Bill's Garage

Mustang Body Work and Paint

This page will show the body work and paint that was done on our 1988 Mustang LX Hatchback. We did all the body work and prep ourselves. Then we had a pro spray on the base and clear coats. After that the car was returned to us for assembly.

Faded Peeling Paint and Lots of Dents

Faded Peeling Paint
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This Mustang spent the majority of its life in North Carolina. That is where the car was bought new. And by 1995 the car had accumulated 150,000 miles. After that the Fax report showed no further mileage accumulation had occured. We believe the car sat around probably due to a bad trans for 15 years. While sitting it accumulated many many dents. I imagine the car sat in lots, yards, garages and people just threw things on it, bumped into it, and just banged it up over and over again. I would estimate the car had over 600 dents and dings. Every single panel in the car was dented. The southern sun also took its toll on the paint. We could also tell the car had been repainted at one time during its life and not a very good job was done. In addition Ford had a lot of paint quality problems at the time this car was built.

Despite this the car had no rust what so ever anywhere. So while we had to deal with dents dents and more dents and horribly faded peeling paint there was zero rust repaired needed on this car. The car still retained all its original panels so it had never been in an accident. The other good thing about the car was someone rebuilt the hinges on both doors.

First Steps

Initial Body Work
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I read a couple books on body work and paint and spent a lot of time over on I had some friends who had painted their own cars. I got some advice on some Mustang forums from professional body work and paint people. Advice on how to proceed varied greatly. So after all sources were considered we decided to remove all trim, remove front and rear bumpers, remove the body side moulding, and replace the driver's side fender because it was bent up on the edge where it meets the door. After that we blocked the entire car down by hand with 80 grit sand paper using auto body sanding blocks.

We took this approach because the hand sanding would not heat up and warp the sheet metal like sanding with power tools sometimes does. We also did not like the idea of chemical stripping because the chemical can down in seams where it can't be removed. The approach we toopk also gave us a jump start on getting the car straight. Once blocked dents were pushed out the best we could, sanded to bare metal, and smoothed out with body filler. At this point no primer had been sprayed on the car and we completed our first pass at making the car smooth and straight. One thing was for sure, this car had a bad taste of the uglies at this point!

You can see where we applied filler on the dents. The roof of the car was extremely challenging because the metal is so thing and filmsy. When we went to sand on the roof it just pushed in. Plus the roof had about 100 dings, dents, low spots, and other imperfections. It was very difficult to do. The passenger's side rear quarter panel also had a large dent right on the body line. That proved to be very difficult to get that body line to look correct. Countless hours were spent on that dent alone. But despite the challenges we kept plugging away.

Set Up Shop and Prep For Paint

Paint Booth
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Now it was time to spray on some primer. In order to do that we set up a home made paint booth. We put exhaust fans under the garage door, put up a plastic sheet wall, and set up a fan to push fresh air into that area. Its also very important a repirator be worn at all times.

The first coat of primer was PPG Epoxy Primer. This primer has a high adheasion, excellent rust inhibitor, and does a great job protecting the metal. After that a couple coats of U-Tech high build primer was sprayed on. We would typically let the primer sit a couple days then block it out. We started blocking with 160 grit paper. Once blocked we would see low and/or high spots. Some tapping on the sheet metal and applications of filler were applied to correct the imperfections. After correcting the imprefections we sprayed on a few more coats of high build primer, let set, and repeated the blocking process again. During each cycle the body became straighter and straighter. We also moved to finer grit sand paper. First 160, then 220, then 320, and finally 400 grit.

Ready for Paint

Ready for Paint
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After a couple of months of priming, sanding, working on dents, priming and sanding some more we sure were tired of body work. The many hours of sweating, dealing with the dust, mixing paint, sore muscles etc etc we sure were glad when the day came that the body was perfectly straight and smooth. The body was prepped to absolute perfection. Every line and every panel was perfectly smooth and straight. At this point we were saying we would never do body work ever again!

What started out as a faded peeling paint dent machine was now a car that was straighter and more perfect then the day it left the factory. We took the time to adjust the front fenders, shim and adjust the hood, test fit the front bumper to make sure everything would line up perfectly.

The original plan was to finish the paint ourselves. However, we needed an expensive paint gun it order to even have a chance at making it look good. Then there was the price of the paint. It we attempted to paint the car ourselves and messed it up and had to try again it could get super expensive really fast. We located a professional paint man with 20 years experience. He was only 10 minutes away and had a full paint booth set up in a barn in his back yard where he lived. He had an excellent reputation for doing excellent work and he was very interested in the job. He came over to inspect the car and complemented us on the great job we did on the body work and prep. He stated "I love to get them like this!" as he ran his hands over every panel of the car.

Time for Some Color

Paint Finished
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We had the car painted its original color which is Medium Shadow Blue Metalic. The painter sprayed on 6 coats of color and two coats of clear. He did not buff the car. He took the car in his trailor and returned the car back to us in one week. As you can see in the pictures all that body work and prep paid off. The car looked perfectly straight in its new shiny paint. It was a good day when we laid eyes on that fresh paint. He still had the bumpters, rear spoiler, and black trim to do. A week later those parts were ready for us to pick up. We also had him apply the body side moulding since that is fastened with double sided tape.

So now it was time to put the car back together. We had new side quarter glass to install, reinstall the entire rear interior since that all had to come out to get the side glass out. Reinstall the bumpers, put the outside mirrors back on, install window moulding, reinstall door and trunk locks, reinstall door panels, reinstall antenna etc etc. We had to be very careful and move slow to avoid scratching the new paint.

So after a couple weeks of assembly we finally got the car put all back together again. We had returned the body of the car back to like-new condition. The months of blocking by hand and then having a professional apply the base coat/clear coat resulted in a straight shiny car.

So that is our body work and paint story. I hope you enjoyed reading and viewing the pictures.