Saturday, September 5, 2015

Mustang Taillight Guide

mustang tail light guide tri bar pony identification taillights

Some cars are built to look different, while some are built to get from point A to point B.  As some of you may know, I am a huge Mustang fun.  They look great (some generations), they function well, and they do get you from point A to point B, but with character and fun.

A defining feature (at least for most generations) of the Mustang is the tri-bar taillight.  Yes, the pony emblem obviously, but since that is located on the front and most of Ford’s competition sees the back, well then here is a guide to be able to identify Mustangs by their tail lights.

Keep in mind that I am writing this as a compilation of my research.  I am not an expert, so while there shouldn’t be any mistakes, very minuscule details may slip past me.  This is also about taillights straight from the factory.  As time went on, and parts became more “modular”, taillights became one of the most customizable features of the Mustang in terms of aftermarket.

First Generation (1964 ½ - 1973)
This is where it all started.  It was an idea by a few great people: the men who built the Mustang.  This is obviously where we first see the now famous tri-bar taillights.  Shelby started changing the design in 1967 to an elongated version.  While he sort of strayed from the tri-bar look, he nailed a great styling.

Now, I threw in the 1970 Mustang Milano concept for a couple reasons: one, to take up the last box and make everything even, and two, because it is probably my favorite looking Mustang (even though it doesn’t exist).

1964 shelby 1971 milano 1968 1969 mustang tail light guide tri bar pony identification taillights

Second Generation (1974 – 1978)
This was a dark time in Mustang history.  A fuel crisis and government regulations hit, and killed the age of the muscle car.  Cars needed to become smaller, more fuel efficient, and more practical.  Enter the Mustang II.

It is important to note that there were special edition Mustangs during this generation, such as the Ghia, Mach 1, Cobra II, and King Cobra, but they all shared the same taillights with the year of the respective base Mustang II they were built off of.  I have also seen an example online of all three bars being red, as opposed to the center being orange, but I can’t figure out if that was original or not.  Aside from that, from what I can tell, they are all the same for this generation.

1974 1975 1976 1977 1978 mustang tail light guide tri bar pony identification taillights

Third Generation (1979 – 1993)
Enter the even more drastic change for Mustang.  In the 80s, everything had to be a box.  The Mustang was no exception.  The Fox Body followed the small, boxy trend.  Even though taillights in the past were three bars (which are boxes), that wasn’t good enough for the 80s.  The taillights literally became boxes, and the classic tri-bar look was gone.  Occasionally, if you looked hard enough, you may see a very slight triple barred scheme going on, but it’s a stretch to say the least to try and make the comparison.

The 1984 – 1986 SVO and 93 Cobra both had special pinstriped taillights.  From 1987 to 1993, there were two different sets of lights: the LX had three boxes, and the GT had a louvered-like version.

1979 1983 svo lx gt cobra 1993 mustang tail light guide tri bar pony identification taillights

Fourth Generation (1994 – 2004)
So, we go from the 80s where everything was a box, to the 90s to where everything had to be round.  Again, the fourth generation Mustang was no exception.  At the beginning of this generation, there wasn’t a straight edge to be seen.  Toward the end of the generation, the edges thankfully started to come back, especially at the rear.  However, the tri-bar look for the taillights was back!  Even though they started off at a different orientation…

1996 finally brought back the classic tri-bar layout.  However, they looked more like elongated bubbles due to the 90s roundness.  There were special edition Mustangs during this generation, but as far as I can tell, they shared the same taillights as their lower model counterparts of the same respective year.  The only exception was the 1999/2001 Cobra.  That model offered a slightly different taillight (with amber colors), but the 2003/2004 Cobra had that year’s standard taillight.

