In Chapter 1, I provided some advice on how to better define the type of restoration project you intend to pursue and what type of vehicle might be best suited for it. I also gave some tips on where to look for a vehicle and things to avoid. And I covered some resources you can use to help ensure you’re getting what you are paying for— that the vehicle is what the seller says it is. Assuming you now have a better idea of what you want to do and have a vehicle to restore, let’s get into the actual process of what you need to do to begin the restoration project.
The first thing to do is to evaluate the overall condition of the vehicle and identify the areas that require restoration. You’ve already done this to some extent by now, but it needs to be done again with a different emphasis and in greater detail. You may have noticed some things to address when you were looking the car over before you bought it. Now that you have the car in your possession, you can thoroughly inspect it and come up with a comprehensive list of tasks. This will not be the final list because you will surely find other components and areas to restore as you take the vehicle apart. I cover some of these more specific evaluations in subsequent chapters, as is appropriate. For now, I want to explore some of the bigger items to incorporate into your overall planning for the project.
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The type of project you’re planning, and the time and funds that can be allocated to it, dictate how the project is structured. Someone with a daily driver may just do things on an as-needed basis and/or when the funds become available, thus requiring little or no real planning. This mainly involves the removal and replacement of components only and does not require disassembly of the whole vehicle. Painting, if done, is on an individual panel basis, at most. The owner of a show car may want to complete the project in a linear fashion but may not be very concerned about how long it takes or the final cost. Such a project inevitably involves a complete disassembly of the vehicle, which most likely ends up on a rotisserie. The vehicle is completely stripped down to bare metal and then fully prepped and painted to a very high standard.
The restoration project of a weekend cruiser shown in this book falls between these two extremes. It’s done in a more focused fashion than the pay-as-you-go, daily-driver situation, but it is also done on a schedule more sensitive to time and finances than a typical show-car project. I provide much useful information that applies to those situations as well, but our focus will be on a restoration project that should take several months to a year to complete. Also, it generally tends to have lower overall project expense.
Here is a typical scenario for a moderate weekend-cruiser-type project: We found a very good vehicle that would not require major surgery (as I recommended in Chapter 1). The car needed some cosmetic touching up and some parts replaced, but many of the original parts were reused with only a minor amount of refurbishment. This helped keeps costs down and, in many cases, also saves time.
We repainted the car, but not fully because we didn’t take out the dash, headliner, or windows. They were all in exceptionally good shape, so we saw no need to replace them.
We removed all of the trim and exterior panels (fenders, doors, hood trunk, etc.) to be repaired and repainted as necessary. But the car was never completely disassembled and stripped to just the bare metal. It didn’t need to be. We did repair a couple of rusted panels, but the amount of bodywork was minimal. We stripped all of the exterior panels down to bare metal for the bodywork, but it wasn’t necessary for the interior, so we left it as is.
The underbody and engine bay needed only minimal prep before they were painted and/or undercoated. We did, however, have to replace an inner fender panel and do some metal work on the trunk lid prior to painting. The repair work done in these two areas used the same basic process as you would use to replace floorpans, quarter panels, and so forth.
Later in the book I show the actual processes for these and most of the work we did. For now I’ll just discuss how we planned out what needed to be done and how we went about organizing it. There are some very good ways to reduce the overall time and expense of a project if you plan accordingly and execute the plan in a logical fashion. There will always be some unexpected issues, but these are all much easier to deal with if you have a plan in place and have already made contact with appropriate people and organizations.
Initial Inspection, Evaluation and Creating a “Needs” List
The type of project you have in mind determines the extent of your initial inspection and evaluation, as does the condition of the vehicle. If the vehicle is in good shape or you’re taking the pay-as-you-go approach, you may be less exhaustive. If you’re restoring a show car, you need to do a full-blown inspection. In our case, we had a good car and were doing a moderate project, so we limited our initial inspection to seeing if there were any major surprises. We wanted to make sure we could get parts and arrange for any needed services (more on these later). We also knew we’d be doing more extensive evaluations of individual systems as we got to them.
