Advice for newbies. - Vintage Mustang Forums

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post #1 of 3 (permalink) Old 01-22-2013, 01:01 PM Thread Starter
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Join Date: Nov 2001
Location: Medina, Ohio
Posts: 1,948
Advice for newbies.

I did mine more than a decade ago and I learned a few leasons the expensive way. We have plenty Mustang Jedi Masters here, but I do not pretend to be one of them.

We have had quite a few new VMFers recently asking about the beginning steps. They got a lot of great advice. I have a few suggestions for those that have never done a car before. At the risk of being flamed to a crisp, here goes:

1) If the car has not run in a while, do not put a battery in it and turn the key. There have been numerous threads recently about this with lots of good advice.
2) Restoing a car needs lots of work and storage space. Doing it in a small garage full of bikes, lawn mowers, toys, etc., is frustrating and unproductive.
3) Do not start by ripping the car apart, throwing the fasteners into a bucket. Bag, label, and attach the bags to the part they held on.
3) I can't stress enough the need for adequate lighting. Lotsa flourescents. The more the better.
4) Study, read, google, learn, about all phases of the project. Learning to resto a car properly is like a 4 year college degree.
5) Go to local cruise-ins and respectfully talk to the guys that "did" the nicest cars by themselves. Some of the nice stuff wasn't done by the owners. They checkbooked them or bought them already done. You're looking for the guys that did the nice cars themselves. The cars may or may not be mustangs. Take a picture of your car with you. Go back week after week. Talk to anyone that is willing to talk to you. Some guys are stodgy and reticent. Others are chatty and friendly. You are looking for the Jedi Master that is willing to share his knowledge. This alone could take months. The VMF is a great place to access knowledge and experience, but a real live journeyman is gold. They might even be willing to help or loan tools.
5) A mustang resto will cost anywhere from $5,000 to $50,000, depending on how carried away you get. If you're not prepared for this budgetwise, do some thinking. Buying a finished car might be much cheaper in the long run, but then you don't get the fun of smashing your fingers, rust in the eyes, burns, frequent bleeding, etc.
6) Take lotsa pics of everything you do. If you're cyber capable, do a photodocumentary with text about the entire job from the beginning. It will be the coolest thing ten or twenty years down the road.
7) Caution! Advice you get could be wrong(including this). Get multiple viewpoints on critical, expensive stuff.
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post #2 of 3 (permalink) Old 01-22-2013, 01:57 PM
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Join Date: Jun 2011
Location: Colorado Springs
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I like it! In case anyone cares, here's what I've learned in the almost two years I've been working on my '70 Mach 1 project:

- Yeah, its almost always cheaper to buy a car that's already "restored". But unless you saw the restoration process yourself, or you know and trust the person who did it, assume it was done quickly, sloppily and on the cheap. Sure, it's possible to get a car that had a very good resto done on it. But boy is it hard to find those! More often than not, buyers pay a lot of dough for a rusty "bondo baby".

- Take the time and spend the money to buy some good tools. This includes a good air compressor. I would recommend a two-stage, oil-filled compressor with the biggest tank that will fit your budget and your shop. Then buy some decent air tools. They don't have to be top of the line, but the cheap examples likely won't get you very far. For highly specialized tools, like an engine hoist and a spring compressor, the local rent-all center is your friend.

- Buy a good quality shop vac and use it often. (I really like my RIDGID shop vac from Home Depot.) Keeping the shop clean is extremely important for good progress and safety. You wouldn't believe how much slower things go when the shop is trashed. Also keep tools put away. Anything you're not using or not going to use in the next hour should be put away. Otherwise, it will likely get in the way.

- And speaking of safety, always wear eye protection! At a minimum, wear a good pair of safety glasses or goggles. Wherever practical, wear a face shield and good, leather gloves to boot.

- Buy an engine stand. The higher end Harbor Freight example is fine here. You don't want to rent that because your block will likely sit on it for many months awaiting the big rebuild.

- Go to COSTCO or Sam's Club and buy the great big box of zip-loc freezer bags. These work well for storing fasteners and small parts. Don't bother trying to use sandwich bags. They're too small and too thin. The freezer bags also have a nice, white area where you can write a detailed description of what's inside. No description is too detailed. You're NOT going to remember when you pull the bag out years later.

- Wherever possible, take it down to bare metal. Sure, you can get good results by sanding the existing finish. But you don't know what's under there. All too often, it's rust or body filler.

