Sunday, June 28, 2020

Thinking about a new paint job? Part One.

There has always been products available to preserve and refresh your car's paint.
photo source: ebay

Maybe you should try to save what you've got. First.

New paint on an old car.

It's kind of a car keeper's dream. Or nightmare.

No matter how careful and attentive you've been to your car's present paint, the time comes when it can't  be rescued any more.

It has become a bit faded, with the color less vibrant, and no matter what you try, it won't maintain a shine.

There may be noticeable scratches, stains, discolored or rough spots. Yeah, you should have wiped off that bird crap right away!

Maybe a little (or a lot) of minor body damage and dings.

Is it time for some body work and a new coat of paint?

Well, what's wrong with a little patina?

A car can be original only once? Right?

Aren't survivor cars the hot thing right now?

If you really don't have any pride in the appearance of your car, couldn't you just claim that it was a Barn Find?

A barn find that was found parked in your driveway!

There is a certain attraction to collectors and hobbyists of a well maintained, preserved through  sympathetic use, vintage car. The paint, trim, interior and upholstery are just as they came from the factory. Just a bit worse for the passage of time, just like us.

If the particular  example has been well maintained since new, there is no real need for restoration, in fact to restore the car would be to destroy an original.

The older and rarer the car the more attractive this concept is.

Original owner cars can fall into that category. That is unless of course, the original owner was a real slob!

Generally the original buyer won't do irreversible damage to the car during the first few years of ownership. Although there are those that try very hard. Unfortunately some succeed. Unless there is outright abuse most can be cleaned up and saved. Modern paints are quite resistant to fading and staining. At least for the first five years or so.

If not, there is still plenty of paint thickness for cutting and polishing.

One of the plum finds for car guys is the well maintained and preserved millennial or older car.

A good cleaning and waxing, a general detail, can make them look like they've been stored in a time capsule.

They are valued because they are rare finds.

I once went to see an early 50's Cadillac that had been sitting under a tarp in a grove of trees for over thirty years.

It seems as though the tarp was regularly replaced, because it doesn't appear that too much moisture broached  the interior. The finish outside was faded, with surface rusting on the top surfaces, There was some body rust through.  Even the grille was rusted through in spots. But open that door and the interior was unbelievably intact and preserved. The dash wood grain and chrome and steel was flawless. The wool mohair upholstery and carpets were like new. It didn't even smell too musty.

I'm sure that the upholstery would start to pull apart if it was placed back into daily service. My '56 Cadillac had a rear seat that appeared to be in beautiful original condition. After I started using the car regularly the foam rubber cushions began to crumble, the stitching began to fail, and the upholstery fabric stated to disintegrate.

Pretty soon the seat didn't look so beautiful anymore.

So what's the point? Protecting interior surfaces from UV light exposure is important to their preservation.

 All this work washing and waxing my truck and Explorer reminded me of what I had read in the Car- Keepers Guide.

Preservation is always the key.

Try to avoid having to repaint your car for as long as possible.

I just  finished re reading this book.

Refurbish the existing paint by carefully polishing and waxing and touching up chips and damage.

Always the best idea, when possible.

Not only cheaper, but it usually looks better. It also preserves it's value.

I went back to re- read the book, Ultimate Auto Detailing by David Jacobs Jr. It's part of my personal library.

Lot's of good tips on preserving your car.

This is the complete guide to detailing your auto for Concourse competition or just your own enjoyment and satisfaction.

I seem to find myself  in a detailing frame of mind lately.  First my truck, then the Explorer, then my XJ6.

The  Explorer came out pretty nice, but there had been years of neglect before I bought it. The car lot had professionally polished and waxed the paint before I bought it. But realistically it was just a cheap old truck and it was just clean enough, but still it was mechanically well maintained. It's a bit of a hobby trying to get it back to looking as good as I can. Still I only paid a couple of grand for it. There are limits to what I'll do.

The stakes with my F 150 were much higher, I bought this vehicle new, so I'm the one responsible for it's lack of care. I paid much more for it than any of my old cars.

Luckily, I acted before real irreversible damage had been done. I plan to keep up with the need to wash and wax and to continue improving and maintaining the paint.

