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Fox Body Restoration 101: Body Work, Hoods, and Other Exterior Trim

By:  Connor MC  / May 31 2019
Fox Body Restoration 101: Body Work, Hoods, and Other Exterior Trim

With Foxbody Mustangs reaching the 30+ year old range, there are plenty of areas on these cars in need of restoration. A Foxbody hood, for example, takes the brunt of the elements, fading, peeling and eventually rusting. As the center of attention, a good quality hood can complete your look. Smaller details like the front grille, emblems, weather stripping and moldings, the rear spoiler (well, this isn't so small) will also go a long way to completing your Mustang’s build.

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From the novice enthusiast to the experienced gear head, AmericanMuscle provides the tools and tricks everyone needs to turn their old Fox Body into an ageless show car.

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What You Should Know About Restoring Your Fox Body

  • ‚ÄčAn older ‘Stang needs extra attention
  • Winter environments put a heavy lining of rust on a vehicle
  • You can always go back to original parts to restore your Mustang but there are also plenty of aftermarket body kit options

Back in the day of Foxbody production, Ford used a single stage colored paint and atop of that one layer of clear coat. Compared to the cars of today, the paint quality and overall painting techniques were pretty primitive. It’s not surprising after a while rust will bubble up here and there, the paint will fade (and perhaps even peel, if you’re lucky enough to live down south) and various parking lot encounters will leave a few dings. Unfortunately, these are routine occurrences. However, there may come a time when you toy with the idea of restoring the exterior of your Foxbody. We also have a restoration guide for Foxbody hoods and interior restoration tips that can aid you in reviving your aging Mustang. Want a car show finish? Make sure you've taken care of the finer details that go into the restoring your Foxbody and reap the rewards found in perfecting every little detail instead of taking the easy way out.

Foxbody Mustang at a Car Show

Fox Body Restoration Basics

When talking about Foxbody restoration, the first thing that often comes to mind is sending the Mustang in for a kick-ass paint job and rightly so! The only thing that trumps a freshly painted Pony is a freshly painted Pony WITH a model in the passenger seat! However, in most cases, painting is not going to be the only expense. Body work to remove and fix the rust patches, pulling and evening out any dents, this small stuff can quickly add up. The question to be asked is not one regarding whether to paint the car or not, but rather to have a body shop repair any blemishes over replacing the entire piece.

The aftermarket has procured direct fit, replacement panels for just about every major exterior section of a Foxbody. Bumper covers, front fenders, rear quarter panels, LX and GT moldings, floor panels, etc. These are the major components that will receive the brunt of treatment during a restoration. All of these are available as unpainted, replacement pieces or pre-painted to match the factory OEM color.

Foxbody Mustangs Side by Side at the Car Show

Foxbody Side Moldings

The GT side moldings, in most cases, don’t really suffer from irreparable damage. The majority of damage results from flying rocks and typically just need to be repainted. In the event a simple re-spray will not do the job, the aftermarket has every molding necessary, from the front fender moldings to the rear quarter panel scoops. Paint to patch and install with double-sided 3M automotive adhesive tape – just like the factory pieces.

Front fenders: For whatever reason (well, probably due to living in road grime), the main area susceptible to rust on the front fenders is actually on the underside of them. Replacement steel fenders are ideal for those cases where rust is already too heavy, or moderate enough that sanding it down is a temporary solution. If you see rust bubbling through the surface of a front fender, this is usually an indication the fender is beyond salvage (not worth the man hours to fix – replace instead).

Foxbody Side Moldings Installed
GT Engraved Side Moldings

OEM Bumper Covers

Both the front and rear lower portions of the car are urethane molded bumper covers, available in GT or LX trim. Since they’re urethane the bumper covers will not rust, but in the event of a small collision or prolonged exposure to the sun, it’s not uncommon to see them missing chunks, cracked, or otherwise warped. Any other conditions than a light scratch or peeling paint isn’t effectively repairable.

Foxbody Front Bumper Cover

Replacing the Floor Pans

Another big area of concern is your Foxbody's floor pans. Due to the unibody design the floor pan actually plays a critical role in overall strength of the chassis. A rusted through floor pan can severely compromise the structural integrity of the vehicle. On a lighter note, no one likes wet feet! Rust on a floor pan is forewarning to a hole, and will eventually need to be replaced. Replacement floor pans come as a direct fit and are made of very durable, 18-gauge stamped steel. Installing floor pans requires welding, and for the best fit, finish, and overall strength it is recommended to have a professional do it.

1987 Foxbody with Rusted Out Floor Pans

Rear Quarter Panels

Rusting quarter panels and Mustangs go way, way back – like, to their inauguration in the sixties, back. Akin to the front fenders, they are susceptible to rust in the wheel well, but perhaps the greatest mystery is their ability (and love) to sprout the bubbly brown iron smack in the middle of the quarter panel. Not only is this an unpleasant aesthetic landmark, once they pop up, they’re difficult to smack down. It is similar to an endless game of whack-a-mole. One patch bubbles up, is taken care of, and then a new one moves into town. The newcomer is taken care of only to have the original area resurrect itself! A new quarter panel is going to end this problem once and for all, and you’ll save some dough on the preparatory body work.

