Tuesday, May 13, 2008

What's this all about?

I've always wanted a classic Mustang convertible. I researched prices and realized that these classic cars are becoming rarer and higher priced every year not to mention that they are being exported out of the USA at an alarming rate. I decided that it was time to act before it was too late and they became out of reach (like the early Corvettes have become). I found this one in NY. Promises of it's originality and good condition prompted me to pull the trigger and purchase it.

Make: Ford
Model: Mustang
Body Style: Convertible
Engine: 289 V8 2V (C Code)
Trans: C4 automatic
Interior: Standard burgundy (dark red)
Exterior: Wimbledon White
Options: Power Top, drum (non-power) brakes, manual steering

The seller indicated that it had "minor" rust and that the passenger floor pan had been fiberglass patched. After about a month of negotiating and waiting, I received the car and inspected it in person. My heart sank as I crawled beneath and discovered the extensive rust damage under the vehicle. It wasn't in as bad shape as other salt belt cars I've seen but far worse than I was led to believe. The car wasn't sagging or anything but it needed attention ASAP. It's in need of new torque boxes, inner rockers, floor pans, and some minor frame rail repairs. I set out to find a restorer to do the rust repair for me since I felt squeamish about molesting the structural members of classic convertible since I didn't want to make the car worse than it already was.

Long story short, I found a guy at $55 an hour to do the work. I disassembled the car's interior and removed the drive train, fuel system, heater box, and brake lines. In short, removed everything I could think of from under the floor where the work would need to be done. Upon dissection, I found some new rust. Under the battery tray, both upper inner fender aprons, and I knocked out a chunk of rusted outer front frame rail where the bumper brackets attach to the frame rail.

A friend graciously agreed to haul the car to the shop on his massive flat bed trailer. After a day at the shop, the repair guy called and requoted the task including the newly found engine compartment rust and disassembly of the following items: Fenders, convertible top power assembly, firewall pad, doors, and rocker panel moldings. I felt the need to finish the disassembly myself but allow him to make the additional rust repairs. So, I considered how to get the car back from the shop without requiring the help of my very busy friend who runs a successful construction company. I decided that an engineless shell of a Mustang can't weight that much. I looked up some 68 convertible facts and decided that a stripped mustang probably doesn't weigh more than 1800 pounds and that it would likely be safe to haul it with my Honda Pilot via car dolly. The next Saturday, my brother and I rented a UHaul dolly and hauled the car back to my garage where I finished the disassembly.

The following Wednesday, I called the shop to arrange delivery when the restorer told me that his shop was involved in a fire and would be out of commission for 6 months. Wow... my car could have been "involved" in that fire. What was somebody trying to tell me?

I called around looking for another restorer and was quoted rates between $75 and $95 an hour (if I could get them to call me back at all) at which time I started to hear a little voice shouting at me: Do it yourself you lazy bastage!

It didn't take a genius to realize that I'd save literally thousands of dollars by doing it myself. Money that could be better utilized for the purchase of parts and improvements for the car... and tools!

Here's the car as it was advertised:
Looks fine doesn't it? Well it is fine, actually. If it weren't for the floor/engine compartment rust, the car would be a sweet ride. However, it really IS original and is in need of new seals (engine and interior) and general refurbishment of everything after 40 years.

So, it's an okay car. Not special other than being a convertible, but also not horrible. I felt I did just okay on the purchase and, even with the problems, am generally happy with the initial $8500 purchase price. Technically, the car COULD be driven as is but I wouldn't put my family in it in the condition of which it was delivered. So, this blog will journalize my "adventures" in the restoration of this car to a safe, daily driver.


  1. You do great work. I have a 68 convertible with all the same problems and more. Would you consider restoring a portion of my car.

    Ron U.

  2. Hi there!
    I've had this blog bookmarked for about a year now, and I just wanted to thank you so much for putting it up here. to be honest with you, I've followed much of what you're doing, and did it on my own '65 convertible.
    Although, my work is moving along at a much slower pace than yours appears to be doing, mainly because I'm 18 and trying to juggle college and work at the same time.

    But, again, I just wanted to thank you for posting all this information. It's blogs like these that really show how much help the internet really is.

    -Damien Grace (Crockett,CA)

  3. Thanks Damien. It's no problem at all. I enjoy doing it for my own reference and if people find it useful, all the better! It's awesome to see more of the younger generations (god, I sound like an old fart) reviving the classics!

