25 Do It Yourself Mustang Projects
Improvements You Can Make To Your Ford Mustang Over A Weekend
Mustang restoration projects are always great fun, although they keep us perplexed at times. Restorations are like the proverbial elephant. It is best they be eaten in small bite-size chunks, never all at once because they can become overwhelming, which makes it harder to finish a restoration project. Take your project one step at a time and watch it fly by. This is why we've put together 25 of some of the best weekend projects for your bite-sized restoration efforts.
1 Install a ConsoleRunning out of ideas for your classic Mustang restoration? Install a center console and watch your Mustang's interior come alive. Complete consoles are now available as reproductions from National Parts Depot, not to mention all of the parts necessary to restore an original console. Installation is easy with time and patience. Begin by looking at factory original installations for proper positioning. Then go to www.npdlink.com for everything you'll need to enhance your classic Mustang's interior.
Before installation begins, remove both bucket seats for ease of installation. Perform a mock-up, including all console parts for proper positioning. Take a scratch awl and mark screw holes through the carpeting to determine screw locations. It is suggested you remove carpeting because drilling through carpeting can pull threads and cause damage. Then, when carpeting is reinstalled, use the scratch awl to find screw holes, align console, and install screws. Console lighting connections can be found at your Mustang's main wiring loom at the transmission tunnel under the dashboard.
2 Replace Convertible TopFew things make a classic convertible look hotter than a new top and boot. A new convertible top breathes new life into an old Mustang and it can be done in a weekend.
Before you undertake replacement of your old convertible top, check out www.mustangmonthly.com and look for informative how-to articles about how to replace a convertible top, which gives you plenty of valuable insight from professionals on how to get it right. Tackling convertible top replacement should never be performed without extensive knowledge of the subject and the best materials, which are available from Hydro-E-Lectric. Everything you need for a successful top replacement, including good advice, is available from www.hydroe.com or 800/343-4261. Visit an upholstery supply store in your area for raw materials and tools you'll need to do the job successfully. Don't be afraid to ask for advice. Do a mock-up to check for proper fit, then be patient and go after this one in baby steps.
3 Install A StereoNothing enriches the driving experience more than a great sound system with all of your favorite music. Custom Autosound (www.casmfg.com or 800/497-0797) brought affordable, high-quality sound systems to classic Mustangs back in 1977. A lot of superior technology has come since then. Check out the cool Custom Autosound products for your Mustang because selection has never been better for this productive weekend project.
New tech meets tried and proven in the new USA-630 sound system from Custom Autosound. This cool bolt-in system goes right in place of your factory AM radio or worn-out Kenwood stereo from the 1980s. The USA-630 takes your favorite tunes from any Flash Drive and enables you to play them endlessly with no changing of CDs or popping in dusty old tapes. Just touch the control and get back to driving while listening to 240 watts of crisp stereo sound.
Everything necessary to get the job done is available from Custom Autosound. Opt for powdercoated steel speaker grilles for your package shelf, which won't distort from heat and cold. Speakers must be installed on flush and level surfaces to get the best performance. Never install them on an uneven surface where they can become distorted. Get your sound system power from switched power. And because classic Mustangs have plenty of switched power plugs underdash, you don't need to cut or splice wiring.
4 Easy Electronic IgnitionSurely you're not still running mid-20th century ignition points and condenser in your vintage Mustang. Two decades ago, PerTronix (www.pertronix.com or 909/599-5955) developed the Ignitor electronic ignition retrofit kit for Autolite distributors, which means the Ignitor offers a proven reputation and reliability. The Ignitor retrofit, which fits in the palm of your hand, puts the efficiency and reliability of electronic ignition into your vintage Autolite/Motorcraft distributor where the cumbersome points and condenser used to sit. What's more, there are four possible options to choose from-Ignitor, Ignitor II, and the all-new Ignitor III, or you can go with the PerTronix billet distributor with a choice of three possible Ignitor packages inside.
The beauty of the Ignitor series is easy installation in your Autolite distributor in about 30 minutes. Just don't forget to reinstall the distributor ground wire while you're at it. The PerTronix billet distributor has a vacuum advance for exceptional street performance along with roller bearing construction and the Ignitor module inside.
