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FEB 27, 2020 | By Al Rogers


Front profile of red Mustang Boss 302 in parking lot

DEARBORN, Mich. – The words “Barn find,” “survivor” and “nut-and-bolt restoration” are some of today’s hottest hobby buzz words and phrases, and Les Baer’s 1970 Boss 302 may be the first car in which all of those words apply at once. After all, how can a barn find receive a nut-and-bolt restoration and still be a survivor? Such is the curious story of this righteous Boss.Close up of parts under the vehicle

The story starts on Nov. 21, 1969, when 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 302’s built that year, just 575 were painted that color, and only 78 of those had the Vermilion Red bucket-seat interior. From Dearborn, it 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.

Close up of registration sticker on red Mustang Boss 302
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 hood scoop; a tachometer and front bumper guards. Local history says that the first owner of this Boss was so unhappy that the car arrived with the Vermilion Red interior instead of the black interior he had ordered that he traded it off by 1972. In that short time, he barely drove the car because of his disappointment.
Interior shot from driver side of front seat steering wheel and dashboard
Blane Eubank’s cousin, Dwight Eubank, 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 Boss for a bit before taking it to the track.Close up of tire pressure information sticker

“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.Interior shot from passenger side of front seat dashboard and steering wheel

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.Close up of parts under the hood

“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.Front of dirty red Mustang Boss 302 with hood off in a garage

Even with a bad motor, 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 has become lame, and his cousin wasn’t doing anything with it, Blane began the slow and tedious process of making it his.Front profile of red Mustang Boss 302 in parking lot

“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 finally 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.”Close up of engine under the hood

By this time, the Boss 302 didn’t look like it did back in 1972 when Dwight had bought it. In the interest of speed, Dwight had begun removing parts to save weight, including the whole interior. Luckily, any 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 it just one quarter-mile at a time, the Boss had just 30-some thousand miles when it was parked.Rear profile of dusty red Mustang Boss 302 in garage

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.Close up of parts under the vehicle

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.”Close up of engine under the hood

While Blane had grown up digging Mustangs and admiring Shelbys and Bosses, he didn’t feel comfortable excavating the Boss 302 and all of its parts on his own. Jason and the whole Billups 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.Close up of parts under the vehicle

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.Profile of front end of dirty red Mustang Boss 302 with hood off in a garage

“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.Close up of steering wheel

“There was stuff buried -- all kinds of stuff,” Jason continued. “It was a dirt-floor barn. The transmission was just an empty case. He had put a big top-loader in the car just because it was stronger for drag racing. We pulled the original gears out of the dirt floor in the barn. I found all of the gears, but they were rough.

“He hired me to gather the parts and look what was right with the car -- and that’s exactly 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, and that meant the Boss became farther separated from some of its components. However, Jason found all but a couple minor parts in the dirt and under all 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.Interior close up of red driver side door

“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 that, “when the car is finished, I think it would have more value as a survivor car than a restored car.”

Once the car 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.

Profile of red Mustang Boss 302 in parking lot

Jason and his brother, Scott, at Billups Classic Cars 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 back remarkably well; ditto for even the Ford Blue engine components, and very little paint touch-up had to be performed on the car’s top or bottom. And all of the original interior but the headliner was simply cleaned and reinstalled.Interior close up of red passenger side door

“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.”Close up of parts under the vehicle

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.Close up of engine under the hood

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.Rear profile of red Mustang Boss 302 in parking lot

“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.Close up of hood of red Mustang Boss 302 with black stripes on hood

“To be honest, I wasn’t even looking for one until Jason Billups called me,” Baer said. “I like them all pretty and restored and stuff, and he said this ain’t like that, but it’s all there.”Close up of Boss 302 logo on side of car

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.Profile of red Mustang Boss 302 in parking lot

“This one -- I drive it,” Baer said. “The cruise-ins are just starting here . . . and it will be fun to see what people think.”
Rear profile of red Mustang Boss 302 in parking lot

Picture of order receipt