Selecting and Purchasing a Classic Mustang


What is it that the seller has to offer? Determining what it is that you have or that you plan on purchasing isn’t too difficult, you just need a little knowledge. If you do not know a lot about the early Ford Mustang and the options available on the various models then you will want to pick up a “Pocket Size Data Plate Decoder”; this decoder book is nice to have along when you are out looking at any 1965-1973 Mustangs.

Vehicle Identification Number

The VIN will tell you some basic information about the Mustang including the model year, the production plant where the Mustang was produced, the body style, engine size and consecutive production number.

Where is the VIN located?

  • PlbyVINLocalEngine compartment on driver’s side fender apron, at the cut out as seen in the photo to the right or under the fender in that same location.
  • Inside the car where the windshield and dash meet on the passenger side for 1968, and on the driver’s side for 1969 and up.
  • Inside the driver door jamb on the door data plate

Understanding the VIN information and how it breaks down is the most important thing when you think you may be getting a great deal on a classic Mustang. For instance, the car may have come from the factory with a six cylinder engine, and may have been painted Lime Gold. The seller believes that it is a factory eight cylinder engine and it was originally Red. Maybe the seller doesn’t know anything about breaking down and understanding VIN information, having a “Pocket Size Data Plate Decoder” with you should resolve any arguments. As an example the VIN from Project Playboy is used to demonstrate how the VIN breaks down. Project Playboys VIN: 7R01C186352

7 R 01 C 186352
Model Year Production Plant Body Style Engine Size Production Unit
1967 San Jose, CA Hardtop Coupe 289 2v V8 186352


Door Data Plate

The Door Data Plate reveals the true character of any 1965-1973 Mustang and is considered to be one of the most valued items during any pre-purchase inspection. The door data tag information can help you determine just how original the car is by identifying the body type, exterior color, interior trim color and appointments, production date, District Sales Office, Axle, and Transmission. Occasionally the Door Data Plate is missing or does not match up with the VIN of the Mustang being inspected. Over the forty or so years of a Mustangs life it could have had the driver door replaced and the door data tag ended up at the scrap yard, or the door from another Mustang could have become the inexpensive replacement and along with it came its door data tag.

PlbyDoorDataPlateLocalIf your Door Data Plate is missing or you simply want a nicer new looking one you’re in luck! Door Data Plates can be reproduced and purchased online. All you need to do is provide the information from your original (if you have it) or you can take a shot at getting the tag information together based on the known options for you Mustang. The sales team at AAPD.NET can assist you with reproducing your door data tag.

Understanding the Door Data Tag information is helpful especially when it comes to the paint and interior, both of these areas have most likely been repainted or reupholstered and there is no telling what could have been done throughout the trends of the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s. You may be looking at a Mustang that appears to have Deluxe Pony Interior but the door data tag information reveals Standard Ivy Gold vinyl, or the transmission may have originally been automatic but now has a four speed Top Loader. As an example the Door Data Plate on Project Playboy is used to show what type of information the data plate reveals; having a “Pocket Size Data Plate Decoder” with you should help you identify these features.

Project Playboy Door Data Plate PlbyDoorDataTag

Body: 65A 2 Door Hardtop, Standard Interior
Color: (No Color code in this data plate)
Trim: 2A Black Crinkle Vinyl, Standard Interior
Date: 24B February 24, 1967
D.S.O: 718000 Los Angeles (Special Order Unit 8000)
Axle: 0 2.79:1, Conventional
Trans: W C4 Automatic


Originality Check; is it all there?

You may look at a few classic Mustangs before you find the one that meets your criteria for a restoration project. Prior to deciding on purchasing Project Playboy I looked at half dozen or so Mustangs, all having their strength and weaknesses. Some were rusted and disassembled parts cars; others were all there but had been in a collision. I even looked at a pair of rolling unibodies that would have given me complete set of sheet metal and glass between the two.

My objective was to find a classic Mustang that was within my budget, was fairly complete, not disassembled and that retained most of its original components and features. I wanted to locate a Fastback body style but was willing to settle for a coupe since my budget pretty much dictated the value of the purchase.

Body Condition, Gaps, Overall Fit and Trim.

PlbyBodyFrom20FeetFrom twenty feet away any Mustang can appear to have all of its original body panels, and if it does in fact retain those original panels then it could be a good solid car, unless those original panels are rusted out. Taking a closer look at the body panels may indicate that the car had been in a collision or had some rust repair done at some point in its forty something year old history.

The classic Mustang has some nice body lines and it’s pretty easy to see if something does not fit very well or if some poor body repairs have been done. When you are looking at a potential candidate you should check to see if the panels line up well and that the gaps are consistent. If you see a door bottom edge hanging out one inch at the rear and it is flush at the front then there could be bigger problems.

Project Playboy was definitely showing her age, not centerfold material by any means. It was clear that this car had been enjoyed by somebody, had been modified a bit and looked like it may have hit or had been hit by a few objects.