5 Adjustable Engine MountsThe restomod movement has brought us so many innovations designed to combine classic '65-'73 Mustang styling with high technology to improve the driving experience. Adjustable engine mounts from Ron Morris Performance and Mustangs Plus are one such innovation because they isolate engine and driveline vibration better than stock mounts and they're fully adjustable for ease of installation and performance.
All you have to do is raise your engine off the stock mounts with a hoist or floor jack (do not jack at the oil pan) after removing the engine bolts. The rest is easy. Remove the stock mounts from the chassis and get started on your Ron Morris adjustable mount installation. For more information, visit www.mustangsplus.com or call 800/999-4289.
6 Install Dual ExhaustsAlthough this is a weekend project best left to a trusted exhaust shop, all you really need to get it done at home is a SawzAll (or sharp hacksaw with plenty of muscle), jackstands, proper tools, and patience. Virginia Classic Mustang (www.virginiaclassicmustang.com or 540/896-2695) offers complete dual exhaust systems for just about every classic Mustang along with a variety of stock and aftermarket mufflers, depending on how you'd like your Mustang to sound. The real beauty with these systems is ready-made components designed to fit your Mustang. They bolt right on and look sharp once installed. Do a fitment check before tightening the clamps.
Exhaust tips should be the last item you install after measuring their relationship to the rear valance. Don't make the mistake of positioning them too far out or in. And there are hokey-looking exhaust tips to stay away from. If you're running single exhaust, stay away from the use of an exhaust tip. A single exhaust tail pipe should be hidden.
One more thing, did you know you can overtighten exhaust system clamps? That can distort the pipes, creating the very problem you're trying to avoid - leakage. Once your exhaust system is installed exactly the way you want it, weld up the seams, even if that involves a visit to a reputable exhaust shop.
When you're installing a dual exhaust, always go with factory exhaust system hangers at the stock locations for best results because they offer the best exhaust system security and quiet. Refrain from using aftermarket hangers attached with sheetmetal screws.
7 Reupholster SeatsHere's something you can do yourself in a weekend and it will only cost you calloused fingertips, simple hand tools, and the cost of a Distinctive Industries upholstery kit from Dallas Mustang (www.dallasmustang.com or 800/687-8264). Doing seat upholstery yourself takes patience more than anything else because getting in a hurry can cost you in terms of time and waste. Become aggressive with stubborn upholstery and it will tear.
To achieve the best job possible, you need pliers-needle nose, conventional, diagonal cutting, and hog ring types-Phillips screwdrivers of all sizes, scissors, a large common screwdriver or pry bar, heat gun or hairdryer, and a can of silicone spray. Silicone gently sprayed over foam seat buns makes it easier to install new vinyl upholstery. Tip: Always use new seat buns for best results. Any reputable upholstery supply shop will have everything you need to do the job correctly-listing wire, hog rings, and all the right tools.
8 LED TaillightsLight Emitting Diodes (LED) have changed the way we apply lighting in recent years. We're seeing LED use more and more in our homes, at traffic lights, on signs and billboards, and certainly in our automobiles. One of the most common uses for LEDs in our Mustangs is exterior lighting-headlights, taillights, back-up lights, and even interior lighting. Few companies have done more for classic and late-model Mustang lighting than Mustang Project in Texas.
Mustang Project makes it easy to go from old-school incandescent bulbs to bright LEDs inside your taillight housing in a matter of an hour's time. And if you're feeling industrious, you can retrofit all of the lighting in your classic Mustang with LEDs because Mustang Project makes it easy. All you have to do is follow simple instructions, watch what you're doing, and behold the brightness. For more information, go to www.mustangproject.com or call 800/631-0507. You can also email them at email@example.com.
9 Improve Fuel System SafetyIt goes without saying that classic Mustangs are not as safe as what Ford is building today. If you drive a classic Mustang regularly, you accept the risks as well as the rewards of ownership. Write it off to evolution and what has been learned about automobile safety in 45 years. However, did you know that you can make an older Mustang safer with Tank Armor? It's an easy bolt on that covers and protects the gas tank.
For Tank Armor to be installed safely, the fuel tank needs to be completely drained. Drilling can cause sparks that could ignite fuel vapors. Use 5/16-inch Grade 8 bolts with flat washers and self-locking nuts. Never use sheetmetal screws. Use 3M Rope Caulk, also known as Dumb-Dumb, between the tank, Tank Armor, and body. It is suggested you use braided fuel hose for high pressure fuel injection between sending unit, body line, and fuel pump as some measure of additional protection, taking note where your Mustang's tailpipes are routed.
