At the recent Carlisle Ford Nationals Meet we stumbled upon a 1970 Boss 302 Mustang that was different than your average pony car. This Mustang was claimed to have been pulled out of a barn after sitting for several decades and was in highly original condition. As we read deeper into the car’s show placard, it appeared to have a very storied past, so when the owner approached us to see if we had any questions, we had to learn more about it.
“I figured it was a scam,” says Chase VanDyne, the man who found the derelict car for sale on Craigslist. “The ad was maybe three sentences long. The photos were horrible, there was no name, and no phone number.” The car was pictured in a dark, dusty barn with very little info accompanying a car of such caliber. “It was not an ad that you would expect for a Boss 302. But even if it was a scam, I was going to sniff it out.”
When Chase found the ad, he sent a long email asking for details on the car, what the story was, and much more, but never received a response. “I think I scared the owner off asking for so much info at first,” says Chase, “so I sent another email saying ‘Is there a phone number I can call?’” Soon, Chase received a reply of nothing more than a phone number and the name “Mike”, so he decided to give the number a ring. During that fateful phone call, Chase learned the story behind the barnfind Boss 302.
The Boss 302 on display at Carlisle Ford Nationals 2019
Mike, the third owner and current seller of the Mustang, purchased the car in 1976. He bought it to be his second car for street racing and hunting down Camaros. He paid $2,000 at the time, which his father claimed to be an insane amount for an old Mustang, but Mike knew he had to have it. While the Boss 302 was in Mike’s care, he installed several aftermarket parts such as upgraded headers, exhaust, and wheels, and backed up the drum brakes all the way in order to be the fastest guy in town. Over the next two years, Mike would go on spirited drives in his hot rod until life took him in a new direction.
In 1978, Mike chose to be a dad rather than a street racer, and with that decision came a new set of priorities. The financial burden of driving and insuring the car was too much to balance with the new expenses of a family, so Mike parked the Mustang in his barn with the hope of putting it back on the road with his two sons someday. As the boys grew up, they learned about their father’s car and eventually bought their own white foxbody Mustangs as a homage to the Boss 302.
Unfortunately, life had other plans and Mike was never able to get his old Mustang back on the road with his boys. As the years went on he kept the car covered in his barn until there came a time that he was forced to sell it.
Once Chase had talked with Mike on the phone, he had to decide if he wanted to make the five hour drive to check out the car. After consulting with Jeff Sneathen at SEMO Mustang, a restoration shop for Shelby and Boss Mustangs, and getting the ‘okay’ from his wife, Chase knew he had to act quick or he would regret it for the rest of his life. The very next morning, Chase was on the road to see if he found his diamond in the rough.
“I decided to record every step of the process to prove it was a real barnfind” Chase told us. “When I got to the property, the car was in the back corner of a small, dusty barn. The car was originally parked in 1978, but Mike and his sons moved it in 1989 from one side of the barn to the other. That’s where it remained, covered up until the day I went to go see it.” The Mustang was in well-preserved condition (although far from perfect) which Chase attributes to the generic car cover it wore which allowed consistent airflow and the hay bales Mike kept next to it which attracted moisture away from the car.
The Boss 302 hidden away in the back corner of Mike’s barn
“I took ~300 photos of the car the day I first saw it.” Chase said as he described his first time seeing the Mustang. “I had a clipboard full of Boss 302 info that the guys at SEMO told me to look for to make sure it was the real deal. Everything looked right for it to be a Boss, except for the aftermarket parts on the car because Mike liked to race.”
The Boss 302 definitely needed work, but Chase was no stranger to projects that needed more than their fair share of elbow grease. In his search for projects, Chase has also rescued and resurrected a ’69 Corvette, ’70 Firebird Formula, and a ’69 Mach 1. “I like to find stuff, bring it back to life over the Winter, drive it for a year or two, and then sell it to free up the money to buy something new,” Chase told us. But this time was different. Chase told us that his goal was to find a car that didn’t need to be restored. “I wanted to show the car as preserved and original and Mike loved that idea.”
As they got to know each other, Chase was able to identify with Mike because he and his son Mason loved to work on cars as well and had been doing so since his son was a teenager. “I showed Mike a picture of my son and I pulling the engine out of a ‘69 Mach 1 when my son was only 15 years old and I really think that helped build the relationship between us,” Chase described. This commonality was the connection that helped Chase and Mike build a close friendship throughout their negotiations on the car.
