Follow The Rust Trail

Speaking of rust that is always worse than it looks, a rust hole in an area where water doesn’t collect means major hidden issues. This ’63 Dart has a rust hole on the cowl, but that hole had to have started from the inside out since water can’t collect on this surface. We’re likely looking at cowl and A-pillar rust, and possibly around the windshield as well. After this hole formed it also made a handy entrance point for water, which means everything directly below it needs to be inspected as well. We followed the trail down to a rusted-out fender and wheelwell.

Know Your Numbers

VIN numbers, that is. This ’67 Mustang fastback seemed like a fairly solid project, but our concern was that the driver-side inner apron of the engine bay is missing. On ’64½-67 Mustangs that’s one of the spots where the VIN number is located, along with the driver-side door. Ford didn’t start adding them to a plate on the dash structure visible through the windshield until 1968. That doesn’t mean this car is unregisterable, but it would be wise to double-check and make sure that it not only has a VIN somewhere that matches a title (doors get swapped all the time without VIN plates being properly changed), but also that the VIN is not already in use by another car. We’ve seen it happen before, and it gets ugly.

Is It Real?

Identity is important when buying a muscle car since the trim level can make all the difference in price. Good ’69 Z/28 Camaros command a premium over base-model cars, and they’re unfortunately quite easy to fake. When it comes to identifying first-gen Z/28 Camaros, the first thing to check is the engine and its codes and dates since there are no clues in the VIN that denote a Z/28 package. All had 302ci engines (two-bolt main in ’67 and ’68, four-bolt in ’69) with a suffix code MO or MP in ’67, MI or MO in ’68, and DZ in ’69. They also all had four-speed Muncies, power front disc brakes, 12-bolt rearends, and none had A/C. If the original engine is missing, verification may not be possible though.

The Wave

Rust isn’t the only thing to take into consideration body-wise; wavy panels can be almost as time consuming and expensive to correct. In most cases lots of slide hammer work, hammer and dolly, block sanding, and filler will be required since severely deformed sheetmetal is nearly impossible to get back to level. This Dart didn’t seem to have a spot of rust in it, but it also didn’t have a single straight panel. We’d rather deal with wavy steel versus rust any day, so for the right price it could still be a good project option. Just make sure to account for a significantly larger investment in paint and body when negotiating the price.

The Rust Bucket

This one is a bit more obvious since the fist-sized rust holes are staring you right in the face, but always remember that however much rust you can see, there’s always more that’s hidden. This ’70 Road Runner was a 383ci/727 trans car with A/C and had a long list of nice new parts, but it was completely negated by the fact that it needed major quarter-panel patching, new rockers, doorskins, floorpans, and front fender patches on both sides. Unless you’re in love with a particular car or don’t mind doing tons of metalwork, these are almost always cars to pass on.


The discoloration on this package tray is a sure indication of a leaky rear window. If you’re lucky, the cardboard soaked up most of the moisture, but it definitely warrants a look inside the trunk and under the rear seat.