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25 Cheap Resto Tricks
Make your restomod look good and run great with our hot tips
In the restomod market, it's easy to spend beaucoup bucks on your ride.From time to time, we all throw down the bucks on the things we deemimportant. You know--the stuff that catches your imagination at thatmoment and causes you think, Ooohhh, yeah, that I gotta have; thingslike JME gauge packages, power windows, or 347 strokers. But what ifyour wallet is only good for holding lint and change? What if you have acool Ford but not a lot of cash to pitch in its direction? Believe it ornot, there are things you can do to make your ride a better place to be.
We all want the best-looking ride out there. We also want the cheapestway to get things done. While what we are about to espouse here won'tenable you to build your car completely on the cheap, the ideas willgive you some places to save money. Some of these tricks you may alreadyknow; and others, maybe not. For our young owners, most of this stuffwill be new. In either case, we want to help make your Ford the bestrestomod it can be. So dig in, and if you have some ideas send them in.We just might post them on the YO! Club site or in the magazine.
If you're wondering how to splash some salsa into your Mustang'sdecidedly vanilla interior, begin your savings (and excitement) with theinstrument panel. Think about it--what do you see most when you'redriving? Those occasional glances at the speedometer and instrumentshappen at regular intervals. Freshen up the experience with a BK Customsgauge face kit from M-Detail/The Mustang Market, (909) 686-3929.
Did you know you could install foot-area courtesy lights on your '67-'68Mustang hardtop? And did you know you could install an overhead courtesylight in your '65-'66 hardtop? The real beauty of a classic Mustang is flexibility. Ford produced one basic wiring system for hardtops,fastbacks, and convertibles, which makes it easy to install courtesylights just about anywhere. What's more, it's cheap!
If you own a '65-'66 Mustang hardtop, all you have from the factory are foot-area courtesy lamps. That's nice if you drop a dime from the front seat. But what if you need lighting at the rear seat? You can install an over head courtesy lamp, getting your power from female, pig tail connectors located throughout the vehicle. Ford even made it easy for you because there's already a screw hole in the roof line brace across the middle.
If your '67-'68 Mustang needs foot-area lighting, this is even easier than the overhead lamp for '65-'66 models. Find virtually any '60s Ford,Mercury, or Lincoln with underdash foot-area courtesy lights. Cop those puppies and attach them to the screw holes already punched into your dash board. Find the pigtail connectors on each side and plug them in.It's that easy. And it's cheap.
Find your courtesy lamps and bezels at Mustangs Etc., (818) 787-7634;www.mustangsetc.com.
Ford braking systems prior to 1967 are basically unsafe because theyhave but one hydraulic system. Bust a wheel cylinder and you lose allbraking. Only the parking brake will stop you, which is shaky at best.Beginning in 1967, a dual braking system, with two hydraulic systems,was mandated by the federal government for all U.S. vehicles. The dualbraking system isolates the front and rear brakes so that if one systemfails, the other will get you stopped.
This dual braking system concept can be applied to your '66 and earlierFord. All you need is a dual-reservoir master cylinder, and the correctsteel lines and fittings. If you have front disc brakes, you need anadjustable proportioning valve between the master cylinder and rearbrakes. Contact Master Power Brakes, (888) 251-2353; www.mpbrakes.com.
Taillight reflector dishes tend to tarnish with age. Their galvanizedsurfaces fade and go dull, making for dim performance. Brighten them upwith a high-heat silver finish from VHT. This is an everlasting silverfinish, which will keep your taillights bright for years to come. Whileyou're at it, step up to halogen lamps for brighter performance. Formore information, contact National Parts Depot, (800) 874-7595;www.NPDlink.com.
If you drive a classic Mustang, Falcon, or Comet, you're familiar withthose really crummy, dash-mounted hand brakes that don't stand a chanceof holding these rides on a slight grade, much less a steep one. In1974, Ford began using a pull-up hand brake between the bucket seats ofMustangs. You can install a pull-up hand brake in your classic Mustang,Falcon, or Comet, as long as you're using bucket seats. A localfabrication shop or auto repair shop can cut and swage a new end on yourparking-brake cable to get it to the correct length. Then, parking iseasy.
