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Most Original 1971 Boss 351 in the World?
This time-capsule 1971 Boss 351 might be the most original one in existence
Fred Kemmerer was a 14-year-old blossoming car aficionado when he first saw the car that would star in his gear-driven dreams for years to come. “I was working with my dad helping out with his business, and we went to this guy’s house to pick up some used windows,” remembers Fred. Covered under several layers of blankets in the man’s garage was a blue Boss Mustang; a car he had owned since new.
Pete Castagnola was the owner of this Grabber Blue Boss 351 and had done a great job keeping it out of harm’s way over the years. The paint was as perfect as it could be, and the interior was mint as well. With just over 40,000 miles showing on the odometer, the car was a time capsule of sorts, and Pete wanted to keep it that way.
The owner went on to put a permanent smile on young Fred’s face by letting the youngster sit behind the wheel that day. “It was the first Mustang I ever sat in because my dad (the owner of a salvage yard) always told me that Mustangs were junk, made from leftover Falcon parts,” says Fred. That was a pretty harsh statement from his dad, but that didn’t deter Fred from being bowled over by the sweet Pony ride.
From that day 32 years ago, Fred has kept up his fascination with Mustangs, owning several examples of Ford’s ponycar and stacking up on some rare parts in the process. At some point, life happened for Fred, and he spent his adulthood fostering a career and raising his family. More properly appointed daily drivers were bought to help with the daily chores and to get him back and forth to work. Of course, in the back of his mind was that Boss Mustang; it never left his thoughts for too long. Another reminder was that he would see Pete in town from time to time. Half-jokingly he would always ask, “How’s my Mustang doing?”
In 1970, Pete was a recently discharged Army serviceman, now back home and working with the National Guard in Pennsylvania. During his time in service, he was stationed at Fort Knox in Kentucky, and he would constantly indulge himself in car magazines. He dreamed of owning a Boss Mustang and felt once he was ready, he’d check out the ’70s that were now on the market.
All that changed when a friend brought in a copy of a magazine with a certain car on the cover. “I can’t remember which magazine it was, but there was a picture of the new-for-1971 Boss 351. It was beautiful, and it was purple,” says Pete. He was driving a base-model ’69 Mach 1 at the time. With a two-barrel 351 and sporting an automatic, it really wasn’t cutting it for him. This particular Boss would definitely bring him up into the big leagues of modern-day muscle being offered out of Detroit.
Once he was situated back in Summit Hill, Pennsylvania, in the fall of 1970, Pete went over to nearby Carl Baran Ford in Hometown, Pennsylvania, to buy his dream ride. “I went looking for a purple ’71 Boss, but that color wasn’t offered,” says Pete with a laugh. But he did end up ordering his car, deciding on Grabber Blue to skin his new Mustang with. “I was so excited that day, I forgot to order some of the things I wanted, like Magnum 500s, an AM/FM 8-track, and a folding rear seat. I did order the deluxe interior though,” admits Pete.
It took several months for the car to be delivered, but once in his hands, the Boss and its new driver bonded; the twosome solidified that connection with hours spent out on the quiet, twisty roads around Pete’s hometown. He used the Boss as his daily driver for about a year, and then he relegated it to just weekend and fun-time duty after purchasing a winter beater.
“I never beat on the car, and I took great care of it,” admits Peter. He rarely took it out in bad weather, but once October rolled around, he did shoe it with snow tires out back just in case they got some unexpected late-autumn storms. After 1977, the car was basically put up for good, minus a few shakedown runs every year just to keep her fresh and at the ready.
Fred continued on with his life and checked in with Pete quite regularly. He knew that the Mustang was there if he could make a deal, but after going through a divorce, he quickly realized the asking price was way out of his means. So he decided that to have a chance at obtaining the car, which he now referred to as PSU 16 (after Pete’s parking stickers for Penn State University on the bumpers), he would have to get crafty. He would buy, fix up, and flip cars and trucks to sell to generate enough money to finance PSU 16. “They were a stepping-stone to the car of my dreams,” says Fred.
Once he was within the range of resources needed to purchase the car, Fred made his move. In the spring of 2018, he met up with Pete and made his way over to see the car. He had not seen it since he was 14, but he remembered how beautiful it was. But there was a surprise in store. The scene was just like he remembered—the car covered up with the PSU 16 showing on the front bumper. But when Fred pulled the cover, there was a jolting shock down his spine.
“To my surprise, the once-thought-to-be ’69 Boss 302 was actually the ’71 Boss 351. Like a shot to my gut, my first reaction was one of disappointment. However, as the Grabber Blue paint was uncovered, I knew she looked better than I ever envisioned,” says Fred. Knowing how much the car meant to Pete made the wait worthwhile, even if it wasn’t exactly the model Mustang he thought it was. He continues, “Pete told me I was the only one he would ever sell the Mustang to because he knew I would care for it like he did.”
Fred finally got his prized Mustang, and what a prize it was. Once back at his garage, Fred dove into the SportsRoof and figured out exactly what he had just bought. It’s one of only 1,806 Boss 351 cars produced, and the last of the Mustang muscle cars off the assembly line in the 1970s. It’s not known how many are still out there, but it could be the best of the bunch of the Boss 351 cars still accounted for today. Numbers aside, the originality of this nearly 50-year-old car is almost dumbfounding.
Fred says, “I spent the last few months uncovering the many jewels that PSU 16 possesses. This car is truly one of a kind. It had basically been sitting in Pete’s garage since 1977. It’s a true survivor that possesses all of the original Autolite items. The original carburetor with plastic idle screw covers, original dual exhaust, all the throwaway items like filters, brakes, and clutch. The original Grabber Blue and Argent finishes still have orange peel. The 40,000-mile engine still has the original cap, wires, and rotor. The engine compartment possesses the entire scheme of factory markings from stickers to stamps. It’s all there. The original Autolite battery from 1971 remains sitting in its battery box.”
And then there are the really rare items on PSU 16. Situated on the underside of the trunk lid is a WW sticker (Wind and Water) signifying it passed its water and high-velocity wind test for leaks in the trunk. Wrapped around the rear axle, at the leaf spring mount, sits the paper tag that signifies the axle and gear ratio (3.91:1) on the Mustang. As you can see, the body and paint are still in amazing shape, with just minor corrosive spots. The decals are mint as well, with no decay or lift on the edges. The doorjambs have a bit of corrosion (very typical), and there is some primer showing where the rear tires “sandblasted” the lower quarter.
In a nutshell, Fred’s car is an anomaly in the world of vintage Mustangs. “There are many concours-restored examples of a ’71 Boss 351. However, this untouched time capsule is an example of just a handful of cars that can never be replicated. It’s only original once,” claims Fred. Thanks to both Pete and Fred for keeping this cherished piece of history out of harm’s way, and as close to perfect as it can possibly be, for future generations of Mustang and muscle car aficionados to appreciate and admire.
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Photography by Scotty Lachenauer