A cool thing about Foxbody mustangs is that you can find one in pretty decent shape for a reasonable price ($3000-$6000). There are a lot of survivors out there, but a lot that have been beat to hell as well. How do you discern the two? Like shopping for any vehicle, you do a careful examination of it. It's also a good idea to have a friend come along, for a second perspective.
These cars are notorious for their weaker-than-weak frames. I.e, that big throbbing 5.0L engine up front, even in stock form, is enough to wreak havoc on the torque boxes and overall alignment of the subframes. When I am looking to buy a Foxbody, here is my usual procedure.Overall integrity of the car
1) Run a hand along side the windshield and hatch glass pillars. Any cracks, bulges, indentations or other mutations are a likely sign of the frame twisting.
2) Check the alignment and spacing of the fenders and moldings (GT's). Inconsistent alignment or misalignment may dictate the car was in an accident at some point, or again the frame has twisted somewhat.
3) Check the strut towers in the engine bay for rust. Fox Mustangs are notorious for rusting on the front strut towers (especially the lower portion, where they meet the frame). If there is heavy rust there, I would back off, unless you are very handy with metal work.
4) Check the alignment of the radiator supports. Misalignment here probably means the Foxbody was involved in a collision at some point.
5) Check the floors for rust or holes.
Now, an issue found in one of the above sections is not necessarily a deal breaker. Most of these issues, within reason, are not the end of the world and can be used as a bargaining tool. It comes down to your personal preference. Do you mind owning a car that may or may not have been involved in a collision? Personal preference ultimately will dictate whether or not the car is worth buying. However, I would like to stress how important a good body is. In my opinion, the #1 factor is the body and frame. Slight issues with either, like stated, doesn't have to be a deal breaker. A big issue though should be the deal breaker. Engine
The great thing about the engine (and all mechanical components) is that they can be fixed or replaced, no matter what! Blown engine? No biggie. Rotted frame looks like swiss cheese? Well that's a little different. When examining mechanical components of the car, just keep in mind anything mechanical can always be fixed, for a price. Don't let an oil leak otherwise deter you from an unmolested body.
1) Prior to turning on the car, check underneath to see if you can see any visible signs of fluids leaking or fluid stains on the surface beneath the car. TBH, I'd be surprised to find out a 20+ year old car doesn't leak.
2) When you do start the car, have you or your friend watch the tailpipes for any smoke or discoloration coming out. Black smoke is burning oil, white smoke is coolant (coolant also has a sweet smell to it). Again, none of this is a deal breaker, just another mental note on what may need to be fixed (and another bargaining tool).
3) Check the placement of the heater controls. An old trick for an overheating car is to run the heater on full blast, to pull extra air through the heater core. If the owner is running full heat in 80 degree weather, this Fox is probably running a little hot.The interior
The condition of the interior is a good indication of how the car has been treated. If the interior is meticulously tidy (no garbage, stains etc), more likely than not the rest of the car has received the same car (i.e: good care, reg maintenance).
Concerning the dash and instruments, check the dash for cracks. Gauges in these cars are notoriously inaccurate and frequently stop working or only work partially.
Concerning the odometer, if the numbers do not line up evenly, then most likely the odometer has rolled over. US cars only go to 99,999 miles before rolling over (Canadian versions will go to 999,999 km before rolling over). Therefore if you see the car has 13,000 mi on it and the numbers aren't quite even, most likely it has rolled over and really has 112,999 mi on it.The test drive
The test drive is the biggest factor in examining a car. If the owner will not take the car for a test drive, it probably means he is hiding something.
I always like to have the owner drive first. This way I can see how he drives the car, and subsequently I get an idea of how it's been treated. Every owner certainly has their favorite patch of asphalt to let that 5.0L loose, but if every piece of asphalt is the favorite asphalt, then you know this Pony has been ridden hard. Watch how he shifts, brakes, does this and that, if he has any tricks (both good or bad). Again, all this observation is telling you the history of the mustang.
Of course, a car over 20 years is going to have squeaks and rattles. Just make sure that rattle is not actually the transmission ripping itself up (this may sound more than a rattle
). Speaking of transmissions, note how it shifts, how the clutch feels. Shift smoothly and consistently? Good. It doesn't? Oh well, T5's are pretty shitty anyway. AOD's too, but that is just because they are automatic. Don't believe me? Check the torque ratings: http://www.fiveohinfo.com/fox/transmission.html#t5
At the end of the day, the decision is all yours. Do you like the car? What do you like about it, what don't you like about it? What needs to be fixed, what doesn't? All of these factors play in to what your final offer may be. Just keep in mind that priority 1 is the frame, priority 2 the body. All other mechanical components can be fixed or swapped.Importing a car or passing a safety inspection
Quite often, the perfect car is found out of state or out of province. At least for me it was. Anyways, quite often when you buy a car that is not registered in your district, it will have to undergo some sort of safety inspection before it can be registered to use in your area.
When examining a car out of state, here are some key things to notice.
- Brakes are working smoothly, braking power evenly distributed
- Working e-brake or parking brake
- Undamaged windshield or hatch glass (no cracks)
- All exterior lights work correctly and are clearly visible when illuminated
- Headlights, tail lights, flashers, brake lights
- Side view, rear view mirror are present, in correct place and firmly attached
- If it is a manual transmission, the car will not start unless clutch is depressed
- Functional horn
- Good tires & tire tread
The above are really just some basic checks, but any safety inspection will look for, at a minimum, those listed. Really, these checks should be done on ALL cars despite where you buy them, but this list becomes especially important when the car will have to pass a safety inspection.