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Thread: Article: The Dennis Leech Boss 429 Mustang

  1. #1

    Article: The Dennis Leech Boss 429 Mustang

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    If only championships could be won purely on ambition and big thinking. Then surely Dennis Leech would be 1972 British Saloon Car Champion. Leech’s slightly unorthodox approach to trying to topple the established heavy hitters in the BSCC, was ambitious, and ultimately a failure. But as a young team owner, with a tight budget, Leech’s efforts should be remembered for what they were, for purely trying to out-muscle the opposition, with what is likely the worlds only 429 Boss powered road race Mustang.

    For teams competing for outright race wins in the 1969 BSCC, the last under Group 5 rules, there were really only two options, the Ford Escort Twin-Cam, or the American Ford Falcon Sprint. The Falcon had been granted an impossible homologation weight limit in 1964 of just 980kg, when a brace of these machines were entered for the Monte Carlo Rally, prepared by Hollman-Moody, and that same weight limit carried over to touring car racing. To help reach this limit, the Falcon had been granted the use of fibreglass doors, front mudguards, hood, and trunk lid.

    For the 1969 BSCC, Falcon Sprints were entered for Brian Muir, Roy Pierpoint, Terry Sanger, Martin Birrane, Mike Moore, and Dennis Leech. Pierpoint got his campaign off to a good start, winning four of the first five races, with Frank Gardner claiming Round 2 at Silverstone in his Alan Mann Racing Escort TC. In Round 6, at Crystal Palace, Bill Shaw Racing entered a new Chevrolet Camaro for Pierpoint, but the Camaro was struck down by a spate of mechanical issues until gaining its breakthrough win in Round 8, at Croft, followed by victory in the next round at Silverstone. When the Camaro was destroyed in a shunt at Round 9’s Oulton Park, Pierpoint reverted back to the Falcon for the final two races.

    As a late arrival to the ’69 season, Leech came on strong towards the end, winning Round 9, at Oulton Park, Round 10, at Brands Hatch, and placing 2nd to Gardners victorious Escort in the final race, held once again at Brands Hatch.

    For 1970, and the introduction of Group 2 rules, several teams again went in search of American V8 power. Bill Shaw Racing built a new Camaro for Pierpoint, while Malcolm Gartlan Racing, who ran a Falcon Sprint for Brian Muir in 1969, imported a 1968 Penske Racing Camaro, with backing from Wiggins-Teape. Pierre de Plessis entered another Camaro, to be driven by David Piper, David Hobbs, and David Prophet at various times. Meanwhile, with Alan Mann Racing closing its doors at the conclusion of the 1969 season, Ford Advanced Vehicles sent one of the 1969 Bud Moore Racing, Kar-Kraft built Trans-Am Mustangs to England for Frank Gardner, whose team updated the car with 1970 bodywork.

    Meanwhile, Dennis Leech had set about building a new Boss 302 Mustang, which made its BSCC debut in Round 5 at Crystal Palace, where the car retired after qualifying 3rd. Leech also entered the car in a support event to the Spa Francorchamps 1000km race, with Jackie Ickx driving, but again it retired, while leading. The best result recorded by Leech in the 1970 BSCC was 2nd, in both Round 6 at Silverstone Round 8 at Croft. But outright race wins in 1970 were shared between the Australian drivers Gardner and Muir, although John Fitzpatrick impressively drove his Team Broadspeed Escort TC to victory in the final race at Brands Hatch. Fitzpatrick, along with team mate Chris Craft, and John Willment Racing’s Mike Crabtree were often snapping at the heels of the big cars.

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    For the 1971 season, Leech fitted the Mustang with a larger 351 motor topped with quad-Webers, to take on increased opposition. Team Broadspeed were now equipped with their new BDA Escorts, with fuel-injection and 5-speed gearboxes. Gardners Mustang was heavily damaged when being unloaded in an Australian shipping yard late in 1970, and he moved to Adrian Chambers’ SCA Freight team part-way through the 1971 season, to run a Camaro. Martin Thomas, who’d raced an earlier Mustang in 1970, purchased the Pierpoint Camaro for the ’71 season. A new RS2600 Capri was entered for Gerry Birrell. Meanwhile, Martin Birrane, who’d been racing a ’68 Mustang notch back throughout 1970, imported a 1970 Boss 302 Mustang which had been the development car for Kar-Kraft. Malcolm Gartlan Racing had now fitted Brian Muirs Camaro with a larger 350ci motor.

