Saturday, December 21, 2013

Readers Ride: 1970 Boss 302 Mustang

Ripping up the road for four decades. The year was 1972, when Al Willingham, of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, went car shopping with his dad. Willingham had just returned home after serving 2 years in the U.S. Navy. Money was tight but a Wimbledon white 1970 Boss 302 Mustang caught the younger Willlingham’s eye on a used car lot. Asking price $2,700. Four-speed, hockey stick stripes. A Boss! Willingham negotiated a deal with the dealer and his dad. His dad was out $2,400. Four decades later, Willingham is still reaping dividends on those payments made to his dad.

All 1970 Boss 302 Mustangs received four-speed transmissions and a Hurst T-handle shifter to stir the gears.

See the Boss
  Recently, I met Willingham at the Birmingham Ford and Mustang Club car show at Jim Skinner Ford in Birmingham, Alabama. Willingham had just won a door prize. A walking cane with a small, toy Mustang for the handle. 
    “If you ever see the car, I can see you,” said Willingham. “Because it never leaves my sight.”
  Willingham placed the cane on top of the fold-down rear seat in his Boss 302 Mustang. Willingham's face lit up as he began to talk about his many adventures in the car. Street races and eluding the cops in the car sealed a bond long ago that this car owner won't easily break. 

Decals on factory, finned aluminum valve covers announce the 1970 Boss 302 engine.

Hell on wheels
  Willingham and his Boss 302 had a reputation for high-speed hijinks in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. If you cruised the boulevards of Tuscaloosa in the 1970s you may have seen a trio of Boss 302s. Willingham's white Boss 302 made the rounds with a green Boss and a yellow Boss, owned by a couple of his buddies. These fast friends were hell on wheels and a cop’s nightmare.

Pays to be first
  During his road warrior days in the 1970s, Willingham raced a Chevelle and came out a winner in more ways than one. He had the Chevy beat and decided to quickly pull into a parking lot to cool his engine. Just as he did he spotted red and blue lights in his rear view mirror. Willingham watched as the Chevelle blew past, followed by another Chevelle that was trying hard to catch his Boss Mustang and the first Chevelle. A Tuscaloosa cop pulled the two Chevelles over as a smiling Willingham skulked slowly through the darkened parking lot.

Willingham, above right, relishes the muscle car glory days of the 1970s and his 1970 Boss Mustang.

Half a million miles and still going
  A pile of speeding tickets and a blown engine were the only things that could slow Willingham's Mustang. He continues to maintain the Boss in stock condition, only replacing parts and paint as needed back to factory specs.
  “I guess I have a half million miles on it,” Willingham said. “The Boss was my daily driver for a long time.” Despite the miles, this Boss looks no worse for the wear. The ’Stang received a Wimbledon White repaint about 15 years ago. 
  Willingham, not one to back down from a race, managed to blow-up the 302 engine not long after he got it. Since then, he has had the engine rebuilt twice. The stout Ford 9-inch rear end is still the original with stock 3.50 gears.
  “If you can tear up a Ford 9-inch rear end you can tear up a steel ball,” said Willingham. 
  The transmission is still the original 4-speed, wide-ratio and has never been apart. Surprisingly, the Boss gets decent gas mileage, like that matters. I asked anyway. 
  “My Boss came with a 600 cfm carburetor and gets 21 miles per gallon on the highway,” said Wilingham. “Other than the driver's seat being replaced, the interior is all original.”

Reflective black stripes adorn 1970 Boss 302 Mustangs. 

Many happy returns
  I could tell Willingham loves his car as much now, as he did four decades ago. The look in his eyes when he talks about it made me believe this was the greatest car on the planet. I envy this guy. Willingham got the car he wanted and hung on to it. The 1969-1970 Boss 302 Mustangs certainly look like a great investment in hindsight. Willingham's Boss 302 is priceless.

Jody Potter
— Junkyard Life

1970 Boss 302 Mustang specs:
Engine - 302 cubic inch V8, rated at 290 horsepower
Carburetor - 600 cfm, 4 barrel
Transmission - Wide-ratio 4-speed manual
Rear end - 3.50 gear ratio
Color - Wimbledon white
Wheels - Chrome Magnum 500
Original MSRP - $3,720

Chrome air cleaner lid was standard on 1970 Boss Mustangs, a shaker scoop was optional.