Chase and Mike started very far apart in their negotiations and ended up taking seven weeks to put a deal together. “Mike said he wanted me to be the one to own the car, but he also wanted the most he could get out of it,” Chase explained. “I wanted to pay a fair price due to the work that needed to be done to the car, so it took us some time to settle on a number.” After several weeks of negotiating, Mike called Chase to ask “When are you coming to pick up the car? It’s yours.”
When Chase returned home, he and Mason loaded up their trailer to pick up the car. Although Chase planned on having his son involved with working on the car from the beginning, he said he had to keep it a secret for some time after he first inspected it. “My son was in the finals of his first semester at college and I knew if I told him I was looking at a Boss 302, it would distract him and he wouldn’t study, so I had to keep it a secret for a little bit.” So once Mason had finally completed his semester’s studies, Chase told him about their hopeful new project.
When Chase had first went to check out the car, he had forgotten to bring a mirror with him so he was unable to confirm whether or not the car had a matching numbers engine. “I wanted my son [Mason] to read the numbers for me and I didn’t tell him what the numbers he was looking for were beforehand, so that he wouldn’t see something that wasn’t there,” Chase said. When the father-son duo arrived to pick up the car, Chase had Mason check out the engine block and read back the number he saw. As Mason read down the number stamped into the block, they confirmed everything matched up and they were ready to start their new project.
Before loading up the Mustang, Chase asked Mike if he had any old photos or documentation to go with the car. Mike replied “I don’t even have a picture of me with the car.” Chase didn’t think that was right and decided to snap Mike’s first picture with his beloved Mustang.
Mike (left) and Chase (right) the day the car was taken out of the barn
The process of moving the car from the barn and onto the trailer only took an hour and a half. The car had to be winched out of place due to a cracked concrete floor that wouldn’t allow for the use of dollies. There was a concern that the brakes would be locked up due to sitting for so long, but as the car began to move, Chase discovered it was able to move freely thanks to the fact that Mike had the brakes backed up all the way during his street racing days, preventing them from locking. Although it must have been emotional for Mike to see the car being moved, Chase said that he took it well and was happily telling stories about his old racing days.
As they set off with their new Mustang, Chase promised Mike that he would keep him involved in every step of the process of preserving the car and getting it back into road-going condition. After retrieving the car from the barn, Chase and Mason brought the car back to their shop where they spent five to six months cleaning it before sending it to the guys at SEMO, keeping the preservation of the car’s history in mind. Chase told SEMO Mustang before starting their work that “This isn’t a restoration, this is a preservation. The car needs to be gone through and for any part found that is incorrect, we need to source date-code and patina correct parts for it.” Chase said it made the process much more difficult and even more expensive, but if it was worth doing, it was worth doing right.
The Boss 302 Mustang being winched onto Chase’s trailer
As the car was brought back to life, Chase would send Mike pictures and updates on what was being done to the car, tell him which shows the car is going to, and whenever it’s been featured in an article or publication. Through the preservation they not only brought a wonderful car back to its former glory, but they also created a strong friendship along the way, knowing that they each had a piece of themselves in the car. Chase admits that he’s only the current caretaker of the Mustang and to this day still tells Mike how much people love seeing “his” car.
Chase told us that he’s legitimately shocked with the response he gets when his family takes the car to events. “It’s not the nicest car out there, but it checks off so many boxes on having a really cool story. Every big event we’ve gone to, with the exception of one, it has won something. We don’t expect to [win] because we’re just happy to show the car. We love to share the hobby, tell the story, and build relationships with other car people. We get joy out of sharing it with other people, getting them involved, and letting people be passionate about it because [the hobby] is full of unique and wonderful people!”
The weekend after we met Chase, he displayed the Boss 302 at the Cincinnati Concours where he was able to give Mike his first ride in the car in over 40 years. “I had to offer Mike a ride several times,” Chase said.“He kept turning the offer down and it wasn’t until my son and his wife, Paula, encouraged him that he finally gave in. It was a very emotional moment and there wasn’t a dry eye around that saw it happen.”
Chase giving Mike his first ride in the Boss 302 in over 40 years
Chase and Mason’s car was a part of the “50 Years of Boss” display during the 2019 Carlisle Ford Nationals meet. Besides being an incredible barnfind story that showcases the passion for these vehicles that brings people together, their car is also the only 1970 Boss 302 Mustang in Wimbledon White purchased with its factory options. We awarded the 1970 Mustang Boss 302 our award for National Automotive Heritage to Chase and Mason to which they said “We were shocked when the HVA approached us for the Automotive Heritage Award. We’re so lucky to be in the shows that we go to and all of a sudden we’re going home with a trophy.”
Mason (left) and Chase (right) after being presented with the HVA’s National Automotive Heritage Award