By Robert Bravender
In name only, a windshield is naturally supposed to protect you from the wind. In practicality, it's not a bad idea if you can see through it as well.
When you drive your classic car on a daily basis as I do, your expectations are somewhat different than if your car is for show or the occasional pleasure drive. A windshield that looks fine when it's all polished and sitting in a show field, can be all but impossible to see through at night when it is reflecting the glare of on-coming headlights.
In the average lifetime of an automobile, the windshield is assaulted by a universe of abrasive particles. The total of these seemingly benign collisions create an intricate spider's web network of micro-scratches and pits. The result is a hazy view. In some cases it is easy to see a history of wear: scratches, grooves and stone chips.
Damaged windshiled on our 1967 Mustang
In the case of my 1967 Mustang coupe, this was compounded by a long period of wiper blade neglect by a previous owner. Therefore, I have a couple of significant grooves etched into my windshield, one, of course, being right in my line of sight.
I decided to try the repair route. My first option was a windshield polishing compound sold by the Eastwood Co. The product literature advises that polishing can only remove scratches you can't feel with your fingernail, but I thought it might be worth a shot anyway. After an afternoon of hard work, I succeeded in removing most of the haze from about 5 inches of the groove on the driver's side of the windshield. The exercise showed me that Eastwood had not understated the ability of their product. It will not work miracles. Over the course of several hours, I began to realize the futility of a rejuvenation approach.
I finally had to admit that the old windshield was a road hazard — an accident waiting to happen. There were additional factors that lent credence to replacing the windshield as well. The gasket around the windshield was dried, cracked and probably leaking. Inside the car, the headliner was dry-rotted and torn. Since replacing either a windshield gasket or a headliner on an early model Mustang requires pulling the front glass anyway, the solution became crystal clear — a new windshield was essential and while I was at it, a new headliner was appropriate as well.
Dried and cracked windshield gasket.
I began collecting reproduction pieces: headliner, windlace, front and back window gaskets. (Here's a hint: ask for these items as Christmas or birthday gifts. A catalog with strategically placed bookmarks left innocently sitting on a living room table will work quite nicely.) All that was delaying the project was the costliest item: the windshield.
After squinting through my cloudy windshield during a succession of dark and rainy nights, I finally decided to tempt fate no more. As a pleasant surprise, I found that a new windshield wasn't quite as expensive as I thought — around $130. It's not particularly hard to find either, since 1964-1/2 through 1968 Mustangs all share the same front glass.
I sought the assistance of Robert Wooley at Customs and Classics restoration shop in nearby Moscow, Tennessee. He, in turn, suggested that we also call in Carl Rounsaville, a local glass man experienced in the idiosyncrasies of the Mustang windshield. As it turned out, that was good advice.
We called our project Operation Second Sight. It was implemented early on a chilly Saturday morning as Wooley and I began the disassembly by removing the windshield wipers and the stainless steel trim around the front and back glass. With care this can be accomplished without marring the paint.
Inside the car we removed everything that could get in the way: the rear seat, the inner quarters, the domelight and all the old windlace. Because the headliner replacement was part of our task, there were some extra considerations to take into account.
Most headliners from the '60s are constructed with small steel rods inserted in the fabric and then braced against the sides of the roof to hold it in place. This bowed-style head-liner was typically used until 1978 when the domestic auto industry switched to headliners that are glued to foam shells. The foam tends to deteriorate after as little as five years, allowing the headliner to sag. To make matters worse, this style of headliner is harder and more expensive to fit. This is progress?
The bow-style headliner requires care to install by yourself. You will need occasional assistance and it will probably take about half a day to complete. That is, if the design isn't like the early model Mustangs, where the gaskets for the front and rear glass hold the head-liner in the pinchweld. In that case, you'll need an experienced glass man to do the job.
To remove the glass, either a windshield or rear window, you will need some assistance. After cutting the gaskets, a person on the inside needs to press the glass out. In this instance, the assistant is pushing out the back glass with his feet. To facilitate the process the glass may need to be gently pried from the outside.
