1988 Ford Mustang Fox 500 Project Part 2
BASF Mixes, MCS Sprays, And The Fox 500 Finally Looks As Good As It Runs
From the October, 2010 issue of 5.0 Mustang & Super Fords
By Dale Amy
Photography by Dale Amy
Behold the Fox's new coat....
Behold the Fox's new coat. Now resplendent in multiple layers of Wild Strawberry Metallic, it's easy (and desirable) to forget our Fox 500 project's former rust-and-chalky-white pallor. Motor City Solutions also massaged away any and all signs of the hatchback's considerable collision history and, at Editor Turner's request, went with a modern, monochromatic look, eliminating much of the original matte-black trim contrast.
I'm stoked and it's not even my car. Having documented the gradual evolution of Editor Turner's Fox 500 project since the moment its time-worn carcass arrived on the Paul's High Performance doorstep, I've been there to watch an '88 T-top hatchback morph from forgotten to unforgettable. Just a few short weeks after bursting out of the PHP boot camp-where it had been expertly packed with some genuinely modern muscle and agility-our pugnacious delinquent has graduated from Motor City Solutions' fastidious finishing school with (you know we have to say it) flying colors.
In this, our second and final visit with the bodywork and vehicle-prep pros at Motor City Solutions, the Fox 500 sheds all traces of its pasty-white past and emerges wearing a Wild Strawberry Metallic coat. Make that multiple coats, actually, of this popular '90-'92 factory hue.
Of course, shooting and sanding all those lovely layers of R-M (BASF) base and clear was only an intermediate step. Then came the equally laborious but critical task of fitting all the trim and hardware needed to make our modernized and revitalized LX look and function like a real car again.
Just as a brief reminder,...
Just as a brief reminder, this is how our overpowered Pony looked during our initial visit to Taylor, Michigan's, Motor City Solutions just a few weeks earlier. Though saved from the ravages of road salt by its life in Florida, the T-top LX had scars from prior collision or impact damage on much of its body. Some panels-like the driver-side door skin-were deemed beyond repair and were replaced.
To our minds, truly professional body and paint work is more art than science (though the paint folks at BASF might argue the point). In this regard, Motor City Solutions employs the father-and-son body team of Dwight and Mike Jorah, who have indeed demonstrated their mastery of metal shaping and finishing on this challenging project. From the patient straightening or replacement of battle-scarred panels, to the careful prepping and alignment of Cervini's fiberglass hood and hatch, to the application and rubbing of coat after coat of R-M base/clear, and finally to the finicky task of reassembly, these guys simply rock. Thanks to their efforts, the Fox 500 now has the looks (at least on the outside) to equal its awe-inspiring drivetrain, brake and chassis transformation.
Sadly, my part in bringing you the Fox 500's transformation is now pretty much over. From here, the 21st century LX will be moving back down south, where the editor himself will likely do most of the reporting on its upcoming interior makeover. He might even get to drive it someday...
The Sum Of Its Parts...
You can't just paint all those old parts. The Fox 500 needed a litany of new parts to return to a factory-fresh appearance. For those facing a similar resto or makeover, here's a list of at least some of the body and trim hardware used to help make the Fox 500 look-and function-better than new.
|'87-'93 Heat Extractor hood||1168|
|'79-'93 Hatch lid||351|
|Latemodel Restoration Supply|
|'79-'90 Fender, front, RH||LRS-16005A|
|'79-'90 Fender, front, LH||LRS-16006A|
|'87-'93 Front bumper cover||LRS-8190CF|
|'87-'91 Mustang hatch striker by Ford||LRS-40442B|
|'83-'93 Mustang door latch striker, 2||LRS-22008B|
|'83-'93 Pin & Bushing Kit, master, hinge||LRS-23204-KIT|
|'79-'93 Black Outer Mustang Door Handle Kit ||LRS-22404K|
|'79-'93 Mustang Door Lock Actuator Kit||LRS-21842K|
|'87-'93 Mustang Lock Set, door, glovebox, hatch/trunk, black with machined center ||LRS-21984B-KIT|
|'83-'93 Mustang Cowl Vent Grille and Lower Windshield Molding Kit||LRS-02228A-K |
|'87-'93 Mustang hatchback quarter-windows||LRS-29710A-K |
|'87-'88 Weatherstrip Kit, T-top, nine-piece||LRS-54780K2|
|'87-'93 Weatherstrip Kit, coupe/hatchback||LRS-20708KIT|
|'87-'93 Molding and Seal Kit, door belt, coupe/hatchback||LRS-20934-K|
|'91-'93 Front of front fender molding LX, RH||LRS-16068A|
|'91-'93 Front of front fender molding LX, LH||LRS-16069A|
|'91-'93 Spat, fender, front, LX, RH, lower||LRS-16162B|
|'91-'93 Spat, fender, front, LX, LH, lower||LRS-16163B|
|'87-'93 Rear of fender molding, LX, RH||LRS-16038A|
|'87-'93 Rear of fender molding, LX, LH||LRS-16039A|
|'87-'93 Door molding, LX, RH||LRS-20938A|
|'87-'93 Door molding, LX, LH||LRS-20939A|
|'87-'93 Molding, front of quarter-panel, RH, LX||LRS-29076A|
|'79-'88 Hood Bumper Kit||LRS-16758B-K|
|'87-'93 Wiper motor, two-plug||LRS-17508A|
|'79-'93 Wiper arm, RH/LH||LRS-17526|
|'87-'93 Third brake light, hatchback||LRS-13613B|
|'87-'93 Mustang LX taillight assembly, pair||LRS-13404LX-K |
|'83-'93 Lower-windshield molding, pair||LRS-03122BP|
|'79-'93 Molding Clip Kit, rear window, hatchback||PE-1004|
|'83-'93 Door-to-body weatherstrip seal cap, pair||LRS-24442PR|
|Steeda Aero Spoiler, '79-'93 Mustang||307-0002|
Finding a new or used T-top...
