Jump to content

Where to start?


Recommended Posts

How yall doing? This coming year, ive decided that my resolution will be getting my Mustang in great condition. Question is i don't know exactly where to start. I need a good rust/paint job inside and out. Then i need to get the motor compartment up to par and suspension work. I think the transmission is pretty good. 

I have a 73 Mustang Fastback. Just need some pointers as to where to start?


*Bonus points for recommending shops in the Houston/Katy area.*


Thanks and Hope this 2020 is great for everyone.



Link to comment
Share on other sites

G'day from Ozzieland


It can certainly be a daunting task at first restoring any car but before you start tearing it apart take many photos for future reference

Bag and tag all the bits and pieces as you go is also important

Search this forum especially the projects area for ideas and post questions when needed


You are pretty much on the right track with your plan by getting the bodywork done first including the engine bay

Then you can do suspension, interior, wiring if needed, engine/trans etc


Everyone will have many ways to restore a vehicle so just do what works for you

One thing you will need before you start is plenty of patience, lots of cash and an understanding partner!

Good luck with your project

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Glad you are jumping in but I can guarantee you water is cold.

I have been working on cars since I sat by my dad and held the brake shoes while he put the new rivets in to install the linings on the shoes. Yes back in the 50's you just got the asbestos linings and some new rivets and you had to change them out on the metal shoes.

One thing I strongly recommend to anyone starting on a car is to first take it to a frame shop and have them hang the gauges on the chassis and see if it is square to the world. They will have prints to go by that give the dimensions to the Master control holes in the chassis. I have never seen one that was right. 

You can incorrect jack one of these cars or cross a ditch and twist the chassis out of spec.

Once you know you have an accurate chassis I feel it is best to take the body down to a shell. Remove engine, trans, but keep it a rolling chassis as long as you can. Remove the windows and all trim there will be rust hiding in there for sure. 

Once you have your rolling chassis bare it is time to asses the rust situation and they all have rust to some extent. You may want to consider handing off the panel replacement to a company that does it for a living. Can save you money and move you along much faster. 

If your floors have rust then you have a bad cowl. I have never seen a floor rust out from the bottom side. Water leaks in from holes in the cowl and soaks the carpet and rusts the floors. If the rear floors are rusty you probably have a roof rail leak that allows water to run into the rear. 

Now stop and take a deep breath. If you have never done a car before you might want to give it some more thought. You getting another job and put the hours in there to pay someone to do your car might be wise. But if you want to do it I always encourage people to do it.

You see people pull the engine and build it first, NOT. The engine is the last thing you need to worry about. A built engine sitting on stand for 2 years does not help your effort.

So if the cowl is bad that is areal # 1 to address. Then work floors and trunk. 

To do panel replacement you need a jig to hold everything in place using the factory tooling holes in the chassis that the frame shop checked from. You can buy ready built or make your own. Has to be on level plane to not put you chassis in a twist. 

You can burn out on a build fast due to the snowball effect. You pull one part off and it uncovers another issue that needs addressing. 

I do not know your experience with body and paint but you have to be religious about procedures and products used or results will not be good. 

If you were going to do a concourse restore you would have to take the suspension off also to allow restoring all of that. 

On another site one of the people works in a prototype shop and he is doing a great job getting his chassis set up correctly to do it right. I will go get a link to his site and add to your post. He knows the importance of having the chassis correct before replacing panels. 

An expert on restorations working full time can put a full year into a car so go in understanding that. You see the TV programs where they do a car in couple weeks. That is not a restoration by no means. That is a flip and work will be questionable at best. 

If you have never done body work or paint you might consider going to your local Technical school and take the course. Some allow you to bring in a project to work on while taking the course. 

I use to paint cars in a plastic temporary garage in my back yard. Some won first place in shows but the paints of today are not the cheap lacquers of the 60's and 70's. You can easily have $3,500 in just materials to restore a car from ground up. 

Like I said I love to see people do their own work but I hate to see someone tear their car to pieces and then after a couple years throw up their hands and give it up. Know what you are getting into and be prepared. 

It is not rocket science but does require patience and a feel for the surface of the car. Your eye cannot see what your fingers and hands can feel. 

I have placed ads here looking for someone that wants to learn and give them space in my garage but nobody here does there work they write checks.

When a man is in the woods and talks and no women are there is he still wrong??:P


Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks Dave. Im a busy guy, two jobs already and a handful of family responsibilities. Im going for the paying someone for the job. And thank you for the guidance, it makes sense to start with a square body and go from there. I'll start with your recommendations. I would love to learn body work, but im afraid it would be one of my MANY to-do hobbies. If only... Gotta pay the bills!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

DA 55, I was in a similar situation to you when I restored my '71 J Code convertible. I took on what i could handle and what I knew i could do properly. I sourced out the rest to professional's... Yes, it cost's money, but also saves money and aggravation in the end.


I tore the car down and tagged and bagged it... I stripped the paint off the car. I sent the shell in for a complete rotisserie body and paint. It came home on its new suspension that I prepped and reinstalled at the paint shop... I tore the engine down and then took it to a re builder. It came home broken in and ready to drop in the car. The same for the transmission and rear-end. I re-did the entire dash area myself. I sent the seats out to be recovered. I reinstalled the interior, the engine bay and drivetrain, and everything else to get it road worthy. I took it into be saftied and it passed easily... Done. Total time commitment: about three year's... Total cash commitment, nah...


