Monday, February 18, 2019

Barn Find: 1970 Boss Mustang with a Holman Moody 427

Jack Sprague found his Ford dream car via a friend who told him about a guy selling parts. Always follow your leads, no matter how small.

Shake the world. Millions of Mustang fans dream of telling a story like Joe Sprague. Unbelievable Mustang mojo landed him this barn find Boss Mustang, with what appears to be a Holman Moody 427. Get this - he almost passed up his chance to own a muscle car icon.   

  Michigan’s Joe Sprague, 38, runs a small Mustang parts business as a hobby. Last summer a long-time friend of the family called his parents and told them that he knew of someone getting rid of some old Mustang parts. Knowing that Sprague dealt in parts he wanted to pass along the contact info. They gave him the go ahead. His parents told Sprague about it but at first he wasn’t that interested. 
  “I deal mostly in 1979 and newer Mustangs,” said Sprague. “Plus, I figured it was some run-of-the-mill 1965-1966 coupe stuff, not that there is anything wrong with those, I love them too. I didn’t follow up.”

Previous owner bought the Boss in 1973, drove and raced until 1980 then left in storage until 2018.
Previous owner bought the Boss in 1973, drove and raced until 1980 then left it parked in storage until 2018.

New ride
  Sprague was driving his stock ‘04 Mach 1 with 19k miles to work last summer when the Boss bug bit him. “I loved the Mach 1 because of the shaker hood and it was just a neat car,” said Sprague. “But the feeling hit me that I wanted something different. I knew a dealer that wanted my car so I placed the call, sold it, and got on the hunt for a replacement.”
  A 2012-2013 Boss 302s was his target car but he couldn’t justify the cost for a vehicle that was only going to be driven a few months out of the year. 
  “I ended up buying a 2013 Mustang GT with the Track Pack option – a budget Boss. At the time I thought how cool would it be to have an original Boss with the shaker hood!”

Flash forward
  A week after Sprague bought the 2013 GT the long-time family friend finally caught up with him about the old Mustang parts collection and stunned him with some news. 
  “I was actually traveling for work and I remember him saying, ‘Well, I looked at that car and it’s a 1970 Boss 302.’ I was like, wait, what? He told me the car didn’t have the original motor but some sort of big block in it.” 
  Because of Sprague’s recent interest in Boss Mustang models he knew that any 1970 Boss had value. 
  “I called him right away.”

Designer Larry Shinoda was responsible for the stripe package and the many visual cues of the "Boss" package, also the name may have originated when Shinoda was asked about the development of the car. "I'm working on the boss's car." He and his boss, "Bunkie" Knudsen, moved from GM to Ford in 1968.
Sport slats and rear wing adorn the back of the 1970 Boss Mustang. Designer Larry Shinoda was responsible for the stripe package and the many visual cues of the "Boss" package, also the name may have originated when Shinoda was asked about the development of the car. "I'm working on the boss's car." He and his boss, "Bunkie" Knudsen, moved from GM to Ford in 1968.

Finding a Boss during the gas crunch
  In 1973, a man by the name of Dale, a devout Ford fan, was at work when a friend stopped by and told him there was something on the used car lot at Camps Cars that he would want. Camps Cars was a VW dealer in Midland, Michigan (a town about 35 minutes from where Sprague now lives). Dale drove to the car lot and found a completely stock 1970 Boss 302. The friend knew Dale better than he knew himself because he was right! It was something that he wanted! 
   Gas prices were going up and muscle car prices were bottoming out in late 1973 with gas shortages due to the oil embargo. This was good news for a guy wanting a 1970 Boss Mustang in 1973. And a VW dealership’s used car lot was a good place to pick up a deal. 

Shaker scoop is menacing as it sits atop the air cleaner.
Notice the shaker top is just sitting on the oval lid of the intake. A 427 engine sits in the engine bay replacing the original G code 302-V8.