In a minor refreshening for a daily driver, you primarily identify parts to be replaced. This assumes there are no major problems with rust or failed components. At most, a panel or two may need to be repainted but, in general, there is minimal or no painting done at this level—just a thorough reconditioning of the original painted finishes. Carpets can be replaced, seats can be reupholstered, trim panels and moldings can be replaced, but there is no significant bodywork. Worn or damaged mechanical parts can be replaced—up to a rebuild of the engine, transmission, and/or rear axle. All of this can be done piecemeal, for the most part, as time and budget allow.
The next level, or a moderate level of restoration, exceeds minor freshening and all major areas are repaired so the car can be fully prepped and repainted. It’s basically a matter of trying to keep the look consistent. You don’t want to have a nice new paint job and dinged-up trim or moldings, for example. With the overall project done to a higher level, the restoration level for the daily-driver minor refreshening is not acceptable. More parts are replaced and refurbished to make them look better. The cost is higher and the project more timeconsuming. There still is no requirement the work be done in a continuous fashion but the body prep and paint work, the biggest part of this type of restoration, inevitably is done this way. Rebuilding the engine, refurbishing the interior, and other areas can be done whenever. But it’s best to get some work out of the way first to avoid damage to the new paint.
This is the key difference between the minor refreshening and the moderate level of restoration: scheduling and coordination of the work. This needs to be done to save time and money and to avoid having to redo some things. You also need to consider the availability of parts and/or shop services. Because some work is more elaborate, you need to schedule work with shops and source parts to keep the project moving. Last, the moderate-level weekend-cruiser restoration is meant for a car that will be driven and shown off, so you also need to allow some time to work out any bugs that may occur in fit, drivability, whatever. The daily-driver car won’t be shown off as much and the level of change at any given time is generally less, thus minimizing potential problems. Similarly, the show car generally changes very little from the stock configuration, but isn’t intended for much driving—factors which inherently minimize the potential for problems.
The show-car build goes well beyond the moderate level. Consequently, the vehicle has to be completely disassembled, stripped, and prepped prior to a very high level of restoration. All parts are evaluated against the highest standards of authenticity, finish, and function. What’s good for the other build levels often isn’t good enough for a show car because it’s not perfect or authentic enough. Many parts that are taken off of a show car can still be used for other restoration projects with less restrictive criteria. The show car generally has the original parts refurbished to the highest standard or uses the best available reproduction parts (more on that in a bit). All seals, weather stripping, seat covers, door/trim panels, and other soft/ wearable parts are generally replaced unless you are going for maximum authenticity and/or are building a survivor car and keeping the original patina (surface aging). For a show car, every part is examined for originality and is held to a higher standard than the other restoration levels. Functionality is secondary to aesthetics and authenticity. Time and cost are also lesser concerns.
Planning and Organization
After you’ve completed a thorough inspection, you should have a feel for what you want and need to do to meet the goal for your project type. If you’re doing a daily driver/pay-as-you-go kind of restoration, there really isn’t much planning involved. You take each task on a case-by-case basis and get to them as time and budget allow. These are usually weekend projects, which do not involve significant disassembly of the vehicle. Generally, you need few special tools or trips to a shop to leave it there for specific services. You can either buy any needed specialty tools for specific work or you can usually just rent them from retailers like Autozone. You still need to purchase parts in advance and arrange to have a place to do the work. You should always allow for the unexpected and perform the work indoors because you need to keep your parts, tools, and vehicle clean and protected. An enclosed garage that can be heated or cooled is best to protect the vehicle and make working on it more comfortable. It also is more secure because you can lock it and leave it. Just about any job can benefit from being performed in an enclosed garage or under a canopy, etc. If you have a vehicle you consider worth restoring you should plan to work on it inside.
I cover sourcing parts later in this chapter, but one issue to address up front is scheduling any services to be performed. Some jobs such as wheel alignment usually mean you just bring the car to the shop and wait your turn. If you can schedule an appointment, you are better off. One caveat: Some shops are very busy and difficult to get your car into, especially those doing the best work. This is particularly true for high-end restorations. You don’t just show up at one of those shops and expect to be able to leave your car and wait for a call and a bill.
A show-car restoration at a highend shop is a commitment not only in terms of finances and time but also on the part of both the shop and the owner to get it done right. Almost any decision about time and money spent can affect project outcome and quality. The good news is the shop will probably help considerably with the overall planning and organization in a high-end show-car project—they get paid for it and have a reputation to preserve. With such a restoration, you can generally have as much or as little involvement as you desire with the project.
