Restomodding is about doing something different, but making body modifications is not required. Yet, sometimes the stock Ford body just won’t work with what you want to do with your car. For these situations, some body changes may be in order.
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There are a few benefits to using stock body panels. If you have stock front fenders and damage one in an accident, you can simply locate another stock fender, bolt it into place, and add some paint. That is much easier than replacing a front fender customized with fender flare or bodywork. The job becomes a lot bigger when you have to replace a modified part.
Steel body parts are stronger when they are bolted together as the factory intended. For instance, all the shocktower-equipped cars have bolts across the top edge of the sides of the engine compartment where the fenders attach to the inner fenderwells. I’ve seen quite a few cars on the road without all these bolts in place. The bolts are very important to the structural integrity of the front sheetmetal. Without them, the strut towers and the inner fenderwells will start to fatigue. The fenderwells will then eventually crack and cause the shock towers to sag toward each other. The factory export brace helps to support the shock towers, but those fender-to-fenderwell bolts are still very important.
Some Restomod applications require modifying body parts to make your parts fit. Yet, not all barriers can be broken by bolt-on parts. Sometimes you need to modify or fabricate parts to achieve a certain look or goal. If you want to change your old stock door handles, you could use an old custom trick and shave (remove) the door handles. Then you can use electric solenoids with hidden pushbutton switches to actuate the latches. With new technology, you could even do away with the hidden pushbuttons and use an electronic remote opener on your key chain. Another custom door handle trick is to swap door handles from a newer model car or truck.
Some cars and trucks have fenderwell openings that hang too low or are too small for the size of tire you would like to run. Without flaring the fender openings, you can modify them to look and function better for your application. For instance, if you lower your stance and the fender lip hangs too low for your liking, you can cut the outer lip off and reattach it a couple of inches higher to keep the factory look. This can help you get your tire-to-fender clearance just right.
If you run a large tire in a frontwheel opening that doesn’t allow enough sweeping movement for turning and articulation, you might decide you want to widen the front fender opening. You can keep the factory appearance of the wheelwell opening by cutting a couple of inches from the outer lip off the car. Cut the lip in half and reattach it to the fender with a gap between the two sections. If you need more room to turn the tires, make the gap larger. After figuring out how much wider the opening is, fabricate another section to fill that gap. If this isn’t the kind of project you’re capable of doing well, find a reputable body shop to do it for you. Sometimes it’s hard to find all the trim pieces you need, even at wrecking yards or swap meets. You may want to simply remove the trim for a cleaner look. You can look into having custom trim pieces built at a high cost, or remove the trim and spend countless hours welding in new sections of steel to take its place. Differences in trim can be slight, but removing or replacing some or all of it might be essential in getting the look you want.
Probably the largest job in the history of removing body trim is the job of removing window trim and flushmounting windows. If it’s done right, it looks awesome. It gives your Restomod the clean appearance seen on new production cars. With the windows flushmounted and the trim removed, your car will also be more aerodynamic since the air won’t catch under all the extra edges. People I have talked to who have accomplished this huge task say they are very happy they did it, but they might not do it again.
When you pop the hood on your ride, people see more than just the engine. The shock towers and firewall stand out, especially since they are usually cluttered with electronic ignition components, and other parts people can’t seem to find a better place to mount. If you are interested in removing some of the clutter in your engine compartment, you can find hidden or less obvious places to mount your ignition boxes and coils. Wherever you mount these items, make sure you can still access them in a reasonable amount of time when they fail. If and when something fails, you might end up having to spend three hours to replace or troubleshoot something that you hid too well. Remember, don’t mount your fuel pressure regulator on your firewall, since some racetracks won’t let you race if the regulator is in the path of a scattering flywheel.
If you are interested in smoothing your firewall, there are a few ways to go about it. In the 1970s, guys would take a large sheet of aluminum and rivet it right to the firewall, with total disregard to how it looked or if it actually sealed engine fumes from getting into the car. These days, builders are taking more pride in their cars, so filled and smoothed firewalls are more common.
The firewall and cowl are highstress areas, since most unibody cars have fenderwells and export braces connected to them and full-frame cars have frame mounts connected to them. If you are going to smooth your firewall with body filler, be aware that firewalls are spot-welded to the cowl panel and other surrounding panels. If you simply fill the seams up with body filler without performing the following steps, the filler will probably crack. The only way to truly get a clean weld is to remove the spot welds, remove the panels, take all the surfaces down to bare metal, and weld them back up. That is a lot of extra work, but it keeps the weld from being contaminated by paint and 30 years of garbage that seeped between panels.
Fiberglass is a wonderful material. You can use it to build just about any body or interior dress-up panel. It’s easier to work with in small applications than steel, and it weighs much less.
Fiberglass companies are just like any other industry: some have highquality products, some have low-quality products. For instance, Brand U might have a history of turning out 80 percent of its unlimited line of products with poor quality and defects. The company may advertise in big publications to get a lot of brand recognition. Brand U sells to a lot of guys trying to build their car as cheap and light as possible, so the company may not care too much about the quality. Brand U might have horrible customer service when you call, after receiving your questionable parts, to ask them about the quality. Then, for instance, there is Brand V. This company has great quality, very few defects, good customer service, but doesn’t advertise too much. Be careful when choosing a company for buying your parts. Ask around and get a few opinions before laying down your money for some fiberglass parts. You’re better off spending a little extra for a better product because you really do get what you pay for.
A quality fiberglass part will have a good gel coat (without pin holes and air pockets), and it will fit without shaving the edges too much. Most fiberglass is shipped with a matte finish on the external surfaces, so it’s fairly hard to tell how smooth or wavy the surface of the gel coat is without putting some glossy paint on it.
