We are lucky enough to know...
We are lucky enough to know a professional painter, Mark Johnson, who handled the application of primer and paint for us. Here, Johnson is mixing the Summit 2K Urethane Primer Surfacer, which features high build properties to more easily conceal low spots. It mixes 4:1 with Summit's Universal Activator.
Our ace in the hole was Mark Johnson. A good friend with more than 14 years of experience in the field, Johnson came to our rescue by guiding us in our foundation work; then in laying on the primer, paint, and clear. To watch him work is a thing of beauty, as his metal-shaping ability seems to be more of a gifted art than a learned skill. A twist here, a push there; we think we even saw him deliver the Dim Mak (Editor's note: you can Google that if you're curious) to the passenger fender at one point. We watched as he transformed one of the worst panels on the car into one of the straightest pieces of sheetmetal. If you look at the rest of the car, you can see the difference between our unskilled hands and his professional work. Still, with enough time, practice, and research, the average Joe can turn out quality results. And with every paint job you do, you get better and better--that is if you keep an open mind to criticism and consult the experts.
Restoring A Classic
While it now offers performance parts in addition to restoration components, Latemodel Restoration Supply in Hewitt, Texas, has always been the place to contact if you need to restore your aging Fox-body Mustang.
Johnson likes to prime one...
Johnson likes to prime one side of the car at a time, followed by the hood, roof, and trunk. This way he sees progress, and it helps break down a large job into smaller, more manageable parts. We laid down three coats of primer over the entire car.
The outer door-belt seals on our coupe had dry-rotted and fallen apart on both windows, which allowed a significant amount of wind noise, and subsequently draft air, to permeate the cabin. Add to that the fact that the door-seal weatherstripping was ripped and torn away, and you can see how a relatively quiet daily driver notchback could sound like a convertible with the top down.
In addition to the various weatherstrips that were shot, the plastic exterior moldings had taken a beating, too. The roof-rail molding had dry-rotted much like the rear-quarter windows, so it was replaced. While we were at it, we ordered a pair of new mirrors, new door-belt moldings (the flat molding at the bottom edge of the window), and a new cowl-vent grille.
Here's the driver side, cured...
Here's the driver side, cured and ready to be sanded. There are numerous ways to proceed from this point, including using a guidecoat of a dark color to help show the high and low spots. This wasn't an option on our truncated timetable, so we grabbed 400-grit paper and block-sanded the panels. Any low spots were filled in using Icing spot putty filler from the local NAPA Auto Parts store. The Icing putty uses a hardener, where most spot putties do not.
One of the most significant exterior changes you can make to an old Fox-body Mustang is to replace (or restore) the headlight assemblies. These turn a dull yellow and sometimes fill up with water. Latemodel has a host of lighting options, and we went with a set of Ultra Clear lamps. These have a slightly more modern look without looking too crazy. At the back of the car, we ditched the stock LX lamps and went for the SVO look. Similar to the '93 Cobra lenses, the SVO version simply have a black stripe rather than a dark gray one.
One product that really caught our eye was a 2-inch steel cowl-induction hood that we spied in Latemodel's MM&FF advertisement. We didn't want anything too tall for our daily driver, which regularly sees an 84-mile round-trip commute every day, and after installing the 2-inch piece, we'd say we made the right choice. Fit and finish are very good; there are provisions for the stock hood latch, prop rod, and underhood light, and the underside features a factory-type bracing so you can run the factory hood insulator/sound deadener. The downside is that it doesn't really offer any extra hood clearance, but we think there's a way to rework the inner frame work to make it happen if need be.
When we purchased the coupe, the previous owner gave us an extra passenger-side door and fender, along with another passenger-side rocker panel. We planned to use all three, but the fender was a '91-up fender, which has a larger wheel opening than the '90 and earlier ones. The plastic spats are subsequently different, so we had to make the original fender work. The door wasn't much better, and we decided that in the time it took to pull the wiring harness and swap out the door, we would have had the current one already filled, sanded, and in primer.