Did you know you can install intermittent windshield wipers in yourvintage Ford? Available at an affordable price from DDK Technologies isthis easy-to-install intermittent-wiper system that plugs right intoyour vintage Ford's electrical system. Plug it in, and drill a hole forthe rotary switch. It's that easy. For more information, contact DDKTechnologies at (919) 522-1024.
Tighten It Up
Vintage Fords fall short in the handling department because they lackthe technology. Step up to new technology with urethane or polyurethanebushings at the stabilizer links, sway bar, and control arms. Urethanebushings stiffen up a sloppy ride. However, urethane bushings can benoisy, and they also give you a harder ride. Polyurethane bushings havea certain amount of "give" in their function, which quiets operation andabsorbs road shock. Info: Mustangs Plus, (800) 999-4289 or (209)944-9977; www.mustangsplus.com.
H.O. To Go
If you want to get into a bit more power for your vintage ride, think5.0 H.O. Expensive, you say? Especially with all that fuelie conversionand whatnot. Well, not really; at least if you do it our way. In thepast, we bought a running 5.0 H.O. from a salvage yard and used it inour ride with a set of inexpensive headers; or, even cheaper--theoriginal exhaust manifolds. The price is low on these engines now (whenyou can find them); and, unless the engine has had the snot beat out ofit, the little 302 will run for a good long while--giving you time tosave up for the rebuild that will net you eye-bleeding performance. Wealso recommend getting the fuel injection when you buy the engine, andsetting it aside for later since the harness and fuel delivery stuff canbe costly. You will need the conversion damper (PN 05896) from MustangsPlus that allows you to run the 5.0 with your old water pump and V-stylepulleys (the 5.0 uses a reverse-rotation pump that is not compatiblewith the vintage cooling system). You will also need the Mustangs Plusflexplate (for automatics, PN 06115). But these costs are minimal whencompared to the cost of adding an AOD or a five-speed. Info: MustangsPlus, (800) 999-4289 or (209) 944-9977; www.mustangsplus.com.
So you want that cool nose-down stance on your restomod but don't wantto spend the dough on new drop coils. Take a tip from the old guys andcut. The benefits are twofold: You get that fly-lower look and a higher(stiffer) spring rate.
Of course, like everything, there is a right way and a wrong way to cutthe coils. Never use a blowtorch to hack off sections of coil. Alwaysuse a fiberglass cutoff wheel and a high-speed grinder for the cut.Also, don't cut a lot of coil and work in small increments,re-installing after each cut. Sure, it will get tedious after a while,but it will keep you from having to call the parts house and say, "Yes,I need two front coils for my Ford."
If you want to get the overall low look, you can get a set of loweringblocks for the rear springs fairly cheaply.
Dyeing To Get Out
So your carpet is looking kinda puny, eh? Well, you may not need toreplace it. You might just be able to re-dye it. Obviously, if thecarpet is as rough as a doggie chew toy, you might want to considerbumping up to a new set. However, if the carpet is still fairly nice,you can get some carpet shampoo and a can of spray dye to get the oldcolor back in no time.
Be advised that you should remove the seats but not the carpet. No needto soak down the stuff either--just a brush and wipe will do the trick.After the carpet is dry, spray away. Oh yeah, get some vinyl dye forthat heel pad. You might be surprised at the results.
Turn, Turn, Turn
So, your Ford is giving you fits when you try to park. Other thanPopeye-size arms, there seems to be little benefit from the exertion youencounter. How about some power steering? Sure, you can gorack-and-pinion, but you can also go with the old standby Fordpower-assist from the Granada and Monarch (G/M). The G/Ms are slowlygoing away in the yards, but they can still be found. Most, if not all,of them have the power-steering setup common to the '67-'70Mustang/Cougar, '66-'71 Fairlane/Torino, and '70-'77 Maverick/Comet.
