Restoration Blunders - 27 Restoration Pitfalls To Avoid
We Talk To Professional And Amateur Mustang Restorers About Those Miserable Resto Blunders To Stay Away From
From the October, 2009 issue of Mustang Monthly
By Jim Smart
Paint Job On The Cheap
Paint Job On The Cheap
There's no such thing as a good low-buck scuff and shoot paint job. There are passable budget paint jobs that look good for now. However, they will never last. Chris Burns of Santa Barbara Musclecars lays it all out for us, "Go with a scuff and shoot paint job and you are asking for serious problems down the road. That's just throwing away whatever you've just spent." Good body prep and the best materials are everything to a quality paint job that will last.
When it comes to restoration projects, we can tell you we've been there in this magazine's 31-year history. And we've worked closely with others who have also been there. The neat thing about this job is what we learn doing it. In those three decades, we've made more than our share of mistakes-some really stupid, some we'd never admit to even our closest friends, and some that were embarrassingly exposed right here in these pages. Our goal here is to help you avoid mistakes with true confessions from those who've made them, including us.
If you are new to the restoration game, expect to make mistakes-lots of them-before getting comfortable with your abilities. It's okay to make mistakes. Just don't keep making the same ones again and again. Some situations require common sense where you really shouldn't make a mistake in the first place if you give it enough thought going in. Good practice is to take your time and not be in a hurry. Be methodical in your execution, taking phases one step at a time on the road to completion. Don't be discouraged when things go wrong. The main things to avoid are those mistakes that can cost time and money.
Here's what those in the know feel the worst restoration blunders are.
Failure To Realistically Plan
One of the best project planners we've ever seen is Marvin McAfee of MCE Engines in Los Angeles. Marvin will tell you that car projects crash and burn mostly due to a failure to plan realistically. Each project must have a plan, beginning with bodywork and paint, to have a foundation on which to build. You must be a good multi-tasker who can manage different phases of a project at the same time. For example, managing engine and transmission rebuilds while working with the body shop. And if you're not good at that, take it one phase at a time and don't get ahead of yourself. Don't kid yourself. You must be prepared to make allowances for just about anything you can think of or suffer consequences when things go wrong and you're unprepared. And face it, there are things you will never be prepared for and you may have to cut bait on a project. Have logical, realistic Plans B and C waiting in the wings just in case Plan A tanks. And, know when to quit and cut your losses when it becomes impractical to continue a car project.
What could possibly go wrong?
• Job Loss
• Career move/job transfer
• Death in the family
• Natural disaster
• Credit problems from overextension and running out of money
• Taking out a second mortgage to build your Mustang and winding up "upside down" (they call also it "underwater" these days)
• Moving to smaller quarters and losing your garage
• Losing good talent helping you with your project
• Losing a good source for technical support, such as your body shop, engine builder, fabrication specialist, etc.
• Body/restoration shop goes out of business and your Mustang winds up impounded by those to whom the shop was financially or legally obligated
Not Knowing Who You're Doing Business With
In three decades of magazine publishing, we've heard a lot of horror stories. Mustang owners have been conned and duped by unscrupulous businesses, ranging from full-on restoration shops to engine builders, body shops, and everything in between. Remember, any hayseed can hang up a sign and call themselves a restoration shop.
Buying The Same Parts Twice...
Buying The Same Parts Twice
Laurie Slawson is a Mustang Club of America Gold Card judge and restorer who owns two '68 Mustangs. She stresses strict organization in any restoration project. Catalog your restoration parts and have them organized so you can take inventory periodically and know what you have before ordering more parts. Few things are as wasteful in a restoration than buying parts you don't need-especially expensive ones. All parts should be wrapped and protected in storage. Resist the urge to open a box until it's time for installation. The only reason you should open a parts box is to inspect the part and return if necessary. Otherwise, parts should remain packaged until ready for detailing and installation.
Never More Than One Project...
Never More Than One Project At A Time
Never perform two or more restorations in the same garage at any one time, especially the same generation or model year because there are too many chances for parts mix-up. At Mustang Monthly, we've had more than our share of "same time" restoration projects where too much confusion abounds between two projects, or parts get borrowed from one to complete the other. If you're in the middle of a restoration project, finish it completely before beginning the next. Jumping back and forth between two projects leads to two things-burnout and incompletion. Ask us how we know.
Failure To Understand What...
