Donald Farr
Former Editor, Mustang Monthly
February 1, 2008

Andrew Hack was simply looking for a Mustang driver. With his '71 Boss 351 disassembled for restoration, he was perusing eBay when he spotted a Grabber Yellow '71 Mustang fastback with Mach 1 markings. "With Boss 351 values rising, I knew I wouldn't want to drive mine once it was done," he says. "So I thought this fastback, which resembled a Boss 351, would be a fun driver."

Andrew also noted the car's VIN-1F02H100053-and realized it was an early production car. "I was surprised that only a few people were bidding on it. So against my better judgment, I ended up buying it without even seeing it."

It took two weeks for the car to be delivered from San Francisco to Andrew's home in Wisconsin. Once in the driveway, Andrew noticed the car's unusual equipment and trim. It had a Top-Loader four-speed and a 9-inch rearend with a nodular case and staggered shocks, which seemed strange for a 351 two-barrel car. It wasn't a Mach 1, yet it had Mach 1 stripes and urethane front bumper. And two-barrel cars didn't typically have dual exhausts. Although the car showed paint chips and a few spots of rust, Andrew felt it was too original-looking to be a previous owner's made-up car.

The answer came from Kevin Marti's Ford production database. In this case, Kevin wanted to deliver the news himself. "He wanted to make sure I knew that I owned an important piece of Ford automotive history," Andrew says. "He told me that my car had been a prototype for the '71 Boss 302 program that was canceled."

For years, Mustang enthusiasts have wondered whether or not Ford produced a '71 Boss 302, prototype or otherwise, before offering only the Boss 351 when Ford pulled the plug on its Trans-Am racing activities, effectively eliminating the need for the special smaller-displacement Boss engine. Ford Master Parts catalogs from the early '70s list '71 Boss 302 parts, including body decals (same as the Boss 351 but with 302 instead), air cleaners (ram air and non-ram air), and exhaust system. Motor Trend ran a photo of a '71 Boss 302 in its new-car issue in the summer of 1970. Recently, Mustang Monthly's Jim Smart located the Motor Trend photography in the Petersen Publishing library, which included a blurry shot of a Boss 302 engine in the '71 press car. We've even heard firsthand accounts of '71 Boss 302 sightings in the Detroit area in 1970. But no one had ever documented a real '71 Boss 302.

Until Kevin Marti dug up the paperwork.

"He said he'd never seen anything like it," Andrew says. "The paperwork included six different invoices and a Ford Communications memo. The VIN had been revised. Even its tab on the instrument panel had been replaced by Ford."

Andrew was understandably excited. He began looking for clues and first noticed three holes in the passenger-side inner fender that matched the mounting pattern and location for a rev limiter. Then he found the smoking gun.

Noting that the data sticker on the driver-side door appeared thicker than normal, Andrew used a hair dryer to loosen the glue so he could lift it up and see if something else was underneath. He found the bottom half of another sticker-with VIN 1F02G100053, the G denoting a Boss 302 engine. "It was as though someone started scraping off the original sticker from the top, then gave up and slapped the new sticker over the original," Andrew says.

Following the invoice trail, we know that Andrew's fastback was built on August 3, 1970, sold to Ford's Los Angeles Marketing division, and shipped directly from Dearborn to the then-new Las Vegas Convention Center for an introductory auto show. Subsequent rebilling and credit invoices, the first one dated December 23, 1970, show the car with a Boss 351 VIN, 1F02R100053. However, on February 15, 1971, a Ford Communications memo was issued to J.J. Flak at Dearborn Assembly, stating, "We have one of your original show units which must be changed before it can be sold." It also includes instructions to remove the Boss trim and change the windshield and patent plates from VIN 1F02G100053, with "302 Boss" penciled in, to 1F02H100053. The assumption is that the Boss engine was replaced at this point with an H-code 351 two-barrel, although it's uncertain whether the changes occurred at Wilson Ford in Los Angeles or at the Dearborn Assembly Plant.

Marti's production data shows that 1F02H100053 was the only '71 Mustang with a 351 two-barrel engine and four-speed.

Through a vehicle history request from the California DMV, Andrew was able to locate the original owner in San Francisco, a lady who had purchased the car from Wilson Ford in Huntington Beach, California, in March 1971. "She said she had seen the car in the showroom months earlier but was told that it was a 'special '70-1/2 vehicle' and wasn't for sale," Andrew says. "She kept bugging the dealer, and they finally called to say they had received the go-ahead to sell the car to her. She drove the Mustang every day for 28 years, repainting it once before finally selling it in 1999 at the urging of a boyfriend who feared the car was no longer reliable."

Andrew now finds himself in the awkward predicament of deciding what to do with the Mustang. If he restores it, should he try to replicate the car as a '71 Boss 302, or should he take it back to the way it was sold at Wilson Ford? Or should he simply leave it as-is, door dings, double data stickers, and all?

Either way, it looks as though Andrew's "fun driver" is now destined for a life of seldom-driven preservation.

More '71 Boss 302 Evidence
There's no doubt that Ford was planning to build a '71 Boss 302, right up to the point that early production press cars were provided to magazines, at least for photography purposes. This '71 Boss 302 appeared in Motor Trend's summer 1970 new car issue. Uncertain if the car actually had a Boss 302 engine, Mustang Monthly Senior Editor Jim Smart dug into the old Petersen Publishing photo archives to find the original negatives. Among them included this shot of a Boss 302 engine in the '71 engine compartment.

Is This the Same Car?
You've likely seen this photo, or one of several variations, of a Grabber Yellow '71 Boss 351. For years, these Ford photos have been used in magazines and books to illustrate the car. Yet, upon inspection, you'll notice that it sits lower than production Boss 351s, and it has a number of nonproduction items, such as the Mag Star wheels, a pinstripe at the top of the rear panel, and a flat hood without scoops (all Boss 351s came with Ram-Air) or hood pins. Although hard to see in this photo, on some of the pictures you can see that the Boss 351 lettering is somewhat irregular: The 5 and 1 are spaced differently.

Because the car was photographed in the desert, Andrew speculates that his Mustang may have been used for the photography after the Las Vegas auto show, with the Boss 302 lettering changed to Boss 351, either on the car or on the photos. Another clue: The rear pinstripes are still on Andrew's car, but you can't readily see them because they were covered when the car was repainted by its original owner.