Patience is a virtue, as they say. When it comes to big projects, it’s essentially a mandatory trait for ambitious builders, as the greater the vision they have the more variables tend to get involved – and that means that the number of outside factors that can temporarily sideline progress increases in turn.
“This Boss began as a twinkle in my eye years ago when my father sold Fords and brought home stories of transferring cars from dealer to dealer, and him driving the new 390 Galaxie trying to keep up with the 427 Galaxie on the interstate,” says Ron Wright, a retired software developer from West Milton, Ohio. “Fast forward a couple decades through relationships, marriage(s), and children and there I was one evening watching the History of the Boss 302 with Parnelli Jones on TV one evening. Coupled with Dad still professing his love for Ford in my ears, it pushed me into hunting down a Boss 302.”
With eye-catching looks, a legendary name and serious performance capability, the Mustang Boss 302 was an instant classic upon its arrival in 2012 as a limited-production model. While Ron had initially planned to baby the Boss 302, saving it for weekend car shows and good-weather days, Ford designed this pony to run. It's a fact that was illustrated to Ron in no uncertain terms when he caught a glimpse of a Grabber Blue example similar to his own tearing it up on the Mid Ohio road course during session before a NASCAR race.
At that moment a switch went ‘click’ in my head, ‘What are you doing sitting here in a lawn chair when you could be on the track?’ — Ron Wright
After finally tracking down the car he wanted, Ron planned to let the Boss 302 live a life of leisure, saving the car for shows and good weather. That plan would take a pivotal turn while watching from trackside as a high-performance driving experience ran the course at Mid Ohio to get him out on the road course.
“At that moment a switch went ‘click’ in my head, ‘What are you doing sitting here in a lawn chair when you could be on the track?'” he said.
This revelation set a sequence of events in motion that would lead Ron and his Boss 302 on a path to a hardcore road course machine that’s now powered by a built 5.2-liter Voodoo motor from the Shelby GT350.
In part one of this two-part story, we’ll get the low-down from Ron on his Boss 302’s journey to its current state and get the specs on the wicked 5.2-liter mill destined for its engine bay.
Trailer Queen To Track Rat
Ron explained that just getting his hands on a clean Grabber Blue Boss 302 was a process in and of itself.
“While my hunt was successful on several occasions, contemplating the purchase overnight proved to be a bad move,” he told us. “I lost out on three opportunities before finally bringing home number 2551 (one of 282) in Grabber Blue.”
Once he had his coveted pony, he had expectations of keeping the car in pristine shape by saving it for special occasions and ideal driving circumstances. But the call of the race track proved too strong.
After a three-day performance driving class, all bets were off for Wright’s Boss 302 - he was hooked on track driving, and the days of the car living a life of leisure were officially in the rearview. After acclimating to the Boss 302’s considerable performance from the factory, Ron started to look to the aftermarket to push the Mustang’s capability (and on-track safety) to the next level.
“Initially the plan was for it to be a good weather weekend car, a car show car,” Ron said. “Then I went to that Xfinity race at Mid Ohio in August 2013. As we pulled into the grass parking lot, naturally there was a Boss 302 sitting there, covered with the events of the day. I remember thinking how glad I was my car was parked at home in a nice clean garage.”
“But sitting there in a lawn chair watching the preceding event to the Xfinity race, there were these highly modified road cars on track,” he added. “They came screaming toward Madness and China Beach (sections of the Mid Ohio course), and I watched in amazement as they down shifted and actually turned into the esses that comprise ‘Madness.’ Toward the back of the passing field were the mostly stock road cars, and among them was an almost exact copy of my Boss.”
This set off a sequence of events that would eventually land Ron where he is today, starting with a three-day stint at a performance driving school, which in turn led to a string of performance modifications.
“That started my search for ways to improve upon an already capable car,” Ron explained. “After numerous Google searches, phone calls, and e-mails it became obvious that Paul Faessler at Paul’s Automotive Engineering was where work on the car would be accomplished – and walking into PAE, it was immediately apparent it was the right decision, as I stood there with my mouth on the floor looking at their two fully race-prepped Mustangs.”
Ron Wright’s modification path took him to Paul’s Automotive Engineering, where Paul Faessler and his team helped Ron devise a modification game plan for the Boss 302 that would boast its road course prowess even more. They started with the suspension, upgrading his Mustang with JRI coilovers at all four corners, a Panhard bar, additional subframe bracing, and new upper and lower control arms at both the front and rear. “But no car is ever complete,” Ron said.
Ford pulled out all the stops when they revived the legendary Boss 302 moniker for limited production in 2012. The original model was a homologation car, designed to allow the Mustang to race in the SCCA’s popular Trans Am series back in 1969, which specified that a certain number of road-going versions of a model that a manufacturer wanted to race needed to be made available for sale to the public. Back then, the series also specified that all engines needed to be under 305 cubic inches of displacement; which necessitated the design and production of original high-winding Boss 302 engine.