A few fiberglass companies offer two different constructions for each one of their products. One is a lightweight version strictly built for saving weight, so they don’t have the internal bracing, and they are very light. These parts attach with pins, unlike factory parts. The second type of glass is a heavy-duty street version. It weighs more than the lightweight version, because it has internal bracing and extra layers of fiberglass for strength. The weight savings over steel components is still significant, and you can run them on the street. Some street parts offer attaching points for bolting in as stock sheetmetal, and they even have provisions for mounting factory trim and accessories. Check with the specific company before you purchase.
I’ve seen people running front and rear fiberglass bumpers on the street. They give the car the appearance of running a legal bumper to keep the local officials happy, unless anyone checks to see if it’s metal. These bumpers significantly reduce weight. They were designed for the purpose of reducing weight on drag cars and were never meant to be used on the street. Use them at your own risk.
You should be aware that fiberglass parts save weight, but obviously they are not as strong as the steel parts you replace. In an accident, the steel will have more integrity. Before you purchase fiberglass parts, talk to the supplier about how you plan on driving the car when it’s finished. That way, you will have assistance getting the strength of fiberglass parts you’ll need. You typically have to tell a supplier to add extra strength if you want it. If you’re going to drive with fiberglass on the street, you are better off getting glass parts that will last.
A typical lightweight, competitionstyle fiberglass hood weighs between 12 to 20 lbs. It looks correct on the outside, has little to no internal bracing to add strength, and keeps its original shape. This hood won’t have provisions for bolting to your car; it would be a pin-on style, which means you have to attach it to your car with quick-release racing pins. The street/heavy-duty/bolt-on fiberglass hoods are better for Restomod applications. A bolt-on glass hood weighs between 25 and 50 lbs, depending on the vehicle. Since the stock steel hood weighs between 67 and 110 lbs, the weight savings is significant. Heavy-duty fiberglass hoods have internal bracing to add strength and offer provisions for bolting on the original hood hinges and other parts in their original locations.
One company in particular offers a third level of heavy-duty hoods. U.S. Body Source’s Tech Hood line features stronger bracing and a fully finished underside for a better show appearance. If you have ever tried to clean the underside of a fiberglass hood, you would appreciate the clean, smooth finish. This typically adds about 10 lbs compared to standard heavy-duty hoods. Compared to the weight of a metal hood, it is still a good savings. With a bolt-on hood, you can save approximately 60 lbs. Since the front of the car weighs plenty more than the rear, a 60-lb savings is a huge step in the process of equalizing the front and rear weight distribution for better handling.
Companies like Crites Restoration Products, VFN Fiberglass, and U.S. Body Source offer fiberglass body parts and hoods in numerous configurations. They have a large line of fiberglass hoods for just about every Ford car. Any fiberglass part available through VFN Fiberglass is also available in carbon fiber. Speaking of carbon fiber hoods, if you have a Maverick and want a carbon fiber hood like the one on Derrick Yee’s Maverick featured in this book (including the cover), he is offering them for sale at www.maverickman.com
Ford and other auto manufacturers have been adding a lot of weight to their cars in the last 20 years with electronics, optional equipment, and safety devices. To offset this weight-gain, they put their cars on strict diets. In search of ways to trim the weight in their cars, they look to plastics in one form or another. The cheapest form is fiberglass. Take a look at the new cars and you will notice a liberal use of fiberglass in trim panels, fenders, and hoods. Some production cars have more than others. You can use this school of thought for putting your older Restomod on a diet. The ultimate diet would be to build the entire body out of fiberglass, much like the Cobra-style kit cars and Chevrolet Corvettes. So far, there are very few companies offering complete fiberglass bodies, including U.S. BodySource, which offers them for early Mustangs. Look to them for a complete shell to build your own featherweight bruiser.
The Promax Corporation is offering what it calls Ultimate Street Cars. Promax has been building serious street and racecars since 1984. Ultimate Street Cars are turnkey fiberglass versions of a few 1960s cars. When I say “versions,” I mean it is the design of a popular car that is built as an altered replica. The first Ultimate Street Car offering was a version of the Chevy Nova. The latest, which is called Vennom, is a version of the 1970 Ford Mustang. When you first look at it, you know it’s a 1970 Mustang. Then when you see Ford’s version next to it, you realize they aren’t the same. The quarter panels flow at a different angle, the nose of the car drops off a little more, the windows are all flush-mounted, the fenderwell openings are different, and more. All the body and floor panels are made of heavy-duty fiberglass, so they’ll never rust. The windows are all made of safety glass. The frames are available with many options, and are available in kit form or prebuilt by Promax. You could adapt a full road racing-suspension with a Modular 4.6-liter and a T-56, or just modify the chassis to accept the 2005 Ford GT running gear. The beauty of all Promax’s work is that the Vennom Mustang design was intended to utilize most of the standard Mustang trim pieces. Promax worked with top companies to help make the Vennom-specific parts like high-quality weather striping.
Spoilers, Air Dams, and Body Mods
There are plenty of opinions on air dams, spoilers, and ground-effects packages. Some people think they are ridiculous and are just for looks. On current production cars, they are used more for styling than for function. Coupes and family sedans are available with rear spoilers. If you take a look at all the new spoilers, you will notice a large percentage of them are very flat and neutral.
Rear spoilers and air dams have not always been for looks. In the late 1960s, Shelby started offering spoilers and air dams on the reworked Mustangs. Unlike the versions on most present-day cars, these original spoilers actually worked. They helped create downforce in the front and rear of the car to increase traction and handling at high speeds, especially on the road course. Getting the right size of front air dam and rear spoiler to balance the downforce was important, so testing was necessary to get it right. Too much downforce in the front and not enough in the rear makes for uncontrollable oversteer at high speeds. Too much in the rear and not enough in the front make for understeer conditions at high speed, so a balance is necessary.
Rear spoilers can play a huge part in the traction and downforce applied to the rear tires. Jim Chaparral proved this in the 1960s with the huge wing on the back of his racecar. Less obtrusive spoilers have been played with ever since. On a CMC (Camaro Mustang Challenge) car, a racer decided to install a taller sheetmetal rear spoiler. It was 6 inches tall and at about a 70-degree angle from the deck lid. He then drove it with and without the spoiler. With the extra downforce created by the spoiler, his track times improved dramatically because he could stay on the throttle entering the corners, which equated to faster exits. You don’t have to get too crazy on the street, but an adjustable aluminum rear spoiler might be just the ticket to increasing the fun factor when you hit the road course.
