Tooling down tulsa's Peoria Avenue on a warm summer evening, I feel like I've been transported back to the early 1970s. With the yellow glow of street lights streaming over the huge, black scoop in front of me and the soft clatter of solid-lifters coming from under the hood, my passenger, longtime buddy Mark Storm, and I trade comments about how this must be what it was like to cruise in a Boss 429 nearly 40 years ago. We've got the windows down-there's no air-conditioning, after all-and elbows propped on the doors. Getting stopped by a red-light means another chance to accelerate through the gears. The only thing missing is good tunes on the radio. All we can find on the old Philco AM is talk-radio and static.
The idea about driving a Boss 429 came to me last spring during a phone conversation with Jim Wicks, organizer of the 35-year-old Mid America Ford and Shelby Team Nationals in Tulsa, Oklahoma. As always, Jim asked if there was anything I needed at the show. I mentioned that, instead of the typical car photo feature, it would be interesting to spend some time in a rare Mustang muscle car, something most enthusiasts would never get a chance to drive, something like a Boss 429. Only 1,358 were built during 1969-'70 and surviving examples are worth a quarter of a million dollars or more, so cautious owners seldom take the risk of putting them on the street.
And perhaps there was a selfish reason-after nearly 30 years in the Mustang magazine business, I've never driven a Boss 429.
"I've got just the car," Jim quickly responded. "All I need to do is get it out, clean it up, and make sure it's road-ready."
The engine in Wick's low-mileage...
The engine in Wick's low-mileage Boss 429 is representative of these cars in the mid-1970s. The original owner removed the smog equipment and air-cleaner snorkel, and that's the way it remains today. It's a solid-lifter "820 A" engine, essentially the same as the more common "820 T" engines from '69 and '70 except for minor changes in the smog system.
"Just the car" turned out to be a Grabber Orange '70 Boss 429, a 21,000-mile survivor that looks like a time-capsule from the mid-1970s. The original paint is slightly faded with minor door dings and nicks, some touched up, just like five-year-old '70 Mustangs in 1975. The headers that original owner A.C. DeLoach installed on the Boss 429 engine nearly 40 years ago are still there, with muffler-shop replacement mufflers clamped between the original exhaust pipes and tailpipes. In 1972, DeLoach replaced the original F60 Goodyear Polyglas tires with slightly wider G60 BFGoodrich T/As; they are still on the car. Wicks notes that the huge "Boss 429" plaque stuck on the middle of the dash pad was likely put there by DeLoach when he received it with a Boss 429 Performance Upgrade newsletter from Ford. In another reminder of the 1970s, there's an oil pressure gauge hanging under the glove compartment.
According to the original sales invoice, DeLoach purchased the Boss 429 from Woody Anderson Ford in Huntsville, Alabama, on November 22, 1969. The price was $5,116, a lot of money for a car in 1969, although the total reached $6,161 by the time the dealership tacked on taxes, finance fees, and life insurance (did they feel there was some risk involved with a loan for a Boss 429?). Final cash price ended up at $4,334 after DeLoach traded in a '66 GT350, SFM6S2077; the dealership gave him $1,816 for the three-year-old Shelby.
DeLoach drove the Boss 429 for several years before selling it to Alabama Boss enthusiast Dan Case, who drove the car sparingly in order to preserve its original condition before eventually turning the preservation duty over to Wicks in 1984.
Like the engine, the interior...
Like the engine, the interior is well-preserved. The seats and door panels show little wear. The metal Boss 429 plaque in the middle of the dash was added by the original owner in the early 1970s. The original Hurst T-handle is slightly yellowed; Wicks thinks the original owner tried to protect it by applying clear paint, which has turned yellow over time.
When I arrive at the Tulsa Marriott Southern Hills for the Mid America event, the Grabber Orange Boss 429 is sitting under the canopy in front of the lobby doors. Wicks suggests that I drive it during Mid America's Thursday evening cruise, so I meet him at the car to climb in for the first time. I've owned a couple of '70 Mustangs, including a Boss 302, so the layout is familiar-the twin-pod dash with gauges tucked deep into the instrument panel, ignition switch on the steering column, and Hurst four-speed stick with T-handle jutting out of the center console. I shove in the clutch pedal and try to get a feel for the shifter, but quickly learn that the locking mechanism, which was new for 1970, is still in place. Most owners were quick to disable the locking function, which prevented the transmission from being shifted out of Reverse with the ignition switch in the "Off" position.
Jim hands me the keys and tells me to pump the accelerator pedal once, then fire it up. It's unusually hot, even for an Oklahoma heat-wave, so there's no need to pull the manual choke handle. The big 429 cranks instantly and, except for the sound of the solid lifters, idles like a regular passenger-car 429.