Tank Armor is available from Antioch Mustang Stable at www.tankarmor.com or 480/357-1006.
10 Install a Heavy-Duty Sway BarWant to improve handling in an afternoon? A heavy-duty sway bar from Mustangs Plus (www.mustangsplus.com or 800/999-4289) reduces body roll and improves handling without a lot of cash flow and it's something you can do in your driveway with simple hand tools.
One word of caution: It's easy to install a Mustang sway bar upside down. So pay close attention to the instructions and your Mustang's original sway bar installation.
It's a good idea to install both a heavy-duty sway bar and fully articulating strut rods at the same time for best results. It has been stressed to us time and again to avoid urethane bushings with stock strut rods because old strut rods can snap under the stress. Rubber bushings are your best choice for strut rods followed by polyurethane bushings, which have more give than straight urethane. Install a sway bar with your Mustang ever so slightly jacked up, yet with tires still on the ground for ease of installation.
11 Classic Mustang HeadersWe've seen lots of header installations. Shorty headers offer a nice clean installation but they don't always offer the performance of long-tube headers. Stan Johnson of Ford Powertrain Applications (www.fordpowertrain.com or 253/848-9503) has taken header design and function to new levels for Mustang owners. These are perfect-fit, long-tube headers designed for virtually every type of Ford V-8. They combine the benefits of both long- and short-tube headers.
FPA headers are high-tech exhaust scavengers you can install in a weekend because they fit so well. Jack your engine off the mounts and install these guys through the bottom. Check out our photo of long-tube FPA headers on an FE big-block. They hug the engine without causing clearance problems in a tight Mustang engine compartment. You can expect even better fit with small-blocks. Instead of conventional header collectors with gaskets that can fail, you have a ball and socket design that doesn't require a gasket.
Spend the money and get the best header gaskets money can buy because gasket replacement is an unnecessary problem you don't need. Also go for the best locking fasteners while you're at it. Tighten fasteners uniformly and do not overtighten.
12 Increase 5.0 PowerOld hot rodding tricks still apply to today's fuel injected small-block Fords and overhead cam behemoths. Engines are still air pumps. The more air and fuel you huff through them, the more power your engine's going to make if you do everything right. One easy modification you can make in an afternoon on your '86-'95 Mustang 5.0 is a larger throttle body, which increases airflow to improve both horsepower and torque. Few companies know more about late-model Mustangs than BBK Performance (www.bbkperformance.com or 951/296-1771). BBK has a variety of performance improving throttle bodies for Fox-body Mustangs.
Like carburetors, you can go too large with throttle bodies. For your street 5.0, all you need is a 70mm throttle body, which is something you can add without having to step up to larger fuel injectors. And honestly, it's all you need for improved street performance. Don't forget to go with the larger 70mm EGR spacer, also available from BBK. And regardless of what anyone will tell you, remain smog legal and install that spacer along with all the appropriate emission control parts.
13 Install A Rally PacFew accessories excite the senses like a Rally Pac, which was an option for '65-'66 Mustangs. Selection has never been better because there are plenty of options out there today. Reproductions are available in every color imaginable from Mustangs Unlimited (www.mustangsunlimited.com or 888/398-9898), including standard factory dark face and Electroluminescent (white) for under $450. Swap meets, eBay, and the classifieds offer plenty of used Rally Pacs. Regardless of where you find your Rally Pac, installation is simple because everything necessary for installation and restoration is available from Mustangs Unlimited. We're talking wiring harness, lenses, faces, interior spray paint, clamps, and more.
As with most accessory installations, we suggest doing a mock-up to check fit and positioning before tightening everything up. Follow your Ford wiring schematic for proper wiring instructions because Rally-Pac power is both switched (ignition and instrument lights) and live. Switched power is for the tachometer and instrument lighting. Live is for the clock, which runs all the time. It is not necessary to cut or splice wiring because your Mustang is fitted with switched and live power plugs underdash. If a plug is not available underdash, go directly to your Mustang's fuse box.