Like Ford engineers, racers have found out through testing that aerodynamics play a part in how well a car handles. Take a look at the F1 cars; they generate so much downforce with the aerodynamics of their cars that at speed, they could be driven upside down on the racetrack. There are a few ways to improve your aerodynamics for Restomod, whether on a road course, at 160 mph in the Pony Express road race, or even on the highway at 65 mph. Air getting under the front of your car creates wind resistance, drag, and sometimes enough lift to hamper steering stability. A good way to limit the air getting under the car is with a front air dam. An air dam with a splitter (a protruding flat front air dam that runs parallel to the ground) increases down force in the front end, which increases tire traction. At high speed (160+ mph), a large front air dam and splitter can create enough downforce to overwork a tire, causing it to heat up and fail. If you are going to try modifying your aerodynamics, do it in moderation.
Every car that has a radiator in the front has to let air into the engine compartment for cooling. Where does that air go after it passes through the radiator? Obviously, some of that air goes into the engine. The rest of the air builds pressure under the hood, before it flows out of the engine compartment down under the car. At high speed, if too much air gets trapped under the hood, it can cause the front end to lift a little. The air that travels under the car also causes drag. If you take a look at all the highdollar super cars and even some muscle cars, you’ll notice engine compartment venting in the side of front fenders.
These vents let air vent out the sides of the car instead of building up under the hood. This also helps keep the air flow through the engine compartment and help the engine run cooler, since the air isn’t under there long enough to get heated by exhaust and engine heat. These vents have been referred to as gills (like a fish) or louvers. There are very few people putting these gills on cars that were not factory equipped with them. Front-engine Ferraris, Dodge Vipers, Corvettes, first-generation Trans Ams, and high-dollar racecars have them, so why couldn’t you design and install an aesthetically pleasing set of gills on an early Mustang or Cougar?
Some racers simply prop the rear of the hood up with spacers. This allows the air to travel out of the engine compartment between the cowl and the rear of the hood. This seems to be effective and looks good on some cars, but it looks out of place on others. If you have a fiberglass cowl hood without bracing or an air box, the air can escape on its own. But this defeats the purpose of having a cowl hood to get cool air to the carburetor. With the big mouth/grill on early Fords, a lot of air gets forced into the engine compartment. The air pressure under the hood is higher than the air pressure that builds up at the cowl panel. All the hot air from the engine compartment tries to push past the carburetor and out the back of the scoop.
Another way to get air out from under the hood is to vent it directly out the top of the hood. Ford’s GT40, the Shelby Series 1, and some CAN AM cars use this design. This would take some serious work, since the top of the radiator would probably need to be tilted forward. Cut a fairly generous hole in the hood, and fabricate ducts to vent all the air from the radiator out the top of the hood.
Cars have not always been designed with aerodynamics in mind. In fact, most were designed to be visually appealing. Take a look at 1960s and 1970s cars. Most of them are shaped like bricks. Well, maybe not a brick, but close. Your everyday hot-rodder couldn’t care less about how the car cheats the wind. The guys who are finding ways to tune their bodies are the nutty guys running high-speed open-road racing, where you drive a ’68 Mustang bodied car at 220 or even 160 mph. After being a part of these racing events, you will notice people making small modifications here and there to get a few extra miles per hour on the top end. Fender flares are a good place to start. A fender flare that fits perfectly with the width and offset of your tires and wheels can make a difference in your top speed. The most aerodynamic fit is to have the outside edge of the tire as close to the outside edge of the fender lip as you can get. If the flare sticks out a couple of inches from the tire, it will cause air turbulence around the outside of the car. The fenders can catch a lot of air that could otherwise be flowing around the car.
The grille openings in the front of the car are massive on earlier body styles. The large grille gulps a lot of air that builds up in front of the radiator. The air that gets through the radiator and into the engine compartment gets caught under the hood or travels under the car. This all slows the car down. You can add some gills (vents) in the front fenders to allow trapped air to purge out the side of the car. Take a look at some high-dollar super cars for engine-compartment venting. Mark Deshetler noticed a difference in his Mustang; since he installed gills, his car has less lift at higher speeds. There are some remedies for this explained in the body mods section earlier in this chapter. Restomods could benefit from cheating the air a little bit.
Spoilers and air dams help cheat the wind and create downforce. They are covered earlier in this section. The headlight area is another problem area on the front of most cars. A lot of earlier cars have some sort of pocket around the headlight. Eric Pettersen got an extra 7 mph out of his Mustang on the 145-mph top-end charge just by adding some lexan covers over his headlight buckets. To get that same extra 7 mph, he would need to add about 15 to 20 hp. Imagine the difference in the cost of engine parts to gain 15 hp compared to spending a few bucks on lexan. Take a good look at your car and see if there are any modifications you could make to cheat the wind. Even if you are not going to drive your car at 220 mph, you could make a difference in your handling and fuel mileage.
When you mention fender flares, guys associate the term with the 1970s hot-rod vans and bell-bottom jeans. Like bell-bottom jeans, trends come back. What about vans? I digress. Fender flares don’t have to be big and gaudy. Small flares are adequate, subtle, and can look good. Fender flares need to serve one purpose. They need to allow more room for wide tires that don’t quite fit in the stock fenderwell. A wider tire will give you more traction, and a wider track width will give you more cornering stability. If you tub your car and put all the rubber between stock fender lips, you are limiting the track width of your car and its stability.
