Mustang Update: Making This Pony Shine Again!

Mustang before cleaning

Don’t let the glamor shots fool you, our pony car project was looking rough when we got it home. A previous owner had decided to do some body work and respray the car. After years of being parked under a tarp and uncared for, the paint was cracked, peeling, oxidized, and fading. At first we planned on simply cleaning it, treating it with some glaze, and waxing it to a dull shine, but after running a wet rag over it we decided that our plan might not work. Now we typically like to take the least aggressive route possible when it comes to paint, but since this is going to be our events car, we decided to put some elbow grease into it. When we discovered the original paint was still hiding underneath, we knew we needed to reveal some of that original Wimbledon White. We didn’t want to lose all the history though, so we decided to take an interesting approach to preserving this cars paint, both old and new. Read about what we did and how we did it right after the break.

Polishing the Mustang

As mentioned earlier, we were going to leave the paint alone, but after simply running a wet rag over the roof we noticed a lot of paint wiped off. This is never a good sign, so we decided we needed to take some type of action. We had a lot of routes we could have taken, but I had a novel idea. The paint on the top of the car was sun baked and so dry that the slightest amount of water washed it all away. What was left underneath was patches of grey primer and the original creamy Wimbledon White. The grey patches gave the car a rattle can primer look and we certainly didn’t like the way it looked. I proposed that rather than leave it looking so ratty we take a calculated risk and clean off the newer paint and then polish the original paint and try to salvage as much of its patina as possible. Jesse was skeptical about my plan, as it was a big risk and would be labor intensive. Since the roof and trunk deck only had a few spots wearing newer paint and primer, I carefully polished a few small areas of both to show him what the rest of the car could look like.

Mustangs Polished Trunk

Once he saw that lovely original paint underneath, Jesse began to see my vision for our Mustang but still had his doubts. I saw it in my head, but lacked the words to fully describe what I was thinking. The best way I could put it was to state that I saw this car shining again, but not the way brand new paint shines. I saw it shining the way only old paint can shine. He didn’t want to lose all of this car’s history or its story, so we had to come to some sort of compromise and that’s exactly what we did. I mentioned earlier that the paint on the top of the car was in bad shape and while the paint on the sides was looking rough, it looked to be in better shape. So we focused our attention on the paint on all the horizontal surfaces. We were able to remove a large amount of the newer paint with nothing more than rags, water, buffing compound, and some elbow grease. There were however, some areas where the car had been painted with filler primer that required a bit more work to remove. For these areas and any spots where the newer paint wasn’t going to come off easily, we had to sand it using very fine wet sand paper.

Roof Before Polishing

We truly wish whoever painted this car would have stopped and thought about what they were doing before sanding and spraying it. In some areas they sanded all the way down to the metal and other areas didn’t show any signs of having been sanded at all. For the most part their lack of proper preparation worked to our benefit, but there are a few areas where they left the paint so thin it was a tedious and time consuming task to properly restore the original paint without sanding or buffing through it. The areas where they sanded all the way through the paint will either require applying new paint or some type of rust inhibitor. If you have any suggestions for these areas we would love to hear them.

Mustang Hood

After getting as much of the surfaces cleaned using rags and rubbing compound, we wet sanded all the horizontal surfaces with 800, 1000, 2000, and then did a quick run over the entire car with 3500 grit paper. This gave us a nice uniform surface across the entire car and got it ready for polishing. Now before hitting it with a buffer, we had a few spots of exposed body filler. We could have left those areas alone, but we discovered our local parts store carried color matched Wimbledon White spray paint. We sprayed these areas lightly with the paint and blended the edges the best we could. We hated to put any paint on the car, but we think it blended quite well and should help protect the factory applied filler underneath.

Cleaning Mustang Hood

Polishing can be a very time consuming and difficult job, but if there is one piece of advice I can give you, it’s to take your time and be careful. Our paint was so thin in spots that if we polished it too much we risked removing the little paint that was left. Since the car had been sanded prior to being resprayed, we knew we would never get all the scratches and swirls out. To be honest, we didn’t want to remove all of them, as they are part of this car’s story. Once we had finished the sanding process, we were left with a smooth but dull surface in need of polishing and some protection. To get any paint job to shine, it has to be smoothed out in stages and then properly protected. Using a small orbital buffer, I carefully polished every square inch of our Mustang. I could have used a large buffer and saved myself several hours of work, but given how thin our paint is, I knew I had to get it right the first time.

