Stripping Old Paint
There are only a handful of good ways to strip a car for paint: sanding, blasting, and chemical stripping. Unless the car is completely disassembled to a shell, our preferred method is good old-fashioned sanding with a dual-action sander and by hand since it offers more control of the medium and less dust to clean out of the car. Since we knew we wanted to go to steel, Ferre had his students use 3M 40-grit paper to strip away the two cheap resprays, the original paint, and most importantly, the accumulated areas of old repairs.

If there is one thing to remember about old repairs, it's that they are almost always unreliable from a quality and longevity standpoint. Antiquated or sloppy repair techniques are the norm since most classic cars went through a very long period of time when they were worth very little money. That means any necessary repairs were likely performed with an eye on budget versus quality. Also, the quality of fillers and glazes has improved over the years to the point that they can now be considered permanent.

Aggressive paper on a D/A is a great way to cut down the work required to remove paint, but remember to be cautious around body lines with the D/A. It's easy to distort or dull the sharpness of the steel lines with sanding, which will just create more work with glaze to rebuild them later. Use 40-grit to get the bulk of the material off, then address the scratches in the metal with 80-grit.

Rust & Damage Repair When working with a popular and well-supported classic car like our '68 Mustang, we have a couple of options when it comes to rusted and damaged panels: do we repair, or replace? The answer may not always be so simple, though.

For example, the passenger-side fender on our Mustang was an old reproduction piece that fit acceptably well, but not ideally. We still had the original fender, which had been damaged in a light impact (the quintessential fender-bender), and Ferre installed it back onto the Mustang out of curiosity. It was immediately obvious that it still fit the car perfectly from a body line and panel gap standpoint. After a thorough examination, Ferre determined that it would be worthwhile to pull and repair the original rather than make the replacement fit as well, or purchase a higher quality reproduction.

The fender did not look all that bad at first, just a light push, however to the eye of an experienced bodyman, there was a great deal of spread damage to recover, and that required a trained eye with the right tools and patience. This was a perfect challenge for one of Ferre's students, Manual Montoya. Ferre first used a slide hammer to pull the metal out from the point of impact. He then used a slapper and various hammers and dollies to rough in the shape. Montoya then spent a great deal of time hammering, forming, and sculpting the steel back to its original shape. The most challenging area was the fender flare and lip, which required a good deal of time to coax the steel back into its original form. It lost the battle though; Montoya and Ferre made it as good as new.

Once the filler discovered on the front quarter of the hood was removed, it was revealed that light damage from a minor impact on the nose many years ago had been hastily repaired, then covered with filler. While the hood looked good and showed no indication of damage from the outside (there were small hints on the inside) rather than respray it, a stud welder and slide hammer was used to pull the bent steel back into shape. The same process was used to pull numerous small dings on the top of the trunk lid.

After removing the taillights and discovering rusted areas, the taillight panel was deemed too much work to repair. Luckily, these panels are fairly simple to replace. As reported in our April issue [see "Get Your Tail In Shape!"], the panel was removed by the LATTC students by cutting away the centersection with metal shears, then drilling out the spot welds that attached the flange to the quarter-panels and trunk floor. The new piece from YearOne was slid in and tack welded into place like factory.

Proving once again that the rust you see is often only the tip of the iceberg, a small spot of rust in the lower front section of the passenger-side door was found to extend to the bottom of the door as well. When the weatherstripping was removed, a 4-inch section of rusted-out steel was revealed. Since crafting small patch panels is a must-have talent for any aspiring paint and body experts or fabricators, after cutting out the rust areas and neutralizing the rust inside, Ferre had several of his students compete to hammer out the best fitting patch panel for the outside corner, as well as the curved piece on the bottom side.

Now is also the time to make any alterations to the body if you have any such plans. For us, there was only one thing that always bothered us about '68 Mustangs: the new-for-'68 side marker lights and quarter-panel reflectors that just don't jive with the body lines. To comply with federal regs, Ford quickly created a one-year solution since the body style was slated to change the next year. When the body is bare steel, it's an easy fix; Montoya cut out the reflector indentions in the quarter-panel, tacked in flat steel, then ground everything smooth. He also filled in the marker lights on the front fenders.