Fran Thompson really wanted...
Fran Thompson really wanted a '67 Shelby, but he ended up buying the most car he could afford, which turned out to be this '70 GT500 fastback. The Grabber Green '70 Boss 302 came along a few years later when the Candyapple Red Shelby, a frequent Gold award winner at Mustang Club of America events, became "too nice to drive." Eventually, the Boss 302 would become too nice to drive as well.
The two brightly colored muscle cars really make a statement in one man's garage. We got them together on the track at Virginia International Raceway after a SAAC event. They made an even more powerful statement outdoors.
Had Fran not followed Rick Parker's advice in 2002, his Shelby purchase might have been Grabber Green in another classic performance Mustang, a Boss 429. Fran was considering buying either this GT500 or a Boss 429 at Parker's Signature Auto Classics in Columbus, Ohio. To help his customer make a good decision, Rick posed this question: "What do you plan to do with the car?"
Fran said, "I always kidded with Rick. I told him, 'As soon as I give you the money, I'm going to do a burnout and put the car in the trailer.'"
The two had a good laugh. Fran's real answer was he intended to drive the Mustang. Rick advised against the Boss 429 and Fran wrote a check for the Shelby.
The purchase proved a good fit. He said, "I drove it everywhere." He considered pulling the motor for detailing, but that would take the car out of service. Fran wanted to keep driving. However, going to shows brought on his desire to compete.
Fran said, "I met a Thoroughbred judge at an MCA show in North Jersey and he asked if I would mind if he showed me some of the things that were wrong with my car. After he showed me a couple of things, I did what he told me and it went crazy from there."
As purchased from Parker, the Shelby was in good condition so a ground-up restoration wasn't needed. Fran didn't pull the engine or repaint the body, but detailing improved the points at MCA shows. As time permitted, Fran would pick a project and do it. For example, he removed the coil springs for powdercoating. He detailed the undercarriage and the underhood pulleys and valve covers.
Fran found himself picking up Gold awards at MCA shows. Each Gold is worth two points per show, or three points at a national MCA event. Like frequent flyer miles, an accumulation of 20 points would entitle Fran to an MCA grille badge.
As the points piled up, Fran learned that driving the Shelby led to 15-20 hours of clean up and detailing before a show. "I would put it up on jackstands and wipe the driveshaft down," he says. "Judges look for dust and dirt, and even fuzzies on the carpet." Eventually, keeping the car pristine took precedence over driving. So, for a replacement driver, he went looking for a Boss 302.
Fran soon discovered that Boss 302s are extremely hard to find. To quench his enthusiasm for the solid-lifter 302, Fran looked at cars in Canada, Ohio, Maryland, and New York. "I just found junk," he says.
Then, at a local cruise night near his home in Churchville, Pennsylvania, Fran found his Boss. "The owner drove it occasionally and really wasn't ready to sell," he says. "But I guess I wanted it more than he did."
The Boss 302 came with original sheetmetal, and a numbers-matching engine. Like the Shelby, it was in good condition overall. The Boss looked good and, best of all, Fran could drive it right away.
Fran underwent his detailing program, same as with the Shelby. Pulling the engine and painting the body were not necessary. He installed new leaf springs, mufflers, and exhaust, and "did the driveshaft thing again." Fran entered the Boss in one show, not at an MCA event but at a Shelby event, where the car earned a Silver.
Why did he enter just one event with the Boss? "I was still trying to show my Shelby. I was only a couple points away from a grille medallion. I bought the Boss to drive because the Shelby was too nice. But I ended up making the Boss just as nice and quit driving it, too."
At the 2007 MCA show in Augusta, Georgia, Fran hit 20 points with his Shelby and mounted the grille medallion. It included his name and the car's VIN. Fran estimates less than 200 Mustangs have ever received these awards.
Since we photographed Fran's cars, he has sold the pair and bought a pair of new Mustangs. He says, "I have a new Shelby and a new Boss. I'm not out of the Mustang hobby; I just changed years and colors, that's all."