Progress Thread Almost Stock Rebuild (89 GT)

PJV9126

Member
May 13, 2011
30
20
18
Mass.
Hey All,

Long time lurker...figure it was about time to document my journey as I am starting to rebuild my car. Lot of questions are starting to come up and I am sure you all can help me out.

A little background…

Car is a 1989 Mustang GT with a 5 speed. It was purchased in 2011 (I was a freshman in college) for $3500 with ~83k miles on it and was pretty much 100% stock at the time. I recall searching for 6+ months to find this one, I wanted one that was pretty much 100% stock. I bought it from Rick Menard in Chester, NH (if that name rings a bell for anyone). It has served me well since, as it has taken me through my first internships and then jobs. It was with me when I met my now fiance and took us on a lot of our dates and trips together. When I bought it I knew it had been a New England car its whole life so it never looked amazing. The paint was always faded and a lot of the bare metal had surface rust. I knew eventually it would need some work.

[AS PURCHASED]

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I paid to have it stored indoors every winter and would drive it spring to fall. In the years since I have done some maintenance but very little performance work to it. It has gotten new struts, shocks, radiator, distributor, water pump, heater core, headers, exhaust, and various other small bits, as needed. When I bought it I knew it had some slight strut tower rust but figured that would be tackled later on.

Well, the time has come. I have my own place with a garage, and am getting married to the girl I met around the time I bought this car. I am hoping to document my journey here, as well as seek advice from everyone on here as to the best way to restore my old friend.

A little clarification on the thread title....I prefer cars that are "almost stock". In my mind, there are enough modded foxes running around that I don't need to add to it. So if I can tastefully mod the car while keeping it stock appearing I will. If I can make modifications for weight/other where no one will see them I will. But overall, I do want to keep it more on the stock side than the modded side of things.

No to quickly get everyone up to speed on where the project currently sits. The patient was prepped for surgery in the middle of January, 2020 with approximately 113k miles. This was the engine bay before any work began.

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I made good progress with the intent being to pull the engine and finally tackle the strut tower rust that I knew lurked beneath.

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PJV9126

Member
May 13, 2011
30
20
18
Mass.
This is pretty much what the car looks like today.

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Which leads me to my first questions.

1. Any recommendations on engine bay paint? I am keeping it gloss black to match the exterior.

2. Any recommendations on a machine shop in the New England area? I have not dived into the engine yet but I am thinking I want a proper rebuild on it.
 

PJV9126

Member
May 13, 2011
30
20
18
Mass.
And lastly, some pictures of what the lovely New England roads do to our cars.

Passenger windshield corner
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Fenders
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Passenger Frame Rail

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Passenger side, outer fender apron(?)..by the two vacuum canisters.
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BlakeusMaximus

Still got to try a little lube on my speedo head
Jul 12, 2017
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Damn, I feel bad for you northern guys and what you have to deal with.
 

90sickfox

Wasn't a pretty sight...and I've got big hands
SN Certified Technician
Mar 2, 2015
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That's a lot of rust. How do the floors look ?
 

Olivethefet

Slap me as well as point and laugh
May 17, 2018
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Ouch! It's all fixable and hopefully that is the worst of the rust. Are you going to try to make the repairs yourself or are you going to have a shop do the metal work? I'll be following along.
 

BlakeusMaximus

Still got to try a little lube on my speedo head
Jul 12, 2017
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Repairing that apron and cowl area is going to be a huge undertaking.
 

PJV9126

Member
May 13, 2011
30
20
18
Mass.
That's a lot of rust. How do the floors look ?

Floors are surprisingly in pretty good shape. There is one spot on the passenger side, I believe near one of the plugs that will need work but overall they are in good shape.

Where are you located exactly? I'm also in Mass

I am in the North Billerica/Chelmsford/Lowell area. But for a good machine shop I would be willing to go really anywhere over New England.

Ouch! It's all fixable and hopefully that is the worst of the rust. Are you going to try to make the repairs yourself or are you going to have a shop do the metal work? I'll be following along.

I am going to attempt it myself. Luckily, a lot of the rust is in areas that will mostly be hidden so as long as the repairs are structurally sound, I don't think they need to look perfect. But obviously, I am going to try and do the best job on it that I can.

Repairing that apron and cowl area is going to be a huge undertaking.

I am not as concerned about the apron, but I agree, that corner cowl area is going to be tough. I am not sure exactly how I am going to tackle it yet so for now I am just going to avoid it.
 

