Jim Smart
August 24, 2009

When it comes to restoration projects, we can tell you we've been there in this magazine's 31-year history. And we've worked closely with others who have also been there. The neat thing about this job is what we learn doing it. In those three decades, we've made more than our share of mistakes-some really stupid, some we'd never admit to even our closest friends, and some that were embarrassingly exposed right here in these pages. Our goal here is to help you avoid mistakes with true confessions from those who've made them, including us.

If you are new to the restoration game, expect to make mistakes-lots of them-before getting comfortable with your abilities. It's okay to make mistakes. Just don't keep making the same ones again and again. Some situations require common sense where you really shouldn't make a mistake in the first place if you give it enough thought going in. Good practice is to take your time and not be in a hurry. Be methodical in your execution, taking phases one step at a time on the road to completion. Don't be discouraged when things go wrong. The main things to avoid are those mistakes that can cost time and money.

Here's what those in the know feel the worst restoration blunders are.

Failure To Realistically Plan
One of the best project planners we've ever seen is Marvin McAfee of MCE Engines in Los Angeles. Marvin will tell you that car projects crash and burn mostly due to a failure to plan realistically. Each project must have a plan, beginning with bodywork and paint, to have a foundation on which to build. You must be a good multi-tasker who can manage different phases of a project at the same time. For example, managing engine and transmission rebuilds while working with the body shop. And if you're not good at that, take it one phase at a time and don't get ahead of yourself. Don't kid yourself. You must be prepared to make allowances for just about anything you can think of or suffer consequences when things go wrong and you're unprepared. And face it, there are things you will never be prepared for and you may have to cut bait on a project. Have logical, realistic Plans B and C waiting in the wings just in case Plan A tanks. And, know when to quit and cut your losses when it becomes impractical to continue a car project.

What could possibly go wrong?
• Job Loss
• Career move/job transfer
• Divorce
• Death in the family
• Natural disaster
• Fire
• Credit problems from overextension and running out of money
• Taking out a second mortgage to build your Mustang and winding up "upside down" (they call also it "underwater" these days)
• Moving to smaller quarters and losing your garage
• Losing good talent helping you with your project
• Losing a good source for technical support, such as your body shop, engine builder, fabrication specialist, etc.
• Body/restoration shop goes out of business and your Mustang winds up impounded by those to whom the shop was financially or legally obligated

Not Knowing Who You're Doing Business With
In three decades of magazine publishing, we've heard a lot of horror stories. Mustang owners have been conned and duped by unscrupulous businesses, ranging from full-on restoration shops to engine builders, body shops, and everything in between. Remember, any hayseed can hang up a sign and call themselves a restoration shop.

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If you're going to farm out an entire restoration, shop nationwide. Be prepared to shop your Mustang hundreds of miles away to get the best work from someone you trust. Investigate restoration shops like you would a doctor because there's a lot at stake. Check references, and not just references a shop gives you. Know how long a restoration shop has been in business and who their customers are. Glazier-Nolan Mustang Barn in Souderton, Pennsylvania, for example, has been restoring classic Mustangs since the 1970s. A family owned and operated business with a wholesome spirit and solid integrity, Glazier-Nolan Mustang Barn was founded by Fred Glazier, who has owned his Rangoon Red '64 1/2 Mustang hardtop since new. Not only is he one of the originals, he has never lost the passion.

Incorrect Engine Color
We see this all the time-the '71 351C engine painted '64 1/2 Robin's Egg 260 Blue. Or, the exact opposite-a '64 1/2 260 engine painted '66-up Ford Corporate Blue. Make sure you have the right blue while the engine is on the stand.

Not Sticking To A Budget and Realistic Timeline
Are you faced with a tight budget and limited resources? Be ready for a long-term restoration project where you can take things one phase at a time. Begin your restoration where there's the most bang for the buck- the engine compartment. Chris Burns of Santa Barbara Musclecars says you can have the most striking car out there, but if the engine bay doesn't measure up, you've wasted your time. "I think what bugs me most is where people choose to save money," Chris adds. "Mismatched hardware is toward the top. AMK Products does such a good job with hardware kits there is no excuse for hardware store fasteners when AMK looks so much better."

The main thing is to stay close to what you have budgeted and not get in a hurry when cash and credit limits get tight. Throw a car cover on it and be patient enough to wait for a better day financially. Good policy is to live within your means.

Forgetting To Give It A Brake
Your Mustang's hydraulic brake system requires extraordinary care in the interest of safety. Leaks and ruptures can be dangerous. When you install new brake lines, make sure lines are squarely mated to dust- and dirt-free fittings before tightening them up. Tighten fittings firmly, then loosen and do it again. Do not overtighten, which can distort the line. Loosening and tightening a second time seats the flare for leak-free performance. Stainless steel lines mandate even more patience and care. Tighten and loosen to seat the flare. Then tighten until there's no more budge. Because stainless is very hard, it does not seat as easily. In fact, we discourage its use because it is both hard to bend and flare. It is also more likely to leak.

Fitting Body Panels Before Paint
If you're doing a full-scale restoration, the best time to fit-check body panels is when they're in self-etching primer/sealer. Of course, a fit-check should happen before you disassemble the car. John Murphy drills small pilot holes in fenders and door hinges, underneath the bolt washers, before the car comes apart. This works provided the car hasn't suffered serious body damage. If your Mustang is already apart and you didn't do this, get everything properly fitted first, then go with John's pilot hole approach, drilling a 1/8-inch pilot hole beneath each bolt head washer. This will enable a perfect fit when it's time for reassembly.

Not Taking Time Off To Decompress
Okay, enough lecturing. Do you know what a restoration's greatest enemy is? Burnout and emotional exhaustion. From time to time, step away from your Mustang project and do something else you enjoy. Dr. John Craft, car builder and automotive historian, suggests getting away from it all to a place that allows you to escape and recharge. John likes to head to the Marti Gras in New Orleans, giving a little something back to one of America's greatest treasures, which in turn gave a little something back to John.

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Using Every Decal That Comes In The Kit
You've done it or seen it-the restorer who installs every decal in the decal kit. Stop that! Laurie Slawson tells us not every decal in the kit is supposed to be installed on your Mustang. Yet we see so many of them done that way. Use only what should be installed on your Mustang.

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