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.
Meanwhile, anyone paying close attention to Washington, D.C. (Federal safety standards), and Hartford, Connecticut (the insurance industry), could see the writing on the wall. Factory musclecars were becoming increasingly unpopular due to high insurance rates and tougher safety standards.
For Ford, the special Boss 302 engine wasn't economical to produce. When the company pulled out of racing in the summer of 1971, a quick decision was made to drop the Boss 302 and replace it with the more economically feasible Boss 351, a solid-lifter version of the production 351C. Before the change, Ford produced six '71 Boss 302s at Dearborn in August 1970 for promotional purposes, even sending out photos of the cars with Boss 302 decals to magazines. Later, the graphics were changed to "Boss 351," but the cars carried G-code VINs and factory-installed Boss 302 engines. At least one survives as a 351C-2V SportsRoof with an M-code data sticker over the original G-code sticker.
Even with the late changeover, the Boss 351 was one of the best Mustang musclecars ever. With 330 hp--up from the Boss 302's 290 and the same as the '71 Camaro Z/28--the Boss 351 posted some of the quickest quarter-mile times in Mustang history.
In addition to its power and eye-appeal, Don's '71 Boss 351 is loaded with all kinds of appealing options, such as a rear spoiler, power steering, a console, an AM radio, an instrumentation package, Magnum 500 wheels, and the Interior Decor Group. The best part is its low mileage. There's nothing quite like the smell of factory-original Ginger vinyl and that nice, tight feel of a car that hasn't been driven much in 36 years.
When Don took possession of this car three years ago, he received all the documentation--the bill of sale, several years worth of registrations, the Ford warranty card, and even the bank payment book. This is the thrill of the treasure hunt for those who crave finding factory-original time capsules.
Don's 351 Facts 1,806 units produced Only 9 produced in Medium Yellow Gold 13.80/104-mph quarter-mile (Motor Trend, Jan. '71) 330 hp at 5,400 rpm 370 lb-ft of torque at 4,000 rpm Boss 351 fitted with Autolite 4300D carburetor Aluminum dual-plane high-rise manifold Dual-point distributor Four-speed only 3.91:1 Traction-Lok rear axle Staggered rear shocks Power front disc brakes Three owners, including Don Prochot Full documentation with this car History traced back to original owner Ordered on March 8, 1971 Serialized on March 10, 1971 Produced at Dearborn assembly on March 25, 1971 Sold new in May 1971 Documented with a Marti Report