Glazing the Mustang

Since we went over the entire car with ultra fine sandpaper, we were able to start with a medium cut compound and work our way down from there. After going over the top of the car with the medium compound, working in small two foot or smaller sections, we stepped up to a fine cut compound and went over the entire car with this finishing compound. We could have probably stopped at this point, as the car was looking nice and shiny, but we had put this much work into it so we figured we might as well take it to the next level. To get it looking fantastic, we went over the top half of the car with a swirl remover. At this point we turned our attention to making sure the paint would stay looking good down the road. We applied a glaze to the entire car. Glaze helps to moisturize the paint and helped to give the paint more depth and clarity. After rubbing the glaze off, the paint was ready for wax.

Waxing the Mustang

Each step of this process filled us with more anticipation and brought us closer to having our Mustang looking great. The final stage of waxing was the most exciting of all the stages, as we finally got to see the completed product. Jesse’s wife was even so excited to see the completed car that she grabbed a rag and helped out (she even took the photo you see above)! Before we were even finished waxing it, we had people stopping by to ask us questions about it and to compliment us on how great it looked.

Finished Product

While the paint might not have been the most pressing of issues for our Mustang, it didn’t cost us much and gave us something to do while we waited for parts. Down the road we may remove all the newer paint that’s still on the car, but we think the mix of new and old tells a story. It tells the tale of a hard life, a previous restoration, and all the hard work we have already put into it. Hopefully we can leave our fingerprint on this Mustang and that the shining paint can mark the beginning of a bright new chapter in its life!

Recent Project Updates

WANT ADS

WANTED 1964 Pontiac GTO Looking for rust free post GTO. running gear optional. For resto mod Contact

WANTED 1988-1994 Toyota Pickup or 4Runner 200,000 miles or less, no rust Contact

WANTED 1972 Ford PINTO WAGON LOOKING FOR A RUST-FREE WAGON WEST COAST Contact

WANTED 1970-1972 Honda N600 or Z600 Rough cars that need restoring or for parts Contact

WANTED 1986 – 1987 Chevrolet El Camino SS or Choo Choo Mint low mileage car , prefer white Contact

Submit Your Want Ad

Comments

  1. Don

    Guys, just paint the damn thing, it isn’t like you’ve found a 1949 Ferrari or something, Ford made millions of these things.

    • rusty

      nah keep to your plan there are plenty of “pretty” stangs out there.

      • Don Andreina

        I like it. Individual and mean looking. Watch cars move out of the way when they see you in the mirror. Nice one guys.

    • Brian

      I’m sorry, but I have to go with Don on this, just paint it. Just clear out a garage bay, line it with plastic drop clothes and head to Harbor Freight for a cheap gun, compressor, hoses, etc. In the time you spent digging down to the original paint, you could have been well on your way in the prep work. Others will disagree, but, to me, the phrase patina has gone from meaning a dull gloss of original paint with minor imperfections to fried paint and just an excuse not to spend money on a paint job. If it were a 49 Studebaker tow truck with the orginal hand lettering from the Studebaker dealer it worked for on the door and fenders, I’d agree on no respray, but yeah, its a Mustang, paint it.

      • Brian

        Sorry, I meant Rusty, not Don, opps!

      • Brian

        Ahhh! Bring back the edit button! It’s too early for typing, going back to bed!

  2. rusty

    good stuff

    interested in following your journey.

  3. Skip Middleton

    I love it – let me know if you get bored

  4. Dale

    I fail to see the appeal of a shiny blotchy appearance. I don’t think the “history” or “patina” or what ever you want to call it is very attractive. Like Don says, just paint it. Just Google “$50.00 paint job” for some fun alternatives.

