Before the purchase
That's it, you've made up your mind, you need a classic Mustang (1st generation from 64 to 73). The first question to ask yourself is: what will you use it for? Cruising with the hair in the wind, road race between friends, family use, daily driver or road trips during the holidays? There are as many different Mustangs as there are tastes in nature!
An excellent book will allow you to distinguish the different models according to the years: Mustang recognition guide. The other book I recommend is Mustang does it!
Coupe, Fastback, Convertible, automatic or manual gearbox, what matters above all is the general condition of the car and its maintenance as close as possible to its original configuration. There is no question here of posing as a matching number fundamentalist, which would be ridiculous for 50-year-old mass production cars, but simply of alerting future buyers to 2 points: an unmodified original Mustang will be simple to maintain and repair and offer ease of resale when the time comes. It should be noted that any major modification to the engine and/or chassis may lead to a lack of insurance coverage in the event of a serious responsible claim.
Rule number 1: go see the car and drive it!
Once the rare pearl has been found, examine the car like any other old car, starting with the bodywork and the undercarriage. The faulty spots concern the bottoms of the doors, the vent cowls (pour 1 liter of water into the grid in front of the windscreen, nothing should flow into the car) and the bottoms of the rear wings.
Try the car, a Mustang drives straight, brakes straight and does not heat up. Also be sure to check the operation of the often faulty heating. The V8s are very reliable and support high mileage. They have most of the time been redone. Check the concordance of the engine block with the original equipment of the car. Avoid hazardous modifications. The engine must not make any particular noises and the revving must be smooth. The car must not smoke from the exhaust.
The undercarriages are often worn, but fortunately their restoration is not very expensive. Also to be watched: the rear axle, which should not be noisy. Automatic or manual gearboxes are reliable. The 4-speed Toploader gearbox, very robust, is easy to rebuild, it will cost you less than 1000 euros with the wearing parts (synchromesh, bearings). Count almost double to recondition an automatic gearbox.
Options ? What's that ?
Rule number 2: options determine the price
In addition to the condition and model, the original options (including the engine and the type of transmission) will determine the value of the Mustang. The majority of the options of each Mustang are indicated on a plate riveted in the driver's door (or on a sticker from 1970). There are online decoders to check these codes. Take two 66 coupés: between a 6-cylinder with 4 drum brakes, a 3-speed manual gearbox and a GT V8 4-barrel carburetor, fitted with a 4-speed gearbox and front disc brakes, there is a price difference that goes from simple to triple!
And it's not a question of snobbery, the performance and driving pleasure are not at all the same, not to mention the rarity. Some Mustangs were only produced in specific configurations less than a hundred examples. Their rarity then determines their price and they have nothing to envy to contemporary European prestige brands. Pay attention, be vigilant on the engine code (5th character in the serial number), the swap of V8 on a chassis of 6 cylinders (letter T) are not so rare in the US: to banish completely, these "bitzas" do not have any value and you will be in total law violation in France and most of European countries.
GTs or Mach 1s are popular versions and are usually 20-30% more valuable than a base V8 version, which obviously spawned a lot of clones. Don't be fooled by simple badges, real GTs or Mach 1s have many features that copies are very rarely equipped with. A 15% surcharge applies for cars fitted with a 4-speed manual gearbox. To help you find your way around the ratings, the largest American insurer publishes an online evaluation tool, updated quarterly. Hagerty valuation tool
Forget most of the European ratings, there are obsolete and disconnected from the market!
Advice: Prefer an European Export version (DSO code 90 to 99): Mustangs sold new in France (and Belgium, Switzerland) have rarely been driven a lot because of the seventies oil crisis: this is why these cars are often in better condition than their American cousins . Another interest: these cars arrived in France loaded with options because Ford France marketed them at a high price car, the customer had to get his money's worth!
Rust, Bondo and made in China parts
You may be tempted to buy your Mustang directly in the US, attracted by "low" prices. But what is it really? The American market is very structured. Each condition level is coded from 1 to 5 (5 being the worst state). Most of the cars for sale are between scale 4 and 3 (average to good).
But they are rarely described honestly in advertisements. A beautiful car (level 2) is priced in the high range in the US: what you find cheap are often very average cars that have been patched up and sometimes even prepared for export!
Americans have understood the attraction of their Mustang abroad and some (many) unscrupulous dealers have smelled the vein: they offer prices (based on rotten Mustangs, lots of putty and poor made in China parts). In most cases, by buying in the US you will have no guarantee in the event of a problem.
To conclude, buying directly in the US is only of limited interest and only for very precise and rare models, but don't expect to pay less than for a beautiful car in France, guaranteed by a professional.
Spare parts jungle
There is absolutely everything to rebuild a Mustang from A to Z. For common consumables, the cheapest and most reliable supplier is RockAuto. Ideal if you know Mustangs well because many references/qualities are offered.
For specific parts, in France - to name only the most important ones - Centralparts USA and Silverperformance offer attractive prices. Quality varies by manufacturer. ACP and Scott Drake are (generally) trusted brands. In contrast, most low cost reproduction parts aren't worth much. Original, rare or very beautiful remanufactured parts are available at West Coast Classic Cougar.
Note: You also have the possibility of finding new Ford parts (NOS) on Ebay, sometimes at the price of gold, but which will be justified within the framework of a restoration of an exceptional model.
A particularly active club entirely dedicated to classic Mustangs (1964 to 1973) in France can also help you in your search.
A very active french forum: MustangV8