Jim Smart
December 1, 2008

Over the years we've had the good fortune to work with some of the best Mustang restoration experts in the world. Some of these professionals are world renowned and even legendary. Others are self-taught home garage restorers with natural ability and talent. Regardless of how they got there, these are people who have turned out show-winning national champions.

So what does it take to build an exceptional Mustang?

For this article, we've talked with professionals and successful amateurs alike to learn more about what it takes to perform a top-notch restoration-tricks of the trade that deliver outstanding results. We talked with familiar restorat ion shops such as SEMO Classic Mustangs and Glazier/Nolan Mustang Barn, but we also checked in with a number of passionate builders who restore Mustangs in their home shops. Some of the best restorations we've ever seen came from two-car garages. For example, John Murphy is a seasoned restorer and Mustang enthusiast who has always treated knowledge as a treasure to be shared. He's a self-taught professional but will tell you he's nothing of the sort; he says he's just crazy about Mustangs.

Don't Make a BoneHead Mistake
Jan Byrd
Byrd's Body Shop
Percy, Illinois

Southern Illinois' Jan Byrd has performed plenty of restorations over his lifetime, including a low-mileage Grabber Green '70 Boss 429, which was featured in the Oct. '08 issue of Mustang Monthly. Restoring a low-mileage original is actually more challenging than a basket case because you must remain true to the car's authenticity.

Although Jan could be termed an amateur builder because he doesn't restore classic cars every day, he has an eye for detail and liberal amounts of horse sense. Jan's tricks of the trade are pretty cut and dried, designed to keep us out of trouble.

Always do a mock-up before paint. Assemble all body parts while your Mustang is still in raw steel like street rodders do, even when you're working with genuine Ford parts. Few things are more discouraging than parts that don't fit when you're already in paint. Catalog and bag all parts and throw nothing away during disassembly. Keep everything until you are finished. Even then, hang on to some parts you may need later.

Plan ahead. Set goals. If you don't, your Mustang project will flounder.

No shortcuts. If you don't have a budget for a restoration, never kid yourself. Without cash flow and time, you will never get it done.

Recognize when you are tapped out emotionally. Leave a stubborn situation, such as a rusty bolt or busted heater core, for another day.

Keep a checklist. "The worst thing that could ever happen is when you are on the home stretch and make a bonehead mistake," Jan stresses. Closely inspect the things that are easily overlooked, such as loose electrical connections, hose clamps not tightened, the fuel sending unit you forgot to install, a transmission left in gear when you crank the engine, and dozens of other potential disasters that can set you back.