Ford continued its Trans-Am presence in 1970, despite scaling back on motor sport operations overall. As it did in 1969, Ford sold Boss 302 street cars, now sporting the 1970 bodywork updates and the new stripe package which carried up the side of the bodywork and across the bonnet/ hood. Unlike 1969, the 1970 racing cars wore the adjustable rear spoiler.
The 1970 Trans-Am regulations allowed non-factory front spoilers to be fitted for the first time, although there were limitations in size, width and shape. Kar Kraft engineers took a 1969 Trans-Am Mustang fitted with a 1970 nose, and a flat-panel front spoiler, and tested it at the Lockheed Martin wind tunnel in Marietta. They trialled the rear spoiler at various angles until they found what worked best with the chin spoiler. For 1970, Bud Moore Engineering continued as the lone factory Ford team, with Shelby having been dropped.
BME drivers Jones and Follmer claimed six victories from 11 races, and Ford comfortably won the Trans-Am Manufacturers’ Championship for the first time since 1967. It was in 1970 that Don Eichstaedt and other Kar Kraft engineers produced a Mustang Chassis Preparation manual, much like Chevrolet’s 1968 example. But Kar Kraft went to the extent of building a complete car from scratch specifically for the manual. Unlike the Camaro Chassis Preparation manual, which featured hand-drawn sketches throughout, the Ford variant was graced with detailed photographs of the car built by the Kar Kraft team.
The manual specified everything from roll-cage design and mounting points, type and thickness of the steel required, plus sway bar sizes, suggested spring rates for specific tracks, as well as other invaluable information. In addition, Ford part numbers were assigned, so teams could purchase items they required straight across the counter. The manual was sought-after by privateer race teams as they built their own cars.
Although the factory Trans-Am race teams commanded most of the magazine headlines, it was the countless privateers throughout the country that were the real backbone of American sedan racing. And one such racer was Greg Hesler of Dearborn, Michigan, who in 1970 purchased a brand-new Mustang Boss 302 and immediately converted it into an SCCA A/Sedan racing car. Hesler ordered the Calypso Coral Boss 302 through Ray Whitfield Ford of Taylor, Michigan.
It came with the optional 3.91 Traction-Lok axle ratio, rear spoiler, rear window slats, Magnum 500 wheels, AM radio and, of course, the close-ratio Toploader four-speed gearbox. It was built on December 8, 1969. According to its Marti Report, it is one of just 156 1970 Mustang Sportsroofs with this paint and trim code. Incidentally, the factory Mustangs raced in 1969 and 1970 were not genuine Boss 302s. Kar Kraft carried out the initial work in late 1968, months before the model went on sale.
A genuine 1969 or 1970 Boss 302 road car carries a ‘G’ in its VIN, denoting its unique 302-4v Boss motor. The factory racing cars were a mix of M-code (351 small-block) or R-code (428 big-block) Sportsroof bodies, in which the faux brake duct holes in the rear quarters were filled. The car raced successfully in Australia and New Zealand by Allan Moffat, for example, carries the VIN 9F02M148624, and was destined to become a regular 351 small-blockpowered street car, had it not been plucked off the assembly line and sent to Kar Kraft.
The 1970 cars raced by BME were actually 1969 models, updated with 1970 aesthetics. But the privateer teams often purchased genuine Boss 302 street cars, which they then converted to A/Sedan race cars. The VIN on Hesler’s Boss 302 is: 0F02G140402. Greg Hesler worked for Dearborn Steel Tubing. DST supplied components and carried out low-volume specialist work for Ford, such as the custom bodywork on some of its show cars (including the famous ‘shorty’ Mustang two-seater), and the firewall relieving on the 1964 Thunderbolt drag cars to accommodate the 427ci big-block engine.
DST also did initial fabrication work on the 1967 Bud Moore factory Mercury Cougar Trans-Am cars. Greg was a close friend of privateer A/ Sedan and Trans-Am racer Warren Tope, whose father, Donald, headed Ford’s transmission and chassis division. As such, Warren had access to some of the best equipment outside the factory teams. Tope’s 1969 Boss 302 spent time at Kar Kraft receiving a few ‘works’ tweaks.
For 1971, he acquired one of the ex-factory cars with which to contest the Trans-Am series. Greg began racing a near stock Mercury Cougar with bolt-in roll-cage in 1969, and contested races in the Triumph Spitfire owned by his father-in-law, John Kubiac, which he had also used to complete the mandatory SCCA Drivers’ School programme. John was also involved in building and developing Greg’s Boss, and ultimately became his co-driver in endurance events.
Due to Greg’s limited budget, the Boss was subject to constant evolution, and upgrades were achieved as funds allowed. Its 1970 guise had it rolling on stock steel wheels. In April 1970, Antieau’s Welding (who did work for Kar Kraft) built a roll hoop. The following February, the Boss returned to Antieau’s to have the front section added to the cage, bringing it up to Mustang Chassis Preparation Stage III specifications.
Eventually, the Mustang was equipped with a set of very rare six-spoke American Racing TA-70 magnesium wheels. American Racing Torq-Thrust had been the wheel of choice among the Trans-Am factory teams from 1966 – 1968, but its 1969 offering, the 200-S ‘daisy’, was shunned in favour of the eight-spoke Minilite from England. Most factory teams stuck with the Minilite in 1970, but American Racing launched its TA-70, and while it was a quality product, ultimately, only around 200 wheels were actually made.
