The New vs. The Old

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I got into a debate the other day with a reader about the future of the car hobby; about whether today’s cars are fundamentally disposable appliances that work great for a long time – their chief virtue – but when they do finally begin to wear out, the cost to replace their numerous complex systems (especially the electronics) will be so high that most people will simply throw the car away in favor of a new one.Quadrajet lead

Like cell phones, for instance.

Also, that the new stuff’s complexity is a turn-off to tinkering, especially for beginners – the new crop of the old car hobby. Teenagers who have yet to acquire the higher skills (and more expensive tools) needed to work on today’s cars.

And so – for the most part – do not.

I gave the example of my old muscle car from the ‘70s as a point of comparison, focusing on its fuel delivery system vs. that of a modern car.

It consists of a single major component – a carburetor –  which is a “stand alone” mechanical device that mixes the air and fuel.

It is held in place by four bolts and can be removed from the car in 5 minutes or less.

It can be disassembled in about the same amount of time with basic hand tools – and is amenable to adjustment.

You can tinker with it.quadrajet 2

This is appealing to beginners.

There is something tactile about turning mixture screws, changing out jets. It’s physical and hands-on. You can see what you’re doing. And you are doing something more than pulling and replacing non-repairable electrical stuff you can’t tinker with. And which requires both a fairly sophisticated knowledge of electrical things as well as more sophisticated tools, too.

There are no wires or harnesses connected to my car’s carburetor. No sensors that plug into it; no computer that controls it. The air-fuel ratio is determined by turning in and out mixture screws, replacing jets and metering rods… not code.

There is a physical cable connected to the accelerator pedal. You can work it back and forth by hand. See the throttle open and close.

Nothing electronic can go wrong with it because there are no electronics.

And carburetors last a very long time.Quadrajet 3

My car has its original factory carburetor. It has been mixing air and fuel for more than 40 years. Barring physical abuse (such as damaging the metal castings by over-tightening the mounting bolts) it will probably continue to do so for another 40 years.

It may at some point need to have its throttle shaft repaired; these do wear out eventually. And every four or five years or so I tear it down and give it a thorough cleaning, replacing wear parts like the float, the accelerator pump plunger, needle and seat, gaskets, etc.

These parts cost about $50.

In the Worst Case Scenario, the carb may at some point have to be replaced with a new one. At most, the cost will be about $400. Or buy a good (rebuildable) core for about $150.

Remember: You can rebuild carburetors. qjet rebuild kit

And whether you rebuild or replace, that $150-$400 or so will be the total cost to renew the entire fuel-delivery system. There are no peripherals. No harnesses, no ECU, no sensors. And replacing a carburetor is something a teenage kid without much in the way of tools or experience can handle, easily. He can also afford a rebuild kit – and even the $400 or so for a brand-new carb (if necessary) is doable on a high school kid’s budget.

I think that’s why kids used to work on cars. They could afford to – and the cars of the pre-computer era were much more approachable if you were a kid. For instance, you could turn the idle up or down with a screwdriver. Cool!

Mixture adjustment was also easily made.

You bought a set of jets (less than $10) installed them and observed the results. Piddled with the secondaries’ spring tension to alter their opening rate. Cost? Zero.working on Qjet

Very gratifying when you are 16 or 17 … and just getting to know cars.

Now consider a modern car’s fuel injection system. There are many components – most of them electronic and not serviceable or tunable.

They work – or they don’t.

And you can’t tell by looking at them, manipulating them with your hands. There is nothing to see. Nothing you can get your hands on.

There is no tinkering to be done – unless plugging in a scan tool and reading OBD trouble codes counts.

There are individual injectors for each of the engine’s cylinders and these are not repairable/rebuildable. When they stop working, you throw them away and buy new parts. My reader friend’s 1997 Mustang has eight of these injectors. The lowest cost replacements I could find cost about $35 each (see here) or about $270 for the set. You’re already at more than 50 percent of the cost of a brand-new carburetor for my old Pontiac.

And you may – and at some point will – have to buy a mass airflow sensor and various other sensors, too. The computer that controls everything will also croak eventually.PFI image 1

It all costs money. Remember: These electrical components are not fixable. You throw them away. You buy new parts.

Now, most of these parts will last a long time; and they will not need to be replaced all at once. But they will not last forever and the cost to replace them will be much higher than a $50 rebuild kit for a carburetor.

Meanwhile, today’s teens face much higher costs for almost everything – not just cars. Insurance especially has become obnoxious. It is hard to afford a car – any car – on a teenager’s means.

Most seem to spend whatever disposable cash they have on devices – iPhones and such. There is not much left for ECUs and MAF and MAP and 02 sensors.

And the waters are deeper, too.devices

I remember popping the hood, spinning off the air cleaner wing nut and looking at my first carburetor. It was right there. I could see the fuel squirt when I worked the throttle arm manually with my hand. You cannot see anything happening when dealing with electronic fuel injection. Just plastic boxes and things with wires coming out of them.

It’s not particularly enticing.

There’s not much to play with.

It works – or it doesn’t.

Which is what you want in an appliance.

Something you use for awhile – and then throw away. depends on you to keep the wheels turning! The control freaks (Clovers) hate us. Goo-guhl blackballed us.

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  1. I came upon this wondering what you’d call the last of the “classic” cars. For me, it’s become cars without crank positions sensors, cars with idle screws. Sure, they may be d-jetronic or k-jetronic fuel injection systems, but with far fewer computers, wiring harnesses, etc. they are simple, and I understand them.

    Submitting yourself to some higher brain? I don’t know about that. If you are saying you CAN’T figure out how to fix a car, then you are admitting that nearly every mechanic out there is smarter than you. Pathetic.

    How about making your own matches to light a fire vs. buying matches at the store? Are you submitting yourself to the smarter higher power? Sorry, I’m not wasting my time trying to figure out how to make my own matches. I’m not refining my own lighter fluid to make a lighter. I know I COULD do it, but it would be stupid.

    I wonder where we can say the love of old classic cars will end. Will it be the early 1980’s? Or will late 1980’s and early 90’s some day become classics too? Perhaps they will be harder to keep on the road and even more valuable because the mass airflow sensor still works. I don’t know. I do wonder.

  2. blue, orange, green, brown, slate—white, red, black, yellow, violet. ring and tip color code for land line telephone. every splicer has this etched into their memory. great to have a test set to make calls into perpetuity. cell phones nice, test set nicer.

    rare and infrequent

  3. There certainly is a risk submitting yourself to technology. Because what you’re really doing, is surrendering control and situational dominance to some smarter and more proficient guy than yourself.

    As Bastiat explained, there is an unseen man at work here. It is his genius that makes all this possible. Perhaps elsewhere, you are alpha. But often here, you are a mere drone hierarchically speaking. The unseen guy is propagating and multiplying himself worldwide, and you are mostly negating yourself, that’s the hard truth of the matter.

    Sitting at the screen, typing on the plastic keys is as cuck as it gets, if that’s all you do. But if the result is a website. And thoughtful articles. Then the cuck is on the other foot. And now it is all the visitors who are themselves the submissives, and the forgotten nothingnesses, whose whimperings and mewlings will never be remembered nor passed on to anyone.

    I can only speak for myself, but I guess what I’m mostly doing “on the web” is learning and preparing myself to emulate my betters once I leave this digital dojo, and I myself become the “magic box” who can do all manner of marvels that others can only admire, and not even have the first inkling how I learn them and can do them.

