View Full Version : Advise on damage to 1969 Mustang


10-16-2006, 05:41 PM
A little background: I have done complete restorations on several Mustangs, however none of them involved bodywork. This will be my first attempt at replacing sheet metal; I have a donor chassis to practice on and intend to take a welding class at our local community college. I am very interested in opinions on my assesment of the damage, my plan of action, and overall difficulty of what I am faced with. Perhaps this is just an excuse to overcome my fear of welding...

Note that this is a copy of a post to the VMF, which although normally very helpful has not given any feedback...

Help! Anyone have advice/tips/suggestions for a first time welder on repairing this damage? I spent the weekend uncovering the gory details of my latest project; in many ways it was worse than I feared…

From the damage I suspect the car was hit near the rear edge of the front wheel. Luckily the damage all appears to be above the frame rail. Based on the condition of the front valance (the original bucket and fender were replaced), it appears that the damage to the front apron and radiator support was caused by the fender being pushed towards the rear of the car (note there is no damage apparent on the rear portion of the front apron).

The top of the shock tower was pushed in, as is evidenced by the dents where it was pushed back out into position. The shock tower lines up well with the export brace and other than the dents appears in good condition.

My plan of attack is as follows:

1) Measure the frame against the specifications to confirm no frame damage. I have all the specifications; however I have never done this… Are two people and a tape measure good enough? How concerned should I be with the fact that the shock tower was pushed in? I know sagging towers are a common problem; if the export brace lines up am I okay?
2) Reinstall an export brace to hold the shock tower in position.
3) Attempt to hammer and dolly out the dents to the shock tower. I’ve never done this before…
4) Drill out the spot welds and remove the rear apron and damaged lower body piece. I have a donor chassis to harvest good originals from.
5) Replace the rear pieces first. Sounds easy; but I need to practice a lot on the donor chassis first…
6) Drill out the spot welds on the front apron and replace it from the donor car.
7) I am uncertain on the radiator support; perhaps I will attempt to hammer and dolly it first and if it turns out bad I can replace it from the donor?

What are the gotchas? Tips? I’m no lemondrop… any help and advice will be appreciated.

Thanks in advance,

rear apron (http://forums.vintage-mustang.com/files/attachments/1161018691-rear_apron.JPG)

front apron (http://forums.vintage-mustang.com/files/attachments/1161018875-front_apron.jpg)

shock tower (http://forums.vintage-mustang.com/files/attachments/1161019075-shock_tower.jpg)

radiator support (http://forums.vintage-mustang.com/files/attachments/1161019303-radiator_support.jpg)

Phil V
10-16-2006, 05:54 PM
Don't take this wrong but you are way over your head on this one. The panel replacement and welding work you have planned that you are going to do involves the structural integrity of the car. At that point it becomes a safety issue -- you admittedly stated you are an inexperienced welder -- if you weld those aprons back on the car and those welds fail then potentially the driver could lose control of the car not only injuring the people in the car but anyone else that out of control car happens to hit before it stops moving.

I am all for novices getting their feet wet doing autobody and paint work, but NOT when a safety issue is involved. The life you save may be mine or one of my childrens or even my grandson. Either pay someone who knows what their doing to do the structural repairs or sell the car.

10-16-2006, 06:31 PM

Absolutely no offense taken! And I both respect your opinion and feared that I might indeed be in over my head. Apron replacement is discussed in a fairly light hearted way on the VMF (which admittedly is not as specialized as this site in terms of bodywork) so I am a bit surprised at the severity of the safety concern you have voiced.

Please don't take this in the wrong way too -- it is near impossible to find a professional shop that will work on old cars. Quite literally one shop told me they would not even give me a verbal budgetary estimate for this repair since they did not want to perform the work.

From my perspective it is quite frustrating... The local shops don't want to touch an old car. The folks on the VMF say "Do it yourself" and recommend the autobodystore as a resource. I don't mind spending money and given my druthers would prefer to pay someone else!

The last thing I want to do is to pour $25K into a restoration and have there be structural problems... So let me phrase a different question:

If I actually manage to find a professional willing to perform this work, and if I am willing to drill out all the spot welds on the donor car and supply the replacement parts, can anyone tell me roughly how much this would cost to repair? Assume that I will still try to hammer/dolly out the dent in the shock tower myself. And if possible, rough estimates for both with and without radiator support would be helpful since I may be able to work that to my satisfaction too.

The reason for needing an estimate is simple: if this is going to cost over $2000 to fix I am better off parting out this car.


Jayson M
10-16-2006, 07:58 PM
Well if you look a $50@hr for a frame shop(our shop gets $60) to set it up on the frame rack,measure it and pull it.Then you need to change the rad support,aprons etc ,that only gives you 40 hours to do the work.Now I don't know if you have used pieces or repro but it takes time to make everything fit.It looks like you have some damage to the cowl as well.$1500 to $2000 could be pretty close.It is very hard to judge all of this from my monitor but a competent frame shop could fix this,it just takes time.Maybe you could find a body man who works on the side to do it for you after hours.I am a firm believer in trying to save all the old cars possible,last time I checked they aren't making them anymore.Good luck.

Phil V
10-17-2006, 01:19 AM
I agree with Jayson and I was thinking the same thing. Try and find an experienced bodyman who is capable of doing that kind of work who works on the side for cash.( a lot of bodymen do just that ).

The metal in that shock tower if I remember correctly is thick metal, not just sheet metal. I doubt you could hammed and dolly out the dents in it.