Racing in the streets
  Dale bought the car and started street racing it. In stock form the Boss did well. Around the same time that Dale bought the yellow Boss a friend of his acquired a 1967 Shelby from California. The Shelby was powered by an aluminum head 427. Per Dale the engine was built by Holman Moody. Although it’s hard to verify this, the engine does have the aluminum Holman Moody water pump. Dale always wanted a 427, and since that was not the original engine to the Shelby, Dale and his friend swapped engines. Out came the G code 302 and in went the 427 (side note: the original Boss drivetrain was ultimately destroyed in a garage fire).
  With the new engine (plus 4.30 gears swapped in the back), the Boss instantly became a street racing hero. Dale never took it to the track, but he did beat a well known Chevelle that was a drag strip regular. That Chevelle was very quick and was a consistent 12.5-second car in the quarter-mile. 

Boss keeper
  For 45 years Dale held onto the Boss. The car was driven up until about 1980 and then parked. Dale, a devout Ford fan, was the type of guy that didn’t get rid of things. 
  “I was the guy that people would bring stuff into work to see if I wanted it,” said Dale. ‘Just put it on my tool box,’ he would say. “I would take it home and keep it.’” 
  Dale, and his wife, ready to downsize and move to a retirement property in Northern Michigan, decided to sell the Boss in 2018. Among other things that needed to be attended to before the move could be made was getting Dale’s 1993 Cobra (bought new) back on the road. Dale took it to a mechanic and happened to mention that he was selling his stuff. That mechanic told Sprague’s family friend about it. Small world.

What could be better than hauling a Boss barn find home? This ’70 Boss sat for 38 years before coming out of hibernation.

Contacting the owner
  “The first time I talked to Dale I asked him what he wanted for the car and he joked that he didn’t know, but that he didn’t pay that much for it (in 1973 dollars!!),” said Sprague. “I told him the car was a valuable car and I asked him why no one else had tried to buy it from him.”
  Through the years there was one person that Dale always thought would end up with the Boss, but sadly that gentleman died from a heart attack in 2017.
  “I made Dale an all in offer, meaning I gave him the best offer I could,” Sprague said. “I didn’t try to haggle or low ball him and I got the car.”

  As far as Boss 302s go, this car wasn’t highly optioned, but it did come with the three most popular Boss options. The spoiler, the window slats, and the shaker. Sprague ordered a Marti report to confirm vehicle details. The car was sold new at Bill Grimes Ford of Midland, Michigan. Dale was the second owner. Sprague is now the third owner and keeps the ’70 Boss in storage until he can find time to restore it or possibly put it back on the road as it is. Either way the 427 will remain as the power plant. Sprague would love to know what the engine came out of as factory aluminum heads were not common (GT40 and the 427 Cobra being the only two that he is aware of).

  • 89,000 miles on odometer
  • 4-speed manual transmission
  • Yellow was the most popular Boss color in 1970.
  • 427 engine (not original, G code 302 removed) possibly a Holman Moody
  • 7,013 Boss 302s produced in 1970 model year

Lesson learned
  Always follow your leads, no matter how small or uninteresting you think they may be. Joe Sprague got lucky with this 1970 Boss, next time maybe you will too!

Jody Potter
— Junkyard Life

Do you have a classic or muscle car barn find? Send us details and we’re on the way!  Send emails to Jody Potter at

Stay tuned and be sure to CHECK OUT JUNKYARD LIFE ON YOUTUBE.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Watch: 1965 VW Kombi Bus Rescue

Watch the 1965 VW Kombi rescue!
  Was this a good idea?
  Would you drag a 1965 VW bus out of the woods after it had been parked by a stream for 44 years?

Send us a comment. What would you do? And if you did haul it out, what would you do next? That's where we're at – scratching our heads, but inspired to work on our 1961 Ford B-600 hi-top Mega Bus build.

Stay tuned!

Jody Potter
— Junkyard Life

Do you have a classic or muscle car barn find? Send us details and we’re on the way!  Send emails to Jody Potter at or Ron Kidd at

Thursday, January 31, 2019

1965 VW Bus Rescue: Digging a Kombi playhouse out of the woods after 44 years

The bus was left in the woods for more than 40 years, shown as I found it.

Kombi rescue. The VW bus was parked in the Alabama woods before it was 10 years old. Serving duty as a little girl’s shiny blue playhouse before the rust found residence. Years later, it became a makeshift storage building, home for discarded lawn mower parts and bushels of aluminum cans. Planted in a low spot between two hills, the castoff, split window bus was a landmark. Sucked into the dirt and leaning, the VW was a permanent family member. A family member 
saturated with cancerous rust from the belly up. The Volkswagen was dying. 