  5. jim s

    you right, repainting a car correctly costs a lot of money which will be better spent on the mechanics of the car. i think you doing what a lot of people have to do in order to stay in the hobby. this is looking more like a daily driver everyday. great job

  6. Jim

    I agree with Don and Dale, paint the thing already !!! It’s a 6cyl coupe for goodness sake, it’s the bottom of the rung as Mustangs go (no disrespect intended) and pulling that 4 lug suspension and shaky, stuttering 6cyl should be first on your list. Of course it’s your car but I just can’t see the point of dumping a bunch of money into a 6cyl car when it could be so much fun with a 289/4spd combo. My first car was a ’65 coupe with a mildly built 289 and C4 and I had a blast with it. Of course upgrading to the ’67 + year with options of an FE monster can get a motor head really excited !!

  7. Leo

    Im impressed by your effort but tend to think its time for a proper respray if you want the car to live its next chapter better than the prior times. if it wasn’t for my WCM Ultralight build i would probably be.prepping the 3000’BJ8 for a new paint job. They are only original once but im getting a few bubbles under the paint on the front shroud and the last thing i want is pinholes needing to be patched ( its aluminum remember).

  8. JW

    I like your plan, stay with it. That way if someone leans against it your not going to freak out like I would on our Mach1.

  9. Ken

    I’m in with the folks saying to paint it. Never did really get the patina thing, except maybe with unique vehicles.

    I was at the dentist the other day, he said he was gonna leave the patina on my teeth.

  10. DT

    Think about painting it with brushes,rustoleum thinned,weenie foam rollers,foam brushes,do a couple coats,sand inbetween,you might be surprised what you can achieve .shoot before the 1930s all cars were painted with brushes

  11. Brian

    Looks just fine. What a catch!!

  12. Will

    As I read your post I was thinking about how a respray would be better. But then I started reading the comments and I think you are right to not paint it. If this many people say paint it then your probably right not to. especially seeing as how you like to go against the grain when it comes to liking cars apart from the norm. If you want to look just like everyone else then paint it. if you listen to your own drummer leave it alone.

  13. Smitty

    It’s a Mustang. They’re a dime a dozen. One’s that look as nice as factory or better, I ignore. Ones like yours, I pay attention to. But ignore me, I’m a fan of the straight six so I don’t know nothin’.

  14. Dave Stewart

    Since you want to upgrade the fit and finish of the ‘Stang in the future why don’t you dip it now, plasti-dip. Check out dipyourcar.com. Shoot it with white plasti-dip now and when you are ready to do a real paint job you just peel off the plasti-dip and finish in real paint. It looks like you did all the prep work for a great temporary plasti-dip coating finish.

  15. Bryan Cohn

    Leave it as is! Pristine Mustang’s are dime a dozen, your’s has character. Cars are only original once, something that is overlooked and under appreciated IMHO.

    You can keep corrosion away from the bare metal bits very easily: Wax/polish them regularly. Bare metal will, if polished enough shine like chrome. Not possible you say? I’ve seen it and I’ve done it.

    As long as you keep the bare metal clean, polished and waxed it won’t corrode.

    Love the build guys, keep up the good work!

  16. Tom S.

    I can really feel that you want to treat this car with respect. Pull the trim and paint it in the original color. The car deserves it. Continue to resist the urge to turn it into something it’s not. Too many of these lo-po models have suffered from engine and suspension swaps, etc.

  17. Kenny

    For future reference, a gallon of Berryman’s carb cleaner and a green Scotchbrite pad will take off the thin paint and primer, while leaving the original paint if you don’t let it soak in or scrub too hard. For the bare metal areas, get yourself some Novacan copper patina from a stained glass supplier. Wipe it on and buff it out. It will darken after a couple weeks, giving you the patina you’re looking for.

  18. Jim-Bob

    I don’t know. I would likely leave it as-is for now, but plan on painting it later. The problem is that too much of the paint is now missing because of the previous body work and so it looks very uneven. If it were just normal wear that comes with age that would be different.

    Then again, you could also try repairing those areas with spray paint and blend it in with compound. Luckily for you, it is Wimbledon White, a color Ford used for years and, I believe, recently brought back. ( I actually bought some a while back to restore something from my Atomic Age history hobby: a vintage OCDM helmet.) It’s not as crazy as it sounds as I have gotten gun sprayed looking results with it before, patching my own ratty, original paint daily driver (yes…my oft-mentioned Geo Metro) as it too was painted in a color that was used for a long time and was still stocked by the parts store. I’ve been thinking of trying a complete, larger panel with this method (the hood or roof) just to see how far I can go with a base-clear spray paint paint job.