My XJ6 has been babied a bit under my ownership. A wash and wax did the trick. I also washed the front floor mats and carpet where I had a huge coffee spill.  The rest of the interior looked nice and clean.

Of course I should have been on top of things from the beginning. The best time to preserve your vehicle is as soon as you get it home.

No need to assign blame. Life gets in the way. Pay now or pay later. It will only get more expensive.

All of my vehicles except the '51 Jag can be cosmetically rehabilitated. Actually most of them already have, as they get the attention they need. I keep the XJS, XJ6 and "96 Mustang under covers when I'm not driving them. My cul de sac kind of looks like one of those old mansions in a horror movie where the furniture in the abandoned house is covered up in sheets.  I don't use expensive covers, but I do use covers. Religiously.

I've had discussions where some guy will say that it's bad to use cheap single layer covers. They don't last and they can scratch your paint with grit from the dust that works through the fabric. Sure that's true, but I'd rather deal with those micro scratches than the discoloration that comes from finding a huge blob of bird crap or tree sap that's been sitting on the finish for days. Or the discoloration and damage that UV rays can inflict on the paint and the interior. There is a build up of dust on the car but I deal with that with a car duster.

Detailing and preservation is the first step. Try to keep your car original. Chances are you don't want to pay the expense that a really good paint job will set you back.

Now if you find yourself in a position where the paint on your car is beyond saving, or it was in a collision, or you just bought a car that would be greatly improved by a new coat of paint, don't despair. There are low priced paint shops out there. If you can realign your expectations to their reality you might find yourself fairly well satisfied.  I did.

Friday, June 19, 2020

Spray painting vinyl upholstery.


What could be easier?

Just point and shoot.

Vinyl "dyes" have been around for years. They are not really dyes, they are paints.

Awhile back, a family discussion took place concerning the Mark VII. I spent some time assuring my Wife that I really did want to get the car running and on the road. I knew that she had some reservations, based upon an earlier experience with a car that was in a "less ugly" condition than the old Jag. Her words, not mine.

My '66 Riviera was much beloved by me and it was therefor kept in good running condition and was driven all the time. Emphasis on all the time. The paint was faded, cracked, and oxidized. There were even areas of "light" surface rust. Worst of all, the windshield and rear window would leak like sieves. There was a problem of rusty channels and swollen seams. This prevented the glass from sealing, although the stainless trim moldings were still in place.The proper repair procedure would have been to remove the glass, and cut away and replace the rusted metal. Then reseal the glass.  A somewhat less proper approach would be to remove the glass and repair the channels with POR putty, seal all the metal with POR paint, then reseal the glass. A less workman like approach would have been to fill the seams around the trim moldings with silicon seal and forget about it. I found an even cruder method, I just ran lengths of duct tape over the window moldings and surrounding body metal. Then I forgot about it!

The body of the Riviera was straight and I suppose that an inexpensive paint job could have been applied. It would have helped to raise the car's appearance to a "presentable " level.
The car was "slammed" with wide whitewalls and Moon discs. A set of slightly burned out glass pack duals  let that seven liter Nailhead V8 produce the appropriate rumble.

I suppose that an impartial viewer might have labeled the car's appearance as "ugly." In all fairness my Wife actually like the styling of the car despite the patina.

I knew that I wasn't going to have the window channels fixed properly. I could have at least gone the POR route but I stubbornly maintained that "if I couldn't have it fixed right, than I wouldn't do it at all!" So I didn't have it painted and drove it, even though it looked kind of like a piece of crap.

The Mark has more surface rust than my Riv ever did, in fact more than any car I've ever owned except my '22 Dodge. I suppose that my Wife is concerned that I might get it running and then start driving it in it's deplorable state!

I can't say that I blame her. Though I have had a change of heart. The old Jag would get at least a 500 dollar paint job. That led to a discussion about the color. The original color was a medium pastel blue, Cotswold Blue I believe. I was thinking that Ford had a similar '70's color, Wedgewood blue. I also considered the darker blue that's on my Explorer. However, I mentioned that I would really like the car to be green, Highland Green, or Brewster green, a GM color. Or the same Forest green that my truck is painted. The car had been reupholstered years ago in blue vinyl by the original owner. It's in fair condition, Typically, the back seat is pristine. The fronts are pretty good except for the seat bottoms, which are both torn. The door panels have fared better and are okay in my eyes.  I said that I imagine the car would be painted in some blue color as I wasn't going to have the car completely upholstered. Maybe I could have the car resprayed green some time in the future.

