Modified Mustangs & Fords
Basics On Building Your First Mustang
Mustang & Fords Gives You The Basics To Get Started
Step By StepView Photo Gallery
If youre just getting started on your first Mustang, excitement gets equal time with anxiety, especially if youve never touched an automobile before. Diving into your first car-building project is certainly exciting, but it has to be tempered with common sense. If youre building a Mustang from scratch, you must have a plan and stick with it in order to finish the job successfully. Be prepared for setbacks along the way because there will be plenty of them. Raw determination and proper planning is what gets you through a restoration.
A car project is not for the faint of heart. At times, a restoration can be overwhelming. Youre going to need lots of emotional support for those times when things get roughand they will get rough. You can count on it. There will be reproduction parts that dont fit, bad chrome from the plating shop, an excessively worn or cracked engine casting you didnt expect, rust in the floorpan, upholstery that rips or doesnt fit, paint that gets chipped, a new windshield that gets busted, and automotive professionals who stand you up time and time again. If you believe its going to take a year to build your Mustang, plan on two. Nearly anything can and will get in your way.
Good body shops, for example, can set your project back because they always have a waiting list, and its rarely on schedule. A waiting list of more than a year is not unheard of with some of the best shops. The same can be said for reputable machine shops and engine builders. This is why advanced planning is so important.
If you live in an apartment and are without access to a weather-tight garage, forget car building until youre at a station in life where you have access to one. Few apartment and condo complexes will tolerate major levels of auto repair in the parking lot. A car project entails major disassembly, including removing the engine and driveline, doors, fenders, interior, and more if you intend to do the job right. A project car needs a safe, secure location, just for starters.
But FirstA Plan
No car project should begin without a plan and a budget. Too few car projects begin this way. A plan keeps you on course, with deadlines and accountability. A budget keeps you focused and out of financial trouble. Be realistic about deadlines and budget or youre bound to be disappointed later. Be prepared for setbacks not often thought about, like job loss, divorce (car projects sometimes cause these), termination of a lease, moving, natural disaster, illness, job transfer, you name it. Be prepared with Plan B. With Plan B in tow, your project stands a chance of survival or you become realistic enough to understand when to sell the vehicle and cut your losses.
Before you get started, we suggest investing in a Ford reference library. Youre going to need it. Buy a Ford Shop Manual for starters, available from California Mustang. These factory service manuals provide detailed information for restorers. Other publications also available from California Mustang will help get you through a restoration.
If youre doing a full-scale car-building project, weve constructed an outline you should follow to achieve best results. This outline is very basic and can be revised to suit your individual needs.
As you can see, a car-building project has to follow a logical course or it leads to confusion and waste. We see this all the timeenthusiasm outweighs common sense and a car project wanders off course. This happens when we get bored with a particular phase and, before that phase is complete, we move on to something else, leaving a particular phase unfinished.
For example, if you intend to do bodywork and repaint the car, this phase should come first because it makes no sense to bolt new components onto a body youre going to strip, work, and paint. Bolt on the new suspension first, and youll have filler dust and paint overspray all over those new parts. Dropping a fresh engine into a filthy engine bay doesnt make sense either. And installing a new interior first doesnt make sense because bodywork fallout will contaminate the new upholstery. Bodywork must always come first. Its OK to piggyback some tasks while youre working a particular phase. While the body is being worked, tear down the engine and haul major components to the machine shop. Take the transmission over to the transmission shop. Drop the differential off at the gear shop.
This handles these components while youre working the body. By the time your Mustang is ready for paint, the engine, transmission, and rearend will be completed. Make the most of your restoration time with proper planning and execution. And resist the temptation to get in a hurry or deviate from the plan. Stay the course.
Your primary focus, aside from building a good-looking car, is building in safety. When bodywork and paint are complete, chassis work should begin next. Invest wisely in a safe chassis, a Mustang that handles well, and stops in a timely manner. Begin with quality suspension components from Mustangs Plus. The beauty of a Magna Series suspension from Mustangs Plus is the simplicity. Theres nothing to think about. Let Mustangs Plus know what you desire for handling and ride, and they can dial in your needs in short order. Because ride and handling are important and something you will have to live with for a long time, knowing how to choose springs, stabilizer bars, and other suspension components is important. Mustangs Plus can help.
If ride is most important to you, then youre going to want stock Mustang GT springs fore and aft. Stock GT springs offer a nice balance of handling and a smooth ride. If you want to stiffen up the ride a little, opt for KYB gas adjustable shocks. If handling is more important than ride, 620-pound Shelby coils will get the job done effectively. If you desire a lower ride height, youre going to need mid- or reverse-eyelet leaf springs. Lowering blocks are also an option because they are available in various thicknesses. Each thickness lowers the body the same amount. Choose a 2-inch lowering block and youll lower the body 2 inches, and 1-inch will net you 1 inch lower.
Good handling also comes from solid steering input. You can rebuild your existing steering gear or order one from Flaming River. Steering gears from Flaming River are all-new from the casting out, and offer tight precision steering.
When it comes to the braking system, two important steps must be taken. First, front disc brakes. Second, a dual braking system. Front disc brakes will dramatically improve braking. A dual-braking system divides the front and rear systems, which prevents total braking loss should one of the systems fail hydraulically.
