When Mike Felicioni saw what would eventually become an award-winning restoration project, his first thought was, “This is ugly.”
Felicioni is the owner of Great Lakes Auto Body in Nunica, Mich. In 2006, a friend of his was frequently looking for inexpensive cars for restoration projects in Arizona. Felicioni told his friend to look out for a 1969 Ford Mustang fastback. That’s the project Felicioni did back in high school, and he was hankering to do another one.
Instead, his friend came back with a dark blue 1970 Ford Mustang Coupe. While it wasn’t what he had initially envisioned, it was clean and had no rust.
And at $4,500, it was priced right.
He also realized it could be a good way to spend time with his sons, who were then 18 and 20. They could work in the garage together on the weekends, he thought, especially during the winter.
The guys started working on it right after Felicioni bought the coupe. It took an entire weekend for him and his sons to strip down the car. It had been previously restored, and its old dents and roof holes were repaired with Bondo. So when Felicioni got to the car, “it was a big mess,” he says.
“At that point, it looked really sad,” Felicioni says.
But they worked to enliven the car. The guys started pulling the entire vehicle apart—front doors, fenders and quarter panels. They found dents all over the vehicle, and the tail light panel had been smashed. It had also been hit hard in the rear at some point.
“We couldn’t find a rear quarter extension for the longest time,” he says.
From there, Felicioni started ordering parts and other pieces necessary for the car. He rewired the Coupe, and took out the dash and interior. He sandblasted the floors and put a new bed liner in the inside floors and trunk.
Then he and his sons did the bodywork. They used very little Bondo and hammered the body as straight as possible. Then Felicioni primed, blocked and painted the car, putting on several coats of primer and paint. The car is chrome yellow with a black interior, which he also did himself.
One thing he didn’t do much of was mechanical work. He didn’t need to, he says, as the 302ci engine was in good shape. He did install a new air conditioning system, and as he was doing that, he couldn’t get the belts to line up. The motor had a knock in it, and after some investigation, Felicioni found the harmonic balancer was loose. “I tightened that up, and the knock went away,” he says.
He doesn’t know how many hours he ultimately put into it, but he knows it was a lot: The car took about five years to complete, and he put at least $15,000 worth of parts.
“I wanted it to be perfect,” Felicioni says of his coupe.
In the end, he wound up winning 10 trophies at 10 local car shows, he says. Before the first one, his daughter and his son helped detail the car.
He now takes it out for the occasional Friday night cruise or for drives to northern Michigan. Once just a fun idea to restore a vehicle, the coupe turned out to be a prized possession that makes his whole family proud.