In the second installment of this two-part series we’re pouring over the details of Ron Wright’s Voodoo 5.2-liter V8-powered Boss 302, a build which saw the highly capable team at Paul’s Automotive Engineering transform Ron’s formerly stock, 2013 Boss 302 into a road course-devouring monster.
As you’ll recall from the first installment, Ron’s penchant for fast Fords dates back to inspiration from his childhood brought on by his father’s stories of transferring big block-powered Galaxies from one dealership to another back in the day. In the decades since, he would go on to build a number of potent street machines, including a pair of second-generation Corvette drag cars. However, it was a television documentary that Ron watched a few years ago — covering the history of Parnelli Jones and the original Mustang Boss 302 racing in the SCCA’s Trans Am racing series back in 1969 and 1970 — that would set the sequences of events for this particular build in motion.
Along with #2551, which denotes the car’s production number, Ron Wright’s Mustang Boss 302 also goes by another nickname, Grouchy, which is official enough to have its own logo.
Ron would take home his Grabber Blue Boss 302 early in 2013 with the initial intention of preserving the car for weekend cruises and car shows, but after witnessing a run group mixing it up at a track day on the Mid Ohio road course, along with a Mustang Boss 302 in factory-stock configuration, not unlike Ron’s, holding its own in the pack, he decided it was time to get off the sidelines and on to the track.
“One of the perks that comes with a new Boss 302 is a one week performance driver course at their facility in Utah, but there wasn’t room in my schedule that would permit that much time off work,” he explained. “However, Mid Ohio had advertisements during the Xfinity event [where he saw the aforementioned track day], so I signed up for a three-day performance driving course. That started my search for ways to improve upon the already-fabulous Boss 302.”
Wright’s Boss 302 might look relatively stock from the outside, but underneath the skin is a track-honed machine with JRI coilovers, Steeda chassis bits, and a warmed-over version of the high-winding 5.2-liter motor you’d normally find under the hood of the new GT350.
In the years since, Ron worked with PAE to elevate the Boss 302’s on-track capability, starting with a comprehensive coilover suspension makeover followed by safety upgrades, like bigger Brembo brakes and track-focused pads, along with a Maximum Motorsports roll bar and four-point racing harnesses.
While 2016 was supposed to be a low-key year for modifications that were expected to start and end with a new set of 18×10-inch Forgeline GW3R wheels and Hoosier tires, Ron’s strategy changed significantly when Ford announced its 5.2-liter, flat-plane Voodoo V8.
“I mentioned to Paul that it would be a fun motor to build,” Ron recalled, thus setting the game plan in motion for a new high-revving powerplant for his Boss 302.
Boss 315 Build
My desires were to keep it naturally aspirated from the beginning. — Ron Wright
“My desires were to keep it naturally aspirated from the beginning,” he told us. While forced induction can be a ticket to big power with minimal hassle, it comes with a number of compromises, particularly when road course capability is paramount…”
With Ford’s 5.2-liter Voodoo engine being a purpose-built mill for the factory’s track-focused efforts with the Mustang GT350 and GT350R, it makes power from the midrange and higher, to an astronomical 8,250 rpm. These attributes are tailor-made for road course capability and Ron didn’t want to alter Ford’s engineering too dramatically.
Once he had caught the bug for track driving, Ron embarked on a mission to improve both his skill behind the wheel as well as the Mustang's corner-carving prowess. While it served as a great foundation to start from, it wasn't long before he and PAE dove into big projects. After significantly reworking the suspension system and adding upgrades to the braking, grip, and additional safety equipment, He then turned his attention to the powertrain shortly after Ford's announcement of the GT350 and its exotic 5.2-liter mill.
Knowing the 5.2 build was going to be on the leading edge, setbacks were to be expected. — Ron Wright
“We set a realistic output goal over stock with the intention of remaining naturally aspirated,” Ron told us. “We discussed different options and combinations of how to get to the numbers we wanted before we arrived at a final game plan. Knowing the 5.2 build was going to be on the leading edge, setbacks were to be expected, but Paul’s team was always able to provide the “why” and “how” behind these obstacles, as well as a path to move forward.”
PAE started with a 5.2-liter aluminum Voodoo block identical to the ones used in factory builds of the GT350 and GT350R (PN M-6010-M52). Compared to the standard 5.0-liter Coyote block, this high-performance casting offers improvements to support high-horsepower engine builds, like updated water jackets with more material below the cylinder bore to increase the block’s strength and liner coating that provides improved durability, more efficient heat transfer, reduced friction, and weight savings versus the Mustang GT block.
Ford Performance was an instrumental player in Ron’s 5.2-liter build, not only providing the block, crank, pistons and cylinder heads, but a set of custom-grind camshafts compatible with the cross-plane crankshaft firing order and the 2013-2014 Boss 302 PCM.