  4. I 2nd that. I have also been following this blog for about a year and its a great reference for me.

    I'm in the same boat with a 67 vert. In the last year my dad and I have done full floor, inner rockers, rear frame rails, trunk and firewall. I just sprayed the inner cowl with ospho 2 hours ago. Anyway, there have been days when i would come out from under the car covered in rust and just depressed, but i'll read your blog and think its not that hard to fix.

    How do ya eat an elephant?

    One bit at a time.


  5. *edit
    One bite at a time.

  6. Thanks Merfsiu. I'm happy that you find it motivational. These projects look unbearable at first but as you said, one small step at a time and it becomes doable.

  7. Hello,

    Just wanted to say one word about your BLOG site...AWESOME!!!!!!!!!!!!!the detail about
    which you write and take photos is amazing.Your
    patience must be off the charts..
    I am currently restoring a 1967 SHELBY GT350
    and am a little behind where you are with your restoration project.The amount of things that I can relate to with what you are doing is amazing.I'll try to write more later...just keep those postings comming..Great JOB..


  8. Thanks Bob! Man, a GT350, you lucky dog. If you were inclined to blog your efforts on the Shelby, I think it would get quite a following. I know I'd watch it with great interest... if you were so inclined that is... hint hint. :-)

  9. Can't tell you how glad I am that you made the choice to do this resto yourself! "We" are a dying breed and far too many young enthusisasts have been raised with the idea that guys like us that "do" will "do" for them for a price and that somehow qualifies them as "do-ers" too. Sad.

    Keep fighting the good fight! Your work is awesome and it's fantastic that you share your experiences so well!

  10. Thanks! I appreciate the compliments.

  11. Awesome Blog! Please keep the posts coming. It helps with the dispair of my own 68 mustang convertible project. It has also been a huge educational tool for me. Great Job and Thank You for sharing!

  12. I appreciate all your hard work putting this up for everyone to see. It is task enough to figure in all the work needed to done let alone the write ups and photos to be entered on here...Great Job! I got a 68 vert gulfstream aqua I got for $1400, somebody did a real bad job of doing the pans and the owner just tucked it away in his garage for 20 years before deciding to let it go. Your write ups have helped alot....Thanks again...Ron in Iowa

  13. Thanks for the kind words Ron, I'm glad this blog is of some help to you. Good luck with your own vert!

  14. Hi. Thanks for the incredible blog. Your determination and attention to detail has motivated me to start fixing the rust myself on my 1965 Mercedes Benz Coupe. It's now a bare bodyshell and about halfway through repairs, making panels as I go along or cutting from donor sedans(not as many replacement panels available for MB and very expensive) Thanks again, Enjoying it a lot.

  15. Thanks JJ! I can imagine how difficult it would be if repro parts aren't as available as Mustang parts. You'd almost have to learn to be a master panel beater with English wheel, and all the other tools. Good luck with your project and more importantly, have fun!

  16. Hi. Another new 68 convertible owner. I know it needed more work than I wanted, but I didn't want to sped 15,000 to start. I got mine for 5,800 as a driver. Restored in 80's, but badly. It then sat in a barn for 30 yrs. prev owners grandson got it running. I drove it home and it stalled. Then got it runnin and boom. It ended up one of cylinders had a frozen ring that broke off and jammed. I know have a used 65 inline 6 coming to replace it.

    As I looked closer, it seems to need everything yours needed. I think your blog will be useful. My intent will be to use as driver this summer and tear down in fall. I need to learn welding, etc over summer.

    Ray in Cincinnati
    68 convertible.
    200ci, c4

  17. Hi,

    I guess there's no such thing as a necro-post when talking about vintage car restoration. I have a 66 ragtop and you're fast becoming my Bible. Your formatting, photos and writing are excellent.


    1. Thanks Richard! I'm happy that my blog is of help to you. Take care and have fun with your project.

  18. Hey, just stumbled about this gorgeous car. Would you mind to tell the paint used and the vendor code?
    I am looking now since a while without success. Everything seems more bright green metallic in real life...

    1. Hi Martin,

      The paint can says:

      Brand Code 13329
      OEM Code DT8816
      Gulf Stream Aqua Metallic