In the ordinary world, engines are built for a project car, where the platform and parts are chosen to best complement the project and the ultimate goals. Nonetheless, in the world of dream cars where Bodie Stroud and his crew at BS Industries operate, sometimes the order gets flipped. Such was the case with this ’69 Ford Mustang dubbed “The Real Thing” built by BS Industries. The discovery of an extraordinarily rare and storied big-block Ford engine instigated and shaped the whole project.
What was so special about an old 385-series Ford? What had arrived in Bodie’s shop was a genuine Ford 494ci Can-Am aluminum block—one of 10 (or 12, depending on the source) aluminum blocks ever produced. But it even goes beyond that; this particular engine was part of the Holman Moody program that powered an M6B McLaren Can-Am racer known as the “429er.” And the man behind the wheel was none other than Mario Andretti. Now that’s provenance. But there was no Can-Am car accompanying it when the bare block originally arrived at BS Industries. The question of the day was: What do you do with an extraordinarily rare and valuable old race engine missing all of its original parts? Garage art? Coffee table base? No way! This baby had to run again.
The black leather upholstery is stretched over shortened and narrowed ’08 Mustang GT seats
So its new home had to be a radical road race car, right? No, but you could say a famous drag car provided the inspiration. Production Boss 429s existed simply for NASCAR Grand National Division racing homologation and wound up shoehorned into Mustangs to give Ford’s ponycar a rival to the ZL1 Camaros. And despite NASCAR’s shortsighted decision to outlaw them, lots of Boss engines went on to have successful racing careers on the quarter-mile. While sitting around having coffee and brainstorming about the new project with the Can-Am’s owner and his son, Bodie threw out the idea that the ultimate Boss engine really should be in the ultimate Boss Mustang—but the question was, what exactly did ultimate mean?
Other than a lack of A/C due to engine compartment real estate constraints, off-the- showroom-floor Boss 429s were well-appointed cars for the street. That genre fit more in line with what Tom Fry (the Can-Am’s caretaker) wanted, except that rather than a well-appointed ’69 interior, he decided that he wanted something that felt like a cross with a ’11 5.0 Mustang—still appropriately retro styled for a ’69, but designed with driving pleasure and modern amenities in mind. After that, any pretenses of building a stock-appearing or original Boss were brushed off the table and the customization ideas for how to build the ultimate reimagined and modernized ’69 Boss Mustang flowed forth.
While they were bench racing their thoughts, Tom’s son, Tim, happened to mention his love for the shape of nostalgia Funny Cars, and, in particular, Harry Schmidt’s original Blue Max ’69 Mustang that kicked off the famed Blue Max lineage. Of course, Funny Cars run wildly altered fiberglass shells only very loosely based on production bodies, but after pulling up a picture of Blue Max, Bodie was inspired and contended that a few of the more tasteful Funny Car body mods could be subtly integrated into steel to create a better looking SportsRoof Mustang. After more discussion and a quick sketch by Bodie to explain, the deal was sealed.
The problem was, Bodie had dealt himself a difficult hand. The main touch he wanted to borrow from Blue Max was to lower and reshape the roofline of the Mustang, but to make it flow correctly with the Mustang’s body lines and retain the iconic silhouette, it needed to be so subtle that casual observers would be left trying to figure out exactly what was different. Chopping any muscle car is hard enough, especially fastback-style roofs, but this was uncharted territory. Personally, we’ve never seen a chopped Mustang that didn’t immediately look a little off, so the potential for fugly was high. That’s why while a fresh ’69 Mustang body from Dynacorn waited patiently in the corner of the shop, Bodie began experimenting on a rough, vintage ’69 body to see if what he had in mind would better the Mustang’s looks—or slide into the realm of things better left undone.
The individual runner system is a vintage Holman and Moody piece that was converted to EFI
A slicker SportsRoof has never been shaped. While it appears stock, the profile of The Rea
The Real Thing, and the real star of the car, is the stroked 494 Can-Am engine. Thanks to
We’d love to try and describe the process, but honestly we can’t. Similar to traditional custom car chops, the whole roofline has actually been reshaped, extended, and repositioned. We did get to see the test car a few times during Bodie’s design process, and the most we can divulge is that everything north of the beltline was removed at some point and sliced into a jigsaw puzzle of steel in order to bring the roofline down significantly and lay the windshield back a few degrees, all while keeping the shape distinctly ’69 Mustang. Not only did that work achieve a sexier profile, it had the effect of making the nose appear stretched—another understated nod to Blue Max.
