The Trans-Am Series was initiated in 1966 in the early days of the Pony Car era as a derivative of the SCCA A and B Sedan Club Racing classes. The idea was to use ommercially produced cars that were allowed a moderate degree of modification. Trans-Am cut into 2 basic classes:The under 2.0 liter class, which brought together a great collection of Alfa Romeos, BMWs, Datsuns and more, but the real draw was the over 2.0 liter class - the big American V8s, that were limited to 5.0 liters.
Even though the series kicked off in 1966, it really took a year for it to gain traction. And in 1967, a privateer named Bud Moore partnered with Mercury to develop Cougars for the series. By the conclusion of the season, the Bud Moore Cougars, driven by Dan Gurney, Peter Revson, and David Pearson won 4 races of 12 - just as many as Ford's vaunted Mustang. Bud Moore's Cougars came within 2 points of winning the championship in 1967.
For nearly four decades Bud Moore was connected closely with Ford racing, and for most of those he was building cars for some of the best NASCAR drivers in the history of the sport. By the time he sold Bud Moore Engineering in 1999, his cars had won 63 NASCAR and Winston Cup races (seventh all-time) and 43 poles (ninth all-time).
But for those that prefer road racing to oval track, they may prefer to remember Bud Moore as the man responsible for building and campaigning the Boss 302 Mustangs for the 1969-71 Trans-Am seasons.
Bud Moore was born in 1925 in South Carolina, served during World War II, and even landed on Utah Beach on D-Day, serving in the Third Army under Patton. He left the war with two Bronze stars and 5 Purple Hearts. When interviewed for the June 1994 Super Ford magazine, Moore, with the thick Souther accent, explained how he got into racing. "We done a lot of work on what the bootleggers called 'moonshine cars.' All I did was work on them. I don't even know who drove 'em. All I know is we never had one of them stopped."
By the late 1940s, Moore was running three or four times a week at local tracks and also competing in the newly-developed NASCAR series. In 1961, he created Bud Moore Engineering, building Pontiacs that won championships in 1962 and 1963. By the end of 1963, Moore had become a convert to Ford's Mercury Division. Despite their success in 1967, Mercury dropped out of Trans-Am for 1968 - likely because Ford didn't want Mercurys to be considered higher performing than their vaunted Mustang. So for 1968, Moore transitioned to NASCAR's short-lived Grand American series, where he won the 1968 championship. While he was doing that, Ford was getting destroyed by the Penske Camaros in Trans-AM. The Camaros won 10 of 13 races that year. Late in 1968, Ford called Bud Moore, asking for his help for the 1969 season.
Kar Kraft in Brighton, Michigan built the first factory prototypes for the 1969 season. These were built from 428 Cobra Jet fastbacks. After the team reached a final spec, seven more M-code Mustangs were ordered and converted by Moore's and Shelby's teams themselves.
The Kar Kraft cars were significantly altered from factory. They were stripped and re-engineered with weight distribution and the 2900 lbs weight limit as key goals. Changes included relocating the battery, lowering and positioning the 302 engine further back. On some cars, the front end bodywork was modified so the fenders had more taper and sat lower.
Kar Kraft repositioned the suspension system so it sat deeper into the body which had the effect of lowering the car. In essence, nearly all the pickup points were relocated. Braking was upgraded to 12-inch Lincoln discs and 4-piston Kelsey-Hayes calipers up front while the rear drums were replaced with what were originally the 11.3-inch front disc units.
Despite Ford's claims of building the engines for the teams at the time, Moore had a different point of view. "Oh, no, we built the engines ourselves. We done all the experimental work. In fact, we're the ones that built the mini-plenum intake, a box-type manifold we ran in 1970 on the 302. After that, I pioneered a box-type manifold for the 351. We built the race cars from scratch. Now, we did have some help out of Ford; they helped build some rear ends for us-hubs, safety equipment, and all this kind of stuff. We had a couple of chassis engineers from Ford who gave us a hand. We all worked together on it. We came up with a real good package."
What is unarguable is that the engines for the 1969 Trans-Am cars came from a new design which used the 351 Cleveland cylinder head on a 302 Windsor block. The purpose-built race engines used a completely new bottom and top end with two 1050cfm Holley Dominator 4-Barrel Carburetors on a 'Cross-Boss' manifold. Ford claimed 470 hp, possibly a conservative number knowing Bud Moore's capabilities, and his clever way of managing things.
When Moore campaigned a pair of new Boss 302 Mustangs for 1969, he put his NASCAR business on hold, committing fully to Trans-Am. He developed and built red, white, and black Mustangs for Parnelli Jones (car 15) and George Follmer (car 16). Shelby American was also charged by Ford to do the same, and fielded blue and white Boss 302s of their own, driven by Horst Kwech and Peter Revson.
Ford's four-car stable jumped to an early lead in the championship by winning four of the first five races - three by Moore cars. But there were problems with the Firestone tires. They kept the Mustangs from winning another race that year, and Ford eventually lost the championship by 14 points to Donohue, driving one of Penske's Camaros. In an interview with Mustang Monthly regarding the Firestone incident, Moore recalled, "We had tire problems. Like Parnelli was talking here the other day. He said, "You know, if we'd made Firestone fix those tires we wouldn't have lost that series." What hurt was the fact that Parnelli was a Firestone distributor. We hollered with them and this and that, but they said, "There ain't nothing wrong with the tires." If we'd just put our foot down a little bit harder and had done something to the tires, like Parnelli said, we'd have won three or four more races without any problems".
For 1970, Moore returned to Trans-Am with his new yellow 1970 Boss 302 Mustangs. By then, Ford had eliminated the Shelby team entirely, so the Trans-Am series was all on Moore. The Grabber Orange Mustangs of Parnelli Jones and George Follmer were practically untouchable. They won the first four races, and ultimately six total to win the Trans-Am championship that year, over the newcomers American Motors.
By the end of the 1970 season, Ford withdrew support from all forms of racing, but Moore continued as an independent during the 1971 Trans-Am season. With drivers Follmer and Peter Gregg, Moore's Mustangs managed to win three races, ultimately finishing second to the factory-supported American Motors' Javelins.