Foxbody Rear Side View

Tips for Sandpaper Choices

When restoring the paint on your Foxbody, you'll want to use the right grit paper for the job.

  • 40 Grit - very rough, used for pre-bodywork prep (not waterproof)
  • 80 Grit - rough sanding before bodywork. Use for sanding body filler
  • 180 Grit - final sanding and feather edging body filler
  • 320 Grit - optional for final sanding before using primer
  • 400 Grit - rough sanding primer or for fine sanding spot putty
  • 600 Grit - final sanding primer. Use before applying basecoats
  • 1000 Grit - wet sanding a panel to be repainted
  • 1200 Grit - wet sanding a panel to be repainted
  • 1500 Grit - final sanding of clearcoat to remove defects, pre-polish
  • 2000 Grit - finsh wetsanding

Aftermarket Foxbody Body Kits

The above talked exclusively about OEM restoration pieces – i.e: how to make a Fox look like it just rolled out of the Ford factory, 80’s style. On the other hand, Cervini has devised a body kit to replicate the limited edition Saleen Mustang’s. Direct fit like the OEM pieces, the Saleen kit changes the front air dam, rear valence, and side skirts on LX models.

Stock Foxbody Mustang GT
Foxbody with GT Body Parts

Restoring Urethane Mustang Parts

Repairing body parts that have extensive sun damage or minor fender bender can be costly. While the material is not the main concern when considering cost for repair, the fixing of the broken body parts can be labor intensive. Using bondo to repair body parts is common. Although depending on the extent of the damage, it could be inefficient to repair. Unless one is a body repairman or has extensive experience with body parts, it is not advised to repair parts. In some cases, it can be cheaper to simply replace them and get repainted rather than repairing it and repainting.

1988 Saleen Style Rear Fascia for 1987-1993 Foxbody Mustangs
Urethane Saleen Style Rear Fascia

Tips for Sandpaper choices

When restoring the paint on your Foxbody, you'll want to use the right grit paper for the job.

  • 40 Grit - very rough, used for pre-bodywork prep (not waterproof)
  • 80 Grit - rough sanding before bodywork, use for sanding body filler
  • 180 Grit - final sanding and feather edging body filler
  • 320 Grit - optional for final sanding before using primer
  • 400 Grit - rough sanding primer or for fine sanding spot putty
  • 600 Grit - final sanding primer, use before applying basecoats
  • 1000 Grit - wet sanding a panel to be repainted
  • 1200 Grit - wet sanding a panel to be repainted
  • 1500 Grit - final sanding of clearcoat to remove defects, pre-polish
  • 2000 Grit - finsh wetsanding

Foxbody Hoods - Restoration or Replacement?

Of three different cars brought to a body shop asking about paint work and whatnot, the body guy always said a new hood was in order as restoring the original was not worth the time or money as the rust would inevitably return. Now, if a body guy is saying replacing the hood is just as, if not more, cost effective than repairing the old hood, this must mean aftermarket replacement hoods can’t be too expensive. The good news is, this is in fact true!

  • Aftermarket hoods can be fiberglass, so no rust worries
  • Cowl induction hoods give you more engine bay clearance with an aggressive look
  • A Mach 1 hood has the cowl as well as two function air scoops
  • Hood pins are a good idea for aftermarket hoods, but there are aesthetic kits as well
  • There's always the stock look option. Remember, it's all about preference
1993 Foxbody Mustang Front End

Stock Style Fox Mustang Hoods

The OEM hood from Ford is made of steel and features a sleek 1” cowl. Stock replacement Foxbody hoods come with precisely the same specs. Replacement hoods are made of durable steel (~46 lbs) and are cut to be a precise fit with the factory latch and hinge components. So if you’re after the factory Fox look, replacement OEM style hoods can go for as little as $350. At the end of the day, that’s really not bad at all. A good paint job later and these hoods ought to be good for another 25 years!

Foxbody Cowl Hood Measuring

Aftermarket Foxbody Hoods

Typically, there are two major styles in the aftermarket Foxbody hood world; cowl induction style and Mach 1 style. Both not only offer a distinct visual appearance, but there are added ‘performance’ advantages to be had over a stock hood. First off, aftermarket style hoods are most commonly made of fiberglass, so gone are thoughts of rust and corrosion! Secondly, they can offer slight weight advantages over their steel counterparts. Let’s examine each style.

Foxbody GT Front End with Cowl Hood
GT with a Cowl Hood

Cowl Induction Hoods

Cowl induction hoods follow the same aesthetic approach as the stock hood, except they typically have a much greater cowl height. As mentioned, the stock cowl height is 1”, whereas aftermarket cowl induction hoods start at 2.5” and can purchased up to 4”. Now, there is a performance advantage to be had with this, so to speak. If you have a modified engine, or are planning on building one, many intakes will not fit under the stock hood and thus require some more clearance. There are two options to deal with this problem. 1) Drop the engine via lower engine mounts or 2) Use a hood with more clearance. Option #1 is pretty limited in terms of potential clearance and requires a decent amount of work. Cowl induction hoods offer you the clearance you need, and give the car a very aggressive look – something that is a must for any muscle car!