14 Coilovers For ClassicsNot only can you improve your Mustang's suspension system in a weekend, you can do it yourself. The only outside help you will need is an alignment shop when you're finished.
Imagine being able to improve handling yourself without having to rely on a chassis shop. Ron Morris Performance (www.ronmorrisperformance.com) came out with a bolt-on Street Force adjustable coilover suspension system for classic Mustangs a few years ago and it's something you can install at home over a weekend. The Street Force system eliminates the Mustang's original coilover-upper arm, Falcon-based system. All you need is a coil spring compressor, jackstands, a floor jack, WD-40 penetrant, and typical hand tools found in most rollaway tool chests. No special tools are required to install the Ron Morris system once the factory suspension system is removed.
What makes the Ron Morris Street Force system different is its fully articulating components connected with Heim joints for smooth operation. What's more, Morris puts the coil and shock close to the axle spindle, which reduces the spring rate required. And because these shocks are adjustable, you can tune them for canyon cutting or weekend cruising. We have had the privilege of installing the Street Force system with excellent results. It is easy to install and tune.
15 Integral Power SteeringWe waited for years for this magnificent idea from the Mustang aftermarket-integral worm-and-sector, 16:1 ratio power steering for '65-'70 Mustangs. Borgeson Universal (www.borgeson.com or 860/482-8283) has introduced a complete integral power steering system for early Mustangs. The Borgeson system is compact, clears small-block V-8 exhaust manifolds and headers, and is easy to install, making it a great do-it-yourself weekend project. All you have to do is support your Mustang safely with jackstands under the framerails, then install a manual steering linkage (unless you have manual steering already) or manual steering adaptor. It is suggested you get the manual steering centerlink for best results.
Borgeson suggests going with its Saginaw power steering pump in order to maintain operational hydraulic pressure with your engine at idle. The Ford/Thompson pump won't keep up with the Borgeson power steering gear at idle speed. However, if you choose the Ford/Thompson pump, Borgeson provides the correct hoses. All you have to do is install the Borgeson steering gear and route the hoses a safe distance from hot exhaust manifolds or header tubes. Borgeson also offers the correct steering shaft and/or coupling for smooth operation.
16 Improve Your Clutch ReleaseEver since Ford's Dearborn assembly plant began producing Mustangs 46 years ago, the original pony car has struggled with clutch release issues. Did you know you can eliminate this problem in an afternoon? Because the stock clutch release mechanism is so problematic, even with all new parts, it is suggested you step up to something stouter with the Muscle Z-Bar from Barillaro Speed (www.barillarospeed.com or 865/531-1840). It's undoubtedly one of the nicest clutch release upgrades you can install on your Mustang without sacrificing that original feel. It offers Heim joint technology along with heavier gauge steel construction that won't fold over with a 3,000-pound three-finger clutch.
All you have to do is first inspect your Mustang's underdash clutch linkage for excessively worn parts, such as the helper spring and bushings, then get busy replacing the factory z-bar, also known as the equalizer bar. Because the Muscle Z-Bar has adjustable Heim joints, there's no binding. The best part is that you can install it yourself in a couple of hours, including adjustment time.
17 Single-Wire AlternatorIf you drive your classic Mustang on a regular basis, you understand charging system woes. They can leave you on the roadside waiting for AAA and a battery. Those old mechanical voltage regulators can sometimes make your Mustang's charging rate sporadic. When this happens, you need to install a single-wire 100+ amp alternator, a popular modification for owners who drive their vintage Mustangs daily. Performance Distributors (www.performancedistributors.com or 901/396-5782) calls its single-wire, high-amp 3G alternator Mr. AMP and it does a terrific job of keeping the lights on and your battery charged.
Mr. AMP enables you to bypass the stock voltage regulator because it is internally regulated. Performance Distributors includes everything you'll need to install the 3G Mr. AMP, including heavy-gauge wiring, circuit protection, and all terminals. Don't forget to disable your Mustang's ammeter when you go to single-wire. Otherwise, you can count on smoke in the cockpit.
18 Strap In To Stay SafeLike we said earlier, when you drive a vintage Mustang, you accept the risks as well as the rewards of ownership. Companies like Custom Accessories (www.customaccessoriesmfg.com or 800/560-2358) have come out with three-point passenger restraint systems for early Mustangs as a means to making them safer. They're easy to install in a weekend in your driveway.