Most Mustang projects are pretty straightforward because there’s an established recipe or criteria, so there are fewer compromises to make. Because the shop effectively becomes your prime subcontractor, they handle many of the tasks involved. They can deal with specialty shops for jobs, such as chrome plating, engine building, etc., if they don’t have these in-house capabilities. They can help you find parts and information specific to the vehicle. If you’ve got the time and the money, you can’t beat just dropping the car off at a reputable, high-end restoration shop and letting them get the job done right for you.
But that’s not why you’re reading this book. If you want to create a high-end show car, use this book to help keep the high-end shop on target. If you’re doing a daily driver, use this book to supplement the factory service manual, so that your vehicle performs beyond factory level.
Those benefiting most are those building the weekend cruiser, where you are the prime contractor and source out what you can’t or don’t want to do. You’ll also benefit from the following tips on how to structure the project and choose providers of parts and services.
Usually, bodywork and paint takes the longest time in any restoration project. This should be the thing you try to get started on ASAP. Whether you’re doing a full rotisserie job or just stripping down the exterior while leaving some parts in place, the sooner you can get the body to the paint shop, the better.
The best way to approach this is to first remove all the major exterior panels like the hood, trunk, and fenders, so they will be out of harm’s way while you remove the larger items. Neither the doors nor the glass have to come off at this time, but you need to remove the trim items and moldings.
In a show-car project, you likely will take the car down to the bare shell in one step because it is almost certainly going onto a rotisserie for further work. In our weekend-cruiser-style project we did not take out the glass because it was in excellent shape with no leaks. Why risk breaking the glass if there is no problem? (We were especially concerned about the rear glass because it had the factory center stripe and would not be easy, or cheap, to replace if something went wrong.) We decided to leave the doors on for the time being so the interior wouldn’t get dirty while the car was hauled to the body shop on a flatbed truck. We left the doors and windows closed to prevent wind and dirt from damaging the headliner we decided to keep.
Every project comprises these same basic elements and follows a similar plan. The steps may differ. For example, some are added or deleted to achieve a certain level of performance, function, finish/ appearance, authenticity, and final overall quality. All projects start with a general evaluation of the vehicle to define what needs to be done to reach the goal. Some parts and services are identified after this initial inspection; others become obvious later, throughout the project.
To the extent you can get the parts you need, it seldom hurts to get them ASAP; you never know when they may be hard to find, on backorder, etc. It’s the same thing with services from outside shops. Start talking to the body shop, engine shop, transmission shop, etc., as soon as you decide to use them. This may help to schedule the project and find parts (they may have some and/or have sources you didn’t know about), and they can also serve as a reality check for what you want to do. You can’t overvalue the resource of a good shops, so talk to friends, club members, whomever, to find them. Shops featured in magazine articles are worth considering as well because they have proven they can meet a relatively high standard of work under a deadline.
When planning and organizing your restoration project, keep the proper sequence of events in mind and schedule outside work earlier rather than later. For our project, we made sure we sent the components that needed rebuilding to their respective shops ASAP. We then focused on taking off whatever else we needed to remove, so we could get the body to the paint shop. While the body was being taken care of, we reconditioned the parts that needed some attention and acquired new parts for the things we decided to change. Leaving the glass, headliner, and dash in the car saved some time and cost, but it also meant we had to be extra careful to not damage these items while we painted and worked in the interior.
We stuck to our plan and had a rebuilt engine, rebuilt transmission, rebuilt rear axle, new suspension, new brakes, and reconditioned interior parts ready to go when we got the car back from the paint shop. Other than a few parts that were backordered, we were all set.
Rebuilding the engine, transmission, and rear axle should take less time than doing the bodywork and paint, so you should get to work on these items after the hood, radiator, and other adjacent parts have been removed to prevent damage. This is where scheduling issues become more critical. The time it takes to complete various services vary, so the goal is to complete tasks in the proper sequence and minimize holdups, the potential for damage, or having to redo things. It’s logical to start those tasks and have the finished parts ready for reinstallation after the body is done. You can also take care of the interior panels, seats, brakes, suspension, etc.
