Dale's '69 Boss 302 was not pretty when he purchased it as a wrecked hulk in 2004.
Dale Mathers is your typical over-the-top Mustang enthusiast. He's owned more than 30 Mustangs, races and shows his '69 Boss 302, and works on restomod Mustangs for a living at his shop. Even his son's middle name is Shelby.
What's not so typical is where he lives. Unlike those of us in the continental United States who have easy access to Mustang parts, Dale has to hunt for parts by phone and have them shipped halfway around the world to New Zealand, an island country 1,250 miles southeast of Australia.
"It's a lot easier than most would think," Dale says. "I've been shipping parts and vehicles out of the U.S. since 1984. Even with all the changes after 9/11, I pretty much have it sorted out."
For several years, Dale was on the look-out for a Mustang to build into a Trans-Am-inspired race car with modern touches. He even started collecting parts some three years before he found a wrecked '69 Boss 302 through a wanted ad on the Boss 302 Registry Web site. "John Slack in Bakersfield, California, was looking for a twin four-barrel intake for a Boss 302," Dale says. "I had one, so I sold it to him."
Through John, Dale learned about a Calypso Coral '69 Boss 302 sitting behind a New Mexico body shop since a front-end collision in 1977. The drivetrain was long gone and the passenger side was bashed in, but the body was rust-free, thanks to the dry southwest climate. With John's help, Dale purchased the Boss 302 and started the process of having it transported to California, where it was loaded into a shipping container for the long and expensive-around $2,000, Dale says-journey to New Zealand.
The Boss that arrived at Dale's shop was not a pretty sight. The passenger-side front was mostly missing from the radiator support to the firewall, with the inner fender lying in the engine compartment and the suspension cobbled together so a wheel could be bolted on for rolling the car around. Fortunately, Dale knows an experienced "panel-beater," Thomas Cook. "He's 60-something," Dale says, "so he's one of the old 'hammer and file' guys. He did the entire car from a shed. He's a no-pressure man, so I just left it with him. It was the only way I could get it done."
It was Cook who added the "droop front," a modification commonly used by Trans-Am racers for improved aerodynamics. Basically, a pie-shaped wedge was sliced out of the inner fenders to lower the nose, putting the spoiler closer to the ground. Dale says it's noticeable when he parks next to a stock '69 Mustang.
The buildup details can be found in the sidebar, but the induction system is worth expanding on. "The most famous Boss Mustang down here was the Moffat Trans Am car, which used Webers," Dale says. "So my car had to have Webers, too, although today a single four-barrel will make more power. Since I'm in California at least twice a year hunting parts, I've gotten to know Craig Conley, who always has a variety of vintage race pieces. I purchased the Fulkner & Dunn Boss Weber intake from him. Not many were made, so they're hard to find. The 48 IDA Webers are new reproductions because most of the Italian IDAs I found weren't in good condition. I made all the throttle linkages myself. Tuning took about a day while the engine was on the dyno, but now that they're set up, I don't have to touch them again."
Tony Marsh built the engine, a combination of Dart block with '70 Boss 302 heads. It dyno'd at 560 hp, plenty enough to help Dale win all three races in his class at the Skope Classic Race Meeting held in Christchurch. Although the Boss 302 has proven itself on the track, it's also a pristine showcase for Dale's company, Coastline Automotive (www.coastlineautomotive.co.nz), which specializes in Mustang and Nissan race-car fabrication. "At the racetrack, most spectators can't believe I race the car," he says. Earlier this year, Dale entered the Boss in a local All-American Car Show, where it won Best Competition Car.
American Mustangers may be able to get a glimpse of Dale's Boss 302 in person without traveling 6,000 miles to New Zealand. Dale hopes to ship the car back to the U.S. for the Shelby American Automobile Club's SAAC-32 convention at Utah's Miller Motorsports Park July 6-8.
Engine: World Products Dart block with '70 Boss 302 heads, Eagle stroker crank, custom pistons, Comp Cams roller cam, Fulkner & Dunn IDA intake with 48 IDA Webers, Hooker headers with 3-inch Flowmaster mufflers, MSD ignition, Stock Car Products dry-sump oiling system
Drivetrain: '70 Boss 302 close-ratio four-speed with David Kee Toploaders aluminum tailhousing and 31-spline main shaft, aluminum driveshaft from Inland Empire Driveline, 9-inch rearend with Strange support, 31-spine Coleman Gun axles, Detroit Locker differential, 3.50:1 gears
Global West tubular control arms, Vari shock absorbers, custom Trans Am Watt's linkage rear suspension, override traction bars, mideye multi-leaf rear springs, custom-made 16x10-inch Arrow wheels
Front Wilwood six-piston calipers and 13-inch rotors, rear Trans Am four-piston
MoMo race seats, Sparco seatbelts
Maier Racing fiberglass hood, Cobra Automotive plexiglass rear window, various replacement parts (weatherstripping, trim, and more) from Larry's Mustang Parts