Maybe You Remember…

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Have you ever set (or paid to have someone else set) point gap?dimmer button

The answer dates you.

If the answer is yes, then – probably – you’re old enough to buy beer.

Back in the ‘80s.

Otherwise, you probably have no idea what “points”  – in the mechanical sense – are. Much less how (and why) “gap” is an adjustment that must be made every now and then. If you happen to have a car that’s at least 40 years old… .

Your vintage may be a bit more recent if you remember what the first thing you needed to do in the morning to get your car started was.

Do you?

Hint: It’s the exact opposite of what you do today.point gap image

If you know the answer, you probably know what Grunge Rock  is – and may even have some flannel shirts in the closet somewhere.

You push down the gas pedal to set the choke. That’s another bit of automotive apocrypha fading fast in the rearview.

The choke was a mechanical plate – mechanically or thermostatically controlled – that snapped closed to restrict airflow to the carburetor – another ancient device, long departed. Closing the choke richened up the air- fuel mixture to help get the cold engine started.

You sometimes had to pump the accelerator pedal several times, too, in order to feed some gas to the engine.

Then, you’d key the ignition and crank the starter. Sometimes, you had to crank the engine for awhile, until the mechanical fuel pump pushed enough fuel into the carburetor’s bowl to get things going.

There was an art to it.

choke door

Back in the day, a car’s starting protocol could vary. Some cars wanted you to depress the accelerator pedal halfway down while cranking; others wanted two pumps and then let it back up. Today, of course, the last thing you’re supposed to do is pump the accelerator pedal – and there’s no choke to set. Just turn the key.

Or – more commonly – push the button.   

Here’s another golden oldie: The button on the floor for the high beams. It was cool because you didn’t need to take your hand off the wheel and fiddle with a stalk (as today). The one downside – if the car had a manual transmission – was that your left foot now had one more thing to do.

Which is probably why floor-button high beams are no seat belts

Fast-Forwarding a little bit, how about automatic seat belts? You opened the door – and the seat belt (the shoulder belt) retracted along with it. You closed the door and the seat belt automatically swaddled you like Baby Jesus. This was the baby step before air bags.

Be happy you missed it.

Did you know that – once upon a time – oil came in cans? Not plastic bottles like today that you can empty without making a mess.


Like peas or corn come in – and you opened them similarly, with a punch. And – inevitably – made a mess. The spillage was Valdez-like, in part because there was no way to reseal the empties – which of course still contained enough oil to leak all over the place if one tipped over. This – like pre-Novocaine dentistry – is a thing about the past no one (me included) misses much.

One thing I do miss is being able to pop the hood without rooting around underneath the steering column/footwell for the release button. Cars built before the ‘80s usually had an outside hood latch. It was easier to pop the hood. For thieves, too.old oil cans

Hence their disappearance.

T-tops are gone, too.

And for that, you can blame Uncle.

The problem, Uncle-wise, with T-tops is that it’s hard for the roof to support the car when it’s upside down after you’ve taken a Sawzall to it and cut out a third or more of the steel and replaced it with two removable glass panels.

Which is what they actually did.

Early T-roofs were installed after-the-fact, by the dealer or a shop the dealer sent the car to. They took a saw, rough-cut the holes, made them look presentable with trim – and fit the glass sections to the resultant opening.


That was the other problem with T-tops.T Tops

They tended to leak.

Later – factory installed – T-tops were much improved (tended to leak less) but there was still the problem of retaining the structural integrity of the roof itself. It could probably be done today, but T-Tops have gone out of fashion – like Jordache jeans and Mohawks. But Mowhawks are making a comeback, so who knows?

Maybe, as they say, there is hope! depends on you to keep the wheels turning! The control freaks (Clovers) hate us. Goo-guhl blackballed us.

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  1. T-tops were stupid to begin with – too much trouble removing and storing them, then having to put them back on. I took them off maybe twice the 16+ years I owned a ’90 300ZX.

  2. Now your really in to the arcane if you understood what the dwell angle was and changed springs to adjust the advance curve. Or how about the difference between leading shoe and trailing shoe drum brakes.

    • I remember all that. I still have a portable tach with dwell meter function.

      In my tool box are several well worn point files. Fiats used to pit their points real bad.

      • I remember and still have point files and occasionally/rarely use them but it happens, mainly with my tractor and Ditch Witch. I don’t recall using point files for anything but a right then fix. It depended on how much meat was left and how long it took for it to be eaten. Autos, just replace but small engines and equipment were subject to a good polishing/flattening. They’re all in my top box in the center side drawer left hand side along with feeler gauges and various types of plug gappers. I liked the flat gauge for valves but the angled for points…..most of the time. That was the great thing about tools back then. You had various types of a tool and used the best suited one for whatever chore you were doing.

        My next engine will be fueled by a new style 4 barrel TBI that has the ability to “learn” but is simple to set up. Excess fuel ring wash is one of the reasons new engines will run longer but certainly not the only reason. Metallurgy and machining are other advances.

      • One little trick I’ve used for decades has been polishing a flat with a matchbook cover, not the striking surface but the paper part. On a flat that had some rust from sitting, it would do a good job of taking off the rust and removing no metal so no settings were affected. Don’t remember where I learned that but i’ve been doing it since I was a youngster, 20 or younger.

        • Eight – sounds like the same trick I learned, only you used a dollar bill; I guess Uncle’s paper is ever so slightly abrasive so it was perfect for a quick buff-up, cleaned off any grease that got in there. i remember what a bitch it was to get the car started on damp foggy mornings, had to wipe the inside of the distributor cap with a dry rag to get going. Nope, I agree with Eric, don’t miss those days at all.

          • Mike in Boston, the problem with a dollar bill is you had to have one. Safety matches OTOH were free!!!. A new twist on that is the green scrubby that does a great job.

            I never had a distributor that filled with water since I always had GM products. Given the same big puddle and my ’55 Chevy would tear through it and never miss a beat but my grandfather’s 54 Ford wouldn’t idle through it without stopping.

            I was fleeing the cops coming to my work place for me once. It had just rained and the barditch which was over 3 feet deep in water was the only way out while they came in the formal entrance. My old Malibu went through that water like it had a sealed ignition. I left them there to look for me while I hauled ass.

      • I still have my dwell meter, heath kit exhaust gas analyzer, adjustable advance strobe timing light, etc,etc. Tools I haven’t needed in probably 25 years, but I drag them to each new home, just in case. 🙂
        But for day to day driving I think cars might have peaked about 2008. I drive a Toyota matrix with 180K, and would hook up my boat and travel across country tomorrow. There were very few that could say that back in 1968. Too many needed rebuild by 60k-90k
        Although I could do without the killer airbags.

  3. I’m sure Eric could add many more if he had the space. My first car was a 49 Ford. Remember three speed column shift? Sealed beam headlights. Bias belt tires. Leaf springs. PVC valves. Crankcase vent tubes. Four wheel drum brakes. I can’t say I miss them. Those cars cornered badly, and stopping distance was terrible. So was the aerodynamics. Above 60 mph, You could feel the engine pushing against the air. Early cars didn’t have seat belts. I had them installed.

      • With all the idiots with iPhone addiction I wear my belts all the time. But also back when I raced 5 point harness were required and I really learned that superior control of the car is available when motion gets rough. Now it’s such an ingrained habit, I feel naked without one on. 🙂 Plus the damn airbags are killers if your not belted, which is kinda kooky since I remember airbags were first promoted for saving unbelted people.
        But your like my dad was. He had installed belts in his early cars, but when the law(threat of violence) hit the books he stopped wearing them.

  4. I still have my multi-function dwell meter (4,6, and 8 cylinder; tach; and other abilities) and timing light. The only machine I have now that runs and uses points is the Allis-Chalmers, but I do have a couple of slant sixes on stands with points…

    A national car fix-it show’s hosts remarked recently that restoring recently made cars in the future will likely be nigh unto impossible because of the expense, complexity, and knowledge that would be required. Enjoy the last of the comprehensible breed.

    • Hi Ross,

      In re: “A national car fix-it show’s hosts remarked recently that restoring recently made cars in the future will likely be nigh unto impossible because of the expense, complexity, and knowledge that would be required.”

      That’s my take, also.

      I know Brent disagrees with me – but he’s a trained engineer and it will take that level of training/knowledge to restore modern cars when they’re antiques. If you haven’t got that high level of knowledge then you’ll have to pay someone who does. And most young people – who are or used to be the people who comprised the core of the car hobby – do not have either the skills or the tools… which is why the hobby has become a graybeard hobby already.

