Steve Baur
Former Editor, Modified Mustangs & Fords
January 19, 2014
Photos By: Rusty Gillis

Well, there's no turning back now. As you will see from the photos, I've gone past the point of no return, but it had to be done one way or another. Last month, you may have caught the debut of this hands-on SportsRoof project, where I spelled out the general plan going forward. This month, it was time to get my hands dirty and start cutting.

As there was no Johnny Five to oppose being dismantled, it was largely myself that questioned the impending metal surgery. It always gets worse before it gets better, and it was about to get really, really bad once I started opening the SportsRoof up. You start to question whether or not it was the right idea, the right car to start with, and whether or not you can actually see it through to the other side. You also question your finances, your job outlook, and your family and friends may question your sanity. Anyone that knows classic cars, though, knows this is usually the routine. Striking a check and having someone complete the build sounds great, but it is financially impossible for one thing, and I'm not going to learn these techniques without hands-on experience.

That said, let the deliberations begin—I'm going to start tearing it apart and forge ahead.

After dropping the SportsRoof off at Gillis Performance Restorations, GPR proprietor, Rusty Gillis, found some room in his busy shop to allow me to work on the car. In typical Gillis fashion, they just had to get their hands on it, so both Rusty and his son, Brian, helped out a bit for this installment. Brian handled the window trim removal, which can be tricky and requires a bit of patience. My moldings are in nice shape and I'd like them to stay that way. Rusty stayed nearby to help take photos, answer questions, and even help excavate the rodent nest from the cowl.

Most of the exterior components simply unbolt, which is nice. The only tricky part, aside from the window moldings, was the driprail molding and weatherstripping that had hidden screws securing it.

Once I had removed what I could, it was time to tackle the quarter-panels. To aid in their removal, I contacted Eastwood and ordered a number of tools to equip my mobile box and allow me to work without disrupting the shop by using their equipment.

1. Literally getting into my work, I removed the decklid and hinges first, followed by the fuel filler neck, taillights and quarter extensions. The gas tank was missing from the start of the project, and hopping in the trunk was much more comfortable than leaning over and tucking my head inside the quarter-panel.
2. The taillights have several fasteners on the inside of the trunk. Once they are removed, you just push the lights into the trunk.
3. With the quarter extensions removed, it was nice to see that there was no rust beneath them. This would be more helpful if we intended to keep the quarters.
4. The quarter sidescoops are easily removed simply by unbolting it from the inside of the quarter (the bracket at the top of the photo). Astute eyes may catch the silver dots in a line in the lower section of the quarter. While it looked fine form the outside, it’s obvious there was a repair to the area at some point.
5. Brian Gillis lent a hand and removed all of the window trim moldings for me. The process sounds easy enough, but they can fight you and I’d rather not mess up the trim since it’s in good shape. After popping off the moldings, he simply cut away much of the factory sealer and then we lifted the back lite up and out of the car.
7. A dozen or so bolts later and the dash came right out. I also pulled the heater box as well. We’re going to leave the column in for now, as it is easier to push my pile around the shop that way.
10. There was a bit of rodent bedding in the upper cowl panel, and as we started digging in the hole on the driver’s cowl side panel, we were amazed at how much we extracted. Be sure to check out the video at modifiedmustangsandfords.com. Luckily, the passenger-side panel was hole- and rodent-bedding-free.
8. The window channel molding and weather stripping had a number of hidden screws, but it came off pretty easily. More important is that fact that there is minimal rust in these areas. There are a few spots about half way up that should be easily fixed.
6. With the window channel cleared of the sealer, you can see there was a bit of rust, but it isn’t too bad all things considered. The opposite corner had one small hole as well, which I should be able to patch up.
12. With pretty much everything that I can unbolt unbolted form the car, it was time to cut some metal. Eastwood’s Air Tools Essentials starter kit is a great way to stock your toolbox with the basic tools needed for the job. The cost of the kit is remarkably low considering the quality of tools included. The soft grips and chrome finish are pleasing to the eyes and hands as well.
11. I thought the car was pretty stripped down after my last visit, but this pile of parts shows otherwise. Some of this will be going in the trash, and some of it will be stored for reassembly.
9. Brian Gillis’ preferred method of removing the driprail molding is to use two flat-blade screwdrivers and slowly work your way from front to back. Usually, the molding will pop loose after you get the A-pillar section off.

