Pete Epple Technical Editor
June 1, 2009
Bobby Mazur sprays Sikkens Autoclear III over the newly painted Steeda body panels.

Even though the S197 Mustangs come well-equipped with a powerful appearance, the people who own and love them take advantage of the numerous aftermarket options to make them unique. We've certainly seen the power potential of the Three-Valve 4.6L, and the S197 is arguably the best handling Mustang to ever roll off the assembly line. But what happens when you want to step up the looks and really make your Stang one of a kind? MM&FF is about to show you.

We wanted to take our '07 Mustang GT and build on the already attractive appearance, but we didn't want an over-the-top race look. The Competition Front Fascia and Street Cowl Hood from Steeda Autosports offer a subtle, yet aggressive, look that was perfect for what we wanted.

Steeda Autosport sent out its Street Cowl Hood and Competition Front Fascia. The parts have a subtle yet aggressive look, adding to the already powerful appearance of the S197 Mustang.

For more than 20 years, Steeda Auto-sports has been producing some of the finest aftermarket parts in the Mustang world. Its race-inspired parts are designed to bolt on and perform, improving on the OEM standard. "Every part Steeda makes has to serve a function," explains Dario Orlando of Steeda Autosports. "We design all or our parts to perform and be stylish at the same time. A lot of research went into choosing our hood and front fascia, and the results were aerodynamically clean pieces that not only perform great, but look great."

With our GT ready to go, we loaded the truck and headed to Bodymotion in Ocean, New Jersey, where Mike Bavaro and Dave Reinhardt would take care of the paintwork. Bodymotion is a full collision repair and paint facility that uses the Sikkens paint system, which is a high-end paint line used on many exotic and high-end European luxury cars. With our parts unboxed and cleaned, the team at Bodymotion went to work getting our new front fascia and hood ready to go on the car.

Kenny Ganz tapes the fenders to prevent scratching prior to test-fitting the new Steeda parts.

As our S197 rolled into the shop for its facelift, the first order of business was removing the stock front fascia and hood. Kenny Ganz carefully disassembled the nose from our GT and installed the Steeda replacements to ensure fit. "We test-fit everything prior to paint," Ganz tells us. "It enables us to find any problems there may be, and we can address them and make modifications as needed." Once the test-fit process was complete, the panels moved to the other side of the shop where they were cleaned, sanded, and prepped for sealer and primer.

In preparation for sealer and primer, Bobby Mazur and Charles Pierce went to work, first washing both pieces with an antistatic degreaser. This not only cleans the parts, but also removes any mold residue left from the manufacturing process. The hood was then sanded in two stages. Mazur started with 180-grit sandpaper on a dry sanding block and finished with 320-grit sandpaper using a dual action (DA) sander. Pierce sanded the front fascia with 400-grit sandpaper, and then went over his work with a red Scotch-Brite pad to finish it off.

After the stock fascia is removed, Ganz swaps the fender-mounting bracket, grille...

After both pieces were prepped, they were loaded into the Welbilt FB downdraft spray booth at Bodymotion for a treatment of sealer and high-build primer. The front fascia was first coated with Sikkens Colorbuild sealer containing an adhesion promoter designed for plastic. This helps the primer and paint stick to the urethane bumper. The fascia and hood were then layered with a few coats of Sikkens Colorbuild high-build primer. After the primer was laid on the panels, Mazur dusted a very light coat of black paint over both panels called a guidecoat. "The guidecoat makes it easier to find the imperfections," Mazur tells us. "When you block-sand the surface, the darker color of the guidecoat stays in any pinholes or low spots that need to be fixed."

Once the guidecoat was sanded off and the imperfections were corrected, it was back into the booth to lay down the basecoat. The Sikkens paint system uses a scale to measure out the exact amount of paint and additives needed to mix the correct color. In many cases, there are a variety of different shades of the same color on factory-painted cars. Sikkens has formulas for all of the different variances, and in some cases, there can be as many as 10 variances for the same color. To avoid any problems with matching colors, Mazur sprays a sample of the red basecoat onto a spray-out card to compare it to the rest of our S197. In our case, the color was close but not perfect, so Reinhardt called Sikkens, and its staff brought an Automachic camera to help match the color. The camera is designed to take a picture of the color so the computer can make adjustments and fine-tune the paint mixture to achieve the correct color.

Bodymotion uses the Sikkens paint system on all the vehicles it paints. The system uses a scale to precisely measure the correct amount of paint and additive to ensure the color is correct.

Back in the spray booth, Mazur prepped the pieces for color, and the parts were again washed with an antistatic degreaser in preparation for paint. Mazur used a wet-on-wet-style application and started with a fresh coat of sealer as a solid foundation for the red hue soon to come. After waiting about 10 minutes, the first coat of Sikkens Autobase Plus Colorado Red paint was laid on both panels. With about 10 minutes between coats, two more layers of base color were added, followed by three coats of Sikkens Autoclear III clearcoat.

After the paint was sprayed, Bodymotion gave both pieces about 24 hours to cure before they were given back to Ganz for final assembly. Ganz went to work bolting on the hood and checking the alignment. Once the hood was tightened down in its proper place, he began reinstalling the stock Mustang GT grille and marker lights, then slid the new front fascia into place. After everything was tightened, the inner fenders were reinstalled, along with the windshield washer fluid hoses finishing off the install.

Although the process takes a few days, it's well worth the wait. The combination of quality parts with quality workmanship is a recipe for a beautiful final product.