1994 1996 1999 2004 cobra 2001 mustang tail light guide tri bar pony identification taillights

Fifth Generation (2005 – 2014)
Finally Mustang went back to the retro look.  That also includes the iconic taillights.  Well, this at least applies up until 2009.  After that, the tri-bar look still applied, but it was changed up.  A cool feature was the integration of sequential turn signals later in the generation.  Personally, the 2005 – 2009 and 2013 and 2014 taillights are some of my favorite of any generation.

Aftermarket really took off for these lights as well.  Popular upgrades for the 2005 – 2009 included black out options and sequential plug and play kits.  Even kits to resemble the 2013/2014 were made for the 2005 – 2009.  Toward the end of the generation, LED taillights became standard.  I would also argue to say that the 2013 and 2014 had some of the most thought and design go into the taillights.  I could be technically wrong, but visually, that’s what it seems.

There were a crap ton of special edition Mustangs made during this time.  The only one to really stray from the norm would be the Saleens of this generation (which simply blacked out the last bar).  Even the Iacocca edition (which now sells from $100K to $352K) used the base taillights.  That’s how awesome they were.

2005 2009 2010 2013 saleen mustang tail light guide tri bar pony identification taillights

Sixth Generation (2015 – Present)
2015 saw a complete overhaul of the Mustang from top to bottom, inside and out.  It kind of went back to the roundness of the 90s unfortunately.  Of course, the taillights were redesigned as well, and thankfully the classic tri-bar style was kept.  It was redesigned to be quite a nice looking change as well.

What does Ford have in store for us in the future?  Only time will tell, but hopefully they keep the classic tri-bar taillights.  After all, since it is something that most people see in their day to day lives, why wouldn’t Ford make them badass and iconic?

2015 2016 mustang tail light guide tri bar pony identification taillights

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Thursday, September 3, 2015

How to Buy A Car Off Craigslist

buying a car off craigslist guide information random automotive
If you’ve seen my series Craigslist Car Crap, then you know that there are some interesting finds in terms of the cars listed on Craigslist.  However, there are some really good deals and decent cars on there, regardless if you are looking for your first car, a beater, or even a nice or classic car.  You just have to ask the right questions and look for the right things.

Here is a complete guide to help you make your transaction go smoothly and hopefully help you get a good car!

Looking for the Car
You obviously have to first look for the car you want.  When you find one that is interesting, make sure it has pictures of every angle of the car, and the interior.  If a picture of a certain location is missing, either the seller is lazy, or something could be wrong with that side of the car.

Look at the price, condition, and hopefully listed mileage.  If the car is newer then 1992, enter that information into Kelley Blue Book to determine the value to see if the seller is asking a reasonable price.

A good step is to also check for common problems.  If you are unfamiliar with the car you are looking at, do a quick Google search for common problems.  For example, say you are looking at a 2005 Ford V6 Mustang.  Google search, “2005 Ford V6 Mustang Common Problems”.  And see what many people (not one or two) say on forums and places like that.  Note those, and ask the seller later if they are problems on that vehicle if not listed already.

Be on the lookout for strange or little information.  The less information someone lists about a car either means, again, that they are lazy, or there are too many things wrong with it to list.  Look out for phrases like “need gone ASAP”, or “new fender”.  Why does it need to be gone?  Why did you replace that part?

Contacting the Seller
If you are interested in the car, and have done your research, contact the seller through email, or call if a number is listed.  I would suggest email so you can ask more questions.

Ask some basic questions like, how many miles are on the car (if not listed), has it been in any accidents, do you have the title (walk away if they say no), how frequently have you changed the oil (should be every 3,000 miles), any mechanical problems, any damage, have you had to replace anything, and so on.

You may also want to ask vehicle specific questions as well that may have come up during your research.  For example, if that car had a factory recall, did the work get done?

Agreeing to Meet
If you are happy with seller and his/her communications, then it’s time to meet.  Pick a time that works best for both of you.  Remember, you don’t want to waste the seller’s time, and you don’t want the seller to waste your time.

