My suggestions: Don't ever buy ANY car without a car fax. It doesn't cover you 100% but if there are major accidents it will be on there. It will give you back-up information as to how many miles are really on the car and god-forbid if they are trying to sell a salvaged car as a regular car.
Given the age of the vehicles, you're looking for things that will cost you huge money like tired motor or junk body. Expect little things to need attention. However, a bunch of little things adds up quickly when it comes time to restore or upgrade the car so when checking things over, be fair with seller and adjust price to reflect deferred (as in neglected) maintainance.
My checklist is probably geared more for the guy looking for a stock or near-stock car. Once you buy cars with major mods it's a whole new ball-game with buyer diligence as to what headaches to avoid.
1. Check cylinder compression
2. Check all panels for rust. Take a jack and stand with you to check under the car.
3. With car jacked up at each wheel, check for looseness for either bad tie rods or wheel bearings. Not deal killer but gives you leverage on price.
4. Check the stickers on the front fenders to see if they are original or not. Do this before asking about accidents to see if it jives with seller's history of the car.
5. Have radiator hoses been replaced?
6. Open radiator and look at coolant and expansion tank. Not a deal killer but gives a clue as to previous owners maintenance diligence.
7. Is brake fluid clear or dark? If dark, make sure brakes feel firm and car stops as you would expect. If you buy car, flush lines as one of first things you do. Master cyliner and brake booster replacement is $150-200 and that's with you doing work.
8. Check parking brake by putting in drive and see if it holds car.
9. Do all the gauges and lights work? A new OE style headlight/turn-signal module on the steering column for the foxbody's like my 1989 are pricy as in around $200+ so adjust price accordingly. If you find electrical gremlins, beware.
10. Do all window motors and door locks work?
11. Do all gauges work? Are the gauges coming to their correct values and return to zero? A low/high coolant temp could mean bad thermostat, bad sender, or even a bad fan clutch. Adjust price accordingly. I am amazed how many people don't fix these kind of simple issues before selling the car.
12. If they did aftermarket radio did they cut into wiring or use a legit harness connector? (electrical hack jobs are potential deal killers for me)
13. Ask for receipts and part numbers of any non-stock item on the car. When it comes time for repairs it could save you money and aggravation down the road as OE replacements may no longer fit.
14. Put car in gear with brake on and give it a little gas to check for bad motor mounts or slipping transmission.
15. Oh yeah, when car is jacked up look at the rear of the motor to see signs of a leaking rear main seal. Very common on these cars. Not a deal breaker but adjust price accordingly. Car I bought was leaking and made part of the deal.
16. For cars that require emission checks, when is it due and will it pass. Consider making sale contingent on passing inspection and smog check.
At the end of the day, use your head and not your heart. There are enough foxbody Mustang's to pass things over if it doesn't feel right. Internet pictures and the classic "stories" sellers come up with fall apart quickly if the car is not up to snuff in person.
And if the car is straight and tight, be willing to pair fair price as it will probably save you money down the road.
1989 GT - Show Car Project
Mods: AFR165 - Comp XE264-12 cam, WC T5Z, Tmoss Cobra Intake, full bolt-ons, 305 rwhp / 345 rwtq