It's not that I don't like blue, it's just that I really want a green Jaguar. My Daughter said that if I'm willing to pay to have the car painted once, why not just have it painted the color that I really want?

That's a very good point. But how will it look? I don't think that  dark green and blue would look that great. Still I could have a green car and just live with it until I can afford to have it re-trimmed in a more complimentary color.  While tan goes very well with green, so does grey. That's the color combo of my truck.

Maybe... I could change the color of the interior to grey!

I've read articles in the past where the color of the interior was changed with vinyl dye. You can't really dye vinyl or leather like you can fabric, but you can spray it with Vinyl paint. I wouldn't anticipate any problems with the door panels, dashboard, even the headliner or seat backs. But what about the actual seating areas? Is there a a paint that can stand up the constant wear and abrasion that a seat cushion is subject to?

I've read many threads on the Jaguar forums where old, discolored , cracked and worn leather seats are patched, filled and treated. Then they are re-colored with the leather top coat finish applied with a spray or foam brush application. I've seen the results and they do look very good, almost new.

Generally the seats are re-recolored to the original color. This would assure that the piping or any trim would not shift and betray the original contrasting color.  Even if the coating wears through it would still be an identical or similar color underneath.

Could a vinyl spray really stand up to daily use? I have my doubts.

I thought that I could give it a try to see how it comes out.

Luckily I have an  interior panel and a loose seat cushion lying around to try it out.

I've used this for several automotive projects.
This stuff even sticks to resin furniture.

I have successfully used Rustoleum 2X paint before. It claims to be able to adhere to plastic. The commercials show it being used on resin patio furniture. That's a type of plastic that does not like paint. Usually it would flake and chip off like crazy. It should be suitable for the dash, headliner, door cards, and non wearing seating areas, such as the backs of the front seats.

This is Rustoleum's specific use product.
It costs about the same as the 2X.

There is also a specific Rustoleum fabric and vinyl paint. I wondered if the 2X paint was the same paint in a different can, I looked at both their fact sheets and there are some differences in the solvents used. That would probably be to allow it to be used on fabrics. I will pick up a can later to include in the comparison.

This is the craft paint my Wife suggested.
This container retails for 45.00.

Then my Wife volunteered a craft paint that is touted to be suitable for use on a variety of materials. Vinyl, fabric, and leather included. It is generally applied using a foam brush.

This is an old Datsun 510 upper seat cushion. The vinyl and stitching
 was in great shape considering that it's sat in the elements for years.

Here's a 510 door card.

I cleaned off the door panel and the old seat back cushion and decided to give both the 2X paint  and the craft paint a trial. I used the 2X paint because I happened to have some on hand. The craft paint was supplied by my Wife. I visited the craft website and read many positive reviews. One reviewer claimed that they had painted a leather sofa and love seat and had been impressed by the results.

Don't laugh, my Wife has been involved with crafting for a long time, some of their products can be surprisingly effective.

This is the area covered by 2X paint.

This is the area with the Finish All paint.
My Wife used a regular brush for this single coat.

I only applied 2X to the door card.
The grain is still clearly visible through the paint.

After applying the two paints I will give the Rustoleum the needed 5 days to achieve the maximum adhesion to plastic, that the instructions say is required.

Even factory supplied leather upholstery will display eventual wear and tear, although it usually takes a decade or more to become apparent.  The surface coating can become abraded and lose it's color.

How long would painted vinyl have to maintain it's appearance for me to be satisfied? That's a good question. I wouldn't expect it to last as long as the factory leather finish. Would it stand up to several years of occasional use?  Chipping and peeling would be my biggest concern.

With vinyl materials and fabrics the color goes clear through the material. I've never seen vinyl wear through the "color coat," there usually isn't one.

There were a couple of reviews where the Rustoleum products were used on ski boats, and golf cart seats. The reviewers stated that the color looked good throughout the season.

I'll do some abrasion testing on my samples by rubbing the sole of a running shoe against it. Try to pick a chip off, especially at the edge.  I might even try a some sandpaper on it.

