Jim Smart
April 16, 2007
Photos By: The Mustang & Fords Archives

Get Into Car Building
Your first step in building a street-rod-based Ford is having a plan. Recognize what you can afford and accept what you can't. Learn to live within a budget. Many a project has come to a grinding halt due to an absence of funds. Better not to even begin than to face the heartbreak of a project that's dead in the water because you ran out of money.

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Know that a project is going to cost more than predicted. There are always surprises-the shop you counted on goes out of business, or paint and bodywork cost more than estimated. You must be prepared for the unexpected, financially and logistically. Most car projects take years instead of months. That means a lot can happen in the course of a project. Even your health can change. Be ready for a change in course as you build a car because no matter what you think, something is going to come out of left field.

Street-rod building is the art of following trends. It's also a more personal path that includes your own tastes and approaches. Don't be afraid to try something different. Be a trendsetter.

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Staying within budget begins with your canvas. If you buy a pile of rust, most of your expense will be for sheetmetal repair and replacement. This means you'll have less to spend on finishing the car. Don't blow your hard-earned dough (and time) on rusted-out floors, bashed-in quarter-panels, and peppered fenders because it's a local car. Most of the time, you will spend more on sheetmetal repair than you will on a solid rust-free car that has to be shipped.

Street rods tend to be facsimiles of what the car was originally. Street rodding can closely mirror restomodding, or it can take a midcentury Ford where these classics have never been before. For example, the Ring brothers of Wisconsin haven't really been building restomods. They've been building street rods and customs, pioneering a fresh yet retro approach to classic Fords. The Ring brothers exaggerate a Mustang's original lines-still clearly Mustang, yet certainly different. They peel back the Mustang's eyelids much like Shelby did in 1968, but there's more. Note how smoothly and cleanly they french Mustang features such as taillights and parking lights. Every aspect of the car is aero-smooth inside and out. It's an approach you either love or hate, but it's personal, which means these gentlemen have done their job well.

Your approach to street-rod styling needs to be unique-something borrowed yet distinctive and personal. You should experiment, even if it means throwing out a bad idea. Try it on and see how it fits. Does it work for you? Does it work for your friends? Get opinions. Seek ideas from people who have been there before. Look to styling outside the automotive realm. Study styling all around you-from kitchen appliances to furniture to airliners on an airport ramp. Use your imagination, and don't be afraid to try something gutsy. This is where trends are born.

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