Thing is, not everyone wants that late-model look in their classic Mustang. This is why there are viable alternatives for those owners who want lap belts that not only look good, but also function well. Here are your choices.
We like the classic look seat belts from National Parts Depot (www.npdlink.com and go to the interactive catalog or 800/874-7595). Produced by Scott Drake Reproductions for NPD, these belts are available in a variety of Mustang interior colors and connect across your waste with the ease of an airline belt. When you're installing these belts, it is suggested you use the factory attachment points along with positioning them where the pony and tri-bar are right side up as they face the passenger.
If your desire is to restore your Mustang's original seat belts and retractors, SSSnake-Oyl Products (www.ssnake-oyl.com or 800/284-7777) can help with a nice selection of new restraint systems as well as restoration of old belts, buckles, and hardware. The main thing you want to remember with seat belt restoration is to take note of date codes on the buckles and hardware to ensure you get back the same hardware for your Mustang's manufacture date code. You can also specify a specific date code. If they have it, you will get it. Ssnake-Oyl Products can restore any classic Mustang seat belt with outstanding results.
19 Wheel TerrificSometimes, a stock steering wheel just doesn't cut it in terms of feel and appearance. When you compare the feel of an original Mustang steering wheel to a nice, compact aftermarket wheel, it feels like you're driving a school bus. Grant Products has a huge array of custom steering wheels and installation kits for classic Mustangs. Installation is something you can accomplish at home with that tool kit your parents gave you when you were 16.
As with any steering wheel, the Grant wheel must be secured carefully. It is suggested you use a thread locker on bolt threads, but not the shaft nut, which is a lock nut. Wiring must be protected from chaffing and cutting. Tension pins should always be installed with gaps to the inside to prevent turn signal switch damage. It is also suggested you use white grease on these pins.
Grant steering wheels and related parts are available from Summit Racing Equipment at www.summitracing.com or by calling 800/230-3030.
20 Swap Up To PerformanceA carburetor and intake swap is one of the oldest performance tricks in the book because it's a quick way to real bolt-on horsepower. It can be performed in your garage with little more than home mechanics tools and a strong back. Because the aftermarket is so inundated with induction systems and carburetors, it's easy to get confused. The first question you want to ask yourself is, how do you intend to drive your Mustang? Next, what's your engine's personality?
Your carburetor and manifold swap doesn't have to be aftermarket and it doesn't always have to mean larger. Sometimes, it's little more than going from a two-barrel to a stock four-barrel manifold with an Autolite or Motorcraft carburetor from Pony Carburetors (www.ponycarburetors.com or 575/526-4949). Going to a four-barrel intake and carburetor offers its greatest benefit when the accelerator is pressed, which is where you really feel the difference.
Another option is a Cobra high-rise manifold from Tony D. Branda (www.cobranda.com or 800/458-3477) with a period Holley 4150 or 4160 carburetor, which looks authentic. Holley carburetors can be found at any swap meet, including Shelby LeMans bowl style. Tony D. Branda's website has everything you need for a Cobra high-rise conversion at. Visit Holley's website for genuine Holley carburetors and parts at www.holley.com or call 270/782-2900.
If restomod is more to your liking, Professional Products(www.performanceparts.com or 800/585-0683) has a wealth of good-looking performance parts, including polished and powdercoated dual-plane intake manifolds for street use and easy clean up. Quick Fuel Technology (www.quickfueltechnology.com or 270/793-0900) offers you a wide variety of high-performance carburetors that will bolt onto your aftermarket high-rise manifold with a Holley base plate pattern.
21 How Safe Are Your Brakes?It tends to be an old saw you can't do anything with drum brakes. However, this just isn't true. Drum brakes get a bum rap because they don't always get the attention they deserve when it's time for relining. When you reline your Mustang's drum brakes, remember how important it is to replace everything-shoes, springs, hardware, wheel cylinders, and drums. It's always a good idea to give new drums a light shave because too many of them aren't surfaced properly during manufacturing. Wash drums thoroughly to remove all debris and petroleum-based preservatives. Drum brake backing plate contact surfaces should be ground smooth. And if they're excessively worn, they should be welded up and resurfaced or replaced. The reason we stress new brake drums is wear and shoe travel. When drums are turned to their limits, you will get excessive pedal travel.