We found it useful to leave the suspension and brakes on the car while it was being painted, so it would make it easier to move the car around. We knew we’d replace most of the parts anyway, so we didn’t need to take the original parts off the car to recondition them. If you need to do so in your case, it’s best to do that after the car gets to the body shop, while the bodywork is being done.
The refurbished and/or new parts can be put back on the car before it goes to the paint both, if necessary, but this is not generally required. The paint shop should have a dolly setup to put under the car to move it around. But if you need to roll it around on the suspension, be sure to mask off the parts you’ll be using so they don’t get covered with overspray in the paint booth. We used a dummy rear axle and the stock front setup because we would be putting in all new components for the suspension and brakes. The axle was rebuilt while the car was being painted, and we simply reinstalled the newly rebuilt axle after the car left the body shop.
If you are doing a show-car level of restoration for which everything comes off the car, you should refurbish the original parts while the body and paintwork is being done. That way everything is ready when the car goes back together. If you leave some parts on the car during paint (as we did), have them masked off and be sure you have decided how to handle blend lines and so forth. If you’re repainting the car the same original color, this is less of an issue than if you’re changing colors. In the latter case, you need to decide where to make the color switch in places like door jambs and the trunk area. If you’re going to be covering areas with trim or custom panels, this is also where you prevent problems.
These are issues to consider up front rather than after the painting starts. Since we did a re-spray of the original color and only left the dash, glass, and headliner in, we were spared any really tough decisions. The door moldings, sill plates, and similarity of the old and new paint colors made things much easier. Perhaps our biggest problem was the underhood area where we used a different coating for the engine bay than for the lower portion of the car. (In Chapter 4, I discuss how we handled the merge line.)
Tools and Equipment
Regardless of what level of restoration you undertake, you will surely need a pretty good assortment of tools. Of course, you need the usual wrenches, ratchets, screwdrivers, etc. How many other tools you need depends on how much of the work you intend to do yourself. It’s safe to say you will at least need a decent floor jack and some good jack stands. Don’t try to save pennies on these; the stamped-steel types generally aren’t the wisest or safest choice. Spend a little more and get something you know is strong enough to last. You also need a few good drain pans for things like oil, coolant, brake fluid, etc., as well as containers to dispose of what you accumulate. Don’t assume any old plastic container will work; some may not be strong enough and you’ll soon have one heck of a mess. Metal or compatible plastics are the only way to go.
When it comes to removing trim, moldings, and so forth, you usually need special tools to do the job with the least chance of damaging the components. These special tools can generally be purchased at auto parts stores or places such as Sears and Walmart, in many cases. Tool retailers, such as Harbor Freight, also carry some of the more popular items. Some can be made out of other tools or from scratch, if you have the expertise and a model to follow. In general, these special tools are not terribly expensive and are well worth having if you plan to do more restoration work.
If you only need something for a short time, you can also borrow many special tools from auto parts stores and their tool loaner programs. You generally just leave a deposit, which you get back when you return the tool. The selection isn’t complete, of course, and you won’t find the less-expensive ones available, but you can surely find things like a brake service set at most stores that have such a program.
A good torque wrench is one tool you should definitely invest in. At a minimum, purchase a 3/8-inch drive with a range up to about 250 ft-lbs or so. A click style is more convenient, but a dial type can often be more accurate. You need something that’s going to stay accurate because an inaccurate reading can be a safety problem and/or cause very expensive damage if it’s in the power train, suspension, or brake areas. Buy a better model of a good brand, as your budget allows. One usage note: Always set it back to zero before you store it and check the calibration as needed to maintain acceptable accuracy.
In addition to common hand tools, it’s useful to have access to grinding wheels, hydraulic presses, impact wrenches, transmission jacks, and engines hoists, etc., depending on how much you plan to do yourself. Some of these are worth always having around and some are not worth the expense, if you only plan on using them for one or two projects. You also need space to store everything, which may or may not be an issue. You may be able to disassemble an engine hoist, so it will technically fit in a closet, but your significant other may not be too thrilled with the idea.
Beyond needing a compressor and air lines for pneumatic tools, you may also need 220v and/or high-current circuits for some equipment. If you don’t have it, then don’t consider such equipment unless you plan to do more of such work in the future. The lure of a temperature controlled, well-equipped garage is irresistible for most people who plan to work on their car(s) very often, so you may find yourself using your restoration project to justify some upgrades around the garage as well.
