Fox Fox Body Frame Rust-- Scrap or Save?

Alldegree

Member
Sep 14, 2019
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Hi all,

Hopefully this is in the right section, I'm new around here.

I recently bought a 1985 mustang gt on craigslist for 1000 dollars. There didn't appear to be any major rust-through when I looked at it, the interior was critter-free, and the engine ran after sitting for 15 years, so I decided to take the plunge and buy it. Here's what I have:

IMG_1682.JPG


While brainstorming a way to re-seat and inflate the tires so I could roll it into my garage, I found some issues:

IMG_1699.JPG

This was taken from the drivers side wheel well, Needless to say, the shock tower and frame rail are finished. I couldn't get a good look at the other side, but what I could see seems to indicate that it is pretty much in the same shape.

IMG_1686.JPG



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I contacted a shop that specializes in mustangs, and they gave me a ballpark estimate of around $12,000 to fix the frame, which is more than double what I am willing to spend on the car. They also told me I paid about $800 too much for the car, which I absolutely agree with.

I am going back and forth between cutting out all the rust to see exactly what I have to work with, or just scrapping it and wiping my hands clean of the issue. This is my first project car, selected because fox body parts are cheap, and the motor runs, so I thought it didn't need any more than $5000 worth of work and parts to get back on the road. I know I should have looked more carefully at the car, but it was 1000 bucks for a running mustang and I had been dreaming about a project car since before I was in high school. I also know I'm an idiot.

Was the shop's estimate reasonable? Is this car worth trying to get back on the road, and if so, is there any way I could do that safely within my budget of 5000 dollars? It doesn't have to be pretty, it just has to run and drive, and I would do anything that doesn't require welding myself.

If I do end up getting rid of it, I'd rather sell it for parts than scrap it. There's a lot of good stuff here, and I'd like to get some of my money back if I can.


Thanks
 
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Mstng93SSP

You have a nice rear end there Dave.
15 Year Member
Nov 29, 1999
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That car is done. There is no way that car can be repaired without a TON of money and it's simply not worth it. That car in my opinion is a parts car at best. Try to sell the drivetrain, interior, anything that is still good to recover as much of your money as you can.
 

74stang2togo

NERD!
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Mar 7, 2002
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As much as I hate to say it about an 85-86 car, part her out, she's done. If the powertrain's still strong, you can keep that for yourself, sell all of the good bits (that front bumper should sell, for instance), and maybe break even or better on the car after you sell the rotted shell to a salvage yard or scrapper.
 

LILCBRA

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Dec 6, 2005
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If you want to see what's entailed in repairing this, I have a few pics in a folder for the 84 convertible that I used to have. Now, if you were able to weld (which I realize you said you couldn't...), it's really not that expensive to DIY. If memory serves, I had about $250 worth of materials in the same type of repair. BUT, there is quite a bit of labor involved. It's not necessarily beyond saving for someone who has the skills and knowledge, but maybe in your case it might be a bit more than you can chew if you're not handy with a welder.

As far as the shop's estimate goes, I really don't know. They ARE a specialty shop, so chances are that their prices are a bit inflated. BUT you'll still pay a pretty penny for anyone else to do the work regardless.

Anyway, here's a link to the folder of my 84 that I have posted here on Stangnet should you be so inclined to take a look. In my case, I was swapping a 5.0 in place of the 3.8 that the car had in it. I feel your pain about not seeing the rust damage, same happened for me with this particular car. Too much stuff in the way initially.....

 

General karthief

wonder how much it would cost to ship you a pair
Mod Dude
Aug 25, 2016
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All of the responses are correct.
i would say to stuff the rust bucket into the garage, cover it up so you are not embarrassed and look for a good 79-85 body to transplant that running gear into. You have the wiring, engine/trans and some other stuff for the swap, now that you know what to look for and knowing your limitations, that is what I would do.
 

stanglx2002

CT Material here
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Jul 7, 2005
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I agree the best plan is to use the car as a parts car. I did this a few years ago and bought another clean body with no drivetrain in it. I put all the good stuff from the parts car in the new body and scrapped the remaining body when DONE.

This is the key word when done. Trust us all on here that it comes to be a pain to just need a small bolt, screw, etc when you can just walk over to the parts car and take it from there.

If the fenders, good, and front bumper are all in good condition then you can just look for a car without those. There are all kinds of projects that people sell off and you will probably end up with a better car because it probably has all kinds of parts that they know they will never get back out price-wise due to no running drivetrain in it
 

Mustang5L5

This is a big reason why I pulled it out
Mod Dude
Feb 18, 2001
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Car is done. Don’t put a dime into fixing that.

Find a cheap roller. Spend a little more on one with good paint. Make sure the body is straight and rust free.

Swap everything over, sell off what’s extra and send that 85 off to turn it into a guardrail
 

Rcdgl

Member
Feb 19, 2018
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Stash the car. Replacement panels are available for these now and the availability will increase. But also, currently there are between 5 to a dozen rollers available in this area on Facebook right now. Not sure how soon these will become as popular and pricy as 65 Mustang K code convertibles, but that's what I am hoping for.....
 

LiquidStangs

Well-Known Member
Dec 13, 2015
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I had an '89 GT whose frame rails were in better shape, but still not good. The estimate I got was at least $10K to fix that one up. Even though it was "better", it didn't matter from the perspective of what work needed to happen.

That car ended up going to someone who worked at a body shop and could do his own welding. It actually ran and drove pretty well; both of us knew he was getting a good deal. I "didn't do too bad", by which I mean I got a slightly larger small percentage of my investment back than I probably deserved.