    And if that’s the case, then even the hated pig. If he is mostly doing the “job” to have a means to provide for himself and his brood, then I can better stomach being the cuck to authority if that was still mostly the case. Only I don’t think it is. The brutalizers themselves relish the brutalizations they endure from those above them, and that thugclusterrape gangbang is the thing that they live for and defines them. They’ve come to like being a top in the daisy chain rapefest and they no longer even consider that most people don’t live this way, nor do they wish to.

    Dont these nationalist racist realize that there is no right way or right person to submit yourself to as a man. That you become some disgusting hive piece when you waste your life this way.

    Bella and the Bulldogs

    I’m an American. I’m white. I’m a guy. I’m a Wright. I too invented flying, yeah that’s the ticket. If you’re a nationalist socialist cuckold for your own nation state race, well that’s just dandy, being a pure bred second handy.

    Too grotesque to experience in real life. So I innoculate myself by surfing the filthy comb corridors here. See the bees and their birds upclose in all their horrors. I consider and immerse myself in so may arcane, impossible, and sometimes even unspeakable things, but then I close the window, and I am me again. Without torture and struggle, there is no science.

  4. Had a 60 model F-100 with electric wipers no problem at all.Hey Taxi owner ,neighbor has a cherry Grand marquise with less then 200K ,well cared for looks great,wants 1500 for,apologies Eric ,I know this is not a Bulletin board (I just cant stand to see a great car sitting in the the sun.
    Back to the subject Eric ,are you saying “SKYNET “is here ?or gasp the “Singularity” is biding its time before complete takeover and eliminates all the carnuts.

    • Hi Kevin,

      In re the “singularity” … society is becoming like a beehive in which we are assigned tasks and it is exceedingly difficult for an individual to do what he wants to do, how he wants to. This works for bees as they are biologically programmed insects designed for their various roles (e.g., the worker bee, the drone bee). But a hive is not optimal for humans. The problem I see with these got-damned computers is that they standardize everything and make it very difficult to operate outside the standardization. This includes cars. They run a certain way because that is how they are programmed to run – and it is becoming harder and harder to alter or get around this programming.

      Soon, it will be effectively impossible. Hoods will be “sealed” in the sense that is both technically very difficult to modify the engine and also likely to become illegal to modify the engine. And then will come the self-driving (that is, driven by the got-damned computer) car. Which will reduce us to drones who wait patiently to go where we are told, when and how we are told.

      • Not to mention the days of repowering new cars with upgraded engines,many times I have wanted to repower the old “Dakota ” but rounding up the perpheral components and expensive electronic items makes it cost prohibitive,I wanted to trade it for a new Nissan when it was in good shape and almost new ,but the local dealer wouldnt go for it and the little “powertech ” V6 is almost impractical to upgrade ,I will probably never forgive “Chryco” for making such a subpar combo ,they even saddled the little motor with a lousy transmission,its scary to try to merge with traffic in the metro areas ,when you are dealing with over 22# per hp empty weight,performance is sluggish indeed.

  5. Wow, Eric. One of your better Jeremiads… I am going to disagree wholeheartedly on this for several reasons.
    I’ve been in the taxi business for 22 years, and have owned cabs that entire time. when I started out, I was using the late 80s model Chevy Caprices and Malibus as cabs. these were the last of the carbureted Chevys; the last of the kind you could “tinker with” and “adjust”.
    I switched over to late 90s Ford Crown Victorias about 2002, and have kept vehicles that are about 5 yrs old ever since. The difference between a 2000s model Vic and a 80s model Chevy is night and day. The Fords have much longer component life, much longer overall vehicle life, and much less down time due to mechanical failure than do the older Chevys. Yes, components can be more expensive when they break. but they don’t break nearly as frequently. I REGULARLY get 400,000 miles out of a Crown vic. Most Chevy Caprices were done at 250k; and that was if you babied them.
    Secondly, the engine computer will actually tell you what is wrong with the car through diagnostic trouble codes. I would far rather deal with a car when the computer tells you, for example, P0301 (misfire cylinder one) than deal with locating a miss on an old 350 V-8 (Ok, which plug is it? Is it the wire, or is the plug fouled? Etc. etc.)
    Third, there is no adjustment to most components. It either works or it does not. If it doesn’t work, you replace it. There is no turning screws or adjusting little parts & geegaws and whatever.
    I understand where you are coming from, Eric, with the enjoyment & hobby side of things. But as a business man who loses money when a car is not operational, I much prefer the modern vehicles to the older stuff.

    • Hi Paul,

      Yeah, I hear all that. I just sometimes pine for a less efficient age. Corded wall phones vs. sail fawns. People don’t want to tinker anymore because they don’t have time to tinker anymore.

      Too busy working or jabbering on the sail fawn.

    • The last of the quadrajets were computer controlled. There wasn’t one without a computer made after 1981 or 82. Mixture was controlled by computer and the cars have O2 sensors. How much idle can be controlled I believe depends on where the car was originally shipped.

  6. If cars have become like appliances, it’s because that’s the way half the drivers out there — females — want it. Females as a rule are not mechanically inclined. They are not car tinkerers. They want to turn the key and go. They do not want to check tire pressure; hence, TPS monitoring. They do not want to check the fuel gauge; hence, low-fuel idiot lights. They do not even want to screw the gas cap on — my 2012 Focus doesn’t have a gas cap. If it breaks, they don’t even THINK about fixing it. They get on their cell phone and tap out a text with acrylic nails to have the dealer repair guy come out, tow it, and give them a loaner under factory warranty.

    As females become more and more powerful in our society (President — Hillary, God forbid?) they exercise their power to suit their own needs. They legally mandate “car-as-appliance” features. Sons who grow up with single moms do not learn to tinker on cars with parents. Females and feminized males are also more suited to urban living where cars are neither necessary or desirable, and bikes and mass transit are promoted as a morally superior alternative to the evil car.

    Just as we’re replacing Andrew Jackson with a black female on the $20, we’re replacing the American man and his car with the postmodern, effeminate, homosexualized, metrosexual who can’t work on cars but has a hell of a lot of mousse and hi-lights in his hair.

    • Well there’s a no shit Sherlock.

      We have certainly become a nation of pussies

      When it became too hard to use fractions the top men in Detroit switched to metric. Now the average high school grad can’t even make change.

      Eric claims the fuel injection systems can’t be tinkered with. I call bullshit. Problem is lack of motivation, creativity, and balls. Teens have had a mental, philosophical, and literal orchiectomy.

      If Apollo 13 took off last Monday, they would be dead on Friday.

      Back when we did great things…

      • Hi Tuanorea,

        EFI isn’t adjustable – mechanically. You remove/replace parts. Check codes, reset the computer. For me, this makes EFI very efficient – and very little fun. I get no joy out of the latest “app,” either.

        But then I am a pre-computer aging Gen X’er who can remember the world before the got-damned computers took over! 🙂

    • Hi X,

      There is much to what you say. One could go back to the first mass market automatic transmission as the genesis moment, but there were other synergies operating as well.

      I think I can pinpoint when the Mom Culture – with its attendant fixation on “safety” – ascended. It was the late 1980s. When all all of a sudden one began to see Baby on Board icons in cars and DWI checkpoints and seatbelt laws began to go into effect.

      The current obsession with risk – and its elimination from life (ridiculous as well as undesirable even if not ridiculous) is very much a feminine phenomenon.

      • What about all those grinning construction cucks with their bright colored plastic hard hats. All the fucking ridiculous mandatory saaaaaafety lunacy should be thrown in the woods really.

        Maybe there once were a few great men in America. And for each great man, millions of submissive cuckolds who gladly collected the needed things. And performed the desired tasks and tended to the great mans brood.

