Jerry Heasley
June 1, 2013

As the years passed, the condition of the garage kept getting worse. The old structure looked like it might fall apart. Miller was in the funeral business and knew Strom"s brother, who was in the monument business. He finally asked the brother, "Do you think your brother will ever let that car go? The garage is getting really bad."

The fact that two decades had passed and Miller still wanted the Mustang was a point of respect for Strom. The garage was falling down and the car, now parked and not running for many years, was also suffering. Strom realized he wasn"t going to do anything with the Mach 1.

Miller felt $10,000 was good price for a "69 Mach 1 with a 428 Super Cobra Jet (non–ram air Q-code) backed by a C6 automatic and W-code 4.30:1 gears in a Detroit Locker differential. In addition to the external oil cooler, the car came without power steering and manual brakes, drums at all four corners. The body was rusty but the floor pans turned out to be in good shape.

Miller began restoring the Mach 1 immediately. Miller"s son, Nathan, who wasn"t even born when his father discovered the red SportsRoof, recalled, "It went right into our shop and my dad was literally pulling the seats out as the tow truck drove away."

"71 Boss 351

"I was biting at the bit because Ray Cliche had sent me pictures," Mark Denette recalled. He could see "Boss 351" on the front fenders and the trunk, even though the photos were taken in a dimly lit garage in Massachusetts.

Denette figured the Mustang was the real deal, but he had to wait. He and his father, Ronnie, live in Louisiana, but his father is from Massachusetts and had planned a trip back East a couple of weeks later. Of course, Denette feared someone else might grab this deal. Far from a Mustang expert, Denette is a car guy and had his heart set on buying a musclecar. He knew he wanted "something rare" but wasn"t sure exactly what.

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In a conversation one day, his father said, "Your uncle has a friend who bought a Mustang when he got back from Vietnam." All his father knew was that the Mustang was "real rare." Denette wanted to know more, of course. Unfortunately, the car wasn"t for sale. His uncle"s friend simply knew the owner.

Then a wonderful thing happened. His father got a call from his brother, Marty, just two weeks before his planned trip. After 41 years of ownership, Cliche was ready to sell the Mustang. Ronnie relayed the information to Denette, who got excited. He wanted to see pictures. Cliche obliged, emailing Denette a dozen pictures. The Boss 351 emblems were exciting, to say the least. Plus, Cliche was the original owner. And the Medium Yellow Gold fastback had just 10,661 miles.

While Denette waited, he began researching "71 Boss 351 Mustangs. "I was checking forums and hearing things like, ‘Oh, it might be a clone."" He says he didn"t know for sure if the Boss 351 was real until he got the VIN. And sure enough, the fifth digit was an "R" for the Boss 351 engine. Denette called Cliche and began negotiating. They agreed on a price of $15,500. Now all Denette had to do was tow a trailer 1,400 miles north to retrieve his prize.

"My father flew back to Louisiana on Thursday afternoon, September 27, 2012," Denette recalls. "My daughter"s birthday was Saturday the 29th. My father and I left the next day at 3:30 in the morning."

Denette and his father stayed at Marty"s house in Massachusetts. The three went to Cliche"s house. Denette had seen the photos in the garage setting but in person the sight was more dramatic. When Mark spotted the "71 Boss 351, he said, "I took a few steps back to contain myself. I"d read a lot about the Boss 351 being one of the fastest musclecars and how rare it is," he said. He could hardly believe he was buying a real Boss 351 Mustang, one of 1,806 built.

Looking over the Mustang, Denette noticed where mice had nested in the back of the hood, causing rust. Cliche had already told Mark about this problem and some other things, such as rust on the back of the Magnum 500 wheels. Overall, "The body did not have one rust hole and the seats were like brand-new."

The 351 fired up and ran great after precautionary measures. Later, Cliche sent Denette the original spark plug wires.

Denette plans to take care of a few problems, like the rust in the hood, but otherwise the Boss 351 will be an original, unrestored survivor.