Walk up to John Francis' '05 Mustang with the hood down, and the question of the hour quickly becomes . . . could it be? The '69 to '70 Boss 429 connection is rather obvious, what with the big hoodscoop and Boss callouts, but c'mon, really? Rationally speaking, it wouldn't be the first time an owner tacked on a vintage appendage to the retro S197 body style without any real connection, and it certainly won't be the last. The 525 decal is likely indicative of horsepower, as the number is achievable with new-car power-adders, so in the end, the realist dismisses Francis' ride as yet another poseur--fast and fun, no doubt. Something really impressive? Well, probably not.
Truth be told, we know you're already impressed. You've scanned the pictures prior to reading this text and instantly recognized the engine in this '05 to be unlike anything to roll out of Dearborn in the last 40 years. Indeed, it's a big-block Boss 429-derived monster, and if that hood-down scenario had actually played out, all questions would've been answered as soon as Francis turned the key. The sounds are raucous, the aroma is of high compression, and the overall package is simply wicked. A virtually new car with a bad-to-the-bone Shotgun Hemi? If only it were as easy as it sounds.
While Francis holds the pink slip to this killer machine, he doesn't take credit for its build. That part falls to friend Page Stevens and associated talent. Francis was general manager at Landmark Ford in Tigard, Oregon, when friend Page came in to order a new six-cylinder Mustang (it was 2005, before a single S197 had been delivered). "I think Page had the first new body style in the Pacific Northwest," Francis opines. "He's one of those guys who've had the coolest of the cool, and I couldn't figure out what he'd want with a new V6 model. He shared that it was to be his next project car, but at that time he hadn't decided exactly how it would go. He asked what I thought, and we covered a lot of vintage Ford performance territory that day--Medium Risers, Cammers, Cobra Jets, and everything in between. We discussed my personal favorite Boss 429s as well, and that's the way it ended up going down." A year after the car's completion in 2007, Page moved on to yet another project, and Francis snapped up the stellar results as seen here.
The focus of all the attention under the hood measures out just as the side decal claims: 525 cubes courtesy of a 4.437x4.250-inch bore and stroke. The behemoth is all aluminum as well, making use of C&C Motorsports' block, heads, and intake. Larry Kalsch is credited with the impressive engine build, featuring 13:1 compression, a billet stroker crank, and a stout Crane hydraulic roller cam. The C&C website claims the cylinder heads will flow as much as 500 cfm on the intake side when supported with the proper hardware, and while we don't know about this particular application, we can say that the engine has churned out 758 hp and more than 660 lb-ft of torque on the dyno at Kalsch Machine. And it was done the old fashioned way--normally aspirated.
The Boss' builder is an unabashed corner carver, which accounts for the choice of the all-aluminum engine, 1:1 top gear in the Richmond five-speed, and big Wilwoods behind the Ford GT supercar rims. The idea was for the car to come across with a factory build feel, and aside from the ridiculously cool engine, we'd say it pretty well succeeded. Kreative Images in Wilsonville, Oregon, was the shop Stevens employed to meld old and new, and a bang-up job they did. As you'd expect, virtually every element of the car had to be reworked--the wiring, the fuel system, the chassis, custom K-member, and so on. If the brevity of the description comes off as making the project sound simple, we all know better. Unlike in the original Boss 429 Mustang, the engine bay of the S197 readily swallowed the motor, but suffice it to say the term engine swap falls well short of the whole story.
The finished product is completely alien to most big-horsepower S197s that roam the streets of Anytown USA. Call it a road less traveled or whatever you like, but let us just offer a parting thought. Plenty is made of the current crop of muscle cars and their smooth-as-silk, big-horsepower capabilities. We've even been known to revel over the same attributes with frequency, yet a thorough review of Francis' '05 returns us to our roots and the belief that there's nothing like cubes, nothing like compression, and nothing like hemis--ahem, hemispherical chambers that is. Yep, here's proof positive that old engines still rule.
Who: John Francis
What: '05 Ford Mustang
Where: Portland, Oregon
Engine: The all-aluminum Boss engine is just about any Ford lover's dream. Builder Larry Kalsch spent plenty of time getting things just right, using C&C Motorsports' block, heads, crank, and intake as the foundation. The 4.250-inch crank is billet and is teamed with Manley rods and Arias pistons. The exotic Boss-style heads use a hemispherical combustion chamber, and the Ferrea valves are popped by Jesel rockers and a Crane hydraulic roller with 266/274 degrees of duration at 0.050 and 0.636-inch lift. A high-rising C&C single-plane intake is home to a 1,250-cfm Quick Fuel Dominator and made the motor so tall that a shallow oil pan and external pump are employed to save a few inches.
Transmission: The Richmond Road Race five-speed sports a 1:1 Fifth gear with a Kreative Images fabricated shifter. Clutch action makes use of Centerforce components, while the driveshaft is a Potter Webster piece.
Rearend: Lots of people are getting factory 8.8s to hang with serious horsepower, but a bulletproof 9-inch from Dutchman Motorsports was an obvious choice here. The hardware includes 35-spline axles, 4.11 gears, a Detroit Truetrac dif, and a nodular carrier.
Chassis: Kreative Images fabricated the subframe connectors, reworked the inner wheelwells, built a custom K-member and rollcage, and much more.
Suspension: Eibach springs and struts/shocks all around nail the ride height, while a Kreative Images-built front sway bar, rear control arms, and urethane bushings complete the job.
Exhaust: No surprise here, the headers had to be scratch built. Tom Phillips turned a bunch of 21?4 tubing into equal-length works of art, which then feed a 3-inch exhaust system featuring Flowmaster muffs.
Brakes: Wilwood six-pistons are in front and four-pistons reside in the rear. A kit didn't exist for the new Mustang in 2005, so Kreative Images performed plenty of fabrication work to get the setup squared away.
Wheels/Tires: Rather than using vintage-themed rolling stock, Stevens stayed current and factory inspired with a set of forged hoops sourced from the Ford GT supercar parts bin. Fronts measure 18x9 inches and rears are 19x11.5 inches They are shod in Goodyear Eagle F1s, 255-45ZR18 and 315-40ZR19, respectively.
Paint/Body: Original Boss 429s were under the radar compared with their contemporaries, and so is Francis' '05. The only alteration to the way it was delivered by Ford is the reproduction Boss 429 hoodscoop. The absence of a rear spoiler is absolutely perfect.