To that end, Eastwood sent an Air Tool Essentials Starter kit, 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 other tools to help excise the trashed metal and clean up the areas in anticipation of the new metal. Planning ahead, I also ordered a number of items to aid in the assembly, such as locking pliers, fabrication gloves, and several items for when I start welding. That's a ways off yet, as you'll see from the photos, but I'll get there. Next up, I'll be pulling the drivetrain to get some weight out of the car, and then I might need to weld in some supports since the entire back end of the car is likely coming off.

13. In addition to the air tools, I ordered an assortment of grinding and sanding items to figure out what worked the best. The discs and bristle brushes are for a 4-inch angle grinder, and I think they’ll be better utilized once the metal fabrication and welding comes into play. For now, I’ve been employing three-inch sanding discs on the ¼-inch right-angle die grinder.
14. I’ve been around enough fabrication shops to know that you can never have enough sets of locking pliers around, so I ordered a few sets from Eastwood. They also sent a pair of fabrication gloves, wire brush, MIG welding pliers, and a can of the company’s weld-through primer.
15. While it would seem like a good idea to leave as much of the good quarter-panel on the car, Rusty pointed out that it would be much easier to remove the whole panel, especially considering we were replacing a number of items that attached to the quarter-panels. I started by sanding down the paint to find the lead seam, and then I used a propane torch to melt the lead while scraping it out with a screwdriver. While sanding the area down, I also came across of few small rust holes in the roof just above the seam.
16. Using this wire brush from Eastwood, I cleaned up the window channels, as well as the lead seams once the lead had been removed. Keep in mind that the wire brush isn’t designed to operate at the higher rpm of the die grinder that I am using here. If you can maintain a slow speed, protect yourself with eye protection and have at it. I found the die grinder easier to use than the drill.
17. While I’ll likely be removing all of the metal in the car from the C-pillar back, I used the cut-off tool to start cutting the metal out piece by piece. You could start the quarter-panel removal process by drilling out all of the spot welds, but Brian Gillis recommended cutting the majority of the panel off first, as this will allow you to get underneath the portions of the panel that are spot-welded from the underside.
18. With surgical precision (not quite, but it sounds good), I removed the quarter-panel to reveal the inner workings of the Mustang’s rear flank. It took about 20 minutes tracing the edge out with the cut-off wheel, but I expect to spend at least a few hours drilling out the spot welds and removing the panel edges.
19a. With the quarter skin removed, you can see the small holes in the window channel, as well as the water damage that occurred below it.
19b. I’ll fix most of it simply by replacing the upper deck panel, and the new quarter-panel will replace the window channel part. Then I’ll just have to patch a few small spots on the inner C-pillar support underneath it.
20. I’ve seen much worse looking outer wheelhouses before, but this one will get replaced, as well as all of the metal behind it. The driver-side trunk drop off you see here is in far better shape than the passenger side, which isn’t saying much.
21. As I mentioned earlier, there was a repair in the lower front portion of the quarter here that wasn’t visible from the outside. I was happy to see that there was no rust beneath it or in the rocker panel itself.
22. The doors were next and I was happy to find that the door pillars are in great shape. The same could not be said of the doors, however.
24. Well, that’s it for this month. Since I’m going to be cutting all of the metal off the back of the car, I’m going to pull the drivetrain next to take as much weight out of the car as possible. I hope to have that accomplished for the next installment, along with a few more items on the checklist.
23. This is the largest rust hole in the driver’s door, but the water damage has rusted part of the inner structure out as well. The outer skin looks like it went a few rounds with Mike Tyson, and Brian Gillis plainly said that going with replacement doors would save a lot of time otherwise spent trying to repair these. If you have time, it would be a great way to hone one’s fabrication, welding, and bodywork skills. I have to find a balance somewhere, so it’s likely I’ll just go with aftermarket replacements (the passenger door was just as bad).