Al Willingham has logged more than a half million miles behind the wheel of his 1970 Boss Mustang.

Front chin spoiler on the Boss amplifies the aggressive look of the redesigned 1970 Mustangs.
Front chin spoiler on the Boss amplifies the aggressive look of the redesigned 1970 Mustangs.

Reflective stripes adorned all 6,318 1970 Boss Mustangs produced by Ford.
Ford produced 7,013 Boss 302 Mustangs in 1970.

Flat black deck lid and rear spoiler lead to the blacked-out tail panel on 1970 Boss Mustangs.
A flat black deck lid and black rear spoiler lead to a blacked-out tail panel on 1970 Boss Mustangs.

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Sunday, December 15, 2013

Cars in Yards: Army Brat Biscayne

Four door Chevy, painted Army green was missing its keys, so it was left untouched.

Sedentary soldier. I recently discovered these pictures in my Junkyard Life archives. A few years ago, I stumbled upon this 1966 Chevy Biscayne in the weeds at the back of a property near Birmingham, Alabama. The family, who owned the car, knew little of its history. The green, four-door Chevy probably has a cavalcade of history due to its obvious military beginnings. I uncovered a lot of mysterious facts that I would love to know more about. 

  A Biscayne featured the lowest price trim line available on the full-size Chevrolet. This Chevy was almost free by sticker shopping comparison, as they had no bells. No whistles. 
(Junkyard Life note: Where did that saying come from? Was a bell or whistle actually an option on some car at some point?
  This Biscayne was especially thrifty, because it was ordered as a fleet vehicle for the US military! 
  I know not of which branch. Any clues or info will be welcome. 

My clues were:
  • No options. Not even an automatic transmission, for a full-size Chevrolet.
  • A weird green color.
  • An unusual stamped plate on the dashboard resembling a cowl tag.
  • Evidence of something that may have been lettering on the door that someone had sanded off. 

The famous Bow Tie mirror from the mid-1960s was standard. You didn’t have to pay for it, because believe me, they wouldn’t have.
Photos: Ron Kidd

Pappy, Where are Your Keys?
  This car was all business. It was an inline six cylinder with a manual three-speed transmission shifted on the column. Tax dollars for an automatic? No way. It was a bench seat sedan with manual everything. How do I know it was a military issue? I guess I really don’t. It had a metal stamped plate on the dash with lettering alluding to that conclusion. I couldn’t take a decent picture of it because the family could not find the keys to open it. That’s right. It was sitting throughout the lives of past owners, because no one could find the keys.   
  I wish I had a picture of that strange cowl tag on the dash so I could share it with you. What would have happened to this car if someone just had the keys? A real full-size Chevy fan would never let this happen!

Ron Kidd
— Junkyard Life

I wonder what stories this car could tell? It  was in service during Vietnam, Watergate, and the moon landing. Junkyard Life wishes we knew what else? The car and the family are gone, so the mystery remains. I hope this car fell into the right hands.
Photos: Ron Kidd

The Biscayne emblem was in great shape on this seemingly green car. The color may be a clue as to which branch — maybe the Army?
Photos: Ron Kidd

Dog dish hub caps, one original, one not. I think the one submerged in earth, top photo, is not the original. I venture to guess it was the simple Bow Tie to cover the lugs. Hey, be glad they payed for that. I bet Chevy didn’t give them a choice!!
Photos: Ron Kidd

I asked them if I could come back in a couple of weeks and give them time to find the keys. They agreed and seemed delighted at my enthusiasm. However, they still didn’t find them. I suspect they didn’t even look. If the car had been there for twenty years, what made me think they would suddenly find them for me? Stupid retrospect.
Photos: Ron Kidd

Happy Hunting!

Know a junkyard that we need to visit? Got a car story?  
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Thursday, December 5, 2013

Cars in Yards: A 1968 Olds 442! Maybe Not

If I stopped cutting my grass, I wonder if a 1968 Olds 442 will grow in my yard? Jody and I have seen far better ways to block a driveway. This didn't begin to stop us. It only made curiosity worse. Explain how this happens?

This just in: Junkyard Life Discovers a 1968 Olds 442! Or did we????? Curses to your discriminating, suspicious nature and unconfirmable pedigree! Its not a real Olds 442, but heck, it fooled us too. That's okay, we loved seeing it anyway. 1968 was one of our favorite years for the Cutlass. Take a closer look at this diamond in the rough.

