Three Things You Cannot Avoid When Buying A Used Muscle Car

If you are looking to buy a used muscle car, you need to make sure you read this checklist. It is one thing to get a sweet deal on a great ride but more often than not, you do not want to purchase a lemon.

Just like regular commercial cars, purchasing a used muscle car may not be a bad idea. You get a vintage piece of equipment for a fraction of the price. At the same time, it could be a couple of grand down the drain just like that. So, to avoid any financial fiascos, let us go over the three things you need to look at before purchasing a used muscle car.

Should You Buy A Used Muscle Car?

These are three things you cannot avoid checking for when deciding to buy a used muscle car:

  • The current condition of the used muscle car
  • Restoration pice
  • Account for current technology

Current Condition Of The Used Muscle Car

It is difficult to not have a great looking muscle car to catch your eye. We have all experienced this before – you are walking in the city and you see this beautiful ride just appear within your view. You seem to be mesmerized.

Or if you are driving down the countryside and you happen to see a great looking muscle car in someone’s barn. You just had to pull over and take a better look.

One of the most difficult things car buyers need to deal with is assessing the conditions of the muscle car in question. Countless purchases have been made throughout history on purchasing used cars. However, this piece of advice is timeless – people would rather buy more money upfront for a well-managed car than a cheaper car that needs to be worked. It is just common sense at this point. For less work on your part, you just need to pay a higher premium price for the muscle car.

Trust me when I say it, your money will be better spent doing something else. Unless you really want the challenge and to say you own an antique muscle car, who am I to stop you from making your purchase? But from a logical perspective, you can get a better deal elsewhere.

Restoration Price

A full muscle car restoration would cost as much as $60,000 USD. Though this price can change depending on how involved you are in the process, paying with cash, buying parts, the rarity of parts, etc. The price of restoration varies from car to car. So, it is difficult to exactly pinpoint how much a restoration would cost.

For instance, if you 

How much does it cost to restore a muscle car body?

It is difficult to quote an exact price for a muscle car bodywork, without having an inspection. It can range from a few thousand dollars to being well over six figures to restore your muscle car. These are some of the factors that can heavily impact your cost of repair:

  • Overall condition of body and frame
  • Rarity of car
  • Number of parts needed
  • Quality of restoration
  • Very old cars with hidden issues
  • Upgrades (if wanted)
  • Unsalvageable parts

How much does it cost to restore a muscle car paint?

A muscle car paint job will take around 150-300 hours and cost between $6000-$20,000.

How much does it cost to restore a muscle car trim and molding?

It is difficult to quote an exact price to restore a muscle car trim and molding without having a thorough inspection. It can range from a few hundred dollars up towards three grand, depending on your car model and make.

How much does it cost to restore a muscle car engine?

An engine overhaul, or engine rebuilding, can cost between $2500-5000. An engine replacement can cost between $6000-20,000. Engine swaps can cost between $9000-$20,000. Depending on your budget and engine status, it is advised that you get your engine inspected before you make such a decision. 

Is a rebuilt engine as good as a new one?

Rebuilt engines CAN work as well as a newly manufactured engine. However, depending on the car parts replaced, refurbished and reused along with the engineer’s or company’s skill set, rebuilt engines should be covered under warranty just as long as a new engine. 

In order to fully understand what makes (or breaks) a rebuilt engine, let us examine why an engine may need to be rebuilt:

The water pump is broken

When it is hot outside, the coolant needs to be supplied through the radiator via your engine. Your water pump is responsible for maintaining this homeostasis, which will help your car stay at a consistent temperature and get you at your destination without worry. However, if your water pump is starting to give out, you could be in for a complete engine failure in the future.

This is not a false statement. When water-cooled engines were introduced in automobiles, many skilled professionals believed that the water pump that circulates coolant through the engine block was just as important to engine function as oil. This hypothesis still holds true even as more modern cars are created with more efficient cooling systems. Yet, your muscle car’s water pump is still a key component in making sure the entire system is functional. 

There is an impeller pump that is typically buried under the timing belt cover on the side of your muscle car engine. This pump is controlled by the engine’s drive belt. As the belt turns, your pump will also turn. The blades on the pump will force coolant through the engine and back to the radiator where it is then cooled by a forced-air cooling fan.

