Budget Build Tips - Built On A Budget
Money is tight, but that doesn't mean you can't put together a fun project
When it comes to building restomod type Mustangs and Fords, our very own Q&A columnist, Dave Stribling, has quite the track record. His shop's customers usually have to add extra shelving space in their trophy cabinets. While Dave's work has included everything from trailered concours cars to race cars, his current restomod builds take the term literally; adding modern accoutrements, safety, and handling while keeping the classic vibe of the car.
Like most builders, Dave sits his customers down and finds out what the primary focus of the restomod will be. "Is this a weekend play toy or is this going to be primarily my daily ride as well? Do I want to drag race on the weekend or do I need a baby seat in the back? Everyone's combination will be different, so where you spend your money is going to differ tremendously. Someone who drives the car daily may choose safety or audio components over performance goodies." Dave explains.
It's easy to get caught up in the current "flavor of the day," as Dave calls it. What some people consider a restomod is really closer to a Pro Touring or Pro Street effort.
"A set of Cobra valve covers is timeless. Big spoilers went out in the '90s. Chrome 'foot' gas pedals, crushed velour interiors, and neon under car lighting went out before that. You get the picture," Dave added. That doesn't mean you can't be innovative, but you have to be careful you're not getting too trendy.
When budget is a concern, Dave recommends sticking with items that will get you the most bang for the buck:
On the safety front, Dave starts out with three-point seat belts, four-wheel disc brakes (your Mustang must be able to stop before it can go), a collapsible steering column, good gas or adjustable shocks, and certainly good headlights for night time visibility (both yours and for others to see you).
We can't forget that restomod builds include some performance upgrades, and Dave recommends a good dual-exhaust system, which will give your car an aggressive tone (something every muscle car should have) and free up a few horsepower as well. A good radiator and fan setup to keep your ride cool and simple bolt-ons like intakes and carburetors, subframe connectors, and even rack-and-pinion steering if it is in the budget.
When it comes to restomod builds, styling can be somewhat subjective, but nice wheels and tires always help. Stick to something in the 16- to 18-inch range depending upon wheel well opening, ride height, and your ride quality requirements. Engine dress-up kits are a great low-buck way to spruce up the engine compartment Dave tells us too. Sometimes just a good cleaning and some paint will take an engine bay to the next level as well.
"Removing items like emblems and the horse and corral can give a more modern look without spending a dime," Dave stated too. Some billet goodies hold up well over time, but don't overdo it. You can end up spending all of your time cleaning rather than enjoying your ride.
Finally, a restomod isn't a restomod without some modern convenience items thrown into the mix. Dave likes to install tilt columns in all his builds (we're not getting any younger or any thinner unfortunately). Audio upgrades, seat upgrades for comfort and safety, and power goodies like power windows and locks are all part of the restomod recipe to consider in your budget plans.
As your budget level goes up, many of the items mentioned previously can be improved upon, Dave mentions. While four-wheel discs were on Dave's list at our lower budget point, for higher budgets, he recommends multi-piston calipers and larger slotted/milled rotors.
"As your performance increases, so should your brake system," Dave comments. Other safety aspects can be added with larger budgets, including fuel cells, two- or four-point 'cages, and so forth.
When a customer comes into Dave's shop and his budget allows for it, he steps up the performance aspect of the build with a good crate engine and aftermarket transmission. Further performance mods include rear axle upgrades such as the venerable 9-inch with stronger axles, steeper gears, and a locking differential. For the bigger budgets we specified to Dave, he also added tubular suspension upgrades, coilovers, and even IRS conversions to his list of parts he'd recommend to a customer.
With the deeper pockets of our larger budget, Dave also added more in the styling department. Fiberglass goodies like hoods, scoops, wheel flares, and more come into play now to make a unique build statement. Higher quality paint materials, more expensive wheels and tires that help in the looks and handling departments and more are the norm at these higher levels. Factory late-model hardware like seats, consoles, navigation, flush glass, and more are all open to suggestions when you've got $20,000 in your budget as well.