1971 Boss 351 Mustang

Photo courtesy Ron Kimball Studio Mtn View California

"A Story of a Boss"

The year is 1971. The place, Travis Air Force base in Northern California. A young serviceman returns from overseas duty to find that his girlfriend has been somewhat less than faithful during his absence. They part ways. Since he is now alone with money burning a whole in his pocket and a longstanding passion for fast Fords, he proceeds to the local Ford dealer, Chet Monez Ford in Fairfield, and plunks down a hefty $200 deposit on the baddest Ford available: A 1971 BOSS 351 Mustang. They call him late on a Friday to tell him the car is THERE, but, they won't be open over the weekend, so he has to wait til Monday to take delivery. He immediately drives to the dealer's lot, and sure enough, there it sits: A brand new Grabber Yellow BOSS 351, securely locked behind chain link fencing. And not a soul around. With a sigh, he retreats to wait out one long weekend. On Feb 23, 1971, he finally takes posession of arguably the fastest production Mustang made.

Over the next five years, he uses the car the way it was meant to be used: Drag races, autocrosses and a little street racing. He even manages to make a cross country trip in the car, and tow a boat. In 1976, the BOSS manages to break the crankshaft clean in 2, in the process bending a rod. He has the motor rebuilt, substituting a Hank The Crank forged piece for the original cast crank. Plus one replacement rod and piston.

Still being in the service has both benefits and drawbacks. One of those drawbacks is being shipped out to foreign ports, like the Philippines, where roads and available fuel aren't always conducive to High Performance machinery. Since he doesn't know how long he'll be gone he strikes up a deal with a neighbor, who buys the Boss with a tacit agreement to resell the car to him upon his return from overseas.

Upon his return, the neighbor declines to sell the car back. No manner of cajoling can wrest the car from him. So much for verbal contracts. He sees the car for a while, but eventually the neighbor moves away, and they lose contact. His next assignment takes him to the East coast, and hopes of ever regaining his lost Boss begin to fade......

....fast forward a decade or so.

A friend of mine at work keeps talking to me about cars. He wants to buy something to play around with, mostly talking Corvette or Trans Am. One day he shows up at my desk to tell me what he bought....a Grabber Yellow 1971 BOSS 351. I followed him outside to see the car, and it was gorgeous. Appearing all original, unmolested, low mileage. I immediately offered to buy it, but since he had only had it for a day, he said no. For the next year I would hear about all his latest exploits with the car...the late model GT he raced, the Corvette on 280 and so on. I just prayed he wouldn't wreck the car. He was always complaining about the poor visibility and how he couldn't take the car anywhere without his girlfriend to navigate.

About a year later, he finally called me to say it was for sale, and was I still interested. Three days later, I drove the BOSS home. I immediately start learning about BOSS 351s, and in the process obtained the original factory invoice for the car from Lois Eminger in Dearborn. Lois's husband worked at the Dearborn assembly plant, and Lois was able to acquire the invoices for most Dearborn Mustangs ( which includes all the BOSS 351s) She also sent me information on the BOSS 351 Registry being maintained by Terry Richards in Florida. I forward all the particulars on my BOSS to Terry Richards to include in his Registry.....

....fast forward several years...

A service man on the East coast who loves Ford High Performance cars is attending a car show in Northern Florida where he chances upon a BOSS 351, owned by Terry Richards. They get to talking, and he tells Terry about the BOSS 351 he purchased new many years before. He still has the VIN number and promises to follow up with Terry to see if perhaps the car is among Terry's Registry.....in 1994 he sends Terry a letter...

.....fast forward two years...

It's January, 1996, and I arrive home from work. I go to check the phone answering machine, and hear the following: "If your name is Walt and you own a BOSS 351 Mustang, we need to talk. I'm the original owner and I have some items you might be interested in. Call me at ......"