Of course if I do decide to use the paint on my old Mark VII I'll probably have the seat replacement panels done up in grey instead of blue. Might as well make it as easy on the paint as possible.

I'll report back with the results in a future post.

Yes, I am getting ahead of myself as I haven't fixed the brakes or gotten the engine running yet.
All the waxing and detailing work has got me to thinking about paint. This will give me something to mull over in the meantime.

Saturday, June 13, 2020

I finally decided to wax my truck. It's only been around ten years.

A valuable Life lesson.

While I like and appreciate my truck it has to live at the curb, uncovered. It's parked across the street so it doesn't even get the shade from the large trees in front of our house. It's not getting driven too much now either. Especially now.  I did make two trips up North last month. One to Roseville, a bit north of Sacramento and another to Placerville east of Sacramento in the foothills.

The reason for these trips was to pick up some furniture that my Wife wanted. The trip to Roseville netted us a three piece wall unit that consists of lower cabinets topped by  bookshelves. It was reminiscent of the items that I used to see displayed at the old Ethan Allen showrooms. For a blue collar kid like me, Ethan Allen was an unobtainable dream. The unit was free, so the trip was well worth it. The second trip was for a tall, antique, multi level cabinet from the late 1890's. She wanted it, and she paid for it, so that was worth the trip also.

Either way it was a break from the shelter in place.  We just wore masks when we were around other folks. I've gotten used to that. Might as well, as that's what our future look like.

Because the truck sits at the curb I've noticed that the paint was starting to look dull.  I knew that I better take action before the clear coat starts to oxidize, then it will be too late.

I carefully washed the truck and besides noting that some very dried bird crap was clinging to the hood, the paint looked okay. Dull, but okay. Luckily the bird droppings didn't discolor the finish.

I washed it the new microfiber wash mitt that I just bought.

I've heard a lot about microfiber but I really didn't get it. I was still using my old T shirts and terry cloth towels.

I've had this for almost a year and hadn't even opened the package.

My Brother even gave me a 36 pack of towels from Costco last Christmas, I hadn't even opened it, let alone used them yet. What was the big deal?

I googled microfiber and read about it. It's really just a much denser polyester weave that not only grips the dirt molecules, it also somehow attracts them. Most cleaning can be done with plain water. As opposed to normal cleaning, which floats away the dirt with dispersants like soap or detergent.

It cleans with physics instead of chemistry. At least that's what the article said.

Anyhow I bought the mitt and some other cleaning and polishing supplies, at the local
O' Reilly's.

You can see how dull and cloudy the finish has become.
That Ryobi polisher fell off the truck many times during the job.

I had bought a Ryobi power polisher last summer at a swap meet. It was brand new in it's case and came with two polishing bonnets. It only cost me 15 bucks so I thought that it was a good deal.

It is an orbital polisher, which is best for the neophyte, as it's pretty hard to wear through the paint with it. I found that it is also a bit hard to hang onto, as it's similar to a big palm sander that you grip with one hand. Especially once your hand gets tired!

I had been watching some videos on cutting and buffing new paint. One video claimed that they turned a 500 dollar Maaco paint job into a 3,500 (value) paint job. The finish was clay barred, wet sanded with 1,500 and 2,200 grit wet/dry paper then polished and waxed with a buffer.  It took the guy two and a half days to do the job. That's why a good paint job is expensive. There's a lot of labor involved beyond just spraying the paint. A 500.00 dollar paint job, that was pretty much what I put on my old Mustang.

I was happy to find replacement bonnets available at my local store.

At O'Reilly's I found some 6 inch polishing bonnets which I knew would come in handy, this way I could switch to a clean one as needed. I had been a bit worried that I wouldn't be able to easily source compatible bonnets. The originals are the tie on type. I didn't have much faith in those. I found some that are held on with an elastic band around the edge.  It was pretty cheap of Ryobi  to only include one of each bonnet with the machine. I went back to the store later and bought a couple more packages of bonnets. I don't know how long the machine will last, but it would be worthless without these.

I thought I'd try the Mothers product because it looked like it would be easier to hold onto!

I used  Meguiar's car wash with the microfiber mitt and it did a good job, even considering that it hadn't been washed in at least a couple of months. I did notice that paint was losing it's shine. I had planned on using a clay bar but forgot to buy it at this time. I picked one up on the subsequent trip.