    • Jim-Bob

      I was also thinking that if you really wanted a set of steelies on it, why not just source a set of them off a Fox body Ford of the 70’s or 80’s? Any Fairmount, Thunderbird, LTD II, etc. should have a set if it came with factory hubcaps (only the SVO and Mk VII had 5 lug). They will be four lug and should have the same bolt circle as the early Mustang. They made millions of these things, so finding a set should be easy. Add a set of dog dish hubcaps (were they even available on an early Mustang?) and paint the wheels to match the rest of the car and you’ll have a perfect little low option early Mustang beater.

  19. Spike

    I am based in the UK so rust would be an issue why don’t you clear lacquer it then you have the best of both worlds.
    Regards
    Spike

  20. paul

    I understand what your doing here,your entering this upcoming rally with a “Barn Find” to advertise what you do, it is a rolling billboard for you as it sits, you could even put it in car shows to promote your name.Doing what you did gives you the option to paint later on or leave it as it is. My own car the Corvair has primer bleeding through all over & my friends are busting my chops to paint it but there is something very liberating about being able to park it anywhere, car shows or parking lots, whatever & not have to worry about a thing & in my case black, not my favorite choice in colors, but that won’t change if I do paint it. Keep the 6, plenty of 8’s to go around.

    • paul

      I might add that most of your trim came back well.

    • Don Andreina

      Nicely put.

  21. pbryantr

    I like this! New paint is for restomods with big honking V-8s and is akin to plastic surgery. You don’t want to become the “Joan Rivers” of 1965 6-cyl/3-spd Mustangs.

  22. The Other Doug M. (West Coast) Member

    Keep going with your plan. Way too many restored Mustangs out there. I’d walk out of my way to view your car, and really like the idea of preserving it as it is (add a clear-coat in semi-gloss to preserve it?). I would try to find someone who can do sign painting to make it look old and worn and do the Barn Find writing and logo as mentioned above. It would be awesome!! And they can even add some patina and accents in the process.

  23. fred

    My strategy , even in the 70’s, having no money and wanting a paint job was to prep the body myself, properly sanding every square inch, remove all the chrome and trim, then take it to the local $299 Maaco or other paint shop (after first checking recently painted cars to make sure they had a production painter who knew his stuff). Ended up with some fairly nice looking cars that way. Not sure I get the patina thing, other than on shop trucks.

    • Brian

      Yes, I’ve done this as well and also pretty happy with the result. Most of the bigger flaws were places I missed in prep, there were a few fish eyes and some orange peel, common to a low budget paint job, but I was impressed. Not sure if the paint jobs still start at $200 anymore, but they are cheaper than anyone else, that your not related to or frinds with! I believe each store is independently owned, but it seems like the quality of work is pretty consistant per store, so if you ask to see a few cars they just finished, you’ll get a pretty good idea of what the paint will look like, you just have to try to look past questionable prep work in some cases. They don’t have much time for prep, as you’d image, for less than $500, its all about shooting the paint and get it out. Cars that have rough bodies when they come in still have them when they leave, just shiner!

  24. Smitty

    I think people who don’t understand patina are the same type of people who refinish old furniture which greatly decreases the value. Original paint increases the value on high end old motorcycles and cars. It’s just taking a while to make its way down. A lot like when you watch “Antique Roadshow” and you can see the pain on people’s faces when the expert says, “If it was unrefinished it would be worth $80,000-100,000 but since you refinished it, it’s worth $15,000 on a good day”.