Still cost me much more then the car will ever be worth in today's market, but that was not the point... I accomplished what I set out to do and now have a rare and in my eye's at least; a beautiful car in the garage...


Good luck on your build.



  • Like 1

"Yes dear", has kept me in the hobby a long time...

Link to comment
Share on other sites

As you can see by the posted above, you can be active at different levels on the restoration. I would advise taking some ownership in the project as it will give you a bigger sense of satisfaction when the car is completed. Being able to stand back and say "I did that" while looking at a piece of American car history that you physically had a hand in restoring is a great feeling. Tackle the one part of the job that you feel you can handle both time and knowledge wise. Best of luck on your build.




"The only dumb question is the one not asked"

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Totally agree with satisfaction, one thing that really helps is a place to work and the ability to walk away from the process and think about the problem/issue of the 'day/week or whatever'. I found that it takes time way more time and money then you expected, but that's ok!!! If it was easy you would see a lot of old cars on the road.


Good Luck!!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hi DA55


I feel the biggest mistake most make is not planning - people take on way too much.

I'm going to throw in some project management here. I hope this helps to clarify your tinkering life...


Make a list of jobs to do ...


  • Body 
  • Drive train
  • Suspension - Brakes - Steering 
  • Engine - air - exhaust 
  • Interior 
  • Electrics
  • Detailing 


estimate complexity and cost to each 

then list the ones you can do and the ones that you need specialist outside skills for


you can then plan your budget over time and Gannt chart when and what can be done and by whom. 


This way you can get on with the jobs that are easier to handle and not waste time on trying to take on the whole mountain at once. 


Then its not so daunting  :cool:


Enjoy's searching out 71-73 history

Link to comment
Share on other sites

While most was said above

There is also the factor da55 aka "you".


@1sostatic for instance says:

[estimate complexity and cost to each then list the ones you can do and the ones that you need specialist outside skills for]

Not a bad advice at all, but if all is new to you, you can also underestimate yourself from the start and that our cars are using "rocket science level" parts.

Keep in mind that restoring a car isn't a sprint, it's more a marathon.

Because the duration is quite long (what you see on TV shows is nowhere near what really needs to be done), you will develop own skills that will open new possibilities as you go. What you may classify today as not doable may very well be in just a few months of practice if you really go for it.


Just to give you an example using your quote "I think the transmission is pretty good.",

If I'd apply the above, last year I knew I would need to repair the c6 trans. A quick search on the very few capable addresses here says that it would cost me +-1200 for basic refreshing work that is changing just the frictions plates. That is me bringing the trans to them. Then the cost of the parts. Which is vague as its basically the company that would pick the parts they need using their own. Overhaul kits+shifkits+import costs and their com, k, 2.5 to 3k is prolly what the estimate would be with the high Dutch prices.


If you look at the todo from another perspective and estimate that if someone not obviously much smarter than yourself can repair a C6,

you can conclude that you "could" do it. In this particular case, I've took time to search for doc, needed tools, watched vids and took the controlled risk to try as what I've seen didn't look that much above my head. In worst case scenario, I'd loose only the parts costs for my attempt and go with tail between legs to a shop.

In the end, I have a restored trans, better than its original specs which the shop would not have done (unless asked but as you do not know, you do not ask) and also it got detailed inside out which is also not to be expected from a shop, all for less than 600. (all inclusive the import costs I had to pay for). Not counting a new converter.

Most importantly, the trans is no longer a secret box with magical components to me and if something would go wrong, I would know exactly where to look at.

The more you do, you more you learn and each part you restore benefits from this evolution.

If you really think you can't for some reason, then indeed let a specialist handle the task.


So my take/advice would be as all said, prepare yourself for the long run. Have from the start a good picture of where you want to be and just take 1 prob/part at a time to get there. If you are like me, limited by space and even weather, you need keep the details for the dark/cold days and the bigger things for the dry warm days. It's been said many times, but again: take pictures, pictures and more pictures. What you think is obvious during removal isn't that obvious years later.

Invest in good tools made for the job you need to do, safety helpers (and order a MIG welder today) !

Do not cut corners. The days where some blingbling paint job, a new set of wheels did the trick are over for our cars. Now 50 yo, they need be restored.



Oh hell yes! To me It's not just the moment you turn the key. It's every bits of the work along the journey. Each failure turned into a fix, each rusty part brought back to shiny state, broken things working again... Satisfaction all the way for me, best hobby ever! :)


Good luck and don't forget start a project thread so we can follow your progresses!!

73 modified Grande 351C. (Finally back on the road woohoo!) 

71 429CJ. ( In progress )

Link to comment
Share on other sites

my opinion is the make a book. ANY new parts u buy cut the end of box off and glue to a page and identify what it's for. right/left brake cyl etc... in the last 20 yrs I've bought 5 car/trucks and NONE came with a book. when I rebuild or refurbished and sold them they ALL came with a book with stuff I did. amazing that was the selling point for 4 last sold.. so basically memories don't last forever and u'd do yourself a Hugh favor if info needed in future.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

  • Create New...