Steve Baur
Former Editor, Modified Mustangs & Fords
May 12, 2014
Photos By: Rusty Gillis

While many a project has been completed on nothing more than jackstands, using a body cart or rotisserie can make your job a little easier, especially if your classic requires a substantial amount of metal work—let's face it, any classic restoration likely does. That said, body carts and rotisseries have their individual pros and cons, and we reviewed all of our options when selecting one for our '69 Mustang SportsRoof project. Here's what you need to know.

The Body Cart

Body carts are the less expensive of the two options, and smaller if space is a concern. While their inherit design allows very good access to the body, that same design keeps the body in a static position, which could be problematic.

If you're stripping your car down to the bare chassis to tackle metal work, a body cart is a great option. It's inexpensive first of all, running between $400-$600, and it allows you to easily move your project around. Mobility will help create more garage/shop space when you're not working on the project, and you can also load it into or onto a trailer for transport to a sandblaster or body shop. Size wise, it takes up no more room than the car itself, and it gets the chassis up in the air where you can comfortably work beneath it.

There are a few small drawbacks, however. For one, if you need to remove the floor pan of the car, you'll need to modify the cart to be able to support the back end of the car. While there is ample room to work beneath the car, all of the caked-on crust will likely find its way onto your person—bring safety glasses.

All in all, it's a reasonably inexpensive way to keep your otherwise derelict project mobile, and it will allow you to perform nearly all restoration procedures.

The Rotisserie

The rotisserie seen here allows complete access to the body of the vehicle and allows you to put it in a position that is easier on your body when working on it. Because of the way it mounts to the front and rear ends of the chassis, it takes up more space lengthwise, which could be an issue if you’re working in a small shop or garage.

If you need complete access to your chassis, the rotisserie is for you. Once bolted to the chassis at the front and rear ends, the rotisserie allows you to rotate the car 360 degrees, thus exposing the bottom of the car to daylight. With this design, you can stand upright or utilize your favorite stool to work on the car without worry of being covered in welding slag, sparks, rust, mud, and whatever other debris may want or need to come off of the body. You obviously get more light on the car for better visibility of your working area as well.

As good as the improved access is, the drawback is the added cost. Even the most basic rotisseries will run you at least $1,000, and the price can go up from there depending on options. Space is another consideration, as the rotisserie usually ends up adding an additional 2 feet or so to the length of your vehicle. Measure your work area before deciding if this is the right option for you.

The Conundrum

Well, it's not much of a dilemma in the end. Figure out how much space you have, what work needs to be done to your vehicle, and if the added accessibility justifies the added cost—if you're likely to only use it once, you may want to consider that as well. Either one will provide much needed access to you chassis. We ended up choosing the body cart, as the Mustang will likely be moved around its current residence more than it will be worked on in any given week. That and the fact that the shop has a few rotisseries already made it the easy decision.

Baring It All

The Auto Twirler Mustang body cart that we ordered from Summit Racing comes in bare steel, and we saw that as an opportunity to get acquainted with the automotive painting process. Sure, we could have rattle-canned the whole thing, but it wouldn't be as durable and probably wouldn't look as nice. To get started, we turned to Summit Racing again and ordered a small and reasonably inexpensive amount of supplies to get the job done.

The StartingLine HVLP 3-gun auto painting kit from DeVilbiss includes three spraying systems for automotive primers, finish coats, and touch-up work. Included in the kit (PN DVR-802789) is one HVLP finish coat spray gun with a 1.3mm nozzle, one HVLP spray gun (primer) with a 1.8mm nozzle, and a small detail/touch up/custom gun with a 1.0mm tip. The system also includes two 600cc cups, one plastic 130cc cup, a cleaning brush and wrench, and an air-adjusting valve with a gauge. The trio retails for just $216.97, and should have us covered for all of our painting needs for the foreseeable future.

For a base, we selected Summit Racing's Etching Primer (PN SUM-SWSP200Q-12) in the quart size for just $26.97. It's also available by the gallon for larger jobs. The etching primer is mixed with a reducer at 1:1, and it can be applied directly to steel, aluminum, fiberglass, body filler, and galvanized steel. Summit Racing's Etching Primer Reducer (PN SUM-SWSS201G-12) retails for just $41.97 for a gallon.

When it comes to coating your body cart or rotisserie, powdercoating is a durable option, but baking it isn't for the average garage DIY'er. Since the cart will likely take a beating under the chassis as we cut, sand, grind, sandblast, and weld above it, we opted for a simple single-stage paint for the final finish.

Summit Racing's Low VOC Single-Stage Paints are very inexpensive at just $27.97 per quart (PN SUM-LVS339Q), and they comply with more stringent emissions standards as well. The flash time between coats is just minutes and they dry in less than an hour. There are a number of colors available, and you just mix it at a 4:1 ratio Summit's Low VOC Hardener (PN SUM-LVSH702Q). The hardener sells for $22.97 and you have your choice of slow, medium, and fast drying options—we went with the slow drying due to our mild winter climate here in Florida.

Sure, we've all enjoyed the smell of rattle can paint before, but spraying this much paint in a confined area is not a good idea without the use of a proper respirator. For that, Summit sent us a Gerson Safety Products Organic Vapor P95 Filter Respirator (PN 08311P). At just $19.97, it's an inexpensive way to keep you mind, and lungs, clear while focusing on your painting craft. If you think painting more than just one project may be in your future, you may want to consider stepping up to a full-face respirator and painting suit. Now go get started on your project. We've got a complete floor coming for ours, which means we need to get cracking.