      And then there is the issue of parts cost – which (and I know he disagrees with me here as well) will be much higher, in my opinion. Certainly, the cost of electronic components trends downward – but nonetheless, the cost of replacing, say, the port-fuel injection system of any modern car is many times the cost of rebuilding or even replacing a carburetor. At the most, you might have to spend about $500 for a new-in-the-box carb and maybe another $50 for a fuel pump. That’s it. You’ve just replaced all the major components of an older car’s fuel delivery system. And assuming you have a rebuildable core, a person with patience and the ability to read a shop manual and some basic mechanical aptitude can rebuild a carb to “as new” function for less than $100. It was the low cost/accessibility of pre-computer cars that was a big part of their appeal to high school and college-aged kids. That’s all gone now.

      Consider a modern PFI system. You have eight injectors (V8), myriad harnesses plus a computer, plus an electric fuel pump plus 02 and MAF/MAP (and other) sensors. It’s not beginner (or budget) friendly.

      Even the relatively “simple” aftermarket/stand-alone TBI systems cost upwards of $1,000 for a kit.

      Now granted, it all (usually) works great for a long time; very little in the way of regular maintenance (and so, expense) required for years… until it stops working great.

      And then you’ve trouble.

      • Old electronics could also be repaired by savvy hobbyists. Good luck fixing a modern cellphone, television or stereo. Cars have become more expensive versions of these appliances.

        • Hi Escher,

          Yup. It’s one thing to solder/repair an old printed circuit board… quite another to deal with a croaked ECU. They are throw-aways. As, increasingly, the cars themselves.

        • The labor to fix a TV or cell phone or stereo exceeds its price. It’s a natural consequence of making things more efficiently. The other problem is parts availability and cost. The mark up on service parts for everything is extreme unless there’s enough market to encourage competition. One such area is autos. ECUs are re-manufactured/re-built. It’s just another core trade part like a starter or distributor or alternator.

          • Good point. The service charges to repair a damaged electronic device are so high that you are forced to buy a new one, which is the point I think.
            This massive waste of material is blithely ignored by the Green mafia.

            • Hi Escher,

              “The service charges to repair a damaged electronic device are so high that you are forced to buy a new one…”

              That, exactly.

              And there are so many electronic components…

              I understand they are durable (usually) and of course you don’t replace them all at once… but eventually, if you keep the car long enough, it will be necessary to replace them. And the cost will be high. And the skill/experience needed is much higher, too.

              Brent’s an engineer; I’m a pretty decent mechanic. Most teenagers are neither. The modern stuff is intimidating, both in terms of complexity and cost. It is why the car culture – especially the once typical rite of kids wrenching on their cars and cruising on Friday and Saturday nights – is no longer typical at all.

              Most kids are into their devices.

              Which is exactly what cars have become.

              You use both for awhile… and when they stop working, you buy another one.

      • My 1997 turns 20 this year.
        What’s my main battle? The same one I’ve had since I was 14 years old. Rust. Finding it, treating it, killing it. Staying ahead of it.

        What’s the problem today’s kids will have with cars? When the thing sits there like a lump and doesn’t tell them what’s wrong. They are just fine figuring it out so long as the computers are telling them something. When the computer doesn’t tell them they will struggle. What’s going to be difficult for them is what you and I take for granted. Feeling what’s wrong with the engine. Being able to tell what’s wrong with an engine that doesn’t start. That’s going to be the skill lacking that will stop them most.

        When I wander into forums that’s where they need help. The stuff that’s covered in the automotive books from the 1970s that I read in the 1980s.

        Restorations will suffer from the age old problem of finding parts. Today’s reproduction parts supply is unusual for the history of the hobby and centered around cars from the late 60s to the early 70s. Go earlier or later and the parts supply starts to drop off with a few exceptions.

        • They’d probably look at me like I had lost my mind when I get my stethoscope, out that’s a long screwdriver to my ear.

        • Hi Brent,

          Yes, but let’s see how things are when it’s 30… and 40…

          Modern cars are incredibly durable. But when they finally do begin to require major work – after about 20 years and 200,000 miles or so – the cost will also be major. I just don’t see how you can argue otherwise.

          I’ve mentioned as an example the carburetor vs. fuel injection thing. At the very worst, you’re looking at maybe $500 for a new carb, if a new carb is even necessary.

          Often, it’s not.

          My 40-year-old car has its original carburetor. Made in late 1975. Unless I warp or otherwise damage the castings, it is effectively rebuildable for the duration of my life. A $50 kit every ten years or so, maybe. And a carburetor can be unbolted by anyone with the most basic hand tools/limited experience – and (with patience) taken apart and put back together.

          The same cannot be said for a PFI (much less DI) system … or even a TBI system. In addition to the injectors, you’ve got multiple sensors and harnesses, plus a computer… all inscrutable to the novice/beginner as well as much more costly because these parts are not rebuildable. You throw them away and replace with new parts. Expensive parts.

          Same goes for a modern car’s ignition system. Individual coil packs; more harnesses and of course, a computer. A GM HEI ready to run/out of the box, is about $100 – and that’s the entirety of the ignition system, less spark plugs and plug wires. It’s relatively simple and (most important) pretty inexpensive, even if you have to replace everything. A high school kid can afford a $100 HEI and a $50 set of plug wires… he can’t afford $1,500 for a new EFI system (all the components involved).

          Modern transmissions now cost as much as entire “built” engines (classic-era muscle V8 engines). $4k or more for many of them. I do not see the costs going down.

          Suspension systems have become much more sophisticated (read: expensive), especially those with electronics.

          Look at the wiring under the hood of any modern car. It is daunting, if you’re not an electrical engineer or close to being one. And then there’s the cost of all that wiring… which will eventually need to be replaced. The entire harness in a car like my ’70s Pontiac is almost hilariously simple.

          No air bags, no stability control, no ABS…

          Imagine being 16 or 17 today and being curious about cars… pop the hood… and then close it again.

          It’s too high a first step, Brent. Not for everyone, obviously. But for most … especially kids.

          Most modern cars don’t need much in the way of minor regular service (such as plug changes, timing adjustment, etc.)… the things most beginners start out doing.

          Well, used to.

          Now, they just drive them until something malfunctions – and then take it to the shop.

          • Eric,

            If someone is not in the habit of keeping a car over 10 years, this will not be an issue for them.

            If I could keep a car running with relatively minor maintenance for 15-20 years, that is good for me. Twenty years would be about 4-5 cars in my life time if I am that fortunate. (15 would be about 6-7)

            This does not mean that I would not prefer cars that are simpler (easier for me) to work on without the need to head to a mechanic with a barrel full of FRNs.

            One negative of the electronics will be the relative difficulty of keeping something running for “lifetime” once the parts dry up. Although the same could be said about any car. If the parts are no longer available, good luck keeping any thing running.

            • Hi Mith,

              Agreed – absolutely. As appliances, modern cars are vastly superior. But they are, ultimately, disposable in a fundamental way whereas the older stuff was less so.

              My comments were in the context of the hobby of keeping/maintaining/restoring cars for the enjoyment of it, as a pastime.

              • eric, I understand the engine covers on new cars do block sound and make a large difference but it’s like trying to appreciate a well-put together woman with only her head sticking out of a steam box. I like to see the intake, the valve covers, the plug wires, throttle linkage(d’oh), dipstick, etc. Most cars you have to get at just the right angle with a good light to even see a cooler. It’s as if somehow that foul smelling stuff that comes from a hose on a box just makes it go.

                I foresee a time of needing a tool to raise the access panel, what used to be the hood. Trunks will have sniffers in them with alarms you can’t stop so you can’t put flammables in it, or certain odors from various sources including stuff like pot. A big sticker inside that says “Approved Luggage Only”.

                I recall back when fuel tanks were 25-30 gallons. Some people would occasionally put in a touch of diesel for upper cylinder lube. No mas.

                Model T’s were easier to start if you revved them up and turned off the key letting them die “with a full carb”. My grandfather did that in every vehicle he ever owned that I saw.

          • Eric, I was glad to hear you mention the GM HEI System. In the 80’s, I was an electronics tech and knew that solid state switches were far superior to mechanical ones. So, I converted my 72 cheve which turned out to be easy to do. I bought a used distributor including the shaft from a newer, wrecked GM car for $75. And, it slipped right in like Flynn, gave me a few more miles to the gallon, and provided plenty of spark for starting. In the old days, many cars had trouble starting in the winter months. I really miss opening up the hood and being able to see the ground. I needed a starter for my 97 Suburu and was almost unable to find it and I had the manual!. There is no way that I could have done that job myself. My first car was a 53 ford that cost me $250 and the mandatory (I hate that clover word) insurance wasn’t too bad. It wasn’t running smooth so I bought a rebuilt carb for $25 which was easy to install. Two bolts, one gasket, and a fuel line connection. There is nothing wrong with old carb technology. I have them in my lawnmower, snowblower, and chainsaw. My Subu has been pretty good to me, is getting a bit old but it still feels solid. My 72 Cheve rusted away. The cost to repair these newer cars scares me. I love my desk top computer and internet but I don’t want any of it in my car.

