There's an old saying that goes, "It's good to have a friend in the business." For researching Mustang history, this means knowing someone in law enforcement, private investigation, motor vehicle bureau, AAA, attorney's office, or used car business because these people have the resources to investigate vehicle history if it still exists. Good private investigators have many resources at their disposal because it's what they do. They have access to records not available to the general public. The downside is cost, running upwards of $200 to $400 an hour to hire a good private investigator to research your Mustang's owner history. And sometimes even the best gumshoe won't be able to turn up any more information than you already have.
I've had the good fortune of knowing a few law enforcement officers who have been able to run owner histories for me. They have also been able to find cars that were sold long ago by tracking VINs state by state. A number of cool reunions have resulted from this ability. As privacy laws have tightened up through the years, this is not as easy as it once was.
If you are fortunate enough to conduct a successful title search, you will have names and perhaps even addresses of previous owners, which can yield a gold mine of information if these people are still around. Title searches can reveal repossessions, finance companies, banks, thefts, and more. You probably won't get far with banks and finance companies, but you can accomplish a lot by chatting with previous owners. One of them might just have the answer to your question about that 289 in place of your Mustang's original 390.
Begin your search for previous owners with search engines like www.google.com and www.ask.com. People searches like www.zabasearch.com can get you on the right course with addresses and telephone numbers if this information is available. Social networks like Facebook and Twitter are also good places to search for previous owners. We are more connected today than ever, which means you can learn a lot about previous owners from search engines and social media.
Here's an original Ford dealer...
Here's an original Ford dealer bill of sale from when reader Bill Hamilton bought a new '70 Mustang Grabber. Tracing owner history can unearth important documentation like this because there are people who keep it for sentimental reasons.
Knowing your Mustang's history...
Knowing your Mustang's history is crucial to authenticity, such as how it was originally optioned versus how it is optioned currently. Even in the restomod age, authenticity continues to affect value. When it has the GT Equipment Group, buyers want to know it rolled off the assembly line that way.
If you're lucky enough to...
If you're lucky enough to track down the original owner of your '68 hardtop, you may learn why the car has sagging rear leaf springs and holes in the rocker panels.
Editor's Note: In 2005, Doug Protz from Alberta, Canada, purchased his dream car, a '68 Shelby G.T. 500 convertible. At first, he was hesitant to buy the car, offered for sale by a Ford dealer in North Carolina, because of the limited documentation, which included the current title with the name of the previous owner since 1990. Doug bought it anyway. Here's the story of how he traced the car's history.
Previous to 1990, there was no ownership history whatsoever. The car had little else for history except for a few registration receipts, a couple of repair bills, and some pictures of the restoration that was done by the Ford dealership. There was no title history, original purchase invoices, or buildsheet.
Over the next few years, I became very motivated to get additional history on the Shelby as I felt it was somehow missing something without the "big picture." First, I contacted Marti Auto Works to get a Deluxe Marti Report. When ordering, I learned that Marti also had the original order sheet and invoice from Shelby Automotive. They don't have this documentation for all Shelbys, but I was lucky.
After reading about buildsheets and where they might be located, I started looking for one on my car. After about half an hour, I was able to find the buildsheet on the wiring harness behind the dash. After carefully removing it, I was happy to see that it was in absolutely perfect condition--no water staining or missing pieces.