The process of restoring a car is much like most other things in life. You need to know where you are going and how to get there. Therefore you need to make a plan and stick to it as much as possible, to avoid extra expense and a less-than-satisfying result. Still, it’s almost never possible to completely plan everything out to the last detail. The inevitable and unforeseeable events, that always accompany a project of such magnitude, make planning a challenge for even the most experienced restorer. Anybody who says otherwise is dreaming. No two cars are alike; no two projects are completely alike. Most of all, no two people are alike and what each person wants out of the restoration, and has the means to accomplish, is the single largest factor in determining its ultimate success. As the saying goes, any journey starts with a single step. When it comes to restoring a vehicle, the first step is to decide what you want to end up with.
This Tech Tip is From the Full Book, HOW TO RESTORE YOUR MUSTANG 1964 1/2-1973. For a comprehensive guide on this entire subject you can visit this link:
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What Type of Restoration Do You Want?
This is simultaneously a simple and a complex question. It starts with what you’d like to do, but continues on to what is reasonable to do for the condition of the vehicle, progresses on to what resources are available, and ends with what can actually be done under the circumstances. I get into all of these particulars in detail throughout the book, but first things first. What would you like to do? The answer to this question may not be simple either. There are different levels
of restorations, which range from a relatively minor refreshing to a full-on concours level in which money is no object. I don’t cover minor refreshing or a complete frame-up restoration but, rather, the middle range. This covers most restorations. For the sake of simplicity, I break things down into three classifications: daily driver, weekend cruiser, and show car.
This is the entry-level restoration. The vehicle will be used on a frequent basis and will have to be reliable and capable of transporting people and their belongings without concern for normal wear and tear, etc. At this level, the restoration is more of a refurbishment to the “nice car” level than it is an attempt to have an award winner. The goal is to take a car that’s already in decent condition and make it look and run better on a relatively modest budget.
A car restored to this level is one that stands out from the crowd yet can run with it. It may have been sitting around for a long time. When all is said and done, a car at this level will have been thoroughly gone over and will look great for it. The emphasis will have been more on usability than accuracy, in terms of what is strictly “correct” for the car, production options, etc. Budgets vary from moderate to high.
While not a 100-percent concourscorrect situation, this type of restoration can get very close to it. This level is for a car that can be driven but rarely is. It’s for cars that will most likely be trailered to a show that’s more than a couple of hours away but will probably still be driven to
local and regional shows. This level is for people who want to win awards at relatively big shows and/or who want to get a good price at a well-known auction. The budget level is high.
Choosing what level of restoration you want up front has a dramatic impact on the decisions that follow. The quality of parts used in a show car is inevitably higher and is also likely to be more true to how the car was originally produced. The weekend cruiser will probably feature factory upgrades—such as converting drum brakes to discs, using Ford parts—because I’m only discussing restoration, not modification. The daily driver probably sees the fewest hardware changes and may not even get a full repaint unless it really needs it. As you progress from daily driver to show car, professional restoration and a bigger budget is required. Every restoration project is different to some extent, but these general classifications will help you plan your project, forecast the required time, calculate the expense, and choose your vehicle.
Who Will Do the Work?
Deciding who will complete the various tasks involved in your restoration project really involves your answers to several other questions. These include, but are not limited to, the following:
• What needs to be done?
• What skill level do I have?
• What equipment do I have access to?
• Where is the work going to be done?
• How much time do I have?
• How much can I budget for the project?
• Do I plan to keep the car or sell it soon after the restoration?
Of course, there’s also the matter of taking pride in having done some of the work yourself. Some people want to spend as much time as possible working on their car, so they can discuss, often in minute detail, how they did this or that to make sure it was done the way they wanted. Others have neither the interest nor the time to do this, but they do have the finances to make sure somebody else does it for them. Neither approach is better than the other—it’s a matter of what works for you. Let’s discuss each question briefly to provide some thoughts that should help you decide who does what.
The type of restoration you want to do and the condition of the car mainly determine the answer to the question of what needs to be done. The lower the level of the restoration, the less you have to do. The worse the condition of the vehicle, the more you have to do. To a large extent, a daily-driver restoration of a car in reasonably good shape can usually be done by the owner if he or she is so inclined and capable.
