Buyer Beware: What to Look For When Buying a Classic Mustang

Things You Should Look For Before Buying a Classic Mustang

So, after months of searching, or maybe even years, you've found the classic Mustang of your dreams. You’re all set on the price and you’re ready to put down your hard earned money. The only obstacle between you and your prized pony is an inspection of the vehicle. What things should you look for when buying a classic Mustang? We all know looks can be deceiving. The following is a list of things you should look for before buying a classic Mustang.

Rust Damage

Rusty Mustang
No one wants to spend their cash on a rust bucket. No doubt, rust issues can be expensive to repair. Photo Courtesy of Oxyd Factory

This is a biggie. No one wants to spend their cash on a rust bucket. No doubt, rust issues can be expensive to repair. First things first, if you can find a car that is completely rust free, all the better! If the vehicle has light surface rust in a few spots, make sure there are no areas of heavy rust. Even worse, make sure there are no holes in the body due to rust. Some common areas to check are the cowl area under the dash, the floorboards beneath the carpet, the trunk, and the wheel wells. A little surface rust is fine. A lot isn’t.

Doors and Windows

1967 Ford Mustang Door Panel
1967 Ford Mustang Door Panel. Photo Courtesy of Affordable Classics Inc

Make sure the doors and windows open and close without any issues. Are the frame rails straight? Back to the doors and windows. It’s good to make sure they provide a good seal against the elements. When it comes to the elements, you should also check the front windshield and cowl to make sure they don’t leak.

Shock Towers

Classic Ford Mustang Shock Tower
Classic Ford Mustang Shock Tower. Photo Courtesy of AllFordMustangs.Com

Make sure to check the car’s shock towers. Do you see any metal fatigue or cracks? Separated shock towers are common in classic Mustangs. You may also find rust, which isn’t good. You want a Mustang with structural integrity.

Quarter Panels

Ford Mustang Quarter Panel Repair
Ford Mustang Quarter Panel Repair. Photo Courtesy of VMF

You can check these from inside the trunk. Feel around. Do you notice any bumps? If so, it’s likely the Mustang has been repaired using body filler.

The Door Plate

Door Data plates on 1965-1973 Mustangs offer up the original configuration of the car. We’re talking about body color, interior trim color, body type, DSO (District Sales Office), production date, and transmission type. A good look at the Data plate should reveal how original the Mustang truly is. You can find various Data plate decoders, both online and in paperback format. Missing the door plate? Well, you should be able to find some info out if you review the Mustang’s VIN (Vehicle Identification Numbers). These are generally located in the following locations on classic Mustangs:

  • Engine Compartment: On the driver’s side fender apron
  • Windshield: Inside, passenger side, where dash and windshield meet. Info is on the driver’s side on 1969+ Mustangs
  • Door Date Plate: On the Mustang’s original door data plate

If you come across a Mustang with a variety of VIN numbers, you can be sure it’s been restored using parts from different Mustangs (common for cars of this age). While not necessarily a bad thing, cars with matching VINs are generally worth more than those with VINs that don’t match.

Electrical System

1966 Mustang Electrical Diagram
1966 Mustang Electrical Diagram. Photo Courtesy of Ford Motor Company

You definitely want to make sure things like the headlights and signals are working properly. What about the car’s gauges? A faulty electrical system can be disappointing. Make sure you check for these issues before you buy.

Brakes, Drivetrain, and Suspension

Okay, this is pretty obvious, but one worth noting. If you’re looking for a car that’s road ready (no major resto work required), you need to make sure it runs and it can stop. That means taking it out for a test drive. Is the engine in good condition? What about the brakes? Any suspension issues? How are those tires holding up? Not that good? Are you willing to spend the cash on a new set? These are all things to look for during your road test.

As with any of the items on this list, I recommend consulting with a professional mechanic before sealing the deal. They might catch something you missed.