            • Hi Rick,


              I am doing a spring detailing on my ’76 Pontiac. The carb comes off in less than 5 minutes by removing four 1/2-inch bolts and disconnecting the throttle cable/spring and a couple of vacuum lines. That’s it – the entirety of the fuel delivery system.

              And with the carb off, the intake manifold is completely accessible (for cleaning and some paint touch-up).

              Contrast this with removing all the components of a modern car’s EFI system…

              On the distributor: Yup, again. A self-contained unit held in place with a clamp and a single 9/16 inch bolt. Remove the bolt/clamp and the distributor comes right out. That’s the entirety of the ignition system. Even if you have to replace the works it’s very simple and also relatively cheap.

              I am not dismissing the many virtues of modern cars. But ease of service and low cost are not among them!

              • Your TA still has a cast iron manifold? That’s really a 5/16″ bolt with a 9/16″ head but who’s counting.
                Do you keep some of that Poncho blue paint on hand? I have at least a couple cans of Chevrolet Orange that’s used for most everything.

                These farmers around have everything paint JD green. I try to offset it with Chevrolet Orange which works out close to original Ditch Witch color. One of my later BBC’s was painted what looked to be Ford Blue. I nearly shit….but they stayed that way forever. Still, there’s many a BBC painted C.O. I had a BBQ black SBC but it was just depressing. I can offsest whatever heat dissipation black gives over C.O. with another cooler or more of whatever it is that needs to be cooled. I came to quickly detest BBQ Black on a engine. Paint it anything but black.

                • Well, FMD,8. my BLB is painted HSB and it still looks better than the original FMCB. WTF I’m trying to say is that the WQA has done IUO’d the fuckin BFH and my XDA can’t even FTT.


          • When my 1997 Mustang will be a century old someone will say but what about when it’s 125? The car is nearly 20. It has 208K on it. It’s spent its entire life in the Chicago area suffering environmental abuses your Pontiac never saw. I drove it some this winter when my mazda decided to pop a brake line so it saw salt again.

            This weekend I found my Maverick is trying to return to nature inside the garage. The climate I pulled the carb off to clean it up and found rust flakes falling to the ground so it needs a scrape and paint even though it hasn’t been out in the weather except once when I had to work on the mazda where it typically sits.

            I could turn your Pontiac into a rusted pile in three years here at its current age. Could maintain it perfectly but just drive it as a daily driver. Neighbor across the street had one back in the late 70s and 80s. He kept it in his attached garage. Mostly I only saw it when he washed it in the summer. He never drove it in the winter. When he moved out in about 1988 the car’s rear quarters were rusted out badly. This environment destroys cars. Eats them alive. Even the ones we try to protect.

            At every turn with my car, it’s ‘it will won’t make it’. Just like with my Mavericks deriding comments of one sort or another. Well I’ll tell you, something expensive and modern is broken on my ’97. The cruise control. You know how it broke? Well I haven’t removed the control module/servo yet but I know what’s wrong with it because I can see it through the door jam/fender gap. The case corroded and cracked. The only source for a new one is the junkyard and the dealer. I’ll probably stop at the u-pull now that the weather is better.

            As to the kids, find a forum for a modern car they like. Just lurk and learn what they are doing. You’re not going to find them at the traditional car shows. The same old men that deride my choices in cars and have made the typical car social events something I don’t feel welcome at do the same to the kids today. They even don’t seem too tolerant of kids who get cars that are old enough. It’s a closed club and that’s why it’s greying and dying off.

            The show I know of that’s huge is keeping itself going strong and big is doing so by allowing anything 1977 or earlier first come basis. That rule has kept the diversity of what appears up. Still the same old men but if you can purchase something old enough you’re at least allowed in.

            • Hi Brent,

              I agree with you on rust – never argued otherwise. But I stand pat on the rest.

              Eventually, your car will require major mechanical and electrical work, much of which will involve replacing expensive electrical components that can’t be rebuilt. Like the fuel injection system, with its multiple sensors and harnesses and the ECU… in addition to the injection components themselves. My car has a single major component – the carburetor. No sensors, not even a single 12V wire. Absolute worst case scenario, the throttle shaft wears beyond repair or the casting is damaged beyond fixing and I need to buy a new one. $500 – for a brand new one – and that’s it. Probably, it will never be necessary (in my lifetime) to replace the carburetor. It may need a $50 rebuild kit every 10 years or so. And – as mentioned earlier – removal of the carb involves loosening four bolts, unhooking the throttle cable and three vacuum hoses. I can have it off the car in 5 minutes. What’s involved in R&R’ing all the components of a modern PFI system?

              The carb is a mechanical device; you can physically handle/see it and figure out what’s wrong with it using basic hand tools and a shop manual. PFI requires knowledge of electronics as well as mechanical things; specialized tools, too.

              Also, your ’97 lacks eight air bags and the much greater electronic complexity of a new Mustang. Which also has DI rather than PFI, as well as a $4,000 (to replace) transmission, an LCD infotainment interface, etc., etc. Do people repair sail fawns and flat screen TVs? Or throw them away and buy new ones?

              Yes, there are kids who are “into” and work on cars – but it’s not as common as it once was.

              A record high percentage of today’s high school/college-age kids don’t even have driver’s licenses.

              • Eric, I love the word eventually because eventually this entire planet is getting recycled. When my ’97 was new one of the snide comments was I’d get a 100K out of it. Then it was wait until it’s 10, then 15, then 20. Now you’re saying 30 or 40.

                At 12-15 years or so the coatings start to fail. The rust starts. That’s what kills cars. There are very few things car wise that I have to deal with that expire from wear or use. The environment kills them. The rubber suspension bushings decayed on my ’97 because of the environment and being outside a good hunk of its life. When I was replacing suspension components because of that I found the front springs were broken in the lower seats because they had rusted.

                I’ve rebuilt and disassembled/cleaned carbs from small hand held engines to quadrajets. I’ve taken off fuel rails and injectors to get at other things but they themselves never gave me a problem. And it’s only a couple nuts or bolts to lift off the fuel rails and then the injectors come right out. They held in place by the rails and snug o-rings. The throttle body is held on by two bolts just like a carb. Removing the fuel induction system from my ’97 vs. my ’73 is pulling each injector out of the manifold as the extra effort. Oh and a special tool to disconnect the fuel line from the rail, that I don’t have because I’ve always pushed it to the side out of the way instead of disconnecting it. And that’s just a ford thing. On my Mazda no tool is required.

                Speaking of intake and fuel my biggest complaint of getting it apart is often the EGR system (if I have to go that far). Couldn’t get that pipe loose on my mazda and and to work around it. So again, corrosion.

                You always quote full list dealer prices for new cars but competition driven hobbyist prices for the old ones. I’m not going to repeat that exercise. The prices aren’t unreasonable two decades or more down the road so long as one chooses a car with a good following. Also the current mustang V8 is not DI. The bosses are apparently in the coyote head castings for it, but thus far no production V8 with it.

                • Hi Brent,

                  We’re gonna have to agree to disagree on this. A carburetor is simpler and cheaper – arguably more durable, too. As I wrote, maybe $500 if it becomes necessary to replace a typical four barrel like my Quadrajet.

                  But the relevant point is that a carb can last 40-plus years without more than occasional tuning/adjustment and a cheap rebuild kit every so often. I’ve had my Trans Am for more than 20 years. During that time, I’ve rebuilt it once – for about $50. That’s the sum grand total of outlay on my car’s fuel delivery system.

                  When your MAF/MAP/02 sensors and ECU finally do stop working, how much will new parts cost? How much are eight injectors, a fuel rail, the in-tank electric fuel pump? A very basic aftermarket throttle body set-up costs, what? $1,500?

                  Just saying…

                  On the Ford and DI – it’s inevitable. Also auto-stop, cylinder deactivation… etc. If they can even keep the V8.

                  How much do the new eight-speed automatics cost to replace?

                  I can still buy a brand-new TH350 with converter for about $800.

                  I think the new Mustang GT has four cats and four 02 sensors.

