James Lawrence
December 1, 2000

Step By Step

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138_31s Ford_mustang_coupe Left_front_view0
Saving money on a professional-quality paint job means getting your hands dirty. The pile of parts that we removed saved the paint guys time and labor that was better spent on good body work and quality paint materials.
138_32z Ford_mustang_coupe Headlight
Popping the headlights out is a quickie—only 3 nuts to remove. Often the three front lights (headlight, side marker, and corner lights) get dull and hazy. We ordered a complement of fresh lights (among other items) from Mustangs Unlimited.
138_33z Ford_mustang_coupe Tail_light
Removing the rear lights is another easy one. We were stupid and removed the lens covers first, then the rear light assembly. If we had just unbolted the whole thing together we could have saved time. In the long run it doesn’t matter—we’re replacing our covers with bright new ones from Mustangs Unlimited.
138_34z Ford_mustang_coupe Right_front_view
Black will no longer be the hue of the terror. That means it’s color change time, and a proper color change requires removing the front end pieces and fenders for a thorough paint job. Taking the front end off requires removing about 15 nuts and bolts, mostly from within the fenders. A creeper (or lift) is very useful here.
138_35z Ford_mustang_coupe Fender_view
The fenders are a bit more tricky. There are a few bolts on the top, from the inside of the door, and one on the bottom of the rocker panel.
138_36z Ford_mustang_coupe Door_view
There are a number of moldings and weatherstripping pieces on the door window frames that don’t necessarily have to be removed, but we did anyway. Ford painted the upper frame flat-black no matter what the exterior body color was, so you can mask this area off.
138_37z Ford_mustang_coupe Window_view
The wrong tool for the job! There is a special clip-spreader that trained mechanics use to remove the front and rear window moldings. We didn’t have it, and were going to install fresh stuff anyway, so we just hacked it out of there...
138_38z Ford_mustang_coupe Window_molding
As you can see... we are not trained professionals. Molding old, crusty, and sticky? JUST PULL HARDER!
138_39z Ford_mustang_coupe Window_view
...and then break your window. Kids, don’t try this at home. Instead of trying to remove the glass yourself, shattering it and almost slashing your...(umm, never mind), just have the body shop mask off the windows. We needed to get ours removed for the lexan, so it didn’t matter.
138_40z Ford_mustang_coupe Interior_view
Most of the carpet and interior doo-dads were already gone from the roll-cage installation, but a good layer of rust had settled on the unpainted metal cage. We decided to let the paint shop handle sanding and prepping the roll cage and subframes, and we unbolted the seats. Otherwise, our interior was already ready for color.
138_41z Ford_mustang_coupe Door_view
Removing the side glass requires swapping out the door upholstery. It slides up and out from its clips once you remove the bolts holding the armrests on.
138_44z Ford_mustang_coupe Mirror_view
We wanted the side mirrors to stay black, so we removed them prior to paint shop delivery. Remember, on a factory 5.0, these are not color-matched to the body.
138_45z Ford_mustang_coupe Side_view
Normally, you wouldn’t necessarily remove the body side cladding for a paint job, but ours was wavy and partially peeling off. Mustangs Unlimited carries fresh body cladding for the entire car—a nice option if you’ve got damaged moldings. On a factory five-liter, this trim remains black, but we elected to paint it body-color.

The process of painting a car is a daunting task for the normal do-it-yourself performance enthusiast. Here at 5.0 Mustang, we openly acknowledge that body work, priming, spraying, and selecting the proper paints are better left to experienced craftsmen. Problem is that we don't want to spend three grand on a quality paint job. In our case, we can't afford it. However, in the case of the 10-inch Terror, we want it to look as good as it will run, so we cracked our heads together and came up with a lower-buck way to achieve a pro paint job. It's 50 percent do-it-yourself, 20 percent pain-in-the-ass, and 10 percent "my back hurts"--but, it'll shave about 30 percent off your paint job bill.

Here's how it works. Most of the labor hours in a quality paint job are invested in removing trim, body panels, moldings, grilles, and plastic pieces--not to mention masking everything off before spraying paint. Although the typical enthusiast is afraid of the other components of a paint job (filling, bondo, sanding, spraying), removing stuff like body trim, door handles, and antennas is fairly easy. By doing this time-consuming, but basically simple task, most body shops will cut you a significant discount off the hefty price of a spray job.

The first thing that we did was find a reputable paint shop that was nearby. Car-Nation Auto Body of Los Angeles, California, whom you may remember from our August '98 issue ("Cowl Perfection," Page 48), had previously helped us out with beautiful coats of fresh black and white glossy on two Cervini hoods. We were so impressed with the work of Carl Mertens and his crew of paint pros, that we entrusted Car-Nation to slap some color on the bare, ragged frame of the Terror.

One day, on our lunch break, we dropped by Car-Nation to discuss the project. We wanted a stand-out, brightly colored paint job that wouldn't break the bank. Because the Terror has earned a few waves and dings in the body panels over the years, we needed some body work done, but nothing extensive. We told Carl that we would completely strip our 5.0 coupe down to the bare frame, removing every molding, bracket, fender, light, and interior item. Carl sat down with his calculator, and sized us up a significant discount on our whole paint package. We discovered that by doing much of the nasty work ourselves, we suddenly could afford to put our project in the hands of a capable painter.

You can get a great price by stripping your car yourself. If you are going to remove 95 percent of the interior, like we did--including the carpet, seats, headliner, inner door upholstery, and plastic trim pieces--hardly any masking will be required for the interior. Since you've already taken off all the exterior items that would've been removed anyway, all that's remaining for the body shop to do is the basic paint prep and spraying (so long as no bodywork is required). Since we wanted our 12-point chrome-moly roll cage painted the same color as the body, we didn't mind if all the interior sheetmetal got oversprayed. If your interior is intact, you might want to spend the extra money to have it professionally masked, or do the job yourself (carefully!).

We had some extra things to remove that were specific to our coupe. The LX body moldings were wavy from being removed once or twice, so we peeled those off planning for fresh ones. And because we would be installing Pro-Glass lexan-type windows in the Terror, we also removed the front, back, and sideglass. Removing the glass was a major hassle since we didn't have the proper equipment to unseat the glued-in glass. Needless to say, your author got showered with glass during both attempts to remove the front and rear windows. Be careful if you attempt this.

We're going to keep you guessing on the future color of the Terror. The paint will be coming from PPG, one of the world's finest paint manufacturers, and it'll be hot. Even if our 5.0 is a slug, at least it'll look bad-ass! If you're thinking of painting your daily driver or racecar, and can't quite afford a big money hit, try talking to your neighborhood paint shop. Tell 'em no R&R time, little-to-no masking, and see how much they'll charge to do some simple body work and spray a few coats.