When I refer to flares, I’m not talking about a 7-inch fender flare because you want to put 345/35-17 tires on the back of your ’63 Falcon (which barely fits a 235-wide tire). As with everything in life, a little moderation is good. I’m talking about flares that give you about an extra inch of room to stick some wider tires inside the fender lips. Mini tubbing would be the first avenue you may want to pursue on the Falcon. If you want to set yourself apart from other cars and only need an extra inch of clearance, there are different ways you could go about flaring your fenders. Only some of the possible flaring techniques will be covered in this section. Of course, not all cars look great with flares of any type, and some bodies don’t lend themselves easily to flaring.
Back in the late 1960s, Trans Am racers were flaring the fenders in a subtle manner. The rules would not allow the cars to have any metal added, removed, or recontoured on the fenders. Teams resorted to heating and stretching the rear fenders within the limits of the rules since they were only bulged, not recontoured. This can be done to Restomods since part of Restomod gets its roots from the historic Trans Am cars. You can perform this extensive modification by removing the skin of the quarter panel around the outer perimeter to keep the perimeter body lines intact. Take another quarter panel from a donor car, then stretch it and shape it. Leaving some overlapping material on both panels over the wheelwell, cut the two panels in half near the centerline of the wheelwell opening. With the panels overlapped over the center of the wheelwell, pull them and stretch them until the bulges are uniform. Then tack-weld it back into place. With the quarter bulged, cut the overlapping material in the center and butt-weld the two halves together. There will be a gap on the inner fenderwell where it meets the outer skin. A panel will need to be fabricated to fill the fenderwell gap, and then tack it into place. The tack welds are followed by a stitch weld and all the finishing bodywork. The finished product is very subtle and nets about an extra inch or two of tire clearance.
You can flare the fenders without modifying the entire panel in a couple different ways. Some techniques will work better than others for your particular car. Ninety-nine percent of the time, rolling the fender lip or performing any type of fender flaring will damage the paint on the outer surface of the panel. For a small flare in the lip of the fender, you can sometimes do this with body tools if you have extensive experience. I’ve seen a fender-lip rolling tool utilized for rolling lips and minor flaring. Sometimes it’s necessary to make a cut in the inner fenderwell, near the point where it attaches to the outer panel, if hammering the fender does not get you enough space. The cut allows the panel to stretch a little further. Once the flare is made, don’t forget to weld up any open surfaces in the fenderwell. Contour the fender lip to your liking, accentuating the original design. If the front and rear fender lips don’t match, making them match might be a good idea.
Another style of flare allows you to keep some of the original body lines, but gives a subtle accent. Use your sharp felt-tip marker to lay all your lines out on the fender before you start. Make a cut in the top of the fender about an inch in from the outside edge of the fender. The cut runs almost from the doorjamb on the top of the fender, and nearly all the way to the headlight bezel. Small, perpendicular cuts are made in the fender to allow it to flare more easily. Some other relief cuts may be necessary to allow the panel to be stretched. Pull the outside panel to give yourself enough flare to clear the tire. There should be a slit open on the top of the fender. Cut a filler strip of sheetmetal to fill the gap. Tack weld every couple inches around the outside of the filler strip.
Rolling the Fender Lip
Instead of adding fender flares, you may only need to gain an extra half-inch of clearance to fit a tight tire in your fenderwell. Sometimes the tire fits in the wheelwell until you pull in and out of a driveway. Then the tires may rub on the inside of the wheelwell or on the outside fender lip. It’s also possible that the rear end (rear axle) is not centered in the body. Production car rear axles often lean a half-inch more toward one side than the other, which sometimes causes rubbing. If you need an inch more room on the inner wheelwell, you should get some mini-tubs installed. If you need a quarter-inch in one small spot, you may be able to use an air hammer with a blunt tip to add a little clearance, but this doesn’t work on all cars. This section is about getting a little more clearance on the outside of the tire.
Whatever you do, do not cut the fender lip in little sections to bend them up more easily or cut the fender lip off the wheel opening. You will reduce the strength of the fender and greatly increase the chance of slicing your tires. Nothing hurts more than slicing up a brand new set of tires unless you cut your hand on the fender lip, too.
Compared to the old days of sticking a baseball bat in the fenderwell and rolling the car back and forth, there are better ways to roll the fender lips. There are tools specifically designed for rolling fender lips. Find a good shop that has one or buy one for yourself, and then charge your friends to fix their cars so you can recoup the cost. The tool requires you to remove the tire and bolt the tool base in place of the wheel where it pivots. The tool will crack the paint on the inside of the lip. If you want to take a little extra precaution against the paint peeling all the way to the external edge of the fender lip, carefully use a razor knife to score the paint along the entire radius of the lip. It should be an 1⁄8-inch in from the outside edge of the lip. Before rolling the lip, keep in mind that the roller could distort or damage the outer fender. You could end up causing yourself some extra paint and bodywork, especially if you try to roll the lip too much or roll it too much all at once.
Sweep the tool back and forth while cranking the handle, until the large roller contacts the fender lip. Sweep it around the arc of the wheelwell. Tighten the roller a little, roll the lip some more, and then repeat until the desired amount of clearance is reached. Adjusting the roller a little at a time ensures you’ll stretch the metal a little bit at a time. If you adjust it too much, you’ll increase the possibility of distorting the outside edge of the fender. To reduce the possibility of flaking and rusting, treat the bare metal and use a little touch-up paint on the line you scored with the razor knife when you’re done.
With all of the lawyers, laws, and safety regulations, we’re all driving safer vehicles than ever before. Since Restomods are supposed to embrace new technologies in suspension, brakes, tires, and drivetrain, we should go the next step and embrace technological advances in safety equipment.
If you’re reading this book, there’s a good chance you have a lot of time, money, and pride invested in your car. Purchasing a fire extinguisher for placement in your car should be high on your priority list. You can purchase fire extinguishers in hardware stores and speed shops. Make sure you purchase an extinguisher for automotive use, since there are different extinguishing agents available for different types of fires. For your safety, make sure to purchase a DOTapproved extinguisher. To get the best extinguisher and advice, there are companies that exclusively make and sell fire systems. Safecraft Safety Equipment offers many different hand-held extinguishers, mounting brackets, and extinguisher systems specifically designed for cars, motorsports, and just about everything else.
