Anyone who has ever ventured in a pursuit for a classic Mustang, will have a few stories to tell. Stories like the great distances they traveled to look at a potential candidate; only to find that it wasn’t exactly what they were looking for?
Sellers may have no idea what a decent car is, they just know that this car is forty something years old and it’s probably in acceptable condition for its age, so the sellers ad description will read “Mustang for sale, great project for restoration”.
Some of these cars will actually turn out to be “great restorable cars” others will take more of a reconstruction prior to the restoration.
Other sellers know exactly what they have and will share this information with you if you ask. Be sure to ask the following question prior to making a trip out to look at the Mustang:
Questions you should ask
- How many previous owners and what do you know about this Mustang?
- What is the mileage?
- Are there any maintenance records available?
- Has the car been in an accident or collision?
- Is there any rust on floor pans, doors and quarter panels?
- Does the car run and is it driveable?
- Do you have the Title?
If your initial evaluation goes well, you will most likely be interested in taking a look at the old Mustang. Keep in mind that this is a forty “plus” year old car and it could have either just came out of a field, been sitting in a drive way or could have been carefully stored in a garage? Either way it could be really run down with all of the parts or it may only be useful for its parts.
When you finally arrive to look at an old classic, you should have a flashlight on hand and be prepared to crawl around on your back to do a condition evaluation. A condition evaluation will help you decide if the Mustang’s condition is on par with your expectations and what you are willing to accept as necessary repairs and replacements.
Vin Check: You should validate the registration information against the vehicle identification stamp and tags located on the vehicle.
Original Equipment: If you are somewhat familiar with the vehicle you are interested in, then you may have an idea of what the car came equipped with originally;? Major components are the engine and transmissions, body panels, exterior trim and interior. An unmodified completely original car is a best case.
Maintenance Records: If the owner of the Mustang has maintenance records going years back; this is a good sign that somebody took pretty good care of the classic.
Structural Integrity: You will want to look for indications of a crash or collision, major panel or frame rail replacements. Some repairs are done well but most do not retain that factory appearance.
Rust: There are common areas on the Mustang that have been known to rust. These include the floor pans, lower corners of the doors, both lower front and lower rear of the quarter panels
Body Panels: Try to identify if any of the body panels are originals or if they have been replaced. If it looks like a quarter panel, door or fender have been replaced, this could indicate that the Mustang has been in a collision or that it was pretty rusty at some point.
Interior: The key for the interior is to look for modifications that may affect your restoration. Such as holes cut into doors for speakers or the dash cut up for a modern stereo installation from the early 1980’s. If the interior is original but terribly worn out, that’s a plus because you going to replace all of that anyway.
Electrical: Electrical inspection is simple and you should verify if the following items are functional: Gauges, lamps, head light, brake lights, turn signals, horn, wipers and heater blower.
Engine and Drive Train: It is best to find the original engine and transmission under the hood, but sometimes they may they have been replaced with a machine shop rebuilt. The main question should be, “Does it run and drive?” If not, you need to decide if that is a negative or positive from your restoration standpoint.
Suspension: Most likely worn out! What you want to look for on the suspension is if there has been any modification or rebuilds? You will most likely see that the ball joints have been replaced. In some cases, you will see front ends that have been lowered, bigger sway bars installed, air shocks on the rear and Cragar SS wheels to top it off…. A true time machine.
Brakes: Original brakes may not be the best compared to today’s anti-lock brakes so you will want to make sure these are functional if you plan on doing a road test. The brakes may have been upgraded to power disc brakes. In some cases of restoration a disc brake replacement is good, but for others it means finding and purchasing those original parts in order to get the car back to its factory condition.
Road Test: If you get to this point then you’re probably about to take a fairly good Mustang for a test drive? Hopefully it meets all of your expectations as a daily driver or restoration project.