PlbyHoodShotThe front end had some damage on the hood and stone deflector above the front valance and front bumper was missing. This indicated a collision with something but it was localized in a small area of the hood and stone deflector and didn’t appear to be a major crash.

The driver door had a slap shot repair job on it; it looked like it had been damaged so I was hoping that the original Door Data Plate was there.

PlbyDriverDoorThe driver door and the passenger door both appear to be original and the door data plate was indeed in place.

The rear valance and rear bumper were both missing indicating that possibility of a collision at the rear. The first place to look in this case it at the gas tank to see if it showed some damage or if it had been replaced; it was still damaged so it was the original, fortunately the tail light panel was not damaged and was also original.

The fenders appeared to be original although for some reason the front headlamp buckets and rear quarter panel extensions looked like they came from another car that was painted Lime Gold; It’s a mystery as to why they were replaced.

PlbyQtrPanelThe quarter panels on Project Playboy are also original, they show no signed of damage and do not look like they have been replaced. You can usually identify quarter panel replacement or repair by looking in the door jambs to see if the factory welds and the well defined sheet metal edge are apparent and also checking the wheel lip edges for some body filler that was left unfinished.

Overall this Mustangs initial body condition is good. Aside from the visible damage, the gaps and lines are fairly straight and the damaged parts can be easily replaced with new parts.

The exterior trim on Project Playboy is severely lacking. All of the emblems are missing, the rocker panel molding had been removed; the grill and hood trim also missing along with the signature Pony and Corral; the front and rear bumpers are missing and the trunk trim is nowhere to be found. A lot of the trim items were probably removed prior to the blue paint job and never replaced, other missing items where for apparent aesthetic reasons.

Engine and Transmission

Knowing if the original engine and transmission is in the car can be hard to determine until you get it home and look a little deeper however, most people selling a Mustang will know what engine and trans is in it even if it’s been replaced or rebuilt. If you want to know what engine should be in the car then you can refer to the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) found under the hood on the driver side front fender apron and check the door data tag for the transmission code; a Pocket Size Data Plate Decoder will help you identify the engine code designated by the VIN.

PlbyEngineThe Engine in Project Playboy was designated to be a standard 289 2 barrel engine but the engine in the car had a 4 barrel carburetor on it and headers, it was also chained down to the frame indicating that there was probably a much higher performing engine in it now. Fortunately the seller knew that it was a 351 Windsor and the transmission was most likely the original C4 automatic. Unfortunately the car did not run and drive, it had been a while since it was last started and the seller could not get it running after replacing the points, distributor cap, rotor and plug wires and the battery was dead.

So far it’s looking pretty good and I think this will be a great car to Resto-Mod; its showing potential and it’s got a nice 351W engine to get started.

Suspension and Brakes

A forty year old classic may see its share of owners; each owner adding to or  changing the Mustang to suit their driving style and needs. Mustang suspension parts and brakes are two things that are commonly upgraded. Converting front drum brakes to power disc brakes is common, and if the Mustang was owned and modified during the late ‘70s through the ‘80s it may have larger tires and air shocks on the rear giving it a nice rake, and come upgraded with a larger sway bar and lowered front end. PlbyTribute

Project Playboy was a tribute to one of its previous owner’s era; equipped with Cragar SS wheels (larger tires on the rear), air shocks, a lowered front end and larger sway bar. The front brakes also appear to have been upgraded to disc, and there’s no telling where they came from or what they came off of.

Structural Integrity, is this pony road worthy?

I already know that Project Playboy has had some damage to the hood area and the door so that prompted a closer look at those area and others as well. The most common and obvious collision replacement to spot is at the radiator core support, front frame rails and front fender aprons; if a Mustang had been in a severe enough collision at the front end these three areas will most likely show non-factory welds.

PlbyStrutBraceTo see if the front end of Project Playboy sustained any damage other than the hood, bumper and stone deflector I check a few things starting with the radiator core support. I check to see if it has been replaced by checking for what appears to be non-factory welding, I look for the same factory welds (spot welds) on the fender aprons and the shock towers and also check the strut rod braces and frame rails.


PlbyFloorPansI then checked the rest of the frame rails and undercarriage as best I could while lying on my back with a flashlight in my hand. What I am looking for is frame rail replacement or damage either due to rust or collision; this also gives me an idea of potential rust problems. The structural integrity of this car is pretty good, no collision damage or replacements appear to have been done to the front end and the undercarriage and frame rails are intact with no rust issues.

Interior and soft trim

The interior of a classic Mustang can be spruced up pretty easily just by installing some new carpet, a headliner and new seat upholstery and it’s not too often that you will see anything other than a factory look on the interior. Although most Mustang interior will exhibit that factory look there are a few things some owners have done that can be considered detrimental and costly repairs. One of the most common things is losing the headliner bows and hooks; hooks are available new but the headliner bows are not and if they are missing you will need to find a used set. The other big issues are holes that have been cut in the doors to accommodate speakers and the original radio location being cut out of the dash for the installation of a modern stereo receiver. For 1965-1966 Mustangs there is a dash repair panel to cure the hole in the dash, and the only cure for the holes in the door is purchasing good used doors or buying new reproductions.

plbyInteriorThe interior on Project Playboy is a little bit taken apart, the front seats are mismatched, and the carpet and headliner have been removed along with the seat belts. Overall most of it is there with the exception of a few parts that went missing or that may be discovered in the glove box or trunk. Since the carpet had been removed it gave me the chance to see if the floor pans had ever been replaced or if they will need to be replaced.

