Ten years ago the Mustang hobby was as much about a good trailer and towing vehicle as it was about the cars themselves. Back then, the show field was king and the only way to be competitive was to trailer. It was almost unheard of to not trailer your Pony to an event. To drive your steed meant sure "death" at the hands of the show judges who were seen as the enemy and not the guys who were trying to help you out. Nth degree detailing of the undercarriage, the engine bay, and the interior was where it was at. However, we have watched as the hobby has slowly moved in a new direction: the open road.
Fast forward to 2001--the times they are a changing. More and more people are taking their cars off their trailers and driving them. We have seen the ranks of Mustang Club of America's (MCA) Street-Driven Concours class swell with former Concours-Trailered cars and those who want the enjoyment that a vintage Mustang can provide on a weekend cruise. This fact was brought home with stunning clarity by our friend Ed Hockaday of Houston, Texas, when he announced that he intended to drive his Thoroughbred Class '70 Boss 302. Then we knew something was really afoot.
When a guy such as Ed puts his Thoroughbred Boss on the street, this is no light matter. A Thoroughbred Mustang is one that competes in an MCA class where typically only new old stock (N.O.S.) or good original parts are used.
Detailing is usually better than average and the owners try to stick to the originality thing tooth and nail. If the car had orange peel in the paint originally, the new paint will have it as well. For instance, Ed's car has the correct black-out paint on the hood, which took him considerable searching to find, since it has been out of production for several years. The undercarriage of the car is also absolutely correct and is no "painted lady" like Lazarus, our '72 Mach 1 Project. If the part on the assembly line was natural, then the part on a Thoroughbred winner will be natural. To put it bluntly, these cars require many hours of prep before and after a show. This was the world Ed lived in just prior to Charlie getting involved (we'll get into that later).
What It Took
Turning a Thoroughbred competitor such as Ed's Boss 302 into a streetable machine was more difficult than one might think. For instance, all the N.O.S. parts had to be removed; otherwise, they would become comparatively worthless. The N.O.S. gas tank was removed as well, and a reproduction replacement was slipped into place. Ed also replaced the fuel lines and N.O.S. brake components for safety as well as salvation of the factory parts. Ed also had to pull the engine partially down to check out the internals, which had been left oiled but dry for the last several years.
"Surprisingly, the engine was in great shape," Ed told us. "We just pulled the N.O.S. cam and lifters out and replaced them with a more aggressive COMP cam grind."
The parts were stored for later use on this Boss or another Boss, should Ed ever decide to go back again.
The Fun Factor
Ed's story started out with another Boss owner, Charlie Turner. You'll remember, Charlie has a '69 Boss that he and Ed made into the stunner that appeared in the May 2000 issue ("Destiny," page 46). Apparently, Charlie has lived up to his intention of driving the Boss. This is one of the reasons that prompted Ed to begin looking at driving his car. The other reason was Charlie's recent purchase of a Shelby--a '66 GT350 packing a Paxton supercharger--and a saddlebag full of powerful fun. Ed told us Charlie's other car got him thinking the Shelby was largely responsible for his foray into driving his Boss. "The Shelby is so much fun, I finally succumbed to Charlie's request to make my Boss driveable again."
Things Ed Needed
Several changes were made to the Boss to make it more driver-friendly. Below is the short list of changes Ed has made and changes we think he should make.
It would be insane, from both a monetary and a reliability standpoint, to run N.O.S. rubber on the car. We've tried both radials and bias-plies and found that on the whole, the bias-ply tires available from the aftermarket perform very well, though they lack some adhesion in the wet. The oddest and biggest advantage of the radials is that for stock sizes, they're cheaper than the bias-ply tire.
Hump-hugger console: to-do
Ed will find that as he drives the Boss more and becomes more at home behind the wheel, he'll want to store his drink somewhere--especially during those hot, Houston summers.
Ed has big plans for a TKO and stock-looking Hurst shift arm. Can he bring himself to do it?
Repop carpet set: done
At $89 it was cheap insurance against screwing up an original N.O.S. set.
Pertronix Ignitor: to-do
Hotter spark is a good idea on a Boss 302.
Aftermarket shocks: done
Koni shocks now replace the correct Autolites.
Some would beg to ask "Why?" Why take a Thoroughbred Boss and pull it back down to street specs? Ed's logic was simple: "It's less expensive to undo a Thoroughbred car than it is to 'do' a new street car."
It makes sense when you think about it. The Thoroughbred car, with its microscopic detailing, will require less investment to tear down (or rebuild) than to purchase a brand-new Mustang. Besides, to owners such as Ed, the trailered car is a known commodity: there are no new surprises waiting under the paint because they know what's there.
When we prodded Ed about why he did this thing, he stopped for a second and grinned, "I just wanted to enjoy the car the way I would have if I had bought it back in 1970." For many, this is the reason they're turning the trailered beauties into streetable showcases: The driving is just too much fun. Everyone that we asked about going from trailering to driving told us the same thing: They just missed the roar of the exhaust and the thrill of the drive, not to mention the occasional waves and the excited comments from nonenthusiasts really boost the old ego. And Ed was no different. "It's a rush to drive; I'd forgotten just how much fun these cars are," he told us, while looking at the Boss one sunny, cold morning. We couldn't agree more.
Where to From Here?
The future of Ed's Boss is where the interest lays. Like many of us vintage owners, Ed envies the ability to have a 3.91:1 Traction Lok and be able to shift past Fourth into Overdrive.
"We're planning to install a Tremec TKO five-speed in the car," said Ed, "so that we can get better highway cruising speeds out of it." Even with this great reasoning, we think his decision has as much to do with the fact that Charlie's Shelby has an aforementioned five-speed tranny and can leave Ed's Boss at will on the highway.