Removing the back glass from our 1967 Mustang required some friendly persuasion.
With the glass out of the way, we removed all the trim clips and cleaned the petrified gunk from the pinch welds.
40 years of service has taken its toll on our gaskets and sealant...it must go.
When pulling out the headliner, start from the front, removing it one bow at a time. Use a felt-tip pen to mark the roof holes that held the bows. Factories frequently drilled more than one set of holes so the assemblers could have some leeway in the headliner's installation. We left the bows in the material while completing this process. When we reached the back, we disconnected the two wires that provide tension on the last bow. These wires, which also attach to the roof, are left hanging in place.
Be sure to mark the actual holes used.
Lay the new headliner next to the old one (both of them upside down) and transfer the bows one by one. If the bows are rusty, spray them with silicone to help ease them back through the material. Do not use silicone spray near a prepared car that's about to be painted as the chemical residue can cause fisheye in a freshly coated surface. Also, if you have to do any touch-up work later, tape won't adhere as well to the sprayed areas of the car.
Transfer the bows from the old headliner to the new, making sure that they will go back into their original positions.
To insert the new headliner, start from the back and work forward. After the bows have been reinserted in the holes that you marked, the time has come for stretching and gluing. Apply a contact cement (a 3M spray-on or paint-on adhesive will work) to both the pinchweld and the corresponding area of the headliner. By using pieces of the old windlace, the headliner can be held temporarily in place around the edges. Soften the fabric with a heatgun (a hairdryer will also do) and pull it taut along each of the edges to assure a smooth surface. Make sure you don't apply too much heat — it could melt through the headliner. After getting the headliner tight on both axis, finish the door opening by snapping the new windlace into place.
Stretching the new headliner into place.
Apply the glue, soften the headliner with a heatgun and pull it tight.
When all looks as it should, snap the windlace into place.
Allow the glue that holds the headliner in place around the window openings to dry before continuing.
There are grooves running around the interior and exterior perimeters of the gasket which keep it in position. Rounsaville just pressed the new gaskets in place around the glass and then squeezed a rope into the gasket's exterior groove. This rope helps to keep the exterior groove wide open and when the rope is removed the gasket snaps in place around the pinchweld without having to pry on the new rubber.
Inserting the rope into the outer channel.
To help the glass slide into the opening, Rounsaville rubbed transmission fluid over the gasket. The fluid doesn't harm paint and can be cleaned off afterwards.
A light coat of transmission fluid will aid in removing the rope when we install the galss.
Before we installed the windshield (and the rear window as well), we replaced the bottom piece of stainless steel trim on both the front and back window opening. These pieces are difficult to install once the glass is in. We then pumped these areas full of a non-hardening bedding and glazing compound — One such compound is 3M 8509.
Sealing things up with glazing compound.
The rear window glass slipped in easily. When we removed the rope from the gasket, the window was seated around the frame.
Sealing things up with glazing compound.
Pulling the rope seats the windshield.
To seal the glass in the openings, we pumped bedding compound underneath and around the perimeter of the gasket. This was one of the crucial steps where a glazier's experience pays off. Because newer cars have such strict tolerances, a less experienced glass installer might assume the gasket in this older car was loose or just bad. As a result, he may fail to thoroughly caulk the glass, creating a virtual trough which will catch water and direct it inside the car during the first rain shower. The flexible caulk used in this instance allows the glass to move slightly within the openings as pressure changes inside the car.
After reinstalling the trim, I drove the Mustang outside and discovered I could see clearly without distortion. No haze, no wiper grooves, no craning my neck to find a good spot in the windshield. Now if I could just do something about the scratches on my glasses, everything would be perfect.
The finished windshield.