Olivethefet

Slap me as well as point and laugh
May 17, 2018
2,104
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Enterprise AL
Has your computer ever been rebuilt? There are capacitors on the board that go bad and have to be replaced. It's not a question of if they will go bad but when will they go bad. I would at least pull the computer, pop it open and take a look at the condition. They can be replaced or you can send it out to have it serviced or swapped for a rebuilt one.

There are lots of things that you can do to the car to make it better without going into a crazy mod fest. It's easy to get carried away with upgrades though, so be careful. It's an addiction I tell ya! I'm really interested to see where you want to take this car. Maybe lay out a little more specifically what your end goals are. I know you want to keep it mostly stock, but there are just so many things you could tackle. Especially if the car has never been gone through. I would recommend going through the entire suspension and upgrade worn out parts. Bushing, shocks, tie rod ends. All that kinda stuff!
 

General karthief

wonder how much it would cost to ship you a pair
Mod Dude
Aug 25, 2016
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Have you looked at the area under the cowel, the area where the doors bolt on, the rust in the lower windshield corner and the backs of the fenders tell me there is more.
 
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BlakeusMaximus

Still got to try a little lube on my speedo head
Jul 12, 2017
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Have you looked at the area under the cowel, the area where the doors bolt on, the rust in the lower windshield corner and the backs of the fenders tell me there is more.

Yeah thief, theres a pic of it up there and its pretty rotted.
 

Mustang5L5

Put lubricant all over the balls
Mod Dude
Feb 18, 2001
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Floors are surprisingly in pretty good shape. There is one spot on the passenger side, I believe near one of the plugs that will need work but overall they are in good shape.



I am in the North Billerica/Chelmsford/Lowell area. But for a good machine shop I would be willing to go really anywhere over New England.

Ha. I was just in that area for work.

I’ll check my contacts and see who they recommend
 

Exrace89GT

Member
Mar 29, 2019
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80
Lompoc, CA
Damn! Us California guys are lucky when it comes to rust. My ‘89 GT has none. I’m doing an engine and transmission now. Because it’s a ‘89 it has to past the smog inspections and because it’s an ex race car a lot of that stuff is missing. Good luck on your project.
 

PJV9126

Member
May 13, 2011
30
20
18
Mass.
It's good to see that you're fixing it up nice! Retaining the stock colors i'm imagining?

Yes, I will be sticking with the original black/titanium lower.

Damn! Us California guys are lucky when it comes to rust. My ‘89 GT has none. I’m doing an engine and transmission now. Because it’s a ‘89 it has to past the smog inspections and because it’s an ex race car a lot of that stuff is missing. Good luck on your project.

Thanks! Let me know if I can help at all with the smog. I just disassembled it all and took decent pictures so I could potentially help if you need it.
 

PJV9126

Member
May 13, 2011
30
20
18
Mass.
Got in the garage yesterday and made some progress on removing the bad metal. Used a spot weld cutter to cut the strut tower to the top plate of the crush tubes. With that removed the crush tubes then pretty much fell out. They were in pretty nasty shape. The reinforcement plate on the bottom of the frame rail pretty much fell out as well. Not sure if these were supposed to be welded in or not.

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Once cleaned out I then wire wheeled the frame rail. As you can seen in the image, the area around the drain hole (center) was quite thin and I found a few pin holes as well. As a result, I am thinking that the bottom of the frame rail will need to be cut and a replacement fabricated. That would then be welded in along with a new reinforcement plate and some new crush tubes.

Also started to tear down the engine. Didn't get too far but started to remove all the accessories, etc.

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PJV9126

Member
May 13, 2011
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Mass.
Lastly, wanted to show everyone this book I had picked up a while back. Got it at Mustangs Unlimited when they were going out of business. Thinking it was <$20 with the original price being closer to $50. Lots of diagrams showing the major systems in the car, scan quality is not always the best and it definitely helps if you are familiar with the system. But for the price, it is a great reference and should aid me (along with my pictures) when the car goes back together. Pic of a couple examples below.

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Exrace89GT

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Mar 29, 2019
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Thanks for the offer on the smog pictures. Right now besides building an engine and transmission I’m trying to sort out some wiring the PO cut. I think I have it figured out. Also working on drivers window. Won’t go all the way up. I live on the CA coast so our rust is almost all upper body. But I lucked out, no rust on mine.
 

1989FoxFan

Member
Jan 19, 2020
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That's an unbelievable amount of rust. My 89 mustang from Michigan surprisingly does not have that much rust. On the East Coast, the rust absolutely destroys cars.