This system will probably require a rebuild, but with companies like Stainless Steel Brakes (that also deals in power-steering components)you can put the system right pretty cheaply.
Be advised that you may have problems adapting the G/M system to the earlier Ford cars, and the Mustang in particular; but this is a cheap alternative to the workout routine.
Fly Wheels Man
Next to the top coat on your ride, the star of a car is the wheel, andthere are some wheels that just lend themselves to restomodding. One isthe Magnum 500 and the other is the Torq-Thrust, the "Cragar SS" of the21st century. But if you'd rather (for the time being) focus on anotherand less expensive alternative, there is the Ford Corporate trim ringand cap shown above (of course, these are the expensive ones from theBoss 302 and 351). For a cheap date, the trim ring and cap are a niceway to sharpen up a vintage Ford on the cheap. Try to get thedeeper-dish trims and caps that came on the '71 Mustang with the Ford14x7 wheels, but even the narrower Torino ones will do.
Bringing Up The Rear
So, you have an 8-inch diff in that Ford and you want a bit more pokeoff the line. You don't have the budget, but you do have some time.Check the salvage yards for '74 Mustang IIs and Pinto wagons. These carscame with 8-inch differentials. Most of the ratios are 3.25 and higher,and some even have Traction-Lok.
Check the ratio by marking the yoke and wheel, and turning the tire. Ifthe wheel turns one-half revolution to three turns of the yoke, you havea 3.50 gear. Obviously, there are no warranties on these kinds of parts,but you can get some good service from the center-sections at a cheapprice.
If your Ford's engine bay looks as if a dirt bomb was set off in it, doas we did in our August '03 issue--attack it with rattle-can paints. Fora restomod you can do things like use detail colors such as Cast Coat,Aluminum, Fresh Steel, and a host of others to give some contrast to the parts. We like SEM semi-gloss black for a close representation of the original Ford semi-gloss black. Things like hood hinges can be painted cast coat, while the hood-hinge springs will look sweet in gloss black.Bolt heads can be painted semi (or flat) black to give that industrial look.
Let's say you have a Ford with a huge glut of anodized aluminum and chrome--all of it discolored or pitted. Why not go monochromatic? Just take a look at the car we featured in our Aug. '03 issue titled "First Time's a Charm." The look is sinister, yet clean. Best of all, the overall outlay will be a bit cheaper than getting all that anodizing and plating done.
The new century brings new technology for the masses, and it's cheap technology when compared to the cost of a MIG-welder. What is this new modern miracle of man? Panel glue. That's right--you can now use the same stuff the auto manufacturers are using on assembly line cars to apply panels to cars. Look for a couple of stories to carry this production the near future.
There are several companies manufacturing the glue, but we have the closest association with Fusor (www.fusor.com). At roughly $80 for the applicator gun and glue tubes, the entry cost is dirt cheap when compared to buying a welder, and most anyone can handle the job.
Note, however, that if the floorpans are toast, you'll need to stick tothe old standby MIG-welder, as the glues available to the aftermarket are not rated for structural use.
Wanna get rid of all the goo and filth that's lurking on the engine and engine bay of your Ford? Well, plan ahead and think steam cleaner. These brutes can be rented fairly cheaply and can definitely expedite the underhood (and undercarriage) cleanup. We've used them several times and have been pleased with the results. If you're crafty, you can rent it early Saturday and keep it through Sunday without big penalties financially. If you can work fairly fast, you can also get a friend involved and split the cost. Of course, if your friends are like some of our friends, you'll want to get the money up front...
So, you want to get all your stainless parts bright and shiny. Don't send them out; do them yourself! If you have a bench grinder you can do as we did--strip the grinder down on one side and build a work station as shown. We snagged some buffing pads and a polishing kit from the local Sears and got all the bright work looking like new.
