Progress Thread Haven't posted in a looong time... rescuing another 'stang... '89 Vert

ChillPhatCat

5 Year Member
Apr 22, 2002
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Syracuse, NY
It's been 5/6 years since my last post... I sold my '00 GT shortly after my first kid was born, poured that money into a down payment on a Subaru and never saw it again... I have two kids now and they're getting older and less expensive, and I started to squirrel away a few dollars.

Now I've had in the past an '84 Firebird 305, '87 Iroc-Z 350, '97 Camaro RS 3.8, '74 Camaro LT (460BBC), and the last was my '00 GT... so I've had a couple of these pony cars... I just had to get back in, I can't escape. (Long "brief story" to follow so eject now if you aren't up for it)

So the last few months I was looking for a 3rd gen Firebird with T-Tops or a convertible Mustang, something with a solid body and no rust... operational engine/transmission a big bonus. I came across this Medium Shadow Blue Metallic heap advertised at $1k, not expecting anything... but well within my price for the base vehicle so I went and checked it out.

This car was twice over a project car from the previous two owners, this guy and his step son. It's an '89 4 cylinder with 5 speed tranny, all stock except a crappy conical air filter. The car is originally from Florida, it's got 98k believable miles on the 5-digit odometer, no rust on the body, minor surface rust underneath... supposedly no winters. The owner claimed it cranked but wouldn't start one day and the car had no battery in it, however the crank turned over with no difficulty and the oil and coolant looked clean when I checked. The guy claimed that they changed out the fuel pump and the filter and that his step son said "some switch under the driver's seat" needed to be replaced for it to run. Car had been sitting 2 years and had a flat tire in the front... all 4 are dry rotted to hell anyway (but they all hold air somehow). It has a crappy drivers side door (very badly rattle canned in baby blue) that was supposed to replace the original banged up door, but they both have near identical dents in them... the original just has a slightly messed up lower hinge, and was included of course, along with the mostly intact door panel which is not currently on it. The top also had a tear and the rear glass all busted out. So I offered $500. I figured even if the engine was junk it wasn't a big deal... and all the parts are dirt cheap... etc. We didn't make a deal on the spot but I got a call a few hours later and they took the offer... so I went with it.

I showed up the next day with a battery and got it to crank over without any strange sounds... very enthusiastically in fact, and I found most of the electronics working (including the top), less the power windows and signals. I traded money for title and keys, and a couple days later I got my friendly neighborhood "roadside assistance guy" to pull my car that "wouldn't start" up onto a flat bed and dropped it off at my house.

So here it sits. I have now gotten it started with a new "switch under the drivers seat" AKA the fuel pump relay... and after dumping in some ethanol free 90 octane in the tank it runs fairly well. I took it for it's first "spin" between my second and first driveways and found that the brakes are seized, luckily one of them has a pad jammed up against the rotor so you just need to take your foot off the gas to get it to brake... don't know yet if the Master Cylinder is any good. The clutch works perfectly, the transmission seems to shift fine... and I ordered a replacement black top.

So... this all happened in the last 2 weeks and it feels good to be wrenching/bleeding on a car again. I like all the diagnostic work so it's a perfect match for me. I have an ignition switch in the box ready to swap out because they're all crap I've read... and then we'll see if there actually are any electrical issues with the defunct parts. Then I'm going to replace the rotors, calipers, bearings, etc. and see if the master cylinder needs replacement... and if it actually stops raining around here I'm going to fumble my way through a DIY convertible top replacement. The interior is ok, no tears in the seats, a little crap in it that needs to be vacuumed. Eventually I want to pull out and put in black or grey seats in lieu of the crappy blue stuff which was as popular in '89 as Def Leppard.

Once the thing is safe to drive I'll find it some rubber... has four GT wheels on it that are in perfect shape. Won't be needing any bigger tires until I get it all sorted out to the point that I can think of power mods. I originally wanted to do a V8 swap, but that's a big chunk to chew off... perhaps a turbo... but that's basically just one step less than a V8 swap... the actual engine transplant part. In the end I might just get it breathing better and buy a V8 car later to get the speed fix... also very partial to the sound of a Ford V8 for some reason (probably because it's the best).

I probably work too slow on this stuff to make this a progress thread but I'm sure an update will pop up some time...
 

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ChillPhatCat

5 Year Member
Apr 22, 2002
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Thanks, having fun so far... I did some soul searching on previous projects and found that most of my past endeavors focused on getting a fun power train first and battling any rust issues along the way... with some successes and some failures. I figured I'd start on the other end with something rust free and see where it takes me.

