We all dream about low-mileage barn finds. Southern California's Don Prochot can count himself among the lucky few who have lived that dream. A couple of years ago, he unearthed a 15,000-mile '71 Boss 351 Mustang, one of the 1,806 produced for 1971. Of those, only nine rolled off the Dearborn assembly line in Medium Yellow Gold with a Ginger Stripe cloth and Corinthian Vinyl interior. To say Don was stunned to find this Boss 351 SportsRoof in such impeccable condition is an understatement.
Raymond Becker's father bought the car new in 1971. It was actually one of two purchased--one for the street and the other for drag racing. "Fortunately, this one wasn't driven much," Don says. "The other Boss was used as the drag car. Raymond kept both until his father passed away in 1994."
If you're old enough to remember Detroit's golden years, you remember watching this exciting period evolve then end as abruptly as it began. It's challenging to pinpoint who fired the first shot in the horsepower wars. Ford is legendary for its 427 big-blocks. Chevrolet inspired racers and musicians with its 409 Impalas. Chrysler dominated streets such as Woodward Avenue in Detroit and Van Nuys Boulevard in Los Angeles with its 426-inch Hemi. Even American Motors came out of the woods with hot 401-inch Ramblers and AMXs. Make no mistake; Each automaker brought something valuable--and memorable--to the nationwide Saturday night drag racing scene.
From 1965-1967, Ford took its nimble Mustang racing and beat the pants off of the competition three years in a row in Sports Car Club of America B-Production competition. In 1968, Ford absorbed its share of unfortunate blows with the short-lived 302ci Tunnel Port. Because racers had to push the engine well above 8,000 rpm to make torque, they blew them up more times than they saw the winner's circle. The Tunnel Port head was a great idea in theory. In practice, it was a miserable failure.
During the '68 racing season, Ford was putting the finishing touches on a new small-block V-8, the 351 Cleveland. It possessed the same bore and stroke as the 351 Windsor, yet the Cleveland had decidedly different architecture, easily identified by its wide large-port cylinder heads and broad-shouldered, pent-roof valve covers.
The Cleveland block is kin more to Oldsmobile Rocket V-8s of the period with a steel-plate timing cover and a 12/6-o'clock fuel-pump bolt pattern. The 351C also has a dry intake manifold, just like Oldsmobile. These elements alone made the Cleveland unlike any V-8 Ford was producing at the time. It's believed that former General Motors boss and then-Ford President Bunkie Knudson brought the Cleveland's architecture from GM. If you're skeptical, consider this: The Cleveland's canted-valve heads bear similarity to big-block Chevy heads of the period.
Ford engineers solved the 302 Tunnel Port's woes by fitting it with 351C heads to conceive the Boss 302 for '69-'70. Ford engineers had to relocate water passages and create special pistons to get the Boss 302 off the ground for 1969. Of course, there was more to the Boss 302 than Cleveland heads, including the Tunnel Port's four-bolt main block, coupled with a steel crank and heavy-duty rods.
The Boss 302 put Mustang back on a winning track in 1969, with even better performance in 1970, as Bud Moore's Boss 302s won the Trans-Am championship with Parnelli Jones and George Follmer in the driver seats.