Voodoo Boss Specs
Brakes: Brembo w/ Hawk pads
Block: Ford Performance Voodoo 5.2-liter
Cams: Ford Performance custom grind for use with a 2013-2014 processor
Cylinder Heads: Voodoo 5.2
Crankshaft: Ford Performance cross-plane 5.2-liter
Exhaust: Kooks long-tube headers w/ Ford Performance 3-inch exhaust
Intake: Ford Performance Cobra Jet w/ twin 65mm throttle body and Cobra Jet CAI
Rearend: Stock w/ 3.73 gears
Tires: Michelin Pilot Sport 2
Transmission: Boss R1 close-ratio manual
Wheels: Forgeline, 18×10-inch
Like its predecessor, the 2012 Mustang Boss 302 was designed to dominate on the road course, and boasted track-focused hardware like the Coyote’s faster cousin — the RoadRunner engine— under the hood. It featured a forged rotating assembly, CNC-ported cylinder heads, and a set of more aggressive camshafts. Of course, with road course prowess as top priority, a heavily revised suspension package that was tuned for corner carving was part of the equation as well; while an aero package cribbed directly from the Boss 302R race cars provided additional downforce, grip and stability at high speeds.
Although the Boss 302 is undoubtedly a potent package as it comes from the factory, with the wide array of aftermarket options available to Mustang enthusiasts, there’s always room for improvement – regardless of what direction the project’s mission. Those looking to improve the car’s capability on a road course are certainly no exception to that rule.
Since handling was the top priority on Ron’s project, the game plan started with a focus on the Mustang’s suspension system. For the rear setup, they selected Ford Performance Boss S lower rear control relocation brackets along with Steeda billet lower control arms, an adjustable upper control arm, and an adjustable Panhard bar. Up front, PAE upgraded the car with Ford Performance’s Boss S front control arms, bumpsteer kit, and sway bar. PAE added JRI coilovers before corner balancing and aligning the car.
“That closed out 2014,” Ron recalled.
After sorting out the suspension upgrades for Ron’s Boss 302, the team at PAE looked to bolster the car’s safety on track. While these tweaks might not sound particularly sexy on paper, upgrades like the Cool Tech five-point racing harnesses not only keep Wright safe at the high speeds this Mustang is capable of, they can potentially generate faster lap times, as harnesses that properly hold one in place make controlling the car significantly easier. It also means that Ron can spend more time focusing on his technique and less time bracing himself against the steering column every time he goes into a hard braking zone.
In 2015, the team moved the focus to safety components, upgrading the front end with a Brembo Pro brake system and installing GT500 brake hardware in the rear, tossing the back seat in favor of a Maximum Motorsports roll bar and installing Cool Tech five-point racing harnesses.
“At the beginning of 2016, making progress at HPDE days [in terms of technique] had become the main focus, and the car was expected to remain the way it was with the exception of new 18×10 Forgeline GW3R wheels and a set of Hoosier tires,” said Wright. “Then Ford announced its Voodoo 5.2-liter block.”
The Path To Boss 315
“I mentioned to Paul that that would be a fun motor to build,” Ron recalled. “We discussed the different options on the table – would the build be naturally aspirated or would we use a power adder, like a supercharger, turbocharging or nitrous? But I wanted to keep the motor NA, so we started discussing horsepower and torque expectations, and came to the conclusion that an additional 100 horsepower or so over a stock 5.2 was feasible.”
The Voodoo 5.2 is far more than a displacement bump for the Coyote 5.0, and a flat-plane crankshaft like the one this motor uses is hardware normally reserved for the likes of Ferrari and Lamborghini. The result is a Ford engine that seems to never run out of revs and sounds like the world is ending at its lofty 8,250-rpm red line, which makes this revving engine an ideal companion for road course driving.
A stout piece in its own right, the 5.2-liter Voodoo engine makes 526 horsepower and 429 pound-feet of torque at peak right from the factory. But beyond its output, one of the key elements that makes this engine special is its flat-plane crank, which allows peak horsepower to come in at a screaming 7,500 rpm, which is still 750 rpm before the engine’s redline.
“…Having spent nine glorious days with the GT350 in November, our panel of eight gobsmacked editors deems it worthy of a 2016 Wards 10 Best Engines trophy because it runs like American Pharoah on a trough full of steroids.”
A major departure was the choice to use a cross-plane crankshaft and traditional firing order in the 5.2 build, as was the choice of intake. Ultimately Ron selected Ford Performance’s Cobra Jet intake manifold and Cobra Jet cold air intake to complement the custom Ford Performance for use with a 2013-2014 processor. Exhaust is sent out back through a set of Kooks long-tube headers that are hooked up to a Ford Performance 3-inch exhaust system.
“After we zero’d in on the engine upgrades, we started talking about the transmission and decided to upgrade to a Boss R1 close-ratio gearbox,” Ron said.
Ron’s journey to a Voodoo-powered Boss 302 is a classic gearhead case of “one thing led to another.” In the second part of this story we’ll pour of the details of the 5.2-liter build, find out what kind of power its making in his Mustang, and get some feedback on how it now fares out at the race track.
Stay tuned for part two of this story, where Ron and the team from Paul’s Automotive Engineering set to work putting the new package together, head to the dyno to see the results, and hit the track to see what this Voodoo-powered Boss Mustang can do!