Missing Mustangs: Where’s Bunkie Knudsen’s old Boss?
Chronicling the history of Bunkie Knudsen’s personal Boss 429.
Larry Thomas was a Test Technician in the Road Test Data Acquisition Group in 1969 for Ford Motor Company. On September 11, 1969, Larry and his buddy and coworker Bill Russo were chatting about Bill’s interest in purchasing a new family car. Bill asked Larry if he’d like to tag along the next day since he was going to go down to Ford’s resale lot. Larry eagerly accepted; a trip down to the resale lot was a treat, especially for a 22-year-old always on the lookout for that next Hi-Po Ford.
The resale lot opened around 8:30 a.m., so Bill and Larry got a head start and were at the gate around 8:15. Soon a line began to develop behind them. Through the gate Bill spotted a Pinto wagon he was going to check out, while Larry noted a black Mustang SportsRoof with gold striping that he wanted to have a look at.
Customarily, the gate opened, you walked up to the office, noted the number on the car, and asked for the keys. Larry checked all the boxes and was the first to the Mustang, which, now visible, was wearing “BOSS 429” lettering inside a gold C stripe, reminiscent of the ones applied to the 1969 Boss 302. The Mustang also featured a gold hood, decklid, hoodscoop, rear slats, and tail panel.
Inside, the Mustang sported a rolled and pleated saddle interior, four-speed transmission, and A/C. Larry noted how strong the car sounded as he cruised around the resale lot. As he came back toward the stall from his short cruise, he noted half a dozen eager employees waiting for their turn in the Mustang. Every one of us has experienced that feeling of having something someone else wants, and Larry was no different. So, instead of handing the keys over to the next test driver, he headed back to the office and said, “I’ll take it,” to the attendee. To the tune of $2,950, Larry was now the owner of this oddball Mustang.
Knudsen Is Fired!
Semon “Bunkie” Knudsen was called into Henry Ford II’s office on September 9, 1969. The conversation was brief, with II stating that Bunkie’s time at Ford “just didn’t work out.” Bunkie made the following statement to the press: “I want to make clear today’s decision, in my opinion, is unwarranted in view of the accomplishments the company has made during my brief tenure.” The snowball effect of Mr. Knudsen’s firing would not be known to Larry for many years. Yes, this is where we tell you Larry Thomas ended up purchasing Bunkie Knudsen’s personal Boss 429 Mustang!
Larry and His BossKK1205 was one of seven prototype Boss 429s created by Kar-Kraft for Ford Motor Company. Number 1205 appears to have been built for only one purpose: to appease the boss. Along with the aforementioned cosmetic changes, Bunkie’s Boss had cast-iron heads, something that caused strife at Kar-Kraft when Larry wrote them in March 1970 asking for a set of aluminum heads. His request for the heads would create a domino effect headache that Kar-Kraft just didn’t want to deal with, so they vetoed the aluminum heads.
Larry ended up having a blast with the car, updating the Cougar scoop (prototype Boss 429s wore them) with a custom 429 unit. Weekend activities involved cruising Woodward Ave. and Telegraph Rd., and frequent trips to Detroit and the Milan Dragway where he’d run A/Stock, dipping the B9 into the low 13s, which was considerably faster than stock Boss 429s.
Larry’s tenure of ownership lasted for just a few years in the early 1970s. He eventually sold the Mustang to Stan Webster, a welder from Ypsilanti. Through conversations with Stan’s brothers Steven and Kelly, the car remained in the family until the early 1980s, with Stan rebuilding it with intentions of going IMSA racing. The 429 was separated and sold, and the car languished around until Stan decided to part it out.
Larry ended up learning he had owned Bunkie Knudsen’s old Boss 429 Mustang shortly after purchasing it. It wasn’t a big deal. He remembered bumping into Larry Shinoda, telling him about the car, and being brushed off. History would show us that Bunkie’s old Boss was nearly an identical build, aesthetically, to Smokey Yunick’s Boss 302; the cars were often confused with one another, and people thought that they were the same car at different stages. We know now that wasn’t the case.
If you have information on Bunkie Knudsen and Larry Thomas’ old Boss 429, please contact us at facebook.com/lostmusclecars.
Kar-Kraft: Race Cars, Prototypes and Muscle Cars of Ford’s Special Vehicle Activity Program author Charlie Henry tells a hair-raising story about driving Bunkie’s Boss 429. This is a must-have book for Ford enthusiasts!
© Charlie Henry
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