Ron Kidd
— Junkyard Life

It was indeed a 1968 Olds, the first year of the redesigned skin on GM’s A-body, Rocket platform. It was never a good year for the cheesy chrome hood scoop bolted on for some reason.

Notice how the rear bumper does NOT have exhaust cut-outs, which were exclusive to the 442 model (and later shared by the SX model). That’s a clue, Scooby – this may not be a 442 after all.

Notice Ron's reflection in the Olds 442 stripe holding the jeweled "442" emblems. Did I just say "jeweled"? Yeah, that’s not right. Another clue pointing to this being a fake 442.

Jody points out these 14" Olds Rally wheels could be factory. Even if they didn't come on this Cutlass, they still look good on the car.

Under the hind quarters we didn't find a rear sway bay or a posi rear end. Still, not 100% signs, but another nod toward a cloned muscle machine.

It was an Oldsmobile engine, but we know not which one. Blue paint would indicate a 455 or a later model 350. The early 350 color would have been gold. I hope the non-442 hood fell on the head of the culprit armed with Chevy orange spray paint near this Oldsmobile.

The interior revealed a "Cutlass Supreme" dash emblem and door panel lettering. They are only the last bit of evidence Ron and Jody needed to sadly declare... not a real Olds 442.

Happy Hunting!

Know a junkyard that we need to visit? Got a car story?  
Send emails to Ron at or Jody at

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Junkyard Adventure: Thompson’s Auto Parts

South Alabama junkyard smiles. If you find yourself lucky enough to be passing through the southern tip of Alabama, you must stop at Thompson’s Auto Parts in Midland City. Located just north of Dothan, Alabama on Highway 231. Roland Thompson, owner and operator, was kind enough to let Junkyard Life tour the yard with a camera and ask about a thousand questions. 
  Thompson guided me through his shop and showed me a few of his current projects. Thompson is obviously a skilled body man and mechanic. Only when I could be restrained no more, he turned me loose to my own devices. 
  What did I see? A southern Alabama classic car heaven is all.

1971 Chevelle SS stripped of carpet and showing off solid floor pans.

Chevy heavy

  Roland Thompson is primarily a Chevrolet guy. One thing that caught my eye was a fabulous green 1971 Chevelle SS. All the Q&A I could play with it, pointed to it being of genuine Super Sport pedigree. Round gauges, cowl hood, optional spoke wheels — it was all there. The carpet removed for all to see the floor pans, which seemed in great shape to me.

1961 Chevy Impala.

1971 Chevy wagon with SS grill.

Ready for paint
  Immediately catching our eyes was this 1971 Chevelle wagon with a lot of body work done to it. We love wagons. Add this 1961 Impala, a solid 
2-door hardtop, (in about the same stage of bodywork) and you would have stopped too. If Junkyard Life nerds are going to be passing by, you can’t just leave things like this in view.

1970 Chevy Monte Carlo, needs hood.

1971 Chevy Monte Carlo, hood available. 

Monte Carlo feast
  Thompson’s has a vast array of first generation Monte Carlos. Do we like Monte Carlos? No, we love them. There is nothing about these cars we don’t like, other than they are not ours. It’s a good thing Thompson sells whole cars, as well as other hard to find parts, because these Monte Carlos are too nice to part out.

Big block Chevy car in Thompson’s junkyard!

Where else are you going to find a complete 1966 SS 396 El Camino?

With the big block rat motor still at home? Check! A quick look reveals factory AC, power steering and power brakes. This car is something special.

1970 Olds Cutlass S.

Factory Halo Top made a fashion statement when new. 

Top this
  This 1970 Cutlass S was in remarkable shape. Notice the factory, weird, vinyl top that GM referred to as a Halo Top, because the car appeared to be wearing like, a halo instead of the full length version. I took lots of pictures of this car in different camera settings and it did not disappoint.

Second gen Trans Am fever at the junkyard.
A pair of 79-81 model Pontiac Trans Ams on hand. These two hard-top models had lots of great parts, like the tail light design and splitter pipes I cannot resist.
One of the Trans Ams oddly enough had this strange Buick wheel. We love odd and someone is bound to be looking for this.