Failure To Understand What A Restoration Costs
Chris Burns of Santa Barbara Musclecars in California tells us one of the first mistakes people make is not understanding the true cost of a restoration. This isn't about price gouging or restoration shops getting rich at your expense. It is about how much time is involved restoring a classic Mustang properly. Restoration cost is all about time and materials-and contracting with a qualified shop you can trust. How long does each step take at an hourly rate of $60 to $120 an hour? The best restoration shops are even higher because this is professional business.
If you have a Mustang project with a lot of rust, body damage, and the need for sheet metal repair, it can get very expensive. Bodywork and engine rebuilding are the most expensive aspects of a restoration. Make changes along the way and it gets even more expensive. Do as much as you can yourself and save accordingly.
Not Soaking Rusty Fasteners...
Not Soaking Rusty Fasteners With Penetrating Oil
Jeff Lilly and his son, Shannon, of Jeff Lilly Restorations understand what happens when you start knocking a Mustang down and forget to bathe rusty fasteners with good penetrating oil first. Rusty fasteners need lots of help before you put a wrench on them, Jeff tells us. It can take days for the stuff to work. When you don't soak rusty fasteners first, risk of failure is high.
Beginning A Restoration Without...
Beginning A Restoration Without Reference Materials
Jeff Lilly strongly encourages you to purchase all available reference materials before beginning a restoration. Have a complete set of Mustang Assembly Manuals from Jim Osborn Reproductions. A Ford Shop Manual should be on your workbench. Buy a set of subassembly manuals, such as vacuum and electrical schematics. Keep back issues of Mustang Monthly on hand because we do a lot of restoration editorial for this purpose - to help our readers. Without these important reference sources, you're flying without a flight plan.
Never Media Blast Alloy Metal...
Never Media Blast Alloy Metal Parts
John Murphy has spent the last 30 years dabbling in classic Mustangs. He's an amateur restorer who is home garage trained at the University of Hard Knocks. Yet he will tell you he's had a ball along the way. He speaks from experience when he says, "Never sandblast or even glass-bead an alloy part that had a smooth finish to begin with. This includes fuel pumps, Thermactor smog pumps, carburetors, distributors, cast aluminum power steering pump brackets-any part that was cast with a smooth surface." John tells us that although the part will be clean, you will never have the correct factory surface again. Use a vibratory cleaner, John adds, or a parts tumbler to massage cast parts to like-new condition.
If you're going to farm out an entire restoration, shop nationwide. Be prepared to shop your Mustang hundreds of miles away to get the best work from someone you trust. Investigate restoration shops like you would a doctor because there's a lot at stake. Check references, and not just references a shop gives you. Know how long a restoration shop has been in business and who their customers are. Glazier-Nolan Mustang Barn in Souderton, Pennsylvania, for example, has been restoring classic Mustangs since the 1970s. A family owned and operated business with a wholesome spirit and solid integrity, Glazier-Nolan Mustang Barn was founded by Fred Glazier, who has owned his Rangoon Red '64 1/2 Mustang hardtop since new. Not only is he one of the originals, he has never lost the passion.
Incorrect Engine Color
We see this all the time-the '71 351C engine painted '64 1/2 Robin's Egg 260 Blue. Or, the exact opposite-a '64 1/2 260 engine painted '66-up Ford Corporate Blue. Make sure you have the right blue while the engine is on the stand.
Not Sticking To A Budget and Realistic Timeline
Are you faced with a tight budget and limited resources? Be ready for a long-term restoration project where you can take things one phase at a time. Begin your restoration where there's the most bang for the buck- the engine compartment. Chris Burns of Santa Barbara Musclecars says you can have the most striking car out there, but if the engine bay doesn't measure up, you've wasted your time. "I think what bugs me most is where people choose to save money," Chris adds. "Mismatched hardware is toward the top. AMK Products does such a good job with hardware kits there is no excuse for hardware store fasteners when AMK looks so much better."
The main thing is to stay close to what you have budgeted and not get in a hurry when cash and credit limits get tight. Throw a car cover on it and be patient enough to wait for a better day financially. Good policy is to live within your means.
Forgetting To Give It A Brake
Your Mustang's hydraulic brake system requires extraordinary care in the interest of safety. Leaks and ruptures can be dangerous. When you install new brake lines, make sure lines are squarely mated to dust- and dirt-free fittings before tightening them up. Tighten fittings firmly, then loosen and do it again. Do not overtighten, which can distort the line. Loosening and tightening a second time seats the flare for leak-free performance. Stainless steel lines mandate even more patience and care. Tighten and loosen to seat the flare. Then tighten until there's no more budge. Because stainless is very hard, it does not seat as easily. In fact, we discourage its use because it is both hard to bend and flare. It is also more likely to leak.