Now, water pumps will typically last you a lifetime. Yet, they are not indestructible. Like all mechanical parts, they will show you warning signs when they are near their end of life. During this time, you should contact your local mechanic to replace your water pump before the damage becomes compounded.

So, without further explanation, here are six common signs that your water pump may be going bad:

  • Water pump pulley is loose and producing whining sounds

If you notice a loud whining sound coming from the front of your motor and that the same sound increases in volume when you hit the gas pedal, you should contact your mechanic ASAP to inspect your muscle car.

This high pitched sound is typically created by a loose belt that forms a harmonic buzzing when it circulates. This can be a sign of one of two events – the pulley belt became loose or that the bearings that operate the water pump assembly are beginning to wear down. If the bearings fail to operate inside the water pump, the whole unit cannot be fixed and will need to be replaced entirely.

  • Engine overheating

If your water pump has failed completely, your muscle car will be unable to circulate coolant throughout the engine block. This will lead to overheating, which can damage additional engine parts, for instance, cracked cylinder heads, burnt pistons, pushed head gaskets, etc. 

However, if you notice that your temperature gauge is running on the hotter side frequently, it is most likely not an issue with your water pump. Regardless though, your muscle car still needs to be inspected.

  • Steam coming out from your radiator

Your engine should be able to maintain a consistent working temperature if the water pump is working correctly. When steams is coming from the front of your motor, this is an immediate sign that you have an overheated engine. The best course of action would be to pull over to a safe area and to contact your mechanic ASAP.

Driving with an overheated engine is a recipe for disaster and you could be doing more harm than good – you could damage neighboring engine parts if you are unlucky.

  • Buildup and corrosion of the water pump

Check under your car hood to make sure your water pump is not developing rust from the contamination of incompatible coolant mixtures. A defective pressure cap can also lead to rust buildup as it lets in excess air into the water pump. Gradual leakage over the course of years can also cause different minerals and compounds to accumulate in or around your water pump.

The wrong coolant can also create initiate deposit buildups inside the pump, which will decrease the efficiency of your water pump.

If you notice small holes on the metal or vapor bubbles in the coolant liquid, these are also signs of wear and tear of your water pump. If you do happen to notice these symptoms, make sure you seek for a replacement water pump immediately.

  • Coolant is leaking in front of your car

If you notice there is a coolant leak (which can be green or red in color) under the center of your car, this is a big telltale sign that you have an issue with your water pump. Your water pump is made up of multiple gaskets and seals that keep your coolant sealed and delivered from the radiator to the engine. When these seals and gaskets wear out, dry out, crack or break, you will encounter leakage of coolant fluid.

The heater core is clogged

If your heater core is clogged, this could be due to some buildup happening inside your heater core. Because I have never flushed a heater core, I made sure I found the best resource to be able to teach you how to do so – I found this concise Youtube video on what you should do to get your heater core unclogged.

The thermostat is broken

The purpose of having a thermostat is to regular the flow of coolant throughout your car engine. One of the most well-known phrases you may have heard about is “the thermostat was stuck open or close.” When the engine has been sitting for a while and is not hot, the thermostat is recognized as closed. If the engine is running and it reaches a certain operating temperature, the thermostat will open. As a result, coolant will flow to and from the radiator, decreasing the overall temperature. The constant flow of coolant, along with other cooling systems in place, keeps your vehicle running at a functional temperature.

The process where your thermostat opens and closes is crucial for maintaining a proper engine temperature. If your thermostat is ever stuck closed, there is no way coolant will be released to be circulated. As a result, this can cause dangerously hot engine temperatures. Likewise, if your thermostat is stuck open, the flow of coolant is continuous, meaning that your engine’s temperature will never reach its peak performance range. This will create performance issues and the acceleration of worn-down parts. 

So, in order to prevent these issues from occurring, let us go over the four ways you can identify a bad thermostat:

  • Temperature changing sporadically

Sudden spikes in temperature readings can lead to poor engine performance and reduced gas mileage. You may notice that the temperature is abnormally high at one point and is suddenly drops to an abnormally low point. The thermostat is not stuck at any one position but it is still giving out false readings. This will cause issues with coolant regulation, which in turn will create bigger problems for your engines down the road if not inspected. 

