Thirty years ago, tracing the history of a vintage Mustang wasn't so difficult. Today, it's a different story. Many surviving Mustangs have passed through numerous owners and several different states. Selling dealerships have gone out of business. And, unfortunately, many owners, especially original owners, are no longer with us.
Still, every Mustang has a story. And while most could be considered mundane at best, we can always dream about uncovering the fact that our Mustang was originally a Ford promotional car. Or perhaps it was once owned by a celebrity. Some information is better than no information. In fact, having a Mustang's history, especially for cars like Shelbys, Bosses, and Cobra Jets, can add to the value by documenting the car's pedigree.
Each of our Mustangs began life as a vehicle order that followed a path through Ford's system to a scheduled assembly at one of three assembly plants. The order became a warranty plate or certification sticker with a vehicle identification number (VIN). Raw steel stampings were welded together and your Mustang was born one assembly step at a time as it was massaged by people and machines to transform raw materials into a finished vehicle.
From there, perhaps your Mustang took a train ride to a distant city. Or maybe its selling dealer was just across town. If it was an export, there was likely a ship involved. Of course, some Mustangs were ordered by Ford for internal purposes like promotional activities, research and development, or executive use. Although R&D vehicles were typically crushed, many company cars were eventually sold off employee resale lots or other resale avenues. There were also special-order Mustangs with unique equipment or colors.
Much happens in the journey of a used Mustang. Most of today's Mustangs have survived a rough and tumble past, while a fortunate few have been pampered by one owner.
There are millions of Mustang stories in an increasingly naked society where information is right at your fingertips and yet so elusive--lost in the deep and distant past or a new gauntlet of privacy legislation. If Mustangs could talk, it would be easy. However, until Mustangs can talk (and donkeys can fly...), we have to become something of a tenacious detective to trace the history of a Mustang, especially the older ones from the '65-'73 generation.
A title history begins with...
A title history begins with your Mustang's vehicle identification number (VIN), which can be found on the warranty plate ('65-'69) or certification label ('70 and later), located on the left-hand door near the latch mechanism. This is a '65 warranty plate, which includes the VIN and composite codes including body, color, trim, scheduled build date code, DSO, axle, and transmission. You can find decoding information on the Internet.
The VIN can also be found...
The VIN can also be found on the inner fender of '65-'70 Dearborn and Metuchen units and '65-'67 San Jose units. You won't find it on the inner fender of '68 San Jose cars. Beginning in '68, look for the VIN at the base of the windshield. There's also a confidential VIN located underneath the front fenders stamped into the inner fenders. You won't find this on every unit, but most of them.
This is the body buck tag,...
This is the body buck tag, also known as a build tag, which was for body line use only during assembly. Buck tags were installed on late '65 through '71 Dearborn and Metuchen units as well as a handful of '70 San Jose units. San Jose used buck tags for a very short time. The buck tag contains the VIN, rotation number (upper left, the actual unit position on the line), and actual date of assembly code, color and trim codes, and a smattering of option codes. This information tends to be very inconsistent. The Mustang and Cougar Tagbook from Marti Auto Works will help you decode this information for '65-'73 models.
If you own a '67-'93 Mustang (Ford destroyed the records for '66 and earlier vehicles), then the place to start is by ordering a Marti Report from Marti Auto Works, which is licensed by Ford to distribute Ford's production data. Invest in the Deluxe report, because, although it won't provide you with the name of the original purchaser, it will likely give you the name of the selling dealer, which gives you at least one place to continue your search. The DSO will tell you if your Mustang was originally shipped to the salt-covered winter roads of the northeast or the mild climate of California. The additional-cost Elite report adds data plate information and a reproduction of the window sticker.
Marti Reports also provide a wealth of other production data, like the order and build dates, colors, equipment, options, etc. With the Deluxe report, you also get production statistics that break down the numbers so you'll have an idea of how many other Mustangs were painted the same color, have the same interior, etc. Some will narrow down to the coveted "one of one," which means the car was the only one produced with its combination or colors, equipment, and options.
Marti Auto Works also has original Ford invoices for some '69-'86 Mustangs and Shelbys. Once known as "Eminger Invoices" because they were saved from the incinerator and offered to Mustang owners by retired Ford employee Lois Eminger, the invoices are the original documents that were used by Ford for billing purposes. They include the car's VIN, complete option list, wholesale and retail costs, and the selling dealer. Visit www.martiauto.com and click on the "Original Invoices" link to get a list of available invoices.