BOSS 351 Background
In the fall of '70, FORD had just trimmed its five year 50,000-mile new car warranty to an obviously more economical 12-and-12 coverage plan. The '71 design was approved outside in the Michigan snow by Semon "Bunkie" Knudson, Ford President at the time.
When the BOSS 351 debuted at the Detroit Auto Show in November of 1970, it did so with boisterous claims from Ford that it was the "best all-round performer in Ford production-car history". But, it did not receive the typical publicity deserving of limited edition cars. Corporate cutbacks in the factories' financing of all performance-related areas combined with insurance underwriters' increasing premiums and the government's clean air mandates to detune most of Motown's speed machines were other issues of the time.
The 1971 employed outstanding styling and comfort. It offered to the consumer the widest variety of choices both from the interior and engine sizes (7) and it would cost over $ 3000.00 for the base vehicle for first time. It was also the safest Mustang offered up to now. Steel "guard rail" side impact beams in the doors were now offered. Ford also added flush door handles, concealed windshield wipers, "uni-lock" three-point safety harnesses, and a double panel hood. Some articles of the day have said it was the best handling car Ford had produced, albeit only in BOSS 351 trim. The competition suspension, wider stance, and large profile tires really hugged the road. Mustang articles of the day were positive for the car though the "flatback" rear window design raised a few eyebrows. Some others weren't sure and a few did not like it due to its size. But .... everyone loved the engine.
Sales for the BOSS were just a little less than expected but it should have been expected. This was due to higher insurance rates, a lack of marketing, 3/4 of a year of production only and the thought that it would also be available for the 1972 model year. But FORD pulled the plug on September 14, 1971. Total production of 1971 Mustangs was over 149,000, down from 199,000 in 1970, a downward trend that had been occurring for a few years. (Why ? One good reason was that a lot of new cars were making their entrance from all manufacturers, including FORD, in the early 70's and this was making choices a little more difficult).
Before anyone complains that the car didn't sell well compared to earlier Mustangs, just remember it outsold its nearest competitor, Camaro, almost 2 to 1. which Ford engineers had done something right with this body style even in a declining market. It was the only body style of the 65-73 Mustang era to be produced for 3 years ('71-'73) without a body style change. The down-sized 1974 Mustang did sell well briefly, but it did so with a marketing budget four (4) times as large. Other pressures of the day included the collusion of the insurance industry to rid us of the muscle car altogether by raising their prices and the added pressure of OPEC fuel price issues plus the elimination of high octane gasoline.
It is interesting to note that the articles you read today about the BOSS tend to focus on its "negative" attributes. I wonder if these individuals have ever owned one ? Most articles always seem determined to point out that Bunkie Knudsen, the CEO at the time, was responsible alone for the size appreciation due to a need for a home for the newer 429CJ/SCJ engine which was be placed in the Mustang for the first time. These articles also seem bent on always comparing this car to the first one ? They begin the article by comparing it to the 1970. The wheelbase is 1 inch longer. The length overall is 2.5 inches longer, 250 lbs heavier. Then ... the year 1965 is thrown into our faces. "Has Ford gone mad with this new body style ?". This car is getting way out of line!".
Typically, the editors writing these articles were Mustang purists who believed that the 1964.5 - 1966 was the standard that defined the pony car, and that the 1971 was "out of touch". Our opinion is that the standard evolved with time. Larger was better and safer in 1971. We would never buy '65's again because they were too small, lacking in refinements, performance and interior luxury options that we have come to appreciate. No doubt it simply comes down to what your favorite body style was.
To truly evaluate if the Mustang brain trust was way out of line with this larger style, you can not compare it to the 1965 Mustang, you must compare it to cars of that day (apples to apples). Most of Ford's competitors from that timeframe were heavily involved with trying to enlarge body styles to house larger engines. Chevrolet - Chevelle, Camaro SS & Z28. Chrysler - Dodge Charger. Plymouth GTX & Roadrunner. AMC - Javelin.
Looking back to 1965, their really was not a lot of competition to the earlier style Mustang. Even internally. What did Ford have for sale at the time at the onset of the 1964 1/2 Mustang? The Falcon. Competitors like Plymouth had what ? The Valiant. This is not meant to criticize the earlier Mustangs but to show you can't compare apples to oranges. They were simply different cars for different times.