We bring up brake safety because this is an easy job you can do yourself. Your main objective needs to be close attention to detail in workmanship and replacement parts. Currie Enterprises (www.currieenterprises.com or 714/528-6957) stocks everything you need to rebuild classic Mustang drum brakes.
22 Coolin' ItOne of the most common concerns we hear about is overheating. That's because there are many misconceptions about why Mustangs tend to run hot. One of the biggest is cooling system capacity. Vintage Mustangs had small radiators from the factory that never did the job they were supposed to do. Then, when radiators became loaded with rust particles and other debris during years of neglect, it further hindered cooling capacity. Even the larger 24-inch radiators ('67-up) were woefully inadequate with time and use.
To eliminate your Mustang's overheating problems, you must first have enough radiator capacity in order to transfer heat, ideally a three- or four-row core coupled with proper fan-to-radiator spacing and a shroud. There's always debate between copper/brass radiators and aluminum. Redline Cooling (www.redlinecooling.com or 734/320-6915) eliminates the debate with the wisdom and expertise of Craig Parsons, who builds one heck of a custom aluminum radiator. And when it arrives on your doorstep, you can be confident it's going to fit because Craig understands your needs.
Redline Cooling radiators are available with and without Spal electric cooling fans. If you're going with an engine driven fan, consider your application before ordering a fan, spacer, and shroud. The fan should be half-way into the shroud for optimum airflow and heat transfer. Get the fan too close to your radiator and you will run into air stagnation.
23 Cable ViewThere are all kinds of clutch release systems for classic Mustangs. Earlier, we showed you the Muscle Z-Bar system, which yields identical feel to original equipment. Bruce Couture's Modern Driveline (www.moderndriveline.com, 208/453-9800) clutch cable system provides a late-model clutch pedal feel-that nice, smooth clutch engagement we associate with '79-'04 Fox-body Mustangs. Hydraulic clutch kits are also now available from Modern Driveline.
Installing a clutch cable system is easier than you might think and it can be performed in a day. The instrument panel and driver's seat should be removed along with the Mustang's pedal assembly for access. Pedal assembly removal isn't always easy. It is suggested you rebuild your Mustang's pedal assembly using a new shaft and bearing kit from Scott Drake Reproductions for superior support and function. This shaft kit is available from National Parts Depot (www.npdlink.com or 800/521-6104).
Pedal assembly removal also involves master cylinder removal. This is the time to inspect your Mustang's master cylinder. If you're doing a '65-'66, consider installation of a dual braking system, as used on '67 and later Mustangs.
24 Carb IncreaseAlthough the aftermarket carburetor industry has certainly been good to Mustang enthusiasts in terms of all-out performance, few fuel systems have worked as well and as reliably as what the factory used to begin with. With Pony Carburetors, (www.ponycarburetors.com), you can choose the correct factory carburetor for your classic Mustang, retrofitting your Mustang's fuel system in an afternoon with a concours restored piece right out of the box. Although each carburetor is run tested and ready for operation, idle air mixture and jetting may need to be different for your elevation. So be ready to make adjustments to fuel mixture and ignition timing when installation is complete.
25 Stop The DripIf you keep a classic Mustang in your garage with its original-style Bendix power-assisted steering, you understand the concept of keeping a drip pan underneath or wiping up your garage floor on a weekly basis. The problem with Bendix power steering is the many and varied spots (ten of them) where fluid can leak. Control valves leak. So do power cylinders and hose connections. First, make sure you have fresh hoses of solid integrity. Order new power steering hoses from Larry's Thunderbird & Mustang Parts (www.larrystbird.com, or 800/854-0393). They can be installed in an afternoon. We suggest the purchase of good tubing wrenches while you're ordering hoses because conventional open-end wrenches can round off fittings.
Also, make sure your power cylinder boot is free from cracks and splits. Double check power cylinder grommets while you're under there. One more thing, closely examine all flared fittings for even the smallest nicks, which will cause leaks even with a new hose.
And remember, your Mustang's power steering pump generates 1,500-1,800 psi, which is dangerous if handled carelessly. Never check for leaks with your fingers and always be mindful of proper hose connections. Get control valve hoses backwards and you can wind up with broken wrists. Take pictures before disassembly because this is easy to get backwards.