That's life, sometimes. You learn from your mistakes. Mine was my first project car, too, and it was pretty discouraging to watch it ride away on someone else's trailer. But this is a thing I've wanted to do for a long time, and after a little bit of stewing and some encouragement from the wife, I got to looking for the next one.

I'm now in a nice '85 GT with very little rust. I knew what to look for this time!
 

Alldegree

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Sep 14, 2019
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Thank you all for your replies, I had a suspicion that this wouldn't work out. I'm still on the fence about what I'm going to do. Clearly, the car has to go, the question now is do I get rid of the whole thing, or do I keep the engine and swap it into something else, which is something I have to answer for myself.
I live with my parents right now (they can't believe I bought the car in the first place) and they want to retire and move within a year or two, so space is tight and time is limited. This being my first project and having almost no experience working on cars, I think I should probably cut my losses and try to find something that drives and just needs some minor work.

On the other hand, a roller would provide the blank canvas that I thought this car would be. Also, the previous (and original) owner is a retired ford mechanic who built race engines on the side, so the motor is probably good. I know it has a marine cam in it and an aftermarket exhaust. The car seemed somewhat important to him, he and his wife said they wanted it to go to someone who would fix it up, so there's some emotional baggage here as well. I sent them a text explaining the situation and asked if he wanted to buy it back for less than I paid for it, and I have yet to hear from them.

I have a buddy coming out some time this week to look at the engine and I'll have a better idea of what I'm going to do then. We'll have to see.
 
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Noobz347

Stangnet Facilities Maint Tech... Er... Janitor
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Save the entire nose, hood, rear bumper, and [all] of trim and molding!!!

Oh... Keep the quarter windows and wing too.

If it were me, I'd look around for a notch to put all that stuff on to. :D
 

03GThoopty

Member
Jun 14, 2019
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I don't know, to me it just looks like a hole that needs to be patched up or not. I guess frame damage is severe if that is what it is but to me since you have a budget to work with, why not get a good frame and swap over parts? $1000 is a lot but its not as much as I've wasted on my - most likely blown motor lol. All is not lost :)
 
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Alldegree

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Sep 14, 2019
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Save the entire nose, hood, rear bumper, and [all] of trim and molding!!!

Oh... Keep the quarter windows and wing too.

If it were me, I'd look around for a notch to put all that stuff on to. :D
I might be weird for saying this, but I kind of prefer the look of the hatch to the notch. It just looks a little more sporty, even though it probably weighs more and isn't as structurally rigid. If I do end up going the roller swap route, I would definitely try to swap over as much of the good stuff as I can to keep the connection to the original car.
 
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Alldegree

Member
Sep 14, 2019
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Chicago
If you want to see what's entailed in repairing this, I have a few pics in a folder for the 84 convertible that I used to have. Now, if you were able to weld (which I realize you said you couldn't...), it's really not that expensive to DIY. If memory serves, I had about $250 worth of materials in the same type of repair. BUT, there is quite a bit of labor involved. It's not necessarily beyond saving for someone who has the skills and knowledge, but maybe in your case it might be a bit more than you can chew if you're not handy with a welder.

As far as the shop's estimate goes, I really don't know. They ARE a specialty shop, so chances are that their prices are a bit inflated. BUT you'll still pay a pretty penny for anyone else to do the work regardless.

Anyway, here's a link to the folder of my 84 that I have posted here on Stangnet should you be so inclined to take a look. In my case, I was swapping a 5.0 in place of the 3.8 that the car had in it. I feel your pain about not seeing the rust damage, same happened for me with this particular car. Too much stuff in the way initially.....

Thanks, it looks like you did a really good job. I've heard that it's possible for a novice like myself to get a cheap harbor freight welder and kind of figure it out on their own, but even if I did that I don't think I would trust myself doing anything structural.
 
Aug 11, 2019
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I don't know, to me it just looks like a hole that needs to be patched up or not. I guess frame damage is severe if that is what it is but to me since you have a budget to work with, why not get a good frame and swap over parts? $1000 is a lot but its not as much as I've wasted on my - most likely blown motor lol. All is not lost :)
You just don't "get a good frame". The frame rails are integral to the body. This car is DONE IMO. If you can,I would save engine/trans, front/rear bumpers and whatever interior and trim is good. Leave the rear it's a 7.5.
 

Alldegree

Member
Sep 14, 2019
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You just don't "get a good frame". The frame rails are integral to the body. This car is DONE IMO. If you can,I would save engine/trans, front/rear bumpers and whatever interior and trim is good. Leave the rear it's a 7.5.
Alright, thanks. I'm still toying with the idea of finding a roller to transfer the good stuff into. I found a really clean 86 LX that has everything but the engine/trans for 1500, but having never even worked on a car before, I don't know if doing a full on engine swap is a good idea for a first project. I need something I can get done within four or five months at the most, and most of the work is going to have to be done on my own. Would it be a direct swap into an 86?
 

03GThoopty

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Jun 14, 2019
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You just don't "get a good frame". The frame rails are integral to the body. This car is DONE IMO. If you can,I would save engine/trans, front/rear bumpers and whatever interior and trim is good. Leave the rear it's a 7.5.
Oh, didn't know that. Well we have a engine, transmission and couple of panels to work with.
 
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Alldegree

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Oh, didn't know that. Well we have a engine, transmission and couple of panels to work with.
Actually it's just the engine (probably), transmission (maybe), and the hood. The hood is literally the only part of the car that's not chock full of holes except for the front bumper, which is warped. The car is determined to return to the earth it's sitting on as quickly as possible.
 
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