Jim Smart
February 9, 2017
Photos By: Rob Kinnan, Al Rogers

There was a brief moment in deep history when Ford’s sporty Mustang went white hot before it went very dark—and for a long time. Mustang was a hot seller even against the likes of Camaro, Firebird, Barracuda, Challenger, and Javelin/AMX, not to mention corporate cousins Cougar, Torino, and Cyclone. When Semon E. “Bunkie” Knudsen came over from General Motors to run Ford Motor Company, it was his goal to infuse even more adrenaline into the Ford and Mercury divisions.

Knudsen’s objective at the Ford Division was to grow the Mustang name with extraordinary powerplants including the Boss Series ponies. His people birthed the Boss 302 and 429 for 1969-1970, which were among the greatest assets of Ford’s blistering Total Performance program of the 1960s. Although he gets plenty of criticism for this turn of events, making the Mustang the largest it has ever been, Knudsen can be credited with the Mustang’s redesign for 1971. Mustang got a wider track and a much longer wheelbase in anticipation of greater displacements planned at the time.

Jeff Ball’s Grabber Lime Boss 351 stole the show with an eye-popping optic overload. Although the perception of these wide-body Mustangs is overwhelming size, they were one of the best looking classic muscle cars ever built. They’re great America road cars long on power and smoothness.
Bret Eggart’s Dark Green Metallic Boss 351 demonstrates simplicity with its Ford corporate caps and trim rings flanked in rich green metallic—really a class act.
Boss graphics look good in Grabber Blue.

Ford was planning 500-plus cubic inch engines for the Mustang in the 1970s hence the marque’s dramatic growth. During the product planning phase of the all-new Mustang, Boss 302 was going to be carried over into 1971. In fact, Ford built six 1971 Boss 302 “G” engine code pre-production Mustang units, all of which were eventually changed to 351 Cleveland power (along with the corresponding engine code change in the VIN) when the decision was made to drop the Boss 302. Instead of Boss 302 for 1971, Ford chose to spice up the new 351 Cleveland with a hot mechanical cam, spread-bore induction, and hotter heads calling it Boss 351.

The decision to drop Boss 302 was one of corporate economics. It was cheaper to build a Boss 351 Cleveland instead of a Boss 302 with its own production line, special four-bolt main block, and other unique (and expensive) appointments. The Boss 351 also offered the displacement advantage, especially when pitted against Chevy’s 350ci small-block, Pontiac’s 350 and 400, Chrysler’s 340, and AMC’s 390 and 401.

The Boss 351, along with the big-cube 429 Cobra Jet, would be the Mustang’s last big hurrah with but one exception—the short-lived 351C High Output of 1972, which was a low compression Boss 351 with a new name and same mechanical tappet chatter.

The 1971 Boss 351, as well as the 1972 High Output, are Mustangs to be celebrated. They were the end of an era of hot muscle Mustangs before Ford and the rest of Detroit pulled the plug on power, entering a new era of lame gutless paint and tape pseudo muscle cars in the 1970s with two-barrel carburetors and mag wheels.

This is Jeff Ball’s Grabber Lime engine room sporting twisty Boss 351 Cleveland power with 330 horsepower on tap at 5,400 rpm. Not only did the solid lifter Cleveland make horsepower, it delivered torque on the order of 370 lb-ft at 4,000 rpm. These were true American muscle cars with powerful V-8s backed by four-speed boxes and 9-inch cogs.
Finley Ledbetter’s Grabber Yellow Boss 351 grabs your attention as one of the nicest concours restorations we’ve ever seen.
Dave Wyrwas came all the way from New Hampshire with his Medium Blue Metallic Boss 351 sporting Firestone Wide Ovals and corporate caps; a stunning restoration.

