For Steve Collins, the trip to Winston-Salem, North Carolina, in 1996 to check out a black '71 Boss 351 for sale in Hemmings Motor News turned into a Boss bonanza. Sitting next to the black Boss was a second Boss 351, also for sale. So in typical Mustang madness fashion, Steve bought them both.
The bonus Boss caught Steve's attention because it was all-original, with just over 58,000 miles showing on the odometer. Just as important, all of the unique Boss 351 pieces were still on the car, including the ram-air, rev limiter, intake and exhaust manifolds, correct four-speed and 3.91-geared rear axle, and Hurst T-handle. The car even had the Ford mufflers and tailpipes. That was the good news. The bad news was the Boss 351 had been neglected since 1982, sitting outside a paint and body shop for 14 years. "It had deteriorated to the point where everything had to be restored or replaced," Steve said. "Unfortunately, it was also very rusty."
So Steve embarked on what would become a nearly six-year restoration odyssey in a shop behind his office. Working in the evenings and whenever else he could grab some spare time from his day job as a locksmith in Jacksonville, Steve meticulously restored the Boss 351, performing all of the work-including body and paint-himself, with the exception of the engine rebuild, which was handled by Stan Brown at Auto Parts and Machine Shop in Jacksonville. Rust had attacked much of the sheetmetal, so Steve gained plenty of experience behind the torch and welder as he replaced the floorpans, both rear quarters, wheelhouses, trunk floor, taillight panel, fender aprons, radiator support, front crossmember, and driver's door. Originally Pewter, Steve sprayed on a color change in a more eye-popping Bright Red.
Like most of the 1,805 Boss 351s produced in 1971, Steve's Boss was not heavily optioned, coming with the AM/eight-track as its only option. During the restoration, Steve added the Magnum 500 wheels in place of the standard 15-inch "corporate" hub caps, rear defrost glass, console, rear spoiler, and a complete Mach 1 Sports interior with white seat upholstery and Deluxe door panels.
Restored to compete in Mustang Club of America trailered classes, Steve's Boss 351 is a frequent participant in Florida and Southeast shows, where it has earned awards at the Silver Springs Roundup and the MCA Nationals in Pensacola. In addition to showing the Boss 351, Steve serves as president of the active Jacksonville Mustang Club and assists with the Boss 351 Registry.
With two Boss 351s in his shop, Steve says he elected to restore the low-mileage car first because it was more complete. Of course, it also provided plenty of experience for tackling the restoration of the black Boss 351-which was the car he went to buy in the first place.