The car was dirty. There was mold all over the paint. Dirt and grease covered the engine compartment. The original undercoating was chipping off here and there. There was a huge pile of who-knows-what in each rear wheel well (I found a beer can embedded in asphalt in the right one).
However, the car was solid overall with very little rust and almost every original piece was there (in some condition), so I proceeded with parts removal. I removed the original engine and transmission and cleared out the engine compartment. I cleaned out the grime and painted the compartment. (yes, that's a Hooker engine mount at the bottom of the picture--see the engine section)
I moved in the middle of this process. What a mess--moving an incomplete car and a bunch of parts. Anyway, I finally had a garage for the car, and decided to put it up on stands and tackle the undercoating. I removed everything attached to the bottom of the car. Then I spent the weekends over the winter on my back chiseling the undercoating off. I tried melting the undercoating with a small torch but it just started catching fire! Then I tried paint remover--that just made it slimy. Basically I was stuck with a blunt flat-head screwdriver (best thing I found through experimentation) jabbing at this stuff. Although I do not have pictures of the underside of the car before cleaning it up, the dirty undercoating on the fender liners in the picture below looks like what was all over the car.
When I got most of the undercoating off, I used aircraft paint stripper to remove the little stubborn pieces, then I cleaned off every surface and painted. I used Duplicolor truck bed liner paint because it seemed pretty thick and durable in my testing and was a lot cheaper than POR-15, the most logical alternative. I also did the wheel wells and re-did the engine compartment. (lots of pictures because, so far, I've put more effort into this step than any other)
While I had the suspension and other parts off the car, I cleaned and painted them. I was amazed at the places I found errant undercoating. The undercoating probably kept my car rust-free, for which I'm grateful, but man that stuff was everywhere.
Finally, I felt like I had a clean slate on which to build my "dream car."
On to Suspension