In the November-December 2013 issue of ACC, Editor Pickering tapped me for an article about two 1969 Camaros, otherwise known as the Camaro Comparo. For this exercise, I’ll be digging into two heavy hitters: a pair of 1969 Ford Boss 429 Mustangs. I’ll label this the 429 Mustang Match-up.
Building the Boss
The Boss 429 was the brainchild of Semon E. “Bunkie” Knudsen, who, after a successful 29-year career at GM, jumped ship to take the position of President at Ford Motor Company. The job didn’t last very long, about 19 months, due to some head butting with then-Executive Vice President Lee Iacocca, an up-and-coming star at Ford and well known for his marketing prowess.
Nevertheless, during his short tenure, Knudsen wanted to take on the track-dominating Chrysler Hemispherical 426 (Hemi) and put Ford on the competition map. Ford was already running the new-for-1969 Torino Talladega, and engineers were tasked with designing and building the massive, heavy-breathing 429 to take on the now-famous Hemi.
Once completed, Ford needed to homologate the engine into a production car to make it NASCAR-legal. While most CEOs would have automatically dropped the engine into the Torino Talladega, Knudsen made the decision to stuff the oversized mill into the new Mustang Sportsroof body. Knudsen felt that the popular Mustang platform, especially in Boss trim, was better suited for retail sales and more likely to resonate with power-hungry guys looking to shred some Polyglas tires on a Saturday night.
NASCAR rules didn’t specify the type of car the “production” engine needed to be supplanted into, just that the manufacturer needed to produce 500 units to comply with the flimsy rules that dominated NASCAR at the time.
A Krafty solution
Although Knudsen’s decision was right on target from a marketing standpoint, the beefy 429 wouldn’t fit into the stock engine bay of the 1969 Mustang. Business efficiencies directed that the job be tasked to Kar Kraft of Brighton, MI. Once in Brighton, the cars would be altered and re-engineered to house the new mill and ramp up the suspension to handle its under-rated 375 hp.
Those body revisions are partly why Boss 429s are so difficult to replicate. Boss 429s — or Boss 9s, as they are known — are full of subtle and not-so-subtle nuances that make them special. They are nearly impossible to fake. Plus, the Ford VIN includes a Z to designate the 429 and a “Special Performance” designation on the warranty tag.
Once the boys in Brighton were finished, a Kar Kraft NASCAR chassis number (KK1201 to KK2558 for all 1969/1970 production) was affixed to the door jamb above the Ford data plate. With that, the hand-built cars’ final retail cost ratcheted up to just under $5,000, which was an eye-watering amount of money in 1969. Still, production in 1969 totaled 857 units, and 499 units in 1970, which was considered a success by Ford and Kar Kraft.