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Mustang Restoration Interior Trim Panel Guide
- Sep 20, 2017 -

The panels that comprise the interior of most first-generation Mustangs can almost always be repaired or refurbished to at least an acceptable level. While there may be issues, such as pitted chrome, that can’t be completely eliminated in all cases, enough can often be done to make the result pleasing to all but perhaps the show-car owner. (The restoration details are covered in the following procedure as well as in Chapter 2.) Even then, the desire to retain the authentic OEM part may overrule the desire to have a completely flawless appearance.

If there are no scratches or other damage on the interior trim panels, they can be cleaned and repainted, if necessary. If you paint one panel you will likely end up painting them all to get the proper color match. Note that there is a section on some panels where a small piece of carpet is attached. The preparation for these sections is similar to the fold-down seat, minus the metal trim pieces.

You can usually remove scratches and other damage in smooth, non-textured panels by sanding them out, priming, and repainting the panel. Deeper scratches may require using spot putty or even body filler, but most minor imperfections can be hidden with a few coats of high build, sandable primer and paint. Panels that have a distinct pattern or texture to them can be repaired, but this is best left to professionals. Replacement panels are usually a more cost-effective solution. Heavy damage can be repaired with fiberglass mats and similar techniques, but this is usually only reserved for when replacement panels are unavailable and/or you wish to retain the original panels for the sake of authenticity.

Fine (0000-grade) steel wool can be very effective in removing mild to moderate pitting and surface imperfections from chrome. Here a chrome vent section of one of the interior panels is reconditioned. Steel wool was used to remove most of the surface roughness. The black painted area between the chrome bars can be easily restored. We simply spray over the chrome and then wipe the paint off of the chrome. Use a cloth if it is still wet or the steel wool if it has already dried. Wrap either around a flat bar or a piece of wood first to help promote contact with the top edge only.

The gaskets on the vent units should generally be replaced whenever the vents are removed. The rubber hardens over time, and these don’t seal that well in the first place. Use RTV (adhesive, sealant, RTV silicone) to seal the gasket to the vent assembly and then either foam backed tape or sealing strips between the gasket and the car body. The original gaskets can be reused if they are in good shape, but either way, these other materials should also be used. Tighten the retaining nuts evenly and not too tightly with the factory offset spacers under all of them.

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These interior parts have been refinished and are ready for installation. We also had refinished the seats and the floor carpets but didn’t do the headliner or dash pad. All of the chrome looked great after rubbing it with the steel wool, while the metal and composite panels looked like new after being sanded and painted. All of the installation hardware was previously marked and bagged to make reinstallation considerably easier.

Installing the vent assemblies can be done either before or after the carpet is put in, but must be done before the interior panels go back on. Be sure to properly seal the gasket to the vent assembly and to the body as described. The drain hose must also be properly routed to the hole in the floorpan. It should fit reasonably tight, but if it doesn’t, use some sealer (RTV or similar: silicone sealant, glue) where the hose meets the floorpan. Use some silicone spray and/or some spray-on white grease on the vent mechanism if it sticks when you try to move it.

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Check to make sure the ground wires and other electrical connections for the interior lights found on the trim panels are tight and corrosion free. If not, use a wire brush or steel wool to remove any oxidation and then make sure the connection is tight when you reassemble it. If any of the metal backing plates are loose on the trim panels use the proper adhesive to secure them.