Restoring a rare Mustang to magnificence

Laura Ballance's 1967 Ford Mustang T5 is being restored by Abbotsford's 360 Fabrication.

Laura Ballance's first car

Laura Ballance's first car

by Nigel Matthews

Everybody remembers their first car but very few people hold onto that set of wheels long into adult life.

Surrey resident Laura Ballance still has her 1967 Ford Mustang T5 but it has not turned a tire in years and has fallen into a state of disrepair.

The public relations executive’s passion for automobiles began at an early age growing up in a household with a father who was very interested in cars and particularly the Ford marque. By age four, she already knew what a Ford Mustang was and, as she approached 16, she wanted to own and drive one.

“In the mid-80s my father and I started looking for a Mustang to restore together and in 1986 I found a 1967 Mustang in the local paper,” explains Laura, the president of the Laura Ballance Media Group.

“The next day we went to Surrey to look at the 67 notchback that was for sale for $600. My dad negotiated it for $450 and we began working nights and weekends restoring it. My dad was not a body man or mechanic and was self-trained but was handy, so we figured it out as we went along.

“I spent many hours passing tools to my dad as he worked on the car. It is some of the best hours of my life, true quality time with my dad. I officially received the car as a graduation present.”

Laura (pictured left) drove the car throughout grade 11 and 12 and during her early years as a journalist.

“Eventually I purchased a new car and my Mustang went into storage as old cars often do. I got married, had children and a 1967 Mustang wasn’t conducive to car seats and strollers.

“The 50th anniversary of the Mustang coincides with my oldest daughter receiving her driving license in 2014, so for the past five years I’ve been looking for someone or a company to restore my Mustang.”

One of her clients, Jason Heard, of the Vancouver Classic Car Show and Sale, recommended 360 Fabrication in Abbotsford. The boys at 360 are now working their magic on this rare car and Laura will get her wish to parade the beauty at upcoming Mustang 50th anniversary celebrations.

The car will have its grand unveiling at the Vancouver Collector Car Show and Auction at the Pacific National Exhibition grounds in June.

Over the next few weeks, we will reveal that this is not just any Mustang (one of only 453 built in 1967) and walk you through its restoration process. One that is a daunting experience for many seasoned car collectors let alone a proud mother with a passion for her old car. The world of automotive restoration is fraught with problems; the one that comes to mind is the final invoice. An old rule of thumb for the realists has been to get an estimate and then double or triple it! – We will see how this exciting project plays out between now and mid-June.

Quality and cost conscious classic car restoration is the key

The restoration business has changed a great deal – in the past, most auto body repair shops would only take on such work when their collision work dried up.

Now it’s very specialist work and I’m often asked if I could recommend a restoration shop. To be honest with you, I would be hard pressed to come up with enough names to fill the fingers of one hand.

But I have no hesitation in saying that I doubt there is one in the entire country that restores and builds as many custom cars as 360 Fabrication, in Abbotsford. They control the costs and track the daily progress by using a number of management systems and a Gantt chart.

The secret to controlling the work is to perform all of the tasks in-house with perhaps the exception of chrome plating.  During my time in the trade, costs kept mounting up and either the customer or the technician, who worked on a flat rate (piecework) basis, was short changed resulting in ill feelings between the shop owner, his staff and the customer mainly caused by the lack of communication and too many assumptions!

Laura Ballance’s original plan was to have a sympathetic restoration performed, replacing only what was necessary. But cars are no different from houses, boats and planes, so when the Mustang was disassembled and stripped they discovered that probably the only thing holding the car together was Laura’s father’s DIY welding!

The Mustang is a relatively easy car to restore in terms of obtaining new parts. In this case, by the time the air chisel and plasma cutter was put away the only major sheet metal components left was the roof, “A” pillars, rocker-panels, bulkhead and the two front frame rails and the rear section of the floor. I have heard the expression “better than new” a few times over the years and have often wondered how can it be better than new? But it can.

Today’s  restorations have improved with the help of new technology such as compression fit welding equipment, seam sealers and paint products including epoxy primers, spray on polyester fillers and the waterborne colour coats with a clear coat finish. These products are far superior to anything that came off the production line during the ‘60s.

Rick Francoeur and his team at 360 always allow the customer to be in control and understand customer needs and expectations, even down to the smallest sentimental detail. However, sometimes they have to advise the client for their own benefit, sometimes financial, safety related or future re-sale value. Laura wanted the Mustang refinished it its metallic blue, all the rage during the ‘60s and the car she remembers. But if the car is to retain its value and to represent how it came off the production line as a rare T5, it had to be painted its original Ford Paint Code Z, an interesting colour called Sauterne Gold Irid. This colour combined with a black interior and vinyl roof will make the car a real eye catcher.

Next week we will look into the mechanical component restoration and exterior trim replacement.

Nigel Matthews is the director of sales and marketing for Hagerty Insurance Canada.