To add some extra protection and insurance against fire (especially if you go to the track a lot), you can install an extinguisher system. Safecraft offers many options in extinguisher systems including 2, 3, 5, 10, and 20-lb Halon bottles. The different systems have 360-degree swiveling push, pull, and pneumatic discharge head options. Installing one of these systems is very easy. Mount the bottle out of the direct sunlight, install the activation cable, and run the discharge tubing and nozzles. Racers typically have discharge nozzles located in the engine compartment, in the passenger compartment near the driver, and around the fuel cell. Call Safecraft for installation suggestions and advice regarding the best extinguishing agents and systems for your application.
There are a few reasons to upgrade the side-view mirrors on your car (especially on cars built before the mid- 1970s). The newer mirrors are larger for safety purposes, have stronger hinge mechanisms, and are more aerodynamic. For example, the stock side mirrors on a ’66 Mustang are small, round units. It’s hard to look at them with only a quick glance. The pivot mechanism does not stand up well after a few years of normal driving with stock suspension. Add some stiff springs and shocks into the equation, and they start having a mind of their own. Old chrome mirrors were designed without concern for aerodynamics, but this began to change as early as the late 1970s. Still, even mirrors from the late 1970s don’t have the greatest hinge mechanisms. Newer Mustang, Chevrolet C5 Corvette, and Dodge Viper mirrors have a much better design and a larger viewing area. Depending on the body lines of your car, you can find a decent set of mirrors from a newer donor car that will mount and flow well. For an added bonus, if you found the right donor cars, you can add mirrors with electric movement, heaters, automatic dimmers, or turn signals.
MARTIN POND’S 1971 TORINO GT
There is an old saying that goes something like: “A mechanic’s car is the worst kind of car. It gets neglected, and when it gets worked on, the mechanic knows exactly how to just barely keep it running with the least amount of work.” While that may be true in most cases, Martin Pond and his 1971 Torino are an exception to the rule. Martin is a mechanic by trade, but in fact being a mechanic is more of a way of life for him. When he isn’t performing as the sole mechanic for Tidewater Tire (his auto repair business), or being a husband and a dad, he works on his own car for fun. The drive behind keeping his car in perfect running condition is knowing he will periodically get the chance to race it around local road courses and take it to local car shows.
Martin’s brother Randall Pond introduced him to open-track racing, and he’s been hooked ever since. So hooked, in fact, that it only took one month of owning the Torino to have the front and rear suspension upgraded and ready for the track. The front coil springs were swapped for 720-lb springs, the Shelby modification was performed on the upper control arms, a 1.25-inch Mustang front sway bar was installed, a pair of custom high-rate rear leaf springs with repositioned spring eyes was added, and KYB gas adjust shocks were installed on all four corners. Now the Torino GT was ready for some track time.
It didn’t take long for other modifications to slowly make their way to the GT. Martin knew he was getting plenty of power out of his 4V 351C, but he also knew the car could use a little diet. He came across a great deal on a 351W crate motor, and he knew swapping the Cleveland for a Windsor with aluminum GT40X heads would shave about 200 lbs from the front end of the car. The old, clunky slipper power-steering pump was replaced with a composite-case 5.0-liter Mustang pump. The cast-iron water pump was replaced with a 5.0 aluminum unit, and the accessory drive system was converted to a serpentine set-up using all Ford parts. The complete swap took a little off the straight-line performance, but the cornering performance was greatly improved. The weight of the battery was transferred to the rear of the car for further balance.
The transmission stayed a top loader 4-speed unit, but Martin has plans for a stout 6-speed conversion in the future. The clamping force between the billet steel flywheel and Centerforce pressure plate is handled by a Centerforce dual-friction disc. The differential is of 9-inch persuasion. An aluminum third member houses a 3.55:1 gear, Gold Track limited slip, and Daytona pinion retainer to persuade the 31-spline axles. Braking is handled by stock 11.5- inch front discs and 10×2.5-inch drums in the rear. So far, Martin has found success with this set-up coupled with Bendix brake pads and shoes. Covering the brakes are 16×8-inch Vintage 48 wheels with 4 inches of backspacing. The tires are some great-performing Yokohama AO32 255/50-16s in front and 275/50- 16s in the rear.
The interior is mostly stock and in pristine condition. Martin added some AutoMeter gauges so he could keep an eye on the important stuff. For some serious lateral support and safety, he added some Corbeau seats. A Hurst Competition Plus shifter handles gear-changing duties, a full Alpine stereo system adds non-mechanical entertainment, and a Ford Granada Sport model 3-spoke steering wheel fits nicely to round out the interior package.
The 1971 Torino GT body is covered with Vermillion Orange and accented by the black grill with hide-away headlights, shaker hood, chin spoiler, rear spoiler, full-length taillight panel,and gills on the quarter panels. Most of these were factory options in 1971, but the shaker hood was added before Martin purchased the car. The chin spoiler was added afterward to help with curb appeal and track performance.
Martin wants to thank to his wife Julie and their kids (Martin, Lauren, and Leigh) for their support on his Torino project, Fernando Yanez for giving up spare parts, Skye DeMaria for help with detailed custom touches, Emanuels Mufflers for the great exhaust work, and his brother Randall Pond for getting him involved in open-track racing. Of course, Martin wants to thank Nor Cal Shelby Club for having great track and other auto events for its members. There are still some modifications on the future upgrade list. The GT is a great all-around package, and it shows that the engineers at Ford designed more than one great body style in 1971. Martin is an impressive mechanic, especially since he still enjoys turning wrenches off the clock. If Martin ever wants to sell his Torino GT, this is one “mechanic’s car” you could buy and drive with confidence.