                  Yes, they’ll last a long time. But they will have to be replaced and even cheap aftermarket cats cost, what, $100 or so apiece? Plus another $50-75 for the 02 sensors.. That’s about $600 and you haven’t even bought pipes yet!

                  My car has no 02 sensors at all – and only requires (legally) one cat; two if (as in my case) the car has a true dual exhaust.

                  How much is an ABS pump? Wheel speed sensors? My car has none of these parts – so I will never have to spend anything to replace those parts.

                  You – eventually – will! 🙂

                  • You make an assumption and consider it gospel truth.

                    Something like a fuel injector is going to be designed for what amounts to be infinite life. It has to be just to survive the warranty period. How many cycles is a fuel injector going to have at 36K miles? many millions. Remember it’s doing an average of no less than 2500 a minute. That’s a 150K/hr. At 80mph that’s 67,500,000 cycles at 36K miles and of course real use is going to be much higher than that. This is basic mean time between failure and product life stuff.

                    My 1997 has SIX catalysts and 4 O2 sensors and they have been untouched since they were installed nearly 20 years ago. But a new aftermarket stainless catted X-pipe is less than $400. Apples to apples it’s going to be about the same for any 70s car. If you want factory original for your 70s car you know you’re going to have to open your wallet wide. And that’s where you go wrong. You compare full boat dealer retail to aftermarket aimed at the hobbyist. People are restoring cars like my ’97 now. I can get factory replica upholstery to redo my driver’s seat now.

                    Has your Pontiac even ever flirted with the right side of the bathtub curve ( )? Or did get retired from daily driver status in the low flat region? I’m going to guess the later.

                    The modern car’s long flat region is much much longer. Now scroll down to the discussion of infant mortality and the curve for parts burned in for three years. What that means is that once a car is beyond a certain point, the odds of the parts continuing on for a very long time go way up.

                    The useful life of cars back in the day was just a few years. Use em and throw them away as they were rusted POS that were in the right hand side of the bathtub curve. infant mortality was high as well. So there’s now a survivor’s bias (the best ones survived) plus often these cars led privileged lives. And you can keep your car in the right side of the bathtub curve cheaper than you can keep a modern car there in the respects of some systems. But those expensive systems are unlikely to need it. Modern cars when the enter the right side if they’ve been taken care of decently just nickel and dime you with the same sort of parts every car has. Sway bar links, ball joints, bushings, etc. The big stuff keeps on going.

                    You know how you keep an ABS pump working? You flush the fluid every so often. Then you don’t have to replace it. You flush the fluid on your Pontiac right?

                    • Hi Brent,

                      My TA was about 20 years old when I got it; so it had survived a pretty long time.

                      It’s now been around twice as long as your Mustang… and still has its original carb. Which costs me virtually nothing to periodically “go through.” You cannot “go through” your car’s PFI components. When they stop working, you throw them away and buy new (expensive) parts.

                      On ABS: I don’t have to worry about the pump or sensors because I have none! Worst case, I have to replace/rebuild a pair of calipers and a pair of wheel cylinders and a master cylinder; maybe replace the steel lines. The total cost for this will be much less than the cost of rehabbing your ’97’s system – including the ABS pump, the wheel speed sensors, the wires, the computer… etc… plus calipers/master cylinder, etc.

                      Don’t forget, also, that you are an engineer – and your level of knowledge is much higher than most. A teenager just learning about cars is going to have a much harder time diagnosing a problem with the ABS (and fixing it) than he would replacing a wheel cylinder and bleeding the lines…

                    • It’s pointless. There’s no getting through to you.

                      You got it when it was 20, but did it have 200K miles on it? I’m going to guess it had less than 70K.

                      Do you know how simple a throttle body is? It makes the 1bbl carb on my maverick look complex. It’s butterfly valve and what amounts to a potentiometer otherwise known as a TPS. No stepped cammed levers and linkages, and various tiny passageways and bimetal spring, etc. It has solenoid to control idle which *gasp* so does my ’73’s carb to push the linkage. It’s the same basic technology but by magic you say its going to fail in my ’97. It has gotten dirty twice. I had to remove the IAC from the TB twice to clean it to get it moving smoothly again.

                      Quadrajets are complex as all get out mechanically. Mechanically EFI is dirt simple. Electronically it’s all simple too. The real complexity is in the programming.

                      A MAF is nothing more than a hot-wire probe. You can make those yourself if you want. First semester fluid mechanics grad students are tasked with making their own hot-wire probes. A hotwire probe is just what it’s named. It’s thin wire with current passing through it. Dirt simple. If you don’t hit it with something it’s not likely to break. The worst that happens is it gets dirty. A careful cleaning restores it to proper operation. Just like gasp the stuff on a 70s car. Clean it and it’s back to normal.

                      Do you know what an ABS sensor is? It’s a toothed wheel and magnet. If you don’t hit it with a hammer or cut the wire it’s not going to break. It might corrode away in an environment like the one I deal with but that’s about it. Worrying about an ABS sensor is like worrying if a magnetic drain plug is going to work.

                      If you don’t let the ABS pump get filled with water and black brake fluid it’s highly unlikely to fail and if does you can just drive without it except maybe in states with rent-seeking repair shops.

                      I learned how all this stuff works and I know how cheap and simple it really is. If people knew what it was it would be much harder for dealers and even the aftermarket to get huge mark ups on it and con people into buying parts they don’t need. But it’s not like they haven’t been doing that since muffler bearings were invented.

                    • Hi Brent,

                      Couple points: TBI is relatively simple; most recent cars have PFI – and DI is going to be standard shortly.

                      With any of the above, you have additional components – the sensors, the harnesses, the ECU – that aren’t there at all in a pre-computer car. All I have to deal with is the one thing – the carb – and it’s a simple mechanical device. No got-damned computer! 🙂

                      I readily admit the EFI systems are long-lived and (usually) require almost no maintenance to speak of… until one (or several) components finally do wear out. At which point, you’re looking at spending a significant amount of money. Add up the cost of all the various components. All the injectors, the various sensors and wiring harnesses and connectors, the ECU…

                      Meanwhile, a carburetor can last 40, 50, 60 years or more… and only needs a $50 rebuild kit to be good-as-new.

                      And, of course, it’s not just the fuel system. The modern car has six airbags, a touchscreen, a bevy of active and passive electronic “safety” systems… new BMWs require being hooked up to a BMW computer in order to change out the battery. That kind of thing is becoming common.

                      The attrition rate for modern cars is an interesting thing to consider. They seem to last about 20 years and then – poof – they are gone.

                      Example: GM made huge numbers of Camaros and Firebirds in the ’80s… yet they are a very rare sight today. ’70s Firebirds and Camaros like mine seem to have survived better… I saw them all the time in the ’90s and 2000s and still see them today. I almost never see an ’80s-era Camaro or Firebird, even though more were built and they are newer….

                      So, why?

                      Could it be that the cost to rehab something like an ’86 IROC-Z’s Tuned Port Injection is just too high for most kids? And there are only so many middle-aged guys who have either the money or the skill?

                      How much does it cost to rebuild a ’70s 350 small block, air cleaner to oil pan? How much of the work can be done with basic hand tools, for not much money?

                    • I was describing port fuel injection, but it doesn’t matter. All fuel injection has a throttle body. In TBI the fuel enters there too. In port fuel injection it’s moved to the intake runners for each cylinder.

                      There’s nothing but the pivot points for axle of the butterfly valve or the throttle cable connections to wear out in a throttle body for port injection. But all those things it shares with a carb.

                      This Armageddon of component failure just isn’t going to happen because the stuff isn’t as nearly as failure and wear out prone as you believe it to be. Most cars die from typical neglect and rust or have a major mechanical failure just like in the 1970s. Some get too long of a list because the owners are incapable of repairing the nickle and dime parts that fail at the right end of the bathtub curve. The stuff that’s common to cars made after about 1965 give or take.

                      BMW demands every component be registered in the car’s computer by design to force people into their servicing dealers. That’s why I bought another Ford. If it wasn’t for BS like that I might have very well chosen a BMW. If the public was stupid enough to fall for it in the 1970s automakers would have done it then too.

                      The 1982 to 1996 F-body was cheap and disposable and was considered so in its day. Despite that I still see them (mostly the later ones) around in fairly good numbers. The early ones rusted like all get out. A girl at my HS had one, the car wasn’t even out of it’s decade of manufacture and was well rusted. The generation before rusted fast too.

