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Restoration Ramblings.....where to begin?


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A very wide ranging question here with a lot of variables to boot but, if I wanted to restore my Mustang to some semblance if it's former glory...where should I start? Motor, suspension, body/paint?? I know many of you have gone through this process a few times and I'm wondering, if you could do your restorations over again would you do anything different?

As some of you may know, I finally got my Mach 1 back up and running after many years of prison time in the garage (not me, the car)…It has been an absolute thrill to be out and about and enjoying it again, but I have always had a goal of fixing up this car and while I'm not really in a rush to tear it into a million pieces, there is no time like the present as they say. My son (who's 14) has really started showing an interest too and is always asking, "when we are gonna do this" and "when are we gonna do that" to the car. I have never restored a car before, and really have no idea where to start. I have limited mechanical skills, but I can probably tackle some of the work myself...although sometimes its just easier to pay a pro.

I'm seeking input from the dozens of members on here who have taken their cars (some in much rougher shape than mine) and restored them to amazing results. I am seeking just to make a nice streetable car here, not a drag car or a Concours resto or anything crazy. I guess some form of mild resto-mod. I want it to look and feel and sound like an old car should, but if it has some period incorrect parts under the hood (EFI?) or hiding in the dash (digital gauges?) That wont really bother me much. I want it to turn heads, and haul some ass!

My car is in daily driver shape, its got a handful of issues as it sits (gauges not working, sagging doors, dim dash lighting, interior a little rough, some lifter noise, leaks a little oil, etc.) How should I go about tackling this project? How much money can I expect to spend? How long will it take? Should I buy all the parts, and then do everything at once, or take the "a little here, a little there" approach? Should I just enjoy it for awhile first and do a resto later?

Again, I know this is a wide ranging question here and a lot of your answers will depend on exactly what I want to do but please, tell me your thoughts! I appreciate all the help this forum has provided me through the years.

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Jason
1973 Mach1 Q-code

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Either write down the goals you want for your car or have them firmly established in your mind, so you can take care of repairs or upgrades at the best time in the process, so you don't have to backtrack over previous work. A complete inspection of car is necessary to determine what needs to be done. Make up a list of needed repairs, and then prioritize them in your preferred order.

I'm probably different than most. I prefer to start with the most difficult, after the difficult stuff is out of the way it's all downhill. Pull the engine, take care of the engine, transmission and engine bay, take care of rust on the interior and exterior, pull front fenders clean and take care of hidden rust, makes it easier for front suspension rebuild, replace hard lines (brake and fuel) and install a return fuel line if you're going to install a fuel injection system that requires a return line. Cowl repair and de-rusting sits near the top of the hard stuff list, take care of it while the fenders are off, may need to take the dash out to get to the inside of the dash and under the cowl, likely rusty.

Be flexible, unexpected things will always come up, one thing will lead to another 9 times out of ten.

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It all comes down to what you want when you get finished.  If you want a daily driver when you are finished, making it reliable is a key goal.  How much space do you have?  It takes about 3x the area of a car to restore a car.  Not having enough space to get around the car and to store all of the stuff you are taking off or waiting to put on is MASSIVELY frustrating and demotivating.  If you don't have space for a non-running car, keeping it running is a key goal.  If you want to learn how to do things yourself, starting with something "simple" is recommended.  Have a minor success is good motivation to tackle something bigger.  You can also do simpler things with fewer tools, so you can buy tools as you go.

How much money can you expect to spend?    How much ya got?  It all depends on what you find as you take the car apart, how nice you want it to look (body work, paint prep and interior work is not cheap), how fast you want it to go, and how "modern" you want it to be.  Make a list of all of the things you want, in order of importance and do some research.  Talk to body shops, machine shops, upholstery shops, audio shops and price out your wants.  Then double it.  That should be a realistic budget. 

How long will it take?  If you have a lot to spend (money and time) - about a year or so.  If you don't, well my restoration has been going about a decade more or less.  How much of a hurry are you in?  Do you want a finished car more than an experience?  Do you have an understanding family?

Should I buy all the parts, and then do everything at once, or take the "a little here, a little there" approach?  How much space do you have to store stuff?  How long do you want to take up that space with car parts? 

Should I just enjoy it for awhile first and do a resto later?  Totally up to you.  Nobody else can answer that question.

