Birthplace of the Boss: 2013 Mustang Boss 302 Returns To Its Roots

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Chances are if you were tossed the keys to a 2013 Ford Mustang Boss 302, your first inclination wouldn’t be to tour a historical landmark. We did just that, though we weren’t touring something as dry as an antique building or a government building. Instead, we sought out the Boss 302’s spiritual birthplace. The Boss 302 was to the Mustang what the Z/28 was to the Chevrolet Camaro: a package that not only comprised significant handing upgrades, but also served as a means of homologating that equipment for the SCCA’s Trans-Am racing series. Though the Boss 302 would ultimately become a regular production option and built alongside other Mustang models on the conventional production lines, early engineering work for both its road and race forms was performed at an operation known as Kar Kraft. Kar Kraft was technically an independent firm, but the company essentially served as Ford’s racing skunkworks, and had a hand in developing wild machines including the Thunderbolt, the Mark II GT40, the J-Car, and the Mark IV GT40. Oh, and it also helped birth the Boss 302. According to Mike Mueller’s The Complete Book of Mustang, Early Boss 302 prototypes were being cobbled together as early as August 1968, but the first 7-10 Boss 302-spec race cars were built by Kar-Kraft nearly a year later.  The cars all began life as stock Mustang fastbacks, built without paint, sealer, etc. before ultimately being turned over to Kar-Kraft for transformation into race machines. As it turns out, they didn’t have all that far to travel. Ford’s media archive provides two views of a 1969 Boss 302 Trans Am car parked in front of a Kar Kraft engineering building. Period photos provided on a Facebook tribute page to Ford motorsports legend Francisco Hernandez provide a full front view of the building, and note its location on Haggerty St – which, we found, is located roughly three miles away from the automaker’s Rouge complex, which built the Mustangs in the first place.   Nearly 43 years have passed since those photos were taken. Kar Kraft closed its doors in the late 1970s, but the building still remains in place, occupied today by a company that produces shipping dunnage for auto parts. Incredibly, the building stands in much the same state as it did in 1969. The easement has changed, as has the landscaping, windows, and surrounding buildings, but it’s easy to take a quick jump back in time by rolling past – especially if you’re behind the wheel of a modern 2012 or 2013 Mustang Boss 302. (Another fun fact: Kar Kraft was also responsible for building the “other” Boss Mustang, the 1969 and 1970 Boss 429, but did so in a facility located 44 miles northwest in Brighton, Michigan. Most of that complex stands today, but is home to a firm specializing in metal fencing. Early prototypes for the Boss 429 were allegedly built in the Dearborn facility shown above.)

Chuck McHugh
Thanks for the article on this building.  As the current building owner, we are aware of it's rich heritage.  We purchased the building in 1997 from Nick Hartman, the owner of Kar Kraft.  Nick rented space back from us for a few years and was a wealth of knowledge and told us great stories of the old days.  According to Nick, AJ Foyt and Mario Andretti both frequented the building during the development of the 302. In the engine compartment of each 302 is a Kar Kraft tag.  The Delorian was also developed by Kar Kraft at this facility.
Sister Mary Ann Ankoviak, CSJ
Great article, Evan! Fantastic pics, too. Tre bien!

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