Reading Muscle Car Classifieds

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Reading muscle car classifieds is a great idea whether you're looking for a project muscle car for sale or an investment quality restoration. The trick is learning how to read between the lines to understand what the seller is really saying.


Do You Know What These Phrases Mean When You're Reading Muscle Car Classifieds?

  • Dealer vs Private Party

There are pros and cons to buying a muscle car from a dealer and/or a private seller. From a dealer, you usually would have recourse if there was a problem with a car that wasn't obvious when it was purchased. A dealer, at least to some degree, wants to have happy customers. Not true of all dealers, of course, but certainly for the larger dealers. Some will even give a 30-day warranty. Most private sellers (and some dealers) sell as-is. Any unknowns that crop up soon after the sale are your problem.

Usually a dealer will not have historical records of the car being offered for sale. Private party sellers normally have documented paperwork at least for work that they have done since owning the car. This is especially important if the description uses the words "true" or "real." If the muscle car for sale is a highly-desirable model, even a dealer will provide some validation to back up the large price tag. If they don't have the paperwork, think twice about paying the price. See our page on muscle car value and validation for more information.

And if the classified ad backs up claims of a built engine or solid body under new paint by saying it was done by the previous owner...well, you need to be willing to pay the asking price even if those statements are not true.


  • Photo Classifieds vs Text Only Classifieds

Photos are great and sites like eBay and other online muscle car classifieds often have multiple shots to give you a close-to-personal-inspection. However, nothing takes the place of inspecting the vehicle yourself.

Here's a set of photos provided with a classified ad at a popular auction site. Note that the dates on the photos are a year apart and neither is recent. Who knows what the car looks like now?

Reading muscle car classifieds that have photos is a good idea and show details and features you can't "see" in a text classified ad. But you can't always trust the photos.

Don't overlook text classifieds as a source to find your muscle car.


  • Strip or Street

"Ready for the strip or street legal" is a phrase you will see. While the thought of driving a muscle car that was built for the strip sounds enticing to those of us who love power, try to picture driving with a full roll cage and race seats. Additionally, a lumpy cam and race gears definitely make for an unpleasant cruise on the street.

The street legal part is also usually questionable. You have to be sure the car will pass state vehicle inspections where you live.

What this usually means is the car was built for the strip but the seller wants to offer it to more people than just those interested in a car for the drag strip.


Reading Muscle Car Classifieds
  • Clone or Tribute

The word "clone" used to be a deal-killer when selling a muscle car. If the car wasn't a real SS or Hemi or Cobra, the vehicle was seriously de-valued and even ridiculed. The "c" word was rarely seen in a prominent place in muscle car classifieds. A few simple realities have changed that perception.

First of all, there were only so many muscle cars manufactured. Many served as regular drivers and ended up in junk yards. Others were severely modified for drag racing or street racing. Some were saved and completely restored to better than new condition. But as baby boomers got to the place where they could afford to purchase the car that got away or they always wanted, the number of available original muscle cars dwindled. Even a buyer with deep pockets is reluctant to pay the exorbitant prices being asked for verified original factory muscle cars. And when you have the choice to buy a complete rust bucket numbers-matching Hemi Road Runner or a completely restored, driver friendly Plymouth Satellite with full Hemi Road Runner badging and detail at less than half the price...what would you do?

Nowadays, when reading muscle car classifieds you may see "tribute" or "replica" or some other term but they still mean a standard, entry level model that was restored as its faster, big muscle sibling.

One thing to watch though, some sellers have done the cosmetic cloning but not updated the power plant or drive train to match. We recently saw a 1971 Dodge Charger with R/T badging advertising the big block 440 but under the hood was a factory original 318.

Important Note: A key recommendation when reading muscle car classifieds is to only search for cars that are within a reasonable distance for you to go see and drive the car before purchasing.


  • The Little Old Lady

Here's some text from a recent muscle car classified ad that will sound familiar to anyone who has even just started looking for their dream ride: "The car was owned by an elderly woman who was never married, never had pets, never smoked,.."

The way this is included in SO MANY muscle car classifieds it makes you wonder how very different the little old ladies were back in the day, or maybe they were just always late to church and wanted to get there real fast!

You will seriously see this kind of statement over and over in muscle car classifieds. In fact, our dream car was supposedly bought from the nephew of the original owner, a little old lady who only drove it for short errands.

What the seller is trying to tell you is that the car has been driven by a responsible adult and not hot-rodded every day of its 30-some years. Let the condition of the car speak for itself.





Now that you can read muscle car classifieds, check out these sources to find your muscle car!

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