        And all was well with the hive. Even though those mothercuckers are some of the most pathetic and debilitating bastards you’ll find anywhere. And the way those drone dumbasses saw the rest of the world as wasp and hornet interlopers to be harshly and methodically dealt with.

        But at least America provided the honey. While the wasps and hornets merely killed and plundered. The unseen cucks at least didn’t elevate their cuckery above actual functioning men and their families.

        Maybe it made some logical sense to be a cuck to industrialists and maybe even the hated founders who I have always found conceptually loathesome as did Mencken. To voluntarily follow a zero offspring mentality, physically, mentally, and even spiritually. Be unthinking. Unwanting. Undoing nothings.

        Baby on board

        Zero harm

        Safety engineers

        Ugggh. Makes me cringe to even write about them. If you don’t think enough of yourself to want to plant yourself in some fertile filly and use her willingly and watch as she gives all she has to you, and uses herself up and becomes useless and powerless to anyone else, despite what a piece of shit you might actually be. Then you’re a drone without a bone who deserves to be on your own, go gnaw on some fishheads all alone.

        • Hi Tor,

          Oh, don’t get me started on that… well, shit, ok…

          Now you have to have a “pilot car” to shepherd the poor Clovers through the work zone because it’s not “safe” to leave people free to drive through the damned thing without being led by the nose. The geek in his hardhat tamping his hand – Slow Down! – saaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaafety!

          Can’t leave a kid for 5 minutes in a car Because Safety.

          Can’t ride a bicycle without a helmet Because Safety.

          No more dodgeball, no more swing sets.

          Automated braking. Lane departure warning.

          It’s amazing they still allow sex at all.

          • Eric:

            Regarding “Can’t ride a bicycle without a helmet Because Safety”, there is sometimes a glimmer of hope. The other day I was stopped at a busy intersection that is crossed by a bike trail. Crossing the road on bicycles were a 30-something woman and four children, ranging from 7 or 8 years old to 14 or 15. The woman and three of the kids were…gasp…not wearing helmets. I figure the oldest one, wearing a helmet, was either a neighbor kid or thoroughly brainwashed at school. Still, a mom who doesn’t wear a helmet or insist that her kids do is a small sign of hope.

          • Sex is the next act to be banned. Unless it’s homosexual and then it will be encouraged for all to participate. So the race becomes extinct.

      • I am not at all opposed to safety. I always wear a seat belt in a car, drive with headlights on in the day, and wear a full-face motorcycle helmet, leather and hi-viz gear even when I am not legally required to do so. Being male does not mean being stupid and getting yourself killed.

        However, males are genetically different than females, and males have higher levels of mechanical aptitude. Females simply are not interested in shifting a manual transmission, changing oil and spark plugs, checking tire pressure, setting point gap — or even filling the gas tank if they can avoid doing it. Therefore we have run-flat tires, OnStar, extended warranties, low-fuel idiot lights, tire pressure monitors, back-up sensors, etc. etc. Now we will have automatic collision-avoidance braking and ultimately, self-driving cars (females are going to love those).

        For the typical female a car is indeed an appliance, just like a washing machine, and if it breaks they either buy a new one or call a MAN to fix it under warranty.

        In fairness, our society has become so feminized that this description includes a very, very large number of males as well, for whom changing a tire might just as well be as incomprehensible a task as putting a man on the moon. Road map? What’s that? GPS and cell phones take car of that.

        The point is that a motor vehicle used to be a symbol of independence — like that old Chevy ad, “it’s not just a car, it’s your freedom.” Today, a motor vehicle is a symbol of DEPENDENCE — dependence on government, automotive engineers, GPS, factory warranties, finance, NHTSA, etc. etc.

        Dependence, of course, leads to more government CONTROL. ONStar can call the EMS for you, but can also enable the government to track your every mile. Any car dependent upon electronics instead of a carburetor can ultimately be disabled by the government hacking its software — especially the coming self-driving and self-braking technology. Females are generally good with that because they are herd animals. Free man should be wary of ANY form of dependence on anyone.

        • “males are genetically different than females”
          While this is true, such differences must be considered as generalities, not universal. That being said, men in general have a higher risk tolerance than women.

    • And there isn’t any changing it. Being a “modern man”, I figured my gals should know how to do things.

      Both my daughters had to do their own oil changes, shocks, etc. as long as they lived at home. They even knew how to get the darned Vega transmission out of two gears at the same time by crawling under and moving the shifters by hand. The last time they did any of that? The last time they lived at home. I’m not saying they really need to, but there is no way they would even consider it now if their lives depended on it. Drag out the cell phone and the plastic.

      I gave my granddaughter a riding dump truck for her first birthday. Now she is planning a $50,000 wedding. Dump truck is still in the attic, pristine. Will probably go up on ebay to help pay for the divorce lawyer in 3 years.

      When I was only a “modern kid” I made my fiance change a tire on my TR-3A before letting her drive it. She may be the one success story since after 56 years she still speaks to me (good and bad in that, of course) and would probably be able to change a tire if she could find a lever long enough to break the lug nuts free.

      And the $5s and $10s are being feminized, too. The good news is that when they finally hit circulation in 2030 (!How long would it take Kinko’s to make that transition?!) I will either be “ashes” off the coast of The Bahamas or so senile I won’t give a darn.

    • The movement towards an appliance car with Ralph Nader later joined by Joan Claybrook. There was even a ‘safety’ car made in the late 1970s. It’s as ugly as you would think a government car designed around safety and being an appliance would be. The movement towards appliance cars starts in the 1960s with Nader getting the public to accept a government take over of engineering standards. Once in the political realm, it became, well political.

      Andrew Jackson is being replaced because he was an enemy of central banking. It was originally floated to replace Hamilton and there was an uproar. Remember Hamilton wasn’t a president. Rather he was the one who at every turn undermined liberty with a desire for well the systems we have today. There’s a fair amount of significant symbolism going on at the moment.

  7. I had a 1975 Saab 99. It was fuel injected, but it was entirely mechanical. I could adjust the mixture with a 3mm Allen wrench. Much simpler than a carburetor in my opinion. Timing light, crescent wrench, screwdrivers, and that car was as in-tune as it could be. And 33mpg.

    That car today would fail the inspections where I live, because I had stripped off the emissions crap. I cannot imagine where I would have gotten the money to restore it to what little it had had at the time. Basically, government regulation would have made it impossible for me to afford the car.

    Right now, my commute is too short and the exhaust sensors in my CRV don’t get cleaned off enough, so the “check engine” light comes on and stays on until I take a 2-hour drive and burn them clean. Which means $700 in “repairs” to replace the sensors in order to pass inspection, and then next year have to do it again, and then again, and then again, all because I don’t drive _enough_.

    This is government regulation. This is the “unintended?” consequences of layer after layer after layer of intervention for the “best of reasons”, until it is simply impossible to live.

    • “This is the “unintended?” consequences of layer after layer after layer of intervention for the “best of reasons”, until it is simply impossible to live.”

      Yeah, I substitute “unconsidered because they don’t give a shit” for “unintended”. The assholes who crank out regulations just don’t give a shit what consequences may come with their regs.

        • Hi PTB,

          Robert Higgs on “unintended” consequences:

          All Government Policies Succeed in the Long Run – Robert Higgs

          “A crazy claim you are probably thinking after reading my title. After all, “failed policies” are a staple of discussions and debates about government actions in the United States. Everybody, regardless of political preferences, has a list of what he regards as the most glaringly failed policies. This way of looking at the matter, however, is all wrong.

