Jim’s Blog: Preserve or Restore?

ACC’s gears are turning as we prep for issue #39 — and that means its time for another Wrenching column. So today, Auction Editor Chad Tyson and I have snuck out of the office and are in my shop, working on ACC’s 1966 Ford Mustang. I’m writing this from my workbench.

Here’s the thing about the Mustang: It’s a low-miles original that isn’t completely original. The previous owner added stainless headers as well as an aftermarket intake and carb. Some of the hose clamps are OE, others are not. The water pump has been replaced and wasn’t painted. It’s now covered in some flash rust. But under 50 years of grime, the 289 still wears its factory-applied Ford blue from the day it was assembled: February 25, 1966.

We’re working on a few things today that will require underhood component removal and replacement. That creates a car guy dilemma: Should we consider painting these parts or just clean them before reassembly?

I’ve been on the fence about this for a few days. Some of these items clearly need attention, such as that water pump. But once you paint it and reinstall it, it will stick out like a bright blue sore thumb. Then again, flash rust doesn’t look right, either. It’s a tough call to make.

Ultimately, whatever you do is up to you, but it pays to have an overall plan for your project before you turn the first wrench. Is an engine compartment restoration your goal, or are you going to preserve what you have?

I don’t see any reason to eliminate original finishes here, at least not now. So today we’re cleaning and replacing what we’ve got. What would you do? Preserve or restore?


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  1. A water pump back then was like tires and belts, you always had to replace them maybe a couple times before the engine needed a rebuild. So I would paint the water pump. It is appropriate “period correct”?

  2. Look at Portland Craigslist and you’ll find a posting for a date correct 4 barrel carb and intake with valve covers for about $700…
    Personally I HATE that you waste space for tech junk easily found in hot rod magazine…
    Use the pages for more auction coverage…

  3. I always like to preserve where possible. I would remove the headers and aftermarket intake intake and carburetor. I would also reinstall the A/C compressor that was removed. The hoses and hose clamps should be replaced with new repro. original looking hoses and clamps. Looks like the OE radiator and fan shroud are also missing. The distributor cap is also a later replacement.

    1. That’s our basic plan — including the clamps. The A/C compressor is apparently long gone, given to the previous owner’s mechanic when it came off the car. I’m going to try to source another. The metal tag that came off the original one is in the glovebox.

  4. Well,.. by looking at the engine, the harmonic balancer looks like Not a K code engine and it looks to have had A/C also,… just restore it to make it nicer.

  5. Enjoy the car as is. Water pump is just another conversation point. My 69 Mach 1’s Windsor has had probably three water pumps in it over the decades.