    The battle for outright race wins during the early races in 1971 was between Muir and the flying Fitzpatrick, while Gardner appeared for the first time in the SCA Freight Camaro in Round 5. This was too late for him to mount a challenge for the championship, but he immediately challenged Muir for race wins, taking his first victory in Round 7 at Silverstone. For Leech, it was not a good season. The Mustang was struck by mechanical issues in several races, the only real positive being a second place in Round 10 to Fitzpatrick, although the Escort driver was well up the road at the finish.

    Of course, with class victories counting for the overall championship, Bill McGovern took the title in his incredible Hillman Imp, following on from his 1970 victory.

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    For 1972, Malcolm Gartlan Racing elected to run an RS2600 Capri for Muir. Gardner was back for a full campaign with the Adrian Chambers team, who’d now built a new ’70 shape Camaro. Dave Mathews was entered in a Broadspeed built BDA Escort run by Melton Racing, Dave Brodie was in another BDA Escort, and David Howes was armed with an AMC Javelin. Terry Sanger returned to the series, taking over the former Wiggins-Teape Camaro of Muir, while Martin Thomas was back with his similar car.

    Meanwhile, Leech decided more power was needed, and through Hollman-Moody, imported a sledgehammer 429 Boss motor for the Mustang. To fit the big 429 into the engine bay, the suspension turrets had to be modified. Initially, Leech ran the motor still fitted with a single 4-barrel Holley, but then fit it with alloy Gurney-Weslake heads, with four valves per cylinder. Leech then manufactured a slide throttle fuel-injection system for it.

    The Mustang, now sporting a crisp new metallic turquoise paint scheme, looked a million bucks, but this ambitious project would make for a very frustrating season. Having missed the opening round, Leech qualified 8th for Round 2, at Oulton Park, some 7sec off Muirs pole time in the Capri. But he worked his way through the field to be 3rd at the finish, behind Muir and Gardner. At Thruxton, for Round 3, the Mustang again lined up in 8th on the grid, and was still running at the finish, behind Gardner, Mathews, and Sanger. At Silverstone, Round 4, Leech finished a lap down, in 9th place, but at least he finished. He didn’t make the start in Round 5, at Crystal Palace.

    For Round 6, at Brands Hatch, the Mustang qualified 9th, and finished one lap down, in 7th. A dnf at Oulton Park ended a good run that began with a 3rd place on the grid, while more disappointment followed at the Silverstone TT, after he qualified 6th in a quality field which doubled as Round 8 of the European Touring Car Championship. He didn’t enter the next round at Mallory Park, and another dnf rounded out what had been a difficult season for Leech and his ambitious Mustang project.

    After the frustrations of the 1972 season, Leech ran only a limited campaign in 1973, the last year in which the BSCC was run under Group 2 rules. Muir had switched to a BMW GB backed 3.0 CSL, although this car struggled against Gardners SCA Freight Camaro, which for 1973 was fitted with the alloy 7.0 litre motor used by fellow countryman Bob Jane to win the 1971 Australian Touring Car Championship, in another Camaro. Leech made his first appearance in Round 5 at Silverstone, finishing 14th, two laps down, after engine issues.

    The last BSCC race for the Mustang was at the penultimate round, at Silverstone, for the Tourist Trophy, where Leech was involved in an accident in the first heat, and unable to start the second heat.

    With nowhere for the Mustang to race other than in the Special Saloons category for heavily modified sedans, the Mustang took the usual nose-dive in desirability as old race cars tend to do, and ended up doing a bit of ASCAR club racing, driven by Roy Pierpoint.

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    In the mid-1980s, Eric Walker purchased the Leech Mustang, complete with 429 motor and a spare 429 in bits (but missing the Leech built fuel-injection system) and added it to his growing collection of ‘60s and ‘70s American sedans to have competed in the BSCC, including the Terry Sanger Falcon Sprint, and Martin Birrane ’70 Mustang. All three vehicles were in original condition, as last raced, and showing the stresses brought about by years of being pounded upon. With nowhere to race them, Erics plan was to hold on to the cars until their values rose once again, then sell one of the Mustangs to pay for the restoration of the other. Unfortunately a divorce in 1987 forced him to sell the cars. The Falcon went to Sweden, while the two Mustangs eventually ended up back in the US.

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    Although not a genuine Boss 429, the Dennis Leech Mustang is perhaps the only road race Mustang to have competed with a Boss 429 motor. Ultimately, the concept failed, but anyone fortunate enough to have seen this car race, will never forget it.

    The Dennis Leech Mustang is currently undergoing restoration in the US.

    My thanks to:

    Wolfgang Kohrn at www.ponysite.de

    Frank de Jong at www.touringcarracing.net

    Mike Hayward at www.mikehaywardcollection.com

    Eric Walker

    The original race photos in this article were kindly Mike Hayward. The later photos were supplied by Eric Walker.