          People label a policy as a failure because it does not bring about its declared objective. For example, drug policies do not reduce drug use; educational policies do not educate children better; national-security policies do not make Americans more secure; and so forth. The mistake is to take seriously the announced policy objectives, to forget that virtually everything the government does is a fraud. The best way to document the government’s nearly unblemished record of policy success is to follow the money. With very little trouble, you will be able to follow the trail to the individuals and groups who benefit from the policy. Occasionally the true beneficiaries do not benefit in the form of augmented income or wealth, but in other forms of reward, yet the principle remains the same”.


          • “The mistake is to take seriously the announced policy objectives”
            Too true. For evidence look at the Congressional practice of naming
            bills – e.g., the ‘Affordable Care Act’ or PATRIOT-USA

  8. i am reminded of a time when riding with a friend in his early 70’s chevy when the mechanical fuel pump failed, leaving us standing on the side of the road. his solution was to siphon some gas from the gas tank, then he poured it into the windshield washer fluid container, removed the hose that distributed the fluid to the windshield, then run the hose down into the carburetor. then by repeatedly pushing the ” washer fluid ” button, not only did the car start and run but it got us home as well. we would get up to around a hundred miles an hour, go a few miles, then have to stop and refill the washer fluid container with gas. try doing that with a modern car….

  9. The points on my 61 year old set of Wardmaster box wrenches are getting a little rounded, and a couple have pits where they sparked across battery terminals by accident a couple times. But they outlasted the company that sold them to me when I built my first flathead. (’50 Merc in a ’48 Ford convertible.) I can’t even guess how many thousands of dollars those tools saved for me at only the cost of a few cuts and bruises and many cans of Goop. Almost all of it was fun.

    The scariest thing about my “new-and-improved” is the fancy label on the console that says “SYNC / Powered by Microsoft”! That, and knowing there is almost nothing on that car where I will be able to use those tools even though, through good genes, I can still “get out and get under” almost as well as at 16. (Some of the other geezers may get that quote.)

    • “(Some of the other geezers may get that quote.)”

      This old geezer was much slower sliding under that Peterbilt yesterday greasing it and adjusting the brakes. I notice there’s not nearly the “gap” between me and the pots(or anything else) nor do I drag myself like I was on rollers either. In fact, I nearly drug my shirt off exiting under the passenger side toolbox/steps. That same shirt which I proceeded to remove and use a few times to get several applications of Fast Orange off as I’d miss some areas and there was too much to do all at once. I looked in a mirror and saw where some of those excess drips of grease had landed…..and that included those places I couldn’t see(backbrush in the shower).

  10. Thanks for this great article, Eric.

    I’d like to know to which date cars can be considered mechanical as opposed to digital. I feel captive to the official dealer of my car brand. If I were to buy the newest car possible that is still completely mechanical (or almost): how old would that car be? I was guessing cars about 20 years old, but you mention cars 40 years old so I think my guess might not be right.

    Thank you.

    • Hi Julio,

      Many of us – me included – feel the “sweet spot” for cars was the ’90s through early 2000s. These cars were modern… but not too modern.

      They do have fuel injection and computers, but they are much less complex than current or even recent model year cars. They also have two-four air bags as opposed to six-eight air bags, as is common now.

      They generally do not have idiocies such as Lane Keep Assist and Blind Spot Warning and Automated Braking and Auto Stop. Most do not have touchscreens… etc.

      If you can handle doing minor adjustments/repairs yourself, you might consider something older – without a computer and with a carburetor. The chief drawback of these cars (’70s/early ’80s) is the lack (for the most part) of overdrive gearing in the transmissions. Most had either a three-speed automatic or a four-speed manual – neither with the overdrive gearing all modern car transmissions do have. But it’s fairly easy to retrofit a modern OD transmission in one of these cars; I’ve done it myself.

      Welcome to the site!

      • eric, I feel the cut-off point was ’95 when even the pickups started having air bags. All the custom GM pickups I see rebuilt these days are pre-95 and for a damn good reason, no air bags. There’s more interior room plus less complexity……by a goodly amount.

      • OBDII killed the DIY car? I concur, actually. Depending on the car/country you can go back as far as the mid-eighties on through the death knell.

        I hate to be that guy, but it was the state that caused all this. Not to give a pass to the lobby-sector, either. Anyone in too good of a mood, I implore you to check out something like Autoblog for the latest in soul crushing auto “news”. It’s high time to get into restorations and withdraw from this system.

      • I’am not car mechanic, but as doctor I have as many other hobby’s including this one.
        I’ve did as necessity/hobby very complicated reparations to my car as Renault 12.
        After that I’ve change my self without any help an entire engine of my beloved Ford Sierra (1997) .
        Therefore I totally agree with you , as usual !
        I want to say something : as college student , being very good in mathematics/ Physics a.s. o. I followed some curses at University about fiability.
        The professor told us: the good and genial constructor will be able to make/build very simple machines about the meant purposes.
        Complicated knows every retarded and dumb to make.
        Geniality consist in simplicity, not complexity for the same target/function .
        Simple devices have a fiability reaching 100% as long complexity have a fiability of 50% or lower .
        In complexity without any reason as you said about the actual cars, default it is the rule ! It is a direct causality and connection with the number of pieces and systems meant to make a job.
        Just for the record : a tractor built in 1938 in my country has worked for 2(two) millions km on agriculture land, was never repaired( engine, gear and transmission….) and it is still good. It was a simple but genial made machine !

  11. Brand- ,they were replaced by Brownies and Yes men (everybody is scared to speak up ,because they might lose ,their non-living wage job )I live in the realm of no benefits and frankly my lack of fear of the bossman has cost me a job or so )
    Anyway my brother bought this huge pre OBD sun machine with all the bells and whistles ,CRT , manuals .floppies etc ,in good shape at a county sale ,anyone interested ? I ‘ll bet He would trade for a decent bare 427 block for His 67 iMPALA SS, He also needs a hood for that old beast (did Holden make anything similar ? ) I plan to retire shortly ,wont hurt much because my standard of living will remain basically the same ,without the BS .

  12. I am 61. Started driving in 1970. Started working on cars same year. I do NOT miss carbs, points, rotors, mechanical fuel pumps, rusted out floor mounted dimmer switches that had to be replaced every year if you lived in the snow belt, dim headlights, manual chokes, automatic chokes, roll down windows, rust on the body after 3 years, AM radios with 1 speaker, no heated rear window or inside adjustment for outer mirrors, bias ply tires, exhaust systems that lasted 2 years max, vinyl seats that burnt in summer and like sitting on ice in winter, recirculating ball steering, upper no load bearing ball joints, grease points on ball fittings, greasing wheel bearings every year, overly large steering wheels that hindered visions for us short shits, hundreds of miles of rubber vacuum tubing present on emissions control systems, vacuum wiper motors, front bench seats, changing oil & filter every 2000 miles, defroster outlets that failed every winter……….

    Did I leave anything out, guys?

    • I recall a vacation to the mountains and a huge storm, one of those Texas thunderstorm of biblic proportions, a 57 Chevy and vacuum wipers. It would have been so much better if my dad had simply pulled over and stuffed my mother into the trunk, gagged and bound. The next time we spoke of a return trip, my dad bought a new car with electric wipers.

      It reminded me of an old cartoon of an old rancher in his pickup riding along in one frame saying “Hey Ma, that new muffler sure is nice isn’t it?”. The next frame shows “Ma” with this muffler installed in her mouth.

