MONTEREY, California - As the bright orange Mustang rocketed down through the deadly two-part turn know as “The Corkscrew”, it should have punched a hole in the time/space continuum, rolling the clock back four decades ago to 1970. For this was the setting, the hot tarmac of the historic Laguna Seca Raceway where this very same car and driver combination established themselves as the dominant force in Trans-Am racing by winning the 1970 series opener.
|According to Mustang Chief Engineer Dave Pericak, the Boss 302 has been several years in development, and he's quick to point out that it is “not in any way a nostalgia project”. (Photo: Lesley Wimbush/Auto123.com)
It’s rather fitting then, that when Ford decided to bring back the legendary Boss 302 Mustang, that Parnelli Jones would be the one to pilot it here at Laguna Seca for its debut.
It seems like only yesterday that we were climbing behind the wheel of a brand-new five litre Mustang.
But according to Mustang Chief Engineer Dave Pericak, the Boss 302 has been several years in development, and he's quick to point out that it is “not in any way a nostalgia project”. Nor is it a re-worked GT– the Boss was “built as a prototype without going into the Ford parts bin”. The Mustang’s development team is made up of self-proclaimed keeners, geeks and enthusiasts who were given free rein to create a road-legal race car that was not only worthy of its iconic nameplate, but that could equal or better BMW’s benchmark M3 coupe.
Lofty goal? During testing, with 2010 Daytona winning hotshoe driver Jonathan Bomarito behind the wheel, the Boss bested the M3 coupe’s best time by more than a second. The Special Edition Laguna Seca Boss 302 beat that time by another second.
“This is not a re-made GT”, said Pericak, “it’s a complete, 1-G lateral race car with one goal: to beat the M3 at Laguna Seca”.
You can’t build a Boss 302 by adding bolt-ons to a GT. Although it’s also powered by a 5.0 litre engine, it’s been re-worked, re-tuned and re-calibrated to produce 444 horsepower over the GT’s 412. But more importantly, there’s a huge torque range that’s available throughout the powerband, so that it pulls like a freight train all the way up to the 7500 rpm redline. Yet it’s such a smooth delivery of power that the 302 is tractable while cruising through town. High end horsepower is achieved through helping the engine breathe - with a Daytona prototype-inspired composite intake manifold, ported heads and more aggressively ground cams featuring variable camshaft timing. A heavy-duty clutch is sandwiched between the engine and close-ratio six speed transmission.
|Although it’s also powered by a 5.0 litre engine, it’s been re-worked, re-tuned and re-calibrated to produce 444 horsepower over the GT’s 412. (Photo: Ford)