A soldier on deployment finds his Mustang Boss 302 race car under rodent assault
by David Tyo //
In July 2011, I returned from overseas tour with the Army to purchase my dream car, a 2012 Boss 302 Mustang. The car was an homage to the famous 1969 and 1970 Trans Am racers of the same name, powerful and capable road-course pony cars. Just the image of them conjured the heyday of muscle cars battling door to door through clouds of tire smoke and leaded gasoline.
I’d spent months of downtime during my tour thinking about my next car, filling lists of pros and cons, preparing fictional build sheets. When Ford announced the return of the Boss though I knew I had to have one—if I could make the purchase process work. After all, I was still overseas. Having spent countless hours wading through the frustrating process of dealer markups and allocations, I finally found a gleaming Performance White Boss in-stock at a dealership close to home. With power of attorney in hand, my Dad finalized the deal and sent me plenty of pictures with vague promises of “only occasional break in drives to make sure everything was working ok”.
I lived out of that car the summer after going home. My future wife and I drove it everywhere. New England beaches, a 1200-mile road trip to Florida and back. Autocrossing nearly every weekend. No excuse was too mundane to warrant firing the Boss up and taking it for a drive; ice cream, gallons of milk.
After a few seasons of autocross the modifications started. It was a slow process. A local race shop ran a couple of Boss 302S race cars in Trans Am and Pirelli World Challenge series and had plenty of race takeoff tires for sale. Extra grip exposed weaknesses in the suspension, which naturally had to be upgraded for this added grip. A new differential soon followed. Then sway bars. What did the car weigh? Too much! Hood, AC condenser, compressor, back seats, washer fluid reservoir. All sacrificed on the altar of speed. My wife stopped riding in it with me, but it was faster and more capable than almost anything out there.
June 2015 would be the car’s big debut. The OPTIMA “Search For The Ultimate Street Car” competitions are multi-disciplinary weekend events that score your car based on autocross, time trial road course, speed stop, design and engineering as well as streetability. The winner gets an invite to SEMA in Vegas and probably some camera time. To drum up some competition, a well-known pony-car driver put down $3000 saying no first timer could show up with a Mustang and beat him in one of his Camaros. This particular event was held at Michigan international speedway, so I borrowed a trailer from a friend, caught a tow from my father-in-law and his friend, and gave it our best shot… which was enough. We beat the fellow in question, got recognized by K&N as the “spirit of the event” award winner, then received invitations to Vegas and SEMA.
This kicked my build of the car (and driver) into high gear. I signed up for events at a few local tracks to get more experience. The suspension was overhauled with a trick setup from a company specializing in competition mustangs. Parts appeared, shop time was booked for stuff beyond my technical means. Budgets were smashed and overrun. With support from my amazing family and friends we made it out to Vegas, had a great time, and did very well. We scored another invite to run in the Optima event at New Jersey Motorsports park that next year, but the birth of my daughter and acceptance into Army flight school meant that my priorities were shifting.
The late summer of 2017 found me finished with flight school and welcoming a son to our growing family. Only a few months after flight school, I deployed overseas. Before deploying I frantically searched for a place to store my Boss and was kept up at night with thoughts of selling it. At the 11th hour before deploying we found a family friend who kept it in her recently built free-standing garage a couple of towns over from us. It saved me from having to sell the car. I thoroughly cleaned the inside and outside of the Boss, although I left a some study materials from flight school and a few tools in the cockpit.
I pulled the battery out and put it on a trickle charger, put dry gas in the tank, locked and covered the car with its cover. I placed dryer sheets and moth balls in a variety of places inside and outside the car, mostly in entry and exit points as well as common nest locations. I called my insurance company and made them aware of my impending deployment and was assured the car was now placed under “storage.” This last detail would come to haunt me later.
Now this is where things get painful, so if you are still reading forgive me for any terseness and brevity. It is now early winter, 2018. My wife and I went to see the car a few weeks after being home after settling in. After removing the dusty cover, I opened the car to a wall of odor that was unbearable for a few feet around the open door. My wife saw the look on my face and knew something was wrong. The interior was covered in droppings, remnants of urine, scrounged nuts, and mold. The same theme continued under the hood and in the trunk. I went home, grabbed a mask, and spent hours cleaning the car. I threw away tools and study materials that had degraded to worthlessness from a year of being shut in with mice. The stench remained no matter how much I cleaned. Distraught, I called it a night and phoned my insurance company the next morning.
The guy on the other end of the phone claimed the car was not insured for storage, only for liability, but said he would forward my dispute to their claims dispute team. I still attempted further cleaning of the car and readied it to move somewhere where I could strip it and fully clean it. A representative from my insurance company called me a few days later and gave me the news: I did not specifically ask for storage insurance, they only placed my policy on storage “hold” at a discounted rate from before. I was on my own.
After bringing the car home I began to tear it down (while wearing a mask of course). The damage was heartbreaking. Surprises waited underneath seemingly every interior trim panel, carpet, corner and cubby, both high and low. Pools of urine, feces and discarded food were everywhere. The odor was oppressive even after throwing the carpet and headliner away.
The Boss still sits in my garage now. It’s been a couple of months and I’m still not sure what to do with it. Though it seems to run and drive ok (so far) the interior is ruined and gutted save the door panels and dash, which still have to be done. So consider this a classified ad: 2012 Boss 302, 30,000 (nearly) trouble free miles, owned by one man… and plenty of mice.