      When I turned 14 and got my license. I’d been driving for a couple years so when we’d go on trips I’d be the driver after 100 miles or before. My mother would say, time after time. my dad’s name and then “how fast is he driving….he’s driving too fast”. My dad would look over and ask me how fast we were going. I’d fudge and say “85” and he’s say “He’s only going 85”. My mom would shut up for a while but we’d get into a bunch of curves(before interstate highways) and I’d be doing my best driving smooth and never backing out. I know my dad enjoyed it and my mother didn’t. Hell man, we’d have those good Firestone or Gates tires that were new….what could go wrong….we had power steering and brakes…..and no seat belts? I don’t think we had as many problems as they do with the no-sidewall tires now. No, I know we didn’t. It was rare to have a flat.

    • Some, like the vacuum wipers, I certainly don’t miss. Most of that list doesn’t bother me much, but my car is old enough not to have crazy vacuum plumbing and associated garbage. Never had a problem with defroster outlets.

      Let’s see, mechanical fuel pump – $20 and swap it out in about 1/2 hour. Even if you have a shop do it you’re probably looking at maybe $100 to $150. New modern electric pump? Drop the fuel tank on most, PITA job, $500 or more job at a shop. Etc. Etc.

      I like machines that are simple and straightforward. To me the ideal new car would be something like a Studebaker Scotsman with maybe just a few upgrades like electric wipers and a decent heater/defroster. I can crank my own windows and don’t mind a bench seat at all.

      • Hi Jason,

        Amen. The fuel pump on my Trans Am’s engine is a simple mechanical device that hangs off the engine’s timing cover, held in place by two bolts. Remove it 10 minutes or less with basic hand tools; install a new one for $20-$40 – done.

        My ’02 Frontier has an “assembly” of pipes and wiring and sensors (all combined into a single unit) with the fuel pump. Guess how much?

        $400 from Nissan.

        I found a serviceable used one for $75. But still had to drop the damned tank to do the job – a major PITAS job.

      • I remember a 58 Chevy DelRay my Dad had (around 71 IIRC). It was barely running, so he took it up to the ‘service station’ – remember those? Dad did his own oil changes, but not much else. The man says the fuel pump is gone. I don’t know why it has this electric one on it though, mechanical ones work fine and are cheaper. Well, when he got the mechanical one on, he found out why it had an electric, the cam lobe was wiped. But the electrical was still a simple ‘external’ job.

    • Did you leave anything out? Only the truth. The dimmer switch in my old Dodge lasted, oh, I don’t know, 20 years or so. I live in the heart of winter country. Carb’s never been overhauled either after 32 years, and that ‘s my experience with many old cars. When the auto choke crapped out on my Ford pickup I got a manual for a fraction of the price, and it worked great.

      My Geo with its inside-adjustable mirrors had one torn off; no replacement available, but thank God it wasn’t electrically operated. That would have cost hundreds of dollars to replace, if it had a replacement. Two year life on your exhaust system? You must be driving in sea water up to your bumpers daily. Not only do my beaters go decades without serious exhaust work, when they do require replacement it’s a fraction of the cost of newer vehicles.

      Vacuum wipers? You must be driving a 1950 Kaiser. Points were easy and cheap to tune, and I change my oil every 3000 miles. Why? Because even synthetic oils gather water and exhaust byproducts that no filter can eliminate. Large steering wheels were a problem for you? Gimme a break. And so forth and so on. What a list of sliced baloney you have going here.

      When I roll my newer cars into the shop for an electronic check and tune-up, it’s a minimum of $400. I used to do the same with a $5 tune-up pack back in the day. Older American cars were, for the most part, reliable and relatively easy to fix (and I’m the world’s worst mechanic). Now you and I have electronic toasters that are vulnerable and brutally expensive to fix.

      • My first car, a 1960 Ford, had vacuum wipers. I remember letting off the throttle to speed them up. But the 64 Falcon had electrics. I really liked that car, styling, etc., but the floorboard was disappearing and I had small kids. No seat belts either.

        • My ’60 Ford F100 had vacuum wipers that slowed down to a crawl. A mechanic at the old time service station where I worked pulled off the vac line and squirted Marvel Mystery oil into the wiper motor. Doing this about 3 times and running the engine and wipers between squirts had the wipers workin as well as they had ever worked when new, which was plenty good enough.

      • Ross, that’s been my experience for nearly everything. It’s easy to tell that PtB’s dad’s DelRay hadn’t had oil changes as it should have and the cam was the first thing to go. My 55 Chevy pickup had vacuum wipers but only luxury cars had electric wipers back then to my knowledge(sic).

        Exhaust systems are indicative of how you drive a vehicle. My parents would crank up a car, drive it 6 blocks and cut it off. My dad lived about 5 blocks from work but never in his life walked it. Those type of things make sludged-up engines and ruined exhaust quickly. They went through exhausts rapidly on almost the same vehicles my wife and I have never had exhaust work done(95 Cutlass, original exhaust, 290,000 miles). My pickups only had exhaust work because of physical damage but not from rusting out.

        I had a spinner on my 55 Chevy pickup that simply made it have a much faster turning ratio….or so it seemed. I still drive pickups with steering gearboxes because the heavy duty models are too much truck for rack and pinion. I never noticed any sort of price to be paid by steering boxes either unless it was a power unit you ran low on fluid, your fault for the most part. I’d had two leak in my life. One was fixed with some fluid made specifically for power steering and the other on my 3/4T pickup was fixed by me with a seal kit incurring not a whit of wear I could tell.

        I’d disagree withy

        • We knew the 58 was not in great shape, but it was only $50 and the tires were worth more than that. He drove it, just around town for 2-3 years and let it go when the mileage was down to 35/qt.
          That reminds me of a kid I knew in college that had a 56 Chev. He carried a 5 gallon can of Sears reprocessed oil in the trunk and never bothered to check the dipstick. Just added more when he could see out the rearview mirror.

    • Hi Joe,

      Yep – serviceability and affordability.

      Remember when it was possible for most people to easily do a tune-up themselves for $25?

      Remember when car payments were three years rather than six?

      • eric, one day this week I heard a new car dealer advertising 84 month mortgages. As an example they gave a new Fusion with an Ecotec 1.6L and 6 speed(no mention of options other than those)costing somewhere over $26K. With no money down(depending on credit)your payments would be “only” $346/month……..for the rest of your life or 84 months.

        I immediately thought of what a payment would be on a King Ranch crewcab diesel dually. Yeeeooooowwww!!!

      • Yes Eric. I bought my first new car in 1983, a Dodge Colt for $5125, 38mpg in town, over 50 on the road, 1.3 liter motor, manual box, no AC, could do well over the 85 allowed on the speedo. All onroad charges included. 4 year loan which I paid off in 25 months. Tuneups were an oil & filter change, and 4 spark plugs.

  13. Another reason today’s youth don’t work on their vehicles is the death of industrial arts classes. I remember well my high school wood and metal shop classes. I learned a lot and still proudly own some of the things I made in those classes.

    I own a motorcycle with four carburetors on it; it works flawlessly and requires no maintenance. I just have to be careful not to let fuel with ethanol sit in there during the winter. Adding some Seafoam to the gas now and then doesn’t hurt either. On the other hand, I have many memories of dealing with finicky carburetors on older cars when I was a young driver. I could never seem to get a good rebuilt one; it worked much better to rebuild it myself. I would never want to go back to that for a daily driver, but wouldn’t mind for a collector car.

    • “industrial arts classes” – I think it may have started when they started calling them that, instead of Shop.

