About 6 months ago, I bought myself a present in the form of a midnight blue, 1965 Ford Mustang. It was something that I had been thinking about for a long time. I wanted a project car. Initially, I considered starting with something very bare-bones and building it up from scratch. But, in the end I decided it might be wise to take it easier on myself and get something (almost) running.
Part of the appeal is that it’s something away from the keyboard. All of my projects tend to be software-based recently. I wanted to do something more mechanical, physical and … well, ‘real’. I’m literally getting my hands dirty. Another attraction to this is that the way these old cars work is fascinating - its so simple and clever. They’re incredibly serviceable, you can buy a replacement part for just about anything, there’s a great community out there willing to help and, chances are, someone has already tried to do whatever you’re trying to do to - no matter how weird or crazy.
Here’s the specs:
- 200 ci Inline 6 cylinder Engine
- Autolite 1100 Carburettor with automatic choke
- 3 Speed Automatic transmission
- Midnight Blue (or at least that’s what I call it), looks like it was originally red though based on where some paint has worn off in the battery bay
- Drum brakes all around
Here’s the car the day after I bought it. I only got it home thanks to one very helpful friend who towed me halfway across the city. You can see the tow rope still hanging off the front. It wasn’t starting, but the previous owner swore it had been starting the previous day. In any case, the price was good and it seemed to be ‘all there’.
A couple of weekends (and one accidentally blown coil) later I managed to figure out that the starting problem was actually very simple and obvious - the condenser was gone. This is essentially a big capacitor that sits inside the distributor which helps control the spark.
The previous owner told me that, originally, the car lived in California. He had had the rear leaf springs replaced and put in some adjustable shocks. The battery was brand new - the old one kept draining mysteriously. Apart from that all he had done was service it reasonably regularly.
So, I started looking at what things on the car needed to be fixed - before I jumped ahead and started upgrading things.
- Fuel gauge always shows zero - this caught me off guard at 2 a.m. - not fun
- Won’t idle low enough - the car should idle at around 600rpm. If you adjust down the idle speed screw and the mix screw, it just cuts out. I think the problem here might be the idle pump or a blockage in the idle circuit somewhere.
- No element in the air filter
- Incredibly loud - I know this car is supposed to be loud, but it’s, like, really, really loud. Much louder than it should be.
- Little white smoke on cold start
- Passenger-side door lock doesn’t work with the key - only with the button
- Vacuum advance tube from carb to distributor seems to be missing
First thing, I dove right in and rebuilt the carb. I took it off (just two bolts + fuel line) and broke it down on the kitchen table. While it looked grubby outside, inside was actually quite clean. It was missing more than one of the stop balls. The setup instructions called for adjusting the brass float-bowl float. This carb has two pumps, one for the idle circuit and one for the accelerator circuit. The carb rebuild kit I got only had one pump in it so I replaced the accelerator side, which was perhaps a mistake and may be the reason for my idle problems. Here’s a picture of the carb all broken down.
I also got to the bottom of the mysterious battery drain issue that the previous owner was experiencing. Below is a picture of the started solenoid. As you can see, a cable coming off the positive side of the battery is badly melted and corroded. This cable goes straight down and into a conduit under the radiator. The cable must have been scratching off the edge of the conduit, which wear off the insulation and the battery was grounding off the body, which in turn melted this cable. The battery was probably draining all the time, at least a little because of this. I replaced this stretch of cable and the battery has held a good charge ever since.
The fuel gauge issue was pretty easy to debug too. Take a look at the picture below. This is taken from the underside of the fuel tank. What you see is the outside of the float which lives in the fuel tank. It’s just not connected at all.
As for the loudness? well, take a look.
What you see is the muffler, which is clearly falling to bits. One end has completely come off. This would go a long way to explain the loudness problem. After all, the muffler … well … muffles. I took off the end of the muffler, as it was really bent out of shape and would need to be hammered out if there was any chance of fixing it. I also tried taking the whole muffler off to make it easier to work on. I was able to get the clamp off (breaking one of the bolts in the process), but the pipe itself was fused together, so couldn’t get any further. While I was at it, I took a peek into the muffler to see how it was doing. Looks like it’s cracked inside. I’m thinking overhauling the exhaust from headers all the way to muffler, but for now I’m just going to patch it up.
That’s it for now. More updates later.