There are many ways to enjoy a vintage Mustang these days. Some owners prefer to take the restomod route and maintain the vintage appearance while improving comfort and performance with modern components. Others are fanatical about originality; they go to great lengths to obtain new-old-stock parts in the quest for Mustang Club of America recognition. The more adventurous among us drive our older Mustangs every day, while the majority tend to save their prides and joys for weekend cruises and shows.
How you intend to use your Mustang will dictate how you build your Mustang. Circumstances may play a role. Maybe your Mustang is your only car. In that case, you're looking at a daily driver, otherwise it's a long walk to work. Today, most stay home during bad weather and go out to play on nice weekends.
We suspect you already own your Mustang, or perhaps you've got your eye on one to purchase. And we imagine you've already pictured yourself driving into the office parking lot every day or stepping up to the podium to receive your show trophy, so you know which way you're leaning. We've got some ideas and suggestions that can help make your Mustang ownership, whether you're driving daily or strictly showing, a more pleasurable experience.
No matter which way you go with your Mustang, you need to have a solid undercarriage and body. Rust problems won't go away on their own-they only get worse with time. Before you drop in that 5.0 powerplant or pay a couple of grand for a stereo system, replace the rusty sheetmetal or frame components. It will be expensive, but it should be your first priority. Otherwise, you could have a nice little Mustang with doors that pop open every time you pop the clutch, or you could experience wet carpet and feet whenever it rains thanks to a leaking cowl vent.
Daily DriverIt takes a brave person to drive an older Mustang every day, and fewer and fewer Mustang owners are subjecting their cars or themselves to the challenges of maintaining a 35-40-year-old car on an everyday basis. Maintenance alone can be frustrating on top of typical aging problems like leaking window seals, rust, and frayed electrical wiring. While today's new cars have electronic ignition and fuel injection, vintage Mustangs came with ignition points that wear out and carburetors that get dirty and clogged. Unless the Mustang has been subjected to a full and thorough overhaul or restoration, many of the components, such as ball joints and steering gears, are old and worn, possibly making the Mustang not only uncomfortable to drive but also unsafe.
We assume you're a safe and careful driver, especially when you're driving your prized Mustang. But no matter how careful you drive, you can't be certain about the idiots sharing the road with you. Tailgaters, speeders, red-light runners, and SUV drivers who think they own the road are all a threat to your Mustang, and when you drive it every day, you're putting it in harm's way on a daily basis. Not only should you make sure your brakes, steering, and suspension are in good shape for those evasive maneuvers, it's also a smart idea to install three-point safety harnesses and a rear-seat barrier (for early hardtops to prevent injuries from a gas-tank explosion during a rear-end collision) for your own safety.
Driving an older Mustang on a daily basis also makes it more visible and available for theft, so it's a good idea to install an alarm.