                      Ultimately it all has to do with following. If a car has little following they are thrown away. Where’s all the Mustang ii’s? Before and after are around but not the ii’s? The 80s F-bodies are typically made fun of styling wise these days. Most of them were slow. Even the fast ones the later ones were faster. There’s little interest relatively speaking. That said I saw one monday.

                      As I stated earlier, by 20 years the car’s protection against rust has long since failed. It’s just a rusting old car with an ever growing list of nickle and dime things that need doing. So the first thing that goes that costs real money and it’s over. It’s always been that way. When rust starts taking them they fall away fast. Now there are some that are engineered to simply have everything fail at once. I’ve seen that too, but those are typically japanese models.

                    • Hi Brent,

                      I can completely rebuild my TA’s engine for about $1,500 in parts and machine shop work.

                      That is everything – oil pan to air cleaner. There are no electronic peripherals to replace. This is a huge savings in both money and effort. You have to deal with a panoply of sensors, a complicated wiring harness, an ECU and elaborate emissions equipment. These will not last forever and you’ve gotta have them in order for the car to function as designed (as well as be legal to operate).

                      I have no such worries.

                      Also, your ’97 is much less complicated than a new Mustang.

                      These cars are great in terms of their power/durability and relatively maintenance-free natures. But once they get really old and tired, bringing them back is much less feasible because of the cost and the complexity.

                      Rebuilding your Mustang’s drivetrain to “as new” condition would probably cost at least twice and probably three times what it costs me to rebuild the TA’s drivetrain.

                      PS: The mid-late ’70s cars like mine were slow – much slower (for the most part) than the ’80s F-cars. Yet they remain very popular, even today. Why?

                      The ’80s cars were hugely popular – arguably, more so than the ’70s cars. Yet they are virtually extinct today.


                      Because of complexity and cost. Restoring a TPI system that needs “everything” isn’t going to be cheap. But if my car needed “everything” (fuel system wise) I’d be looking at $400 or so for a new Quadrajet (that’s top of the line; a good rebuildable core could be bought for $100 or so and with some cleaning and a $50 kit, made as good as new) and maybe another $40 for a fuel pump.

                      That’s it.

                    • repeating the same thing over and over again ignoring my arguments.

                      Eric, sitting here on my coffee table is a performance cylinder head for my maverick’s 250cid six along with it’s intake manifold. It cost me nearly two grand and I don’t even have a carb for it yet and other assorted parts I’ll probably need. It also requires other parts be reused from the stock head or me to purchase even more. Why so much? Because it isn’t a popular thing to do, that’s why.

                      I can go to the u-pull and get a set of PI heads, intake manifold, etc for my ’97 to upgrade it’s power for a few hundred if that.

                      Old cars are just as expensive as modern cars if you get off the beaten path. Your pontiac if you actually had to start replacing the stuff that is unique is going to burn a hole in your wallet and you know it.

                      It also a machinist’s time costs no more with the heads on my car vs yours. 8 valve seats per head and making the surface flat. Same damn thing. Rebuild means reuse everything that is serviceable. The engine has two cams (one for each bank), 16 valves, 8 pistons, etc and so on. There’s not much more there than your pontiac. The complexity just isn’t there.

                      I started taking apart the 1bbl carb tonight. Fuel injection is dirt simple compared to these chambers and diaphragms and such. The carb is a rube goldberg machine compared to fuel injection.

                      Why do people put modern chevy V8s in everything? It’s the beaten path and thus cheap.

                      The left power lock switch on my ’97 is intermittent. I can take it apart again and sand the contacts and it will work well again for a short while. Saw the replacement online tonight. $33 for an f’ing switch. Why? There’s nothing special about it, they just mark it up. I’ve dealt with switches all my career. If this thing cost more than 50 cents I’d be shocked. That’s what you’re looking at mark up. Not real cost. Free market competition is what brings prices down but there has to be a demand first. The only source of this switch is probably the OEM supplier.

                      Complexity of GM TBI? HA. for decades people have been taking them off 80s V8s in junk yards to put on the engines of their older cars. If they are so horribly complex as to throw away the whole car why is that such a popular modification to older cars?

                      The 80s cars are gone because practically nobody wanted them. They were crap cars and their styling went from futuristic to dorky in short order. And as you point out awaking a 70s car is matter of stripping off the emissions equipment that strangles it. The Mustang ii was hugely popular too. Talking 400K units a year. It could be woken up. It’s gone. Why? It became a dorkmobile.

                    • Brent,

                      Nothing particularly unique or special about most Pontiac V8s, much less Quadrajet carbs. My point – which you keep ignoring! – is that it’s much less expensive to rebuild something like that than it is to replace all these got-damned electrical components.

                      A Quadrajet that needs “everything” can be brought back to new condition functionally (assuming a good core) for less than $100. You know that as well as I do. And I can buy a good used core if needed for less than $200.

                      Buy an entire new carb for about $400 – and that’s it!

                      Nothing more to buy or deal with, as far as the fuel system is concerned. OK, a fuel pump. $40… what else is there?

                      You cannot say the same about a car like yours that needs “everything.”

                      There are more parts to replace (most cannot be rebuilt) and the cost for all these parts, taken together,is much higher. You have to factor in the ECU, the entire exhaust system (cats and 02 sensors) etc. because your EFI system is a system and all the components must be correctly functioning for the system to function.

                      How much wiring is involved in the restoration of a car like yours? My harness is a simple affair that can be replaced for about $150.

                      A good friend of mine owns a shop; it’s not uncommon for a car to come in with a dead ECU – and the cost to replace that part alone can run hundreds of dollars. Nothing mechanical has yet been dealt with. It’s just for the got-damned computer! I don’t have to deal with a got-damned computer… thank got! 🙂

                      If you have to replace “everything” – as is usual when you’re restoring a very old car – you will be spending more than I will.

                      A modern car has an electronically controlled transmission, electronic climate control AC, multiple air bags, an electrically controlled anti-lock braking system and so on.

                      Compare/contrast the restoration of a ’78 Sedan de Ville vs. a 2016 Cadillac CTS (30 years from now)….

                      PS: Modern Chevy V8s are not cheap, either – unless they are old-style (pre-computer) Chevy V8s. Without FI and VVTi and EFI. A crate 350 with a 4BBL intake and so on is under $2,000.

                      What does a crate LS 5.7 or 6.2 liter go for? What is the additional cost of the FI system?

                      How much does it cost to rebuild a ’70s Ford 302 vs. buying a crate 5.0 Coyote engine? How much does it cost to buy a crate 289/302 (carbureted, no got-damned computer, no EFI)….?

                      The old stuff was – and still is – affordable and fun.

                      The new stuff is expensive – and unless you are hip to software and code and all that crap, harder to deal with, too.

                      I helped a friend’s son build up a ’73 Maverick. It was an original V8 car. We put a cam in it, replaced the factory 2 BBl with a 4 BBL intake/carb and added dual exhaust. A few hundred bucks in bolt on parts.

                      I have another friend who is rebuilding his ’02 TA’s LS 5.7 liter V8. Guess how much an aftermarket intake manifold for this car costs?

                      It costs nearly as much as everything we put into the Maverick.

                      He also has to get his ECU reprogrammed to work with the new parts he’s added. The Mav has no ECU. It can be tuned with a screwdriver and wrenches, some jets and weights/springs for the distributor.

                      Etc. Etc.

                    • I haven’t ignored the point. I addressed it two different ways. Way #1) You compare hobbyist pricing and rebuilding to new OEM _replacement_ with new purchased at full retail from the dealer. How much is a NOS cylinder head for your car? How much was it when you could still buy it from a dealership? Your equation is that you get to rebuild your existing heads (or whatever else) but I have to call the ford dealer and purchase new ones. That’s bullshit. Way #2: I pointed out that machining heads is machining heads. It’s based on two things, the number of surfaces to machine and the material, that’s it. I am assuming of course old heads machined to modern standards rather than 1970s standards, because why would you want them lower quality?

                      Throttle body? $36.32 + $8 core at the local u-pull. MAF: $30.32 +$7 core. fuel injector $10.51+$1.50. Computer: $35.32 + $5. And if they don’t work as-is you can return them. Can replace the whole gotdamned thing for the price of your quadrajet core. Now if you find a QJet car in the yard (good luck, if one is there someone has already likely stripped bare buying every part off it to sell it at a profit) that will be $30.32.

                      Needs everything, that’s another bit of nonsense. It’s never going to need “everything”. These are simple devices based on ancient technology. A lower mileage example of my ’97, one comparable to your TA, will need practically nothing. You didn’t rebuild your TA from a pile of crap. A ’76 TA that needed everything in 1986 or even 1996 was parted out. In ’86 it would have just been junked after it’s time in the yard expired.