I've watched a couple of videos where plumber's putty was used instead of a clay bar. I will probably try that out also. It is much cheaper at three to four dollars a container. Why not save a few bucks if it does the job?

Meguiar's cleaning wax is pretty good one step process. However if you want real results
 you'll have to invest a bit more money and time. Again note how dull the roof looks.

I decided to go with my favorite wax. Meguiar's cleaner wax. I could have used a mild compound, then used something like Meguiar's Carnuba Wax.  I figured that the cleaner wax would be abrasive enough to bring the shine back and I was right. Since trucks are pretty big, by the time I finished doing the entire truck I was kind of tired! Carnuba wax will have to wait for the next time.

The cleaning wax cut through the dull film and the paint started to gleam again. I noticed that there was a lot of hard water droplet deposits on the right side of the truck. That's the side that's next to the curb and gets sprayed by the sprinklers. The cleaner wax removed and smoothed out some of the deposits, but it will need to be clay barred to make a big improvement.

This shot of the hood displays the improvement.
Much better!

It was a satisfactory result for the first effort. Repeated attention will improve it's appearance even more. The whole idea is periodic maintenance and upkeep. It's not a one time deal.

Polishing machines of this type are low powered and operate at slower speeds than professional type, dual action sanders/polishers. Many professionals choose direct action machines because in skilled hands they can reduce the time spent polishing, and time is money. In inexperienced hands damage can be done to the panels where the cutting agents burn through the paint, especially at the edges, sometimes all the way to the primer.

Instead of bonnets, better machines use velcro attaching systems to hold different foam pads and buffers. These are easier and quicker to use, and it makes it much easier to switch back and forth as you complete one area at a time.

I tried this originally but became concerned that the bonnets weren't going to hold up to being repeatedly removed and mounted. The tie on units got pretty marginal, one tore at the edges. I decided to do both sides and the tailgate at one time. I applied wax to these areas then went back and buffed out the dried polish. It worked, but made the job more difficult as it had become much warmer, drying out the wax residue.  I used a microfiber towel to remove the dried wax in the hard to reach spots.

There are many different polishing machine systems available to the hobbyist. The big companies have a line of professional grade equipment. Eastwood offers one, Harbor Freight has a moderately priced system that would probably hold up for home use. Even little polishers like the Ryobi can be satisfactory for occasional home use. It will take longer to do the job, but it's still faster and easier than doing it by hand, Karate Kid style;  wax on, wax off!

I'm leaning towards the HF system as they carry a good assortment off buffing pads and there are stores everywhere.

There aren't a lot of whitewalls around but it does a good job on blackwalls too.

I had cleaned the tires with Bleche-White which removes the brownish "bloom" from the tires. Then I applied some protectant. I also applied it to the plastic grille, mirrors and door handles. Then I carefully cleaned all the windows inside and out with SprayWay. That the best window cleaner I've found. Your car always looks better with clean windows.

Overall I'm very satisfied with the results of an afternoon's work. I've only got five more cars to go!

I was so fired up that I decided to wash and wax the Explorer a week later.  I had all the stuff I needed, so I finished it in an afternoon.

The paint has quite a bit of "crackling" on the hood. The cracks can't be removed by polishing or even compounding. The hood would have to be sanded down then repainted. I'm not about to do that, yet.  After polishing with the cleaner wax it looks much better, Even the hood looks shiny. The paint on the remainder of the vehicle is in pretty good shape and responded well to my efforts.

Over a year ago I had repainted the C pillars at the rear hatch. I should have done a better job masking as I got some over spray on the rear windows. It was a bit sloppy looking. I used liquid rubbing compound to remove the over spray. It was a worthwhile improvement. I also decided to wash all the door jambs and step plates. Since this was becoming a detailing session I decided to add the "V8" emblems that were missing from the front fenders. V8 powered early Explorers are a bit rare. I had located these along with the missing Ford oval on the hatch during a trip to my local Pick and Pull yard. It dawned on me that I was the only person in my cul de sac that owned any V8 powered vehicles.