Feels Like The First Time
The beauty of tackling your first car project is taking on challenges you never have before. If fear of doing the job poorly overwhelms you, take heart because most of us have been there before. Youll never know if you can do something until you at least try it once.
Engines, transmissions, and rearends are components you can rebuild yourself in order to save money. Of course, youre going to need help with each of these segments, especially if youve never done it before. You can disassemble the engine and haul the components to a machine shop for cleanup and machine work. Because transmissions tend to be very complex, they need to be disassembled and reassembled in the same location at the same time for simplicitys sake. The same tends to be true for rear axles.
If youre going to tackle an engine rebuild yourself, there has been a lot written in our magazine and in books to get you headed in the right direction. Theres a huge library of affordable self-help books available from CARTECH that detail how to rebuild an engine properly. We suggest the purchase of a book dedicated to your engine type. If your engine is a small-block Ford, we also suggest purchasing Bob Mannels book, Mustang & Ford Small-Block V-8 from RPM Press. This is the most extensive book ever written on the 221/260/289/302 V-8. Although its priced at just under $50, its worth every penny in the detail it provides the enthusiast.
If your Mustangs transmission needs rebuilding, you have a number of options. Manual transmissions tend to be easier to rebuild than automatics. If you follow your Ford Shop Manual and use the right tools, you can handle this chore yourself. Automatic transmissions are a mixed bag for the do-it-yourselfer. The C4 Cruise-O-Matic is a simple automatic to build because it needs no special tools. However, the C6 and FMX transmissions mandate special tools in order to accomplish the same thing. As a rule, automatics are best left to professionals who have the experience. Older automatics like the C4, C6, and FMX are simple transmissions for the professional and typically cost around $500 to rebuild. Always insist on the best parts and dont cut corners here. Opt for a new torque converter with furnace-welded fins for durability.
When it comes to building a sound rear axle, it doesnt always have to be a Limited Slip or a Traction-Lok. The use of a locking rearend depends largely on how the vehicle will be used. The occasional driver show car doesnt need the cost of a locking rearend. If performance is your goal, then a locking rearend may be to your liking.
Most areas have shops that specialize in rear axles. The cost to rebuild a differential, not including parts, is around $150. Differential rebuilds dont always call for the installation of a new ring-and-pinion gear. Bearings are what wear out most in a differential. New pinion, side, and axle bearings are all most differentials need to get back in action unless youre planning to change axle ratio. At that, you can opt for used gears in good condition and save the high cost of new gears.
Be Ready To Learn
Building your first Mustang is about learning. Doing an interior is a natural part of that learning curve because this is something you can do yourself, including installing the headliner. If youre intimidated by doing an interior, dont be because nearly anyone can. To do the upholstery, including the headliner, youll need basic tools, a razor knife, a heat gun, 3M trim adhesive, and a whole lot of patience.
Doing an interior restoration is easy because parts vendors like National Parts Depot make it simple. You can purchase a kit for nearly every phase of interior restoration. Order seat upholstery, plus the foam buns for outstanding results produced in your home garage. Door panels and water shields can be installed in less than an hour. Although installing a headliner is challenging, you can tackle this chore yourself and save around $300. And just think what $300 will buy from National Parts Depot.
When you tackle that first project car, always ask yourself how it can be improved upon. Weve already addressed safety issues, like brakes and suspension. We havent addressed engine and driveline improvements that make a classic Mustang more reliable. When you become intimate with the engine, step up to hardened exhaust valve seats and a roller camshaft, just for starters. A cast-aluminum high-rise manifold and a deep-breathing four-barrel carburetor infuse performance into an otherwise vanilla engine. Dressy aftermarket valve covers make the most of the engines appearance. For safetys sake, hard-line your fuel system between the fuel pump and carburetor, eliminating all hoses. We stress this due to fuel additives that are harmful to soft fuel-system parts today (primarily in California). Electronic ignition, like the PerTronix Ignitor from Virginia Classic Mustang, brings new life to old ignition systems. Whats more, you can install the Ignitor and throw old ignition points away in 15 minutes.
In recent times, there has been growing concern over fuel-system safety in classic Mustangs. If youre concerned about fuel-system safety and you intend to drive your Mustang daily, theres an increased accident risk as time behind the wheel increases. We have some pointers to help get you off to a safer start. Daily drivers should get the Fuel Safe fuel cell from Mustangs Plus. This safety cell is custom made for 65-70 Mustangs and virtually eliminates the fire risk associated with rear-end collisions.
Additional fire protection comes from the steel rear-seat barrier from Canadian Mustang. The steel barrier takes the place of that flimsy cardboard barrier installed to begin with. If youre going to be spending time behind the wheel of your Mustang, think entertainment too. Custom Autosound offers the Mustang enthusiast an array of sound system choices ranging from perfect in-dash replacements to something new called Secretaudio, a virtually invisible sound system that allows you to keep the original AM radio in the dash.
Because we live in the world of restomod at Mustang & Fords, we encourage you to keeping thinking about improvement in the course of Mustang ownership. Building your first Mustang includes delving into the cool world of imagination. This means were going to get along just fine.