If it is a car that has not been properly maintained for 20 years, it typically needs a considerable amount of work to return it to its former glory and/or to become a show car regardless of the owner’s abilities or inclinations. In many cases, owners tend to do a lot of work to their weekend cruisers because they tend to be mechanically inclined, and this type of restoration is used to make a more personal statement.
A daily-driver restoration may involve little more than some parts swapping, a general cleanup, and some touching up of the paint and interior surfaces. The weekend-cruiser restoration likely involves a full repaint, lots of new parts and/or upgrades, and probably a partial rebuild of the engine and driveline, at a minimum. It may not involve a full “frame off” or rotisserie-level tear down, but it may involve welding in some replacement panels and the like. The show-car restoration requires the full tear down, a full rebuild of the engine and driveline, the use of many high-quality new/reproduction parts, and the complete refurbishment of original parts where appropriate. The preparation of the body before paint is extensive, and the paint will be virtually flawless in an original factory color. The interior, the metal trim pieces, and so forth are all show quality but not necessarily 100- percent original.
I get into much more detail on the specifics of what needs to be done for a given type of restoration later on. For now, you need to make an honest assessment of what you can do and what you feel comfortable doing. If you have little experience working on early Mustangs, then it’s best to at least have someone more experienced show you what you need to know if you want to do some things yourself. For the daily-driver level, this is probably fine as long as you don’t need to do any serious rebuilding or refinishing but just limit your activities to mainly replacing parts. If you have experience rebuilding an engine or a transmission, you should be able to restore these components for a weekend cruiser. The things you still likely have to rely on outside help for are machining work, metalworking, and most likely painting. Even if you’re able to take the engine apart, for example, you still need a machine shop to perform various operations on the engine if you are rebuilding it. Likewise, you may be able to do some of the prep work prior to paint but you will most likely have to take the car somewhere to be painted.
The primary reason for this is equipment, or rather the lack thereof. The cost of some equipment that is needed in many restoration projects is simply too much for most people, especially if it won’t be used that often. Add in the fact that such equipment almost always requires some special skill level to operate it, and you come to the conclusion that some tasks are best left to the experts. For many show-car restorations, even people who have some of this special equipment and knowledge still defer to someone else. They simply recognize that the restoration shop probably has even better equipment and people who are even more skilled at using it. There’s definitely something to be said for experience, and it’s not too hard to understand that somebody who uses better equipment on a daily basis, and does so for a living, almost always produces a better result than someone with lesser equipment, less experience, and who only uses their equipment infrequently. There’s a lot of feel as well as knowledge involved in many restoration skills, which takes time to develop. If you don’t have the right equipment, skill level, or time to do the job properly, then it’s best to let the experts handle it.
You also need a proper workshop to do your restoration. At the daily-driver level, you may only be doing some parts swapping and minor freshening up, and you can probably get away with doing it in your garage or driveway. If you don’t have everyday access to a garage, you may need to find one you can rent or see if someone you know will let you use theirs for a while. Regardless of what you might want to believe, you shouldn’t work on your car outside unless it’s a simple project that takes just a few hours. Besides probably not scoring any points with the neighbors (or the homeowners association) there are practical problems such as weather and the lack of utilities that make the task unwise even if you think it will only take a few hours. More often than most would like to admit, something unforeseen happens and the job takes longer than you thought. A bolt might break, a thread may strip, or you may lose a part down a drain—whatever. The point is you don’t want to be stuck in a situation where the car has to be left outside because you can’t drive it away when you thought you could. Do your work inside and if you know it’s going to be a long term project, make sure you have plenty of room around the car to store parts, tools, and equipment as well as to do work comfortably. If you don’t have a good place to work on the car, you’re better off letting someone else do it.
No matter how long you think your restoration will take, you’re probably wrong. Inevitably some things break, you may not be able to find parts, some other unforeseen things come up, you may temporarily run out of money, or some combination of these and other things happen. If you have a restoration shop do the work, they too likely have similar problems, although probably not as often. And they likely have a backup plan in place for when such things do happen. Simply put, unless you know you will have enough time, skill, money, etc., to do a restoration project, you probably should not try to do it all yourself; it will most likely take longer than you think. If you are in no rush and you want to take your time because you enjoy doing it and you want to do it your way, then that’s fine too. As long as you know what you are getting into and you do have the skill, resources, patience, and location, etc., to do it in such a way that you’re happy with the outcome, then do as much as you can.