Well, I can't dial the phone fast enough. Sure enough, he is the original owner of my BOSS 351 Mustang. We probably talked for an hour about the car, and it's history. When we finish, he promises to send me some of the "items" he has and I plan on sending him
some pictures, plus the calendar that features the car on the cover. (See my letter to Dave)

Two weeks later, two boxes arrive on my doorstep from ......Georgia. I can hardly wait to rip them open to see what items he could possibly have kept all these years. To my utter amazement, he has sent me a virtual treasure trove: The original Window Sticker (which of course matches the factory invoice I have), the original dealer paperwork, financing and deposit receipt. The original acceleration & braking certificate that came with the car. The original pouch that held the original owners manuals that I have. An unused set of keys with the Ford serial number tag attached. Correspondence from John Vermeersch of Total Performance, including engine blueprinting specs for the BOSS 351. A copy of the bill of sale to Richard Arciniega, dated Aug 1976 (PS I have since also spoken with Richard on the phone!) Plus about 50 pages of magazine photocopies of all BOSS 351 articles from 1971-72.

And remember the broken crank? He sent me the original bent rod with piston attached that was replaced. Plus the original rear shock absorbers that he replaced with air shocks when the car was new. These shocks are absolutely original, unused, with all markings intact. Even the rubber donuts! And of course, a big pile of receipts for everything from tires to sparkplugs.

And the story doesn't end here.....

Around 1999, I get a phone call at home from a Curtis Martin, who tells me he used to own my Boss 351!  Turns out he is the one who sold it to my friend at work.  He got my name and number from the photographer Ron Kimball ... and he has the original buildsheet from the car!  Curtis came out to the 2001 VMOA car show in Milpitas and presented me with the build sheet.

And we're still not done.....

In January 2004 I get email from Dave Johnston. Turns out he is retired and newly remarried, and is planning a trip out to Southern California and would love to stop by and see his old car. And so in February of 2004, Dave and his wife Bonnie show up at the house. We sit and talk for a while, and when Dave's ready we all go out to the garage, and Dave get's to see his BOSS 351 for the first time in 28 years... looking pretty much like it did the last time he saw it.

Ford fanatics have probably existed since Henry sold his first car, and thanks to registries like Terry Richards', they can sometimes meet across space and time.

Photo Galleries

OK enough words. Of all my cars I probably have the most photos of my Boss 351. Of course being the anal packrat most car guys are, I have them all. They just needed a place to be put. So here they are. All 270 or so of them.....

My car is a 75K mile, California original, unrestored, (repainted in 1985) car. It just recently (2007) got a complete suspension/steering rebuild using all correct (or as correct as practical) parts. The upper A arms are NOS Ford service parts.

Just a couple of notes:

Probably 99% of these photos are mine, taken by me and of my car. There are some others that I took off Ebay ads, because they showed correct parts, like carburetors, intake manifolds and distributors. And the Calendar photos of course are by noted photographer Ron Kimball. The car has appeared on at least 3 Calendar covers. I'll take pictures of those and post them here (of course!) Most all of my photos have the date on them. The ones without a date are most likely from another source. Whatever the source, these pictures all represent what I believe to be 99% correctness..!

  • Body: Lots of detail shots, boring as hell
  • Brakes: Taken during recent suspension rebuild.
  • Calendar: Photos by Ron Kimball (1200 pixel ..large.. )
  • Clutch: Bruce Couture (Moderndriveline.com) took these for use in developing his 71-73 cable linkage. The 71-73 has a totally different linkage than prior years.
  • Documents: Window sticker, invoice buildsheet. Everything
  • Driveline: Boring, good shot of original Ford rear axle seal
  • Engine: This category is the largest of course since the car is all about the Boss 351 motor
  • Historical: Original Polaroids from the early 70s
  • Suspension: Again taken during the recent rebuild. The photo showing two sway bars I believe is a compariosn of a bar for a car with a transverse muffler(the black bar came off my 67 GT500) versus the brown bar off the Boss
  • Trunk: Spacesaver spare and jack
  • Interior: (coming .....) Not a single picture yet....

© 2007 Walt Boeninger - all rights reserved