She holds it in gear until you wince and wish she would shift, but she doesn't. The Boss was designed with revvin' in mind, and Michelle clings to the abstract without mercy as she holds the pedal to the floor until the valvetrain clatter forces a shift. We know it when we see a throttle jockey who likes to rev by the faint veil of blue smoke that follows the car around, and all the signs were there. Thirty-five years earlier, Michelle might have been the Danica Patrick of Trans-Am.
We met her in a small office straight from a prison movie with bars on the cloudy windows and stark bleach-white cinder block. A pile of street-rod parts was on the floor. "Is it your dad's or your boyfriend's?" She hates questions like that, so we didn't ask. Instead, it was the first thing she volunteered to us. Michelle takes pride in being the one who breaks stuff and tinkers and owns the thing, so she has the right to kick those guys to the curb.
We walked outside and Michelle pointed around the alley at her '32 pickup shell that is getting a flathead. "Have you seen the pistons on a flathead? They are cool. We just took it apart the other day. They are sooo cool." She remembers being around 9 or 10 years old when she first spied a real Trans-Am Mustang. "My dad said, 'You better start saving your money because those cars are expensive.'" Short of the Boss 302 she really wanted, she managed to find a Wimbledon White Mach 1, but that wasn't enough, so she sold it to her dad and went after a Boss.
Michelle went from a 10-year-old clutching a copy of a vintage Trans-Am picture book to negotiating the sale of a real 302 car from a guy she met at a Carl's Jr. cruise night. "He had a Ford Fairlane, and I had a '72 Ford Econoline, so we started to talk. Don't get the wrong idea, the van was my dad's." The car was in a zillion pieces in a garage, and in her words, after some majorly annoying wrangling, the car was hers.
"I was so excited when I got the car home,I can't even explain it." -Michelle Holstien
With a U-Haul trailer hooked to the van, Michelle went to scoop up all the parts; the engine and transmission went to Yorba Linda, California, to be rebuilt, and the body parts went to Ranger Performance, a shop owned by her boyfriend that happens to be where the car is stored now. There, they assembled the body and suspension, reupholstered the interior, and repainted all the interior pieces. Sadly, the stock steering wheel was missing, so Michelle replaced it with the MOMO.
Once the car had acceptable paint and a rebuilt 302, Michelle was bent on the thrash, and you could find the car screaming around the track at the Monterey Historic races or at 7,000 rpm with electro-cutout exhaust on the Buttonwillow Raceway. Laps at Fontana, the Hot Rod Power Tour(tm), and daily street whipping were ended when someone backed into the car and wasted the original paint. At that point, Michelle decided maybe it wasn't such a good idea to be rallying an actual Boss 302 Mustang, so she decided to restore the car with better paint and an interior redo. Nice as it is now, you can still catch it over-revving on the street-not a pampered life by any means. She still has a pretty big cam in there.
What: It's a real live '70 Boss 302 Ford Mustang that Michelle lusted after from the time she was a kitten. She drives it like a rental.
Owner: Michelle Holstien; don't ask her if a boy built her car, she might slug you.
Hometown: Riverside, California, where you can probably hear the valves float as Michelle tries to find the point where a piston actually flies out of the block.
Wrenches: Larry Binder Jr. helped with the hard math and the garage space, her dad, Bruce, gave her the van, and Attila Vecsemyes at Ranger Performance did some additional wrenching.
"I put in a radio-delete plate because I can't hear the radio anyway." -Michelle Holstien
Engine: The 302 was assembled in Larry Binder's garage after being machined by Pro Machine in Placentia, California. With 11.0:1 slugs and a custom Comp Cams hydraulic flat-tappet cam with 0.648/ 0.627 lift, the 302 made 390 hp on the engine dyno with the stock intake then 410 at 7,000 with the Bud Moore intake. It might have made more if she'd revved it higher. "I wasn't going to blow my motor just to get it down on paper."
Heads: The Boss 302 is essentially a 289 with a 3.00-inch stroke and the same 4.00-inch bore with the addition of a set of heads similar to the 2V 335 series with canted valves and huge ports that were introduced for the 351 Cleveland in 1970. This set has a 58cc chamber, 2.19 intake and 1.76 exhaust stainless steel valves, and cool-e-o polished-aluminum valve covers.
Headers: The pummeling exhaust note is from a set of 171/48-inch Hooker Super Comps with 3-inch tubing and V-Force, two-chamber mufflers. Michelle also installed an electronic exhaust cutout from Doug Thorley Headers. She prefers to drive it on the street with the exhaust wide open "because they are sooo freaking cool, I don't have a radio, that is my stereo."
Intake: Michelle poked around eBay and the Internet to find authentic Trans-Am Mustang stuff like a Cross Boss intake and original Boss 302 heads and ended up finding a Bud Moore mini plenum from the '60s at the Carlisle All-Ford Nationals. Bud Moore even signed it for her. "I took it to him on an airplane; that was fun."
Carburetor: Back in the day, a racing Trans-Am Mustang should have had a Cross Boss intake and a couple of huge carburetors, but the Boss intake required so many specialized carb and ignition parts, it was never run in the races. Michelle just uses a Holley 750 and an MSD Pro Billet distributor instead.
Transmission: She shifts it, eventually, with a T5 transmission from an '89 Mustang and a McLeod 10.5-inch clutch and T5 bellhousing. The rear is a 9-inch with 3.89 gears and 31-spline axles.
Suspension: Most of the suspension parts are out of a '67 390 Mustang. The heavy-duty 53.00x2.50-inch rear leaf springs and staggered shocks try to dampen wheelhop during what Michelle calls "full-throttle starts," and the donor car also provided a heavy-duty front stabilizer. It has Koni shocks and 390 springs with one coil cut to get the frontend down.
Looks: She was happy with it for almost three years until it was hit in the alley. The insurance provided the funds for the last piece of the puzzle: the paint. The body was repaired, the antenna was shaved, and a billet grille, HID headlights, and sequential taillights were added. The paint is BASF Glasurit dual-stage Medium Lime Green Metallic applied by Gil Terrazas at Ranger Performance. The stripes are from a kit she bought off eBay. The wheels are 15-inch Minilites with Dayton 235/60R15 and 255/60R15 tires.
Interior: It's stock except for the custom center console built by Ranger Performance. It went to Larry's Thunderbird & Mustang Parts (larrysmustang.com) for the new headliner.