For most people, a restoration proves to be a series of ongoing partnerships. You do some of the work and you have others do the rest. Who does what depends on the aspects of the project that I’ve already discussed. There will be variables neither party can control, such as the availability of parts, the weather, and so on, but the key is to clearly define what each party is responsible for and then have everyone do their best to meet their commitments. When something unforeseen comes up, as always happens, everyone involved just needs to be flexible and adapt as necessary. You may want to think that doing everything by yourself makes you immune to such hiccups, but it doesn’t. The key here is to be realistic and seek help when it is appropriate. You’ll be happier when you’re done because the result will be better.
Along with the time required, it’s virtually impossible to precisely determine the ultimate cost of a restoration. If you do some of the work yourself, there is probably less of a monetary outlay, but it all comes down to what you can or will do and what your time is worth. With a show-level restoration, most people defer to a well-known and well-respected shop to do the work. These shops often produce a better result and it can enhance the car’s reputation and/or its resale value. Unless you’re the original owner of the car, when you begin stripping a car down, you almost always find a few things you didn’t know about—some rust here, body filler there, whatever. Lifting the carpet or the trunk liner is often a real eye opener for many people. Media blasting reveals all. This can usually be worked around; it’s just that it takes more time, skill, parts, and money to do it.
If you’re doing a daily-driver or weekend- cruiser restoration, it’s less of a problem than for a show car, where you pretty much want all repairs to be invisible. Invisibility costs a lot. If you’re taking the car to a national show where it will be judged by experts or you want to sell it at a high-end auction, you can be sure the cost will be much higher than for the daily driver or weekend cruiser. And that’s only for a 90- to 95-percent-perfect car. If you want to go for that last few percent because the car is a rare, so-called numbers matching car (more on that later in the book), then get ready to lay out some serious cash to get to that level.
If you’re going for the show level or above, regardless of whether you intend to sell the car soon, your best bet is to work with a well-known restoration shop. They can do much of the work to the level that’s needed and their involvement adds credibility to the restoration. Such credibility can add significantly to the perceived value of a show-level car.
What Models and Drive train Options to Look For
What vehicle you should look for depends primarily on what you like, what you want it to do for you, what you can afford (both to buy and to restore), and what is actually available on the market. Resale value may also be a consideration, of course, though I will not try to speculate on what the value of any given vehicle might be before or after it is restored. Our discussion is about restorations, not investment potential. All the factors should be considered, but the priority of each depends on the individual.
It’s safe to say most of us would love to have a Boss 302 or a Boss 429, but few of us could probably afford one at current market price. From a restoration perspective, such a vehicle would also be at the high end of the expense scale because the available correct parts would be very, very expensive in most cases. It would be much too valuable to drive around very often and it would not be very practical, to say the least. But that’s not to say you couldn’t if you wanted to. It is a very subjective decision but, realistically, truly rare and valuable cars like these are show cars most of the time. A few may be used as weekend cruisers, but it’s a safe bet even fewer such vehicles will ever be used as daily drivers. Still, it’s nice to see any first-generation Mustang being driven rather than just parked somewhere.
The first general rule you can use when deciding what vehicle to buy might be: Buy what you like and can comfortably afford. Buy it, restore it, drive it, and enjoy it. Restore it to the level you are comfortable with. Don’t buy something based mainly on its perceived resale value. The market is very fluid. True, some of the really rare special models will always be worth a lot, but whether you can make a profit after sinking a lot of money into a show-level restoration is another matter. While sale prices vary considerably, some trends are consistent for first-generation Mustangs. A coupe generally sells for less than a fastback or a convertible. A heavily modified vehicle or a racecar is generally not the best candidate for an original restoration. You almost always come out ahead if you pay a little more up front to get a car that’s in better condition than if you buy a car with problems. Of course, there are exceptions to all of these rules, but they are generally accepted guidelines.
If you do find that authentic, numbers-matching Mach 1 in somebody’s barn for only a few hundred dollars, you take it as long as it still rolls out in one piece. The parts alone are worth that much. But if you plan on doing any kind of serious restoration, you better accept the fact the bill will be high and you may not get it back if you ever decide to sell it. Try to buy what you like, and then drive it and enjoy it.
