In this HowTo we are going to take a look at the things you need to know before you dig deep into your pocket to restore a Classic Mustang.
The first thing that you have to understand is not all Mustangs are made the same. This is both a physical and economic consideration when selecting which model you want to restore.
First Generation Mustangs
If you want to get the most out of your time and money the first generation of mustangs prior to 1970 are the ones that pay back the most.
They are also the most rare because most of them have been put out to pasture and are long gone from wrecking yards and the average newspaper classifieds section.
This is not to say that other generations of Mustangs are not valuable to the individual that owns them but you have to understand that some cars are collectors items while others are a personal choice.
You can kind of look at it as the same difference between Chevrolet Chevelles which are very collectible from 1966 to 1970..maybe 1973 and their counterparts in the Buick / Pontiac subdivisions of General Motors that used the same or very similar body and drivetrain parts which are considered throwaway vehicles to most collectors.
Standard / GT or Shelby Mustangs
Within the Ford Mustang options you could purchase from a dealer were a variety of different Trim and Option Packages.
The most notable is the Shelby Mustang and this is not because it was the best performer / value but because it had a racing stigma attached to it.
In Fact it would have been possible to purchase a standard version Mustang with options that would easily outperform a Shelby Mustang for maybe half the price. You may even find custom order Mustangs direct from Ford that are more rare then a Shelby Mustang.
Tribute Cars / Fake Shelbys
If you are the Owner of a Standard Ford Mustang you should be very careful when considering the build of a shelby clone that would make your mustang look like a Shelby Mustang. It is very easy to destroy the value and marketability of your Mustang once the modifications are made to the body and drivetrain.
More then likely all of the parts in your build will be aftermarket parts that collectors will shy away from. The only people who will be willing to purchase such a Tribute or Clone will be those that have enough money to burn that they will drive the car regularly. No matter how well your build is completed you will never reach the same or even close to the same prices that a Shelby would bring.
Standard Model or GT Rebuilds
If building a Shelby Clone is not really something you should do then what options on Ford Manufactured Mustangs can make them worth a restoration?
Well this will depend on the options purchased by the first owner of the vehicle and how well you can restore to factory condition.
Although you can add options yourself and this may increase the value the best bang for the buck is starting with a vehicle that was ordered with all the options that make it worth something.
This is one reason you will often see really rusted and poor condition mustangs go for top dollar. Basically what they are selling is the VIN Number of the car with the restorer understanding the car is a total loss.
GT Cars are probably the best outfitted models. The exact definition of a GT is still not defined 40 years later but what you can expect is a higher grade interior with pony seat covers, Top and bottom consoles where available, Exterior stainless trim parts including side body moldings and gas cap and also upgraded wheels.
The drivetrain really does not play into consideration of a GT classification.
However drivetrain is also important when identifying a car that is worth restoring.
For the most part 4 speed manual transmissions are preferred and engines with 4 barrel carburetors increase not only the power of the engine but also its resale value.
High Output versions of engines bring a better value then standard engines even if the engine is larger. For instance in 1967 you may find a standard 289 engine, a 289 hipo engine, and a 302 in the very end of production year. The 289 HiPo engine which has a very similar horsepower rating of the 302 engine would be preferred.
In addition even a “small” big block 390 engine which was available in midyear 1960 mustangs would probably not bring as much money as a high output 289. It would not be until you reach the 428 engine where you would see a significant jump in value.
A limited slip 9 inch rear would be the best getter however since it was not standard with smaller engines it is not a problem to find small block engines mated with an 8 inch differential.
Power Adders like superchargers should only be added if they were original.
Turbo chargers, NOS systems and even aftermarket intakes and carburetors will actually detract from the value of the restored vehicle.
Remember you are not building it to drive you are building it to sell or to restore to its best condition.
The Three Base Models
There are three basic models of the Mustang which have been available since its inception. The most common and least valuable is the Hardtop model. Second to that would be the Convertible and with the most value you should look for a Fastback.
Aftermarket and used parts are available for all models of mustang but you will find it more difficult to restore specific areas of convertibles and fastback models.
Convertible top parts including the frame and actuator assembly are difficult to find. Your best bet is to contact a restoration parts dealer and ask what options you have.
Glass is another problem finding and quarter vent windows on the door can run you well over $200 each. This is the same cost for a new fender and more then the cost of a rear quarter panel.
Fold down seats for fastback models are normally not available or can cost quite a lot.
It is very important to inventory the parts that your car will require replacing to better see how much money you will spend up front.
It is very common to need to replace the cowl vent section that is in front of the front window. Water will remain in this area over time and cause rusting. This will result in water entering the passenger compartment and rusting out the floors.
Once there is rust in your floors under your front firewall then you will need to repair the frame and connecting torque boxes.
On Convertibles because water will eventually rust the floors throughout the vehicle you can expect heavy repairs on frame and torque boxes front and back.
Although frame pieces and floor pans are not that expensive and are also readily available it will also require significant time and skill to replace the parts correctly.
Making Repairs and Welding
When you make repairs to a classic car that you are restoring for sale then you must do so in a way that will match that of the factory.
Rust that is in the center of panels can be cut in with pieces of a replacement panel but rust that is at a weld joint will require extensive surgery to look correct. This may mean replacing two parts when only one part has most of the damage.
When welding in floor pans, patch panels, and repairing rusted sections you must keep the original patterns of these parts and use as many butt welds as possible to hide your work.
When you need to completely replace sections of frame you must match the weld locations and types. To simulate factory welds you will need to plug weld parts instead of simply mig welding the edges.
Good welding will mean the difference between a professional job that can get top dollar and a car that you will end up selling at a discount.
Although the full line of Mustangs from 1964 1/2 to 1970 are valuable you should not invest your time in a 6 cylinder model unless you are rebuilding it for a customer or as a clone. There are too many problems with 6cyl models that need to be addressed including total replacement of suspension and drivetrain parts. Unless you have deep pockets the conversion is not worth the time it takes to perform the work.
You should also look for cars that not only have very little rust but have not been modified.
When inspecting parts for rust remember it is much easier to hide repairs in the center of a panel then it is to simulate factory welds. If you have a lot of rust along weld areas it will mean sectioning both panels of the joint and not simply welding in a patch panel to eliminate the rust.