Donald Farr
Former Editor, Mustang Monthly
February 25, 2010

The availability of more and more new replacement sheetmetal stampings is helping to reduce restoration labor costs-and maybe even saving a few badly corroded Mustangs from the crusher. The white portions of this early hardtop are what remains (for now) of the factory metal. Everything else consists of new aftermarket stampings.

As chronologically unsettling as it may seem to those of use who were around to witness its life-altering debut, the Mustang is now more than 45 years old, and finding early examples that have survived the decades with little or no corrosion is getting more difficult all the time. Rust is a car killer, and we all know it can also slaughter restoration budgets. No one knows this better than Peter Klutt, who is perhaps best known for TV's Dream Car Garage series, but who also operates Legendary Motorcar-one of the most respected restoration shops in North America. Peter knows first-hand the number of skilled man-hours traditionally needed to repair rust's ravages. Until now, the result has been that many Mustangs were considered too far gone and expensive to fix, unless they had overwhelming historical-and therefore financial-significance. That meant many classic Mustangs would just rot away or face the likelihood of a crusher and the humiliating future of being recycled into a new Camaro or some other such appliance.

But if you have just such a corroded hulk lying around, there's new hope in the form of the growing assortment of body panels and subassemblies now being stamped by such firms as Dynacorn International and others. An example is one-piece, full-length-firewall to taillight panel-floor assemblies. Peter tells us this ever-increasing supply of essential sheetmetal can drastically reduce the costs of restoring a rusty pony. How drastically? By as much as two-thirds or more of labor costs, according to Peter, and he should know as he's been restoring Mustangs for more years than he likely cares to remember.

Consider this: It used to be that Legendary's metal craftsmen often had to resort to hand-fabricating repair patches or panels that were previously unavailable. And you can rightfully assume that such labor-intensive efforts didn't come cheap. Alternatively, they might have had to seek out and purchase a rust-free "donor" car from which to scavenge the necessary sheetmetal. This was not only expensive but also meant that one Mustang would effectively die to preserve another. That kind of cannibalism was hardly good for the long-term survival of the species.

But the proliferation of new sheetmetal stampings means many "regular" rusty Mustangs that used to be too expensive to restore can possibly live again. The early hardtop shown in our photos is a good example. Badly corroded and with no rarity to increase its worth, this is exactly the type of Mustang that, even a few years ago, no sane person could justify fixing. But thanks to the easily-installed fresh sheetmetal now flooding the aftermarket, Legendary is able to give it new life without driving its owner into bankruptcy.

Well okay, we're not here to suggest that properly restoring any Mustang could ever be considered "cheap," but the aftermarket's recent flurry of sheetmetal efforts just might help tilt the financial tables in favor of saving a few more ponies from death by oxidation. And that's good news to all of us who love the breed.

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