Mark Houlahan
Tech Editor, Mustang Monthly
February 22, 2012

Erich Bollman
Owner of Christiana Muscle Cars

Erich's shop produces not only top notch restorations, but is a growing force in custom and restomod builds, as evidenced by its recently completed '69 Mustang "Nasty", which was recently featured on these pages and was our 2011 Car of the Year first runner up.

Erich's first words of advice—plan ahead, way ahead. Identify exactly what you are building. Are you building something for show use only, or will it be for street/show use? Perhaps you want an autocross and open track car, or even a full-on race machine.

"There is no need for killer paint on an autocross/open track car. It is going to get beat up. If you are building a show-only car, then it must be fully pre-assembled before it's painted to make sure everything is perfect, including—and most importantly—door gaps," Erich stated.

"Step two is to decide on the wheel/tire that you are going to use. You will always have a better looking car when it is built around the ride height and wheels," Erich tells us. If you plan or will need mini-tubs or other quarter-panel adjustments, now is the time to find out. You want these factors known before metal work starts, otherwise that big investment in wheels and tires will be a waste of money when they don't fit, or rub and damage the rolling stock, or worse, your freshly painted body.

"Step three in your planning should be exhaust," Erich went on to explain. "Where is this giant 3-inch exhaust going to go with a low ride height?" Determining the exhaust routing, exit, tube size, and more is very important, even at this early stage. Considerations such as frame reinforcements, suspension parts, and more all can wreak havoc on the exhaust system planning, so it's in your best interest to figure it all out as early in the build as possible.

"Talk with the people who are going to help you build the car. If someone is doing the metal work or paint, decide what they need and don't need in the beginning. As a shop, I really don't like it when someone has the drivetrain detailed and in the car when it still needs bodywork and paint. Overspray happens no matter how careful you are. Also, if you are doing all the work, make sure your left brain talks to your right brain. You can spend hours just thinking and planning on which direction and where to start," Erich adds.

Lastly, tackle all the hard work; do all of the grunt work yourself. No shop enjoys sandblasting and bead blasting parts and scraping seam sealer. There are things you can do to save money. Shop labor can get excessive for such basic labor that is so time consuming.

Joe Brown
Owner of Hot Rod Joe's Rod & Customs

If Joe's name or the name of his shop sounds familiar, you're not crazy. Hot Rod Joe's is responsible for our Car of the Year Mustang. Joe built the Mustang for himself and it has been making the rounds of all the big magazines, and has taken several major awards, including the Mothers Shine award at SEMA 2010.

"The biggest problem we see with customers wasting time and money is not having a good plan up front. They end up doing things two or three times. They really should consult with a pro builder to help them put a plan together if they are planning on doing it themselves," Joe stated. If you're going to use a shop for any of your project's work, you need to do your homework on that shop. "We have worked on many cars that were at other shops for way too long and they got nickel and dimed to death," Joe added. While it might be obvious to those who have been around the toolbox with a few projects under their belts, Joe also suggests picking a project car that is popular. Something like a '65-'68 Mustang, as parts will be cheaper, more parts are available, and there are more alternative/custom parts on the shelf for these popular cars. "By far the biggest money saver is just good planning," Joe said.