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Haynes Project 50: 1965 Mustang Restoration - Part 2

Mustang Interior and tattered roof

The crew in the Haynes shop did something a little differently for the 50th anniversary of the company, buying a first generation Ford Mustang convertible and restoring it to showroom condition. This was Haynes project 50, and if you were lucky enough to be at the 2011 AAPEX trade show in Las Vegas, you might have seen it in person, before it was shipped off to the Haynes Museum in the UK.

In part one of the series, we had the car shipped to our shop from the barn in Oklahoma it had lived in for 25 years. We carefully took inventory of what needed to be done, and what was missing. Then we made a plan to methodically disassemble, restore/replace, and reassemble the car, one piece at a time. You can get all the granular details, down to the nuts and bolts, in our comprehensive Haynes Ford Mustang Restoration Manual, produced while we were restoring this very car.

Interior and convertible top

We were lucky in that the car had lived in a dry southern climate all of its existence, but the same environment that saves metal from rust burns out paint and eats rubber and vinyl. If the car had been a hard top the interior may have been salvageable, but it was a convertible, or literally a rag top; only a few tattered rags remained hanging from the original frame of the roof. Perhaps the best news though was the fact that the frame was still good and what was left of the top even went up and down with the switch.

One of the nice things about working on a car this old is that instead of being plastic and clips, it is mostly metal and all goes together with screws. And the nice thing about working on an early Ford Mustang, one of the most popular old cars these days, is that nearly every piece is available in new reproduction if you need it.

We did find a rather nasty surprise under one of the seats though.

opossum under seat of Mustang

Exterior body and trim

The best way to tackle a restoration like this is to take the vehicle completely apart before you start to fix, replace, and restore it. If you attempt a restoration on a car or truck a little bit at a time, or when time and money allow while you drive it, it rarely turns out as good as if you can do a complete "frame off" restoration. We put that in quotes because not every car out there has a frame, and on many that do, you don't have to go all the way down to the frame if it and the mounting hardware is in good condition.

Taking things apart is usually easier than putting it all back together, but it is vital that you keep track of the parts coming off, and where from, and organize than accordingly.

The biggest problem with old car disassembly is often removing screws that haven't budged in 25 years or more. Spray generously with a penetrating oil at least several hours before you want to remove them. Use a quality screwdriver that is still sharp. In a pinch, an impact driver, which converts the force of a hammer into rotational motion, will remove most screws but will often damage them in the process.

Using an impact driver

We are tearing this car down as far as possible, even further than our typical manual requires, because we need to strip off 50 years of oxidized paint, dirt, and surface rust. And it goes without saying, the cheap red respray which didn't even get into the door jambs, under the hood, or inside trunk has got to go. We budgeted into this project the considerable labor and money needed to media blast the body panels down to the bare metal and start fresh.

Much of the chrome-plated pot metal trim is too badly pitted to bother saving, since reproductions are readily available, but in a pinch, for rarer cars or pieces, the pits can often be filled and the parts re-chromed to be as good as new. The stainless and polished aluminum trim can be polished out and returned to brilliance, but there may be some minor dents or dings to knock out with a small hammer.

We will be returning the car to the original turquoise exterior with a parchment interior and top. Considering the rate at which Ford turned out Mustangs in 1965, you can bet when we are done the fit and finish are going to be much better than Dearborn ever produced.

In part one of Project 50 we took delivery of a fresh out of the barn 1965 Ford Mustang convertible and started rebuilding. In part three we will be stripping out the rest of the drivetrain and taking the body down to the bare shell, then organizing all the parts. Part four involves the dusty and hot work of media blasting the old shell, after bracing it properly, and beginning the engine rebuild. And in the finale, part five, we show you how it all came together to produce a car that looks better than it did when it rolled out of the factory in 1965.