How to Stretch Your Project Dollar
Restore your vintage Mustang without breaking the bank
It's probably safe to assume that everyone reading this magazine would love to have a '66 K-code GT fastback or perhaps a '69 Boss 302 in their garage, fully restored and ready for the show field. Truthfully, we're betting that the majority of our readers have a '66 C-code hardtop or a '69 SportsRoof in need of a whole lot of work. That's OK, really. You've already fulfilled part of your dream just by being a vintage Mustang owner. We know it takes a lot of time and money to restore a vintage Mustang (or even modify it). It's rare when we come across someone who can "do it all" and has the skills to perform mechanical work, paint and body repairs, welding, electrical, suspension, and upholstery. Even those well-versed in Mustang knowledge usually beg off on big projects and certainly paint and body work, so there's no shame in farming work out. What you have to do is become educated and make smart decisions by doing what you can, where you can to help your project dollars go further.
If you already have a Mustang, you're one step ahead, but for those who are still looking to purchase, you have to consider a few things. Do you buy a bottom dollar car and spend a lot of time fixing it up (possibly a good thing for modified builds)? Or do you put more money into the purchase price to get a better car up front that leaves you with little or no money to fix the car up further? We've always been big believers of buying the "most" car you can afford. We'd rather put our money down on a solid six-cylinder hardtop than a rotted out V-8 fastback that needs every sheetmetal panel in the NPD catalog. We know some people just have to have a fastback, especially a '67-'68 (the whole Shelby and Eleanor thing), but hardtops are still fun and that six-cylinder can be a nice, efficient cruiser. Or you could update to a V-8 drivetrain (either stock appearing or heavily modified).
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Knowing what you want to do with your Mustang is just as important as buying the right car for your budget. If you have two kids in college, a mortgage, and a car payment eating away at your checkbook, restoring a 428 SCJ Mach 1 is going to put you in the poor house. Don't be discouraged though. If you have financial responsibilities, perhaps a '65-'68 Mustang hardtop would be more feasible. You can still enjoy the hobby, shows, cruises, working in the garage with your kids, and be proud of what you built. Know your limits, both financially and under the hood. When it comes to a budget, be smart and know that most budgets often end up doubled or tripled by the time the project is done. This is where tackling as much of the project yourself and knowing every detail of your project will pay you back and keep money in your pocket that you can wisely use when you have to call in the professionals for paint and body work, welding, engine rebuilding, or whatever segment of the project you must farm out.
If you've owned a '65 hardtop in the past but are now looking for a '69 SportsRoof project, don't assume "all Mustangs are the same." Besides the obvious body differences, there are many other considerations, including how the '69 comes apart, what parts are available for them, the cost of those parts, and more. Be prepared. Knowledge is the answer here. Get your hands on every book, magazine article, website, and fellow Mustang owner who knows about '69 Mustangs and learn everything. That's the only way to know if the car(s) you're looking at is worth your investment in time and cash. Know what you want to do with the car (driver, track car, weekend cruiser, fully restored show car, etc.) and let that guide you to the knowledge you need. Building a weekend track car is a lot different than a full-on show car.