1. The Auto Twirler Mustang Body Cart available from Summit Racing Equipment retails for $399.97 and is shipped in bare metal. These body carts are made in the USA and their heavy-duty, large-diameter casters make it very easy to move your project around or transport it, say to a sandblaster or body shop. Be sure to double check that you have received all of the components when it is delivered. It’s heavy steel shipped in a cardboard box and shipping can put the packaging, and the handling of it, to the test.

2. Like any project, we like to know how things go together before giving it it’s final finish, so we assembled the cart using the supplied hardware.

3. Mounting the wheels first can be awkward, but it seemed to be easier than lifting the assembled cart to install them afterwards. Two of the cart’s four wheels have been fitted with mechanical brakes to keep your project where you intended to leave it.

4. The front uprights are adjustable and bolt to the lower control arm mounting points. If you already have an aftermarket Mustang II-style suspension, you may need to modify these uprights to work, or perhaps look into Auto Twirler’s Elite series of carts that are more universal in nature and offer numerous mounting options.

5. The cart can be assembled in just a few minutes, which is good, because your restoration project will likely require far more of your time. Time to break it down and head for the paint booth, but not before we give it a little prep talk.

6. Body carts or rotisseries will get beat up. You’ll drop tools on it, splatter welding slag and likely more on it, so there’s really no need to put a lot of time and money into finishing it. That said, you might want to remove any burrs, nicks or welding slag just to give it a somewhat smooth finish. This can be accomplished in a number of ways. A wire brush will get into the corners and weld beads.

7. A red scuff pad or one on a right-angle air tool will make quick work of the rest of the piece. Sandpaper can be used to ensure a more uniform finish, but we didn’t want to put that much effort into it. Be sure to wipe the parts down with a prep solvent before you start to prevent contaminating your sanding equipment.

8. The main idea behind ordering a bare-metal body cart was that we had something that needed to be painted, and it would be a good introduction into the process. Automotive painting requires a bit more equipment than going down to your local auto parts store and grabbing a few cans off the shelf, so we called up Summit Racing Equipment to get us started. Everything you see here tallied up to just a mere $330 or so.

9. After taking a look at the paint gun instructions, you’ll need to adjust the trigger out of the box. Just turn the nut until the trigger begins to stick and then back it off a turn or two until it no longer sticks. As a point of reference, the top blue knob at the back controls your fan spray pattern, and the one below that controls the fluid quantity.

10. Unscrew the tip of the gun and use the included tool to check that the tip is tight and secure. The outer tip on this gun has a square marked on the front of it to denote where the top is.

11. The parts were hung in the paint booth and tacked off to remove any static dust. You’ll want to make sure you can easily reach all areas of the parts before you start spraying. We taped half of the threads on the bolts and then turned them in until the tape bottomed out. This will keep paint off of the threads of the bolts as well as the threads in the boltholes.

12a-b. And here’s why you need to mix up your product thoroughly before you get started. On the left you can see what the primer looks like when you open the can. Looks like primer, right? A few stirs of the stick and the true color of the self-etching primer came up from the bottom of the can. Mix it and mix well.

13a-b. Mixing cups can be quite confusing at first, but they’re actually pretty simple—don’t let all of the scales and numbers confuse you. The Summit Racing Self-Etching Primer calls for a 1:1 mix. The easy way to do that is to use the ounce measurement and simply measure out the amount of primer you’re going to use. We started with 8 ounces, and to mix it 1:1 with the reducer, we simply added 8 ounces of the reducer for a total of 16. The Summit Racing single-stage paint requires a 4:1 mix of paint to hardener. So you turn to the 4:1 column, measure out your 4 parts under the 4 at the top, and then pour your hardener in the cup until you reach the 4 right next to it and under the 1 at the top.

14a-b. Here you can see how adjusting the top knob changes the fan spray. With relatively thin/small pieces like we are painting here, a smaller fan will save paint by directing more on the part instead of off into the air. When it comes time to spray full-size body panels, you’ll want the fan width wider for better coverage, and you’ll also want to take into consideration the material you are spraying, the gun tip you are using, as well as the air pressure at the gun.

15. Rather than judging the fan width based on what you see floating in the air, get yourself some paper or cardboard and make a few test hits.

16. Just like with rattle cans, you’ll want to have the gun about 8-10 inches from the part on average, but this may change as you develop your own technique. Here, we’re laying on the self-etching primer, which comes out of the gun with an olive drab green hue, but dries slightly brown in color.

17. Moving on to the color coat, we picked high visibility Viper Yellow for the body cart. The non-metallic color will take a degree or two of difficulty out of our first attempt at painting, and it’s bright nature will hopefully catch our eye and keep us from smacking a shin into it.

18. Whereas the primer needed only 2-3 minutes between coats, the color coat required a bit longer at around 30—and a little longer as the day grew longer and the temperature colder. We ended up putting three coats of color down, but after letting the paint dry, two more would have been optimal.

19. The next day, our Viper Yellow body cart was ready for assembly and use under this author’s 1969 Mustang project.

20. To get the cart under the car, the suspension must come off of the car front and rear. You’ll also need some tall jack stands or a two-post lift to get the body high enough for the cart to fit under. We lucked out with the rear suspension leaf spring bolts as their removal can prove problematic, but ours came right out.

21a-b. At the front, the cart bolts to the lower control arm mount, and at the rear, it bolts to the front leaf spring perch. Just reuse the factory hardware to secure the cart to the body.

22. With the body on the new cart, we’re ready for bodywork, sandblasting, and whatever else may come up. The body is at a great working height now, and it offers easy access to the bottom of the car as well. Time to cut out all of that banged up sheet metal!