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Ford Mustang Boss 302 - Project PJ
Parnelli Jones Wanted To Own A Boss 302, And The Mustang Hobby Rushed To Get Him One
G.S. continued by making the long haul from his Los Angeles home to Mark's shop. With limited time onsite, he concentrated on smaller chores such as fitting the front spoiler, blacking out the pinch welds in correct factory fashion, bleeding brakes, installing a negative wedge and eccentric eliminator kits, and so on.
Parnelli wanted braking optimized, so G.S. cross-drilled the stock front rotors, and a Baer disc-brake conversion kit was installed in the rear. Classic Tube hard lines were used, and the stock master cylinder was sent to Hunt's Auto Parts for rebuilding.
The Minilite wheels really are Minilites sourced from England, as were the originals on Parnelli's race car. They measure 15x8 inches and carry BFG TA radials front and rear. The tires measure 235/60-15 in front and 255/60-15 in back.
During reassembly, the exterior chores were the headlight doors, which Mark scuffed and painted, as well as replating the chrome and polishing the stainless steel trim at Sanchez Plating. Mark handled the black trim himself, including repainting the fiberglass interior panels and lower dash. He didn't have to worry about the backlight slats. They were removed and the mounting holes were filled by Auto Craft. Since the Trans-Am race cars didn't use the rear window slats, Parnelli didn't want them.
Mark stayed busy inside the Boss as he installed the interior. Friendly Upholstery rebuilt and upholstered the seats. New upholstery trim, headliner, and carpet were used, and Mark disassembled the instrument cluster for cleaning and fresh bulbs. He rebuilt the original heater box and installed a new heater core, along with hours detailing the switch gear and other small parts. He also added oil pressure and water-temp gauges for a racier look.
Final detailing was extensive in the face of the tight November deadline. A couple of hidden areas at the bottom of the doors and rocker panels were sanded and reshot by Bruce Berry of Quigly's Autobody. Bruce also helped Mark with the hood-pin installation and color-sanding.
Did He Make It?
With help from his friends and five months worth of 2 a.m. nights, Parnelli's Boss was reborn. The car was at the Petersen gala celebrating his racing career. Mark had the look of a tired but relieved man when we saw him there. To no one's surprise, he said that after getting the car back into its trailer and himself to the hotel in the wee hours, he slept the sleep that comes only when Parnelli's Boss is in your garage-finished.
Besides a Boss 302 to recall his Trans-Am championship, Parnelli thought a new Mustang painted to look similar to his T-A racer would be neat to tool around in as well. Who better for Parnelli to call than Steve Saleen? Parnelli and George Follmer were codrivers on the Saleen factory team in the Escort Endurance Series in the late '80s, helping Saleen win his first sports-car constructor championship. Parnelli had Steve's phone number in his Rolodex.
When Parnelli asked Steve to build him a single S197 Mustang, Steve countered with a limited run of 500 Saleen/Parnelli Jones Mustangs, or simply "PJs" as they're known around Saleen. The result is a hugely entertaining, naturally aspirated Saleen with 400 hp. What we found uncanny was how the PJ feels like its Boss predecessor. Cammed for a sparkling top end, the Saleen/PJ is OK down low but tears at the top of the tach. It has a Boss 302 personality without a frustrating lack of bottom-end torque.
Parnelli is pleased with his namesake Saleen. "It's so easy to drive, it sort of broke my heart," he says. "I felt sorry for the old car, like its time has gone." In fact, during Motor Trend testing, the new car was quicker than Parnelli's original race car around the Streets of Willow Spring road racing course, so that's no idle thought.
At press time, the $59,015 Saleen/Parnelli Jones cars were almost sold out, but if you hurry, you might still find one. Expect a good ride from the 19-inch rolling stock, a snarling soundtrack, and plenty of stares.