Buying a Classic Mustang
Image: Steve Arnold, 2008
No other vehicle turns heads and stirs up a wide range of emotions like a classic Mustang. For nearly a half-century, the Mustang name has remained synonymous with the American ""pony car,"" offering head-turning looks and breakneck performance in an affordable and relatively reliable package. The quintessential classic Mustang is the 1964-1/2 convertible in Cherry Red, fitted with a manual transmission and a 289 cubic-inch V8 under the hood. If this Mustang doesn't inspire your interest, there are plenty of others to choose from, including the late 1960s and early 1970s era powerhouses like the G.T. 500 and the 429 Boss.
Now, let's say you're buying a classic Mustang for the first time and you've set your sights on that perfect pony car. With just about any classic car purchase, there are plenty of things to find out about your potential purchase before handing over your cash. The very first thing you should do is conduct a pre-purchase inspection of the vehicle, regardless of how the owner presents the vehicle. A pre-purchase inspection will help save you a lot of money and heartache in case your dream car turns out to be not what it seems.
Always Check the VIN Number
The Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) can tell you a lot about your classic Mustang, from the month and year it rolled off the assembly line to the features and options originally featured. Knowing how to decode the VIN is a powerful tool for insuring that your classic Mustang is exactly how the owner described it. You can find the VIN in several locations:
• The dashboard, where it meets with the windshield. Check the passenger's side on 1968 models and the driver's side on model year 1969 and newer.
• The engine compartment on the driver's side fender apron.
• The data plate on the driver's side door.
Check For Original Equipment
The closer the classic Mustang is to its original state, the more valuable it becomes. Countless Mustang owners are often tempted to ""improve"" upon their pony cars by adding engines and go-faster parts that were never originally offered for their particular vehicle. Make a thorough inspection of the engine, transmission and suspension before making your final decision. If the classic Mustang has an engine or suspension setup that was never originally offered, ask yourself if it's worth the asking price to buy it anyway or if it's better to just walk away.
Inspect the Overall Condition of the BodyYour dream car might look good from twenty feet away, but bad fit and finish can make it look horrible up close. Always take a close look at the body panels and check for any unsightly gaps or misalignment. Poor body panel fitment can indicate a collision or bad rust repair during its lifespan.
Inspect the Condition of the InteriorAlways make sure your interior is as close to original as possible. Keep an eye out for any modifications. For instance, holes that have been cut out of the doors and dash to accommodate modern sound systems can greatly detract from a classic Mustang's appearance and cost lots of money to have set right.
Always Check For Rust and CorrosionRust is a Mustang's worst enemy. Rocker panels, fenders, floor pans and shock towers can all harbor serious rust. Your dream car may look good on the outside, but it could be a nightmare to drive and restore if the underside is riddled with rust.
Remember to not get attached to the first classic Mustang you see. The last thing you want to do is let your emotions get in the way of a smart purchase. Don't be afraid to get a second opinion and don't be hesitant to walk away if you don't like what you see or hear. To help you, ClassicCar.com is just one of many places you can find expert advice on buying classic cars like the Mustang.