Now the Explorer was looking pretty nice for a twenty five year old vehicle that has had to work for it's living. I know that my Wife thinks that it's kind of silly that I would spend so much time detailing out what most would consider a throw away vehicle. But I find it satisfying to make it look as best as it can.

The old girl's starting to look like someone cares about her.

It's funny but after the Explorer was stolen and recovered, and I fixed it up, I've gotten to really like the thing. Maybe love don't just make Subarus, Subarus. Maybe it works for Fords too!

Sunday, June 7, 2020

Can a Smokey and the Bandit fan ever be happy with anything less than a Trans Am?

This is one of my favorite scenes from the movie.

Even the smog choked engines could easily throw up clouds of dust.

He might have to be.

Even more to the point, can he be happy with an SN95 Mustang?

Who might we be talking about?

That would be me and my '96 Mustang GT convertible.

This is mine, taken almost ten years ago.

Don't laugh.

I caught the tail end of Smokey and the Bandit last night on TV.  It was the last third of the movie, with a lot of the action still left in the story.

I wouldn't attempt to critically evaluate the movie, there's just not enough substance there for that. I'm sure that the real critics hated it. But the movie going public loved it. I know that I did. It's just for fun, but it's the best of the three Bandit movies. Though that probably isn't saying very much!

The second episode of the series is so bad that I can't even bring myself to watch it. The less said about the third movie the better!

This isn't about movie making, it's about legend making. Burt Reynolds was already a big star when he jumped into the seat of that Pontiac. The success of the movie didn't hurt his popularity. The Trans Am was the legend that was made in this movie, in the eyes of car buying America. Sales jumped substantially after the release of the film.

I'll admit to being influenced by the movie's hero treatment of the Trans Am, does that make me a fanboi?

There was another Trans Am, not as well remembered as a certain green Mustang, in another movie, though the color was similar.

The Duke might look like your Dad, but he sure doesn't drive like him!

John Wayne drove a Brewster green T/A  through Seattle in McQ.  In what was ultimately a pointless car chase sequence. Most car chase sequences usually end up being pointless. If the pursued vehicle ends up crashing and killing the driver, the pursuer, usually a cop, loses any information that the dead bad guy could provide for the investigation. I guess these "under cover cars" are lacking a radio so they can't coordinate with other units to make an effective arrest. Besides, the chase is usually there to add excitement, and serves as the hero moment.

Of course the Mustang has had it's own moment of glory, in a movie that was released well before the Bandit's adventures.


It doesn't hurt that it was driven by Steve McQueen.

The second generation of GM's F body was a stunner. The first generation was a nicely proportioned, sleek little car. The second gen received an infusion of testosterone and was transformed, much like that skinny kid at the office that's been hitting the gym and maybe the juice.

The new F body now displayed a new level of aggression and muscularity.

I've had a personal relationship with this generation of F body.

My older brother bought a new '73 Camaro after high school.  It was the type LT. Lusso Turismo; Luxury Touring, the luxury edition not the performance  model. It was equipped with a two barrel 350 V8 that was adequate. He added a nice set of glass pack duals. This was all pre smog, oh, those were the Days! He later traded it in for a year old '76 Trans Am. This was fully equipped with A/C, power windows and the rest. The 400 V8 was teamed with the turbo hydramatic. This was a good combo. The 400 provided effortless performance up to 100 mph. It wasn't a stormer like earlier 455 Super Duty models, but it was plenty fast enough. He later surrendered to the notion that he should stir his own gears, and traded that  T/A in on a '76 Camaro with a four speed. That was an unsatisfactory pairing. These malaise era motors weren't happy about revving and the transmission was notchy and hard to shift.  It was actually an unpleasant car to drive. It least it had T tops!

My younger brother had a actual twin to the Bandit's black '77, even down to the four speed. It developed some driveability issues and he soon lost interest in it. I guess I could have bought it from him.  I had my '77 Coupe de Ville at this time, and I wasn't that impressed by Trans Ams. I did get to drive it a couple of times.

If I wasn't interested then, what makes me interested now? Times and people change.

The early Trans Am with the optional Super Duty 455 motor was a true supercar. By the time 1977 rolled around Pontiac was doing it's best in preserving the T/A's performance image even though actual performance had declined over the years. Still, it was one of the quickest and best handling American cars available on the market.

