Boss 302 Prototype, Revisited

John Grafelman proudly stands by his historic Mustang

Farmer John Grafelman beside his historic Mustang

In August I posted a story about a car that was displayed in Mustang Alley at the Woodward Avenue Dream Cruise.  The owner, John Grafelman, a farmer from southern Illinois, said that the car had served as the design prototype for the 1969 Boss 302 Mustang and that it had been owned by the father of the Boss 302, famed designer Larry Shinoda.

I had the opportunity to visit Mr. Grafelman on his farm outside of Hanna City, Ill., to get some more information about the car and review some of the documentation that he has. That documentation seems to be iron-clad which means this IS Larry’s Boss.

Boss 302 design prototype

It may not look like much now but it will soon undergo a total resto and should be ready for an unveiling at the Mustang 50th anniversary celebration.

In 1968 Ford got trounced by Chevrolet’s new Camaro on the Trans Am racing circuit and Ford’s president, Semon “Bunkie” Knudsen, was determined not to let that happen again.  He ordered his engineers to come up with a car that could knock the Camaro down a few pegs and entrusted designer Larry Shinoda, whom he had brought with him when he moved from General Motors to Ford, to design a version of the car to sell to the public, as stipulated by Trans Am rules.  Shinoda pulled a Mustang Mach I off the assembly line and brought it to the Ford design studio to work on the modifications for this separate model.

Non-stock steering wheel

Shinoda ordered up a Momo steering wheel and added the “LB” monogram to the hub. “LB” for “Larry’s Boss”.

Since he was assigned the task of the exterior design work, Shinoda could have used any Mustang Sportroof but I suspect that he chose a Mach I with the 428 Cobra Jet because he was planning on driving it as his personal car.  (Shinoda had gasoline in his blood and had spent his youth racing hot rods in southern California.)

This document confirms that Grafelman's car is the same one Shinoda owned.

This document confirms that Grafelman’s car is the same one Shinoda owned.

Among the documents that Grafelman possesses is an intra-company invoice with Shinoda’s name on it transferring the car from assembly to the design studio.  This is the same car which he purchased from Ford when he left the company and which Grafelman owns today.

Grafelman told me that he intends to send the car out for a total restoration in early January and plans to bring it to one of the 50th anniversary celebrations that the Mustang Club of America is planning for April 2014.

I am also planning on being at the Charlotte, N.C., event and hope to see it there.


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