  • Coolant leaks around thermostat housing or under the car

If your thermostat does not allow coolant to flow when stuck in the closed position, leaking coolant could take place. The most common area for this to occur is around the thermostat housing, which can cause the coolant hoses to leak as well. This leads to another area of leakage where coolant fluids can leak to the ground under your vehicle.

  • Low temperature readings and underheated engine

If your thermostat is stuck in the open position, your engine will be operating at a lower temperature. On your temperature gauge, you will see that the needle barely moves or remains at the lowest settings. This is not good since it reduces your muscle car’s efficiency, increases emissions in the long term and accelerates the breakdown of your engine parts.

  • High temperature readings and engine overheating

If your temperature gauge is reading high within fifteen minutes of your muscle car engine running, this is an immediate sign that your thermostat is not working properly. What is most likely happening is that the coolant is not entering the engine properly because the thermostat is stuck closed.

Oil levels are too low

Engine oil lubricates all the big moving parts of the engine, which slows down the wear and tear of parts and reduces the amount of heat the engine generates. With that said, it is now obvious that not having enough oil in your muscle car can do to your car’s engine.

Most engines hold between 4-8 quarts of oil, depending on your car. The engine oil is stored in your engine’s oil pan. As soon as your car’s engine starts, the oil pump sucks the oil from the oil pan through the pickup tube. The oil is pumped into an oil filter, which removes debris and dirt that was found in the oil. The filtered engine oil is then circulated throughout the engine through spurt holes before going back into the oil pain to have the entire process restarted.

So, let us go over several reasons why your car’s oil levels have gotten low:

  • An oil leak

An oil leak can occur when the oil pan gaskets and seals deteriorate, shrink or break, which then allows the oil to escape from the closed system. This issue can lead to a very expensive repair if not addressed quickly.   

  • Worn out piston rings

The purpose of piston rings is to help control the oil pressure in your muscle car. If the piston rings are worn out or damaged, the oil levels of your car will drop. Some physical signs to look out for are white/gray exhaust smoke, slow acceleration, and excessive oil consumption.

  • Faulty worn valve guides

Valve guides are used to help conduct heat away from the combustion process and into the cylinder head where it can be taken by the cooling system. The valve guides are cylindrical pieces of metal that are pressed into the cylinder head. If these pieces broken, cracked or worn down, the chine will suck the oil down the guides and into the cylinders. As a result, there will be less oil going into the lubricate the entire engine. Oil levels will drop and this is not a good situation to be in.

  • Oil light comes on

If your oil light comes on, it means that your oil level is getting lower than it should in the oil pan. It usually looks like an oilcan with a droplet coming out of the spout. 

What needs immediate attention is if this light comes on a couple of seconds after the startup of the car. This is a sign that your oil levels are way too low.

  • Incorrect oil type

You should not use a low viscosity synthetic oil for your engine oil. Though a low viscosity synthetic oil helps reduce friction and increase fuel economy, it is thinner which can lead to leakage past the rings and seals on the valve guides. This will lead to a loss of oil.

  • Assembly errors

If the piston rings are not sealed properly, the oil can leak out of the engine. For this particular issue, the engine must be rebuilt in order to correct this issue.

What happens to your car oil over time?

Car oil becomes black and gritty over time. This is a normal reaction and may not necessarily indicate that your oil needs to be changed. Most modern synthetic oils can last between 7,000 – 10,000 miles before they need to be changed.

Engine oil is too old, too thick and is losing lubricity

Car owners must read their owner’s manual on the optimal time periods to change their engine oil. Be sure to only use the grade of oil that is recommended by the manufacturer and do not try to cut corners in preserving the longevity of your car’s health. In some older car models, your oil should be changed every 3,000-7,000 miles. However, with the invention of more synthetic oils, more people can get away with running their muscle cars a few extra thousand miles before the next oil change.

Account For Different Technologies

Car purchasers need to understand that newer technologies are modernizing the way we drive cars today. This includes the muscle car driving experience. What was once dangerous, exciting and exhilarating feels completely different from a modern car. This could be one reason why there are more muscle car purchases not found in the cities; more farmers and old car enthusiasts enjoy cruising and maxing out their muscle cars in the open fields. 

Closing Thoughts

There is a lot of think about when deciding to purchase your first used muscle car. As you can see, the cost to restore an old muscle car can break your bank. So, let us be informed before we dive deep into any restoration projects.

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