Mustang MonthlyFeatured Vehicles
1971 Mustang Boss 351 - Painted Pony
One Of One? Paint It Anyway
Like most cars of its era, the Boss 351 had far more flexibility and individuality in its ordering process than do the Mustangs of today with their packaged and bundled content. Inevitably, that pick-and-choose freedom on the option sheet occasionally led to some curious combinations rumbling out the factory door. Case in point is our featured Boss 351- the one and only one, according to Kevin Marti's research, that originally combined a Grabber Yellow exterior with that era-extroverted Décor Group vinyl-and-green-striped-cloth interior. Yet, despite his car's singular status, current owner Sylvain Poirier was so put off by the combination of hues that he decided, in the process of the car's detailed restoration, to opt instead for Grabber Green base/clearcoat, a better match for the cabin. And besides, he already has another yellow Boss 351 . .
That the '71 Boss got built at all was perhaps the biggest oddity of all, given the mounting negative government and insurance pressures of the day. In a year when the other guys were already busy slashing compression ratios and starting to turn their corporate backs on performance, Ford somehow managed to deliver a scintillating, solid-lifter, 4-bolt small-block with a razor-sharp 11.1:1 static compression ratio, spread-bore-pattern aluminum intake, 330-horsepower, and 370 lb.ft. of torque. This latter number is perhaps most significant, as it represents a mighty 80 lb.ft. jump over the previous year's Boss 302's torque output, and its peak came some 300 rpm lower on the tach. This extra grunt made the Boss 351 a far more tractable street partner than the smaller displacement Boss. In its 1971 review of the Boss, Car and Driver magazine said its 351 HO made the "Z/28s look like a gas mileage motor."
Another bonus? The 351 HO engine weighed little more than its 302-inch predecessor, so the flat-back Boss still benefited from a handling balance that its big-block brethren couldn't begin to approach. So then, was the Boss 351 the all-round performance flagship of the classic Mustang lineup? Many would make that argument, since it was not only blisteringly quick right out of the box in the quarter-mile, but also willing and able to tackle the twisties, despite the '71 platform's extra bulk. However, unlike the Boss 302 and the Boss 429 engines, the Boss 351 was never put to the supreme test of big-time race competition-at least not with factory backing-so the 351 never earned the same on-track accolades as its more famous earlier counterparts. But as a street or drag car, the Boss 351was very aptly named.
Besides, any lack of sanctioned competition credentials means nothing to fans of the one-year Boss. In addition to this one, Sylvain Poirier owns the aforementioned Grabber Yellow example, as well as one in Raven Black-not bad considering just 1,806 were built, and of those, only 34 were said to have been delivered to Canada, where Sylvain resides. Clearly a big fan of the big body style, he also owns a Light Pewter Metallic '71 429 CJ Mach 1 and a '73 convertible that was featured in our May '99 issue.
This was the second Boss 351 that Sylvain acquired and, ironically, he found this one in 1992 during his parts search for the restoration of his first. But that first Boss had the more common and less dressy black vinyl interior, so he soon decided to restore this one instead. It was originally sold in Sylvain's home province of Quebec, in the Montreal suburb of St. Eustache. Not surprisingly, the distinctive Décor Group interior materials proved hardest to find in his search for NOS parts for what would turn into a 10-year restoration at this own home shop. Luckily, despite apparently being drag raced for a couple years when new, his project still wore its correct Autolite 4300D (D1ZF-ZA) spread-bore carb, a ludicrously rare model made only for Boss 351s.