                      If someone in 20 years is willing to pay what amounts to $40K today for a 1996ish car they’ll get restored. The 70s car that needs everything only gets restored because someone is willing to pay big money for it. Prices only drop when popularity creates a competitive market. Otherwise the wise man waits until he can find a good example that doesn’t need everything. Nobody in his right mind buys a car that needs everything that’s worth $5K in excellent condition.

                      An aftermarket intake manifold depends on what he’s buying. Is he buying an aftermarket dorman replacement? That will be under $200 (mine was) or is he buying something to get more power out of the engine? That may not be cheap. Come on Eric you know I know this so why try that trick?

                      Changing the programming? You do understand there are 17 year olds doing this themselves right?

                      And yes, it’s cheap to upgrade the ford 302. It’s popular. My 250 isn’t comparatively speaking. Most people who do something replace them with 302s. There are at most a few hundred of the cylinder head I have that have been made.

                      Cost goes up if you go off the beaten path and it doesn’t matter when it was made. Take some simple 1900s car that’s not a model T. Ever read the old motor? The stuff they have to do to restore those ain’t cheap. They make your TA look like a sci-fi movie.

                      Complexity is not the main cost driver it’s barely one at all if you could get the stuff at the manufacturer’s price points instead of dealer retail. It takes decades for popularity and hobbyist markets to be created and drive retail prices down.

                      I remember some maverick parts being wallet killers (for what they were) because nobody had the damn things. The car was essentially an orphan. You want a grabber hood or a front valence? You better be willing to pay the guy who has one. A used one that needs some work. Now you can call up dynacorn and get a new one. It’s expensive still but it’s new and you don’t have to spend time hunting. I have a limited supply of maverick parts I bought for no other reason but the fact they were there to be bought. My regret is not buying more. The only savior for Maverick was that Ford just threw early Mustang parts on it as is. This kept the cars going through the dark ages. That and cannibalism.

                      Have you ever bought an old car that practically nobody gave two shits about? Bugs and Corvairs have long standing solid followings like F-bodies. Go off the reservation and watch the prices go up. Or worse pick something that’s declining in popularity.

                    • Hi Brent,

                      I didn’t say it costs less to machine my heads; I said your modern engine has a bunch of electronic peripherals I don’t have to deal with at all. No ECU, no MAP/MAF/Coolant Temp/02 sensors; my potential expense for these is… zero. What’s yours?

                      It’s easy to find good Q Jet cores. And – again – I don’t need one. My carb is in excellent shape so all it will need for the foreseeable future is a $50 kit with a new needle and seat, accelerator pump piston and gaskets every 10 years or so. And if I need a new carb? About $400, ready to run. No other expenses.

                      How many other parts do you have to deal with?

                      Of course I understand 17 year olds are doing programming – a very small number of them. Most kids no longer work on cars at all – because they are immersed in gadgets and have no money and because cars are complex, expensive appliances.

                      How much to rebuild a very tired but not damaged Pontiac V8 like mine, oil pan to air cleaner? I mean everything – every last thing the engine needs to be in the car and running and propelling the car.

                      About $1,500. Maybe $2,000 if it needs a new distributor.

                      I’d love to see someone rebuild a current-era Mustang GT’s engine – everything, including all the peripherals – for half that sum, 30 years from now.

                      The new cars are throw-aways. They will last a long time, but once they are tired and begin to need major work… it’s off to the crusher they go.

                      A high school kid used to be able to take a tired old car – a Nova or a Maverick, say – and get it running and driving for not much money, with hand tools.

                      Good luck with that today, with a computer-controlled/fuel-injected appliance!

                      PS: You are a stubborn SOB… just like me! 🙂

                    • potential cost? I just laid it out for you. It’s in the same ball park as yours. I can go to salvage yard right now and get these things should I need them. I wish there was an all-you-can-carry sale now. I would load up on so much stuff.

                      Most kids never worked on cars. Even when I was in HS few did. I was one of a small minority that knew how.

                      The cost to rebuild and replace stock decades later depends on popularity and how much people value originality. You know that. We’ve also been through the exercise where I’ve quoted prices for engines before. It’s not a hell of a lot different.

                      You know most of the parts on your list are rebuildable? Now I don’t particularly like CARDONE (I had issues with the reman distributor for my maverick, I kept the original because of it) but they do rebuild just about everything. But you can do it yourself too. Most times a shop just replaces instead of cleans. Cleaning is a $5 can of spray cleaner that has multiple uses before it’s empty. No worse than using good old carb cleaner.

                      But hotrod has a solution you’ll love:

                      So let’s say you’re right and for some reason the parts become sky high priced. There ya go.

                      Rebuild some tired car? Kids today have parents that buy them nicer cars than mine. Certainly nicer than the older ones and sometimes nicer than the newest one. If I showed up in the HS lot with my mazda I could quite possibly have the cheapest car there. They don’t have to rebuild a car to be able to drive. If I didn’t start working on cars at age 14 there wouldn’t have been a car for me to drive in college. That said the ones in the same situation as we were still do it. There just aren’t as many of them because moms and dads today will go deeper into debt.

                      And yes I am stubborn on this because I’ve had negativity about what I drive since I was in HS.

                    • So I am going through the 1bbl carb of my maverick as I plan on getting the front suspension done and get it so I can drive further than around the neighborhood. I took off the fuel bowl and all sorts of black flakes in there. Apparently from the float. Guess what? The float is discontinued. Nearly $60 for a float. How’s that? Like I said everything is fine and cheap if you stay on the path. Go a little off the path and its full of things like this. And this carb was used on 70-73 Mustangs too! But it’s for a six, not a V8 so there it goes…. I still have the original float I removed from it back in the late 90s so hopefully one of them is serviceable.

                    • Hi Brent,

                      Sure, but there are numerous aftermarket carbs you could buy that bolt right up. And are inexpensive. And once you’ve replaced the carb, you are done – the fuel delivery system has been entirely replaced. Nothing else to screw with. No electronic crap.

                    • There are aftermarket carbs if you have a 2bbl or 4bbl on a V8. If you have a 1bbl on a straight six you’re in the land of crap remans unless you rebuild what you have. Either buy a reman of something and pray or buy a used something and hope nobody has messed with it. And a different carb means a different air cleaner, throttle cable set up, a new hot air choke line or wiring in an electric.

                      The float I that was in mine seemed to be shutting off fuel properly so I’ll just test it and if it seems fine put it back in.

      • My greater concern is the software. Software is generally supported for a set number of years (6, 8, 10…). With the proliferation of “infotainment” systems and driver assistance software, I foresee newer cars quickly becoming obsolete as their software becomes unsupported.

    • Ross, I sorta solved the dwell problem with a dual point distributor. Just set the points a couple thousandths differently. The only problem I had with dual points was finding a distributor that would run one. Even the dealership parts people would scratch their heads looking for the coil that went with one. It wasn’t hard to figure when the coil was going, misfiring in high load. I’d go to the parts place and tell them I wanted to “try” a coil and tell them why. I’d install the new one and most likely, get misfiring in high load, high rpm. Try another until you found one that would work well. That proved to me nearly 50 years ago that all parts sure aren’t the same, esp. coils. Of course now there’s coils that will literally eat your points and plugs in a few thousand miles but there are also coils that are well-suited for that situation. I’m not sure why dual point distributors tended to use up points but they do. It’s a small price to pay. About 20 years or maybe longer ago I was plowing with a 4020 when it quit like I’d turned it off. Taking the cover off the dist. and removing the old, burnt rotor, I immediately saw the problem, points broken in half. Hhhmmmm, they looked familiar. Went back to the barn and pulled out a new set of GM points, put them back to back and it was a perfect match. It may have had a JD part number but it was a Delco Remy distributor. Go figure. And now, you can easily get any part for it from JD but getting one from or for a GM might be a big hassle so just go to JD for your GM parts…..or the parts store which will still have parts for a JD.

  5. I always thought that the reason floor mounted high/low beam switches were abandoned was because they tended to get wet and freeze up in cold weather. I can remember kicking mine repeatedly trying to get it to work while oncoming cars were flipping their lights up and down. Now there’s so much traffic on the road that I usually leave my headlights on low beam.

    • Roger, I can confirm that low beam phenomena. Get on I-20 any night, you won’t need high beams except to switch on that fool that’s running his, try to get him to turn them off. Sure, he’ll be in one of the new pickups that’ll knock your eyes out on high and be too bright on low. When the patch was booming I’d go hundreds of miles at night and it would be two streams of tail lights and two of headlights without a break, just a rolling parking lot some idiot was doing their worst to cause an accident, no, not accident, a wreck by proxy.

