I’m not saying that I’m doing that, but I’m not not saying it, either, OK? What obvious things am I missing from my rough list below? Keep in mind that I’d be looking at driver quality cars that are 50+ years old - and I have a strong preference for as much originality as possible, but I’m not looking at the sort of car that anyone would create a ‘fake’ of.
My kind of rough checklist includes:
- making sure I know how to ID appropriate engine (and trans if needed) castings in advance. I’m not looking for matching numbers, but most manufacturers made many different V8s that essentially look the same. You could easily be looking at a ‘60s Catalina that the seller says (and believes) has a 389, but it’s actually a 350, 400, or 455 that was swapped in 6 owners and 32 years ago. You won’t notice unless you find a casting number.
- do a walk around from a distance first, to see how the car sits (corners sagging, obvious misalignments, etc)
- look over body carefully for dents, rust, bondo, accident repairs, paint mismatch, overspray, color changes - and *feel* around the inside of fenders etc looking for rust/bondo
- open and shut hood, trunk, and doors - door misalignments can be a bad sign (or not)
- look carefully around windshield and backlight for signs of rust/water - inside car and trunk, too.
- condition of all trim, including bumpers - pitting, missing etc
- under hood - what engine, accessories are present. Signs of leaks?
- under car - frame condition, signs of recent replacement parts, leaks, accident damage
- trunk - floors replaced/rusty? Does the rear window leak? Signs of accident repair?
- Interior - condition of *everything*, signs of water, is the wear appropriate for the claimed mileage?
- Drive - FIRST - check the brake pedal. Does it feel correct and firm? If not, DO NOT DRIVE. Start - does the engine catch quickly and idle well (high idle if cold)? Again, brake. Shift into gear if auto - does it engage appropriately without too much jerk? Are the brakes holding the car stopped?
Check any accessories as needed.
Once on the road, check brakes, accelerator pump, shift quality through all gears, clutch if appropriate (top gear low speed acceleration), downshifts, brakes. Brakes, suspension/steering noises etc. More brakes.
I got tired of typing all the detail once I’m in the car and starting it, but you get the picture.