There are many car guys who have taken on a huge challenge in life when they attempted to revive a rodent-infested and abandoned old car or truck.

The resurrection trend has caught fire on popular internet channels and inspired many car guys to tackle the occasionally impossible and breathe life back into an old relic that may not have seen the road since the first episode of ‘Barney Miller’…or even longer in some cases.

Jim Sutherland

The process requires a generous supply of mechanical experience in this area-and an even more generous supply of luck-to fire up an old engine that has not had fire in its belly for many years. Is it worth it? The short answer is a “maybe Yes” for car guys who want to tackle a difficult task and make calculated guesses about what it takes to revive the dead.

Most car guys have accepted the challenge at some point in their lives, including us here at MyStarCollectorCar, with varying levels of success. Our most recent past includes a futile effort to fire up a 70-year-old 4-banger British car, a task that ultimately proved unsuccessful, mainly due to a lack of enthusiasm about the car itself.

We are not batting 1000 in the field of abandoned car resurrection, but we have enjoyed enough wins to address the concept from both sides of the equation so MyStarCollectorCar will provide five solid points of advice to our readers.

The first piece of advice is do not (under any circumstances) attempt to start a car with old gas in its tank. In fact, don’t use the vintage gas tank as a source for fuel to the engine because modern fuel gets old in a big hurry when left in an abandoned vehicle.

Worst case scenario is a rusty goo that will put a giant clog in the old vehicle’s entire fuel system and make a difficult situation even worse. Think nightmare scenario and you would be in the ballpark.

Therefore, our second piece of advice is a portable fuel container filled with fresh gas and connected to the dead vehicle’s carburetor via its functioning mechanical fuel pump or a portable electric fuel pump. This portable fuel delivery system will eliminate the really stale gas portion of the old engine revival adventure.

However, bad gas may not be the only obstacle in the fuel delivery system once new gas reaches the carburetor, a very common fuel dispensing device from a bygone automotive era. The carb may require a quick rebuild so it does not dispense fuel all over the engine instead of inside it.

We will assume the fuel part of the fuel delivery system is ready at this point and move onto our third part of the revival process, namely the part of the old relic’s electrical system that sparks up the engine. Most car guys will test for a spark in numerous locations, including the spark plug wire leads, the contact points in the distributor, and the coil, just to name the main suspects when there is no evidence of electricity in the ignition system. They will also check the spark plugs to determine whether they are toast or indicate a lack of spark-ability in the combustion chamber. 

Make sure you still have a working starter–but avoid its use until you find out whether the engine is stuck and needs a massive effort to free it without breaking piston rings and other mechanical components on the old engine.

The mechanical side of the resurrection is our fourth issue in the old engine challenge, mainly because rust will find a way into inert combustion chambers over the passage of time and may compromise every component in the system, including the valve train.

Many car guys will attempt to manually turn the engine via a sturdy socket wrench on the crankshaft bolt and win the lottery when the engine is freed up during the procedure, while others are forced to pull the plugs or heads and pour in lubrication fluids to loosen up the engine. Worst case scenario is pounding on the pistons with a mallet to liberate them.

MyStarCollectorCar’s fifth and final bit of advice for our readers: Run far and fast from an old vehicle that has been sitting for a big chunk of your life. You do not need this kind of disappointment, heartache and aggravation in your world.

Jim Sutherland

BY: Jim Sutherland

Jim Sutherland is a veteran automotive writer whose work has been published by many major print and online publications. The list includes Calgary Herald, The Truth About Cars, Red Deer Advocate, RPM Magazine, Edmonton Journal, Montreal Gazette, Windsor Star, Vancouver Province, and Post Media Wheels Section.