As I was parking my car in Mustang Alley at the Woodward Avenue Dream Cruise yesterday my attention was drawn to another Mustang that was being unloaded and put on display in the Credit Union One parking lot on Nine Mile Road. My first thought was that they had pulled it out of a river, it was that dirty – filthy actually – inside and out. It even smelled as if it had been sitting on the bottom of a river.
It had not, in fact, been sitting in water. It is actually the ultimate barn find and might possibly be the most valuable Mustang on the planet
In 1969 Ford president “Bunkie” Knudsen was determined to win back Trans Am glory from Chevrolet and directed his engineers and designers build a car that could do it. To meet homologation rules Ford would have to build a production version of the 302 cubic inch engine that it intended to race and designer Larry Shinoda was given the task of creating a marketable car to put it in. That car would become the Boss 302.
Shinoda pulled a production Mustang Mach I off the line to use as a prototype to experiment with modifications that would end up on the final product. (That car had a 428 Cobra Jet engine, not a 302, but that didn’t matter as Shinoda’s job was to design the external package that would end up in show rooms, not the drive train.) Those modifications included adding a rear spoiler, rear window louvers, a front air dam , eliminating the fake scoops on the rear fenders and designing the signature “C” stripe that adorned the sides of the car.
Shinoda liked the prototype car enough to buy it from Ford when he left the company later in 1969. He used it as his personal car for a time but eventually sold it to his tailor who later moved to Peoria, Ill. In 1976 the tailor sold it to farmer John Grafelman who drove it for about two years. When a new baby came along and his wife found it difficult to get a child seat in the back seat, Grafelman moved the car to a barn where it sat for decades.
Grafelman has since unearthed the provenance of the Mustang and decided to restore the car for an unveiling at the Mustang’s 50th anniversary celebration in 2014. Grafelman said that he will probably send the car out for most of the work but wants to rebuild the engine himself. He has heard stories about Shinoda winning grudge matches against other Ford employees with his Boss prototype and wants to find out what modifications might have been done to the 428 under the rusty hood.
Grafelman said that Ford has never indicated that the company wanted the car back but that he has had offers in the upper six figures. If those were serious offers then the Peoria farmer may be sitting on the world’s most valuable Mustang.