The people behind the Mustang Books
© Donald Farr, Wolfgang Kohrn - February 1st. 2007

 



The most desired and obsolete BOSS 302 book. Recent offers on ebay went up to 280$. 

Donald Farr is the current  Editor of the famous Mustang Monthly Magazine published in the US and distributed worldwide. 
 
His career started as an amateur photograph contributing for SAAC
publications and led to a job from Larry Dobbs as an editor for Mustang Monthly already in 1980.

His most famous book in the Mustang world is the BOSS 302 book pictured here that is still today a treasure. Even for longtime Mustang and BOSS enthusiasts. 

In our exclusive series of Interviews I am glad that Donald could take the time to answer my questions... despite his busy schedule and we'd like to apologize to the BOSS guys for keeping him for a day or two from working on his new BOSS book:).



1969 Boss 302


1970 Boss 302
 

The heart of a Boss 302 is it's high-revving engine

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


T/A Boss 302 restored

 

 

 






Trans-Am Race Kent 1969

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Detailing a Boss 302 from the bottom to top is just another passion - some like to drive it, some like to make it perfect. 

Owner of this yellow Boss 302: Clyde Madsen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


The new Boss crate engine. 


Exclusive Ponysite interview with
Donald Farr
 

about the BOSS 302 heritage and future


"
I knew I had to find a way to own one" 
Donald Farr remembers his first contact with a BOSS 302 and tells us about his sentiments about the BOSS hype, crate engine and more

Everybody knows your Boss 302 book and it is typically in the $150-200 range on ebay today. Why do you think the Boss guys still value your book so high?  

I hope itís because itís still a good book with useful information. Itís the only book that covers the history of the Boss 302 from many of the people who worked at Ford at the time. But in truth, it probably sells for so much because itís now out-of-print and hard to find.

When I wrote the book, I was working at Mustang Monthly, and we published the book under Mustang Publications, which also published How to Restore Your Mustang and the Mustang Recognition Guide. We eventually sold the book division to California Mustang Ė I got royalty checks every month, very small ones but at least they covered lunch at times. When California Mustang sold out of the stock we had sent them, they decided not to reprint because A) they didnít see it as a big seller and B) the printer had lost the original printing plates.

Can you tell us something about the research of that book and how you found the Ford guys for interviews?

Basically, I started researching the Boss 302 because I owned one and wanted to know that stuff myself. Guess itís just a journalist thing. Weíre talking early 1980s, so a lot of the guys were at other jobs or retired. I tracked down Larry Shinoda Ė he was at White Truck at the time Ė and he asked me to call him at home. I remember his daughter answered; I think sheís involved with Boss Shinoda today. Larry  ended up doing an interview with me, much of which I used for the book, and he also helped me track down some of the other people who were involved, like Matt Donner, who did much of the suspension development, and Lee Morse, who worked on the engine program. Donner was retired; his wife answered the phone and called him away from mowing the grass. Morse eventually became one of the top guys at Ford SVO/Motorsport. He was the first person I knew with an answering machine. Told me to call and leave a message, and he would call me right back, which he did. I think he got so many calls at home from people wanting engine information that he monitored his calls just so he could have some family time. He even asked me to leave his name out of the book, although I did sneak him into the credits up front.

Lew Spencer, who worked at Shelby-American, helped me with the Trans Am research. He sent me a lot of information, including a test book, from the í69 Shelby team. It was there that I spotted a couple of VIN numbers, so I contacted Lois Eminger, who had the factory invoices. Through those VINs, she discovered that seven identically equipped Mustang fastbacks, with consecutive VIN numbers, had been sold to Administrative Services. Those turned out to the be the original seven Trans Am cars, three each to Shelby and Bud Moore, and one to Kar Kraft, which was built to Trans Am specifications for Smokey Yunick in his black and gold colors. It was exciting to find those VINs.

Do you think the Boss was really the brainchild of Shinoda only or of a team? Who else do you know working with Shinoda on the project before or after he arrived at Ford?