Also, it helps that this will be my first project car that's also not relied upon for daily transportation... takes a lot of stress out of the equation.
 
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2Blue2

I partied with that dude!, um girl, um whatever...
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Looks like a nice old mustang. Should be a good project. Love the fact that it is a convertible.
 
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ChillPhatCat

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Apr 22, 2002
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I also like the whistle of a turbo pulling 15-20 lbs... it is an attractive option for moderate power. And I'm getting used to the idea of keeping the car as light as possible; it has no spare tire or jack and the AC is defunct, which I think I'll just pull it out... the serpentine belt has nothing to do with the compressor so it's literally 2 bolts to shave 20 lbs up front.
 

Blown88GT

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Ahh...you're from "Cuse as they call it now. I got out of there in 1973.
Florida cars usually have no paint left & are not as rusty as those from Onondaga County.
The only salt spray damage is if the vehicle was very close to the ocean or in a hurricane or flood.

The 4 cyl expert used to be Racer Walsh in Jacksonville, FL.
He's still there.
 

ChillPhatCat

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Apr 22, 2002
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That’s awesome. I did not know he’s still in business. I have seen the name thrown around quite a bit. Someone with too much money on their hands could get lost real quick on his site. lol

Yeah we get a lot of snow here in Salt City.. it does a number on the cars. I drove these RWD cars year round before I met my wife and it was always an exciting time between November and April. Haha
 
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ChillPhatCat

5 Year Member
Apr 22, 2002
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Syracuse, NY
Took off the fender to investigate the driver side door hinge because it drops a full inch when the door is open and then I have to jack it up to close. I found one of the three bolts missing on the bottom. Does anyone know the size of those bolts?

Also wondering if the L channel steel beams along the rocker panels are stock? Is that bracing for the convertible or did someone add after the fact, it is riveted the whole length.

The brakes are clearly shot, the hard lines have some rust but don’t seem to be leaking... soft lines look ok too.

You can see how little rust is under the car. The exhaust is in surprisingly good condition down there too.
 

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ChillPhatCat

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Apr 22, 2002
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Yep I have the bracing to the K member also. Cool. I was planning SFC's in the future, but I'm glad Ford did something down there after chopping off the roof. lol
 

ChillPhatCat

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Apr 22, 2002
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I got the rest of the old top off by mid morning today... but got waylaid by the events of the day. Managed to get staples down on the rear bow, the middle bows are secured in place and it’s temporarily tacked it down in the front to keep rain out that is coming this week and tarped the back. The back tack strips are still holding fast to the old top, which seems to to be the most time consuming part. 3/4 of the way there. Looks way better already.
 
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ChillPhatCat

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Apr 22, 2002
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90% there. I need to pull the back tack strips out again and adjust the side curtains, then I can button up the front and reinstall the weatherstripping. Need to move the car to a more gravelly part of the second driveway. The vegitation is contemplating my car. It is mostly waterproof now however. :)
 

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90sickfox

I didn't really have an issue with the stink...
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When i do tops I start at the main bow and go back to the rear window. Then I do the rear quarters

You want it to be almost scary tight. I also use the new thin foam wrapped with the old jute stuff over the top ribs. Helps give it a smooth finish.

The rear section can be frustrating. It helps to use one of those yellow sewing measuring tapes and measure from the main header down to the top of the tack strip at the rear with top material loose. That will tell you where your staples need to go when you transfer it over to the vinyl. It gets kind of tricky because you have to adjust for stretch. Some waves at the quarters is normal but should disappear after sitting in the sun a few hours.

The tops stretches....main bow to the rear...and main bow to the front. The first few I did beat the hell out of me. After a while it became second nature. I can't tell you how many times i redid the rear tack strips on my first one. The rear tack strips are can be shimmed with washers to help get rid of side waves. Those washers can be a pain too.
 

ChillPhatCat

5 Year Member
Apr 22, 2002
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Syracuse, NY
Thanks for the tips, that’s pretty much how I’ve been doing this. I started at the main bow and stapled that down first then I went to the rear window and then the rear quarters. The front is only loosely tacked here to keep rain out. I have a ton of those washers too.

So I fixed an additional problem today. When I replaced the fuel relay a wire pulled out. I thought I got it back in place because the car started when it didn't before, but it turns out I didn’t. So without that wire the fuel pump runs continuously with the ignition on or off. I got that wire back in place today and now the fuel pump only runs with ignition on.
 
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