Jim Smart
August 1, 2001

Step By Step

Your KISS project doesn’t have to be a Mustang—just a cool Ford with potential for greatness. Here are some examples. A ’69 Cougar convertible is a great alternative pick, as is a ’70-’71 Ranchero.
Stalled project cars for sale at swap meets and car shows can be great bargains. Work your best deal with someone who really needs to sell. Just make sure the car makes economic sense. If there’s a lot missing, you could wind up spending more in the long run. Also, beware of hidden rust and accident damage.
Swap meets and yard sales yield all kinds of cool finds your budget can afford. As a rule, swap meets are where people want to unload their wares. Chromed steel valve covers, for example, are sometimes a good bargain when you can’t afford more expensive cast types.
Used Styled Steel wheels are what we intend to use on Project KISS.
Upgrade your KISS project with a restorable used console.
How about a more comfortable, yet rare, bench seat for just $150? These are the affordable bargains you should look for.
Joe Castro of Palmdale, California, continues disassembly of Project KISS. Joe will be with us most of the way on this one.
When you’re building on a budget, you must first be smart. Disassembly, bodywork, and paint should all be performed with the old suspension and temporary tires and wheels in place.
This enables you to move the car around while you work. Save the undercarriage and engine compartment for last.
Brad got started on Project KISS during his holiday visit. He removed the front-end sheetmetal—a good start. We’ve cataloged the parts.
Cataloging parts in cheap, plastic food containers is your best bet because it keeps order in your project.
Leave Mom’s good Tupperware alone in the interest of survival. Mark the containers appropriately. Then you can restore or replace fasteners and parts section by section.
Door hinges are where you can save a lot of money and have better hinges to boot. We’re going to find used, early ’67 Mustang cast-iron door hinges, bush and re-pin them, and use them on Project KISS.
Use only genuine Ford pins and bushings. Reproduction pins and bushings are of inferior quality and won’t go the distance. Reproduction stamped-steel door hinges aren’t as solid and cost more.
We found the original matching-number 289 block in the trunk, sans rods and pistons. It appears to be a rebuildable piece.
We’ll go for the budget build on this one—cast pistons, high-performance street hydraulic camshaft, standard three-angle valve job with hardened seats, cast-iron exhaust manifolds, aftermarket high-rise intake and carb.
A reversible drill or a cordless screwdriver enables you to disassemble the car in short order. Again, we can’t stress enough the importance of cataloging your parts.
Because this is Project KISS, we want to keep it super simple. Remove the instrument panel and switches, but leave the main wiring loom in place.
When it’s time to paint the dashboard, simply mask the areas you want to protect.
Door strikers should be removed, stripped, and cleaned. Check to see if the striker is serviceable. If not, replace it. Good used ones are available from all kinds of Fords, Mercs, and Lincolns.
The cool thing about disassembling a car like this is 35 years worth of history—and junk.
Remove the rear seat, and find matchbooks from 1970. And pocket change? Enough to buy lunch at McDonald’s.
All soft parts should be replaced: weatherstripping, window channels, and seals. These cost a lot of money, but old ones cannot be restored. New soft parts tighten up a restoration and make your job sound solid.
Seatbelts should be serviceable and safe. Ssnake-Oyl Products can restore your old seatbelts to new condition if you want an original look. Pony Car Concepts has a modern three-point safety-belt system in a variety of colors for classic Fords.
Carpet underlayment doesn’t need to be disturbed if there’s no rust or evidence of moisture. If there’s rust, it must be repaired and new underlayment installed.
Because our Mustang is a coastal car, it suffers from door-skin rust. We’re going to show you how to fix this so it doesn’t come back.
All body panels, like doors, decklid, and hood, should be removed. These panels are more easily reworked off the car.
Ever wonder what this is? It’s a static strip designed to carry static electricity from the hood. Static electricity interferes with AM radios. Reinstall yours when it’s time for assembly.

Pity the poor guy with a tight budget who wants to build a bitchin’ restomod. That age-old pesky issue of limited cash flow (and an unhappy spouse) makes building a nice restomod challenging at best. However, at Mustang & Fords, we’re here to be your dream spinner and to show you how to build a budget restomod with pride.

As we told you during our first installment of Project KISS, you don’t have to spend a fortune to have a nice, classic Ford restomod. Our own Project KISS is a case in point. We snapped up this ’68 Mustang for a song at $250 (and it’s a California car!). It was a beat-up, old, partially disassembled coupe a fellow hobbyist wanted to unload. We were there with the cash and a car trailer. There are dozens of stories like this all over any region of the country.

If you beat the bushes hard enough, you can find a vintage Ford in need of tender loving care and a future. But here’s the catch. You must be patient. You need an open mind. You’ve got to be persistent. And you must be prepared to search for quite some time before landing upon your dream pick. Sometimes, you have to build an alternative ride, then trade up. Call it the “sweat equity” approach to car building. It’s like buying that first home. You settle for the three-bedroom bungalow close to town with a one-car garage, then allow it to gain value and equity with your improvement efforts. Then you sell at a profit and use the cash windfall to buy something nicer.

Your project doesn’t have to be a mainstream Ford, Mercury, or Lincoln either. Be original. What about a ’72-’76 Torino hardtop? Lots of potential there. How about an Edsel? Just imagine what you could do with a Lincoln Continental Mark III or IV. Call this one a “restolux.” How about one of yesterday’s budget picks like a Falcon, Comet, Fairlane, or Meteor sedan?

Consider our good friend, Marcie Innes of Fastline Performance in Simi Valley, California. She’s building a ’64 Falcon four-door station wagon with 289ci small-block power. The car cost her virtually nothing—just haul it off, here’s the pink slip. She’ll build a small-block, find a healthy C4 Cruise-O-Matic (cheap to find, easy to build), install Granada disc brakes, clad the body in budget paint from Earl Scheib, Maaco, or 1-Day Paint & Body, freshen up the interior, and she’s good to go with an unusual Ford restomod. Our point? Your budget Ford project doesn’t have to be a Mustang. It just has to have potential for greatness.

Sweat Equity

When we sat down and planned Project KISS, we had to think about how to save money, not to mention time. We’re talking being really stingy here. Being a magazine with a lot of resources, we’re spoiled rotten. We had to resist the temptation of calling people who could come to our rescue on this one, because that doesn’t give the average reader the right idea.

Project KISS is going to be our own sweat-equity undertaking. Our time. Our sweat. Our skinned knuckles. Our pride when it’s done. We’re going to figure out both time and cash-flow budget issues. We’re going to do things we’ve never tried before. And we’re bringing our readers along for the ride.

My son Brad Smart, who lives in Tennessee, began disassembly of Project KISS during his holiday visit back in December. A buddy next door, Joe Castro, will continue in Brad’s absence. We’re going to teach Joe, and you, how to build a classic Ford on a budget. So grab some tools and let’s get started.


Disassembly must always include organization: cataloging parts, proper storage, and determining direction. Direction means knowing what you’re going to do with each part and when. Fasteners like bolts, nuts, washers, and other items should be stored in cheap, plastic food containers you wouldn’t mind throwing away when the job is finished. Each container should represent a specific area of the car. If you throw all of the fasteners in one container thinking you’ll remember where they go, you’ll be sadly mistaken later. Automobiles consist of hundreds of fasteners, many of them with a specific mission. They must all go back in the correct location.