 

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Space might be an issue. I have a three stall garage that houses the Mustang, the wife's Explorer, and bikes, lawn equipment, and all that crap. Not a lot of extra room for parts. I like the idea of making a list of things I want to accomplish with it, I will definitely be doing that. Would it be smart to do the engine and transmission over one of our long Minnesota winters and then save up/mentally prepare for the body and paint in the future? If the drivetrain is solid, it shouldn't be that big of a deal to pull it again in the future and then reinstall after paint right? 

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Jason
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Posted (edited)
59 minutes ago, Fredensborg said:

Space might be an issue. I have a three stall garage that houses the Mustang, the wife's Explorer, and bikes, lawn equipment, and all that crap. Not a lot of extra room for parts. I like the idea of making a list of things I want to accomplish with it, I will definitely be doing that. Would it be smart to do the engine and transmission over one of our long Minnesota winters and then save up/mentally prepare for the body and paint in the future? If the drivetrain is solid, it shouldn't be that big of a deal to pull it again in the future and then reinstall after paint right? 

+1 with Don and Mike.  No simple answer for some of your questions.  Don't know your knowledge level but the more you can do yourself will save you dollars in labor that can be used to purchase more parts. For your current question if you are going to pull the engine and trans do it first.  This will give you the opportunity to clean up and  repaint the engine bay and also provide easier access  to the brake lines plus the wiring in the engine bay. If cowl work is required this would also be the best time to do it. 

I restored mine short of pulling the engine in a  standard 2 car garage.  I would pull my wife's car out and work on the mustang then at the end of the day pull hers back in.  I had the car on ramps and jack stands.  The fenders and trunk lid were stored under the car and the hood was stood up at the end of the garage. As Don mentioned I took an inventory of the things I was going to need and purchased what  I could at the start of my build. I focused on the big tickets items and the "need it now" type items to start with. 

One thing I can't express enough it is to take lots of pictures as you take things apart.  And then take a couple of more to be on the safe side!  Nothing worse than trying to figure out how to put something back together or where it goes.  Also, if your lines for the doors, fenders, trunk and hood are good drill some alignment holes so when you put it back together things will be extremely close to where they were before you took it apart.   As you should know there is lots of good info on this site in previous  post and people willing to help.

Good luck and enjoy the time together with your son.            

Edited by Kilgon
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Kilgon

 

 

"The only dumb question is the one not asked"

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18 minutes ago, Kilgon said:

+1 with Don and Mike.  No simple answer for some of your questions.  Don't know your knowledge level but the more you can do yourself will save you dollars in labor that can be used to purchase more parts. For your current question if you are going to pull the engine and trans do it first.  This will give you the opportunity to clean up and  repaint the engine bay and also provide easier access  to the brake lines plus the wiring in the engine bay. If cowl work is required this would also be the best time to do it. 

I restored mine short of pulling the engine in a  standard 2 car garage.  I would pull my wife's car out and work on the mustang then at the end of the day pull hers back in.  I had the car on ramps and jack stands.  The fenders and trunk lid were stored under the car and the hood was stood up at the end of the garage. As Don mentioned I took an inventory of the things I was going to need and purchased what  I could at the start of my build. I focused on the big tickets items and the "need it now" type items to start with. 

One thing I can't express enough it is to take lots of pictures as you take things apart.  And then take a couple of more to be on the safe side!  Nothing worse than trying to figure out how to put something back together or where it goes.  Also, if your lines for the doors, fenders, trunk and hood are good drill some alignment holes so when you put it back together things will be extremely close to where they were before you took it apart.   As you should know there is lots of good info on this site in previous  post and people willing to help.

Good luck and enjoy the time together with your son.            

How long did this whole restoration take you? Your car looks amazing! if I could get mine looking that good and mechanically sound I could die a happy man. My knowledge level is probably nowhere near yours, but these old cars are pretty basic. Did you do the paint and body work?

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Jason
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1 hour ago, MikeGriese said:

 

Should I just enjoy it for awhile first and do a resto later?  Totally up to you.  Nobody else can answer that question.

 

Exactly right, this summer we are just going to enjoy it. Ill see how long of a list I come up with to determine when is the best time to start, however my son is only getting older and this is the perfect age to spend some time with him doing this type of stuff. I see you are a fellow Minnesotan! When you get your car done we will have to meetup sometime!

