Last week 10 Ford vehicles spanning the 100-year history of Ford in Britain assembled at Tower Bridge in London to mark the beginning of the Ford Centenary Tour. The tour visits 20 UK locations in 31 days and we’ll be joining it in Inverness tomorrow. In the most un-British of Ford’s – the Mustang Boss 302 Laguna Seca.
BBC Radio 2 presenter and car enthusiast, Chris Evans, was on hand to flag off the tour, saying “I’m delighted to be part of Ford UK’s centenary celebrations. As with so many people, I have many fond memories of Ford cars. In fact as we speak, I’m actively having a snoop around for a classic Ford Escort Mexico to stick in my garage.”
The Ford Centenary Tour is an exhibition charting the company’s unique history in the UK and its future plans. It will visit Ford plants and dealers, as it makes contact with Ford customers, employees and enthusiasts from Inverness in the Scottish Highlands to Plymouth on the south coast.
The tour reaches its climax on September 16, 17 and 18, when 100 iconic Fords will parade around the Goodwood race circuit at the Revival meeting.
So what’s a 444 bhp 5.0-litre Boss 302 Mustang go to do with it?
In many ways the Boss 302 represents the past AND the future. It’s likely to be the last normally aspirated small block Ford V8 and thus has been built to celebrate the rich heritage of Ford’s most famous pony car.
But it also represents the future, since this is a car so capable and impressive that it deserves comparison with BMW’s M3 and Audi’s RS5. Seriously. The Boss 302 Mustang is the most sorted muscle car you can buy and possesses one of the finest V8 engines of any car on sale today.
It takes the standard Mustang GT’s 5.0-litre V8 and, among the list of upgrades adds forged aluminum pistons with polished CNC-ported heads, forged connecting rods, race-spec crankshaft and rod bearings, heavy-duty valve springs, more aggressive camshafts, twin independent variable cam-timing and a new intake system lifted from the 302R race car.
As a result power increases by 32 bhp to 444 bhp, whilst the engine is now reliable up to 8,400 rpm although Ford chose to set the limiter at 7,500 rpm (1,000 rpm higher than stock).
Two of the coolest features are TracKey and the unique quad exhaust system featuring side-exit pipes that exit just ahead of the rear wheels. Sitting in the Boss 302 with its doors open you’d swear the exhaust sounded louder than it does from behind. That’s intentional, as is the induction sound fed into the cabin via the bulkhead.
But if that isn’t enough owners can remove a 5/8-inch restrictor plate (fitted at the factory) which turns the Boss 302 into the most other-worldly of beasts.
TracKey is secondary (red coloured) key that comes with the car and can be activated by an authorised Ford Racing dealer. It reprograms more than 400 parameters of the Boss 302, most notably providing a lumpy idle which sounds just like a pukka-NASCAR racer, a two-stage launch-control system, improved low-end torque and a host of subtle changes which unleash one of the most glorious engines made in the last decade.
Our car (M500 FMC) takes the Boss 302 experience one step further – adding $6,995 to the base price of $41,105 which includes an aggressive aero package with its massive front splitter, lightweight 19″ alloy wheels, Pirelli R-compound tires, an air scoop on the underside of the transmission for additional cooling, air ducts for the front brakes, a dash-mounted gauge pack (including G-meter) and a bright-red cross brace that replaces the rear seats. The Boss 302’s optional Recaro seats and Torsen rear differential come as standard in the Laguna Seca package.
We’ll publish a full review later in the week, but I can already tell you that this is one of the best cars ever produced in the US. Despite its heavy-set looks the Boss 302 is actually 30kg lighter than a BMW M3 and with an extra 25-30 bhp it pulls like a train, revving HARD in a manner that is most-unlike any muscle car I’ve ever driven.
There’s a subtlety to the Boss 302’s handling that any German sports saloon maker would be proud of – it steers precisely, rides brilliantly on our pockmarked British roads and feels genuinely special. You can tell it’s already found a special place in our hearts, so I can’t wait to see how it goes on those challenging highland roads.
As we join the tour in Inverness we’ll be tweeting about all the great cars we meet and keeping you involved in our travels, so make sure you follow us at @DriversRepublic.
To whet your appetite, I’ll leave you with a few images that show just some of the reasons why the Boss 302 Mustang is worthy of a celebration.
AUDIO: Ford Mustang Boss 302 – Start-up[audio:http://www.skiddmark.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/STE-003b.mp3|titles=STE-003b]