The '77 T/A was a fairly large and brawny car. An overall length of 196.8 in. wheelbase at 108 in. width of 73.4 in.  and height of 49.3 in. It weighed in at least at 3,530 lbs.

Compare that my '97 Mustang; it's overall length of 181.5 in. the wheelbase stretches 101.3 in.    with 52.8 in. height, width of  71.8 in. and weighs in at 3,457 lbs.

Compared to the older T/A my Mustang does come off as a bit petite.

The T/A is longer, lower, wider, and comes equipped with a much bigger motor, 400 c.i. compared to 288 c.i. ( 4.6 liter).

But what about power?

The T/A came standard with a 180 h.p. motor. Another 500.00 dollars would upgrade you to a 200 hp. engine.

The Mustang's first year of the modular motor cranked out 215 hp. and 285 ft. lbs. of torque

Numbers are just numbers. I'll provide performance figures from Car and Driver's road tests.

Trans Am ( 200 hp.): 1/4 mile 16.9 @82 mph. top speed of 110 mph. ( at red line)  It would pull past the recommended rev range.  Interestingly enough, the Z28 Camaro the T/A was tested against was slightly quicker. Skidpad results, 8.1G Fuel economy was 12 mpg overall. The overall handling of the T/A was considered to be very good. It was at least equal to the contemporary Corvette.

Mustang GT (manual transmission) : 1/4 mile  15.1 @92 mph   0-60 6.6 secs.  .85 G w/optional 17 in. wheels. Top speed? 140 mph. Fuel economy? C/D observed 22 mpg. EPA rated at 25 hwy. That's what I get.

Maybe my Mustang doesn't deserve to be called a girl's car.

Most people like the basic second generation Firebird and Camaro. Many like the winged and decal laden T/A. Count me in that group.

The screaming chicken was always an option. It was a bit over the top, but it was of the times. The Formula model was a little cleaner in design, and you could get the same power train as the T/A.

The '94 Mustang received a lot of criticism over it's styling when it was introduced. It was sometimes even described as looking feminine, compared to the last version of the Fox bodied GT. Those displayed a lot of attitude and aggression. The '94 seemed a bit demure, an editor from Car Craft had described it as looking somewhat Japanese, almost like a Celica!

The Mustangs bulging, blistered fenders  made the OEM 15 inch wheels on the V6 models look absolutely tiny. Even the standard 16 in. wheels on the GT look a bit weak. The optional 17 in. wheels are almost big enough.

The "New Edge" design flattened out the sides and had slightly flared wheel openings. These highlighted the wheels instead of hiding them. It seems that most are fans of the later design.

How does driving the Trans Am  feel?

The feel of the T/A is that of a much heavier vehicle, consistent with a classic Muscle Car.  The large displacement motor delivers instant low speed torque. The '96 4.6 suffers from very high gearing which hurts the low speed performance, but pays huge dividends in smoothness and economy.

The mystique.

There haven't been any movies made that feature the SN95. At least that I know of. The earlier Fox bodied Mustang GT got a shout out from Vanilla Ice as he was cruising in his 5.O. Actually, these models  got a rep as belonging  to "Urban Utes" (My Cousin Vinnie reference!) sporting a backwards ball cap and big "gold" medallion on a chain.

Objectively speaking.

Objectively speaking, there isn't even any contest. The "96" Mustang beats the old T/A in every category by huge margins. Almost one second and 10 mph faster in the 1/4.  Most impressive is the Mustang's 140 mph. top end compared to the T/A's 110 ( 130 mph. when over revved) top end charge. And the Mustang will get 25 mpg. on the freeway, almost twice the mileage of the T/A. Being a newer car the Mustang boasts four wheel disc brakes, ABS, rack and pinion steering, fuel injection and an overdrive automatic transmission. Plus safety features like  three way belts and dual airbags. And the '96 and '97 GT's are the Slowest ones!

Subjectively speaking.

The Cobra has always been the high performance Mustang. The DOHC motors made these cars really fast. Culminating in the dreaded Terminator supercharged models. The bread and butter GTs received improved performance over the successive models until 300 hp was standard in 2005.  There have been many tuner models of the Mustang available, and these are much faster and better handling than the standard GTs, but let's not compare apples to oranges. The Saleen Speedster is one of the most popular and copied tuner versions of this generation of Mustang.