Some other things to help you decide what to look for depend on how the vehicle will be used. If it will be a daily driver, you probably are better off with a small block engine than a big-block, not only for fuel economy but also for reliability, lower cost of maintenance, and even drivability. Big-block cars are fine for the weekend cruiser and show cars, but they just aren’t as practical to use on a regular basis if you have to deal with a long commute, traffic, and so on. They usually perform better in a straight line, but that isn’t the only thing to consider.
A small-block car with an automatic transmission is easily the best combination to go with for frequent use. If you don’t have to deal with traffic very often and you want some additional performance, then a manual transmission works too. If you decide to go with a big block for a daily driver you’re much better off with the automatic transmission for dealing with traffic and getting much the same acceleration as a manual. If you want to do smoky burnouts all the time or you like to emulate Parnelli Jones in the corners, you are probably better off with the stick.
For the weekend cruiser it’s pretty much up to personal choice, with big blocks probably being the preferred option since they do tend to get more attention. The show-car restoration will almost always retain the engine the car came with, unless the vehicle is being made into a clone of a rarer special/ limited-edition model.
The rear axle is another aspect to consider. If you will be driving the car a lot or will take long trips, you should avoid a numerically high rear-end ratio to keep engine revs (and overall wear) down. If you have a limited-use big-block car, then the higher-number gears are fine and maybe even desirable for better acceleration. For the higher-output engine options, you want to make sure you have a stronger rear axle such as the 9-inch unit. If you have a relatively lower-powered engine, then a smaller axle like the 8-inch may be fine as long as you don’t intend to abuse it too much. All of the axles can be modified internally to handle more power but that shouldn’t be necessary when restoring back to factory specifications. In the case of a show car it may also be undesirable in terms of judging and the potential loss of perceived value.
The choice of differential type is also very important. An open differential is fine for a daily driver or weekend cruiser. However, as the power level rises and maximum rear wheel traction becomes more important, a limited-slip differential becomes necessary. A fully locking differential can be problematic in a car that’s driven regularly in terms of noise, tire wear, and how it behaves in poor weather. If you are willing to put up with such things and/or you won’t be driving the car so much, then it’s not as big an issue. If you will be driving the car a lot, you want something you can live with that will last. For the show-car restoration, this discussion is again more or less moot—you just keep what the car came with.
You are also, of course, limited by what is actually available. If you want a 19641⁄2 fastback, sorry, they didn’t make any. Likewise, if you love Highland Green as a paint color, you’ll be looking for a 1968 model year because it’s the only year that color was offered. Sure, you can paint your car any color you like, but the cost goes up if you really want to do it right. And in the case of a show car, the value may actually go down if you don’t keep the original colors. Changing the color of the interior is less controversial, but it can also be a detriment in some cases. The tradeoff between keeping a rare but unappealing color versus changing to a more popular color scheme comes down to your personal preference, the cost of converting, and the potential effect on resale value, if that matters. Every situation is different so you won’t find any firm rules here but, in general, you usually can’t go wrong if you keep it original or just go with what you prefer if you don’t intend to sell it.
Finally, choosing your car may involve popularity and rarity. While what you may like is completely subjective, there are some popularly held opinions that do seem to form a loose consensus. For example, if you like the coupe body style, then many people would say the 1967 and 1968 coupes are the best looking. The convertibles of those years also seem to be among the most popular, though the 19641⁄2 to 1966 models are right there with them. The 1969 and 1970 models tend to be best known for the “Sportsroof” body style. The question of whether you prefer the four-headlight front end of the 1969 models or the two headlights of the 1970 models is one where there is much less of a clear winner. Ditto for taillight styles (those on the 1969 stick out and those of the 1970 are recessed). For some people it comes down to really liking the side vent on the rear quarter panel that was only available in 1969. There is no clear winner here. Many would argue the 1965–1966 fastbacks are as nice or nicer, but even the 1967–1968 fastbacks have their fans. It really becomes strictly a matter of personal taste. The models listed above are generally considered among the most popular of the first generation but not everyone agrees on this.
The 1971–1973 models are generally not as popular and hold less collector value than the earlier models.The 1971–1973s were larger and heavier, and emission control laws reduced the number of engine options and power levels that were available. They were easier to fit a big-block into, unlike the 19641⁄2 to 1966 cars that, for example, did not offer such an option. Even the 1967 and 1968 cars were a tight fit with the 390-engine option. Clearly, the most popular bigblock cars were the 1969 and 1970 models, although the small-block Boss 302s were (and still are) very high on many people’s list of desirable vehicles. If perceived popularity matters to you, you may want to take these things into consideration. If you plan to restore the car and hold on to it indefinitely, then it’s a matter of what you like and can afford.