The adjustable front suspension is a made-from-scratch design Bodie created specifically f
There are many more subtle touches as well; the quarter-panels and endcaps appear stock, but are actually significantly wider. But enough about the bodywork; remember that awesome engine that was the genesis of the whole project? Word got around the hot rodding community that the Can-Am Boss that QMP Racing Engines was preparing for the Mustang was one of Andretti’s old bullets. That spawned many admirers, and even a few detractors who couldn’t bring themselves to embrace the engine’s heritage without some sort of cold hard proof. They’d soon get it.
At the 2010 SEMA show, a satin black cover was draped over a low, though clearly muscular shape in the middle of an exhaust company’s booth in the Central Hall. Observers and media milled about, inquiring about the car and when it would be unveiled. Lips were sealed until the morning of November 2 when a huge mass of people filled the booth and surrounding aisles, pressing inward toward the car with cameras ready. When the cover was pulled away to reveal the Mustang, now known as The Real Thing, everyone was agape. While most were immediately taken in by the impact of the stance, wheels, and alluring roofline, one man went directly to the engine compartment. Andretti knew exactly what the real part of this Mustang was. He smiled as he looked over the trumpeted EFI induction, simplistically beautiful engine mounting plate, front drive assembly, and Kaase cylinder heads. The Can-Am had never looked so good in his McLaren. With the blessing of the owner, Andretti signed the valve cover, adding his corroboration to the Mustang’s moniker and the engine’s heritage.
Overall, everyone present at SEMA was blown away by the Mustang’s dramatic charisma. Of course, there were a few murmurs about the heresy of placing such a historic engine into a high-end touring muscle car. They’re missing the point though, it’s an epic engine born again into an epic muscle car. Rather than sit in a shop in a race car that’ll never be driven, this 777hp Mustang will prowl the streets and be enjoyed. Nothing wrong with that at all, no matter where the engine came from. If there’s one other opinion other than Tom’s that carries some weight on The Real Thing, it’s Andretti’s. So what did he think of the new and radically dissimilar home his old engine had been placed into? In two words: loved it. Andretti may be one of history’s most talented racers, but he loves a finely crafted hot rod as well. He really only had one question, “When can I drive it?”
By the Numbers
1969 SportsRoof Mustang
BS Industries • Sun Valley, CA
Type: 494ci Boss Can-Am
Block: Ford Aluminum Can-Am, Darton iron sleeves
Oiling: Aviaid dry sump oil system
Rotating assembly: Crower billet crankshaft, Ross Racing dished pistons
Cylinder heads: Kaase Boss CNC ported by QMP Racing
Camshaft: custom cam by LSM Systems Engineering
Valvetrain: Kaase/W.W. Engineering rocker system, Manley titanium valves, COMP Cams titanium retainers and valve locks
Induction: Holman and Moody fuel injection converted to electronic by Kinsler Fuel Injection
Exhaust: Magnaflow 3-inch stainless builder’s kit and mufflers
Fuel system: custom stainless steel tank, Aeromotive fuel pump
Ignition: MSD Pro-Billet distributor, Moroso plug wires
Cooling: custom C&R aluminum radiator
Output: 777.5 hp at 7,000 rpm; 579 lb-ft of torque
Built by: QMP Racing Engines
Transmission: Tremec T56 Magnum, McLeod clutch and flywheel
Rearend: shortened Ford 9-inch
Suspension & Chassis: BS Industries Mustang full frame with tubular control arms up front and four-link rear with Panhard bar, RideTech Titanium series ShockWave with nitrogen-filled canisters, electric steering by Flaming River
Brakes: 14-inch Brembo six-piston brakes front and four-piston rear
Wheels: 18x8 and 18x15 Rushforth Wheels
Tires: 26x8.00R18 and 30x18.50 Mickey Thompson Sportsman S/R Radial
Peaking out behind the beautiful 10-spoke Rushforth wheels are big six-piston Brembo calip