A little known Mustang option was an upper (ceiling-mounted) console. Available only on the 1967 and 1968 models as part of the Interior Decor group, it nearly spanned the entire length of the roof. It was manufactured in two sizes — a short one for fastbacks, and a longer one for hardtops. Having obtained one a few years ago, I decided this would be an opportune moment to blow off the dust and get it installed.
The console covers the area that is typically occupied by the dome light. It replaces the dome light with a pair of map lights that illuminate the front seats. By rerouting the dome light wire, I figured we would be able to get the console hooked up and operational in no time.
OEM overhead console.
The console, however, needed a little restoration work prior to installation. One of the two push-button switches that operate the lights had shed its chrome and one of the switches also had deteriorated.
At a local hobby shop I picked up a chrome foil product called Bare-Metal that's made for applying a chrome-like finish to model parts. I figured it would be perfect for this or any other chromed plastic pieces that might be hard to find in the restoration aftermarket. This stuff can be burnished onto nearly any surface configuration.
After removing and thoroughly cleaning the button with soap and water, I cut a small section of foil to cover the visible surface. I cut a rectangle only slightly larger than the button itself.
The product is self-adhesive. I simply pulled the foil off the backing sheet, applied it to the button and rubbed it with a clean piece of cloth. It conformed to the beveled edges of the on-off button with ease. The finished button looks as good as new.
Burnishing the foil onto the button.
In repairing the switches, I noted the originals were a plunger-style with an exterior spring that could easily wear out or become disengaged. Searching through various automotive supply stores, I eventually found the perfect replacement — the factory couldn't have dreamed of a better fit. This push-button switch, purchased from a NAPA auto parts shop, fit in the stock switch hole and was the perfect height to support the base of the console button. It worked so well I decided to replace both switches. The only modification required was to shave off some of the flange, so it would fit into the rectangular hole of the console button.
Original plunger style switch.
Our new replacement switch.
Modifying the switch apron to give us a good fit.
I installed a locking washer and nut, tightened the assembly, and the new switch was in place. After cutting the wires to the original switch, I transferred them to the tabs on the new switch and then coated the exposed ends of the wires with hot glue to protect and weatherize them.
Installing the new switch.
A daub of hot glue adds a little protection to the attached wires.
Now the console was ready for installation, however, I encountered a problem that threatened to stall the project. Instead of spanning the length of the roof, the console stopped a few inches shy of the rear-view mirror. Much later, while thumbing through a Mustangs Unlimited catalog, I learned that there is a special bracket that bridges this gap and supports the front end of the console. Not knowing that at the time, I decided that the best plan would be to improvise.
To support the upper console while I worked, I used a piece of wood that was cut to fit the distance between the transmission tunnel and the console. The console wasn't very heavy, not more than a pound or two, and the wooden support worked fine.
I had noticed, during the headliner replacement process, there was a hole and two indentations in the rear portion of the roof-support near the backglass. I assumed this was designed for console installations, so I re-routed the dome light wiring through the hole and made a mental note of the location of the two indentations.
By feeling around on the headliner, I easily located the two indentations on the rear roof support. I poked holes through the headliner with a nail and drilled them out for the sheetmetal screws that hold the console in place. That was the easy part.
Next, to shore up the front end, I hit upon the idea of supporting it from the middle. Since the spine of the upper console is a thick metal plate, I figured I could drill through this and into the central roof support, and this would be enough to buttress it.
Working with a drill for several minutes (until my arms really hurt), I finally penetrated the thick steel of the support. Placing a sheet-metal screw to either side of the aluminum center section of the console, I found that it drew up nicely against the headliner.
As a final step, I cut a small hole in the headliner to provide clearance for the back sides of the map lights, but discovered that they touched the roof of the car. So I cut out a small square of half-inch-thick foam and stuck it behind the map lights. This cured the problem and helped to snug up the front portion of the console.
The finished product is in place, and the light switches now have much firmer action. Furthermore, unless you look closely you can't tell the difference between the original button and the one that's been refurbished.
The finished console installed into place.