A daily driver also needs to be practical and user friendly. A show car is almost always restored to its original, asbuilt condition. A weekend cruiser is a balance between personal preference, the desire to make an impression, and what is feasible. You should look for what works for you on the levels already discussed. The only other consideration may be that of the vehicle’s rarity.
Truly rare models such as the Boss models and any of the special factory race cars and so forth are a part of history. These vehicles are most valuable when they are either very mildly restored (more or less left as is), or they are socalled “survivor cars” in good shape, or they are fully restored back to their original condition. There are plenty of higher-volume, less-collectible cars that can be modified. A car can only be born once, and relatively few of the rare models were produced. In order to keep their original flavor, many owners refuse to modify them or over restore them. Keeping the truly rare vehicles in their original configuration allows them to be enjoyed by those who didn’t experience them when they were new and helps provide information about how these cars were really built. They truly are museum pieces, yet they are best enjoyed when they’re being driven.
What to Avoid
Several precautions have already been mentioned but there are a few more to discuss. One is: Do not buy a wreck. If a car is in really, really poor condition it is almost always not worth the trouble. Even if the car is a rare one-off vehicle that you think will make you rich, it probably won’t. You may just end up buying the VIN number and little else. If the car does have all of the original numbers-matching parts and it is a car of special/historic value, it still is a gamble if the cost of restoring it to a show-car level will be more than what it might bring at resale. Sure, you may get lucky at some famous auction but the odds are definitely against you. You would be depending on at least two people with big bucks (already a small group) becoming emotionally attached to your car (even smaller group) and bidding the price up. You are free to speculate, but the bills to restore the car to the highest level are very tangible.
The bottom line is: Don’t make the restoration any more expensive than it needs to be. A car in better shape always costs less to restore, and it will be worth more when it’s done. If you do decide to invest in a rare or valuable model, be sure you’re getting what you think you’re getting (more about this at the end of this chapter). Secure as much valid documentation about the car as possible, in order to prove its alleged pedigree.
As when buying any car, do a thorough evaluation of the car’s condition before you buy it to make sure you don’t find any surprises later. This is not only a matter of getting what you pay for and not being cheated, it can make the difference in deciding if the car is worth restoring. This is a greater concern with a show car and/or one of the more rare vehicles, but even a daily driver can have issues that prohibit putting any more money into it. If you’re buying from a known and trusted source and the car is well documented, this should not be a concern. When you buy from a stranger, be sure to get some references about the seller and also check out the car’s history in whatever way you can—talk to previous owners, check DMV records, talk to people in car clubs with similar cars, etc. The higher the car’s profile, the easier this will be.
You also want to avoid any car that has a salvage title or has otherwise been heavily damaged. It may look as though the car has been fully repaired, but chances are it was not. Floodwater can get into places that are unreachable unless you completely take the car apart—a reason for salvage. Similarly, a fire or major collision also does damage that may not be seen but certainly can affect functionality and drivability. This damage provides unneeded surprises and lowered car value. What may seem like a low-price bargain usually costs more in the end. You get what you pay for; buy a better-quality vehicle.
I’ve already stated it’s best to avoid a heavily modified vehicle, but this deserves some clarification. If a vehicle has been heavily modified, it has probably been driven hard. That’s not good for a daily driver or a weekend cruiser because you can’t be sure of its reliability. Having been driven hard is less of an issue for a show car because you’re going to be rebuilding and/or replacing most things anyway. With a show car you are more concerned about the extra expense of having to undo body modifications, such as removing wheel tubs for large tires and so forth. Modified and/or raced cars usually have weldedin roll bars or cages, heavily modified suspensions and drive trains, and so forth, all of which have to be removed to create a show car. You would avoid considerable time, effort, and expense if you buy a mainly stock or fairly original car. Even a weekend cruiser or a daily driver would have to have most if not all of such modifications removed because they are generally not feasible for practical street use. Again, added expense and complication.