This poor 1970 Pontiac was rescued after teenage car cannibals tried to emulate a targa top — with a saw! No anesthesia even.

A 1955 Chevy panel truck with a now ironic lettering that reads “Modern Cleaners — As Modern as Tomorrow.”

This mid-fifties Ford wagon was the subject of a lot of different camera angles. They all turned out great. I wonder where this car has been. Suburban housewife? Adventure traveler? Route 66? Hand-me-down teenage transportation? Two dollar per car load drive in night? Junkyard Life has questions like that.

Buy parts or whole cars
  Thompson’s Auto Parts deals heavily in Chevelles, Chevy II’s, Monte Carlos and really is a true Chevrolet fan. If you need something hard to find, give them a call. They sells parts and entire cars. Thompson also has sources and friends that share his enthusiasm. There are more cars tucked away on the yard. 

I spied this 1955 Bel Air 2-door post sedan in the weeds. This shoebox Chevy reminds me of our ’55 Hot Rod project. Roland digs Tri-fives too! He showed me a beautiful 55 150 that they worked on, that made Power Tour this year.

1955 Chevy Bel Air baby!

1971 Chevy Monte Carlo sits in the weeds at Thompson’s junkyard in south Alabama.
How many green first gen Monte Carlos did GM build? 

Seating for two in the trunk of this 1970 Monte Carlo.

Bigger is better
  One more Monte Carlo shout out. These two may be rough, but offer lots of hard to find trim and various other parts. I didn’t see an SS454, but knowing Roland Thompson, there may be one hidden in the yard somewhere. I imagine the green one in younger days, gleaming with those factory pin stripes highlighting the bold body.

Thompson’s motto 

“We buy antique cars and trucks, the good, the bad & the ugly—
running or not!” 
  So, if you have something interesting, give him a call at (334) 983-9053. They may just have it in there somewhere!
Ron Kidd
— Junkyard Life

1955 Cadillac! How did it survive dramatic scrap price surges.

Junkyard Life Reminders and Tips:
  1. Never ever ever, just walk into a junkyard without permission. No exceptions. Even if you “know” them.
  2. If you get denied permission, don’t get huffy with the yard guard. Understand, they have to deal with theft and legal issues. Always be nice.
  3. Be sure to mention the project you are working on. They can steer you in the right direction.
  4. If you find something you want or need — always talk with them before you go removing parts.
  5. If you do remove the part, assure the business that you will NOT hack up everything that needs to be removed to get what you need. 
  6. If you do break something, tell them and offer to buy it. This is their business and they will appreciate the offer.
  7. Thank them for letting you look around. They don’t have to do that. It makes for a good relationship and raises your chances of doing good business in the future.

Happy Hunting!

Know a junkyard that we need to visit? Got a car story?  
Send emails to Ron at or Jody at 

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Sad ending for one 1974 Chevy Monte Carlo

Scrap yard scorecard: Car Guys - ZERO, People Who Would Sell Their Best Friend For Scrap - ONE. Automotive rescuers, restorers, enthusiast alike — we have failed. Once again the Junkyard Life crew and all our brothers will breathe an exasperated sigh and shake our heads at the thought of us finding this once-awesome 1974 Chevrolet Monte Carlo. It’s not a treasure hunting victory by any means. I wish I would have found it anywhere else. This golden girl was found at the local scrap place. Why do I even drive by there? And, it only got worse as I got deeper into my Junkyard Life investigative stupor.

How Could It Get Worse?
  Good point. It was already bad enough, being it was a proud 1974 Monte Carlo lined up to be crushed. We love Monte Carlos. We love what GM called “Colonnade” bodies. The new-for-1973 design, carried on until 1977 before the body style changed. These over-bumpered beauties were the result of strict government standards in the name of safety, emissions and fuel consumption. 
  The bigger, heavier, bolder design took a while for the hot rod guys to get used to them, but now is now and at least we love them. We are not alone in our guilty Colonnade pleasure. The last Monte Carlo story we wrote received a lot of response and feedback. Our readers have a passion for the forgotten years that have not hit the collector circles with Barrett-Jackson price demands. Thankfully, that means, for now, we can still find them reasonably priced. That is, unless they are turned into Shasta cans and aluminum siding, such as the fate of this poor car.

If the back seat of this ’74 Monte Carlo could talk, it would say, "keep me out of the crusher!"