Fitting Body Panels Before Paint
If you're doing a full-scale restoration, the best time to fit-check body panels is when they're in self-etching primer/sealer. Of course, a fit-check should happen before you disassemble the car. John Murphy drills small pilot holes in fenders and door hinges, underneath the bolt washers, before the car comes apart. This works provided the car hasn't suffered serious body damage. If your Mustang is already apart and you didn't do this, get everything properly fitted first, then go with John's pilot hole approach, drilling a 1/8-inch pilot hole beneath each bolt head washer. This will enable a perfect fit when it's time for reassembly.
Not Taking Time Off To Decompress
Okay, enough lecturing. Do you know what a restoration's greatest enemy is? Burnout and emotional exhaustion. From time to time, step away from your Mustang project and do something else you enjoy. Dr. John Craft, car builder and automotive historian, suggests getting away from it all to a place that allows you to escape and recharge. John likes to head to the Marti Gras in New Orleans, giving a little something back to one of America's greatest treasures, which in turn gave a little something back to John.
One of the...
One of the most obvious mistakes we see on concours restorations is over-restoring. Yes, you can get things too perfect. Classic Mustangs were mass produced in poorly lit, dusty, dirty conditions by people doing a monotonous job day after day, week after week while they wondered how many minutes it was to break time. These striking classics were not perfect to begin with. Sound deadening was slopped on the firewall. Hose clamps were installed close to specification, but not dead on. Screws were installed cockeyed. Obscenities were spelled out in the sheetmetal with wire-feed welders. Weatherstrip adhesive was used to excess. Sheet metal was misfitted. Do the best you can, but do it with a little bit of apathy.
Reusing Old Hardware
Reusing Old Hardware
You can media blast your old fasteners, but you'll still wind up with fasteners that look used, like you were too cheap to go the extra mile. Order AMK fastener kits for your Mustang from your favorite Mustang parts supplier and have them on hand for assembly. AMK Products produces virtually every classic Mustang fastener. When you install fresh fasteners, it makes your restoration look professional, even if you did most of it yourself. When new fasteners are not available from AMK, take your fasteners and have them tumbled and replated in the correct finish. Be sure to store old fasteners in labeled bags.
Throwing Away Parts You May...
Throwing Away Parts You May Need Later
John Murphy uses plenty of good old-fashioned horsesense. Murphy's law? Never throw anything away you can use or restore later. Old original Mustang parts can be good reference sources when you're trying to figure out how the car goes back together. "Bag and tag all the parts you remove," John tells us. "As we learn more and more about Mustangs, we discover the very parts needed for a first-class restoration are the ones we threw away years ago and replaced with new reproductions." John adds, "Ford used so many unique and different parts on these cars that, once you throw them away, it can be impossible to find another, especially if a part was used for a short period of time in production." Although we have a great selection of reproduction parts available to us, they aren't always a suitable substitutes for original Ford parts, especially if you're doing a Thoroughbred class restoration. Put old parts away for safekeeping.
This is the way Ford engines...
This is the way Ford engines were painted prior to '66 - block, heads, and manifold in satin black. Valve covers and air cleaner in an engine identification color. The '64 1/2 260ci V-8 gets a Robin's Egg light blue color. Too many are using this color on '66-up engines thinking it is Ford Corporate Blue, which is darker.
Here's Ford Corporate Blue...
Here's Ford Corporate Blue on a '67 289. This color was used from '66 until the early 1980s when Ford engine color changed to gray and natural iron.
Mixing Paint/Primer Brands...
Mixing Paint/Primer Brands And Types
We cannot stress this one enough. Do not mix paint and primer brands and types. Although you can get away with it, there's always that one time that it will bite you. Certain types of primers and paints don't get along in terms of compatibility, resulting in paint lifting and peeling. The finish may go dull or change color. And when this happens, it is an expensive, time-consuming mistake to repair.
Using Every Decal That Comes In The Kit
You've done it or seen it-the restorer who installs every decal in the decal kit. Stop that! Laurie Slawson tells us not every decal in the kit is supposed to be installed on your Mustang. Yet we see so many of them done that way. Use only what should be installed on your Mustang.
Not Taking Pictures Before...