And no matter how good the repair process is, the car still is never really as good or will be worth as much as if the modifications were never done. You can find replacement panels, floor pans, and so forth pretty easily for a first-generation Mustang, but they are rarely identical to the factory parts (for reasons I explain in Chapter 3). If your goal is primarily restoration, avoid cars that were heavily modified, raced, or abused. However, if the car was one of those rare factory racecars, that’s another story. If the modifications were simply bolt-ones, then that’s okay if they can be removed and replaced with the factory parts and you can verify the car has not been beat up too much. A complete, professional grade restoration is a complex and time consuming process, so it’s best to start with a car that does not require a lot of repair work before the restoration is started. In the end, it most likely would not be worth as much anyway, no matter how well the restoration is done.
Finally, if resale value is very important to you, you should try to buy one of the more popular body styles and/or color combinations. People tend to buy what they like and off-beat colors appeal to fewer people. If it happens to be a rare color like Grabber Blue, the rarity and the nostalgia may add value to it. That’s especially true with the rarer higher performance models. The loud color is a match for the loud car. On a more mainstream vehicle such colors are somewhat out of place, just as a relatively low-key color like gold or bronze would be on a performance model. The color intensity should match the car, and you should recognize that some colors just don’t appeal to very many people no matter what car they’re on. A rare, performance model might still get a good price with an odd color, but it almost always brings a better price with a more popular color. A rare color is not automatically worth more. Low-volume figures for a particular color usually just mean the color was as unpopular in its day as it probably is now.
Likewise, the combination of the interior color and that of the exterior should be a good match. Black on black, black on white, red on black, and so forth are some of the more popular combinations. Bright or light-color interiors are less appealing to many people. A light blue interior in a blue car works fine, as does a red interior in a white car, but these still may not generate as much interest as the more popular combinations. If you like a particular color combination and/or you want to make a bold statement, none of this matters much if you are going to keep the car. For a show-car level restoration, you almost always restore the car back to its original colors. However, you should consider the resale value of the car. You probably should look for one of the more popular color combinations and avoid the more obscure color choices that not only draw attention from fewer potential buyers, but are also harder to find matching parts.
Matching the Numbers
When you purchase a first-generation Mustang you have all of the concerns you have with the purchase of any car in terms of its condition, etc. However, since there may be the additional aspects of collectability and/or its potential impact on resale value, there is another matter to consider. This is the concept of “matching numbers.” Basically, this has to do with the fact that an original vehicle with all of its original major parts (engine, transmission, rear axle, etc.) is worth more, all else being equal, than the same specification/condition car where the parts have been replaced. When you purchase a vehicle you logically pay a premium for such a car, just as you expect a similar premium at the time of sale. Here are a few tips to make sure you get what you are paying for.
When you examine a vehicle prior to purchase there are two basic things you need to know: what it really is, and what it was when it was “born”/manufactured. I won’t get into all of the normal checks you make when you buy a car as far as making sure it is in good running condition, has no hidden damage, etc., but the point is to do your homework as far as what’s on the car being consistent with what’s supposed to be on it. There are numerous guides available to provide you with very specific descriptions of what came standard and what was optional for a given model. You need to make sure the parts on the car were correct for the car in terms of having been offered on the model it is supposed to be. Ultimately, this all traces back To the VIN (Vehicle Identification Number).
The VIN tells you, to at least some extent, what model the car is supposed to be—the parts that can be on it from the standpoint of originality. Locate the VIN and make sure it has not been changed. You do this by checking for agreement at all of the various VIN locations, and to the extent possible, verify the correct VIN (or portion thereof) is also present on those components that have VIN-based markings, such as the engine block, for example.
Owners of 1967-and-later Mustangs have an additional resource available to them in the form of a Marti Report. Once you have established the VIN is valid for the vehicle you can obtain a report from Marti Auto Works that tells you everything from when and where the car was both built and sold, to what specific options were on the car at the time and how many other cars like it were produced. There are multiple levels of Marti reports, ranging from as little about $20 for the “Basic” report to upwards of $200 for the “Elite” report, which even includes a reproduction of the driver’s side door date plate professionally mounted, along with the other documents in a nice frame.
With 19641⁄2 to 1966 Mustangs, you have to do your own homework as far as decoding the VIN to determine what the car should have and could have on it based on when it was built. In any case, the point is to verify the VIN and the documentation available for the car so you know you have what you are supposed to have and can determine a fair price for it.
Where to Find Your Mustang
There’s no shortage of sources for classic Mustangs. I’ll try to point you toward the best places to look for a Mustang that will undergo a particular type of restoration. I’ll also give some tips on where you might get a better deal with fewer problems.
