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This is Boss!
Writen By: Tom Olsen
Photos By: Tom Olsen and Derek Hieb
What inspires a car guy to buy that most special car in his life is always interesting to me. Often it is a family member’s influence; sometimes advertising plays a part; and other times it’s a totally random spur-of-the-moment thought. And then there are those instances when a person sees a particular car and they just know that someday, when the time is right, that’s the car they’re going to own. That’s what happened to retired Sioux Falls Police Lieutenant Jerome Miller way back in his high school days.
When Jerome was 15, the Ford dealer in his hometown of Maquoqueta, IA, sold a bright yellow 1969 Boss 302 Mustang to a local fellow. That car caught his eye, and he remembers thinking it was one of the neatest cars on the road. Later, a co-worker’s boyfriend showed up with a “Calypso Coral” Boss 302. That did it. Jerome was hooked! From then on, a Boss 302 was the car he would own…someday.
As a youngster, Jerome knew he could never afford the $3000+ tariff for a new Boss, but over the years he was always looking. Finally, in 1985, he found the first Boss he felt he could actually afford. While searching through the “Specialty Vehicles” section of the newspaper, Jerome located a 1970 Boss 302. Upon inspecting it, he found that it had 122k miles and a variety of cosmetic and mechanical issues; all probably to be expected. The good news was: the car had been in storage for the previous 13 years, and this was a complete “numbers matching” car. Everything that belonged on the car was there! A price of $3200 (the approximate new cost of the Boss) was settled on, and Jerome became the fourth owner of a car he’d long dreamed of having.
Jerome knew he wanted to do a full rotisserie restoration on the car, but that was going to be some years away. Initially, the plan was to fix up a few issues, get the car serviceable, and race it a little. Jerome is an excellent mechanic so he started fixing things as time and money permitted. A good clean-up, a tune-up, new brakes, a radiator, and other lesser items were tackled. Later came a set of gears and headers to improve performance. Before long, he had a respectable and fun street machine. Jerome showed the car in the All Ford Car Show (1991), raced it at Thunder Valley Dragways the next day, and won his class. (But of course, after wading through a full field of contenders, he had to install a new clutch. That’s how racing goes, isn’t it?)
Things went along this way for the next several years. Jerome knew the car had some rust, there was previous body damage, and the color had been changed during some previous body work. Although a proper restoration was the eventual plan, there were always other demands that kept moving things back. He admits to considering selling the Boss a couple times and actually turned down some pretty respectable offers. Fortunately, his wife, Robin, assured him it would eventually happen and talked him into continuing towards his goal.
Fast forward to 2006 when antifreeze was discovered in the engine oil. That’s never a good thing, but that set the wheels in motion. The engine was taken to Sehr Performance Machine for a rebuild. Since this was the correct numbers-matching engine, Jerome wanted to “do this right.” The performance build included a .030 overbore, forged “Diamond” pistons, a custom grind Comp Cam with matching valvetrain, the correct 780 Holley, and more. The net result is that this original 302ci/290hp engine now produces 502 horsepower on the dyno!
Later that same summer, Jerome made the contact that ultimately steered him to Muscle Car Creations in Tea, SD, for the restoration he had planned. While attending Automania in downtown Sioux Falls, Jerome struck up a conversation with the owner of a 1970 Mach 1 Mustang that was exceptionally well done. The owner/restorer of that Mach 1 was Greg Scheepstra, who works at MCC with the owner, Rod Waltjer. Greg and Jerome talked about the Boss, restorations, and MCC, and a business relationship began. Jerome visited the MCC shop over the next few years and viewed restorations they had done, always liking what he saw. After determining MCC was the restoration shop for him, Jerome and Rod planned to restore the Boss in 2010-11. Unfortunately, Jerome’s father passed away in that timeframe and the project had to be moved back.
Finally, on January 10, 2016 the restoration began. Jerome arranged with MCC that he “could do as much or as little as he wanted” leading up to the body restoration. Jerome had been researching Boss 302 restoration facts for several years so he was well-versed on the correct details needed. With his mechanical skills, he overhauled and detailed the 4-speed transmission, rear axle, front and rear suspension, and brakes. He learned how to do the proper “phosphate and oil” treatment on certain fasteners, and sent others out for appropriate zinc plating. All mechanical parts, nuts, bolts, and fasteners were either professionally painted or replated to original specs. Jerome even went so far as to replicate the factory paint inspection marks on various mechanical components.
While restoring the mechanical components, interior, dash, and wiring, the body itself was at MCC undergoing the body and paint work. Initially the body was completely disassembled, media blasted, and the sheet metal work begun. It was at this point that hidden damage from a previous collision was discovered on the right front area of the car. The floorpan also had major rust issues, but Jerome had a bought a rust-free “donor car” years before, so he had a complete original floorpan available for the Boss. Rod and Greg spent much of the next year on the body and paint restoration. After the initial sheet metal work was completed, the car went back to Jerome’s shop so the engine and many of the restored components could be installed. Following that, the Boss was back at MCC for final body work finishing and eventually painting, reassembly, buffing, and striping.
It was almost exactly a year from the time Jerome started tearing the car down until the finished product arrived back home. This is pretty quick for a total restoration, much of that due to the pace that Jerome worked behind the scenes prepping and restoring all the various components so they would be ready for MCC when needed. Had he not had the talent to do this, the restoration would have taken much longer. (And cost a lot more.)
The Boss had its public unveiling at the Winterfest of Wheels car show in February of this year. It’s stunning in its “Medium Lime Metallic” basecoat/clearcoat finish. Throughout the car, Jerome took every effort to bring things back to the factory finish, but the body and paint finish on the Boss is well above what any factory did in 1970!
Ultimately, Jerome says he “couldn’t be happier” with Rod and Greg from Muscle Car Creations and the quality of their work. The completed Boss has been on his bucket list for many years. It took 31+ years, but Jerome now has an exceptional Boss 302 that he can truly take pride in. Watch for Jerome to be out enjoying the Boss at area car shows and cruise nights this summer. This is Boss!
Jerome tells me he learned a few things about restorations during this project.
- Anticipate “unknowns” in the project (like hidden crash damage) and be prepared to spend more than the original guesstimates.
- Build a rapport with the shop staff ahead of time so that you have a comfortable working relationship with them.
- Have the buy-in of your spouse to support you through the long hours and financial commitment a restoration of this level entails. (Jerome says the project never would have happened without the total support of Robin.)