Car of the Week: 1969 Ford Boss 429 Mustang

Story and photos by Al Rogers

In 2013, Tom Marcucci told Kevin Manley of Kevin’s Klassic Cars in Cannon Falls, Minn., that he wanted a 1969 Boss 429 Mustang. However, it had to be a Raven Black “Boss 9” and it had to be an early model with the NASCAR-inspired S-code 429-cid V-8.

The hunt had begun because in 2010, Marcucci had purchased a 1970 Grabber Orange Boss 429 from Legendary Motorcars in Ontario, Canada, but during a weak moment, had sold it. Not long after, Marcucci regretted parting with the car. He’d always wanted an early-build ’69 Boss 429 and while researching the 1969 and 1970 “Boss 9” Mustangs, he discovered Raven Black was an extremely rare paint choice. When Marcucci set out to find a Raven Black ’69 “Boss 9,” little did he know three years into the search that an unrestored original would find its way into his muscle car collection.
Coincidentally, Manley had purchased one such Boss 429 Mustang just one year earlier — in 2012 — out of Wayzata, Minn. On top of it all, the Raven Black Boss 429 Mustang was an unrestored original that the previous owner had parked in 1979 and then left untouched for decades.

One year later after Marcucci had asked Manley to find him a black 1969 Boss 429 of his own, Manley picked up the phone and called Marcucci, asking him, “Do you want to buy my Black ’69 ‘Boss 9’? If you’re interested, I’ll let you have it.” The two worked out a deal and, as they say, the rest is history.

Upon seeing the car in person for the first time, Marcucci evaluated the fit, finish and overall condition of the car and it was apparent his ’69 “Boss 9” needed a total make over; the neglect of being stowed away for decades had not done the car a service. The paint had lost its luster and the body had its share of small dents and dings, yet overall, the car was structurally sound.

Under the hood is where things became especially interesting. The numbers-matching 8020-S Boss 429 engine with magnesium valve covers had remained intact and was not altered or modified. From all indications, the original factory-installed engine was still in his ’69 “Boss 9” Mustang. This finding was instrumental with the decision to invest in a professional restoration.

After reaching out to experts within the Mustang community to see who they’d recommend for a concours thoroughbred “Boss 9” restoration, Marcucci called on long-time Mustang restorer Martin Euler to do a full rotisserie restoration at his shop in Midland, Mich. Euler Restorations specializes in early vintage Mustang restorations and is recognized for its world-class work.

Prior to turning the restoration over to Euler, Marcucci displayed the unrestored ’69 Boss 429 Mustang at the 2014 Mustang Owners Club of Southeastern Michigan (MOCSEM) meet at Ford World Headquarters in Dearborn. Euler was on hand and he and Marcucci looked at the showing as the single opportunity for the car to be publicly seen among the Mustang and Ford community before embarking on the estimated two-year restoration.

Hunting a ‘black raven’

The restoration required a complete tear down of the Mustang body right down to the core. Each part was carefully removed, identified and inspected for reuse after a thorough factory-correct refurbishing. The intent was to use as many original parts during the restoration as possible without jeopardizing safety and structural integrity.

According to Marcucci, media blasting the body down to bare metal revealed the car to be rust free without evidence of ever having been involved in an accident.

All of the original factory-installed glass, including the windshield, passed inspection and was cleaned up and reused.

Decades of being hidden away and protected from ultra-violet rays and the elements benefitted the interior. All components, aside from the slightly cracked dash pad, were cleaned up and reused in the restoration. Even the original carpet stayed with the car after receiving a dye job in the factory color. Meanwhile, a NOS dash pad was installed.

The “born with” 429-cid V-8 and the entire rest of the drivetrain — including the ultra-rare Kar-Kraft Engineering experimental suspension parts — were reconditioned to factory specifications and reinstalled on the ’69 Boss 429. After much debate, the factory-installed exhaust system was replaced by an exact copy built by Scott Fuller Reproductions, a respected Ridgecrest, Calif., builder of factory-style Mustang exhaust systems. No details were left out, right down to the original stampings precisely located to mirror the original factory placement.

Euler even went the extra mile to prepare each original factory-installed body panel for the application of the PPG DCC Concept single stage (non-clearcoat) Raven Black paint application. The paint finish is so perfectly authentic that it replicates the factory orange peel appearance.
There’s no doubt the heart of the ’69 “Boss 9” is its 429-cid engine. The Marcucci ’69 “Boss 9” was produced early in the Boss 429 Mustang program build and it’s one of the rare examples still equipped with the original S-code version of the 429 engine. This engine — with its magnesium valve covers, specially prepared crankshaft, forged pistons and race-ready internal components — exemplifies the purpose by Ford Motor Co. engineers to create an engine worthy of competing on the NASCAR circuit.

