Ford Mustang
Chevrolet Camaro SS
Ford Mustang & Chevrolet Camaro SS. Click image to enlarge

Article and photos by Justin Pritchard

Springtime is here! Springtime is here! Soon, car buffs everywhere will make their annual pilgrimage to the car-cleaning isle at Canadian Tire in search of soaps, brushes, waxes and glazes to make their rides look lustrous, gleaming and attractive to the opposite sex. Four-wheeled toys stored for the winter will be dusted off, fired up, and taken out for their first springtime rips. And forget the smell of melted dog-business in the air – soon, the testosterone-laced aroma of gasoline and hydrocarbons and off-gassing plastics and hot tires will invade car-guy nostrils across the country.

If you haven’t got a hot springtime ride just yet, it may be your year to finally invest in that new-to-you piece of performance motoring. And maybe, just maybe, you’re after a used muscle-car to help you celebrate the long-awaited arrival of springtime 2014.

You’ve decided to let some other sucker take the hit on depreciation and hit them up for a few-year-old model that’s still in mint shape. You’ve fired up the app, got your shopping cap on, and you’re ready. You, my fellow car buff, have this.

Listen closely. Hear that? That’s the sound of you banging gears and chirping tires and visiting the rev-limiter in your new ride with the windows open, throttle down, and stereo up. It’s a magical experience – but let’s make sure it’s not ruined for you by a sketchy seller trying to dump a problematic ride in someone else’s driveway, shall we?

Here’s a look at the most popular, affordable and not-so-old muscle cars you’ll find in the used market this spring – and the checks you should make to ensure you’re getting one that’s been well cared for and is likely to turn in years of trouble-free motoring.

2010 to 2013 Chevrolet Camaro

The Gist: Pick a V6 or V8, coupe or convertible and manual or automatic transmission and you’re well on your way to new-Camaro ownership. Fuel mileage is very manageable if you keep your boot out of the equation, and the latest safety and communication systems are all on board. Ditto OnStar, if that’s your thing. More importantly, you can get 425 horsepower, a limited-slip rear differential and a proper third pedal for maximum giggle factor when you peel out of the office on a warm Friday afternoon.

Chevrolet Camaro SSChevrolet Camaro SS
Chevrolet Camaro SS. Click image to enlarge

The Test Drive: Skip the V6. You want the V8 anyways, and the owner’s community says it’s more reliable, robust, and likely to be trouble free. Check all fluids, especially the engine oil, as some owners report excessive consumption. Get beneath the car, with a mechanic if possible, and look for leaky transmission cooler lines, differential seals and rear shocks. Signs of slippage, harshness or clunking from the transmission, or excessive clunking or binding sounds and sensations from the differential during low-speed, sharp turns warrant further investigation.

Useful: Is the used muscle-car you’re considering a convertible? If so, check the area where the roof stores, as well as the vehicle’s carpeting and seats, for signs of moisture damage caused by a leak. Unwelcome moisture can make your convertible smell like a musty gym bag, and can cause rust and mold, which are gross. Be sure to open and close the top several times, noting any unwelcomed binding, or signs of top motor trouble. Tell-tale signs of a leak include a dried-up look to leather seating surfaces, or damp footwell carpeting.

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