From 1970 – 1973, Hesler competed at a variety of tracks, including Elkhart Lake (Road America), Michigan International Speedway, Waterford Hills, Grattan Raceway, plus Mosport Park in Ontario, Canada, and the nearby Harewood Acres, a former airbase that ceased operation not long after Mosport opened. He campaigned the car in SCCA A/ Sedan competition, and a variety of FIA endurances races. However, there were no Trans-Am outings. Instead, he supported Warren Tope, and was part of his Trans-Am crew. Indeed, Tope would win the final Trans-Am race of the original 1966 – 1972 era at Road America in 1972, before the series switched to FIA GT regulations the following year. Naturally, parts from Warren’s cars gravitated across to Greg’s, including a set of Bud Moore cylinder heads, dashboard cut (with Stewart-Warner gauges), front door panels, and front brake discs. The rear brake discs were supplied by Holman-Moody, as was the oil pump.
It wore Lincoln front callipers; a common upgrade on many Mustang A/ Sedans. Stock front disc brakes were fitted to the rear with special adapters. Suspension was by double-adjustable Konis, and the rear shocks were staggered (one in front of the axle and one behind), with a Panhard rod and narrowed Kar Kraft rear leaf springs. The front suspension utilised modified Mustang Boss 429 upper control arms.
The Boss 302 engine was topped with a single Holley carburettor, shrouded in a modified Shelby aluminium air box originally designed to house two Holley Dominators. Gulps of cool air fed the carburettor from the right side of the Mustang’s nose via a large pipe. The carburettor sat atop a Bud Moore mini-plenum. Spent exhaust gases exited through Hooker Headers. The fuel tank was the full 22-gallons (83 litres) allowed under SCCA A/Sedan regulations.
The bodywork received lightweight Kar Kraft front fenders with small flares, supplied by Ford for competition Mustangs to house the broad racing tyres. By 1972, the rear quarters were pumped out. The front bumper was a replacement fibreglass piece. Greg installed aeroplane headlights as he found these better for night racing. And they just happened to fill the headlight holes perfectly.
For most SCCA privateer racers, the Trans-Am was of less significance than another big event – the American Road Race of Champions. Because the United States is so vast, the SCCA is split into multiple regions. In 1972, there were six regions, each holding its own championship throughout the year. Through this series of races, the top three drivers in each class from each region would qualify for the ARRC (later renamed the SCCA Runoffs).
The ARRC was a one-off event contested late each year, with classes qualifying and competing in a single race; the winner of which would be crowned SCCA National Champion. For many privateer teams, competing at the ARRC carried more weight than racing in the Trans-Am series. The Trans-Am was a national championship, and few outside the heavily-funded factory teams actually ran the full schedule. Greg competed in the Central East Region, and in 1972 he put together a competitive campaign, finished third, and qualified for the ARRC, held at Road Atlanta.
In the A/ Sedan contest, he qualified 12th, but his efforts amounted to nothing when his motor expired on the opening lap. Interestingly, the 1972 ARRC A/Sedan featured Joe Chamberlain in the same 1969 Camaro he’d bring to New Zealand in late 1972. Qualifying for the ARRC was a big effort for Hesler, who in 1972 was only in his early twenties. Having developed the Boss 302 into one of the top A/Sedans in the country, he retired the car following an engine failure at Waterford Hills in 1973. Trans-Am regulations had changed, and with Ford having withdrawn, parts supply was getting tough. Greg retained the car until around 1978, before selling it to S L Castiglione, who never actually raced it.
It was then sold to Al Miertz, who again mothballed it and kept it until 1989 when it was purchased by two enthusiasts, John Vanprooyen and Mike Mulcahy. IN NEW ZEALAND With historic racing having become enormously popular during the 1980s, Vanprooyen and Mulcahy refreshed the car and ‘vintage’ raced it. With the Boss having not competed since 1973, and having been well preserved, only minimal work was required. It was historic raced from 1989 to 1992, then sold to Australian enthusiast Peter Hewitson to race in the Australian Trans-Am series. However, Hewitson wisely thought better of it, not wishing to risk such a perfectly preserved car.
Qualifying for the ARRC was a big effort for Hesler, who in 1972 was only in his early twenties.
It has since been bought by Kiwi brothers Kyle (an associate of Peter) and Leon Hallett, and now resides with Leon in Mosgiel. Leon has sourced a genuine set of TA-70 wheels, but other than a tow hook, has left the car exactly as purchased, which is almost exactly as last raced by Greg Hesler nearly 50 years ago. Leon owns a nice set of Ford race cars, including a 1968 Mustang, 1963 Galaxie, and 1963 Falcon Sprint, and as such, the Boss will only be exercised once or twice a year with the newly-established Historic and Vintage Racing Association (HVRA) for original Schedule K historic (which this is) and FIA Appendix K cars.
He has also been able to track down Greg Hesler, who still lives in Michigan, and has been a source of invaluable information filling in all the gaps. Now in his 70s, Greg owns a third-generation Camaro A/Sedan, and still enjoys a little racing from time to time.
Ford only built the Boss 302 in 1969 and 1970. Indeed, the SCCA changed its rigid Trans-Am engine regulations for the 1970 championship, allowing larger engines to be reduced in size from their factory spec, largely to coax Chrysler into the series. As such, these are very rare cars, with 1628 sold in 1969, and 7013 in 1970. At the end of 1970, Ford withdrew from racing, and subsequently ceased production of the Boss 302. Leon’s remarkable Boss 302 is one of the most original, best-preserved A/Sedans on the planet.
The car, as it sits today, is virtually as last raced by Greg Hesler in 1973, including the roll-cage. It is a true time capsule, a stunning half-century old artefact. So many of its ilk have had their authenticity stripped through over-restoration, modernisation, or simply because so little was salvageable after years of racing and development. Even in today’s climate of increased drive for period correctness, this car is on another level. There is a world of difference between a car that’s been restored, and one that’s been preserved. We are fortunate to have such a significant car in New Zealand. And more so, that its owner exercises it willingly and enthusiastically as per its original intent – or, more specifically, Greg Hesler’s original intent.
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