Mustang MonthlyFeatured Vehicles
This 1970 Boss 302 “Barn Find” is Preserved, not Restored
Les Baer’s 1970 Boss 302 may be the first car to which the words barn find, survivor, and nut-and-bolt restoration apply all at once
The story starts on November 21, 1969, when Les Baer’s Boss 302 rolled off Ford’s Dearborn assembly plant wearing Calypso Coral paint with a Vermilion Red bucket seat interior. Of the 7,014 1970 Boss 302s, just 575 were painted that color, and only 78 had the Vermilion Red bucket seat interior.
From Dearborn, the Boss went to Hinchey Motors in Guymon, a city in the panhandle of Oklahoma. The car made an impression on the locals, some of whom still remember when the Calypso Coral Boss 302 came rolling in on the transport truck. It was a pretty loaded example: Magnum 500 wheels rarely seen on Boss 302 models, a close-ratio four-speed, rear window sports slats and rear spoiler, Shaker hoodscoop, a tachometer, and front bumper guards. Local history says that the first owner of the Boss was so unhappy the car arrived with the Vermilion Red interior instead of the black interior he ordered that he traded it off by 1972. In that short amount of time, he barely drove the car because of his disappointment.
Dwight Eubank, Blane Eubank’s cousin, swooped in when the car landed back on a dealership lot in 1972—this time in the Texas panhandle—and bought it for himself. According to Blane, Dwight street-drove the car for a bit before taking it to the track.
“He drove it just for the first couple of years, and then he was always interested in drag racing and he drag raced it at Amarillo and just different places around,” Blane recalled.
Blane was enamored with the car himself and kept track of it all through the 1970s and into the 1980s, when Dwight blew the motor and parked it.
“I think he just ran out of money and he started having kids and stuff and it got put aside and he just never got back to the car,” Blane said.
Even with a bad engine, the Boss didn’t lose its luster to Blane, who had taken a shine to the car way back when his cousin bought it. Knowing the Boss had become lame, and his cousin wasn’t doing anything with it, Blane began the slow and tedious process of making it his.
“I started calling him sometime in the late 1980s and was just pretty persistent and called him for several, several years,” Blane said. “He told me the car would never be for sale. But I would call him or see him at family reunions and take the opportunity to ask him about it until the summer of ’15 or ’16 when he said, ‘I might be interested in selling it,’ and my ears kind of perked up. We talked a little bit and the more we talked, the more he was interested in selling it, and we came to terms and I got to buy the car.”
By this time, the Boss 302 didn’t look like it did back in 1972 when Dwight bought it. In the interest of speed, Dwight had begun removing parts to save weight, including the entire interior. Luckily, the modifications he had performed were simple bolt-on additions, and he had saved every part he removed. Because the first owner hadn’t driven it long, and because Dwight quickly began putting miles on just one quarter-mile at a time, the Boss had just 30-some-thousand miles when it was parked. That was the good news. The bad news was that the parts were haphazardly strewn about the barn and mixed among parts from other cars, trucks, and even airplanes.
Although he was already a Mustang owner, Blane reached out to Mustang restoration guru Jason Billups in search of some guidance about his pending purchase. Blane found that putting a price on such a desirable but disassembled pony car was difficult, and he wanted an expert opinion. When Blane told Jason the price, Jason said, “If you don’t buy it, I will.”
While Blane had grown up digging Mustangs and admiring Shelbys and Bosses, he didn’t feel comfortable excavating the Boss 302 and its parts on his own. Jason and the whole team at Billups Classic Cars in Colcord, Oklahoma, had been pitched to Blane as the go-to folks for Shelbys, Bosses, and other hi-po Fords, so Blane asked Jason to accompany him to the barn where the Boss was stored.
When they arrived at Dwight’s barn, the men studied the dirty Boss, taking note of the solid body; the dry Texas earth had been kind to the Boss’s metal. Blane and Jason worked out a deal where Jason would use his expert eye to sift through the barn and retrieve every Boss 302 part he could find.
“I went through the barn and found the original engine,” Jason said. “He didn’t know that was there. I also found the original transmission. It still had the original paint, and he pulled the interior, but luckily, he saved it all.”
“There was stuff buried, all kinds of stuff,” Jason said. “It was a dirt floor barn. The transmission was just an empty case. He had put a big Top Loader in it just because it was stronger for drag racing. We pulled the original gears out of the barn’s dirt floor. I found all of the gears, but they were rough. He hired me to gather the parts and look at what was right with the car, and that’s what I did.”
A previous fire in the barn where the Boss 302 had been stored only made Jason’s task more difficult. While the Boss hadn’t burned, it did have to be moved from its original location in the barn following the blaze, further separating it from some of its components. However, Jason found all but a couple minor parts in the dirt and under the dust. When Jason looked at the dry car and its pile of parts, he realized the rather unusual car was very complete, very original, and in very good condition, and it deserved something different than a restoration.
“When Blane bought the car, he thought it would probably need to be restored, but with the parts available to us and the experience that we have, I thought the paint was good enough on the car that I thought it would be a shame to repaint it,” Jason said. He said he told Blane, “When the car is finished, I think it would have more value as a survivor car than a restored car.”
Once the Boss was out of the barn and washed, Blane and his wife, Doris, truly saw what Jason had seen in the car’s condition, and they decided to go for preservation. Jason and his brother Scott completed what they consider a “clean up,” not a restoration. They put the car on a rotisserie, removed its suspension, and steam-cleaned off all of that Texas dirt from the top and bottom of the car, revealing many of the original factory paint and chalk markings. As pictures show, the Calypso Coral paint came out remarkably well—ditto for the Ford Blue engine components—and very little paint touch-up had to be performed on the car’s top or bottom. The original interior sans the headliner was simply cleaned and reinstalled.
“The car was in just such good shape,” Blane said. “It was just a beautiful car. The drag racing took its toll in certain ways, but it also preserved it because it wasn’t on the highway. The miles were just one quarter-mile at a time. Even though [racing] was hard on the [drivetrain], it preserved the ‘physicalness’ of the car.”
While the body and interior only needed to be cleaned and reassembled, the drivetrain was another story. Jason installed all-new parts inside the transmission and went through the rest of the drivetrain, with the exception of the engine. That task was entrusted to his father, Gerald, who re-sleeved the bad cylinder in the 302 that originally took it off the road and landed it in the barn.
Given Jason and Scott’s extensive experience with high-end, high-performance Mustangs, they also knew where every correct bolt should go on the car and were able to put the Boss 302’s original parts right back where Ford originally installed them.
Once the Boss 302 was finally reassembled, Blane and Doris realized they loved the car, but it made them nervous to run it on the road. “My intentions were to keep the car, but we just got so much in it that I didn’t feel comfortable having that much money tied up in a car and not being able to drive it,” Blane said. “I thought if we found a buyer that would be fine, but if we didn’t that would be fine.”
That’s where Les Baer came onto the scene. Baer already had several Shelby and Boss Mustangs in his collection, including three other 302s. The survivor-quality Boss 302 appealed to him because he figured it was one he could drive, rather than worry about paint chips and dirt on a completely restored example.
“To be honest, I wasn’t even looking for one until Jason Billups called me,” he said. “I like them all pretty and restored and stuff and he said this ain’t like that, but it’s all there.”
Baer said there are imperfections in the car due to its age and originality, but the solid condition of the metal and the rarity of the car—it’s one of very few Boss 302s with the 4.30:1 Traction Lok rear and the Vermilion Red interior—makes it appealing to own and to drive.
“This one, I drive it,” Baer said. “The cruise-ins are just starting here...and it will be fun to see what people think.”