 It was a lot of people working on different things for the same project. The goal was a production car so Ford could compete in Trans-Am, plus Ford wanted something to compete in the showroom against the Z/28 Camaro. Shinoda gets a lot of the credit because he came up with the name and because of the graphics, which were pretty dramatic even for the late 1960s. Also because Shinoda wasnít shy about boasting about his talent. The engineering guys were humble; Shinoda was a typical artist-type.

So while Shinoda was putting together graphics, the suspension guys were developing the suspension, in conjunction with the modifications needed for the F60 tire on the Boss and other Mustangs, and Engine Engineering guys were doing their thing to create a streetable engine from a race engine.

If you had been Larry Shinoda, what else would you have done to the Ď69 and what would you have done different or added on the Boss 302?

 Not much. From hind-sight, the í69 rear spoiler should have been made from better material so it wouldnít sag, and of course the piston skirts were a problem.

What was your first contact with the Boss and how did you feel about it back then compared to other musclecars of that era?

Itís funny that I wasnít aware of the Boss 302 until it was out of production. I grew up in a small town, about 25 miles south of Spartanburg, SC, so I rarely saw special cars. I was definitely aware of cars. I had just turned 11 when the Mustang was introduced in 1964, but the Beatles had more of my attention at the time. Strangely enough, the two things Iím most interested in Ė music and Mustangs Ė were introduced to me within the span of two months in 1964 Ė the Beatles in February and the Mustang in April. At the time, I could play a guitar but I wasnít old enough to drive a car, so I guess thatís why I drifted in that direction. Oh, I was still interested in cars. My grandfather bought a new í66 Mustang GT, and that was cool. I built model cars and counted Mustangs, Camaros, Corvettes, and Chargers while going places with my parents.   

In the fall of 1970, my dad got tired of me borrowing the family Mercury for band practices and dates, so he decided to get me a car. We started looking a used cars, but he was always of the opinion that ďused cars are just someone elseís problemĒ so we finally made it to the Ford dealer to look at Mustangs, which was my first choice anyway. The Ď71s were already out, but there were two í70 fastbacks still on the lot. One was a Grabber model, Grabber Green with the í69-like Boss C-stripes, and the other was pale yellow with the í70-like Boss stripes, only the stripes started on the door and simply said ď302Ē at the top. Iíve since learned they were a promotional item to help dealers dress-up plain fastbacks so they could sell them. I didnít like the Grabber Green color, so I went for the yellow one. I remember driving it to school the next day and someone asked me if it was a Boss. I didnít even know what a Boss was.

A few months later I was parked at the Sugar ĎNí Spice Drive-In in Spartanburg, SC. It was one of the popular cruising spots in town. A real Boss 302, Grabber Blue with Thrush sidepipes, came cruising through. It was the first one Iíd ever seen, and I was smitten. I knew I had to find a way to own one, although it would be a few more years before I would find one for sale.


Although this question might impose you are a retireeÖ.:) Ė it is not meant that way - do you have some memory on the average Boss 302 buyer back in 1969 and 1970?

I didnít know any when the cars were new but I got to know a number of original owners after trading my Mustang fastback for a Grabber Blue í70 Boss 302 in 1974. They were a bit older than me, of course, but I remember they were all car enthusiasts. Theyíd have stacks of car magazines in the garage.

Did you ever visit a Trans Am race in Ď69-73?

Growing up in South Carolina, I was more into NASCAR. I didnít even know about Trans Am or even much about road-racing, which is strange because Bud Moore was just up the road in Spartanburg. Iíd heard about Bud, of course, but only in NASCAR. Nobody in my home town talked about Trans Am. Most of the races were up north. In 1972 when I was dating my wife, who lived in Spartanburg, we used to take a short-cut by Bud Moore Engineering on the way to the movies. Iíd always look for the NASCAR transporter, not realizing that the pile of cars out pack were actually wrecked Trans Am Boss 302s.

What did it mean to be a Ford guy back then? Have you joined a club in the 70ies/80ies?