Finding a new or used T-top Fox door proved impossible in our time frame, so we turned to eBay for a suitable replacement. Though substituting a similarly frameless convertible door seemed logical, the difference in the ragtop's exterior mirror mounting configuration would have made that a labor-intensive option. The best choice turned out to be finding a regular hatch or sedan door with its full perimeter window frame, and then simply cutting off said frame (arrow), much as the factory appears to have done back in the day. As on factory convertibles and T-tops, rubber molding will be used to cap off the sawn-off pillar remnants at the front and rear end of the door.
Shown here on the passenger...
Shown here on the passenger door, this is the rubber cap the factory uses to finish off this area and help provide a guide slot for the window. As you can see, this original rear cap was so deteriorated on the Fox 500 that we had to order new units from Latemodel Restoration Supply (they arrived shortly after our photo shoot).
A complete paint system delivers...
A complete paint system delivers the best finishes, and ours came from BASF in the form of their R-M DP 26 Power Fill 2K primer, R-M Diamont basecoat, and R-M DC5300 CTR Baking Clear. The system's hardeners and reducers are also key elements. To our project, Mike Jorah applied three coats of base and four coats of acrylic urethane clear.
With metallic base/clear finishes,...
With metallic base/clear finishes, only the final clearcoat is wet-sanded (sanding the basecoat would disrupt the even distribution of its metallic elements.) Mike, here working on the new hatch, started off with 800-grit, followed by 1,000-grit, and finally with 1,500.
After sanding, you have a...
After sanding, you have a beautifully flat and straight finish that is utterly devoid of gloss, so it's compound and polish to the rescue. Mike uses 3M Perfect-It rubbing compound followed by 3M Finesse-It polishing compound ("purple polish"), designed specifically for clearcoats. The wool pad is used first, followed by separate sponge waffle pads, first with the rubbing compound, then with the polish.
Cervini's Heat Extractor hood...
Cervini's Heat Extractor hood looks right at home on our updated Fox, thanks to its twin hood vents, and easily cleared the hulking, supercharged 5.4-liter beneath. Actually, thanks the effort of Paul's High Performance, the hood clearance proved a non-issue. Aft of the hood, you can see the body-color approach the editor opted for on the cowl vent (and nearly everything else).
So, too, with the side mirrors,...
So, too, with the side mirrors, which look utterly modern when sprayed to match the rest of the body.
Our new taillight assemblies...
Our new taillight assemblies from Latemodel Restoration Supply and Steeda's Aero Spoiler really finish off the rear view. Note that even the hatch lockset is now finished in Wild Strawberry (as are the side-door locksets and exterior handles).
Steve even carried his monochromatic...
Steve even carried his monochromatic preferences underhood, creating a challenge for Motor City Solution's master painter Mike Jorah, who had absolutely no desire to remove the transplanted GT500 mill simply in order to add a little color to the previously black firewall, radiator support, and inner fender area. With the apparent masking patience of Job-along with a small detail spray gun-he managed to do a fantastic job while leaving the 5.4 in place. (Sorry, Mike!-Ed.)
Likewise, the underside of...
Likewise, the underside of Cervini's heat-extractor-style fiberglass hood now has a show-quality finish. But we had to do something about that annoying prop rod, so we enlisted the help of Redline Tuning...
Redline's QuickLIFT gas-charged...
Redline's QuickLIFT gas-charged springs are the ideal solution, for both our new hood and hatch. We opted for the QuickLIFT Elite model with its 316L stainless steel housings and black powdercoated brackets. The Elite hood kit (shown) is $119.95, while the hatch kit is $79.95.
Here, one of the kit's hood...
Here, one of the kit's hood brackets is riveted in place by Redline's Andreas Keller. The lower brackets bolt to the inner fender, and all necessary rivets and bolts are included. Redline's kits also include extremely well-illustrated vehicle-specific instructions for doing this at home.
Redline's gas springs are...
Redline's gas springs are not generic, but rather calibrated for each vehicle application for proper support and actuation, meaning the hood will slowly lift itself once you unlatch it and start it on its way. End-of-force dampening is employed to slow the rate of extension over the final inches of travel, eliminating stress to the hood.
Here, Dwight Jorah makes preparations...
Here, Dwight Jorah makes preparations to install the lengthy passenger-side window/T-top rubber molding from Latemodel Restoration Supply, a task that wasn't completed during our visit for reasons explained in the next caption. What is complete is fitment of the new rear quarter windows from LRS.
A last-minute realization,...
A last-minute realization, the rubber moldings around the T-top couldn't be installed before the interior headliner went back in, since the headliner material must be wrapped and glued around the metal flange of the T-top opening before the rubber moldings go on. This shot of the factory headliner's cardboard backing graphically explains why we then found ourselves having to order a whole new headliner assembly. Check out that old body filler and masking tape holding the original piece together-strong evidence that the roof had been struck in the Fox 500's sordid past. This eleventh-hour discovery is why we have no photos with the T-tops and their moldings in place. We'll cover that once we get going on the interior.