The Boss 302 Mustang was an effort by the Ford Motor Company to win the coveted SCCA Trans-Am Championship in 1969 and 1970. The factory effort was headed up by the famed Bud Moore, who fielded two cars in the 1970 season, and won the championship that year, edging out the entries of Roger Penske, who leading driver Mark Donohue lost out to George Follmer. The Penske cars had triumphed in 1968 and 69. The Boss 302's direct competition in the 1970 series were the AAR Cudas, the Pontiac Trans-Am, the AMC Javelin, and the Penske Camaros.
The Camaro/Mustang rivalry had begun in 1967 with the introduction of the Camaro by Chevrolet. The Camaro was the largest threat to the lead Ford had in the "pony car" field, a niche of car manufacturing largely created by Ford with the introduction of the Mustang in mid-year 1964.
Despite the lead Ford had in this field, the performance of the Mustang did not stack up to that of the Camaro. The small block and big block Chevrolet were more than a match for the 289 and 390 Fords placed in the Mustang. Ford, in an effort to burnish their "total performance" image introduced the 428 Cobra Jet in mid-year 1968, and in 1969, built one of Detroit's most interesting power plants, the Boss 302 Ford. The engine would be made available in the Cougar, and more famously, the Mustang.
The SCCA Trans-Am series(from which the famed Pontiac Trans-Am gained its moniker) was hugely popular in the late 1960s. A version of "stock-car" racing, the five-liter class saw Detroit build some impressive handling sedans to compete. As the cars had to be homologated to compete, the Detroit auto builders came up with interesting models to go racing with. The Ford entry for 1969 and 70 was the Boss 302 Mustang. The car came with standard disk brakes on the front, larger sway bars, heavier duty spindles, reinforced shock towers, special paint scheme and strip kit, a four speed transmission (all that was offered), and most importantly, the solid-lifter Boss 302 engine with its free-breathing Cleveland style heads, which had valves larger than most motors over a third larger in displacement.
Drag racing was another hugely popular venue for the BOSS 302 Mustang. For those in the know, Ford's Drag Pack option was included at no extra charge, simply by ordering the 4.30:1 rear axle ratio. This coveted option is easily recognizable when the hood is opened to reveal Ford's vertically mounted oil cooler in front of the radiator.
The Mustang was designed by Larry Shinoda, a former GM employee. He placed the unique reflective strips on the car, and eliminated the fake scoops on the 1969 models.
The Boss 302 is one of the most commonly reproduced among muscle car models and toys, with diecast models including Hot Wheels, Matchbox and ERTL American Muscle. It is commonly recognizable by the "hockey" side stripe, rear louvers and chin spoiler. The 1970 is the most popular, but there are also some 4-headlight 1969 models as well.
In 2007, a pair of restored 1969 Boss Mustangs sold for $530,000.
In 2007, Saleen and American Racing Legend, Parnelli Jones, created a limited-edition version of the Mustang. Though often called the Saleen/Parnelli Jones S302, it was designed to pay homage to the legendary Boss 302 that Parnelli Jones had raced in back in the 70's. Equipped with a Saleen MOD 302 cid 3-valve V8, the S302 makes and of torque. On the outside, the S302 features a new front fascia, Saleen "Shaker" hood, window louvers, and custom Saleen/Parnelli Jones edition wheels. Production of this car was limited to only 500 cars..
According to Hot Rod Magazine, a new series of "Boss" engines will soon be available in both the Mustang and F-150 with the 302 becoming the standard engine for the Mustang GT and either a 5.8 or 6.1 liter available in a Boss Mustang.