  14. I don’t think you should paint too rosy a picture. Carburetors (and points, and old timey plugs and coils) were simple, but could also be very finicky and require constant maintenance. I’m reminded of an old snow blower that got so hard to start and keep running, that it was just easier to grab even simpler technology (i.e., a shovel).

    • Hi Geo,

      I’m with you on points… which need to be checked/gapped every few hundred miles or so… but a carb, once properly set up and dialed in, should not require more than occasional cleaning and minor adjustment every so often (once or twice a year).

      I replaced the original points in all my old stuff (except the Kaw triple) with drop-in transistorized kits. But I kept the carbs.

      Aftermarket FI would involve a lot of money – and for what?

      All my carbureted vehicles start up right away and run as well as injected vehicles in every way except for one: They need a little time to warm up on cold days.

      • Oh, you’re being way too generous to old carbureted engines. The carburetor never gets the mix to be perfect stoichiometrically, only somewhat close once the engine is warm, but generally, the mixture is a little rich to prevent detonation.

        This fouls the spark plugs, which you have to check frequently. On really cold days, you have to deal with the choke. When you live in a place with hot and cold seasons, you need to re-tune the carburetor for the different air density. Starting a carbureted car when it’s not perfectly tuned can be a pain in the ass.

        My fuel injected cars need their first spark plugs around 100,000 miles, they start every time on the first crank in any weather (unless something is broken), and in general, they run clean! There’s no tuning, no jets to clean out, the technology just runs perfectly until something breaks.

        Basic FI systems aren’t that hard to work with, and you don’t change injectors all that often. ECU’s last basically forever without breaking, and the problem points tend to be things like cam or crank position sensors. It’s a different kind of maintenance, but overall, FI is the superior technology. As a bonus, you can play fancy tricks with the ECU and a catalytic converter to avoid creating smog and gassing your neighbors (it’s a mandatory technology, but I’d willingly pay for it if it was optional).

        • My uncle had a ’66 Ford cabover with a 342 Ford truck engine. He put a tag axle on it and used it every day of it’s life to haul up to a gross weight of 40 tons….ha ha…..and often way over that. It was a far cry from Step Child, the Peterbilt I drive and it certainly wouldn’t last as long but he did his first rebuild at 345,000. That ain’t nothin to sneeze at…..for an engine breathing through a two barrel carb.

        • Hi OP,

          No argument as far as a carb not achieving the perfect A/F ratio and warm-ups taking longer. But this is counterbalanced – in my view – by the carb’s much lower cost and ease of adjustment/serviceability. FI works great …until it doesn’t -and then you’re looking at figuring out whether there’s an “intermittent” fault with the software, a problem with one of many sensors, a wiring issue, or some other electronic malady that’s harder to diagnose and will probably cost more to fix because it will likely involve replacing components rather than cleaning/adjusting them.

          Carbs rarely leave you stuck by the side of the road. And you can usually fix them by the side of the road. Can you fix FI by the side of the road? Crutch it and get the car home?

          Cleaning a carb involves a $3 can of carb cleaner. Cleaning injectors is more involved. God help you if you need a new fuel pump (see my earlier post)….

          I’ve never needed to retune my carbs (cars and bikes) for the seasons. All my carbureted vehicles start right up, regardless of weather. This includes my 40-plus-year-old motorcycles. Prolly because the carbs are set correctly and kept clean! 🙂

          Spark plugs? A set costs $15 and I can replace all eight in my car in 10 minutes or less. Do that every other year, perhaps.

          FI has progressed (at the OEM) level from reasonable (fairly simple, not too expensive to fix) throttle body systems that still used the same type of intake manifolds as carbureted engines to completely over-the-top (complexity and cost) direct injection systems that will work great for “x” number of years and then, when they reach the end of their service life, kill you with repair costs.

          • Reminds me of a roadside repair that got me home. While motoring through the Salinas valley on US 101 my 1965 VW bug instantly had no power, like one of the carbs linkage rods popped off (twin carbs). Pull over, didn’t see anything out of place, started poking around and found the air correction jet missing in one of the carbs. Where it went, most likely out the tail pipe.

            I started walking around the car looking for something I can stuff in there. What I found that fit perfect was the rubber bumper on the dash that keeps the glove box from rattling. I had to use a pocket knife to put just the right size hole in to get some air flow through it. That fix got me the 70 or so miles it took to get home.

            Could one do a roadside fix as this one on a modern car? I guess it all depends on what went wrong.

          • “Spark plugs? A set costs $15 and I can replace all eight in my car in 10 minutes or less.”
            Maybe on the Great Pumpkin, but not universally. I knew a guy years ago that had an early 70’s Nova w/350. To change the plugs on the left bank, he had to jack up the corner of the car and remove the wheel to access the plugs through the wheel well.

            • Seems like the last set of plugs I bought were about $5 each, 4 electrodes made out of unobtanium but guaranteed to burn every single molecule of hydrocarbon for the rest of my life. It was a shame the rest of the engine didn’t get that fax.

              • Guess it depends on what kind of plugs you need. Rockauto lists my plugs in Autolite for $1.10 each. If I wanted to get fancy NGK or AC-Delco plugs are just under $1.50 each.

      • HEI was set it and forget it, great stuff. I used to go years without carb problems or need to make adjustments. I’d adjust it for altitude in the mountains, back it out down in the flatlands and then readjust for running at home. Then again, back in the 60’s I was up on turbo’s and wanted one bad in the mountains. I have nothing but good things to say about turbo’s when engines are built specifically for them. I’ve had equipment that literally ran beyond what two hour meters would last and kept on going, turbo and all.

  15. I think consumers should still have the option – to buy new vehicles that do not rely on computers. They would be cheaper, people would want to buy them because they could work on them, and they could be economical.
    Would be awesome to read an article speculating the cost and comparison of such a vehicle.

    • Hi CP,

      I agree.

      There’s certainly no defensible reason that free people ought not to be free to buy a car without air bags and back-up cameras… that does not meet federal crash test standards. What business is it of the government’s to dictate such things to free people?

      This sounds radical – but it used to be a given. An old VW Beetle, for instance, would never have passed crash test standards and it lacked air bags. But it was light and cheap and got pretty good gas mileage.

      Why should free people be denied such choices?

  16. It is a balancing act I think. Cars today, generally speaking, are very reliable. Not to say that they all are, but generally are. And I imagine more people than not see them as appliances. Younger generations don’t care about cars in general as much. Maybe because they weren’t encouraged to go out and buy their first car, and it be a fixer upper? I think more people than not today expect that progress in cars means no messing under the hood. They just want to get into the thing, and turn the key and go. When the shiny light on the dash says it is time for an oil change, they go in (well not everybody, there are plenty of stupids out there who don’t maintain their car because they take the appliance mentality to far….). Maybe people just aren’t as curious about how things work anymore either? So many reasons one could come up with. Mechanical things like the carburetor are cool, but on the other hand the EFI systems in cars today are much more efficient and precise in fuel delivery. The amount of precise control over the combustion process has come a long way, which I think has lead to reliability overall. I remember my mum telling me how cars would stall out all the time on Teton Pass between Jackson Hole and Victor, Idaho, because they would overheat or the carb would be starved of air. Those problems are a thing of the past these days. But yes, you could make a valid argument that to get to that stage, things became complicated with all the electronics and fuel systems, and whatnot. But at the same time, it can be a curse. The folks had a 1995 Ford Windstar, which turned out be a giant turd. Not only did the transmission have to replaced, but the computer died, the water pump died, the struts were crap, and finally the engine took a giant dump. Of course the transmission died, because Ford used a transmission that couldn’t handle all the torque coming from the V6 engine, so the transmission got destroyed. Nothing like finding metal shavings inside the transmission, and basically destroyed gears. That van might have even had problems with the fuel system, but I can’t remember. It was very expensive to fix it all, because of the electronics, etc. They sold the van when the engine blew up. They had enough. And it is very true that one can’t fix a car themselves anymore generally. I guess even changing the oil can be a bugger-all.