Building the Boss

Ford Motor Co. produced just 1358 Boss 429s over a two-model year period. In 1969, the company built 859 units, then production dropped off significantly in 1970 when only 499 were produced. Due to low production numbers in 1969 and 1970, it’s not surprising to see their values on the rise. (Mecum Auctions sold 1969 Boss 429s for $385,000 and $345,000 this year.) They’re highly sought by Mustang and muscle car collectors.

The Boss 429 engine building program was designed to allow Ford Motor Co. to compete in NASCAR. In the highly competitive NASCAR racing community, Ford was under extreme pressure to develop an engine capable of competing with the iconic Chrysler 426 Hemi in the Grand National Division. NASCAR’s homologation rules required at least 500 cars be fitted with the desired engine (in this case, the Boss 429 engine) and available for purchase to the public at the manufacturer’s dealerships.

Soon after being named president of Ford Motor Co., Semon “Bunkie” Knudsen directed his team of engineers to put the Boss 429 engine into the Mustang for the 1969 model year. Knudsen had just joined Ford after years with General Motors. His out-of-the-box thinking and crazy-for-the-time decision to roll the dice and stuff the massive engine with its manual four-speed drive-train into the tight Mustang engine bay is arguably one of the most historic things ever done to the Mustang.
The ’69 Mustang’s engine compartment was not wide enough to accommodate the massive Boss 429 engine. As a result, Ford contracted Kar-Kraft Engineering of Dearborn, Mich., to modify four-speed Cobra Jet Mustangs to accept the new Boss 429 Engine. Kar-Kraft was a contracted experimental vehicle facility that functioned as Vehicle Engineering for Ford Special Vehicles and it had previously developed the first GT40 MKIIs and designed and built the GT40 MKIVs, both of which won the Le Mans 24-Hour Race in France in 1966 and 1967.

Production of the Boss 429 began in 1968 at Kar-Kraft’s new assembly plant in Brighton, Mich.; the cars were transported to the facility directly from the Ford Rouge plant. A new, reconstructed front apron assembly accepted the large Boss 429 engine, initially installed by technicians at the Dearborn Rouge plant vehicle assembly; this process compensated for the lost structural integrity that came with the added weight of the Boss 429 engine. A pair of reworked front fenders were also installed at the Dearborn Rouge plant.

Next, the Boss 429’s battery was repositioned to the trunk and a stiff 3/4-inch rear sway bar was added to improve handling since the car was now nose-heavy. This was the first Mustang ever fitted with a rear sway bar, and it notably handled much better than other big-block Mustangs of the time, making it a very capable track car. It came fitted with an 8,000-rpm tachometer and only an AM radio. In addition, a hole was cut in the hood so a manually controlled hood scoop could be added to these cars. Other features included a front spoiler that was shallower than the Boss 302 spoiler, color-keyed dual racing mirrors and an engine oil cooler. The “Boss 9” was also equipped with a 3.91 ratio rear axle with a Traction-Lok limited-slip differential.

The cars were rated very conservatively at 375 hp and 450 lbs.-ft. of torque. Actual output was well over 500 hp. At the time, industry insiders claimed the Boss 429 engine produced 600 or more horsepower, though nothing was ever officially released at that time to support the claim.

A Boss back on top

In October 2015, the restoration of the Marcucci “Boss 9” Mustang was completed just in time for an official unveiling at the Muscle Car & Corvette Nationals (MCACN) in Rosemont, Ill., at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center where it earned a Concours Gold award.

In 2017, the Raven Black ’69 Boss 429 returned to MCACN a second time and received the Pinnacle Triple Crown Award. This award is highly regarded as one of the top forms of recognition within the Mustang community. To qualify for consideration, the recipient must first earn two Gold awards, one from the Mustang Club of America (MCA) and a second from the Shelby American Automobile Club (SAAC).

Judging at these nationally sanctioned events is done by knowledgeable experts with decades of experience within the Mustang and Shelby community. Once the Mustang owner earns Gold in MCA and SAAC, the application process begins for the MCACN Pinnacle award. Marcucci’s ’69 “Boss 9” earned the MCA Gold in 2016 and SAAC Gold in 2017.

Regrettably, the Mustang and muscle car community lost Martin Euler in 2017, when he passed away unexpectedly. While unassuming in nature, Euler was a highly respected restorer of Mustangs and a pioneer within the automobile industry for his world-class Mustang restorations. Perhaps his most accomplished work was the restoration of the “Green Hornet” Shelby EXP G.T. 500 prototype.
When Euler restored the Raven Black ’69 Boss 429 to world-class standards, he exceeded owner Tom Marcucci’s expectations. It was a proud moment when he was joined at MCACN by Euler upon the Raven Black 1969 Boss 429 Mustang’s 2015 unveiling.

Euler will be missed by the Mustang and muscle car community, yet his legacy will carry on in this award-winning Raven Black ’69 Boss 9 Mustang.

Marcucci would also like to recognize Ed Meyer for helping with the final details in the engine bay and providing a like new set of correct Goodyear tires. Throughout the restoration process, Meyer helped raise the bar with his “Boss 9” expertise and support.

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