Voodoo Boss 5.2-liter Engine Specs
Block: Ford Performance Voodoo 5.2 (PN M-6010-M52)
Camshafts: Ford Performance custom grind for use with 2013-2014 processor
Crankshaft: Ford Performance 5.2-liter forged cross-plane (PN M-6303-M52)
Bottom end components consist of a cross-plane forged steel crankshaft with a 93mm stroke from Ford Performance (PN M-6303-M52), along with Manley I-beam connecting rods and OEM-spec GT350 pistons and rings.
The aluminum cylinder heads are from the standard 5.2-liter mill used in the Mustang GT350 (PN M-6049-6050), along with the high-performance oil pump (PN M-6600-50CJ), both of which were also sourced from Ford Performance. A Boss 302R oil pan (PN M-6675-M50BR) was selected for the build as well, which uses a pickup system custom designed by PAE.
Ford Performance also supplied the custom 5.2-liter camshafts that PAE used with this build, which are specially designed for use with a 2013 or 2014 processor, as well as the Cobra Jet intake manifold (PN M-9000-M50CJ). The Cobra Jet manifold’s runners are designed to provide more top-end power without sacrificing low-end grunt, which is ideally paired with Ford’s dual 65mm Cobra Jet throttle body and Cobra Jet cold air intake, both of which are on hand here.
The Cobra Jet intake manifold is designed to bolster top-end power without sacrificing low-end torque in the process. Since the factory intake tube isn’t compatible with this intake, Ford offers a matching Cobra Jet cold air intake as well, used on the naturally aspirated Cobra Jet drag car.
A Ford Performance 3-inch system is connected to a pair of Kooks long-tube headers to allow the mill to breathe freely, while an X4 tuner from SCT Performance gave the PAE team the ability to make the necessary software tweaks to get the motor in tune with the electronics.
All in, the combination is good for a healthy, naturally aspirated 528 horsepower and 433 lb-ft of torque at the wheels, gains of roughly 60 ponies and an equal amount of twist at the wheels versus a factory-stock GT350R and over 110 more than a stock Boss 302’s rear-wheel output.
After pulling the stock motor and gearbox out, the new 5.2-liter V8 and the Boss R1 close-ratio gearbox is mated to were installed as one unit from underneath the car.
Due to the additional motivation on hand versus a standard Boss 302, the team opted to upgrade the gearbox as well, swapping out the standard Boss 302 box for close-ratio Boss R1 transmission with a Tilton 7.25-inch, twin-disc clutch, which should provide additional strength and durability – as well as faster lap times with the track-focused gear ratios – over the standard setup.
The Road Ahead
“Now with the motor complete and the various upgrades dialed in and some track time under my belt, it’s obvious to me that the discussions and planning set down the right path,” Ron said. “And PAE was the right team for the job.”
It’s a build that took 40 years in my head and four years to actually turn into a reality. —Ron Wright
Although he says the project is on-going, Ron’s quick to point out that he hasn’t lost sight of the fact that the factory-stock Boss 302 still has value in its own right.
“No car is ever complete, and there are always things that need to be tweaked,” he said. “It’s a build that took 40 years in my head and four years to actually turn into a reality.”
“But, for now, the build is more or less finished,” he added. “it’s time to reap what has been sewn, and advance through HPDE with additional track time. The entire build process has been to improve #2551 without molesting the sanctity of the Boss 302 legend. Every nut, bolt, piece removed has been bagged/tagged and stored. Someday, it may return to a stock-5.0 Boss 302 complete with rear seat!”
When Ron finally brought home his Grabber Blue Boss 302, he had intentions of keeping the car in pristine shape, saving the car for ideal weather and the occasional show. While there's certainly some virtue in keeping iconic cars in showroom-quality shape for posterity's sake, models like the Boss 302 offer both form and function, and the latter requires putting the car through its paces on a road course regularly to really enjoy the car’s capabilities. Once he decided he wanted to start tracking his Mustang, Ron wisely signed himself up for a performance driving school where he could learn the fundamentals of road course driving rather than jumping in blindly with both feet. As a result, the shiny part of the car is still shiny and we'd wager that he is a whole lot faster than he was in 2013. And, with its recent 5.2-liter heart transplant, so is his Mustang.
For now though, Ron is content to use his Boss 302 for its designed purpose – tearing it up on any road course he can find. While preservation of iconic cars like the Mustang Boss 302 is important, it’s also crucial to remember that these cars were designed to be driven rather than simply coveted, to bring us joy and thrills in motion rather than to just serve as static museum pieces.
It’s a revelation that came to Ron when another Boss 302 owner led by example, inadvertently setting him on a path that would lead to improvements in both his car as well as his own ability behind the wheel. With any luck, his Voodoo-powered, road course-tuned machine will do the same for another owner who’s ready to get out of his or her lawn chair and onto the track the next time he takes #2551 to a track day. After all, all the performance in the world isn’t worth a whole lot if it’s just locked away in a garage somewhere.