The simple rule is to first buy what you’ll use the most often and then upgrade as your needs and your skill level changes. You may find you need to make a purchase to finish something you’ve started, either because what you were using broke or couldn’t handle the job. That’s why it usually pays to spend a little more to get some extra capability even if you may not have an immediate need for it. And it’s always good to have extras of some tools for when your buddies are available to help you, or in case something breaks during use.
If you want to do as much of the work as possible and have the expertise, you also need welding equipment, special bodywork tools, and so forth. The necessary welding equipment can range from simple arc welders and flux-core MIG all the way to professional-type TIG. Similarly, bodywork tools can range from handheld dollies to plasma cutters. These can be fairly expensive and require considerable knowledge to use properly. If you have that knowledge, you probably already have the right equipment. If not, but can buy the equipment, it’s still not usually a good idea to learn as you go on a restoration project. If you do decide you want to take such an approach, it’s best to practice your welding, bodywork, and other skills on other vehicles before your restoration project. The potential for causing very expensive damage to either the car or yourself can be significant.
If you have any doubts about what you’re doing, you should probably farm the work out to an experienced and trusted shop that has the necessary equipment and expertise. This is almost always the case when it comes to rebuilding engines, transmissions, and the like. Throughout the book, I show some of the special tools and techniques such shops can provide. For now, it’s only necessary to identify any special tools you need using the factory service manual and/or advice from others who’ve done similar work before. Also identify the various sources from which you can purchase or borrow tools should you have an unexpected need for one.
Trim Removal and Repair
Always remove trim, moldings, and similar parts before more serious disassembly begins. This is mainly to protect these pieces from potential damage. Special tools really are mandatory in most cases to avoid damage to the parts while removing them. They are a relatively small investment, well worth it for any level of project.
Most of the trim, moldings, emblems, logos, and lettering on first generation Mustangs are held on with various forms of clips, nuts, and other fasteners. In most cases, they were not intended to be removed at all, so they weren’t attached with more normal nuts and bolts. They also tend to be relatively undisturbed and unprotected other than by, perhaps, a coating of wax. If the car has not been garaged or otherwise protected from the elements, there is probably some corrosion. The potential for other damage (impacts, scratches, etc.) is always present, too. It is a rare case when all of the original moldings and so forth can be reused. We were, thankfully, very lucky in this regard with our car.
Those doing a show-car restoration or building a survivor car usually keep the original parts, if at all possible. This is much more likely for a survivor car. While reproduction parts may be available for many or most of these items, they often do not match the originals perfectly. This can be due to a number of factors. The tooling used to create the reproductions may not precisely match the features of the factory tooling. Even when so-called original factory tooling is used to make the parts, there can still be a problem if the tooling is too worn. Ford replaced tooling on a regular basis during production. It is usually too expensive for an aftermarket company. Thus, there can still be differences if the tooling is worn beyond Ford’s specifications.
Differences in materials can also cause matching problems. Differences in alloys, plating processes, and other manufacturing variations from original factory to aftermarket parts can make the parts look, fit, and/or perform differently. Chrome-plated steel or aluminum may be substituted for stainless steel, for example. Specifications and processes for chrome plating may differ.
The point is that there truly is no substitute for most original parts. Higher quality reproductions will do the best job of replicating the factory parts and, in some cases, match them to the point where only an expert can tell the difference. For a show car where authenticity matters, this is what you want to go with. For a weekend cruiser or a daily driver, you may not be able to justify the extra expense of this level.
Instead, you may just want to recondition what you have. If you find extensive impact damage or corrosion, there’s usually no point in trying to save the original parts. However, if there is just some moderate scratching or pitting and/or some relatively small dents, etc., these can probably be fixed. A lot depends on the material—stainless steel is very forgiving, aluminum less so, chrome-plated steel or pot metal the least so.
In general, deal with any damage or dents first. Then, with the part back in proper form, the surface finish can be addressed. Stainless steel and aluminum can usually be rubbed with 0000-grade steel wool to remove most imperfections, and can then be polished to achieve the desired finish. This does not apply, however, if the finish is relatively dull. There are ways to restore such a finish, but these are best left to professionals. Mildly pitted chrome finishes can also be rubbed with 0000-grade steel wool and usually require no further attention. Significantly pitted chrome-plated parts often require stripping and rechroming. This is very expensive and cannot be done everywhere due to local laws. Also, the base material may not survive the process, depending on its condition.