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Jason
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I agree with everyone. Are you wanting to do a driving restorations? By that I mean take on smaller projects like fixing the gages or freshening up the interior. Or do you need to do a bunch of metal work? Many people focus on the drivetrain however that can be expensive and takes a lot of time (at least at a really good shop it does since they will have a lot of work). I do not recommend completely dismantling the car since parts will be everywhere and it can be overwhelming to put it back k together. I tore mine down 26 yrs ago. The painting scared me so it sat for 25 yrs. Since your son is interested that may keep momentum going. 

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, Fredensborg said:

How long did this whole restoration take you? Your car looks amazing! if I could get mine looking that good and mechanically sound I could die a happy man. My knowledge level is probably nowhere near yours, but these old cars are pretty basic. Did you do the paint and body work?

Took 3 years.  Most of my work was done during the spring, summer and fall months due to no heat in the garage.   I added a wall mounted heater in the garage the last year I worked on it but still didn't do that much during the extremely cold months.   I did all the  mechanical and interior work including the re-upholstery.  I watched a lot of video's and read a lot of the post on the things I wasn't familiar with.  

 I found a body shop that was willing to work with me on price for doing the body work and painting.  I had to do all the stripping and delivered the bare panels and car to them.  They did the needed body work and paint and delivered the car back with the hood, doors, fenders and trunk lid back on.  I took it from there and finished it. I also lay out their business cards at any cruise ins or shows I go to as part of the deal.  

Edited by Kilgon
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"The only dumb question is the one not asked"

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My take:

Tackle the most important job that is unique to that vehicle: the unibody.  Strip everything down/out and put it in storage.  Examine the body very carefully for rust, dents, prior accident damage and get that repaired first.  Spending lots of $$ on engine/tranny/suspension/interior is wasted if the car body is in bad shape and ready to bend if something hits it.  You sagging doors indicate frame issues at worst; although the hinges might be bad. 

The body is unique and must be in adequate shape before everything else is done.  If the body is no good, everything you've stripped out can be transferred to another body.

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I'am with all the above said! 

The most important lesson I have learned from my restoration is: don't fall in the infamous "while I am there I could do also... the whole thing"! I started in 2014 with my restoration after I drove a year, tackling some issues and then came the engine failure. I did the engine first, that was no problem, took half a year on the side from detecting the damage, order parts and so on until first engine run. But then I decided while I am at it I could also disassemble the whole car and make a real shiny original concourse-style Mach 1, give it back its long gone glory. 6 years later I have to admit that was a mistake. I should have reassembled the car and drivin' the hell out of it and doing all the other stuff time by time. Instead my life changed drastically over the last 6 years and I have experienced things many others will not, for gods sake. I am happy I could keep the Mustang, though! Now I am the lucky guy that can continue its legacy and bring it to an end as you can see in my restoration thread. But the last years the car stood, and stood and I could only do minor things to it. It would have been more fun in these times the last years if I would have driven it from time to time. So don't do that, do only one thing at a time and keep it drivable for fun as often as you could! You do not ever know when your life will change! Now I have to do all at once and sometimes it is enerving - it is sooo much to do when everything is disassembled and every part is somehow screwed up... 

So, check your Mustang first from roof to undercarriage what must be done. Then make a prio-list, what have to be done first. Remind: keep it drivable as often as it could be. The hardest part of the restoration will be the body work as Randy mentioned. Keep it for a time it could be done in a few months. Don't let it go over years - it would be enerving and annoying. Check it first, then make your decision, how to do and with whom to do. Check your skills. Check the paint guys - they are the most difficult persons in the world to handle within a restoration of a Mustang - period! Check your body, check your skills, check the paint shops first, check their timeline, reputation etc. Keep calm, give it time to make the hopefully right decision... IF your body and paint seems quite good and is in really good shape after intensive checking without any actions needed in a hurry make the mechanical things first, but one at a time. For example, take out the rear axle, make it like new again for the next 50 years and drive it again. It could also be the small things that could make you really happy. Power steering, suspension, wipers... Part it in little projects, like in the assembly and factory manuals. Oh and yes, buy these books - they are worth it. And when the big winter will come - you could take the engine out and overhaul it. But I wouldn't do that in the summer. There isn't any thing more frustrating than all the other guys drivin their nice cars through the summer while your are wrenching for months on your old hauler... 

