classic car inspection tips

One of the most important things to look for is RUST. Check the trunk, floors and sides – if you can see through these, or they are severely rotted away you may want to pass. Quarter panels are easy enough to replace, but to fix the rest will be very costly. You might be better off spending more on the original sale for a car in better shape.

Matching numbers make a car more valuable. Check to see if the engine, transmission, and rear axle link up to the vehicle's VIN number. Most motors have the last six digits of the VIN number stamped on them, so they are easy to check. The transmission and rear end are a bit trickier. They are usually stamped with a date code, which you can look up to determine if the dates correspond. The fewer miles on the speedometer, the more the car is worth. But as long as a car is well maintained, you shouldn’t worry too much about it, especially on a restored car where many of the parts have been replaced or a Rest Mod that has been upgraded with current technology.

Some models have a lower production number than others. Those that produced smaller quantities have higher value than those that were massed produced. Basically, the rarer the model the better. Only 121,538 64.5 Mustangs were produced (and even fewer, 28,883, were convertibles) compared to say 294,160 ‘64 Chevrolet Chevelles, making the Mustang more valuable.

Big Block engines, which have bigger cubic inches and more horse power, are worth more than a Classic Muscle Car housing a small block. Though the gas mileage isn’t great, they were manufactured less than the smaller-size motors.

checking the overall condition of a antique car before you purchase it is part of the buying process. Use this as a guideline, be thorough and you’ll make the experience worthwhile and avoid unforeseen repair costs.


  • Are VIN, engine, transmission numbers matching or period correct?
  • Are colors paint, interior, upholstery original or redone period correct?
  • Are wheels, tools, spare, A/C original or period correct?
  • Do all tires have the same amount of wear check the inside edge of the tire too.
  • Are all tires the same size and , same brand(Check tire size markings on tire sidewalls.
  • Is there a spare tire and a jack kit, If the vehicle has locking wheels, can you find the wheel key for removing them? check spare tire too.

Gas Cap and Filler Neck

check the gas cap and inside of the filler neck. Is there a gas cap? Does it fit correctly? (If the cap locks, is there a key?) check for here for overspray, gives you clues about the paint.


  • check upholstery closely? (Look for tears, stains, and burns etc.
  • is the dashboard and headliner in reasonable condition?
  • check seats Do they adjust easily?
  • Are any window cranks, buttons, door locks, handles, dash controls or other missing or broken
  • Do all interior lights and dash bulbs work?
  • Does carpet condition match the age of the vehicle? Wear on brake pedal, match miles?
  • Does carpeting smell of mildew or stale water, suggesting moisture underneath or worse, flood damage
  • Check under the dash at the very top of the carpet. Are there any stains suggesting heater core or AC conditioner leakage?


Do all accessories, such as the heater, air conditioner, audio system, and alarm system, work ? Test the functions of each.

Under the Vehicle

  • Are there fluid leaks from the bottom of the engine and transmission
  • anyleaks at axle ends and center?
  • leaks at the brake line connections
  • leaks on the ground beneath the vehicle? Green fluid is usually antifreeze reddish fluid is usually power steering or transmission fluid dark brown or black fluid is usually oil or brake fluid.
  • Are any parts loose, Does anything appear missing, such as bolts, clamps, brackets or cables?
  • Are there marks on the undercarriage from scrapes, indicating the car has bottomed .
  • Examine exhaust when the car is operating at normal temperature. Do you see white or blue smoke? Both can indicate an engine problem, especially if the smoke burns your eyes. A small amount of steam is normal, especially in colder weather.


  • Does the engine start easily?
  • Does the engine stall at any time?
  • Does the engine idle smoothly?
  • Does the idle speed seem too slow or fast?
  • Does the engine hesitate or stumble on acceleration?
  • Does the engine run smoothly during operation?
  • Does the engine seem to lack power?
  • If the vehicle has cruise control, do all features work correctly? Do engine or other system warning lights appear? Temp gauge normal? Does the engine diesel (continue running) when shut off?

Transmission and Clutch

  • Is automatic shifting smooth? Under a faster acceleration too? On a manual-shift vehicle, is take-off smooth, without grabbing or jerking?
  • On a manual-shift vehicle, accelerate hard in a higher gear (third or fourth) or while going uphill.
  • If engine rpms rise without a corresponding increase in vehicle speed, the clutch could be slipping. It may need to be adjusted or replaced. On a manual-shift vehicle, try shifting to a lower gear when going slowly. Does the transmission shift easily, without grinding?


  • Apply the brakes several times at different speeds. Also try a sudden stop. Does the vehicle pull to one side when brakes are applied?
  • Do brakes stop the vehicle adequately?
  • If the vehicle has anti lock brakes (ABS), try stopping suddenly. Do wheels lock? A pulsing brake pedal is normal.
  • Does the parking brake hold firmly and release completely?