The good news is that reproduction chrome parts generally look better than other material finishes. Chrome also makes it easier to paint recesses and other colored features. You can apply paint, let it set up, and then carefully remove it from only the chrome. There’s often no need for any masking.
Smaller items, such as emblems, letters, logos, etc., are usually made from either plastic or pot metal and are easier to replace than to recondition/repair. Modern molding technologies can actually yield very accurate reproductions, so lack of availability and/or cost would be the main reasons for trying to reuse the original parts. This furthers the point made earlier about consistency of appearance. If you replace one letter in a string, you’ll probably end up replacing all of them because the new and old items will not look the same.
Similarly, you don’t want nice new trim and old/worn lettering or logos, etc. One of the best reasons for replacing these items is they tend to become loose over time, and there really is no good way of securing them to the car. The material wears, corrodes, or breaks off and the fasteners don’t have enough material to hold onto anymore. The parts become loose, rattle, and can allow water to accumulate where you don’t want it to. Unless you’re doing a survivor vehicle or can’t get new replacement parts, you are generally better off replacing most of the small bits that attach to body panels than you are trying to make them look or fit better. Reconditioning those you must reuse requires extra care in ensuring the compatibility of any coatings, paints, etc., as well as choosing a repair method that prevents damage. If it’s a complex and/or delicate component, let a professional do the job. Otherwise, consult those who have successfully done such work for the best techniques.
Finding Replacement Parts
Remember: When it comes to parts, you get what you pay for. Perhaps the first questions to ask when shopping for a part is, “What do I really need,” and/or “What can I afford?”
If you’re building a daily driver and/or don’t have much of a budget, perhaps functionality is your primary concern. You don’t mind if the part looks and feels a little different, so long as it does the job. You can probably save some money and time looking for your parts in this case, but you shouldn’t expect the same overall quality or authentic look of a better-quality part. You need to ensure the part at least meets certain standards for performance, durability, and feasibility. Avoid poorly made (usually imported) parts that have a low price but aren’t made well enough to fit properly, work well enough, or last very long. Any retailer may sell such products, so make sure there is good return policy wherever you buy. Of course, it helps to deal with more established sources no matter what type of car you’re building. When you’re trying to keep costs low, however, you’re more likely to buy something online or from a private party, thus potentially increasing the chances of getting an inferior part.
If you buy online you should only buy from shops and/or individuals with a good return policy and, to the extent they are available, good customer reviews and feedback scores. It helps to know people who have bought from a particular seller and were satisfied with the parts. You can also go onto forums and see what others have to say about a given seller; you will likely also find more sources for the parts you need. The classifieds section of many forums is a great place to find parts, as are the websites and publications of local car clubs. Craigslist.org and eBay.com are wellknown sources for buying used items on the Internet, but Mustang owners also need to look at sites such as corral.net, stangnet.com, allfordmustangs.com, and vintage-mustang.com. (A larger list is provided in the Source Guide on page 192.) These types of online and/or local sources are generally the best places to start your search if you’re looking for something common and want to keep costs low.
Depending on the item you’re looking for, you may even be able to simply go to your local auto parts store. Many standard replacement parts are still available even though these cars are 40 or so years old. Also, don’t forget salvage yards either. While their quality varies, they offer some good potential, especially if they cater to specific vehicles such as Mustangs.
If you’re building a weekend cruiser or show car and are less concerned with cost than with quality, availability, and/or authenticity, you also want look at businesses specializing in restoration parts in general and Mustangs in particular. The largest and perhaps most widely known are companies such as Mustangs Plus, National Parts Depot (NPD), and Year One. They have Mustang-specific catalogs, sometimes even organized by generation, plus they tend to stock very large assortments of replacement parts and some aftermarket parts.