While checking out the interior I noticed that the interior rockers and floor pans had pink paint on them. This got my curiosity going so I went to the trunk and other jambs and discovered pink paint there and pink paint under the hood as well. I immediately went to the door data tag to see the paint code, it was blank? “This could be a Playboy Pink Mustang”

Rust; is this a rust free Mustang?

Rust is a big issue with old classic cars and you should look for rust or rust repair on every potential classic you may purchase to help you determine if this is a project you want to get into. The Assembly Plant (found on the VIN) and DSO (District Sales Office, found on the door data plate) is you’re best shot at determining if a car may have rust issues. If the assembly plant was San Jose California and the DSO was Los Angeles California then you have a shot at looking at a rust free car. If the DSO was an area of the country where they make use of salting the roads during the winter then there is the potential for a lot of rust or rust repair. On the Mustang there is some very common area where rust begins to appear as illustrated in the photo slide show below.

Common areas to look for rust

Electrical systems

The electrical systems on some of these old Mustangs has held up pretty well over the years meaning; gauges, lamps, headlights and signals should all be working properly. You PlbyTailLighthave to have a good battery and a running engine to check everything so if you don’t have either of these then you will have to determine if that is important in making you decision to buy.

Project Playboy didn’t run and its battery was completely dead so I couldn’t check any of the vital signs; that would have to wait until I got it home. I also could not take the car on a road test due to the lack of a well charged battery and a motor that wouldn’t run.

The evaluation on this Mustang went pretty well, it’s in good shape, it’s a pretty decent price and it meets the requirements for getting started on my project, and it’s possibly a Playboy Pink Mustang. After some discussion about extra parts being included in the sale, I settled on a purchase price and loaded the Mustang on the trailer for the trip to its new home.

5 thoughts on “Selecting and Purchasing a Classic Mustang

  1. i recently got a 67 mustang for my 34th b day, i got it for 4500dlls and in payment. it has a 302 engine the interior is in very good condition the car runs great. this will be my first project car, the only thing is that im not a mechanic and don’t know much about car, i very glad you have this website to help thanks
    Juan Villanueva — September 20, 2009 3:08 PM

    I recently just purchased a 65 mustang for 600 dollars.. I never restored a car before. Im taking my time on it and not in a hurry to restore it. the floor boards and truck are rusted out. so im going to have to cut out alot.. im glad you have the website.. very helpful…
    David Weaver — July 19, 2011 1:21 PM

    If you have a 1967 mustang would it be better to rebuild a new engine and transmission or just rebuild the original one? We have a disagreement between my husband and my self I say just rebuild the old one because it is original to the car. My husband want to put in a rebuilt Windsor in the car. What does an expert think?
    Patty Schultz — January 21, 2014 10:18 PM

    I have been having a disagreement with my husband. We have a 1967 mustang we would like to restore. He would like to put a rebuilt 351 Windsor in this car. I think the original engine should just be rebuilt. We would like to see what an expert thinks. Thanks
    Patty Schultz — January 21, 2014 10:23 PM

  2. I recently just bought a 1967 mustang coupe for my 16th birth day for 4500. I don’t know much about old cars but the guy who I bought it from said it had a 300 6 strait? Never heard of that engine. The interior is in great shape just need a couple things, not much rust just wheel wells and front left corner panels. Couldn’t really tell if there’s a lot underneath. My question is if this is a good deal or not? And if I should keep this motor in or swap it with a 302.

  3. Oh and also, how much does the 300 straight 6 have? He says it’s the original motor and has about 60,000 km.

  4. The 1967 mustang is my dream car. I found her online the other day for $11250. I wanted to know if I should attempt to get her.she has a 289 I’m guessing v8 engine. And is a little over 90thousand miles. This is the other info given on her.This 67 Mustang 2-door hard top would make a GREAT daily driver for you. This has a newer paint job and is in good running condition we have receipts for MOST recent work done on the car. This car has newer foose wheels and tires and new exhaust.

  5. I just purchased a 1968 mustang Garage kept has a 289 motor with 64000.00 miles no rust or Bondo the carb need redone but otherwise starts with a simple key turn…Upolstry headliner is in bad shape and driver’s seat has a small tear…I paid 5800.00 for it and feel like this will be a perfect restore…..Only problem is they have put a 5 speed transmission in it and I need a original 4 speed manual…..Any ideas???….It has been covered by tarp and could use a paint job….Was going to take completely apart and have a nice original red paint job……Am I doing right….Please pros help me out

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