the parts for out of a catalog or that a tuner can get by adding a chip. This is a front-to-back re-engineered Mustang with every system designed to make a good driver great and a great driver even better."
Sounds like the Boss
While the powertrain team defined output targets that would yield an ideal balance with the chassis, another team made sure the car made the kind of sounds owners and enthusiasts would expect from a Mustang Boss.
Up front, a Boss-specific intake system is tuned to feed the engine with minimum restrictions. A retuned induction sound tube provides concrete aural evidence of what's occurring under the hood. And, in the Boss exhaust system engineers really had some fun.
"With an exhaust system, we have to consider three constraints: legal noise restrictions; backpressure, which can rob power; and ground clearance," explains Shawn Carney, Mustang NVH engineer. "Since the 2011 Mustang GT exhaust is already so free-flowing - it came in way under our backpressure targets - we already had excellent performance; we were able to tune the exhaust system for a unique sound. Combined with the rush of the intake, the exhaust system really envelops the driver in V8 sound.
Exterior and interior design
Changes to the Mustang Boss exterior are subtle but unmistakable. True to its race-bred heritage, every component that could potentially aid aerodynamics or engine/brake performance was examined to make the vehicle more competitive, while chief designer Darrell Behmer refined the styling to evoke the 1969 Boss in a contemporary way.
"We approached this as curators of a legend," explains Behmer. "We've taken design cues from the '69 Boss street car and the menacing Bud Moore/Parnelli Jones race cars and carefully updated them to give the 2012 the proper bad-boy attitude that is unmistakably a Boss Mustang."
To set Boss apart, each car will have either a black or white roof panel, coordinated to the color of the side C-stripe. Available exterior colors are Competition Orange, Performance White, Kona Blue Metallic, Yellow Blaze Tri-Coat Metallic and Race Red.
Up front, a unique fascia and grille are highlighted by the blocked-off fog lamp openings and aggressive lower splitter, a version of the design used - and proven - on the Boss 302R race car. The front splitter is designed to function at high speeds by efficiently managing the air under and around the car. It helps to reduce underbody drag and front end lift while more effectively forcing air through the Boss-specific cooling system. At the rear of the car, the spoiler was chosen to complement the front aero treatment and minimize overall drag.
A dark metallic instrument panel finish, gauge cluster and door panel trim also differentiate Boss from the standard Mustang, while a black pool-cue shifter ball and "Powered by Ford" door sill plates further remind customers they're in a special car.
The Boss interior gets an aural kick thanks to what's been removed. Eleven pounds of sound-deadening material have been eliminated to let occupants further enjoy the intake, engine and exhaust note.
"Boss is a hallowed word around here, and we couldn't put that name on a new Mustang until we were sure everything was in place to make this car a worthy successor," explains Pericak. "We were either going to do it right or not do it at all - no one on the team was going to let Boss become a sticker and wheel package."