You can also go onto the Internet and find Ford- or Mustang-specific salvage yards, such as Mustang Village in San Bernadino, California. In some cases, you can also go to the websites of parts suppliers, such as Scott Drake Enterprises, Tony D. Branda Performance, Inc., or Distinctive Industries (Specialty Division), either to buy parts directly or to get the name of an authorized distributor. They can tell you what’s right for your car or, if authenticity is not a priority, what other options may be better.
Because we’re not restoring a show car or survivor car, authentic parts are not a requirement. For our weekend cruiser, we had a readily available supply of original and reproduction parts; therefore it was unusual that an unavailable part held up our project.
There are plenty of sources, but things like price, quality level, and customer service vary considerably among them. It’s a definite benefit to build relationships with qualified craftsman and concentrate most of your business on a smaller number of shops. They tend to take extra time to help you find what you need, often even if they don’t have it. If you always go to the source with the lowest price, your total cost will probably end up higher. Sure, you can go online to find great prices, but you won’t always get a quality part and you won’t be getting the added value of an experienced group of people who can provide you with invaluable information and assistance throughout the course of your build. Besides, one of the best parts of being involved in a restoration project is the people you meet and the relationships you make before and after it’s done.
Cataloging and Organizing Your Parts
As you are taking the vehicle apart and/or acquiring new parts to be installed, it is extremely helpful if you keep track of everything as you go. Sure, you can tell a left front fender from a right front fender, but what about the hundreds of little parts attached to the bigger pieces? It’s very difficult to remember how fasteners go back together. Even if a screw or bolt looks the same when it’s installed, there may be a difference in length that is more important than you might think. Some bolts go through water passages, may need seals, have a special thread, etc. Some screws need to be different lengths on the same part for specific reasons. The point is, there’s no way most people can remember all of this unless they do this type of work on a regular basis.
Rather than try to remember all the specifics, there are better ways to make sure the right parts go back in the right places. One simple way is to take a lot of digital photos during disassembly. With inexpensive digital cameras and camera phones readily available, there is no limit to how may photos you can take, other than time and the amount of memory you feel like paying for. Showing how a part looks before it comes apart and then showing related fasteners is one way to make sure you don’t lose track of things.
After you save the photos, you need to store the parts until you need them again. Large parts are not so much of a problem, but you should try to keep related parts together in a secure area.
Protect the parts after they’ve been removed, so they don’t get damaged from being walked into, spilled on, hit with overspray, becoming too hot or too cold, getting wet, whatever. Parts can be wrapped, bagged, and/or labeled. Smaller parts, like fasteners, emblems, etc., are best kept in labeled Ziploc-type bags. Put the bags in a small box near the parts the fasteners they go with. Organize everything into logical groups that you’ll remember, such as steering, suspension, and brakes. You can subdivide into front, rear, left, right, driver side, passenger side, etc., as you see fit.
The bottom line is that more information is better than less, so long as it makes sense to you. Having a separate shelf, drawer, or section of floor for the different vehicle sections is best, as long as you can ensure the parts are safe and undisturbed.
A final note: Sometimes it’s best to not disassemble things too far or, if you have to, to partially reassemble them before you store them for further reassembly. Obviously, components like the engine, transmission, and differential are mostly assembled before they go back into the car. This is most true with parts that require unique assembly process and/or when you will be reusing the cleaned-up original parts. An example is the seat belt fastening bolts. There is a certain trick to putting this seemingly simple assembly back together before it can be put into the car. This extra care in the beginning can save time and frustration later.
Whatever degree of disassembly you undertake with however many parts (new or reused), you must be able to find them come reassembly time. Everything is smoother if you organize what you have into a reasonable number of logical groups and keep a log of what is where. A simple inventory with some additional details goes a long way to ensure you have what you need when you need it.
If you really want to get fancy, restoration project management software is available. These programs help you keep track of all your parts and gauge the overall progress of the whole restoration against specific timelines and projections. Such software can even provide some generic milestones that are common to most restorations, in a flow path structure. You still have to plug in the estimated times (or use generic estimates), but the structure can be beneficial, especially for a novice. Even the most experienced restoration shops use such project management software. Whether you use software or you just draw up a plan and try to stick to it as best you can, the key is to anticipate what you need to do, do as much as you can as soon as you can without causing complications later, and leave enough flexibility to be able to make adjustments for the unexpected issues that arise.
Written by Frank Bohanan and Republished with Permission of CarTech Inc