As promised last issue, we thought we’d backtrack a little and have a squiz at a question a couple of folk have raised with us, which is just how far gone can a Mustang be and still be rescued?
As it turns out, comprehensively stuffed is the short answer. As a talented panel- beater who worked on our GT-HO tribute car a few years ago opined, “You can fix anything if you have the time and, most importantly, the money.”
Leo at The Muscle Car Factory holds a similar view, with a twist. “Most of the time with these cars, it was mandatory to have the seal panels galvanised and chassis rails galvanised, along with the pillars. So I’m looking for a birdcage that’s intact. It can have a few minor rust holes, but generally they survive well. If it’s had a hard hit, or a tree has fallen on it, that’s a different story.”
The trick is that current build regs require a substantial part of the original car to be used, even though Leo believes this isn’t necessarily the most efficient way to go.
“I’d be happier if we could just use the old VIN,” he says. “There isn’t a part you can’t buy – even one side of the birdcage.”
His view is you would end up with a brand new ‘old’ car that would steer and handle better and be safer.
In any case, the process involves assessing what can be economically salvaged – not much in most cases – and putting the birdcage up on a jig to get it squared away.
“What people forget is these things weren’t straight when they came out of the factory.
If you were building a concours car, you’d actually have to reproduce some of the misalignments, such as the gapping in the endcaps near the quarter panels.
“Having a proper jigging system in place gives you something to measure off – you gotta make sure the foundation is okay. It’s all about the foundation, the gaps will tell you straight away. You can always cheat a little, but it has to be right.”
In fact he finds a near enough to clean sheet approach not only produces a better result, but is more economical. For example, where once upon a time people would restore a quarter panel or roof skin, now it’s simpler and better to replace them.
The same goes for floorpans. In the case of cosmetic panels, Leo points out that by the time you weld and repair, it’s going to distort and end up covered in filler – it’s much better simply to replace it.
“We use new car standards, because we have that time. When you’re talking $200k it needs to be award-winning. I build it for the person who appreciates the work, not the purist. I’ve never built a standard car.”
Plus, he reckons you have to have the right attitude. “You need a lot of patience and optimism to survive in this game,” he muses.
Speaking of optimism, he’s staggered at the long-term effect of the second iteration of the movie Gone in Sixty Seconds, starring ‘that’ Eleanor car. “The Eleanor is the one car funnily enough that has created such a worldwide industry, and lifted the whole car collector game. People don’t realise,” he says.
“About 70 percent of my business is Eleanor - you’re kidding aren’t you?
It’s growing, it’s amazing!”