      I guess living in Tx. I never experienced a wet floor board except from my wet boots but I limited that with mats that would channel everything out the door.

      Here’s a hint to pickup owners. I can’t speak for new ones, and this doesn’t apply to something like a Jeep with those wells for floors but it works great for anybody who gets muddy, dirty boots into a pickup. Take a good quality truck mudflap and turn it the slick side up. Take your time and cut it carefully so the inside edge will just slightly turn up…..and don’t try to take it up much because a good flap will be thick. Make sure it goes behind all the pedals and right down to the door. Cut around the seat mounts and let it go back under the seat on each side of each mount which will hold it in an exact spot. A good, thick mudflap won’t move at all and the other side will help hold to the floor, esp. carpet. It will be easy to clean, a whisk broom will do wonders and a wet rag to finish it off, squeaky clean. If you spill something on it, it will almost instantly be against the door. You can just open the door and let it drain out, wipe off the door and the sill and it’s all good again. Mud and water drain off your boots the same way. It beats hell out of cleaning fancy floor mats with grooves and channels that will stain and wear in spots. A good mudflap laughs at wear. It will remain slick for decades unless you’re a cowboy who prides himself on ruining his floor and sills by never taking off his spurs…….seriously guys, you really don’t need them to walk around in tractor supply or Wally. Go ahead and put em back on to walk in the bar, everybody there is just dying to hear them jingle.

  6. ahh, blast from the past. love it.

    somewhere in one of my umpteen tool boxes i have a “punch the can” pour spout for said oil cans.

    kids these days have no idea what it is, but my wife who i met when we were both mid-40s and grew up on an ohio farm knew exactly what it was. no wonder we get on so well.

  7. If I may brag a bit, I was a VW mechanic for several years in the mid 70s. I could eyeball the point gap and almost always got it right – 44 to 50 degrees. It was a very rare occurrence that I had to pop the distributor cap off to adjust the points after just eyeballing them at replacement. Always best to be towards the 44 end, as you would still stay in spec as the points would wear and the dwell increase. Same thing with the timing – slightly advanced so that as the points wore, the timing would retard but still stay in spec.

  8. I just put together a Mustang 302 for an old Ford pickup. Put a Holley 4bbl economaster on it. I love the simplicity, but going back to a carb from an EFI setup is a real eye opener. It runs really nice, and I’m getting great mileage, but the driveability at idle/part throttle are nowhere near as nice as the 98 Exploder 302.

    I never liked EFI simply because the factory stuff comes in a sealed can you can’t do anything with. As well as being ugly covered in factory spaghetti connections.

    I’m thinking a megasquirt is going to be on the menu.

  9. T-tops themselves were a response to uncle. Rollover safety killed convertibles by the mid 1970s. Few really cared as sales had been declining for a long time. But some people wanted something so T-tops and targa tops grew in popularity.

    Now today the roll over standards are even tougher so there has to be perimeter structure for the roof. There are probably some exceptions or different test parameters for convertibles as I see no other way they could pass. Most have a heavily reinforced windshield frame but that can only do so much by itself. A quick check shows convertibles likely fall under a different FMVSS number. With a legislative change perhaps a T-Top could be classified a convertible to make a comeback? Then again who’s going to pay to get uncle to change the rules?

  10. Those were the days.

    While we’re being nostalgic, my first cars (1 had 3 all told) 1971-1974 Dusters, had a bulb on the floor left side just to the left of the high beam switch.

    This was the windshield washer fluid bulb. You stepped on it, and the washer juice squeezed out on to the windshield.

    It was great since depending on how hard you jammed it – you could get a lot – or a just a little, fluid out.

    I might retrofit one to my 2004 Frontier, since it needs a new washer pump anyway. I miss the variable squirt feature.

    And those automatic seat belts. I had one in a 92 Escort. Retractor motor died mid-way, meaning the shoulder belt was now a convenient decapitation device in the event of a collision.

    Thanks Uncle.

    • Black, I used to drive a friends ’59 IH crewcab pickup. It had that squirt bulb on the floor. It was perfect, just a bit or a bunch and you could time it where you wanted in relation to the wiper stroke. Of course they did away with those…can’t improve perfection.

      • Old VWs had a pressure tank for the windshield washer that you aired up like pumping up a tire. This dude who fixed all our VWs turned the passenger side nozzle outboard and would squirt people walking by his car. It was funny as shit in a retarded sorta way.

        • I remember seeing VWs where the washer hooked up to the air valve on the spare. Pump it up to 45psi, but let some out if you needed to use the tire.

          • I had an 1960 VW and my fondest memory was the anti-defrosters and floor cold air vents. I used to have to dress like a snow mobile rider and keep an ice scrapper for the inside of the windshield. Oh and to add some excitement nothing beats those swing axles! Ah the good old days.

          • PTB, the standalone one on my bus didn’t provide as much reserve air as the one on the bug connected to the spare tire, for sure. If I used the washer, I had to add some pressure before using it again.

            • Ed, I don’t even remember my dad having a washer on his 64 bus. Of course the ‘spare’ pressure trick wouldn’t work on a bus w/o the spare right there below the windshield like on a bug. Well, I guess technically it could be done, but with a ‘looooong’ tubing.

              • Mine was a ’68 and you’re right about the spare, though I saw several Kombis with the spare bolted to a bracket on the front. That mighta worked OK.

    • What a great idea–manual windshield fluid squirters. On just about all of my newer (can’t say new) cars ever one of the first things to fail is fluid pump. Oh, it’s a short or a fuse or a relay or sunspots or whatever.

      Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity, Thoreau said. Little did he know how appropriate his advice would be for cars.

  11. I still deal with points etc. on a regular basis since my ride is a 1972 model. For a while I did have an aftermarket transistor ignition installed but it left the car dead on the side of the road after about a year so I went back to points. To give the General credit where it is due the Delco-Remy Uniset is pretty easy to deal with and works well.

    Unfortunately the ethanol-laced crap that Uncle forces on us is not kind to carbs and older fuel systems in general. I have not had too many problems but can tell my carb is due for a rebuild. (It’s a simple 2-barrel job, an easy afternoon’s work with a $40 or $50 parts kit. Direct injection is of course more efficient, but what’s that going to cost when it goes wrong?)

    Yes, these cars need more attention than a modern vehicle but for the most part it’s stuff that can be attended to with simple hand tools and inexpensive parts.

    • Hi Jason,

      I just did the points on the old Kaw triple… which is an odd little engine in that it has a set of points for each cylinder. It’s basically three one cylinder engines on a common crank!

      • That’s pretty wild! Many years ago I had a Datsun 510 that had dual points in the distributor. As I recall it was a means of meeting Uncle’s early emission standards, one set retarded the timing and the ignition system would switch to that point set under certain conditions.

        Mine was the original 510, not the lame-ass pretender that came out in 1978. I’m not much into Jap cars but those were pretty sweet. Much nicer than just about any other economy car of the day. (I still have a few “Road Emperor” aftermarket parts for that car squirreled away somewhere.) Unfortunately the Datsun 510s have all long since turned into rusty debris anywhere that uses salt on the roads.

        • I had an 84.5 Nissan like that. It worked sorta funkily but the computer carb sucked the big one. If I’d know Toy would have fuel injection and a lot more power the next year I’d never had experienced that carb.

      • The BSA and Triumph triples were the same. And three condensers and three coils. The perfect setup for Lucas, King of Darkness.

    • Jason, I just had my points replaced with a Pertronics conversion. It’s a simple magneto type deal that sits in your original distributor and replaces the points and condensor only. You keep the original cap and rotor, too.

      It’s an easy fix, takes about 20 minutes. I’d have done it myself, but can’t do much with my left arm these days.

      • Hi Ed,

        I did that update to my ’64 Corvair (sold it about ten years ago; wish I had not)….well worth the funds. I also updated the ’76 Kaw to a similar system. But the ’75 triple… still has its points. Three sets!

        • Hey, eric, does that Kaw have 3 coils as well? I added a Pertronics flamethrower coil, Moroso wires and E3 plugs. That old 360 purrs like a lion now. Soon as I get the carb from Rockauto, I think it’ll be back to life for real.

      • Pertronix is the transistor ignition I used. From what everyone says they are supposed to be very reliable, but I got the lemon that burned out on the road resulting in a tow back home. (Probably should have left a spare set of points in the glovebox.) I could try again but that kind of experience leaves a bad taste. Another approach would be to install a GM “High-Energy” electronic distributor, the kind with the coil in the cap.