When I got my Boss 302 in 1974, it was like being on an island. I didnít know anyone else with a Boss 302. Then I spotted a letter in Popular Hot Rodding magazine from Danny Rockett in North Carolina. He was starting a Boss 302 club and wanted to hear from other Boss 302 owners. I sent him a letter that day. I eventually met him and two other Boss 302 owners for a Sunday afternoon drive through the mountains. Through Danny, I learned about the Shelby American Automobile Club and attended my first Shelby meet, at Pine Mountain, North Carolina. Finally, I was able to talk to other people with the same interests as me. I was hooked. I joined SAAC, of course, and later the Mustang Club of America.

It was actually a Shelby meet that led to my career. I had taken up photography as a hobby and was registering for a show in Georgia when the guy behind the table spotted my Nikkormat 35mm camera and asked if Iíd shoot some photos for him. Turns out, he submitted my photos, along with his coverage of the event, to SAAC and they showed up in the club magazine. So I started shooting more, eventually learning to write as well. The guy behind the table was Chuck Gutke, who now owns Cobra Restorers. 

Iíve also got to give credit to Austin Craig, who was then president of SAAC and the magazineís editor. He encouraged me to contribute more, and really hooked me when he started running my photos on the cover. At one point, I suggested he add a Boss 302 column to the magazine. He did, with me writing it. The experience I gained contributing to SAAC provided me with the confidence to respond to Larry Dobbsí request for outside contributors for Mustang Monthly, which led to a job there in 1980.

Do you think Ford is taking care of his enormous enthusiast potential in a professional way?

 I assume youíre talking about the lawsuits over the Mustang trademark. Itís not a good thing. Itís coming from Ford Legal, trying to regain some control over trademarks. I understand that. But the Mustang companies out there that are being harassed by cease-and-desist letters and threats from lawyers arenít hurting Ford and its trademarks. Theyíre helping Ford. Right now, after losing 12 billion dollars, Ford needs the enthusiasts more than ever.

Could this potential eventually save Ford? Or let us be more specific, in what could they help Ford to become profitable again?

Ford has more problems than enthusiasts can fix, like competition from overseas automakers who donít have to deal with unions. Nothing against unions, mind you, but I think there are going to have to be some concessions to save Ford and other American automakers. And Ford has relied on trucks and SUVs for so long. I look at the paper every morning and I see Ford ads for F150s and Expeditions, while the Toyota and Nissan dealerships are pushing Camrys and other fuel-efficient vehicles.

Do you still see the US Mustang museum in the next 5 years or 10 years? Or are the collectors a reason that it is never going to happen?

Itís not the collectors. Itís Ford. The museum effort needs money from Ford, and with a loss of 12 billion dollars last year, it ainít gonna happen any time soon.

Do you think Boss cars should end up in museums?

A few, yes. Most, no. I like seeing low-mileage originals, like the ones Bob Perkins owns, being preserved. You can look at those cars and it takes you back to when the cars were new. I like that nostalgic feeling.  For some reason, restored cars never seem to capture that feeling for me. The stance isnít quite right, or usually they are restored too well.

I am a bit concerned about the recent prices at Barrett-Jackson and the other auctions. That attracts collectors, who will tuck the cars away never to be seen again, and it also makes Boss owners think twice before they take their cars out on the highways in the midst of drivers who are paying more attention to their cell phone conversation. Recently, during one of our Pony Trails cruises, I ended up following a í69 Boss 429. I remember thinking that I needed to relish that moment because seeing a Boss 429 Ė or Boss 302, or Shelby Ė on the road, even during a Mustang event, may soon be a thing of the past. I hope not, but if values continue rising, owners will be less likely to expose them to the dangers of the road.

I donít think the current spike in values can last, except for perhaps some of the really special cars, like Ed Meyerís early production Boss 429 that sold for $550,000 at B-J. But you never know. I never thought Eleanor cars would be so popular with the big-dollar set. As someone pointed out, last year the Chryslers, particularly Hemi cars, were hot. This year it was Fords, primarily Boss 429s and Shelbys. Next year it could be something else.