There are a few companies offering LED conversion kits. The Mustang Shop, Mustang Project, and Technostalgia offer complete Mustang LED conversion kits that really work, and they remove the guesswork from converting to LEDs because they use your original lenses and bezels. Mustang Project also offers LED conversions for Gran Torinos. Keep your eyes open for other applications from these companies. If you want to spend extra time making your own LED brake lights, there are a few companies offering round and oval LED units designed for 18-wheelers. These come as single-function brake lights, taillights, or flashers. They’re also available as multi-function units with turn lights, taillights, and brake lights. For safety’s sake, think of ways to convert to LEDs. If you don’t like LED taillights, but want to upgrade to a newer set of taillights, you can always take a look around at other production taillight lenses off new domestic or import cars. Maybe some of them can be adapted or grafted into your tail panel or bumper. With the number of different cars on the market, the possibilities out there are almost endless.
Newer taillights are much brighter and easier to see than just about any taillight made before 1995. This is especially true of cars built before 1970. With those, people could barely tell if you had your blinker on or if you were on the brakes. These days, the chrome-plated reflector behind the bulb makes a single bulb look like 35 LED lights. There are also production cars with actual LED brake lights. What’s really cool about LED lights is that they generate very little heat and require a very low amount of voltage. A brighter taillight can help save your car from getting rear ended by someone who isn’t paying attention.
Taking apart any new productioncar light and utilizing the reflectors, bulbs, or LEDs to custom-build some lights for your older car can create some great results. Just keep in mind that light bulbs generate heat, some more than others, and installing one too close to a reflector or lens could cause a fire or at least melt the lens.
There are a few companies offering LED conversion kits. The Mustang Shop, Mustang Project, and Technostalgia offer complete Mustang LED conversion kits that really work, and they remove the guesswork from converting to LEDs because they use your original lenses and bezels. Mustang Project also offers LED conversions for Gran Torinos. Keep your eyes open for other applications from these companies.
If you want to spend extra time making your own LED brake lights, there are a few companies offering round and oval LED units designed for 18-wheelers. These come as single-function brake lights, taillights, or flashers. They’re also available as multi-function units with turn lights, taillights, and brake lights. For safety’s sake, think of ways to convert to LEDs. If you don’t like LED taillights, but want to upgrade to a newer set of taillights, you can always take a look around at other production taillight lenses off new domestic or import cars. Maybe some of them can be adapted or grafted into your tail panel or bumper. With the number of different cars on the market, the possibilities out there are almost endless.
Third Brake Light
In addition to installing safer taillights, take a look at all the new third brake lights on production cars. Most of the coolest units are the slim LED units. Some are for mounting inside the car on the rear deck, or in the headliner, while some are for external mounting on the roofs of SUVs and sunk in the spoilers of sports cars. A few aftermarket companies offer custom third brake lights in plastic and billet housings. A cool way to mount a third brake light would be grafting a thin LED unit into a ’69 Mustang spoiler, or installing one in a custom headliner on a ’71 Torino. There are many options with the different mounting solutions, shapes, and sizes. Plus, some insurance companies offer discounts on policies if your car is equipped with a third brake light.
Stock T3 headlights did their job in the past, but are not as bright or as safe as the newer Halogen units. Halogen lights are direct replacements for original standard bulbs. They plug right into the original socket. If you want brighter high-tech headlights, you can upgrade to a Bright Drivers kit available from Detroit Speed and Engineering (DSE). DSE offers all the late-model features like moisture-proof Gortex one-way valves and replaceable bulbs. The lightweight polycarbonate lens is safer for on-track and everyday driving, and 30 times stronger than stock glass lenses. This kit, unlike others on the market, does not require hooking up relays or modifying the headlight bucket.
To go the extra mile, high-intensity discharge (HID) lights are even brighter, and they are the latest step in high-tech lighting. Sylvania offers HID conversion kits for dual round, quad round, dual rectangular, quad rectangular, and a couple of other headlight combinations/ applications. With some electrical wiring skills, one of their kits could be installed in an afternoon. Mounting the HID lights in the stock headlight housings is the easy part. HIDs come with a ballast resistor for each light assembly. You’ll need to mount those in close proximity to the lights. Then you’ll need to wire in the supplied wire harness and relay.
If you want to really update your Restomod, you can drive it anywhere, everywhere, and just about anytime— except when there’s snow and salt on the roads. In some parts of the country, you can drive your car everyday, but you’ll eventually get stuck driving in the rain. If your car was built before the 1980s, there is a high possibility your car is equipped with one of those annoying windshield wiper systems. You know what I am talking about, the ones with three speeds: off, high, and ludicrous speed. If you’re driving in a light rain or mist, you click the knob to the left and then back to off, so the wipers only sweep once. Unfortunately, you are forced to do this ritual every minute or two. Some builders have upgraded to systems from late-model cars equipped with the delay feature. Detroit Speed & Engineering has taken a good look at this problem, and has come up with a system that bolts into the stock location for a clean look. DSE has done the homework so you can reap the benefits of a wiper motor with high, low, and multiple delay speeds, without spending countless hours and amounts of brainpower trying to figure out how to do it yourself.
Some guys don’t want a wiper motor mounted on their firewall in the traditional location. For a really clean look, you can cut the wiper flange off the firewall and weld it to the firewall behind the left front fender, and then fill the hole where the wiper was originally. Finally, install a custom extended arm on the mechanism and move the wires. This leaves the firewall with a very clean, uncluttered look.
If you add a bunch of electrical components like electric fans, an electric water pump, fuel injection, a stereo system, etc., you’ll need to upgrade your charging system by installing a better battery and a higher-output alternator. The most popular battery on the market is made by Optima. Optima batteries are identified by the color of the top: red, yellow, or blue. The red-top battery is good for typical street car applications where the car is driven almost everyday and doesn’t have electric fans, fuel injection, and a big stereo. Yellow-top batteries are best suited for Restomod applications, especially if you don’t drive your car for a few weeks at a time and have some power draining accessories. Blue-top batteries are best suited for marine applications.