- Once you've got it down to bare metal, apply two coats of epoxy primer. That stuff is nearly indestructable. (One member here reported he left an epoxy primered car outside in the Florida rain and sun for two years and, when he finally went to work on it, it was just fine.) If you're new to using epoxy primer, call the guys at SPI. They're very helpful and used to assisting newbies. (As long as you do order their products.)

- Use a top-quality plastic body filler. Don't get the can on the shelf in aisle 9 at Wal Mart. Order it from a good vendor or buy it from a local paint store. Get the best stuff available. When applied correctly, good quality body filler will last almost forever.

- If you're going to be replacing panels, buy a good MIG welder. Don't bother with the Harbor Freight examples here. You'll just be frustrated and by the time you convert them to use gas, you're not saving much. Oh, and use gas! Trying to do flux core on sheet metal can work, but it's much harder and messier. I opted for the HOBART 140. Miller makes an identical welder. Also buy a good, auto-darkening helmet, quality welding gloves and a nice, rolling cart. (You don't want to drag your welder and gas bottle around the shop.) If you're really ambitious, make your own cart.

- Whenever you buy parts, be it sheet metal, suspension, interior or whatever, buy the best available. Cheap parts are not a good value. That's worth repeating and shouting: CHEAP PARTS ARE NOT A GOOD VALUE! You'll end up being dissatisfied or unable to use the part. Then you have to go buy the better part anyway after wasting money on the cheap part. Whenever you deal with vendors, politely explain you want the best quality part available. It's likely the ten guys before you said, "Gimme the cheapest thing you got", so the vendor will assume you want the same. Don't buy into the myth that everyone carries the same parts, so you just go with the cheapest vendor. Like Arnold said in "Predator" when he punched the alien, "Bad idea".

- Find a Mustang vendor you like and stick with them. Establishing a good business relationship can be very helpful. When you call, they can pull up a list of everything you've already ordered. I went with Mustangs Unlimited. They have a Buyer's Club where you pony up $25 and then get a 5% discount on almost everything. NPD and Glazier Nolan are also very good choices.

- When it comes to the engine build, first plan out a factory-style rebuild. Then think hard about any modifications you really want and need. I think too many people start out by planning a 600 HP race engine build. Then they learn how expensive and impractical that can be. By this time, they may have bought a few very expensive parts they can't use or that won't work well together. Don't forget that a fresh, factory style engine with a good tune is a lot of fun and is very reliable. Nothing wrong with mods or a stroked crate engine. Just plan it all out carefully! Make sure all your parts will work well together rather than fighting each other.

- Same goes for a suspension build. Plan on restoring the factory suspension. Then decide what mods you really want and need. Too many people start out planning a four link at the rear and a coil over up front. Then they find out how expensive all this is. And you know what, you probably won't even need it! You can get very good performance from a factory Mustangs suspension. With a few tweaks, it will even work very well on the track. Consider the Shelby Mustang and Boss 302 Mustang did not use a four link or a coil over setup. But hey, if you're going to be a track terror, that stuff might be right up your alley. Just be sure to plan carefully and talk at length to the vendors. Shaun from Street or Track is a member here and I'm sure he'd be happy to guide you.

- If you want to use urethane bushings, I recommend the Poly-Graphite bushings from Performance Suspension Technology. These bushings are impregnated with graphite and they do not squeak! No lubing is required. But again, think hard about whether you really want or need urethane bushings. Fresh, factory style rubber bushings work pretty well and give a nice ride.

Last edited by Klutch; 01-22-2013 at 02:10 PM.
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post #3 of 3 (permalink) Old 01-22-2013, 02:01 PM
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Join Date: Sep 2006
Location: SE Wisconsin
Posts: 23,512
Bucket, good words but many don't have that chance. Bought my first car at 16. My folks had a one car garage and a field behind the house where I worked on my car. Lighting was usually by moonlite because I worked right after highschool to pay for the car. Not crying...had a great time,
loved turning wrenches on that rusted old Ford!


My '64 1/2 vert. Ordered May '64. D code 4 speed, handling package, caspian blue, accent group, Ford blue manual top.

'68 vert. driver. Owned since Apr '78. C code AT, AC, PS, P disc B, PT lime gold, standard black interior and top. NOS RF fender and left quarter.New top and folding glass.

Last edited by slim; 01-22-2013 at 02:04 PM.
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