By Jared Hinderer
Four years ago I had no idea that a conversation I had with my uncle, while watching Mythbusters at 3 in the morning, would lead to one of the most rewarding experiences of my life so far.
During an episode when the hosts of the show were sifting through cars at a junkyard (trying to find a suitable car for a James Bond myth), I mentioned to my uncle how I thought it would be cool to get an old beat-up car and fix it up to be show-worthy. He agreed and said it would be a good experience for me and nonchalantly said to me, “Be on the lookout for something cool, like a Mustang or Camaro. I’ll keep an eye out too.” I did not think much of the comment; I mean, who was really going to buy a car for a 13-year-old?
I was hopeful, though, so I looked in the local papers every once in a while, but never really found anything, and eventually kind of left it alone.
Finally, I got a very surprising phone call from my uncle. I picked up my phone and the first thing I heard was, “Hey, I bought you a car; where do you want me to drop it off?” Astonished, I was finally able tell him to have it delivered to my grandpa’s shop where I had the space to work on it.
In fact, he had actually bought two cars. Two Ford Mustang coupes; a 1965 with a 6-cylinder motor and a 1966 with a 289 V8. He gave me first choice of whichever one I wanted, then he would keep the other for himself. For those of you that know cars, you know the choice was obvious, so I requested the V8.
That is the story of how I got it; now here is the story of what I did with it:
With the financial backing of my uncle, grandparents, and parents, I ordered a mountain of parts for it.
However, the first thing I did to the car was tear it down. I removed the bumpers, glass, grille, interior, everything. Upon removing the interior I found the only real rust that the car had. The floor pans had essentially been eaten by rust to the point where they were no longer safe.
However, by old car standards, it was a very minimal amount of rust, which I was able to fix in a few afternoons.
Once I got the car apart I started the task of getting the motor sorted out. The car ran when I got it (although it could not move due to a locked front left brake), but it had a very bad fuel leak at the carburetor that needed sorting out before it was safe run.
With a new carburetor and some new fuel and vacuum lines, the car ran great, so the fun began with brakes.
I want to say right now that I am so happy drum brakes are obsolete these days. Maybe it was because I was 13 and had not fully developed the mechanical skills I have now, but it took me three months, working for 45 minutes a couple days a week after school, to get the whole braking system replaced. My grandpa showed me on one brake how to do it, then essentially handed me the tools and said, “Do the rest.”
Prior to my endeavor of finishing the brakes he gave me the best advice I have ever hear for doing any sort of mechanical work: “Take your time and note exactly how you take everything off.” Then he told me I was on my own and that I would have no help. Too bad I did not heed his advice
After a few weeks of working after school I had finished the rear brakes. Proudly, I summoned my grandpa to inspect my work. Upon my summoning, I could tell he was trying his hardest not bust out laughing. When he and I both were looking at the job I had done, he calmly said to me, “Is that how it looked when you took it off?” After studying it for a minute, I started to think to myself and finally said, “Wait a minute! Did I do it all backwards?” He erupted in laughter and told me he had been watching me do it wrong the whole time, but wanted it to teach me a lesson. It did.
After I fixed my mistake, I went on to put on the front brakes, convert the car to a power brake system, and replace all of the lines. Once that was done, and a few other smaller projects, it was time for body and paintwork.
The car came to me in a nasty flat red primer color, without a single fender, door, or any other panel lining up. My uncle sent out someone that had done the paintwork on his Corvette to get a quote on what it would cost for the work to be done on my car, and to see what color I wanted the car painted. Naturally, I wanted red. But, not just red, I wanted “red that is brighter than the brightest red you can think of.”
Nine months and 9000 dollars later I had an almost-new looking 1966 Ford Mustang (sans interior) sitting in my garage. And might I add that it was, indeed, brighter than the brightest red I could think of.
Unfortunately, due to a lack of time on my part, that is where the car sat for over about a year with nothing done to it.
Finally, work began once again on it again. I got new wheels and tires for it, a decently rare set of five 1967 Mercury Cougar XR7 GT styled steel wheels with brand new Mastercraft tires, and got it back on the ground so I could get to sorting out the issues it developed from sitting so long without running. A new battery and some fuel treatment got it running again, barely, and a gas leak and transmission leak still remained. Fortunately, those two issues have seemed to go away on their own now that car is driven more.
This brings it up to 2012. In the past few weeks, I got it registered, insured, and plated, so it is road legal. I also gave it a tune up, adjusted the idle, installed a new modern distributer, and a new, upgraded ignition coil. I am happy to report I now have a Mustang that runs like new. I almost cannot believe how well it runs for being an original 46-year-old motor.
This has been a rewarding experience, and one I will never forget. From here on out, I will provide updates on my progress with the car in the final steps to the end of my restoration, and my further endeavors with my beloved classic. Please check back as I provide my periodic updates and enjoy the photos.