It's hard to relate to the Vietnam War unless you lived through it. Craig Fackler was there. To this day, he remembers the oppressive heat and humidity of Southeast Asia and the hectic pace of a busy flight line at Utpao Air Base, Thailand, where the thundering roar of military aircraft could be heard any time of day. As a U.S. Air Force Strategic Air Command crew chief for B-52 bombers, Craig's job was to keep the Boeing Stratofortresses flying.
Like many homesick military personnel in 1970, Craig wanted a new muscle car when he returned home. More specifically, he wanted a 429 Super Cobra Jet Torino but could not afford it. So Craig sat down and penciled his order-a '71 Boss 351 Mustang in Bright Blue Metallic with four-speed, 3.91:1 Traction-Lok, Magnum 500s, standard white vinyl interior, and AM/FM stereo. He took delivery in Des Moines, Iowa, and promptly drove the Boss to his new duty station at Pease AFB in New Hampshire. Craig remembers his new Boss 351 engine spinning a constant 4,000 rpm at 70 mph on the way to the East coast.
In light of the hectic nature of the Vietnam War, the Air Force had other plans for Craig. He was ordered back to Thailand where he would again crew on the B-52s until President Nixon ended the conflict in 1972. It was time for Craig to come home, get married, and settle down.
At the time, fuel was becoming scarce and expensive. Craig's thoughts turned to more practical transportation for his growing family, so he unloaded his gas-guzzler Boss 351. Waking up the next morning, he knew he'd made a mistake, but he suffered through the hangover and quickly put the Boss 351 out of his mind by turning his attentions to motorcycles and family.
As Craig's kids came of age in the late 1980s, he started thinking about the Boss 351 again. Realizing it was unlikely he'd ever find his original car, or even one like it because it was a high-performance Mustang in an unusual color combination, Craig snapped up a '68 390 GT fastback as a compromise.
Craig was at a Mustang show when he spotted a guy with a sign around his neck, "Boss 351 For Sale." The guy had photographs. Craig rubbed his eyes in disbelief-Bright Metallic Blue with a standard white interior. He went home and dug out his original paperwork in search of his old Boss 351's vehicle identification number. When he compared his paperwork to the car, there was no doubt-Craig had found his original Boss 351. He went to the bank for a home improvement loan to buy his Boss 351 back.
Much to Craig's amazement, the car, although disassembled, was in good condition with only 37,000 miles. It still had many of its original parts, including the Autolite 4300D carburetor. To get the car back into shape, Craig's cousin, Teddy Lesher of Des Moines, performed the bodywork and laid down fresh Bright Blue Metallic paint. "My goal was to put the car back together and drive it," Craig tells us. He looked to Bill Lueck, Chuck Jennings, and Doug Christianson for help with the engine and driveline. Once it was back together, Craig couldn't get over the compliments.
We caught up with Craig in Phoenix, where he and his wife live today. When asked about the most challenging aspects of his restoration, he replied, "Finding new-old-stock items for a '71 Boss 351. Because only 1,805 were built, no one is reproducing the unique parts. Swap meets are the way to go, especially the big Ford swap meet in Columbus. That's where I found the ram-air hood in an original Ford box."