    • “Maybe people just aren’t as curious about how things work anymore either?”
      I blame a lot of it on the GICs and the fact that they are only interested in ‘training good citizens.’ They don’t want people to actually think.

  17. ERIC: I watch my mechanic “switch out parts” and it doesn’t look too difficult. I want a simple, economical single cab used pickup I can fix myself with a little schooling. Modern pickup, like 2000 or later. Ranger too small for my uses. I know you like the Frontier manual. Which years? or, any other truck recommend for a retired person on a budget? New vehicles so loaded with computers and safety/fuel efficiency stuff (such as turbos) I bet they will be “throw aways” after a decade.

    • Hi John,

      I really like the ’98-2004 Frontier; have had good luck with the two I’ve owned. The Toyota Tacoma is also a good little truck.

  18. I think there would be more interest in modifying the computer code in today’s cars by teens, BUT the automakers (and Uncle) go out of their way to discourage tinkering with it at all. In fact they outright claim you cannot change the code in the cars you supposedly own.

    Uncle for sure doesn’t want teens messing with the code in cars, as they would be the ones turning off black box functions and pollution controls etc.

    • VW will void the warranty if you make ANY changes to the computer. That includes changing the stereo type if you pick up a second hand navigation system (you have to tell the computer about it so that you can use the steering wheel controls and get directions in the dashboard). They claim too many people were screwing up the timing and blowing up the engine, then trying to make a warranty claim. I think they didn’t want people poking around and finding the cheat code.

      If it weren’t for uncle, I’m very confident we’d have aftermarket direct plug in replacement computers, running open source software, that would be far better than anything coming out of Detroit. Despite all the talk about how complicated computer systems on cars are, they really aren’t even as powerful as a Raspberry Pi or an iPhone 3. The only reason they’re so expensive is because of all the regulation involved (and the limited number of units sold – Ford sells 17 million cars last year and it’s a record, compare that to 80 million phones sold by Samsung in the 3rd quarter of 2015).

      One can dream, but not if there’s a regulator involved. With open source, there’s no one to chase after if there’s a problem. Regulators don’t like that. They have to have a villain in their story line in order to justify their existence. But of course the regulator itself is more villain than anyone being regulated.

      It’s a shame the word regulator has been bastardized by the progressives. The origin of the word was in watchmaking and later steam engines. It is a simple device that tensions the watch spring and improves accuracy. Political regulation seems to exist in order to prevent progress.

      • “Political regulation seems to exist in order to prevent progress.”
        Ain’t that the truth. And the reason is simple. Progress would allow the ‘subjects’ to get ahead of their controllers.

  19. Well I must disagree with you there. The injectors of my ’93 BMW 5 (525i Touring aka Station Wagon, with the M50B25TÜ) cost about 65€ each (times 6 of course, so 390€ or so ) to replace completely, they can be re-ringed, cleaned and rebuilt for quite a bit less. 6 of those would be below your price for a carburetor here. The lack of tinkering isn’t driving people away at all. There are ways to tell if your MAF has gone bad or your oxygen sensor, only by “computer diagnosis”. Meanwhile I still get mpgs in the mid 20’s (10L/100km). And a rebuild every 5 years or so? My BMW still has it’s original injectors after 23 years now, including fuel pump and fuel rail (excluding the rubber connection lines, oxygen sensor and MAF though, sadly, though I only use E5 fuel), so how does that compare to a rebuild of the carb every 5 years or so?

    What’s driving people away is getting bullshit and costs forced down their throats by uncle (or here, “benevolent” federal or especially EU government). Yet we still have as much as 2.5 times as high as the US allowed pollution for NOx for normal cars for EU VI (the current edict, 80mg per km), yet no problems at all, considering there are a lot of old diesel cars on the road that emit a lot more (usually around 2000mg/km for NOx, as by the norms EU II, III, IV or V, look it up) and that we have quite a bit a difference in population density compared to the US (Germany’s as big as Montana now but there are about 80 Million people living here). Why can’t at least the rural areas of the US have those emission standards we have? It’s not hurting at all here. And you have 30mg/km of NOx (yeah I didn’t convert that to miles, excuse me if I didn’t read it correctly), which is quite a bit below ours even if there are a lot less cars in the US per area.

    Yeah well, all being said, I would really like to have an old muscle car like yours to drive around sometimes, even if it requires tinkering like my grandpa’s old lawnmower. And I do like your site and will send you some money once I’m out of college.

  20. This is turning into a holy war…

    The new stuff is technically better- machining tolerances are better, materials are better, flows in heads and manifolds are optimized by CFD, etc, etc. But the new stuff has many more exotic and moving parts. The old stuff is better in that it is relatively easy, cheap, and FUN to work on.

    One easy way to wave one finger at the seat belt nazis is to drive an old car. That by itself is enough for me- there’s lots of great stuff pre-65 which I can enjoy. Along with it I can but in a modernized pushrod V8 with a level of tech I can easily take care of.

    One other thing nobody here is paying attention to is EMP. All these electronics are easily disabled by EMP. Your Computer On Wheels will become a road obstacle/deathtrap if zapped. And that scenario is becoming more likely by the day.

    So I do keep a couple old diesels and carbureted/points originals around.

    But then I’m 51 and have accumulated enough tools and property to do all those things. Most people cannot- they are mortgaged for life on real estate, car loans, student debt, etc. Their choice, I pity them, but I will take the necessary steps to avoid being dragged down with them.

  21. Oh for crying out loud to properly diagnosis and service the old cars shops had those giant ‘Sun’ machines and similar. I’m sure you’ve got a box about 12″ x 8″ that is called an “engine analyzer”. It’s got a big analog gauge with all sorts of knobs and different wiring harnesses you plug into it and then connect to your car. You have a timing light. Maybe even a separate dwell meter (often a function on the engine analyzer). You have to own a vacuum gauge. I have all these things. They are required for my ’73.

    Today you plug in a dongle into the OBD2 port and get all the information on your cell phone. Can use lap top software or just have a code reader. Kids today aren’t going to be intimidated by that. That box with all the wires you have to hook up correctly, now that’s going to intimidate them. A kid today is going to think your timing light is some sort of sci-fi movie prop. His phone app probably shows him the engine timing in real time. Have you ever used fuel trims to diagnosis a vacuum leak? One so minor all it would do to your 70s car is make it run a little lean which you then “fix” by turning the mixture screw. Never mind the dirt its sucking in through a break in the intake manifold gasket. You can’t watch how the mixture changes in real time with laptop or cellphone on a 70s car. You need one of those big shop machines with probe in the tailpipe. The best you can do is smell the exhaust and without a cat does okay.

    Nobody who’s grown up with computers is going to be scared of doing things the modern way and they aren’t. There’s also lots of interest if you get outside the old man circles. The old men have walled themselves off. You’re not going to find the kids there.

    • Hi Brent,

      I don’t need those things you mention. I have a timing light and a vacuum gauge. That’s all that’s necessary (beyond screwdrivers and sockets) to tune up/adjust my ’76.

      A distributor machine is only necessary if it’s necessary to recurve the distributor.