Boss 351 Invitational

You have to see the National Muscle Car & Corvette Nationals Show in Chicagoland, sponsored by Mecum Auctions, to believe it. All this power and beauty in one place from America’s muscle car craze of the 1960s and early 1970s. Of particular interest to us at Mustang Monthly back in November in Chicago was the Boss 351 Invitational assembled by Boss enthusiast Rick Ybarra at the Muscle Car & Corvette Show where at least nine pristine 1971 Boss 351 Mustangs turned out for the festivities.

You have to see the National Muscle Car & Corvette Nationals Show in Chicagoland, sponsored by Mecum Auctions, to believe it. All this power and beauty in one place from America’s muscle car craze of the 1960s and early 1970s. Of particular interest to us at Mustang Monthly back in November in Chicago was the Boss 351 Invitational assembled by Boss enthusiast Rick Ybarra at the Muscle Car & Corvette Show where at least nine pristine 1971 Boss 351 Mustangs turned out for the festivities.

Wayne Schmeekle’s Calypso Coral Boss 351 was a special order car with a six-digit DSO code and the absence of a color code on the certification sticker. Because the color is so unusual for 1971, it stands out.
Wayne Schmeekle’s Calypso Coral Boss 351 interior all dressed for delivery and we would gladly take it home. Wayne brought his Boss a long way from Colorado to join this event.
Greg Boss brought his Grabber Blue Boss 351 all the way from Marysville, Kansas. Greg is but one example of the commitment at least 10 Boss 351 enthusiasts had to this event. They came from all over the country.
A Boss in basic Black; Larry Cutting brought his black Boss down from Edgerton, Wisconsin. Call these Boss 351 Mustangs the elite core because they don’t get any better than these road-going rides.

These guys had several official unveilings for Ford Muscle from a lifetime of blue oval power, “Including what may be the rarest and most unexpected Mercury you’ll ever see, and something very special to go along with our ‘Class of ’71’ Anniversary display,” according to our friend Kevin Oeste of V8 TV. “Over the years we’ve played host to an incredible Boss 429 display featuring all of the production colors, and of course last year’s Boss 302 Invitational display. These two were coordinated by Bob Perkins along with Rick Campbell and Jim Cunningham,” Oeste commented, “This year Rick unveiled an incredible 1969 Shelby G.T. 500. Bob Perkins joined us with his own personal Boss 351, an absolutely incredible unrestored original with just 1,200 miles on the odometer!”

Most astonishing to us at Mustang Monthly was the cross-section of Boss colors on display from 1971: Medium Blue Metallic, Dark Green Metallic, Light Pewter, Grabber Green, Calypso Coral (special order), Grabber Blue, Black, Grabber Yellow, Grabber Lime, and finally Grabber Green. Perhaps it’s an old cliché, but a rainbow of colors in one of Ford’s rarest Mustangs.

We will add the Boss 351 Invitational was a special collection of some of the finest Boss 351 restorations in the country, pristine examples from the end of the original Mustang muscle era. Here’s the line-up as it happened.

Jeff Ball, Grabber Lime 1971 Boss 351, Deerfield, Wisconsin
Greg Boss, Grabber Blue 1971 Boss 351, Marysville, Kansas
Larry Cutting, Black 1971 Boss 351, Edgerton, Wisconsin
Brett Eggert, Dark Metallic Green 1971 Boss 351, Tipton, Iowa
Brad Klodt, Light Pewter Metallic 1971 Boss 351, Milton, Iowa
Finley Ledbetter, Grabber Yellow 1971 Boss 351, Dallas, Texas
Wayne Schmeeckle, Special Order Calypso Coral 1971 Boss 351, Fort Morgan, Colorado
Al Thomas, Grabber Green 1971 Boss 351, Elkhorn, Wisconsin
Dave Wyrwas, Medium Blue Metallic 1971 Boss 351, Merrimack, New Hampshire
Rick Ybarra, Grabber Green 1971 Boss 351

The 2017 National Muscle Car & Corvette Show is planned for November 18-19 at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center just outside of Chicago. Go to www.mcacn.com or email these fine folks at musclecarandcorvettenationals@email.com.

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