If you don't have two left hands it will be best that you will do most of it by yourself. Nobody will do it with that care and love (normally) than you if you love your car, have some little skills and a good portion of respect and self-rating of tasks that will be perhaps too big for you alone. We are here to help, attend and give as much as support as we can, too! 

Keep it going! 

Just my 2 cents... 

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I won't repeat what other more experienced guys have posted previously.  I'll just add a couple minor tips:

-  Use lots of plastic baggies.  When you disassemble something put all the parts in a plastic bag and label it.

- Take pictures (and then take some more) of anything you are removing or disassembling.

-  Stay super organized.  It can be extremely frustrating not being able to find a part or a tool that you know you have.

-  If you can find the room, get yourself a foldable table or two.  There is nothing worse than working on the floor or covering your workbench with parts to the point you don't have room to actually use it as a workbench.

- Do lots of research.  Frankly I don't know how guys did this stuff before the Internet.  You can find a video, a tutorial, a technical article, or seek advice on just about anything.  

-  This forum and other similar ones are invaluable.  Spend the time to read lots of old posts, not just the posts on the specific term you have searched.

- Above all, have fun with the process.  If it becomes a drag it will never get done.  Take a break and work on something else every once in awhile. 

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And bins - lots of plastic bins with lids so you can stack them.  Organize parts by system, bag/label them, and put them into bins and then label the bins. 

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12 hours ago, midlife said:

My take:

Tackle the most important job that is unique to that vehicle: the unibody.  Strip everything down/out and put it in storage.  Examine the body very carefully for rust, dents, prior accident damage and get that repaired first.  Spending lots of $$ on engine/tranny/suspension/interior is wasted if the car body is in bad shape and ready to bend if something hits it.  You sagging doors indicate frame issues at worst; although the hinges might be bad. 

The body is unique and must be in adequate shape before everything else is done.  If the body is no good, everything you've stripped out can be transferred to another body.

I think my body is in pretty good shape, it has lived a pretty pampered life in a heated garage for at least the last 20 years that I have owned it. But I suppose you don't really know what damage there may or may not be until it is torn apart right? Are you saying that it wouldn't necessarily be a good idea to tackle the engine/tranny first and get that stuff top notch? I figured that would be a prudent approach, as one can semi-easily remove a working motor and tranny and have a car sent out for paint and body...am I wrong?

 

6 hours ago, timachone said:

 

 I started in 2014 with my restoration after I drove a year, tackling some issues and then came the engine failure. I did the engine first, that was no problem, took half a year on the side from detecting the damage, order parts and so on until first engine run. But then I decided while I am at it I could also disassemble the whole car and make a real shiny original concourse-style Mach 1, give it back its long gone glory. 6 years later I have to admit that was a mistake. 

 

Just my 2 cents... 

This is my biggest fear, I just got it alive again and I don't really want to have it stuck in a garage again for a few years...

 

 

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Jason
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I personally don't recommend engine overhaul if it will be longer than a year before you install and fire it up.  Longer than that, if there's anything wrong with it, the warranty will have expired. 

Let me check your shorts!

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All the advice on photos/bags/bins/labeling is spot on, but I'd add a couple things to that. Number your bins/boxes and keep a list in a notebook of the stuff in that bin/box. Take a pic of the open bin/box.  Even take a pic of the pages of the notebook. In this day and age, pics are basically free (not like the days of the Fotomat booth...) and it gets frustrating trying to remember what the box looked like that you put that particular part into.

 

On how far to go, that will depend on what you need or want to do. If you want to clean up and rustoleum the bottom of the car, engine out is a good time to do that. Even more so if you want to rebuild the front and rear suspension. That is not too much to take apart, in my opinion.  But you can also do it in stages (one end first, then the other.  But that can lead to disassembling the front clip to get at all that.  Scope creep....

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Posted (edited)
26 minutes ago, detritusmaximus said:

If you want to clean up and rustoleum the bottom of the car, engine out is a good time to do that. Even more so if you want to rebuild the front and rear suspension. That is not too much to take apart, in my opinion.  But you can also do it in stages (one end first, then the other.  But that can lead to disassembling the front clip to get at all that.  Scope creep....