Not Taking Pictures Before Disassembly
This is the digital age where taking pictures has never been easier or cheaper. Jeff Lilly suggests rounding up a good digital camera and a 2-3 gigabyte flashcard to photograph the entire disassembly process. And if you inherited a mess, attend a Mustang show or two and photograph how the best restorations are put together. Images, coupled with the Jim Osborn Assembly Manuals mentioned earlier, will get you on the right path.
Using NOS Parts That Aren't...
Using NOS Parts That Aren't Up To The Task
When Imagination Transcends...
When Imagination Transcends Tasteful
Ford originally billed Mustang as "The car to be designed by you." However, some have taken Ford a little too seriously. Customizing a Mustang boils down to personal taste. There are some modifications that have never looked good on a classic Mustang, yet enthusiasts continue to use them, like six taillights across the tail panel, polished headlight bezels and trim rings, unusually large bumper guards, and ridiculous looking mud flaps. You can also include chin spoilers never intended for a Mustang, tacky aftermarket instruments that don't jibe with a Mustang's interior, hideous low-budget upholstery, speakers installed in the darnedest places, and ugly exhaust tips that extend 12-inches beyond the back bumper with one bent down and the other bent up.
Would you like us to go on? Think twice before bolting something really awful on your classic Mustang. And if you're thinking about it, get a couple of second opinions before drilling or bolting.
Changing Trim Without Protecting...
Changing Trim Without Protecting Paint
This mistake can be applied to almost any trim item you have to install or remove. Not enough of us protect the paint while replacing trim items. The more padding or masking tape you use, the better. Trim can pop off or your hand can slip with a tool, causing paint damage.
When you're tightening lines,...
When you're tightening lines, use a wrench on both sides or you risk twisting and kinking lines. Tighten, then loosen to initially seat the flare. Tighten a second time to firmly seat the flare.
Did You Remember To Connect...
Did You Remember To Connect The Ground?
You'll probably laugh at this one, but it happens a lot. There has to be a complete electrical circuit in order for anything to function properly. With automobiles, the steel body is part of the electrical system known as the ground. The negative battery cable "grounds" to the engine block. The engine is grounded to the firewall via a ground strap. The vehicle's wiring harness is grounded to the body as well, which makes your Mustang's body an electrical path. If you don't use an engine-to-firewall ground strap, you're courting electrical gremlins that cannot be explained-the alternator won't charge, lights are dim or won't work at all, and the ignition system works then quits.
Check all of your Mustang's electrical system grounds from bumper to bumper. Any stray black eyelet leads are disconnected grounds. Make sure they're connected.
We're showing a PerTronix Ignitor installation here because we get calls and emails about no-start conditions wi
Not Seeing The Forest For...
Not Seeing The Forest For The Trees
Whenever we look at a Mustang as a potential purchase, we often miss what's right in front of our faces. We see the finished product long before that first can of WD-40 and busted knuckles. In fact, it's easy to get lost in the fantasy of a car project because they are exciting by nature. Realistically examine any Mustang you're thinking about buying. We get in trouble when we don't see what's really wrong with a car. Sheet metal replacement or accident damage is not cheap to fix.
From a distance, this '65 Mustang hardtop appears to have simple grille and valance damage. However, the radiator support and inner fender aprons are also damaged. Additional cost there, plus time on a frame table to get the body straight. There's also significant rust in critical places. Even though you might be able to buy a beater on the cheap, figure in what it will cost to correct sheet metal damage. It's often cheaper to buy a good, straight car to begin with than it i
Leaks Because You Didn't Dress...
Leaks Because You Didn't Dress Mating Surfaces
Few things are as discouraging as leaks in a fresh restoration. Your Mustang's exhaust system has its own little demons. Jeff Lilly suggests dressing exhaust manifold mating surfaces as well as their cylinder head counterparts. Exhaust manifold gaskets do a nice job of sealing, but they can't do it all alone. When your Mustang's engine is built, have the machine shop shave all exhaust mating surfaces for excellent sealing. Make sure donut contact surfaces are clean too.
Wheel And Tire Fitment
Wheel And Tire Fitment
There are few things more deflating than discovering you've bought the wrong wheels and tires for your restoration project. They stick out too far, rub the fender lip, have the wrong offset, or are just too large. It is crucial for you to measure and do a reality check before laying down hard-earned money for new tires and wheels, which can be very expensive. Resist the temptation to go big just because your buddy managed to fit 20-inch wagon wheels on his '69 Mach 1. And this isn't just about fit; it is also about ride and handling quality. The less sidewall there is, the more harsh the ride.