I saw some damage in the cowl also. So at this point that area would have to remain a question mark. Was the windshielf cracked ? that would indicate just how hard of a hit the car was in. Also does the door near the damaged cowl open and close normally (doesn't drop excessively in the back and that the gap around the door is relatively equal. That would indicate whether or not the cowel is kicked back some and needs to be pulled on a frame machine.

The core support is an easy change but the aprons are more involved because of the suspension geometry/frame rails. I would say at this point the car should go on a frame rack, hang some tram gauges and do a bunch of different measurements to find out exactly how bent (if its bent) that the frame and the cowl is. That car got whacked pretty good.

10-17-2006, 11:04 AM
Phil and Jayson,

Thank you both for your honest assessments. After sleeping on this I am fairly sure that I will just part out this car and scrap the shell. Lest you think I am overreacting I'll disclose my reasoning:

1) When I bought this car, it was a remote transaction with another VMF member who, based on his long standing membership and no flames, I thought I could trust. In the pictures of the car it was evident that the front fender and door had been replaced, and I specifically asked him if there was structural damage and stated that the only thing I was looking for was a 69 Mach that required no welding - the ONLY part of car repair I am uncomfortable with. He assured me there was no rust and no welding needed. I will say that there is NO rust in any of the typical spots on this car.

2) Based on the knowledgeable assessments that I have recieved, this is major damage. I don't think I can be happy with the car even if it was professionally repaired... I know these cars were never perfect and not that well constructed from the factory, but I can still hear my father's voice (he was a Ford mechanic in the 60's) in the back of my head: "they never drive the same after a major wreck".

3) This was to be my "dream car", built mechanically and cosmetically as the car I always wanted. Money literally is no object on this project... but I don't want ANYTHING to detract from the dream.

I kind of liked the fact that this car was so far gone in terms of it's interior (having apparently been parked in the Arizona desert since 1988 - the sun was brutal to the plastic!). I felt in no way obligated to restore it to stock form. Likewise the engine and transmission were unimportant too. What it all boils down to is that I bought this car only for the unibody, and if that is not sound, I am forced to re-evaluate using it as a base. Luckily this is a mistake I can afford...

Summary lesson: "Never trust a seller to represent a car accurately unless you know them very well!"


P.S. It is safe to say I'll never buy a car remotely again!

Phil V
10-17-2006, 02:47 PM
I couldn't tell from the pictures - is this car a coupe or a fastback ? (0bviously
its not a convertible or we wouldnt' be having this conversation).

10-17-2006, 03:21 PM
It is a true body style 63C - Mach 1 Sportsroof (AKA fastback). But it was literally bought just for the body; it is not a big block/highly optioned/rare and all the plastic is "well done" courtesy of the desert sun.

10-17-2006, 05:28 PM
Have you considered replacing the entire front end in one swoop with one that is nice and square from a donor car? If unsure bring the two cars to a frame shop and it will be done in no time, it wont be very expensive...

Sometimes it's easier to replace those parts in groups from a known good and square car....I would replace the shock tower too...

That kind of damage would not stop me from using the car at all...Where I come from those cars are so far gone that you don't even have anything left in those areas anymore...rust that is.

How is the fit of the doors? The gaps? These can be addressed on the frame rack.

Do yourself a favor, this is not a damage that can be repaired easily on a garage floor...naturally you could always tough it out and do it, but unless you are a sucker for pain and enjoy hours of measuring with plumb bobs and frame gauges...bring it to a frame shop. I don't even do this myself anymore (when collision requires pulling/straightening)...I send it out.

Don't be discouraged though, if the thing is rust free it's worth saving. If you don't want it, I might be interested in it...where are you located? do you have pictures of the rest of the car?

My 2 cents,


10-17-2006, 11:12 PM
I agrre w/Serge,here in New England,a rust free ANYTHING from 1969 is worth quite a bit of money!
From the pics,it doesn't look horribly bad,and if you have a donor car,all the better.
Maybe check around tour local paint supply stores for a body tech that does sidework,they'll know who is buying paint,filler,etc on a regular basis on a cash slip.
If you know what you are doing,this doesn't look like a bad repair,and as a collision tech,I'd MUCH rather change an apron and tower than weld patches all over the thing!
Good Luck!

Phil V
10-18-2006, 09:51 AM
I couldn't agree more with the other guys. If that car is close to rust free then it is DEFINATELY restorable. If the repairs of that front end damage are done right that car will end up an excellent and very desirable car. I have owned close to a dozen old Mustangs and have been personally involved in restoring at least 30 of those old cars, most fastbacks and converitibles. If the car were mine I certainly wouldn't let those repairs psychologically detract from owning and driving the car. (as a professional bodyman we've all repaired a lot worse than that with excellent results).

10-19-2006, 12:23 PM

I went back to the most highly recommended bodyshop (one that had flatly refused to look at the car or even give a verbal estimate) and asked to speak with the owner. After speaking about the car and the damage, he offered to take some trams and look at the car personally on his lunch hour next week(it is less than 2 miles from his shop). He also stated that if it is not a rust bucket he would consider performing the repairs.

So there is reason to hope for a good outcome. He also said that on these cars a quick diagonal measurement (pretty easy since the engine is out) should tell if the frame is really tweaked. To the accuracy of my measurements, the frame appears undamaged. And to Phils earlier questions:

1) The windshield was broken, but due to the pattern of the break and the BB-gun holes it is unclear if it was due to cowl damage/movement.

2) Both doors have reasonable alignment. The hinge pins/bushings are shot (quite normal for these cars) so I can not tell if the drop (small) is due to the hinge pins or cowl movement.

If there is interest I will update the thread when I know more.

Thanks again,