Make sure you meet during a sunny day!  Night or rain can hide defects in a car.  Now, if you are serious about buying the car, I would bring a method to do so.  Either bring the amount of cash asked for, or bring a blank check if the seller will take a check.  Again, you don’t want to waste each other’s time, so if you decide to buy it, be ready to.  However, don’t tell the person you are bringing cash for the following reason:

IF you are bringing cash, I would ALWAYS suggest bringing someone along with you.  The world can be a messed up place, and the last thing you want is for someone to know that you are bringing a large amount of cash.

Looking Over the Car
It’s very important to look over a car before buying it.  I would suggest contacting your local auto shop and seeing if they provide a service where a mechanic can come out with you to inspect a car.  If you can’t find that service, or don’t want to pay a fee for that if they charge one, there are some simple things to look out for.

The first thing is the seller: if they don’t want you to bring a mechanic, or don’t want you looking too closely, then walk away.

Look in, on, and around the car for rust.  Rust will destroy a car.  If you are planning on keeping the car for a while, you don’t want rust.  Look under, inside, and all around.  Look for mismatched paint or discoloration.  That could show that something was replaced.  Bring a refrigerator magnet.  This may seem silly, but this can help you find body damage.

ASK the seller first before you do this (because it isn’t your car yet).  Place the magnet on random sections of the car’s body.  If it sticks, you’re good.  If it falls off or has a hard time sticking (since refrigerator magnets are weak), that means there was damage done to the vehicle there, and body filler has been used.  If the owner didn’t tell you about that, he or she may be hiding something.  Keep in mind, the seller also may not have known if he or she wasn’t the original owner.  Continue this test all around the car.

Look at the interior and smell it as well.  If it smells like an air freshener was just put in, yet it doesn’t seem like a well cleaned car, it could be trying to hide the smell of mold or something else.  Look for cigarette burn holes, rips, cracks, pet hair, and anything else that may lower the value.

Look under the hood as well.  Even if you don’t know what you are looking for, look for any leaking fluids, listen for any rattles, and just use common sense and your best judgment.

When looking in, on, and around the car.  Look for anything that looks new, discolored, or out of place.  This could mean something was replaced, and you should ask why.  Was it broken, did it get damaged, was it a recall, an upgrade, and so on.

Test the lights, A/C, heat, powered/manual seat adjustments, trunk, doors, door locks, hood, and anything that moves or turns on (or should).

Test Drive
Never buy a vehicle without taking a test drive.  Bring your friend along as well if one came with you.  Do some simple driving, but ask the owner if you can also (legally) get it up to highway speed and maybe some heavy braking.  Again, ask first because this is still not your car or your gas, and you don’t want to waste the seller’s time.

If the owner says no to a test drive, walk away.  They also may just not want everyone driving the car that shows up, so let the seller know you are seriously considering the car, but can’t make on offer unless you drive it.

Making the Deal
If you are happy with the car, it’s time to make a deal.  You’ve done your research, and you’ve seen and driven the car.  Make an offer.  DO NOT low-ball (make a very insultingly low offer) on the car, or you may be told to go home.  If the asking price is 100% fair, give it to them.

Depending on the asking price, and if you bring cash, always bring the last few hundreds in smaller bills such as fifties and twenties so you can negotiate, but still have the asking price at the same time.  Point out the flaws, BUT ALSO point out the good things to make the seller feel better.  Negotiation is an art, and unfortunately will take too long to explain in this section, so basically I leave it to you to make your best judgment.

Buying the Car
Congratulations!  You have decided to buy the car.  Now you have to deal with the paperwork.  This varies by state to state (and country to country) so I unfortunately have to leave this to you to figure out.  Just remember to have completed a bill of sale, and make sure you get the title!

Buying a car off Craigslist can be shady, but it can also be a great experience.  It all depends on the seller, and how prepared you are.  If you follow these steps and make sure you do as much research as you can before meeting the seller, you’ll be golden!

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