It took the Ford Mustang just a few months after its April 1964 launch to make its racetrack debut. Although non-Shelby ponies also made their way into the motorsport scene, the Shelby GT350 was one of the first vehicles to compete on US circuits.
The 1968 SCCA Trans-Am series saw Ford lose badly against Chevrolet; in response, the company produced the Boss 302 for the 1969 season. For homologation considerations, the Boss 302, which was aimed at the Camaro Z/28, also gave rise to a street-legal version. The 302 was unveiled with the Boss 429, which was equipped with an engine meant for NASCAR competition.
Penned by Larry Shinoda, it featured a unique stripe package, a front spoiler, a rear deck wing, and heavy-duty chassis components. The 302-cubic-inch (4.9-liter) V8 engine was also unique to this car. Rated at 290 horsepower, it mated to a four-speed manual and pushed the ‘Stang from 0 to 60 mph (97 kph) in only 6.9 seconds.
Ford sold 1,628 units in 1969, making the Boss 302 one of the rarest Mustangs from the said model year. Ford failed to beat Chevrolet in Trans-Am but returned with an updated car in 1970. As a result, the production model also soldiered on for one more year with 1970 Mustang design cues and new “hockey stick” stripes.
The second iteration was even more successful, moving 7,013 examples. The Boss 302 also captured its first Trasn-Am title with a comfortable win against the AMCs, Chevrolets, and Mopars. The story of the streetable Boss 302 officially ended in 1970 and did not get a new chapter until 2012, when Ford introduced a modern version. However, the company initially planned to keep it in production for 1971. Ford even went as far as to build a prototype and show it to the public, but the project got canceled a few weeks later.
Fortunately, the one and only 1971 Ford Mustang Boss 302 in existence can still tell its tale. This rare piece of muscle car history was returned to its original specifications after being preserved for a while. Better yet, Lou Costabile, a car aficionado, was present to document it when it was on display at the 2023 Muscle Car and Corvette Nationals (MCACN).
The car clearly combines elements unique to the Boss 302 with design cues from 1971, like as the customary flat hood, badges, and stripes. Additionally exclusive to this vehicle, the 302-cubic-inch V8 is noticeably more powerful than the two-barrel small-block Ford was selling at the time.
Granted, the one-off is very similar to the Boss 351 that Ford eventually produced in 1971, but it’s missing the hood scoops and the rear wing. The car is now part of a private collection that includes all first-gen Boss 302s and rarely comes out of storage. So this might just be your best opportunity to see it up close and personal. Hit the play button below for the full walkaround.