Eric English
May 15, 2014

Few of us lucked into a bona fide muscle car for our first set of wheels, but such was the case for a young Marty Medley way back in 1979. To be sure, this Boss 351's forlorn presentation contributed to the 16-year-old Marty being able to score it at a local wrecking yard, for it hardly resembled what you see before you now. He explains, "the car had been stolen from the original owner, an Air Force pilot, in the early '70s. The engine, wheels, and seats were ripped off before the car was recovered, whereupon it sat for several years inside a warehouse at a local dealership. The next owner had a wrecking yard install a 351 Windsor to get it running, and then put it up for sale in front of the yard—replete with Chrysler rally wheels and whitewall tires." Marty didn't even know what a Boss 351 was at the time, but a testdrive aptly demonstrated the torque multiplication of the still-present 3.91 gears, and Marty was sold.

It wasn't long before Marty became intimately aware of just what a Boss 351 was. A parts counter man was even knowledgeable enough to articulate that just 1805 were built, and Marty was elated about the rare Mustang he'd fallen into. "I'd always loved the Boss 302s, but just didn't know about the 351s at the time." In this era before concourse restorations, Marty was anxious to get his Boss back into menacing form. He began to collect pertinent Cleveland parts with a bent toward performance over correctness. To this effect, he soon bought the building blocks for what he has today from friend Marshal Eaton. Chief amongst the hardware was a high-nickel Australian Cleveland block with four-bolt mains and a set of the earliest Cleveland aluminum cylinder heads, which Ford produced around 1984. Known as A3 "high-port" heads, this was the piece de resistance for Ford's period of circle track and drag race efforts. This particular set came from Roush Racing after the porters got a little over exuberant and broke into a header bolt galley. In other words, they were virtually brand-new.

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Marty soon found himself acquainted with Stan Johnson of Ford Powertrain Applications (FPA) in Puyallup, Washington, who had the heads repaired. He then assembled a stout 385-inch powerplant that included an offset-ground forged crank, 6-inch H-beam rods, and JE forged slugs. A solid roller from Comp Cams lifts the Manley valves high and long, while the induction chores are handled by a period Ford/Roush single-plane intake with a modified Holley 750. FPA's own 1¾-inch headers ( lead into a carefully assembled exhaust system by Mike Burton at Mike's Automotive. It consists of an X-style mid-pipe, Flowmaster 50-series mufflers, and large 2¾-inch aluminized pipes all tucked up snugly against the '71's belly. Contributing to the wicked looks and function of the whole affair is the '80s-era Ford Motorsport valve cover/stabilizer kit. Identified as part number M-6582-A351, this kit was a contemporary of the A3 cylinder heads, and used the cast aluminum cover itself to provide stability to the valvetrain—in lieu of a traditional stud girdle.

We detected the color of this Boss might be slightly off of its original Bright Blue Metallic, which Marty confirmed with an interesting story. Friend Joe Brown painted it in his own garage, and Marty recalls having about $500 into the whole effort. The rust-free and straight panels of a 32,000-mile car were clearly important to the final results, but Brown still deserves plenty of credit for the paint that has held up admirably for nearly 30 years. As for the color, Marty tells us the first coat of paint lifted right away from the tops of the fenders, and once sanded and re-primed, the duo realized they didn't have enough remaining Bright Blue to finish the job. Brown did, however, have some leftover metallic blue paint from another job, so it was mixed in and the car entirely re-shot. Call it teenage ingenuity.

We love the looks of all factory Boss cars, and yet Marty's 351 stands out in a crowd all hunkered down over its big aluminum Magnum 500-style wheels. Yeah, we'd say Marty nailed the stance, which is something that can make or break the visuals of any '60s muscle car. It's the result of a combination of aftermarket coil and leaf springs and 17-inch AR500's from American Racing, which seem just right for a big-bodied '71. Marty measured carefully to assure ordering a proper offset for the 10-inch wide rears, and squeezed in as much rubber as possible via Mickey Thompson ET Street Radials.

Despite having the drivetrain together for many years now, Marty reports his stroker Cleveland is running better than ever thanks to a recent dyno tune at Blood Enterprises in Auburn, Washington. After seven hours of tuning, wrenching, and dyno evaluations (which paid close attention to the air/fuel ratio under different loads, timing curves, and more), Marty said, "It doesn't even drive like the same car. I could never have gotten it dialed in like this on my own."

Of course, those good running attributes are paramount for cars that are actually driven on the street, and while Marty doesn't wheel his Boss as frequently as he once did, he still cranks it up for a spin on a regular basis. Happily, we understand this to be a car that will always be driven—despite its rarity and current 56,000-original-mile status. Marty's even demonstrated the 351's prowess at the dragstrip on occasion, though before the recent tune and sticky Mickeys, resulting in a traction-limited 12.50 at 116 mph. It all adds up to continued fun for a guy who clearly appreciates his performance car for what it was built to do—bang gears and burn rubber. Museum displays and chalk marks are all fine and dandy, but that's not what Marty and his nasty Boss 351 are all about. Whew!

The Details
Vehicle: 1971 Ford Mustang Boss 351
Owner: Marty Medley
High-nickel Australian Cleveland, 0.040-inch overbored
385 cubic inches
Ford forged steel, offset ground to 3.75-inch stroke crankshaft
6.0-inch Comp Cams H-beam rods
JE forged pistons
Comp Cams solid roller camshaft, 0.623-inch lift, 245 degrees duration at 0.050
Ford/Roush aluminum A3 "High-Port" heads
Ford/Roush single plane intake manifold
Modified Holley 750, electric pump, 3⁄8-inch factory fuel line
1¾-inch FPA headers
2¾-inch X-style mid-pipe
Flowmaster 50-series mufflers
2¾-inch tailpipes
Original wide-ratio Top Loader four-speed
Original Hurst/Ford shifter
Modern Driveline Kevlar clutch
Factory original 9-inch
Nodular Iron case
3.91:1 gears
Traction-Lok differential
31-spline axles
Front: 720-pound lowering springs, Koni shocks, factory Boss 7⁄8-inch swaybar
Rear: 200-pound lowering springs, staggered Koni shocks, adjustable 5⁄8–inch swaybar
Front: Factory 11.3-inch single-piston discs
Rear: Street Rod Manufacturing disc kit
Front: 17x7-inch American Racing AR500s
Rear: 17x10-inch American Racing AR500s
Front: BF Goodrich g-Force T/A KDW, 235/50ZR17
Rear: Mickey Thompson ET Street Radial II, 295/45R17