If you’re planning to do a dailydriver restoration, there really isn’t any difference from looking for a regular car except for the fact that you want an older Mustang. Probably the best place to start looking is with Mustang and Ford car clubs. You’ll likely find what you’re looking for, plus you can get references about both the car and the seller. Many clubs have classified ads in their newsletter and on their website, plus they often conduct open “Buy, Sell, or Trade” sessions at meetings. If you can’t find the specific car you want, club members often know of other cars for sale or volunteer to check around for you. Car shows are another good source, though For Sale signs are not often allowed. You can walk around and see all types of vehicles to help you decide what you want and can learn more about them by talking to their owners and others. If you see something you like, you can check with the owner to see if it’s available.
Local newspapers are not as good a source for finding an early Mustang as they used to be. Their classified sections are getting smaller and have few classic car ads. You’re usually better off looking in weekly car-buying publications, such as Autoswapper and Autotrader. There may be a few ads in the regular editions, but you want the special “old car” or similar edition if they publish one. A good online alternative is Craigslist.org. You may not find a large selection of what you want but at least you can search very specifically and save time. Prices on Craigslist can be very good and the chances of finding something special, while slim, are probably as good as it gets.
Other online sources, such as Auto trader.com, Cars.com, and eBay.com, are also very good places to shop, especially if you want something specific and you don’t mind traveling to pick it up. You see more dealer ads but you are less likely to get a great deal or an undiscovered gem because these venues are very closely watched and most people posting ads tend to know auto values. A final place to look for a daily driver is local dealer auctions and even government or bank auctions. These are very hit or miss; you don’t see many older Mustangs, but it can happen if you get lucky. Get a list of what’s going up for bid before you go, to see if there’s anything you might want. You should use a similar approach with used-car dealers that specialize in collectible/classic vehicles. Call and talk to someone who can give you accurate info about the car before you go there.
For a weekend cruiser or a show car, you can use all of the same sources; you just have to adjust your criteria for what may be acceptable. For the former, you can be more flexible in terms of the condition of the car so long as you’re willing to do a more involved restoration and are able to handle the expense. Again, it’s always best to start with a car that’s in better shape, but take a bigger chance on something you just have to have. A show car ideally starts with the best possible car, to keep what is already a large expense from getting any larger.
All of the previous sources are good places to look, plus you can add the classified sections of national magazines and their websites. The larger collector-car auctions are also a possibility for these types of restorations, although most of the cars there have already been restored. Avoid the higher-price vehicles that go across the block at popular time slots on Friday night and Saturday. Focus on the days before and after these popular time slots, when better deals can be had. You can be sure the sellers know what they have, so there is less chance of making a bad purchase as long as you verify things completely. With a no-reserve-type auction, you may even get lucky if there’s no interest in the car from anyone else. Commissions tend to be pretty high at these auctions, so you have to weigh the costs you pay for the higher-quality car.
Another option is to essentially start from scratch with a complete, new body shell from a company called Dynacorn. At the time this book was being written, the only Mustang models available were 1967 and 1968 fastbacks. You still have to find a lot of other parts, many of which are also made by Dynacorn, but at least you have the benefit of knowing there are no issues with rust and wear. There are also some claimed advantages about the type of steel used, manufacturing methods, etc. You still have to fit many parts to the car due to production tolerances, as you would likely also have to do in a restoration with a Fordproduced Mustang. The price is significant (about $16,000 for the complete body shell with shipping), and you have to register the vehicle differently since it does not come with a VIN.
You would be essentially building a kit car that happens to be more or less functionally and visually identical to a 1967 or 1968 Mustang fastback. This would be possible, if not always practical, to do for a daily driver or a weekend cruiser. It would most likely not be appropriate for a show car, at least not one trying to be passed off as an authentic Mustang. If you prefer to use as many new parts as possible, this may be the way to go. While some may consider this more an assembly of parts (like the states that require you register it as a “specially constructed vehicle” or kit car), the actual process of turning the body shell into a drivable car is basically the same as for a regular restoration. The exception to this is if there’s more time making things fit and less time repairing flaws in the body. If you’re mainly concerned about the look and function of the final vehicle and don’t really care about authenticity and resale value, then this option may be one worth considering
Written by Frank Bohanan and Republished with Permission of CarTech Inc