      I have many friends in their; few of them wrench. Most see cars as appliances. They need them – but don’t particularly care about them.

      • And don’t forget the feeler gauges for point gap. You set dwell and idle by feel? oh wait, yours is late enough to have electronic ignition, so no points, but you still need to set idle. Remember most cars back then didn’t have tachs. My ’73 doesn’t. Ford didn’t even offer them for Mavericks in US and Canada (Mexico and Brazil they did). But who wants to go into the car to check what the idle is and then change the screw and go back and forth adjusting anyway? Sure once you know the engine you can get it dead nuts on by feel but that takes having the car for awhile.

        If you don’t have more than a timing light and a vacuum gauge you can’t deal with much more than regular upkeep and you can’t even deal with points. I used my dad’s craftsman box ( ) as a kid and in my 20s I bought the nice MAC one at a pawn shop, which I still have. These are useful in figuring out what’s wrong as well as tune ups. Or you can have a bunch of different things instead of the all in one box.

        Most everyone saw cars as appliances in decades past. Frequent care and economics simply drove more people to do things themselves. The car was still an appliance.

    • “There’s also lots of interest if you get outside the old man circles. The old men have walled themselves off. You’re not going to find the kids there.”

      Those pinheads who dominate the classic car clubs are mostly just assholes with enough money to buy whatever they want for their collections. They’re elitists and would be doing the same thing if they collected milk bottles or campaign buttons.

      The real car enthusiasts are guys who drive their cars and do their own wrenching. Their kind spans generations, from teenagers in love with rat rods to geezers in their 70s driving a ’57 Chevy they bought secondhand in ’68 and have played with ever since. A more democratic bunch you’ll never meet. All it takes to be “in” is a love of cars.

      • Ed, it may be a Texas thing or a southern or just a part of the population who isn’t strung out on PC and afraid to get their hands dirty but I know plenty younguns who love hotrodding. Wanta see old T/A’s, Z-28’s, Stangs, Vettes, Mopars of all sorts and just about anything else, come to rural(and drive the poorer parts of the cities)Texas and you’ll see some yards with half a dozen cars under tarps and sometimes identify what they are. I know where there’s a 25th anniversay Vette just sitting with rotted tires and aluminum paint, probably from painting a sign or inside a shop on the black body. It has a big L 82 on the hood, not a shaker but made to look like one.

        Since it is pickup country, I still see pristine 80’s Blazers and pickups along with a new plethora of early 90’s GM pickups that look better than new.

        • Sounds about like what I see around here. One guy’s yard has early ’50s sedans all over the place. A neighbor a few miles down the road seems to be collecting Mustangs but never fixes any enough to drive one.

          A few years ago I sold my ’62 Plymouth 2 door hardtop to a neighbor a few farms over. Somehow, that made me take a fit of some kind and I sold three Cadillacs that probably would have come in handy as hell and a Mazda that wasn’t worth a fuck, you know, one of those 626s that looked like a fuckin Ford Taurus.

          I still wish I hadn’t took that fit. It left a big hole in my driveway and I have never got over it yet.

      • Gotta agree with Ed on this matter.

        I don’t think it’s so much a generational issue as a class issue.

        The idle rich and the Yuppies never get their hands dirty.

        The “mere mundanes” do, and like it.

  22. Fuel injectors are rebuildable (even for the DIY’er), as are MAF sensors, throttle bodies and such. Many efi systems are very tunable once you put down the cash for an interface and tuning software or convert to a universal setup (i.e. megasquirt).

    Rebuildable Q-jet cores are getting rare (nobody says you must use a Q-jet though) and some of the rebuild kits aren’t worth the price of the box they put them in. There is a reason Cliff Ruggles is a busy man.

    Not to say that the ‘new’ is cheaper/easier to tune/repair than the ‘old’ but it is a tradeoff, more simplicity/less efficient/less expense/more parts scarcity vs. more complexity/more efficient/higher expense/better parts availability.

    IMO the best of both worlds is to have a more modern motor in a car free from airbags/onstar/bluetooth/etc….

  23. Not old enough. Horses are even simpler. Saddle up your convertible or get your buggy whip out… We have them here in Wyoming, especially good for off road, Mules even better.
    OTOH, I can (and have!) used common microcontrollers to read sensors and produce the pulses for ignition and fuel to run an engine.
    There are aftermarket calibrations and strategies.
    Theoretically you could change to a better carburetor but can you design one and mill or 3d-print or cast it? Simpler then? No, you can no more create a carburetor than you can an injector.
    Carburetors work but aren’t precise so you lose efficiency and create emissions. There were emission control carbs that could vary the fuel with a servo, and lots of vacuum hoses.
    You would have to change pintles, I can add a knob to select rich for performance or lean for economy (but watch the catalytic converter).
    I can alter the advance similarly depending on the octane in the tank.
    Nostalgia filters the good and ignores the bad.
    But that’s not uncle. People prefer appliances. I’ve built computers and worked with DOS and Apple IIs. People wanted MacOS and Windows. Now they want iOS (no filesystem!) and Android.
    Enthusiasts want something they can hack. But that isn’t what the market wants.

    • Gresham’s law: “Bad money drives out good.”
      See also: Apple vs. IBM clones. EISA vs PCI. (Computer components.) Laser Disc vs. DVD. Betamax vs. VHS.
      Cheaper and Easier will always drive out those who care. Most people are “Lowest Common Denominator” types – myself included, on the things I’m not really interested in. E.G., Don’t care about iOS vs Android, especially the internals. Not programming or testing on those OS’s, so….
      OTOH, I care a lot more about making Linux and Unix do what I want. (But I don’t have time and space to play with them outside of the office, because other people are even lower common denominator, and want to be entertained.)

      I used to get yelled at for reading the manuals and performing the repairs.
      I got to the point I didn’t care, though, because I was held responsible for maintaining the mower, but not allowed to take it apart; responsible for keeping it clean, but yelled at for washing it. Yelled at for scraping the grass off, when it had dried into paste under the cutting deck… And also for cleaning it out while the grass was still wet.

      How many other people here were in a catch-22 no matter what?
      Did you handle it the same way, by walking away and declaring it someone else’s problem finally? 🙂

      Because in a real sense, that’s our best solution, I think. TPTB are ensuring a mediocrity, if not outright idiocracy – and our best means of giving them the future they deserve is to get off the Dirtball. An “exodus” of skilled labor and intelligent people.

      • Yes Jean, I have been in the same predicament. I used to be a truck mechanic that took pride in doing things right and practically never having to redo repairs. This worked fine at the first civilian shop that I worked for which paid hourly. There were other mechanics there who only cleaned the brake shoe contact area of a brake drum after replacing a leaking wheel seal. I knew that the centrifugal force of hot spinning drums would get the shoes oily again, so I removed all oil from the drums. When electrical wiring problems arose, many of my cohorts would immediately bypass it, but that was not really a repair and it left behind a confusing mess of jumbled wiring for someone else to deal with later. I would actually find the problem even if it required me to use a wiring diagram, and I would fix it correctly. I didn’t conform to the established pecking order environment I was working in, so I left the company in disgust after a few years. They closed down a few years later.
        I then went to work for a couple of shops that paid book rate. Half of the rated times were completely pulled out of somebody’s ass! Certain people got most of the gravy jobs, and the rest of us got the ones with vastly underestimated repair times. Additionally, mechanics who took short cuts such as missing the greasing of all zirks that are out of sight from a standing person would ultimately earn much higher income than would a mechanic that did things right. I got sick of that crap, and I left.


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