"Would you be interested in an old VW bus?" 
  The message appeared on my Facebook. An iconic VW. Could it be one of those window buses? 21 and 23 window VWs are gold mines. I didn't hesitate. 
  "Heck yeah!" 
  My soon-to-be deal was told to anyone who would listen. The owner sent me a couple of photos, which only ramped up my enthusiasm. It was not a window bus — but she said I could just make an offer. 
  Cheap? Yes. My kinda junk yard deal. Or junk woods deal as it turned out.

The VW sunk into the mud by a stream.
The 1965 VW Kombi sunk into the mud by a stream between two hills.

What is it?
  A 1965 VW Transporter Kombi. This model VW bus was a forerunner to the modern day crossovers and SUVs. The Kombi’s rear seats could be removed to haul cargo or remain in place to haul 7 passengers. This was before anyone imagined folding the seats into the floor. A true utility vehicle that appealed to those needing a multi-purpose work vehicle or an active family hauler. 
  (Editors note: Kombi means station wagon via the German translator on my Google search. I thought it meant combination. — Takeaway tip: Don't take German lessons from a guy in Alabama.)

VW Kombi bulkhead (wall) separates the front seating area from rear cargo/seating area. Notice the floor is gone!

Bus load
  Fifty years ago, VW Transporter models included the Panel Van, the Kombi, the Microbus, the Pick-Up and the Double Cab Pick-Up. VW provided a wide variety on the bread box bus assembly line. It took a while to wrap my head around the intricacies of these early VW Transporters. I grabbed a book, "The Complete Book of Volkswagens" by John Gunnell, to learn more about the VW bus.  

Confusing lingo
  Car and bus. Easy. Look deeper. The first VW model, the original VW Beetle, is known as a Type 1. The Transporter (VW Bus), the second VW model, is a Type 2. Here’s where it gets squirrelly. 
The first generation Transporter design (Type 2), built from 1950-1967, are identified as T1 (first gen) and had a split front windshield. 
  1968 thru 1979 model Transporters are identified as the T2 (second gen) design and feature a Bay Window type windshield. 
  The terminology is confusing to non-VW people. I could tell you more baffling details about the 1980-1983 VW Vanagon but I’ll stop here. Just keep your T1 or Type 1 conversations separated according to bus or Beetle. We’re just gonna talk about the VW bus now. 

The 1965 VW Kombi bus spent 40-plus years in these woods.
Jungle scene? No, just Alabama woods. The 1965 VW Kombi bus spent 40-plus years in these woods.

How did the VW land in the woods in the first place?
  This VW bus rolled onto the property of Steve and Janice Thomas’ house courtesy of an ex-brother-in-law. 
  “He bought it for the engine to use in a dune buggy around 1974,” said Janice. “Our daughter used (the bus) as a playhouse.” 
  Extra vehicles tossed in the woods were no big deal for Janice. Her husband, Steve, raced round track cars back in the 1970s. The VW bus sat out of the way and became a storage shed after the playhouse years. The bus disappeared into the greenery of the wooded Alabama property. 

Why not sell it back then?
  Demand was low for junkyard VWs in Alabama in the 1970s. Drivers were wary of traveling in these on highways because of their low horsepower and wobbly road manners, especially in high wind conditions or while getting passed by a tractor trailer. Die hard hippies and anxious teens looking for their first vehicle gobbled up the cheap buses. For everyone else, used, better handling transportation alternatives could be had for a few hundred bucks. Worn out Beetles and bus bodies sold for next to nothing. Junkyards sold them for $25-$50. Many were left to rot or given away like this one.

Front bumper in much better shape than the rear despite touching dirt.
1965 VW bus found sitting on the front bumper after sinking into the soft mud between two hills.

How I found it
  First generation, split window VW buses wrangled from the jungle, swamp or mountain top have occurred all over the world. This 1965 Kombi was uncovered in a combination of all three terrains. The wooded sanctuary between two small hillsides and bisected by a rainwater runoff ditch was not easy to reach. I clamored over, under and through trees, vines and bushes to get my hands on the bus. The driver’s side was buried in the mud inches away from a trickling stream. Scales of moss covered the slab sides on the boxy VW body in a sheet of fungus.  

