Jerry Heasley
May 4, 2011

Is this Raven Black ’69 the finest restored Boss 429 ever? Bob Perkins took it one step further. He said, I think this is probably the best restored Mustang, he claims. There’s never been a car restored to this level of assembly line workmanship. There’s not one trick part missing. It’s got everything--from the little stuff to the big stuff--and it was a great car to start with.

For this reason, I trekked to Juneau, Wisconsin, to Bob Perkins Restoration. As the Mustang Club of America’s Authenticity Head Judge, Perkins has broken new ground in the Mustang restoration hobby over the last 30 years, many of them first seen here in Mustang Monthly. His shop is full of N.O.S. parts for first generation classics. He owns great unrestored cars and he also restores classic Mustangs for customers with help from Tim Lehr in his shop.

This particular Boss 429 belongs to Dave Steine from Baldwin, Wisconsin. With only 7,000 miles, Steine’s ’69 was an unrestored original. Perkins said, Dave had the car for several years and he was always on the bubble about whether to restore it or leave it alone.

Although the paint was original, it was thin on the edges, with primer peeking through the tops of the fenders. Finally, Steine decided if the car was going to be restored, he wanted the best Boss 429 restoration possible. He began by gathering N.O.S. parts, including a set of assembly line wheels and Polyglas GT tires, exhaust system, battery and vent caps, trunk mat, and other items.

Perkins inspected the car and became enthused with a Thoroughbred restoration because the non-service items were in like-new condition. These are the never replaceable parts, such as seats, door panels, carpet underlayment, gas tank sound deadener, and other components installed on the assembly line. Perkins could save these original parts, as well as portions of the paint.

The MCA has two classes closely knitted together--Unrestored and Thoroughbred. A Thoroughbred strives to restore to the appearance of the unrestored Mustang when it was new. With this goal in mind, along with 30 years of experience and an incredible N.O.S. inventory of parts, Perkins began an epic restoration.

His goal was to duplicate assembly line workmanship. Perkins illustrated factory workmanship when he opened the hood and pointed to what he called stamping marks in the metal. He pointed out the same pattern of stress, or stretch marks, in the metal on the tops of the rocker panels inside the doors. As Bob moved around the car, he noted a run in the paint on the end cap adjacent to a rear quarter-panel.

You’ve got to look hard for this evidence of factory workmanship, but it’s there, Bob said. Some people say these imperfections are examples of poor workmanship. But it’s not. It’s 1960’s Detroit assembly line workmanship.

Perkins stripped the body to bare metal with the exception of certain places he saved as original. For paint, he uses acrylic urethane, about as close as painters can get to the factory’s original baked-on acrylic enamel finish. Acrylic urethane, Perkins says, dries more to a factory baked finish with the original orange peel appearance. He takes extreme care with the painting process because he does not have the luxury of sanding and buffing out imperfections because that would remove the factory-look orange peel finish.

Ford does not sand and buff paint--then or now. The substrate is near perfect and the painting area mostly free of debris. Therefore, they have no mistakes to fix after painting, especially after the baking process flows out the finish. For a variety of reasons, most painters, whether professional or amateur, are not able to leave the orange peel. They must sand out imperfections, which eliminates the natural orange peel finish. Perkins achieves both factory orange peel and a high shine. Orange peel is the natural texture of the factory paint.

Orange Peel vs. Slick Paint

Like religion and politics, discussing orange peel versus slick paint on early Mustang restorations is a touchy subject. People can get angry over what’s right and what’s best. What’s right depends on the goal of the restoration. What’s best is a matter of personal preference. A rigorous restoration replicates assembly line workmanship and there must be orange peel. A non-rigorous restoration can simply achieve the original color. The MCA currently has a three-point deduction for the lack of orange peel in the stock judging classes.

A factory-style repaint with orange peel demands the substrate be almost perfectly prepared, along with the primer and paint being sprayed in a pristine environment. Debris in the topcoat requires sanding and buffing to eliminate the trash but destroys orange peel, and therein lies the rubso to speak.

Painters who produce slick paint with no orange peel do not want to hear their sanding and buffing is corrective work to remove imperfections in their paintwork. Likewise, painters who spend time perfecting the substrate to leave orange peel in their paint do not want to hear critics say orange peel is a factory imperfection to save the labor of sanding and buffing. For those who believe that Ford’s reason not to sand and buff was to save money, even high-end car makers like Porsche and Ferrari do not buff their paint. Also, new Fords today still have orange peel.

The choice of factory orange peel or slick paint is up to the individual. Some see beauty in the slick finish. Others see beauty in the paint texture and the fact that the car is restored to factory perfection.