This is kinda what I was thinking of doing, sending the motor and trannny out to be gone through and while its gone clean everything up and do suspension stuff on my own. Seems like it would be a good project for me and the boy to tackle. 

Edited by Fredensborg

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Jason
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Posted (edited)

Something to think about. If you plan on painting the car at some point all your new detailed work will get over spray and block sanding sludge all over it.  Most body shops wont give a crap about your detailed engine bay, suspension or exhaust.

A driver restoration or a full tear down. Depends on the overall condition of your Mach. 

Looking back my Mach could have been a driver restoration .  I don't regret doing a ground up restoration just that it's been 10 years and it's not done.

Plan on around 50k if you do as much as you and your son can do your self.  Father and son Mach1 build priceless!

Take a look at my build thread you will see what a 2 car garage home build looks like.     

Edited by mach71351c
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- Mike

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On 7/6/2021 at 5:57 PM, mach71351c said:

Something to think about. If you plan on painting the car at some point all your new detailed work will get over spray and block sanding sludge all over it.  Most body shops wont give a crap about your detailed engine bay, suspension or exhaust.

A driver restoration or a full tear down. Depends on the overall condition of your Mach. 

Looking back my Mach could have been a driver restoration .  I don't regret doing a ground up restoration just that it's been 10 years and it's not done.

Plan on around 50k if you do as much as you and your son can do your self.  Father and son Mach1 build priceless!

Take a look at my build thread you will see what a 2 car garage home build looks like.     

I never thought of how a paint shop might not care about my engine bay or suspension components…that is definitely something to consider. I’ll be putting up a bunch of pics tomorrow and hopefully a walk around video. I think it’s in pretty good shape, and could be ripe for a driving resto. The kids and I spent several hours today scrubbing and cleaning it, looks pretty damn good!! 

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Jason
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15 hours ago, Fredensborg said:

I never thought of how a paint shop might not care about my engine bay or suspension components…that is definitely something to consider. I’ll be putting up a bunch of pics tomorrow and hopefully a walk around video. I think it’s in pretty good shape, and could be ripe for a driving resto. The kids and I spent several hours today scrubbing and cleaning it, looks pretty damn good!! 

Look forward to the pics Jason. 

- Mike

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I fully encourage everyone to work on your cars. But I also encourage you to go in with wide open eyes. To do a great restoration on any car takes around 2,000 hour for a professional shop. So you are not professional and will be stopping and starting a lot. So that being said 2,000 hours is 8 hours a day for a full year of work. Investment in tools and equipment can be many thousands of dollars.
If you start out on the wrong foot you can scrap the car and can never complete the build. The TV shows are edited and lots of things cut out to make it look like it is easy and no problem. Just you paint and body materials will more than likely go over $3,000 that is just materials.
So go in with eyes open and know that the odds are against you. I see failed projects on Craigslist and Marketplace every day.
It is not easy and if anyone says it is they are blowing smoke.
It can be done by the average guy but you must have a drive and a goal that you are willing to sacrifice to get there.
I built my first car in 1964 & 1965 and finished it before I graduated from high school. I did pay the Ford dealership to paint the inside and outside for $125. The interior was done by the best trim shop in the area for $148 all original. Now consider I was making $1.00 an hour before taxes. That was like 7 weeks pay for just paint and interior. I did the mechanical. Inflation has blown those numbers way out of line. To pay someone to do a ground up true restoration will exceed $100,000 easily. The poor mans hobby is screwed up by the rich for sure.

I do hope you do it but keep your eyes open do not be blinded by just thinking you can do it, you have to desire to do it.
I have always been a purist to restore as original but I will never do another one. For sure not worth the effort or expense. I have sold 6 and will sell probably 12 more no reason to keep them if they are not worth anything to me.

Just the thoughts of an old time car enthusiast that has seen more fail that win.

 

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Thanks all! I’m definitely leaning towards doing a “rolling restoration” with my son. Fixing odds and ends as we go, the fun factor is just too high right now to tear it all the way down to the frame. Plus, I think my car is in pretty good shape overall. Maybe I’ll start a project thread to document everything we do.  So glad I have this forum to lean on! 

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Jason
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