    • Brian

      I can apprieciate a car wearing it’s original paint, but these days alot of Patina seems to be created rather than preserved. Looking at some of the cars featured in magazines like Hot VWs, where some of these guys create “age and destress” its just amazing, almost an art! However, it just isn’t my thing. Its amazing to see 40-90 year old cars that wear their original paint, such as those often featured in Hemming’s Classic Car magazine, and the like. I understand not restoring these cars, they are, in a sense, historic artifacts, and are often studied by restorer to learn how the factory built them. But in the case of our Mustang here, the car has been repainted already and that paint has lost it’s life and I believe efforts to preserve a the paint on a car like this one would just be better spent preping it for a respray. To me, the temptation to make it look nice and shiny again is too much for me! But, hey, that just my opinion and I respect yours as well!

  25. John D

    They still make paint, you know . . .

  26. Artinoz

    Stick with your game plan.
    Anybody can have a white nicely painted pretty thing but you car is unique.
    I am with you in having a toy to play with without having a bank manager involved. Sure the brakes and suspension need fixing but unless you want to take it to the next Goodguys and rallycross it leave it as per 1964. To see that it is not a rustang. is worth more than a coat of paint. A freshly painted sixty year old is like putting a toupe . Go bald I say.

  27. 67rebelsst

    If you guys are happy that is what really matters. Have fun with it. If the next owner wants something different that is up to them. I like all cars both shiney and showing a little wear. I just hate rust. Can’t wait for your next update.

  28. Chuck Foster Chuck F (55chevy)

    I do like cars with natural patina, but this car has been repainted, patina comes from a weathered car with original paint, with a little primer showing and the more there is the less it looks cool. Some people like rusty ‘patina’ cars, but not me, that’s just eating into the metal. This Stang doesn’t have appealing patina at all, it has obvious sanding cuts through the paint, and looks unfinished. In other words, Paint the car!

  29. Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

    Lots of good arguments from both sides. Initially I wanted to leave the paint alone, but honestly it looked like someone had spray painted the top side with a can of primer. Not exactly a good look. We figured that going down to what was left of the original paint was a better option even if it didn’t look perfect. Sure, old original paint that hasn’t been messed with would have been best, but this is what we had to work with. Or budget is tight and our time is short, so this will have to do for now.

    • Brian

      Jessee – all opinions on paint aside, if your happy, I’m happy for you! Thinking back, some of my happiest car memories were made doing little jobs, usually with friends, that most people would have considered a complete waste of time. After all, working on old cars is supposed to be a hobby, which is an activity that done for enjoyment to refocus your mind from the worries of life. If you were able to do this and felt a sense of accomplishment when the task was done, then I say it was a complete success!

  30. Charles

    That poor little Mustang will look so much better with a fresh coat of paint, in the OE color no less.

    Patina is great if the car is original, looks great from 20 feet, and only has a couple of chips or small dings that don’t detract from the overall original appearance.

    Now you have to work your butts off to remove all of that polish off so that paint will stick.

  31. Neil

    Jesse, I know I’m a bit late to the party on this one, but what about a vinyl wrap? Several orders of magnitude cheaper than a respray, can be completed in a single day, and it will preserve what’s left of the paint underneath.

    If it were my car, that’s what I would do.

  32. Rene

    I really like what you did with the car. Great idea. I totally see where you’r comming from!

  33. BrianZ

    I like what you guys are doing. Keep it up the car shows are full of perfect cars. This is interesting, it gives the car character, and you have a great story to tell. You can always paint it later if you want to.

  34. Mike B.

    Inspirational! I too have a classic suffering from a bit too much “patina”. Mine has been in several accidents (all waay back in the ’70s) and the paint has been spotted in several times, so it is 4 different shades of the factory color. Plus it is all dinged and scratched to hell and back, with spots where old bondo has fallen away as well.

    BUT… when folks see it at a cruise or show, the first thing the say is “Wow, original paint!”, or “Oh man, it’s a survivor!”

    I have to laugh and tell them the paint is not “original”, just old. And that “survivor” is a relative term – yes, it is still here, so it survived :-)

    • Smitty

      I put that back to “better than factory” are all over the place. Lots of us love beat up old cars. Most people don’t drive them anymore, they’re museum pieces. And in a museum, 98% look the same.

  35. Chuck Black

    Do a clear coat over what you have to keep it in patina or repaint original color …

Leave A Comment

RULES: No profanity, politics, or personal attacks.

Become a member to add images to your comments.

*

Keep me in the conversation via email. Or subscribe without commenting.