The idea of an old car is both a complicated and uncomplicated concept for car guys.


The complicated part is the age and engineering behind the car.


The age and engineering behind the car is also the uncomplicated part of the car and the reason for this article.




Clearly an older vehicle typically wore out quicker than a new vehicle because 100,000 miles on the odometer put them in the senior citizens’ home in most cases. The older vehicles were pretty tired after 100k and would usually start to blow out a fair amount of oil past worn-out piston rings compromised by an overly generous amount of gasoline from its carb/choke components.


A 2013 car will go longer, faster and better than a 1953, 63, 73, or even ’83 car. They are engineered to deliver maximum performance via a complex marriage between high-tech electronics and the internal combustion engine.




Most car guys look under the hood of the new vehicles and immediately wave a white flag of surrender because they see their own mechanical Little Big Horn or Alamo if they attempt to mess with the engine. Scotty from Star Trek would even be scratching his head these days because a modern power-train is like a Facebook relationship status: complicated. In fact, it is very complicated.




This tidal wave of confusion does not exist when a car guy looks under the hood of the old guard vehicles. For example, the idea of a water pump replacement is pretty doable because it is right in plain sight and not hidden behind a timing belt cover. A little pull on the fan of an old engine will show whether the pump needs to be replaced in the near future.


The starter on an old vehicle is typically pretty accessible, along with the generator/alternator, spark plugs and mechanical fuel pump.


A valve cover gasket replacement is pretty much a walk-through on an old engine and even a blown head gasket is no real cause for anxiety for most car guys. However I can vividly recall my own head gasket replacement story on my first car when I was 16 and the only complication was some really bad advice.




A buddy of mine got me access to his father’s heated garage and my buddy’s dad told me to put gasket glue on the copper head gasket. The man was a plumber by trade so I would assume glue was the answer to most of his plumbing seal problems, but his advice cost me a lot of time and another head gasket.


I had an old Austin with only one head gasket left in town so I did not make the same mistake twice with the second gasket.




Most of us love the old car culture because these old warriors remind us of an uncomplicated phase of our own lives when we rode or drove in these kinds of vehicles. The jury might be out on whether our lives really were less complicated, but a quick look under the hood reveals that the engines were definitely not as complicated by comparison to current engines.




The KISS Principle is still alive and well in the unmodified engine compartments of many old rides.


It is another reason why car guys love the old stuff: they can still wrench on them without a computer degree.


Jim Sutherland

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