The coupes still look modern.

I've got one of those S-351 wings for my car.

Saleen Speedsters are, and remain pretty cool looking.

I'm not a big fan of the louvered front and rear bumpers, the rear seat cover, and especially the fake roll bar, called a light bar.  Nobody says that I have to use those parts on my car. I do like those cool rear wings. I like it much better than the stock more rounded unit. It seems to lengthen and lower the rear view of the car.

Cost benefit analysis.

Buying any vintage Firebird, whether Trans Am or not, will cost me more than just holding onto my GT. Even if I bought a good example it would need some updating just to equal my GT's performance. But let's take a quick look on the net. What could I buy?

What's out there now on CL?

Here's a nice '77 price now lowered to 25,000

This would be the wisest choice. It looks really nice and should be ready to enjoy. You just need to cough up 25 grand. To keep things in perspective, a new Mustang GT could set you back almost 40K. In full disclosure, a new Mustang GT convertible is just about the only new car I would desire.

'79 Firebird, blown 350 engine 4,900 dollars.
Jim Rockford, here's your car.

This is just a regular Firebird, it's not even a Bandit clone or even a T/A, but the '79 was used in the second movie. It's a complete car with a blown 350. Not a bad start.

No engine, transmission or interior. No problems. Pay the man 5,500 dollars.

This '76 is pretty rough. It's missing a lot, but it's a real T/A and that's worth something. It's going to take some coin to  bring it up to snuff. 5,500 bucks is a bit easier to swallow and it's going to be  a long and expensive process getting it back on the road. Still you can tell all your buds that you've got a real T/A in the garage!

Does it really make a difference?

I wrote earlier that times and people change. The biggest change is that I'm now forty years past my 20's and there is now that magical influence of something called nostalgia. When I was in my early 20's I wasn't feeling any nostalgia for the past. I was looking forward to my future life as an adult, not looking back with longing at the time I rode a Sting Ray bicycle!

If I'm being realistic I know that I'm never going to pay 25K for any old Trans Am. This is not to say that the T/A is not a desirable car. Yes, they are very cool, and the styling is so much sexier than the SN95 Mustang. Honestly, If I was going to spend my own money it will probably be for a 2005 and up convertible GT.

Hoping and dreaming.

What about the later retro Mustang?

2007 Parnelli Jones replica

These Mustangs have got the beef.

These post 2005 (S197) model Mustangs have some real improvements. They have a longer wheelbase, wider track, which makes them steadier on the road. The longer wheelbase gives more room up front for the driver, more room in the back seat, and even the trunk is larger with a fold down rear seat in the coupes. Standard hp. is up to 300 in the GT.  Even the V6's have 200 hp.

They do feel bigger and the hood is longer and wider. It blocks the view of the road a little. It doesn't drop down like the earlier models. These are similar in size to the T/A.

The styling references the 65-66 fastback, while the front end is somewhat reminiscent of the 1969-70. Everyone said that they looked almost exactly like the 66-69 fastbacks. I thought so too, at first. I said the same thing until I saw both models parked side by side at the Pacific Coast Dream Machines show.  The later S197 looks much bigger and taller. Either way, they are more like the T/A in size and feel.

I find the Parnelli Jones version and the later Boss 302 models to be very attractive. My own experience with my 2007 V6 coupe reinforces the idea that they are very good road cars.  Even if you started with the base V6 model, you would have a very good car.  Moving up to the deluxe and especially GT levels will provide you with a very satisfying car.

What can I do with my car?

I have a few ideas for mildly customizing and improving the looks of my Mustang. I'll be sharing those ideas on future blog entries. Do I need to make it faster with a supercharger or something? The beauty of a Mustang is that you can make it as fast as you can afford. I find that I'm quite satisfied with it's performance and handling. Does that just make me an old man? Hey, I am an old Man! Hopefully I've learned something over the years. Overall, I just really like my Mustang, it's such an honest car.

Perhaps it's time to just turn the page on the Pontiac Trans Am, stop dreaming, move on, and live in Today.

The answer to the question I posed at the beginning of the post is an emphatic YES!

No matter what car you own, it's always better to just get out and drive.  That's what it's all about.