Be careful: Wear eye protection and gloves, and try not to do a Home Improvement episode while buffing.
Buckets Of Fun
So you have a big, fat, old bench seat in that prized ride of yours and you really want to go buckets; but what to do? The old stuff, like Torino and Mustang high-backs, are getting harder to come by each day.What about getting a set of standard buckets from an '85-'93 T-bird,Cougar, or Mustang? These buckets can be had for nearly a song and are less "desirable" than the Sport buckets used on the Mustang through the years. A slightly more expensive idea would be to use the buckets from a newer Mustang.
Be forewarned that you may have to improvise some to get them to fit.Also understand that at some point you'll need custom stitch work to make the back and front seats match--unless, of course, you have a Ranchero.
One Man's Junk
One man's junk is another man's treasure. So if you're able to make yourself do it, buy used. It's one way to get the things you want and stay cheap--as long as you are a savvy buyer. For instance, we were at a local swap meet two years ago and spied a dash pad for a '66 Falcon nestled among the Chevy crap in a fellow's booth. The pad was marked $50and even came in a decent box. The pad was used but incredibly crack-free. We waited until the end of the day as he was packing up and offered him $25 for it. We made the deal and went home with a spare (and hard-to-find) dash pad for our '66 Ranchero, and he went home with 25smackers. Wanna know the cool thing? Everybody thought they got the better end of the stick.
But be aware that some deals are not really deals. We stay away from engine parts and transmission stuff--in short, things that you can't inspect. Look for a story in our October issue dealing with swap-meet buys.
Roll Baby, Roll
Fender lips contacting resto mod rubber can be a bad, bad thing. So were commend rolling the lips (usually prior to paint). Of course, you can have the shop do this and bill you for it, or you can get out the ole Louisville Slugger (we don't recommend the Sammy Sosa signature bat--too light and corky), stick the big end under the lip between the tire andwell, and have a friend roll the car forward slowly. Get that? Roll its lowly. This should roll the lip.
We don't recommend this if you are prone to self-inflicted wounds likeTim Allen's character in Home Improvement.
More Paint Tricks
If the textured doors on your '65-'68 Mustang are pitted or missing fromyears of red-neck arm rubbing, you can reach for a can of wrinkle-finishpaint to give the door a more factory appearance. Though the colorchoices for wrinkle paint may be limited, you might be able to get awaywith using a base of the black with a top coat of the factory color. Ofcourse, if your interior is black you'll have no worries, mate.
Make sure the wrinkle paint and top coat are compatible. Lacquer andenamel don't mix well and will cause a wrinkle effect that you don'twant.
If you own a Ford built after 1963, there's a good chance you'll have aplastic dash fascia. Something that always disturbs us at shows is thatfolks take the time to re-cover seats, put in a new carpet and adashpad, but don't give the actual plastic dash parts the TLC they need.Paint is a cheap solution to the vexing problem of formerly platedparts. We have taken parts like the dash piece shown and used semi-glossblack and chrome paint. To be sure, the stuff won't look brand new, butit will look better than the sickly yellow plastic that haunts mostFords.
With all the talk of "stroked" engines, one of the cheapest ways to go"displacement up" is to pick up a 351 Windsor for your Mustang or Falconand rebuild it on the cheap. The Windsor can be built quiteinexpensively (locally, the cheap build goes for around $1,500) and willgive you the added displacement of the stroker engines, plus good torqueand horsepower. Though the fit is a bit tight, the Windsor will slidehappily into the engine bay of your Mustang, Cougar, or Falcon.
So your car still has the points on it, and you're sick and tired ofdealing with the sputtering old V-8. Most aftermarket electronic systemsare great but can cost more beans than you might have rolling around inthe jar. Well, take it from us that the PerTronix Igniter is aninexpensive solution to the points dilemma. We have installed theIgniter on several of the Fords in our stable and are quite satisfiedwith the results. The car idles smoother and runs better. Best of all,the prices are reasonable--especially when tied to the results