Optima batteries have a unique Spiralcell technology that provides features standard batteries don’t have. The cells have more surface area with closer spacing and the ability to use higher-purity lead. This equals lower resistance, quicker charge acceptance, better shelf life, and more battery power. The plates are immobilized, which translates to improved vibration resistance. These plates are much better for Restomod cars, since they will last longer under hard driving with stiff suspensions.
Car batteries have two different types of terminals: top posts and side terminals. Optima batteries come in two configurations. They either have just top posts, or top posts and side terminals. Buying a dual-terminal battery will allow for extra connections you may need to make for extra accessories.
Optima Batteries can vent if they’re severely overcharged or if the alternator or regulator produced more than 15 volts for extended periods. There are two safety valves that will purge excess pressure and then reseal completely. An alternator overcharge condition is very rare, and you should never experience one. On the other hand, a standard battery outgasses continuously while it charges and is prone to leaking, which causes corrosion around the battery location. Optima batteries do not leak, which helps control corrosion around your battery tray or surrounding area.
Mounting the battery in the trunk is a good way to move 25 to 40 lbs to the rear of the car, which is a great start in a process of balancing the weight ratio between the front and rear. There are a few different ways to mount the battery in the trunk. You can put it in a racingapproved plastic or metal vented battery box, or you can mount it in an open-air battery mount like the ones shown in the Optima battery picture. If you are going to mount a battery in an open-air mount in the trunk, only use a sealed battery, since you don’t want poisonous gasses in your trunk.
Basic Electrical and Wiring
As with any other part of Restomod, or any kind of hot rodding for that matter, it’s a good idea to do things the right way. The electrical system should not be treated like an afterthought. There are good and bad ways to perform every part of your project. Why do something half-way, when spending a little extra time can produce something so much better? This philosophy is especially true for the electrical system, since problems there can be very frustrating to find.
Electrical wires are available in different qualities. There’s the normal wire you get at the local hardware store, and there is quality wire. The quality wire is called cross-linked wire. It uses polyethylene insulation to ensure it is durable for an automotive environment. Wire used on a car needs to have good abrasion resistance and the insulation needs to stand up to dirt, oil, and temperatures up to 275 degrees Fahrenheit. Crosslinked wire is resistant to kinks, which is a good thing for wires you pull through panels and around accessories. It would be a big headache to completely wire your project and have a gremlin in your wiring because you kinked a couple of wires during installation. Maybe your fuel injection just won’t run right. Later you find out that a kink caused too much resistance in a wire for your fuel injection, which requires a certain signal, to run correctly. Cross-linked wire is available in bulk from automotive wiring companies.
Not every project needs to have a completely new wire harness. Some projects need a new fuse panel in addition to the stock panel. Either way, there are a lot of aftermarket wiring companies offering different solutions. Two good companies that come to mind are American Auto Wire and Painless Performance Wiring. They both offer good solutions to just about any custom wiring job. The better companies offer harnesses that have wires printed with labels, not just a stick-on label that can fall off during installation. The labels are still going to be visible years later to help troubleshoot a problem. If you want a stock wiring harness, American Auto Wire can get you what you need. There are completely detailed wiring schematics available for just about every American automobile, which can be helpful when wiring a car.
When changing anything or adding components to your electrical system, it’s important to make good connections. Using crimped hardware-store butt-connectors to splice wires is fine, but splicing using solder and heat-shrink tubing would last longer and be more moisture-resistant. For connecting an accessory in an area that might get any sort of moisture, there are weatherproof electrical connectors available. The best ones on the market are called Weather Pack connectors. The auto manufacturers use them to ensure electrical connections have the best possible connection in extreme environments. Weather Pack connectors have a quick-release male (tower) and female (shroud) connector. Inside the connectors are a male and female terminal. A seal is also installed on the wire to ensure a weather-resistant connection. The nice thing about Weather Pack connectors is the time they can save on wiring, since they’re designed to be used without solder. The terminals have a small, cross-hatched pad that the wire is crimped to for a positive lock. Special wire crimpers are needed for assembling Weather Pack connectors.
What size alternator do you think your car should have? I found a good source of information on how to pick the right starter and an alternator with the proper voltage for your application. Check out the Powermaster Motorsports website. It has a chart and some questions that will point you in the right direction. Alternators come in many different shapes, sizes, and outputs. With the new technology and cramped modern engine compartments, alternator cases and starters are getting smaller, which also means you can benefit on your older car, too. If you need to make room for your twin turbos, or just shed a few pounds, there are some small alternators and aftermarket brackets available to help.
There is no limit to what you can do with the interior of a Restomod. Sometimes you only need stock equipment with a few extra gauges, but upgrading to some late-model amenities or going all out with new everything is good, too. Some early factory parts are not as safe as new factory and aftermarket parts, so upgrading could save your life. There are laws and federal mandates that require auto manufacturers to include certain safety features in new cars. They are constantly growing stricter every model year, requiring manufactures to upgrade their safety features.
The seats in a car are thought of as a comfort item, but they are often overlooked as a safety feature. Lowback bucket seats work well and go with a stock-type interior. Unfortunately, they are not safe in a rearimpact accident. Imagine you are stopped at a light and someone hits you doing 10 mph or more. Your head will snap back. Without a headrest to limit travel, you run the risk of serious neck injuries. Take a look at brand-new car seats; they all have adjustable headrests for safety reasons.
Seats are also a part of comfort and control. A seat with side bolsters on the back and seat bottom help support your thighs and body from moving side to side as you maneuver your car through corners. You can get seats with this lateral control from late-model factory cars and aftermarket companies. Factory seats are built for the average-sized person, so they’re not typically as supportive as an aftermarket seat purchased for your size. You can order some aftermarket seats in different widths to fit your rear end better. Since Restomods are meant to be driven, your comfort is important.