Back to the Boss. Why would one desire to prefer a high-revving Boss engine over a low-torquer street machine in good old America? Is that not a contradiction to the typical use for the privateers at drag strips and stop lights?

In truth, the Boss 351 was a better engine than the 302. By the time it landed in the í71 Boss 351, the musclecar era was ending. And the í71 just didnít have the same demeanor as the í69-70s. It was larger, for one thing. If Ford had dropped the Boss 351 into the í70 instead of the 302, similar to Chevrolet upping the Z/28 to a 350 at mid-1970, it would have been great car, possibly the best overall performance Mustang ever.

Donít get me wrong, the Boss 302 was a great engine. Sure, it was a little sluggish at low rpms, but the thrill at high rpms more than made up for it.  

 Most of the readers letters about paint stripes, coatings or any other tidbits of restoration refer to the Boss herd of Mustangs. Do you think Boss enthusiasts are special or more peculiar Mustang enthusiasts than others? If yes, why?

 Itís kind of weird, really, because these cars that were modified almost as soon as they left the dealership are now being restored right down to the grease-pencil markings. I always thought of that as Shelby territory, but now it has spread to the Boss 302 faithful. Iíve got no problem with it. In fact, I can appreciate the research and effort that goes into a totally concours-correct restoration of a Boss 302. Just seems weird that original rev limiters and smog equipment, which were the first things that owners tossed in the trash, are now in such high demand.

When Ford comes out with a true factory Boss 302 retrocar, how would you specify the marketing target of that car? Do you think the car will also appeal to the 16-year-old of today.

 Ford wonít be targeting teenagers. Theyíll be aiming straight at guys my age, guys who grew up admiring and wanting a í69 or í70 Boss 302. The new Boss 302 wonít be cheap, and weíre the ones with disposable income because the kids are out of the house and the mortgage is paid off. And unlike myself, many of my fellow Baby-Boomers have done well in business and are now ready to reap the rewards. So they will splurge for a car like the Boss 302 or new GT500.


If you were a designer, what would you do on the new Boss 302?

 I think Steve Saleen and Parnelli Jones pretty much nailed it with the Saleen/Parnelli Jones edition. That is one beautiful car. Good luck to Ford on bettering that one.

The new Boss crate engine meanwhile has approached in many an engine shop. Do you have the feeling the name Boss should be a sticker in this engine?

I can see what Ford Racing is trying to accomplish by tying the name of the new engine to a successful racing engine from the past. I understand that from a marketing standpoint. But unfortunately itís just going to muddy the water for the original Boss 302. There are already people out there, even ones who grew up the sixties, who think every 302 is a Boss. Tagging the new engine as a Boss is only going to make it worse over time. Now if it had Cleveland headsÖ

Do you think it is time for a new Boss book by Donald Farr?

 Iím working on it. Slowly, as I have time, but Iím working on it. So much information has surfaced since I wrote the book 26 years ago. Iíve been in touch with some of the people who worked on the development - some new, some I talked with in 1981. Iíve talked with Bud Moore about Trans Am. I want to fill in some gaps. Unfortunately, Larry Shinoda is no longer with us.

The time is probably right for a second edition, with revisions and new photos. When Ford comes out with a new Boss Mustang, thereíll be plenty of marketing hype. We may need a new book to put some focus on the original Boss 302s.

Thanks Donald, for taking the time for the unexpected Ponysite interview series. I wish you that you will have more free time for your new book, so that we can put it on our birthday or Christmas wishlist within the next 10 month from now.
1st. February 2007 - Wolfgang Kohrn

Update February 2011
We heard through some of our contacts that Donald is hard working on the finishing of the book - including a number of chapters like the homologation with help from Walt Hane (published on this site already in 2006), more race chapters and of course including the latest design and development work of the new Boss 302 launched in 2010/2011. Expect it to be ready for the Boss Reunion.

Update May 2011
The title of the new book - out in July 2011 - has been revised upon Donalds and many Mustang Enthusiasts intervention:

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