Giddy Up: Tips for Restoring a Vintage Ford Mustang

1970 Ford Mustang Mach I redThe Ford Mustang endures as the classic American muscle car. For many auto enthusiasts, it’s a dream come true for a chance to restore the original pony car. Whether you have the coveted 1966 model or the Boss 302 at the launch of the 70’s, here are some tips in preparation for restoring your rusted steed back to a majestic Mustang.

The Planning Stage

Will your restoration entail a quick coat of glossy paint and cosmetic alterations or a complete dis-assembly down to its chassis? What are your expectations for the car? Are you looking to flaunt it on the roads or win a prestigious award at the auto show? The answers depend upon level of expertise and finances. Depending on the level of restoration, your budget will greatly differ. Either way, calculate the estimated costs for tools, parts and body shop services. Keep in mind that this is only an estimate—prepared for unexpected dilemmas. Figure classic car insurance into your overall budget. Shoot for a specified time of completion, so that your garage doesn’t house a half-restored Mustang for years to come.

Mustang Club

For many, joining a Mustang club is a logical starting point. If you don’t already own a Mustang to restore, what better way to find one than in a room of Mustang enthusiasts? Don’t blow your budget on this initial purchase—the real money is in the restoration itself. You can easily find a fixer-upper for a few hundred bucks. Club members will prove a vital resource for any lingering questions and tracking down elusive new or old stock parts. Discover what body shops the members used and the multiple vendors that readily supplied the necessary components.

Ready for Restoration

This is the moment you’ve been waiting for. With tools gathered, parts ordered and a dilapidated Mustang ready for resuscitation, get to work. Now, these next steps will provide a general sense of what the restoration will entail. It’s best to follow a handbook, consult your new Mustang club friends or forums for your specific model and the degree of restoration you’re willing to pursue. Examine the transmission, suspension, brakes, drive-train and the rest of its innards to see what repairs you can accomplish on your own and what components need to be delegated to professionals. Consider saving some cash by disassembling the lights, chrome trim and bumpers with your own hands.

If you haven’t already, schedule your Mustang for a date with the body shop. Restoration isn’t a solo job unless you’re a consummate car pro. Ensure that this shop is experienced with vintage cars or, better yet, your very own Mustang model. For a complete and total restoration, mechanics will strip it down to the uni-body and catalog the pieces. The goal here is to get this Mustang’s engine roaring once more and the car itself back to working condition. Since you’re unlikely to own a blowtorch, leave the torch welding and metalwork to the auto technicians. Don’t delegate all the work—you want to feel some personal satisfaction at the end of this colossal project. You won’t have all the tools or experience at first, but you can rent what you need—such as an engine lift—and learn along the way. By the end, the perfection of your very own restored Ford Mustang should instill a strong sense of pride—and bestow fond memories for the future.