Steve Baur
Former Editor, Modified Mustangs & Fords
January 8, 2014

If you haven’t fallen asleep by now, I’ll wrap this history lesson up with the engine replacement in Tampa at 285, 290 miles in 1998—it was a bargain at just $1,955 for parts and labor. The last dated receipt in the box was for a Sears battery in 1999, and I suspect that year is when the multi-car collision that rendered the car in its current condition occurred. It was sold to another party who planned to make it a father/son project, but they got sidetracked with Fox-body Mustangs that didn’t require so much bodywork. Thanks to my buddy Jim Veenstra, I got word of the SportsRoof coming up for sale, and with it located less than a mile from my house, it had to give it a look.

I’ve been on the hunt for a Falcon to play with for some time, but I’m a sucker for the fastback/SportsRoof body style, and have always been a ponycar owner for the most part. I was immediately hooked when I saw the car in person, but I also knew there was going to be a lot of work just based on the rust issues and rippling quarter-panels. I never noticed the frame damage, but in all reality it’s probably of little consequence because most everything that is attached to the framerail is getting replaced due to rust issues anyway.

Aside from overseeing our Colt of Personality pro-touring buildup, it’s been a while since I’ve tinkered with a project of my own. After laying down the cash, the owner dropped it off at my house with his rollback and soon I was elbow deep in the interior, armed with a Shop Vac and a need to clean the inside and survey the pieces and parts that came with it.

I made several attempts at getting the engine started, but didn’t have any luck. I had to borrow a starter from my friend, John Paolillo, and he also loaned me another carburetor after I poured out rusty dust from the feed line of the original. I have a feeling the piston rings are not holding any compression—I didn’t bother to perform a compression test, as I figured that the drivetrain would be coming out anyways.

After Gillis Performance Restorations’ owner, Rusty Gillis, took a look at the car, he offered some space in his shop for me to work on it there. I originally planned to work on it in my garage, as I have done quite a bit of work in it over the years, and I will likely continue the project there once the bodywork and paint is done.

For the time being, I’m going to take advantage of having GPR looking over my shoulder and pointing me in the right direction as I take on the metalwork. I’ve seen my share of it done, and have performed very minor amounts on my own in the past, but this will be the first time I’m cutting and welding and shaping major parts of the car.

You’ll have to wait and see how this project will unfold, as I don’t quite have an overall plan just yet. I keep changing my mind from day to day, but I think I’m getting close. Be sure to check back as I plan to have regular installments on this project, and I’ll be posting to our Facebook and Instagram (modifiedmustangs1) pages with updates as I find out just how hard this can be.

Be sure to check back as I plan to have regular installments on this project!

15. During my cleanup of the previously rat-inhabited interior, I uncovered a number of items (kitty litter container is all mine, but full of various nuts and bolts that likely held the front end together). The hinges are both bent and headed for the scrap heap. The passenger-side headlight bucket is not original to the car, but it is in good shape. The mirror is in relatively good repair, but a closer look revealed that the very end of the mounting tab is broken off and will not hold the fastener.
16. Everything back here has seen better days, and all of it will likely get 86’d. One thing to note is how the decklid is hanging over the edge of the fender extension. The fender has actually been pushed up under it.
17. This shot of the passenger rear quarter looks like this area may have taken the brunt of the impact from the collision. It buckled the large flat area above and to the right of it, as well as the filler panel behind the bumper.
18. This area of the SportsRoof quarter-panel must have showed evidence of the impact, and was subsequently, and quite poorly, massaged with what looks like a ball peen hammer. Nice job, fellas.
19. As blatant as this photo is in its depiction of how crooked the back end of the car is, I’ll admit that I couldn’t see the forest for the trees even after crawling around the car for a couple of weeks. It wasn’t until my friend Mark Johnson came over, and we were looking into measuring the chassis data points that I was able to obtain from Q&A contributor, Dave Stribling. When I went to put some jackstands under the rear axle, it was quite evident that one side needed a few more clicks than the other.

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21. It’s great that someone tried to restore the factory fender flare (not that the hammer they used was a big improvement), but the bigger problem is that it has been relocated inward about 1-2 inches.
22. The good thing about the fender missing is that I was able to see everything beneath prior to purchase. Everything is solid as a rock here, including the A pillar. The only issue is that the upper control arm mounting area of the shock tower has weakened and cracked, and is pushing into the engine bay. I guess that’s what 200,000-plus miles will do to one of these old cars.
23. Having a hoard of maintenance records and documentation could be important if you are restoring a rare car, or if you are buying a driver that you’d like to know when the latest tune-up and such was performed. Documents like these can also offer a bit of history if you’re into that aspect of the project as well.
24. One of the previous owners had faxed his landlord a photocopy of the car (when it was obviously in much better shape) for purposes unknown. It could have been so the landlord could verify the car in the lot if it was a big complex, or perhaps they wanted to make sure they weren’t renting to someone that was going to have the car up on jackstands the whole time they were there. While I have nothing against that, some HOAs and landlords do. ▲
25. There were tons of maintenance receipts in the file, including these high-miler oil changes. Everything from wiper blades to fuses to…
26. ...an engine change! There is a receipt for head gaskets and cylinder head machining somewhere in Texas a while before this. Whether or not the original engine was rebuilt remains to be seen. I’ll know more once the drivetrain has been pulled.
27. Having removed the interior from the car as well as any other combustibles, my next step is to start excising the bent and/or rusted sheetmetal. Eastwood has been helping hotrodders and restorers with their projects for years, and they offer just about everything you need short of elbow grease to get your project from start to finish. To get started on this endeavor, I ordered one of the company’s Air Tool Essentials Starter kits, which includes a ½-inch reversible drill, air hammer with chisel set, ½-inch impact gun, a 3-inch cut-off tool, a reciprocating saw, and a ¼-inch angle die grinder. They also sent me a number of abrasive discs, spot weld cutters, and more, all of which you’ll get to see in the next installment.
28. I’ve managed a number of project builds in the past, and they have been very successful thanks to a strong peer group that happens to be a bunch of hands-on car guys. This one is going to be on me, though, and if I’m honest, I’ve already caught myself scouting Falcons again on the Internet. Good thing I spent all of my car funds on this gem!