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The BOSS 429, a Car Guy's Dream Find


Some people dream of Jeannie with the light brown hair. Not me, and it's not just because I am married. I dream of cars in barns, in fields, behind hedge rows, in garages falling down with only the vague shape of a car inside. I gather stories and hope for a good tip from a fellow car hunter.

When I walk down an overgrown path behind the abandoned barn I'm not thinking of a woman at all. I'm looking for the familiar slope of a Mustang fastback roof barely visible under a tin roof shed behind a stand of pines. Nothing makes my heart race quite like that (well almost nothing).

I remember the red 1969 Mustang BOSS 429 like the one that sold at Barrett-Jackson (Scottsdale 2007) for $605,000.  I know, I know prices at Barrett-Jackson are seldom what they seem. Sometimes it feels like a privileged few sell the cars back and forth to themselves and pay for the cars with monopoly money. But the $605,000 was real money.

If two drunk rich guys both want a car, the price may not be a good indication of the market-that's ok by me if real money changes hands. But if its only friends biding up a buddy' s car, that really hurts the hobby and distorts prices.

Many a fine restored BOSS 429 has sold for less than $200,000. That's definitely not chump change. But imagine finding one. Not to sell but to keep; and to drive! Then it's time to move the wife's new Shelby out of the garage and into the rain.

They built only 859 of these cars.  I believe they are one of the most desirable Mustangs ever. And I know for a fact some are still out there waiting to be found.  Well, less than 500 of these cars are accounted for which means there is a good chance, actually a great chance, that you can find one. I have reliable information on where two are right now. At least I'm running down the rumors. One is in Iowa and one in Arkansas. I have intelligence I believe to be true-at least a dozen are out there rotting away in plain sight.

As you know these cars are priced from #1 Condition which is "best of show" quality. Some are restored and some are great survivors detailed like new. In today’s prices "The BOSS" in #1 Condition would be worth $195,000. A real concourse champion with a unique history may be worth 50% to 100% more. A #2 Car is worth $170 000 down to a #5 Car at about $120,000. A #5 Car is not a basket case. Remember even a #5 Car is usually driveable but unrestored--showing normal wear and tear.

What is a BOSS 429 worth rotting in a field? Rusty cars that have spent years outside can be rebuilt but come at a big discount. Rusty and incomplete for a BOSS 429 is a real problem. The mechanical components on the BOSS 429 are almost irreplaceable.  I'll settle for a ragged, rusty but mechanically complete car with a clear title and some history to make it worth the two years it will take me to rebuild it.  I'd like to save one of these great cars from oblivion, and give it the heated garage it richly deserves. It should be driven and enjoyed. Since I live in Texas I can afford not to drive it when it rains.

Back to our story of why "The BOSS" came into being and why it is so rare.  The funny thing is that the 1969 BOSS 429, which I call "The BOSS" was not that powerful a car as measured in horsepower to the rear wheels. But it's a car at the pinnacle of Mustang engineering. Bruce Caldwell in "2007 Mustang Milestones" has stated simply:

"The 1969 BOSS 429 Mustang represents the most radical engine installed in a first generation Mustang (pg. 94)."

By leading up to the 1969 model year everyone knew the Chrysler Hemi engine would be the engine to beat. The 1969 Dodge Daytona had already been created in a wind tunnel and was about to terrorize everyone in NASCAR. Ford believed it had to develop its own answer to the Chrysler Hemi engine to be a success on the tracks and at the dealerships.

The crazy thing is that Ford's version of the Hemi, the BOSS 429, was really intended to be raced in NASCAR Torinos not Mustangs. Ford had to produce and sell at least 500 BOSS 429 equipped cars through normal dealership channels to qualify the engine for NASCAR use. And so it did.  Thank heaven the Mustang people at Ford decided to put BOSS 429 engines into the 1969 Mustangs.  And so it was that a total of 859 Mustang BOSS 429's were built in 1969 and 499 BOSS 429's were built in 1970 in Mustangs sold to the American Public.

Unfortunately the BOSS 429 engine sold to the public was a shadow of what it was designed to be. Simply stated, the car is not that fast. Ford deliberately "detuned" the car for the public with a conservative camshaft and a carburetor that was way too small.  Still it was a handsome engine with much promise. It was rated at 375 hp by Ford with unique aluminum cylinder heads (which are very rare) on cast iron 429 blocks. And all BOSS 429's came with close-ratio four-speed transmissions.

The very wide aluminum heads required narrowing the Mustang spring towers and the front suspension mounting points were changed. Even then the engine makes the engine compartment of the '69 seem small and cramped when actually it is large by Mustang standards.

If you find one and keep it, the hardest decision will be whether or not to make the simple modifications that were anticipated for the NASCAR racing engines. That would make it very fast and fun to drive!  As for me, I'll keep looking for my own BOSS 429!

Special thanks to John for this article


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