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.

Know a junkyard that we need to visit? Got a car story?  
Send emails to  

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?  
Send emails to Ron at or Jody at

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