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Discussion Starter #1
I am entering the market for an old Cougar, and I could use a lot of advice. My basic situation is that I had a 68 back when I was in high school, and I'm trying to get another one now. The dilemma is that unlike most of you all, I don't know that much about cars. My dad was an outstanding mechanic, but he passed a way a few years ago, so I'm on my own buying another cat.

When I'm looking at old Cougars, what kinds of things should I be looking for? I know the cars are notorious for rusting around the glass, but what other things should I look for?

How can I spot substandard body repairs? Should I reject any car that's been repaired using sheet metal and rivots? How can I tell what someone is trying to hide under a fresh coat of paint?

What questions should I be asking the seller? What are some signs that I should walk away from a deal?

Any advice would be much appreciated. Please keep in mind when answer, that I'm not looking for a car to win at shows. I'm looking for a fun-to-drive weekend/summer kind of car. Thanks in advanced!
 

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Welcome! I think most of your questions can be answered with a couple of other questions, how handy are you, and how deep are your pockets? A good, solid driver car should be yours for around ~5K...That should get you a solid, mostly rust free car with a decent interior and good running engine transmission. Check your local craigslist, or other online want ads, ( I think it is KTSL? Around Salt Lake...) and see what's what. If you are looking for particular options, or color combo's, that can add time and money to your search. Also, some of the members here have cars for sale. We are a pretty tight knit group, that makes it hard to screw somebody...
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Welcome! I think most of your questions can be answered with a couple of other questions, how handy are you, and how deep are your pockets?
I'm not that handy at all. I can change oil, spark plugs, tires, etc. I can't do most other repairs without supervision, though I did work with cars a lot with my dad. Surprisingly enough, I'm pretty decent at diagnosing mechanical problems. Once I get my Cougar, I will get a shop manual and try to do some things on my own, but as usual I'll be dependent on shops for most things.

As far as the depth of my pockets, to make a long story short (and keeping many of the details private) I can spend about 20K. Ideally, I'd like to keep it under 10k though.
 

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Since you are in Indy I'd say try to find one that is a western/soutern car. Luckily cats are priced much more economically than Mustangs, so you should be able to find a very nice one in your price range. Some of the better things to check out: Look carefully at the frame and areas like the torque boxes, trunk drop offs, points where the suspension is attached. they are tell talw signs of how much rust may lurk under the skin. Look/smell the carpet under the dashboard for evidence that the cowl has rotted through - very common and difficult to fix. It will be musty/stained if the cars sat outside a bunch. (Look at the floorboards from underneath) If it has/had a vinyl top - it's extremely likely to be rotten under it - look for bubbly soft spots. (Try to avoid these as well). Call up West Coast Classic Cougars and see if Don has anything coming in or is aware of any good ones - he's a straight shooter and finds some very good buys now and then. (recently I might add!) Buy the best condition car your wallet allows and you will be way better off! Good hunting!!
 

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Hey ChromiumAge, sounds like you are in a similar state as I am ~ mechanically competent but lacking the "hands on" experience, and even in a similar budget as myself.

Here is a link to myself asking a similar question last week: http://www.classiccougarcommunity.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=760
http://www.mercurycougar.net/forums/showthread.php?59005-What-to-look-for-Tips-and-tricks

As for searching for the right car, I recommend Free CraigsList Reader. You can search all of CL and define your search by various areas, age of ad, and price. Very handy when searching for things that "dont exist" in your own area.
I also monitor other sites using Jaxed, here: http://www.jaxed.com/cgi-bin/mash.cgi?cat=cp&itm=mercury+cougar&loc=&fil=&ys=1969&ye=1970&ps=&pe=&pgs=100&submit=++++go++++
You'll have to change the Jaxed filters for your application. Jaxed searches through alot of various sites and compiles the results.

Hope this all helps you!
 

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Crawl underneath the car look for rust especially the frame. Check the tail pipes when the engine is running for smoke. Listen with the hood up for any knocking. Since you mentioned your not a great with cars and your dad is passed away. Do you have any family/friends that are good with cars especially classic that you could take with you?
 

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I've been compiling my own Inspection check list, so here it is. Some of it may be duplicated, I haven't edited it closely and this is just a cut/paste. Hope it helps, and maybe others will chime in on some of these items.

TOOL LIST:
- flashlight and new/extra batteries
- small mirror(s)
- coveralls and ballcap (to keep crap out of your hair)
- notepad and paper
- body magnet (plastic coated or cloth covered)
- jug of water

INSPECTION LIST:
- Torque boxes (rust).
- Shock towers (cracks). Shock towers crack around the holes for the upper control arms, not so much on 69's and 70's with the reinforcement.
- Floor pans (rust).
- AC cars eventually leaked condensate into the passenger floorpan. Look for rust there.
- Cowl Inspection: Pour a half gallon of water down into each side of the cowl, then check both front floors for water.
- Check the lower corners around the front and rear windows. If there is a leak in the rear window or trunk then the trunk dropoff and/or quarter panel will rust.
- Inspect trunk drop offs for rust / holes at the bottom.
- Check the inner fender wells / wheel wells of the qtr. panels.
- Check hood and trunk lids for rust. Under trunk lip is very susceptible.
Look for obvious damage from old wrecks;
- damage / bends / wrinkles / unusual welds in the frame rails
- Use a magnet to check for bondo. Anything more than a skim coat and the magnet won't stick.
- Look under the battery tray for rust. If that's rusted you may need to do a fender apron repair. Replacing the tray itself is pretty easy.
- Cars with a lot of hard use will have cracks at the top of the "A" pillar, if so check the pans and inner rockers for cracks too.
- Schrader valves (or drilled holes) in the rear bumper or trunk mean air shocks, check the upper and lower shock mounts.
- Compare the VIN on the title, Vehicle Certification Label (door tag), and the VIN code plate on the dashboard and verify they all match. If necessary, check is the VIN stamped on top of the shock tower under the fender.
- Look for the factory tags on the rear end, the steering gear box, coil and other locations.

Verify operation of;
- sequential tail lights
- flip open headlights
- Parking brake operation
- horn / rim-blow horn
- tilt steering wheel
- all electric windows
- all door locks
- all door handles inside and out
- radio and balance/fade to all speakers
- all map / courtesy lights (dash, doors, back pillars)
- Heat / AC vent levers on dash.
- Vents and levers at kick panels
- all guages
- odometer
- speedometer
- Tach
- gas guage
- clock
- drivers side remote mirror

Transmission;
- Automatic shift lever moves to all positions
- Transmission shifts through all gears
- no slipping, clunking, hesitation
- check tranny fluid; burnt, contaminated, etc

Engine;
- solid idle
- water pump leak?
- missing cylinders?
- start easy or difficult?
- knocking sounds / valve noise at idle and higher rpm's
- check exhaust for smoke (blue=oil, black=rich, white=water)
- check oil for contamination (water, antifreeze, etc)
- check radiator antifreeze for contamination
- Verify VIN on block (if possible)
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Mike,

Thanks for that checklist! That's pretty awesome of you!
 

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You will get a lot of good advice from folks here. Go to cruise spots, join a local car club, not only to have fun, but to talk to people to seek out a good mechanic you can TRUST.
As for shop manuals, get the 5 volume set. It'll cover the entire Ford line of cars for your year and of course Cougar. The set's about $75.00ish from AutoKrafters, among other sources. I think that set's been priced like that forever,. It will be the best $75.00 you'll spend on that car. The Chilton and Haynes manuals are O.K., but not comparable to the factory books. If , of course, you could even find a C. or H. manual that old.
 
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