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If you like the 2013 Ford Mustang Boss 302...

2013 Ford Mustang Boss 302. (Ford Motor)

The 2013 Ford Mustang Boss 302 is not subtle, but it is effective. (Ford Motor)

The Mustang is almost primitive. It is the only rear-drive new car for sale in North America that still uses a solid, one-piece rear axle, and its basic suspension design has not changed significantly since 1979. But it works. And it works uncannily well as the 2013 Mustang Boss 302.

The Boss is the amplified, track-ready version of the V8-powered Mustang GT. As in the GT, the Boss’s engine is the 5-liter, dual overhead-cam, 32-valve “Coyote” V8 that was introduced for the 2011 model year. But compared to the GT’s engine, the Boss uses modified, freer-flowing cylinder heads, upgraded pistons, revised electronics and a less restrictive quad exhaust system to permit it to rev an additional 500 rpm – up to 7,500 rpm – before a limiter kicks in. That knocks horsepower up from 414 to a number with sinister symmetry: 444.

Depress the Boss’s accelerator pedal and the engine revs with an alto growl, and the coupe rocks over as if a shiver were travelling up its spine. Shove the mandatory 6-speed manual transmission into gear and the optional Recaro seat under the driver nudges forward in anticipation.

Release the firm clutch, the 285/35ZR19 rear Pirelli P Zero tires bite into the pavement and the Boss 302 launches hard. According to InsideLine.com, the Boss will rip to 60 miles per hour from a stop in just 4.6 seconds and roar through the quarter mile in 12.7 seconds at 113 mph. The Shelby GT500, with its ludicrous 662-horsepower, 5.8-liter, supercharged V8, is quicker – but that Boss is still mighty quick.

And though the Boss’s suspension design is primitive, it is tuned perfectly to its purpose. Credit a ride height that is lower than that of the GT, stiffer springs, more supple adjustable shocks and a larger anti-roll bar out back. When the 255/40ZR19 front P Zeroes enter a corner, the car stays almost flat as it rotates around the driver. With the traction control turned off, the rear end will sweep out into a sweet, manageable drift as it passes the tires’ limits of adhesion. And there are big Brembo front disc brakes aboard to handle repeated hard stops.

It is comfortable enough to use every day, but the Boss 302’s real talent is hustling around a racetrack. If comfort is of little concern, there is a Laguna Seca package, named after the famed circuit in Northern California, that amplifies the Boss’s talents. That package does away with the rear seat and adds a stiffer suspension, as well as $6,995 to the bottom line.

The Boss 302’s base price of $42,995, inclusive of $795 destination charge, means it is nowhere near being the cheapest new Mustang. And if you want one, you will have to act soon. The original Boss 302 was only built for two years – 1969 and 1970 – and Ford says so, too, will this one. The 2013 model represents year two.

Then try…

The obvious alternative to any new Mustang is an old Mustang. Ford has been building its pony car since 1964, and the Mustang is generally recognized as the most popular collector car in America. Consequently, there are a lot of good old cars from which to choose, with plenty of sources for parts – and there are few cars more simply built or easier to work on.

Prices for vintage Mustangs range from high six figures for examples of the classic 1965 Shelby GT350R with solid racing pedigrees to three figures for 6-cylinder beaters from the ‘90s. Well-preserved or well-restored examples of the original 1969 and 1970 Mustang Boss 302 have recently crested above $100,000. But that does not mean there are no bargains to be had.

As heretical as it may seem, an enthusiast would do well to forego the coupes from the halcyon ‘60s and ‘70s. These models may share most of their parts and design with higher-performance fastback and high-glamour convertibles produced alongside them, but they are not a lot of fun to drive. And unless your sense of irony has overwhelmed your common sense, do not bother with the truly awful 1974-78 Mustang II, either.

It is the so-called “Fox body” Mustangs, built between 1979 and 1993, that have the most potential.

The V8-powered Mustangs of this era, particularly those models wearing the camera-ready “5.0” badges on their fenders, were performance icons throughout the ‘80s. And the boys who lusted after them then are only now earning incomes that would allow them to indulge their automotive nostalgia. Finding any unmolested, low-mileage 5.0 from this era is not easy, but such cars are unlikely to lose their value if well cared for.

Generally, it is the 225-horsepower 5-liter models built after 1987, with the improved electronic fuel injection system, that prove the most rewarding and reliable. Even for a nearly perfect car, it is difficult to imagine spending more than $20,000. Put the balance between the 5.0 and the Boss 302 toward a good insurance policy and your kid’s college fund.

The pick of the Fox-body herd is arguably the 1993 SVT Mustang Cobra. A few more than 5,000 of these special hatchbacks were built, and they all featured a modified, 235-horsepower version of the old overhead-valve 5-liter V8, incorporating special cylinder heads and a unique intake manifold. The Cobra’s subtly altered bodywork, re-tuned suspension and 17-inch wheels make it the most sophisticated, and expensive, Mustang of its era.

Consequently, these SVTs were generally bought by older enthusiasts and better cared for during their lives. A few have literally been in storage with their window stickers in place since the moment they were purchased at the few Ford dealerships that carried them.

As this is written, there is a teal SVT Cobra with only 6,000 miles on its odometer on eBay Motors for a buy-it-now price of $26,500. That is about $15,000 less than a new Boss 302, and you likely would have the only one in town.

This conveniently conveys two things to bystanders: You may not own a Boss, but you are one.