25 Ford Mustang Restoration Tips
Cool solutions for your greatest resto challenges
We’ve been restoring older Mustangs for the better part of 35 years now and it seems we can’t get enough of it. We’re always looking for fresh ideas and easier ways to accomplish what we’ve been doing for close to four decades. At Mustang Monthly, our job is to show you the best possible approach to each phase of a restoration. We also want to show you the stealthy improvements no one sees that will improve your classic Mustang driving experience.
1: Clutch Player
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If you don’t want to give up your Mustang’s original clutch feel but would like to avoid the heavy pedal, there is a solution from two sources — Modern Driveline and Barillaro Speed. Modern Driveline can provide a Superior diaphragm-style clutch, which minimizes clutch pedal effort. Toss the old high-effort three-finger clutch and cancel your knee surgery. The Muscle Z-Bar from Barillaro Speed takes your clutch pedal’s linear motion and turns it into quick clutch release action without binding and malfunction. Both are stealthy resto tricks you cannot see once installed.
2: Single (Wire) And Loving It
Here’s a subtle restoration upgrade that will keep your battery happy. What’s more, you can keep the non-functioning factory voltage regulator and harness. Install a single-wire Ford 3G or 4G alternator and get 100-200 amps of charging power capable of keeping up with any accessory. This is the Mr. Amp single wire “3G” alternator from Performance Distributors sporting everything you need for installation.
3: Tank Protection
Whether you’re sticking with your ’65-’69 Mustang’s factory fuel tank or upsizing to a larger ’70 tank (see “How To: Extended Range Fuel Tank” in this issue), don’t forget Tank Armor protection while you’re at it. The Tank Armor not only puts a heavy-duty steel plate between the tank and the passenger compartment, it also reinforces the trunk. Install a rear seat barrier at the same time for the ultimate in safety.
4: Fatten It Up
When you’re reupholstering seats, don’t forget new seat buns and plenty of padding. Have your upholstery shop fatten up your seat foam for additional comfort. If you’ve ever traveled hundreds of miles in a classic Mustang with original bucket seats, you understand how uncomfortable they can be. Stuff as much foam in there as you can without ripping the stitching. Use silicone spray on the foam for easier vinyl installation.
5: Classic Look, Modern Charge
If you’re baffled by a fluctuating ammeter and flickering lights, chances are good you have either a weak ground or a marginal mechanical voltage regulator. Go with a solid state voltage regulator and Autolite/Motorcraft cover from Mustangs Etc. No one will know the difference.
6: Proper Function
Ever seen a classic Mustang hand brake that actually works? Believe it or not, they can work given proper installation and adjustment. But never kid yourself—they will never work as well as a foot brake. Nonetheless, you can get the hand brake to hold on a hill if you have everything set up, lubricated, and in proper working order. Cable function must be fluid smooth through the guides and roller. Adjustment should yield plenty of cable tension just shy of shoes touching the drums.
7: Electable Electrics
Switches don’t just “go bad,” they stop making proper contact due to corrosion and pitting. Headlight switches fail when headlights cycle off and on due to corroded and dirty circuit breaker contacts causing resistance and high heat. You can carefully disassemble and clean these contacts or simply replace the switch. Mustangs Etc. has an inventory of remanufactured Ford switches of all types for classic Mustangs.
8: The Right Stuff
Few things drive us crazier than restorations screwed together with cheesy hardware store pieces that cheapen a restoration and make the restorer look clueless. Use factory style hardware, available from an AMK Products dealer or high-end hardware supplier. Never choose hardware on the cheap.
9: Don’t Be Shoddy
On a par with hardware issues just mentioned are pesky details like cotter pins and similar security fasteners. We saw this in a shop and could not resist taking a picture. Not only is it unsightly, but it is also unsafe and at risk of injuring an unsuspecting technician’s arm. Snip your cotter pins properly and be neat about it.
10: Improve Hinge Durability
We’ve seen a lot of concours restorations that were flawless until you opened the door, which was when the fantasy ended. If your Mustang doors require a lot of effort to close, it’s more than just bad adjustment or stubborn new weatherstripping. It can also be worn hinge pins and bushings. Worn hinge pins and bushings cause misalignment and door sag. The most ideal scenario is to have hinge pins and bushings made and machined to size by a good machinist. However, if you’re like most of us, your only choice from an economic standpoint is reproduction hinge pins and bushings from Mustangs Plus. It isn’t so much what kind of bushings and pins you choose, but how they’re assembled, that counts. When you rebuild hinges, secure the bushings to the hinge with a good industrial adhesive to keep them secure. Pack bushings and pins with an all-temperature chassis lube during assembly. Make sure door hinge checks rotate smoothly and replace as necessary.
11: Safer Belts
If you’re going to drive your classic Mustang daily and aren’t concerned with originality, we suggest you opt for three-point shoulder/lap belts in the interest of improved safety. RetroBelt is among several sources where you can purchase three-point safety belts for classic Mustangs. Some of these seat belt kits require minor modification where others require none. Shop the web and see which system is right for you. There are even three-point belt packages for rear seat use.
12: Longevity Can Be Automatic
A restoration should render your Mustang mechanically sound and ready to go anywhere. Although automatic transmissions are a mystery for most of us, function is quite simple, making it easy to build a rugged and dependable automatic. The C4, C6, and FMX transmissions, as three examples, are fiercely reliable automatic transmissions. The same can be said for the Automatic Overdrive (AOD) first available in the early 1980s. When you rebuild an automatic, go with the best parts available. Never try to save a few bucks building an automatic. Use the best frictions and seals. Replace all bushings and bearings. Choose a good street level shift improvement kit that will give you a firm shift without jarring your teeth. A firm shift means minimal clutch and band slippage, which means greater efficiency and longer transmission life.