Power locks and manual windows adorn the white door panels of the ’74 Chevy.
Guts and glory
  This ’74 Monte Carlo featured an almost basic interior. A bench seat and a column shifter were fairly common. Optional, would have been bucket seats and an automatic still, but shifted from a neat-o, floor console. Extra cool would be the famous “swivel” bucket seats! Monte Carlos were one of the few cars that offered them. Not so common, were a couple of extra cost options I spotted. Tilt wheel and power door locks. Strange that we keep finding these odd combinations of manual windows, but power door locks. Crank, crank-crank-click.

120-MPH speedo on this ’74 Monte Carlo. Giant gas gauge looks comical.

This Monte Carlo still runs and has the keys in the ignition. Junkyard gold – not for long.

Gauges and questions
  This Monte Carlo has a basic dash with a huge fuel gage and a 120 speedometer with no trip odometer. I know Pontiac’s Grand Prix offered a trip meter. Does anyone know if Chevrolet offered one as well? Notice the keys are in the ignition. That lends the story a pass for using bad words. Why?

A complete, original SBC is housed under the ’74 Monte Carlo’s hood.

A/C brackets, belts all in place just like grandma ordered it.

Complete and running
  It ran! The Monte Carlo has a complete small block with all the hoses, all the belts, even the AC belt was on it. The engine was complete from air cleaner to oil pan. The nice guy who ran the yard told me it ran. He really was nice, although doing what he does, he may be the devil. He let me look at the car and I am thankful for that. Ready for more bad news?

Vehicle Emissions decal reveals 400 Small Block possibilities on the 1974 Chevy.
Vehicle Emissions decal reveals 400 Small Block possibilities on the 1974 Chevy.
Sticker shock
  It may be a Small Block 400! My picture didn’t turn out well, but it had that vague “350-400” declaration on the fan shroud emissions decal. It also appears to say ‘2-BBL.’ A 400 engine could have had a 2-barrel carburetor in 1974. 
  “That’s okay, right? We have plenty of SBC 400s around, don’t we?” 
  Monte Carlo enthusiasts prevailed that year. What they didn’t pay — in attention to the oil embargo — they paid at the pump. Chevrolet enjoyed record sales of the beautiful Monte Carlo despite rising gas prices.

This 1974 Chevy Monte Carlo was registered last year. It was a crime for it to land at the scrap yard.
This 1974 Chevy Monte Carlo was registered last year. It was a crime for it to land at the scrap yard.

Not rusty, vinyl top removed
  This car was equipped with a vinyl top but it didn’t have the detrimental rust effect those tops usually bring. I venture to guess this car was kept inside most of its life. I failed to check the paint codes. I guess I didn’t want to know. I bet it rolled out of the dealership with Chevrolet’s famed Rally wheels, though not on the car now. 
  Talk about falling into the wrong hands. This car would be an heirloom in my family. We don’t engage in this blasphemy. Sure, it was beat up a bit but I think that damage was done after landing in this graveyard of cars.

1974 Chevy Monte Carlo has a clean design, wide-mouth grill with 66 squares above the bumper.
1974 Chevy Monte Carlo has a clean design, wide-mouth grill with 66 squares above the bumper. 

Ron’s Monte Carlo Trivial Factoid
  You can tell the ’74 Montes from the ’75s by the grill. The Monte Carlo emblem was located in the grill on the ’75’s, and located above the grill, like this example from ’74. This grill was in great shape, by the way, as it should be. The car was registered up until last year
  I really doubt the crusher guy cares much about the grill in the ’74 models.

Scrap yard monsters waiting to devour this 1974 Chevy Monte Carlo.
Scrap yard monsters waiting to devour this 1974 Chevy Monte Carlo.

Don’t look!
  Although I took this picture, I hate it. See the big evil crane thing in the back ground? 
  “Let go of my Monte Carlo, you cannibals!” I screamed in my mind. As if it wasn’t troubled enough. Madness, I say.
  Do what you have to do, to not let this happen. Encourage those inclined to scrap an American classic to post an ad. Let a Junkyard Lifer know. Let someone know. This is a waste of a once-great car. 
  It hurts to be us sometimes.

Ron Kidd
— Junkyard Life

Know a junkyard that we need to visit? Got a car story?  
Send emails to Ron at or Jody at