Unless you were lucky or smart enough to pick up a project with a clean coat of paint already on it, you will at some point find yourself at this juncture. Your smarter side says to find someone reputable to take over the project for this phase. Your more adventurous and sometimes self-destructive side tells you it can't be that hard, and that you can do it yourself. We found a happy middle ground for our '66 Mustang, known as Project Street Fighter. Cris Gonzalez, owner of JCG Restorations and Customs in Oxnard, California, opened his shop's doors to us to help teach us how to make it happen. He also lent us his best body man, Leo Alcarzar, for the duration of the project to guide us through the steps. We also got Primo Valdovinos, Cris' lead fabricator to do the rust repair, patch panels, and some welding to clean up the Mustang. Between Leo, Primo, and I, there are over 350 hours of prepping, sanding, filling, welding, taping, painting, and polishing that went into this project. If we were to hand the keys over to JCG and ask them to do all of the work from start to finish, it would be around $8,000. Nevertheless, the more work you can do yourself, the more money you will save, and that's what we were after. Above all else, the idea was to learn the necessary skills, and document them for you. Know that we aren't passing Project Street Fighter off as a low-buck car, but it's not by any means a show-only car either. The idea was to get as close to show quality as possible, while doing it on a real-guy budget-a goal many of you share with us.

In the planning stage, you have to consider how much time and money to allow yourself. If you want to do everything to its highest possible quality, you'll find yourself on a slippery slope to joblessness and debt. If you are cutting corners and skipping steps, you'll end up with a lesser outcome. The goal is to pick your battles-and your materials-wisely.

So far, with exception of the transmission installation, the project has been done outdoors in the apartment complex parking lot where I live. The bare metal and highly porous qualities of body filler make it unwise to perform bodywork outside, especially with the damp morning air. The idea was to do the most of the grunt work myself, while leaving the crucial workings to the experts. With the car at JCG Restorations and Customs, we were in good hands. Before the disassembly began, we decided on a paint system. You may recall in last year's paint and body issue, we wrote about Summit's new line of paints, and we've been eager to try them out since then. The great thing about the Summit system is that it's very inexpensive, and there is a large selection of colors to choose from. Summit has made a one-stop shop for everything you need to do the job of painting your car, from start to finish. Because of the color selection, we upgraded from the black and orange combination of our rendering, to a charcoal and bright-orange metallic to make things a little more interesting.

Our final product was more impressive than we thought it would be. We spent minimal funds on the supplies, and traded money for time getting our hands dirty to help reduce the overall money spent. We were going in with a budget theme, and came out with a show quality paintjob.