Somehow all the glass remained intact. 
  “How did a stray B.B., baseball or tree limb not taken a swipe at the glass?” 
  Taking inventory of the good parts was quick. Tail lights? Check. Headlights? Gone. The front doors sag and their outer shells flap. An empty silhouette remains where the big, 14-inch round VW emblem was once mounted on the nose. Inside the worst damage couldn’t be overlooked. A dirt floor visible where the floorpan once lived. The headliner’s cardboard backing hangs down and touches the frame. A complete set of VW wheels, welded tight with 44-plus years of iron oxide, are a good thing, right? 
  “I wish you could have got it sooner,” said Ron Kidd. “Like, 30 years sooner.” 
  So much damage but it still looks cool. “Take a picture, it’ll last longer,” was my first though when I considered moving the bus. I want to move it, but how? 

Ground eroded by water on driver's side of 1965 VW bus.
Runoff rainwater eroded ground under driver's side of 1965 VW bus. 
My son, Joe, maneuvers a floor jack under the 1965 VW bus' front bumper.

Saws, a shovel and chain
  Tree cutting was inevitable. Shoveling the tires out of the ground, a given. Digging out the frame and jacking up the transaxle to free it was par for the course. The problem was trying to move it without damaging the body or breaking glass. I know there wasn’t much to lose, but my goal was to move it to my house in the same condition that I found it.
  My plan was futile. Imagine moving a china cabinet - full of mom’s prized dishes. You know you cannot move it without breaking something. Scratch that – breaking lots of things. During relocation of the 1965 VW bus I managed to add a nice twist, or, as they say in France, torque, into the body. 

Pull harder, but not...
  A gentle tug with the 2004 Chevy 2500 4x4 was followed by some strong arm tractor action, then back to the truck for more controllable oomph. The rear end/transaxle was pulling away from the body of the rusted VW when pulled with our tow rope/chain setup. The lower half of the bus body had no structural support to stabilize it. Moving along the uneven terrain and out of the woods would be cruel and unusual punishment to what remained of the VW carcass. To remedy that, one chain was attached to the transaxle and another to the front support bar under the dash, then snugged tight using a come-along. After all seemed secure and a bit more excavation from underneath the wheels, we applied more grunt from the 6.0 liter LS engine with Ron Kidd behind the wheel. That’s when we managed to yank loose the center support bar below the dash. The rear wheels moved back more than a foot, which caused the back tires to push the rear corner of the bus’ body up. Not a good look. No going back now.

The split window bus' bumper guards and hollow headlight buckets make for a mean and scary VW.

Getting it home
  Once the VW was pulled clear of the woods, a wrecker was called so it could make a careful trip home via a rollback. I asked the wrecker driver to take it slow and easy. No luck there. During his first maneuver out of the driveway, with the VW swaying high atop the wrecker, he pulled out too wide, causing the driver of a giant, oncoming truck to lock-up his tires. After the smoke cleared, I watched from behind as the erratic driver proceeded to hang the little VW in the wind at blistering speeds. Vigorous flapping and rust dust pelted my truck as I followed behind. Somehow, the remains of paper thin sheetmetal held on for the duration of the trip. 

Drop her off anywhere, just ease her down
  The unloading process was as smooth as a bouncy house at a birthday party. Against my protests, the driver demonstrated the shake, rock, shake technique to slide the VW off the wrecker. The windows convulsed. The body creaked and groaned. Bitter, death sounds were made as the VW Transporter lost the battle with gravity and it shrieked – metal against metal – down the bed of the rollback.

After being pulled, stretched, twisted and shaken the Kombi looks a bit worse than she did in the woods.

Home at last!
  Clearing out most of the junk that survived the trip inside the bus was my first priority. Then I scrambled to make the sad remains of the bus more pleasing for my neighbors. A bath was in order. I hoped that more of the original VW Dove Blue paint would show up after a good scrubbing.
  “Well, maybe the rust looks cleaner?”
  The bus sits. I have no grand plans to restore the Kombi. I pulled the front and rear bumpers for Keith Lively to use as templates for the Mega VW Bus build (Part 1 video, Part 2) that he is working on. Right now I’m savoring the adventure and happy to look out in the yard at the 54-year-old bus. Who knows how long the remains of the bus will last?
  “I better look at it again.”

