Pre­served

Les Baer’s 1970 Boss 302 may be the first car to which the words barn find, sur­vivor, and nut-and-bolt restora­tion ap­ply all at once

Mustang Monthly - - CONTENTS - AL ROGERS TEXT & PHO­TOG­RA­PHY

“Barn find,” “sur­vivor,” and “nut-and-bolt restora­tion” are some of to­day’s hottest buzzwords and phrases—Les Baer’s 1970 Boss 302 may be the first car to which all of those words ap­ply at once

The story starts on No­vem­ber 21, 1969, when Les 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 302s, just 575 were painted that color, and only 78 had the Ver­mil­ion Red bucket seat in­te­rior.

From Dear­born, the Boss 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. 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 hood­scoop, a tachome­ter, and front bumper guards. Lo­cal his­tory says that the first owner of the Boss was so un­happy 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 amount of time, he barely drove the car be­cause of his dis­ap­point­ment.

Dwight Eubank, Blane Eubank’s cousin, 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 car for a bit be­fore tak­ing it to the track.

“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 re­calls.

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.

“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 says.

Even with a bad en­gine, 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 had be­come lame and his cousin wasn’t do­ing any­thing with it, Blane be­gan the slow and te­dious process of mak­ing it his.

“I started call­ing him some­time in the late

1980s and was just pretty per­sis­tent and called him for sev­eral, sev­eral years,” Blane says. “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 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.”

By this time, the Boss 302 didn’t look like it did back in 1972 when Dwight bought it. In the in­ter­est of speed, Dwight had

be­gun re­mov­ing parts to save weight, in­clud­ing the en­tire in­te­rior. Luck­ily, the 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 just one quar­ter-mile at a time, the Boss had just 30-somet­hou­sand miles when it was parked. 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.

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 pony­car was dif­fi­cult, and he wanted an ex­pert opin­ion. When Blane told Ja­son the price, Ja­son said, “If you don’t buy it, I will.”

While Blane had grown up dig­ging Mus­tangs and ad­mir­ing Shel­bys and Bosses, he didn’t feel com­fort­able ex­ca­vat­ing the Boss 302 and its parts on his own. Ja­son and the whole team at Billups Clas­sic Cars in Col­cord, Ok­la­homa, had been pitched to Blane as the goto folks for Shel­bys, Bosses, and other hi-po Fords, so Blane asked Ja­son to ac­com­pany him to the barn where the Boss was stored.

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 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.

“I went through the barn and found the orig­i­nal en­gine,” Ja­son says. “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.”

Ja­son con­tin­ues, “There was stuff buried, all kinds of stuff. It was a dirt floor barn. The trans­mis­sion was just an empty case. He had put a big Top Loader in it just be­cause it was stronger for drag rac­ing. We pulled the orig­i­nal gears out of the barn’s dirt floor. I found all of the gears, but they were rough. He hired me to gather the parts and look at what was right with the car, and that’s 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, fur­ther separat­ing it from some of its com­po­nents. How­ever, Ja­son found all but a cou­ple mi­nor parts in the dirt and un­der 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.

“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 says. He says he told Blane, “When the car is fin­ished, I think it would have more value as a sur­vivor car than a restored car.”

Once the Boss 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. Ja­son and his brother Scott com­pleted what they con­sider a “cleanup,” 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 out re­mark­ably well—ditto for the Ford

Blue en­gine com­po­nents— and very lit­tle paint touchup had to be per­formed on the car’s top or bot­tom. The orig­i­nal in­te­rior sans the head­liner was sim­ply cleaned and re­in­stalled.

“The car was in just such good shape,” Blane says. “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.”

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 resleeved 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, high­per­for­mance 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.

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. “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 says. “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 sur­vivorqual­ity 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.

“To be hon­est, I wasn’t even look­ing for one un­til Ja­son Billups called me,” he says. “I like them all pretty and restored and stuff and he said this ain’t like that, but it’s all there.”

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 Trac­tionLok rear and the Ver­mil­ion Red in­te­rior—make it ap­peal­ing to own and to drive.

“This one, I drive it,” Baer says. “The cruise-ins are just start­ing here...and it will be fun to see what peo­ple think.”

“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—make it ap­peal­ing to own and to drive.”

This is what the un­der­car­riage of an un­re­stored but pre­served, low-mileage 1970 Boss 302 looks like. It would be a crime to re­store this car and ruin its orig­i­nal­ity. As the say­ing goes, “It’s only orig­i­nal once.”

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