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Five Things to Know About Buying a Project Car for a Mustang Rebuild

Guides  /   /  By Daniel Gray

Where did Rutledge Wood and his team get the parts to rebuild the red, white, and rowdy 1967 Ford Mustang Fastback headed to the 2017 SEMA Show? To bring their vision to life, Rut and the team bought the car and nearly all its parts and accessories on eBay Motors. Gearheads have been following the transformation of the “On The Road with eBay Motors” car. But where do you start if you want to go beyond reading about a custom Mustang—and build one for yourself?

First things first: you’ll obviously need a car to rebuild. Fortunately, eBay Motors is well stocked with a large selection of potential project cars. At this moment, we see nearly 200 first-generation (1965 – 1973) Mustangs available on eBay Motors. We reached out to Rut, as well as Drew Carnevale, a vintage car mechanic, to get their top tips on choosing from among the long list of potential project cars.

First, you should assess your goals for the project. The eBay Motors Mustang project aimed for an authentic build, but quickly discovered that its ‘67 Fastback was wearing 1968 front fenders. Those had to go.

First, you should assess your goals for the project. The eBay Motors Mustang project aimed for an authentic build, but quickly discovered that its ‘67 Fastback was wearing 1968 front fenders. Those had to go.

Do Background Research

“Due diligence is critical when you buy a project car,” said Drew. “It all starts with the intended use. Are you buying to build a driver or an investment-grade car?” Start with a careful examination of the photographs posted in the car’s online listing. If you need to see a specific area, ask the seller for additional photos. “The more photos, the better,” said Drew. “But when you spot a good candidate, if it’s possible, I also recommend personally inspecting the car by pulling up the trunk mat and carpets to check for corrosion.”

That’s not always possible, especially when the car is hundreds or thousands of miles away. Fortunately, today’s new generation of online car buyers has great options, thanks to eBay Motors. In partnership with a nationwide service called WeGoLook, buyers can request a professional inspector for onsite evaluations, video tours, or a complete mechanical inspection. eBay Motors also provides a full range of other buyer protections, including $100,000 in coverage through Vehicle Purchase Protection when transactions are completed on eBay, vehicle history reports, and warranties for automotive parts and accessories provided by Assurant.

You can discover critical details about a car by studying the photos. If a car has been parked on dirt, rust could find its way into the sheet metal and frame. Ask for photos of the undercarriage.

You can discover critical details about a car by studying the photos. If a car has been parked on dirt, rust could find its way into the sheet metal and frame. Ask for photos of the undercarriage.

Communicate with the Seller

Many vehicle listings on eBay Motors include a vehicle history report from AutoCheck in the “Vehicle History Report” tab. This gives buyers instant access to important details about used cars (back to the 1980 model year), such as whether or not the vehicle was stolen, salvaged, or rebuilt. The report shows the vehicle’s title details, including all ownership transfers, and DMV transactions. It also includes an AutoCheck Score, which shows how a vehicle measures up against others of the same make and model.

A vehicle without a history raises a red flag for Rut, particularly if the car has had multiple owners in the past year or so.

While the eBay platform provides the seller history, it’s also very important to make personal contact with the seller. “You can look at previous sales and see what buyers had to say,” said Rut. “But the biggest thing is getting somebody on the phone, speaking with them, and asking the right questions. You want to learn about the history of the car and find out what the seller knows about it.”

Some cars come with parts that were previously removed or purchased for an abandoned project. While it might look like a bunch of junk at first glance, it could be a box full of automotive gold.

Some cars come with parts that were previously removed or purchased for an abandoned project. While it might look like a bunch of junk at first glance, it could be a box full of automotive gold.

Get an Inspection

The next step after looking at the car, pulling history reports, and speaking with the seller is to conduct a rigorous inspection. Thanks to third-party vehicle-inspection services offered via eBay Motors, it’s possible to get any car thoroughly examined—regardless of where it is. WeGoLook can inspect the car—and trained professional at SGS Automotive can conduct an exhaustive examination. A SGS inspection costs approximately $100 for most vehicles and includes a 150-point condition report along with interior and exterior photographs—all within a day of the vehicle’s inspection.

Build Your Parts List

The voluminous listings on eBay Motors will allow you to compile your parts list for a rebuild. “You can get just about everything for a Mustang these days,” said Drew. “It’s not a vintage Bugatti or Ferrari,” he said. “So you just need to take the time and do the research.”

“The Mustang Fastback for the ‘On The Road’ project didn’t have an engine, so we knew right away that we’d be motor shopping,” said Rut. “We also knew that we needed to replace the shock towers and address the trouble spots in the fenders.” He advised getting “in front of the list of parts as soon as possible,” especially if you’re following an aggressive timeline. You don’t want to delay your project because you’re waiting for a part to arrive. “There’s never enough time,” said Rut.

You can save money by buying a car with technical challenges. For example, reassembling a gutted interior is like putting together a puzzle—without knowing if any pieces are missing. For some builders, that’s fun. For others, it’s a major headache.

You can save money by buying a car with technical challenges. For example, reassembling a gutted interior is like putting together a puzzle—without knowing if any pieces are missing. For some builders, that’s fun. For others, it’s a major headache.

Ship It Home

The process of moving a project car from the seller’s lot to your garage can be easily managed with a little planning. Rut usually looks for vehicles in the southeast that are within a driving range that he can tow home himself. But he’s also bought plenty of vehicles that needed to be shipped by truck.

If it’s a project car, he will usually have it shipped on an open hauler. Buying a running car reduces some of the stress and has a significant advantage when shipping. “You know at the very least you can pull it up onto a trailer, and then you can back it off once you get it home,” said Rut. “If you get a car that doesn’t run, it opens up a can of worms, like the logistics of moving it or not knowing how long it’s been since it ran.”

Click on the “Vehicle Shipping Quote Available” link on the listing page to produce a list of shipping quotes via UShip, based on your zip code.

One final word of advice from Drew: “Make an estimate of the total restoration cost before you complete the vehicle purchase,” he said. “Whatever your initial estimate happens to be, expect it to cost more.” Keep track of your expenses with a running tally. Of course, it’s priceless to you—so decide early on what you’re willing to spend to pursue the car of your dreams.

About the Author

Daniel Gray is a best-selling tech author and video maker. He is also the road-test editor at Autobytel and the creative force behind MPGomatic.com. Dan has had the good fortune to own a string of notable Hondas, including a CRX Si and a trio of S2000s. His legendary beater 1999 Civic HX coupe, a.k.a. “Slambo,” is a rolling experiment in hardware-store aerodynamics.

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