        But really for the amount of driving I do these days the points are fine, I just change points and plugs once a year and there’s little that can go wrong that can’t be easily fixed.

        • There were some QC issues with the early Pertronix units from what I have heard, never used one myself though I know several people that swear by them.
          I typically rebuild a large cap HEI and use the MSD 8501 kit (the 6al boxes aren’t all that IMHO), I have found many stock style (replacement) hei modules to be short lived/problematic (Wells brand being the worst of the bunch). Nothing like having the ignition start breaking up once you get a little heat in it and exceed 5k rpm….
          Only time I see points anymore are on restoration projects and ford 300 inch inline 6 industrial motors.

        • Jason, I hope mine holds up, then. So far, everybody I’ve talked to who has them say they’ve held up well for years. Sorry you got a bad one.

  12. Starting 80s 6.2 diesel- press accelerator halfway (above freezing) or floor it (below 32), wait for glow plugs to heat and wait light to go out, and crank. Once started, wait for engine to warm during fast idle. Once fast idle slows to normal idle usually in 5 min, but it takes longer in the cold, you are good to go. The manual says it takes 50 minutes to warm up in -50 arctic temps

    • I can see diesel jelly at -50F. It takes a lot of cold additive in those conditions to even get an engine to run, gasoline included. Up in the northern climes of the US vehicles ran continuously out on drilling sites. If one ever died, it was trucked into somewhere it could be thawed.

      • There is an arctic heater kit (military version) that uses diesel and has a literal furnace under the hood, but yes. I use additive and a block heater anytime it is 7 degrees or colder. Old diesels suck in the cold- my main gripe. I am considering a cj 3b or 5 as a cold weather truck

        • I recall lots of diesels having an “ether” switch on the dash with a can of ether in the intake system. I suppose if you stuck enough ether/starting fluid nowdays, into an engine it could hurt it but I haven’t seen it happen to anything. I have a new TroyBilt mower with a Kohler 20 HP single. It really sips gas and has lots of power but let it sit a couple weeks and it doesn’t want to start. I flip the hood, point the starter fluid at the air breather and give it a little push when I hit the starter and it fires right up. Or, you can crank on it a while, leave it sitting there for 20=30 minutes and it will fire up fairly quickly next try. They shoulda worked that out before I bought one.

            • Weed were literally ten feet tall or more last year when I bought that mower. I was mowing electric fence posts, big rock, brikcs, t0posts, water hoses, stumps, corrugated metal, big trailer blocks, no name it. I soon had a rear tire not closely associated with the wheel any longer. It just laughed at Slim. Took it off and set it on a barrel, used the old ether and had he back on……one one side. Flipped her over and did it again, hit it with air real quick and finalized the seat. Then I stuck a big ass plug I’d been using on a road grader. It’s been Ranger ever since, upright and level flotation.

              • First time I saw that done, I bout shit a brick. You had mentioned it on here a few years ago and somebody posted a youtube vid of it, I think. It sounded like a shotgun going off.

          • A safer (but not totally safe) approach is simply to drizzle a little gas down the carb. I do that each spring on my large self-propelled mower and any time it sits more than two weeks without starting. Saves about 40 pulls on the rope.

      • My old diesel bucket truck (cherry picker, arial lift) had a heck of a good block heater. Cold nights in Fraser CO (original icebox of the nation until the town worked out a deal with International Falls) would get down to -20F, but it always started right up and I had heat almost immediately. I’m fairly sure there was a heater in the fuel tanks too, never had a problem with gelled fuel. But I also always bought fuel from the local station that had the farm diesel pumps and someone who knew what they were doing.

  13. You know what killed the motor-mouse seat belts? Drive-thru ATMs.

    When you opened the door to reach out to take your cash, the belt would wrap around your neck and drag you to the front of the car. You learned very quickly not to do that.

    I had a 1990 Accord for a while that had them. The previous owner had disabled them (unintentionally, because of some amateur repairs they did) so you had to clip them in manually, which required a high degree of flexibility to reach over your shoulder with the belt. It was easier to just get them working again.

  14. Another two words you don’t hear any more: Vapor Lock

    This was when the heat from the engine (or just because it was a hot day) turned the fuel in the lines into a gas instead of a liquid, and the weak fuel pumps couldn’t push the fuel in the tank against it. So your engine would die from lack of fuel. Usually in stop-and-go traffic, and you’d have to push it to the side of the road and wait for it to cool down.

      • that usually means you need to re-route your fuel line and/or insulate it. A return style pump or regulator will help too. The carter/weber/edelbrock carbs do better if you use a wood or phenolic spacer underneath (never had much luck with the Mr. Gasket heat shields thogh). More than once I have had the fuel boiling in the bowls (esp. if the exhaust crossover is present/open) even on Holleys.

        • I’ll date myself but back in the 50’s seems like it was worse and wasn’t confined to any make or model. Saving fuel line meant keeping it close to the block and intake, shitty radiators and add-on a/c exacerbated the problem. Best thing to happen to intakes was no crossover with a heatsink at the bottom outside for the choke. I used to take off those intakes and there were those two rusty spots. That was an easy fix. Replace with aluminum intake with no crossover.

          Remember how Holley carbs never had a choke that worked correctly? Crank, fire, die, repeat ad nauseum. GM had a Holley made specifically for their engines that only sorta looked like other Holley 4 barrels but was different in the guts. Floor and let off the gas, hit the starter and it would run instantly on high idle. I had Holley intakes also with GM numbers and they’d make a small block scream.

          A friend had a ’63 Vette, 327 with a GM Holley and it would run circles around most things. He got smart working as a mechanic though and replaced it with a HOlley 3 barrel,900+CFM. Killed hell out of that engine but he never changed it back. I don’t know what he thought might happen different and it would run better than ever. It never happened of course.

  15. How about those great old dashboards of the 1970s? The ones where the passenger had absolutely no way to mess with the air conditioning, or radio or anything else. The dash wrapped around the steering wheel and actually had a big divider blocking anyone from even knowing what was going on with the vehicle. In fact, on many cars of that era the HVAC controls are on the LEFT side of the driver, next to the door. The only way the passenger could adjust the temp was if she were… well, leave that to your imagination…

    • My Maverick (well all mavericks) have left hand controls. Just a little pod to the left of the steering wheel. So simple, easy to reach, and to operate when driving. Of course those had to go away. In the 90s ford had simple knobs high center on the dash. That works pretty good. And now to the modern era of a myriad of buttons, touch screens and other nonsense usually located low center of the dash. Down where the radio is on a Maverick. A position that just about forces a person to take his eyes off the road. Then again the touch screen alone forces that.

  16. How about manual chokes? You pulled out the dashboard mounted knob part way or all the way, depending on the ambient temperature and the length of time since you turned off the engine. As the engine warmed up, you pushed the knob back in a bit at a time. Not too quickly, or you’d stall out.

    That technology is still around, by the way, though probably not on any cars being produced. My wood chipper has a manual choke, for example.

    • Mike, my ’68 F250 had a manual choke until the carb bowl cracked. I had to get the one with the electric choke since that was all I could find at the time. I found a rebuilt with a manual choke on Rock Auto and I’m about to order it. That electric choke has never worked right.

  17. C C, the switch for the starter was over near the center of the vehicle since it mechanically moved the starter drive. The dimmer was on t’other side.

    I have had problems with the dimmer switch on stalk mounts giving up. It’s a real pain to fix. The easy way is to install a floor dimmer and forget the hand switch. I’ve done it on pickups and big rigs alike. I prefer the floor mounted dimmer.

  18. That switch on the floor activated the starter motor long before it became a headlight dimmer.

    T-tops were a pain in the neck all the way around. Form over function, a fleeting fad that was replaced by the now ubiquitous factory sunroof. Compare the t-top to a Mohawk; a bad haircut can be shaved off or actually improves on it’s own after two weeks but a lousy option on a new car is like forever.

      • eric, my cousin bought a new ’68 Vette with t-tops. I’m thinking the roof was made to be a rollover bar, unlike the pony cars.

      • Those big panoramic sunroofs that have become more popular are sort of a descendant of the t-top. Granted they don’t go to the edge of the vehicle like the t-top, but they don’t have that structure problem. Some of them are nearly the size of the entire roof which is very nice.

        It’s too bad some of the cool things are very unpractical in the real world. T-tops and suicide style 4 door pillar-less cars make for some really awesome looking cars.

    • Why do T-tops not get a pass but convertibles do? In the event of a rollover, I would think a convertible would make you worse off!


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