Jim Smart
October 1, 2008

It has often been said that good things come to those who wait. What other choice is there besides giving up?

Jan Byrd has never been big on giving up. In 1970, while waiting on his parents as they purchased a new LTD, a 16-year-old Jan sat in a Grabber Green Boss 429 in the Southern Ford showroom in Murphysboro, Illinois. As a teenager, he had about as much of a chance of owning this car as being the first civilian on the moon.

Jan never forgot about the Boss 429. For the next 10 years, he wondered what happened to the bright-green Mustang muscle car.

Turns out, the Boss was sold and driven 250 miles north. The original owner drove the car 5,000 miles before blowing the engine. A warranty dispute with Ford went nowhere, so the owner parked the car in his garage and never drove it again.

While the Boss 429 saga played out a four-hour drive away, Jan grew up, got married, and started a family. He became a heavy equipment operator and mechanic for one of the local coal mines. While chatting with a shop superintendent in 1980, he heard about a Grabber Green Boss 429 tucked away in a Northern Illinois garage. To check out the rumor, Jan called the town's police department. Surprisingly, one officer was familiar with the car and its whereabouts. Jan found the owner in 1980, but buying the car proved tougher than finding it. It took more than 25 years of patience and dialog before the owner gave him the chance to buy it in 2006.

Jan was stunned at what he found when he picked up the car. Inside a leaky, drafty country garage was the low-mileage Boss 429 he sat in 35 years before. Aside from dust, mold, and some surface rust and decay, the car was unmolested.

Jan hauled the car home and work began in earnest. He learned that 95 percent of the original parts were still there, which led to all kinds of euphoria. Seats, carpeting, dashpad, door panels, headliner, and just about everything else were restorable. The original engine and driveline, with only 5,255 miles, were still there, too.

Despite the good news, Jan soon learned that the Boss 429 would be the toughest restoration project he had ever tackled. "For any project to work well, you must have a plan," Jan says. "You need to start with an inventory of what the car needs in terms of parts and labor. There are 300 unique parts that separate the Boss 429 from other Mustangs, so the parts are hard to find and certainly expensive."

Jan knew he didn't have a dime to waste considering what he paid for the car. Fortunately, most of what he had could be restored instead of replaced because he had no money available for a $10,000 air cleaner snorkel or $5,000 spark plug wires. Both were still in the car in satisfactory condition.

Once Jan had everything cataloged, he began the restoration. It was complex because it was the car of his dreams, not to mention that the Boss 429 is one of the rarest Mustangs ever produced. There weren't others on every corner for reference. Jan had to rely on other Boss 429 owners and restorers, on the Internet and otherwise. He credits the Boss 429 thread at the Boss 302 Forum (www.boss302.com) for much of the help he received during the restoration. Jeff Sneathen at SEMO Classic Mustang in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, provided a treasure trove of advice, Jan adds. Rick Parker of Columbus, Ohio, was yet another source of information.

With help from friends and family, it took Jan a year and a half to restore the low-mileage Boss. When necessary, he looked to professionals, such as Gerald's Automotive in Steeleville, Illinois, which rebuilt the hemi-head Boss 429 engine. Because the engine was low mileage and surprisingly corrosion-free inside, all it needed was a freshening with new bearings, rings, a timing set, gaskets, and a cam/valvetrain. The block required light honing, but no boring. Jan's wife, Marsha; his son, Mark; and his brother-in-law, Stan Gerlach, helped lower the massive engine onto the chassis without scratching the paint. Jan laughs when he says, "How many guys can say they have a wife who can install a Boss 429 engine?"

Because Jan is an auto body professional, the rest of the car came naturally for him. Although he would have liked to have used Grabber Green in the original enamel, he was forced by evolution to settle for PPG basecoat/clearcoat. Aside from a couple of minor door dings, body repair wasn't required. The original factory finish was wet sanded, then sealed with a primer sealer. He followed that with three coats of basecoat pigment, then two coats of premium PPG clearcoat before baking the body for 35 minutes at 160 degrees for good paint cure. Color sanding followed with 2000 grit wet, then 3000 grit, also wet. Jan used 3M compound and a white pad to achieve the luster shown here.

Jan's Magnum 500 wheels suffered from major pitting, so he shipped them to Tru Design Wheels in Wheat Ridge, Colorado, for restoration. The diaphragm in the power brake booster didn't survive 35 years of storage, so it was rebuilt by Power Brake Booster Exchange in Portland, Oregon. Jan looked to Holley to rebuild his 735-cfm carburetor to factory specifications.

When it was time to power up the Boss, Jan was surprised to learn that everything worked. Even the clock, which stopped in 1971 when the battery died, started right up and continues to keep time.

It's easy to see Jan as the ordinary working class guy who got a break and found the car of his dreams. We tend to think of him as the guy who won the lottery-and we feel Grabber Green envy every step of the way. However, this is a dream that didn't come easily for Jan. This car could have easily escaped. It was Jan's due diligence that enabled him to achieve what no one else had the determination to pursue.