Jody Potter
— Junkyard Life


Inside the Kombi is a mess of rusted-through metal. The floor is gone and the shell is unstable.

Below the dash and split window in the 1965 Kombi the center post separated due to a feeble attempt at holding the bus together with a central chain connecting transaxle to center post.

1965 VW Kombi chassis i.d. plate on right-side of overhead air vent. Type 23 Kombi.

Sekurit VW glass.

Lettering on VW Kombi driver's door could be a clue to a previous role as a work-a-day company vehicle.

Rear bumper on 1965 VW Kombi eaten away by rust.

Rust, moss and dirt surround VW bus rear wheel.

I don't know if I will ever see an early VW bus in the woods like this again. It was a good day.

1965 VW Kombi vehicle i.d. plate behind right-hand front seat. Code 013 for middle and rear seat option. Code 31 Dove Blue paint visible.

Behind the wheel look at the 1965 VW Kombi. One side of Safari glass came loose from frame (but still intact) during transport.

Do you have a classic or muscle car barn find? Send us details and we’re on the way!  Send emails to Jody Potter at or Ron Kidd at

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Cars in Yards: 1956 Chevrolet Bel Air, a Mystery Theater Rust Opera with three pedals

Inside we find an automatic indicator on column but three pedals on the floor.

Welcome to Junkyard Life’s Mystery Theater. Tonight’s Rust Opera shall begin with a mystery car — one 1956 Chevrolet Bel Air that we stumbled upon. “What makes this a mystery?” you may ask yourself or the Rust Opera attendee seated to your right? 
  That is weird that in a theater you are more likely to speak to someone you don’t know seated on your right. 
  Silence! Your Junkyard Life Mystery Theater Host Jody, Keith and Ron are about to tell you. 

  There were many 1956 Chevrolets sold. That is no mystery. This handsome fellow represents a mere shadow of the man he used to be. Behold, opera fans… this one is a two-tone, four-door Bel Air hard top. Likely the most expensive car on the dealer lot. Second only to the Nomad wagon and the new kid on the block, Corvette, then in only its third year of production. 
  This example was missing a few pieces lost in the hands of time, but otherwise a rather complete car. Four-door hard tops are very cool.

So, where is the mystery? 
  Before you leave (sorry, no refunds) allow us to present the mystery…

But this 1956 Chevy was somehow equipped with an automatic transmission indicated on the instrument cluster AND also a manual transmission indicated by the three pedals which appear to be of factory issue.

This Bel Air was equipped with an AM radio (now missing) and all the proper Bel Air trim. Notice the Bel Air emblem is hiding a speaker and a well-placed clock? Notice anything weird, Junkyard Life Mystery fans? 

  Look carefully. It seems upon close examination that this ’56 Chevy was somehow equipped with an automatic transmission indicated on the instrument cluster AND also a manual transmission indicated by the three pedals which appear to be of factory issue. Explain!

The hard top gives the 4-door a sporty profile.
The four-door hard top is a beauty despite rust. The remaining stainless trim has withstood the test of time plus the hard top gives the 4-door a sporty profile. What's inside intrigues us most.

Get what you...
  Couldn’t decide between the two, so they got both? Wait a minute. You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes you just might find… you get a three-speed. (Editor’s Note: Apologies to the Rolling Stones. Ron just says things without checking for copyright issues.
  With that three-speed and a Power Glide, does that make it a five-speed? 
Drop us a comment below. We have a theory about this transmission madness but we want your input.

  Goodnight for now, Rust Opera Junkyard Life Mystery Theater and shoebox Chevy fans. We leave you to wonder which came first. While you are wondering, also imagine the bright contrast that the red or orange dash (Sierra Gold?) had with the two-tone paint. For that matter, what color was it actually? We love the hidden fuel doors on the 1956 models. Actually, the entire car has a presence and a prestige all of its own. These cars are still around and if you have the resources to rescue, please do! 
Ron Kidd
— Junkyard Life

A total of 103,602 Chevy Bel Air 4-door hard tops were built in 1956. That accounts for just 6% of the 1.6 million Chevy passenger vehicles built for 1956 model year. How many do you see today?

Do you have a classic or muscle car barn find? Send us details and we’re on the way!  Send emails to Jody Potter at or Ron Kidd at