If you have a certain type of material you want to upholster your interior and seats with, you can send it to a custom seat manufacturer. Then you can get a set of seats made using your material. Good upholstery shops can reupholster any seat with your choice of fabric, if you have a set of seats you want to keep. If you don’t have a huge cage in your car and you still have a back seat, you can get material to cover your seat and make it match your front seats. Some rear seats out of late-model cars will fit in older cars with very little modification. If you have mini-tubbed your car, you will most likely need to narrow your rear seat or at least modify the seat frame to better fit the larger inner wheelwells.
If you’re going to drive your car on a regular basis or drive it on long trips, like on the Hot Rod Power Tour, you’ll need some extra amenities. One item to consider is a center console with an armrest, at least two cup holders, and possibly a place to put your cell phone or other electronic devices. Only highoptioned early cars had consoles. Those consoles have a small compartment for vehicle registration and tickets, a little room for a gauge or two, and a place to rest your seat belt buckle when it isn’t in use. Modern consoles have extra accessory ports for laptop converters and cell phone chargers, cup holders, CD holders, hidden compartments, and adjustable arm rests. If you do some research and modifications, you can fit a late-model console in your early-model Restomod. Getting a late-model console to fit usually requires modifying the console, mounting the brackets on the floorpan and transmission tunnel, and sometimes modifying the dash.
If you’re going to build a console, make it as useful as possible. Integrate some cup holders from a late-model car, truck, or van. Adding at least one cup holder will be very useful. It doesn’t get much worse than stopping for a bite to eat and not having a place to set your soda. If there are no cup holders, it usually ends up resting between your legs. If you are unlucky, you will end up wearing the soda or spilling it in your car. I have also heard that some areas of the U.S. have laws against driving with a drink resting between your thighs.
A good set of pedal pads can look racy and actually give your more grip and control with your feet. A stock rubber pedal pad might allow your shoes to get better traction on the pedal, but make sure it is attached well. If a pad were to slide off while driving, it could be dangerous. Once you get used to the feel and size of your pedals, a change could affect your driving and foot positioning. A dead pedal is very useful for the driver. It gives you a place to support and control your body weight during hard cornering. It also gives you a place to rest your foot, instead of on your brake or clutch pedal. They are starting to become standard equipment on new sports cars. Some cars have their seats so far from the firewall that the passenger can’t comfortably reach it with their feet (if at all). This would be a perfect reason to install a dead pedal.
Dashboard and Gauges
Customizing a dashboard is not new to hot-rodding, but the trends have become more elaborate and more detailed than before. A few years ago, guys would just remove the gauge pod, replace it with a little aluminum insert, and squeeze in a few extra gauges. Now builders are going the extra mile to cleanly replace large sections of the dash or replace the entire thing. Replacing the factory gauges with aftermarket units brings a whole new step to modifying the dash. Most of them have the turn-signal indicators, emergency-brake warning light, and high-beam indicator as an integral part of the gauge face. For safety reasons, you should find the wires connecting to these indicators and wire them into some small LED lights on the new dash, so you’ll still have indicators. LEDs are available in different colors and sizes.
The typical street car has a speedometer, tachometer, oil pressure gauge, volt gauge, fuel level gauge, and coolant temperature gauge. That set-up is great until you get out on a road course or go to an open-road racing event. Once you start driving your car harder, you better start monitoring oil temperature and transmission temperature (for automatics). The engine and transmission temps can soar when you’re racing. If you don’t monitor them, you might have serious failure without realizing there was a problem.
Gauge placement should also be taken into consideration. There may be a better way to organize your gauges. The old trick for racecars is to rotate all the gauges so at average operating speed and conditions, the needles point in the same direction. If all the needles were pointing straight up, the driver knew the car was operating normally. The last thing you want to do is pull your eyes off the road for any length of time at high speeds. For that same reason, placing your gauges up on the dash and closer to eye level is better if you plan on racing your car. Placing gauges on the console was an easy and cheap way for Ford to add factory special-option instruments. Taking your eyes off the road to look down at your console-mounted gauges can be dangerous. The closer you mount your instruments to your line of sight, the safer and more convenient they’ll be. The Shelby gauge pod on the top of the 1965 GT350 is a good example of highmounted gauges.
Not every Restomod on the planet needs air conditioning. Some Restomods are set up for more of an all-out performance experience, and some cars are built with a little more comfort in mind. Some cars are equipped with air conditioning from the factory, but some weren’t. If you want air conditioning in your car and don’t want to use the original factory system, you can install an aftermarket system.
Air-conditioning systems are comprised of a few key components, the largest of which is the evaporator. It typically fits up under the dashboard. Air is cooled or heated in the evaporator and then blown out of the unit by the integrated blower fan motor. The compressor is driven by the engine crankshaft. It sucks refrigerant from the evaporator and is used to pressurize the refrigerant and pump it through the condenser. The condenser is the large component that resembles a radiator. It’s used to dissipate the refrigerant heat generated by the compressor. The refrigerant then flows through the drier, which removes water from the refrigerant. The refrigerant then flows to the evaporator where the process starts all over again.
The most popular aftermarket air conditioning manufacturer is Vintage Air. Vintage Air sells Sure Fit systems for many older Ford cars and trucks. These kits take the guesswork out of installing aftermarket air conditioning. They come with all the parts you will need for installation, and are tailored for specific applications. Vintage Air also offers all the parts separately for people who want a custom-fit kit. The kits may fit in custom locations better; perform better because you want a bigger evaporator; and may look better because you can get upgraded controls, fittings, hoses, dash vents, and compressors. Vintage Air offers custom accessory brackets for separate components, or the compact Front Runner accessory drive package.
Installing a Vintage Air Sure Fit kit or a custom-tailored kit is quite an extensive process. The three major installation hurdles are the refrigerant/ air conditioning system, the electrical system (for operating controls, safety system, and thermostatic system), and the engine coolant system (where the heat comes from). Some of the processes for installing a custom-tailored kit are covered in the following series of photographs.
Written by Tony Huntimer and Posted with Permission of CarTechBooks