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Friday, August 21, 2015

The Story of Two GM Defectors That Created One of the World’s Best Mustangs



If you know your GM history, the names Larry Shinoda and Semon “Bunkie” Knudson might have some significance to you. Shinoda was an LA-born designer that worked hand-in-hand with Zora Arkus-Duntov, transforming the Chevrolet Corvette from concept to classic.

Knudson, on the other hand, was the son of GM exec William S. Knudson, and worked for Pontiac, helping develop it into a successful brand throughout the 40s and 50s, and early 60s.
But did you know that Shinoda and Knudson also penned one of the best Mustangs ever to grace the road? I’m talking, of course, about the original, iconic Mustang Boss 302. How did that happen?


From Detroit to Dearborn

It started with Knudson. In 1968, Henry Ford II recruited him to become the president of Ford. It was a big, new role, considering Knudson had been eyeing the job of GM president before being passed over for Ed Cole. With this new change, Knudson brought with him good friend, and talented designer Larry Shinoda.

Shinoda was a bit more well-versed in how Ford did things. Though being a driving force on the Corvette, Shinoda began his career with Ford in 1955. Nearly 15 years later, he was back to create something special.

By 1969, the then-successful Mustang had transformed from a spritely little coupe, into a serious piece of muscle car engineering. The new design was fierce, and that’s when Knudson, Shinoda, and the rest of Ford’s engineering team had a dastardly idea to take down the Camaro Z/28.


Birth of a Boss

Larry Shinoda developed and designed the Ford Mustang Boss 302 in 1969. Shinoda gave it the “Boss” moniker after president Knudson. Where the standard Mustang was more aggressive, the Boss 302 was downright sinister.

The aerodynamics were improved, the V8 was now producing 290 horsepower, and quarter miles were dealt with in 14.6 seconds at 98 mph. It may now sound like much today, but back in 1969, that thing was flying down the drag strip, and the race track.

From the get-go, the Mustang Boss 302 was a cult classic, and went head to head with the Camaro Z/28.


The Downfall

But with the initial success of the Boss 302 came the problems. Not with the car, but with Knudson and Ford execs. Internal struggles caused him to be fired from ford in 1969, and with him, so left Shinoda.

Shinoda opened up his own design firm with minimal success, while Knudson became president of White Motor Company in Cleveland, Ohio where he retired.

While neither produced anything as successful after the fact, the Boss Mustang 302 was one of the best vehicles to ever come from a Dearborn, Michigan, Ford factory. One that won’t soon be forgotten by enthusiasts.