Jeff Ford
September 1, 2002
Photos By: The Mustang Monthly Archives

There is a difference between buying a Mustang and buying it right. We hope this article helps you to know what you're getting into and helps you catch things that may end up costing you a lot more money than the investment in tools and time that they will require. We'll also go into what it takes to make a good buy. For the new folks, this is vital information. For the long-time reader, this is a nice refresher course in how not to get taken.

We also include info beneficial to Shelby owners as well as those who are looking to buy into a '67-'73 Mustang.

An Informed Buyer
Information is your best ally in buying a Mustang. Some things are "must haves." The following items are broken into two groups: One is information you'll want prior to the buy. The other is stuff you'll want to have with you at the buy.

Sounds Simple,But...
Below is a list of things that we keep socked away in the cracked corners of our minds when looking at a Mustang.

Four-Lug Wheels
The '65-'73 Mustang V-8s never came with four-lug wheels, no way, no how. The four-lug thing started in 1975 and ran to the end of Fox production in 1993. The Mustangs that break that '65-'93 mold are listed below.
* '84-'86 SVO * '93 Cobra "R"

Shock Tower Bracing
With the advent of the heavier engines in 1967, Ford ran into some problems with shock tower cracking. Starting with the '6811/42 428 Cobra Jet, Ford installed shock tower braces in its performance model Mustangs. Cars like the Boss 302, 428 Cobra Jet-powered Mach 1s, and 351 V-8s almost always had these braces. As of 1971, with its chassis redesigned specifically for the 429 V-8, Ford did away with the bracing.

Rust Never Sleeps
We'll have a complete section on what areas of the Mustang are most prone to rust and what can be done about it. But it never hurts to mention (over and over) that rust is pervasive and mean. It hides behind fresh paint; it lurks under dashes. It is out to cost you money. Look for it and negotiate accordingly.

Big Rear Endsv
If you are looking at a big-block car, they always have a 9-inch rear axle. In 1969, the 351-powered Mach 1s also received this upgraded rearend for added strength. Remember, too, when looking at a '65-'66 Hi-Po, that they came with a 9-inch rear gear.

As for the late-model, the '79-'85 V-8 used a 7.5 rear axle, but in 1986 they went to the more beefy 8.8. If you are looking into a late-model and it has the 8.8 axle, you're OK. If it has the 7.5, you're either buying a conversion car or a pre-'86 V-8.

Body Codes
In 1969 the Mach 1 didn't have a code in the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) denoting that it is a Mach 1, making it an easier one to fake. That is where knowing your codes is important. Or you can place the call that we talk about later in Smarti Marti. Also know that the GT was an option package from 1965-'69 and had no special VIN number either.

We always like to find cars that are relatively unmolested. Why? Generally, they are better starting points for a restoration or even a mod job. All the parts are there, allowing you to save money right from the beginning. And if you are not into restoration, it gives you parts to either barter with or sweeten the pot when and if you sell the car.

Tools Of The Trade
We recommend you bring the following things with you when you go to look at a vintage Mustang.

Shelby Helper
With the price of Shelbys going higher and higher, the likelihood of getting taken grows every year. Prices right now are averaging in the mid-30s for excellent examples. Top-end cars like the GT500KR convertible and the '65 GT350 are in the mid $70K and $60K range, respectively. This makes the Shelby arguably the most collectable Mustang on the market; and thereby the most profitable to copy for profit.