Mach 1 style: Mach 1 style hoods are a replica hood reminiscent of the early 70’s Mustangs. Also featuring a raised cowl, Mach 1 hoods also feature two functional air scoops (ram air effect? Hmm… definitely reminiscent of the seventies!) before the cowl tapers to a close. The Mach 1 hood gives a major bump to an overall muscle car look and also leaves more room in the engine bay to house something a little more volatile than a stock 302.

Mach 1 Hood Installed on a 1979-1993 Mustang Foxbody
Mach 1 Style Hood

Hood Pins and Their Function

If you were lucky enough to grow up around cars in the sixties and seventies, you know exactly what these ‘hood pins’ are. If not, here is an attempt at providing some explanation and direction. Unfortunately, to install a hood pin kit, you actually have to drill through the hood of the car. If you don’t want to do this but still love the look, you are in luck! There are two kits available. You have the real deal or there is a purely aesthetic kit. The aesthetic kit sticks on top of the hood via 3M automotive adhesive, no drilling necessary.

Billet Black Hood Pin Kit Installed on a 1979-1993 Foxbody Mustangs

Making the Choice Between a Stock or Aftermarket Hoods

When it comes to choosing a hood for your Foxbody, the first question you should ask is "do I, or will I have a modified engine?" If the answer is yes, do some research to verify the dimensions of potential intake manifold combinations. It would be a real bummer to pick up a sleek OEM hood, have it painted only to find out it won’t close it over your hot rod motor! With that out of the way, the decision comes down to a preference of style. The cowl induction and Mach 1 hoods offer a formidable, aggressive look whereas the stock retains the smoother factory lines.

Project Foxbody Mustang Hood

Foxbody Spoilers and Wings

Depending on trim level and year, there are many different wings Ford equipped on the Mustang. LX hatchback models featured a small wing at the back. Think of it as a lip, as it resembles a small ramp. The GT models had a larger spoiler planted on the back. Notchback models could make a wall jealous, as their trunks were flat with no spoiler at all. Convertible models featured a functional luggage rack on the trunk lid. But that’s enough history.

On LX and GT models the spoilers ‘wear’ fairly well. These stock spoilers seem almost immune to rust, thus hardly ever needing repair. When it comes to restoration, the majority of them only need be sanded and repainted. So the real question; do you want a different style? There is a fine line between aggressive and overly tacky – and no muscle car owner wants to fall into the latter category. Aftermarket manufacturer Cervini has procured several wing styles, modeled after limited production Mustangs, to slap on the trunk if you’re seeking an alternative look. Less extravagant and with smoother lines, the sport wing is an extremely popular choice amongst convertible owners.

All of these wings come unpainted, are made of durable fiberglass and feature provisions for a third brake light. Take it to your local body guy, have it sprayed the color of your choice and bolt it in place. Install is pretty simple, however some wings may have slightly different or additional mounting points. You may have to take a drill to ‘ye old trunk.

Cervini Saleen Style Rear Wing for 1979-1993 Hatchback Mustangs
Saleen Style Rear Wing

Mustang Grille Inserts

Another favorite restoration option is to swap the stock Ford badge at the front of the Fox with a grille insert featuring the more iconic running horse. In technical terms, we are talking about a Cobra grille insert. As mentioned, regular Foxbody Mustangs featured the blue oval attached to the bumper cover, which is a solid piece. The Cobra grille features the running horse logo with an added opening for air to flow through to the engine - bonus! Install does require a cut-out to be made in the original cover.

Cobra Grille Insert for 1987-1993 Foxbody Mustangs
Cobra Grille Insert

Foxbody Badges and Emblems

The cherry on top or the final element, whichever way you prefer to look at it, of the restoration is to replace the old, tarnished Ford and 5.0 badges with new ones. The sands of time actually will degrade the original badges, and at $10 a piece, it’s really affordable to pick up some new ones and stick ‘em on. Be proud of the blue oval!

Trim Pieces and Weather Stripping

The weather stripping itself isn’t so noticeable. What is noticeable, however, is the water that may enter the cabin as result of degraded weather stripping! It’s always a good idea to pass a careful eye over the weather stripping around the doors, windows, and around the sunroof or T-tops if so equipped. Ripped or torn rubber stripping that has pulled away from the frame member should be replaced. You can buy a complete kit for your ‘Stang at a reasonable price and have it all done with some glue and several hours of work. You want to make sure water is running off the Fox, not into it!

Around the windows, check the belt moldings and replace if needed. It is not uncommon to find moldings like the one pictured. They are not a big deal to replace, either. A single screw, accessed via the door jam, is all it takes to slide the old ones out and the new ones in.

Worn Out Weather Stripping on a Foxbody Mustang
Fitment includes: 1979, 1980, 1981, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, GT, Cobra, LX, SVO