  3. #3
    Great write up steve, did not know anything about 4 valve GW heads for a lima block...wow! Thing musta been a weapon in a straight line! I believe there was a bud moore built BOSS 429 built to race in A/P in the US... don't know too much about it, although the car still exists I believe, will try digging through my archives for a pic...

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    Thanks Pauly, yeah it seems its straight line speed was its biggest asset.

    I'd love to know more about that Boss 429 for A/P.

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    Nice new shots from Eric, Steve and thanks for mentioning.
    Got new pics of it recently from the owner.
    (Sorry, had to remove those, they will be replace with new ones soon - March 2nd 2013)
    Last edited by PonysiteEd; 03-03-2013 at 02:32 PM.

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by Steve Holmes View Post
    Thanks Pauly, yeah it seems its straight line speed was its biggest asset.

    I'd love to know more about that Boss 429 for A/P.
    This one or KK1408?
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    Picture credit to Hans Laschet

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    WOW! Do you have more info on this car Wolfgang? It looks incredible.

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    Quote Originally Posted by PonysiteEd View Post
    Nice new shots from Eric, Steve and thanks for mentioning.
    Got new pics of it recently from the owner.
    Attachment 10775Attachment 10776
    Thanks for adding these photos Wolfgang. Do you know to what guise the Leech car is being restored? Would it be to 1970, 1971, or 1972 spec?

  9. #9
    The Martin Birrane Kar-Kraft development car which is mentioned above and appears in the photo above from Eric Walker, is in this excellent race footage from Crystal Palace, 1971, which features the epic battle between Martin Thomas in the Camaro, plus Mike Crabtree in the Escort RS1600, and Gerry Marshall in the Viva GT. If you have a spare 20 minutes, I guarantee you'll enjoy this footage, with Murray Walker commentating. Martin Birrane starts off the back, and quickly works his way through the field.


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  11. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by Steve Holmes View Post
    WOW! Do you have more info on this car Wolfgang? It looks incredible.
    I am not sure about it being the same original car... but this one appeared at Ft. Worth in 1989.
    Picture courtesy Dave Petersen
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  12. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by Steve Holmes View Post
    Thanks for adding these photos Wolfgang. Do you know to what guise the Leech car is being restored? Would it be to 1970, 1971, or 1972 spec?
    This is still open. Several people were interested to buy it, also from the UK, they or the current owner may later decide the final dress.

  13. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by PonysiteEd View Post
    I am not sure about it being the same original car... but this one appeared at Ft. Worth in 1989.
    Picture courtesy Dave Petersen
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    This is a really nice looking car. It does look very similar to the car in the black and white photo you posted above, in particular the way the wheel openings have been reshaped to allow for the tyres.

    Is there any information about how successful this car was in racing? Also, I see it has #15 on the door. #15 was a number Bud Moore always liked to use in Nascar and Trans-Am etc. So could this be the car Pauly (zombie289) was referring to above?

  14. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by Steve Holmes View Post
    Is there any information about how successful this car was in racing?
    So could this be the car Pauly (zombie289) was referring to above?
    1. I don't remember exactly, will ask my friend Hans, he collects anything B/M.
    2. He might think of KK1408 below? He knows better....

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    Picture - if I am right - was from the B302 forum, B429 section.

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    Thanks again Wolfgang.

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    Yeah the white car was the one i knew of, have seen a pic of the blue car, but I honestly thought it was the white car, repainted, so its pretty cool too know that there were two of them built,..

  17. #17

    B429 A/P racer

    Quote Originally Posted by zombie289 View Post
    Yeah the white car was the one i knew of, have seen a pic of the blue car, but I honestly thought it was the white car, repainted, so its pretty cool too know that there were two of them built,..
    I reread some stuff on the B302 forum, it seems indeed, the white is the same as the blue one. It was owned by Rick Nagel once during that Yellow Rose Show in Ft. Worth, later sold to Juan Gonzales, if I read it correctly, taken apart and painted in that blue. Hmmm....
    Ed Ludtke from the Mustang Road Racing Registry has two more B429 road racers in his registry. One should be the french one from Moga and/or Heuzet.

  18. #18
    I see the Leech Mustang is due to be released in 1/43 scale by SMTS :

    http://www.grandprixmodels.com/searc...SEARCH&back2=1

    I remember first reading about this car back in the early 70's when it was featured in a UK magazine called either "Auto Enthusiast" or it's replacement, "Fast Car". Wish i still had a copy of that, anyone on here got a copy by any chance ?

    Great article Steve !!

  19. #19
    Thanks Alistair! Awesome model. I'm impressed the Leech Mustang made it to 'model status', it wasn't as well known as some other competition Mustangs.

  20. #20
    Finally got off my ass and scanned this, Super Ford 1989

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