Ancient Cars vs. Modern Cars

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Modern cars have been around a long time – at least three decades, since the mid-late 1980s. This was the period when the first electronic fuel injection systems and ECUs (the computer that controls the fuel injection and other functions) were installed in mass-produced cars.ancient car

Cars built before the 1980s are not merely old, they are ancient.

Literally, but also in a deeper sense.

A car built in 1979 has more in common, design-wise and functionally, with a car made 70 years prior than a car made just five years later. The ’79 has no computer; it has a mechanical fuel-mixing device called a carburetor – which the first Model T Ford (1908) also had. The car did not self-adjust anything. You – or your mechanic – adjusted everything.

This has its upsides as well as its downsides.

Among the upsides:

* Most major components are mechanical. Kind of like a mousetrap in that you can see how they work (or not) and – if they’re not working – you can take them apart, repair them and put them back together. If done right, which isn’t difficult, they are now good as new. And this can be done many times, over many decades. Usually, with inexpensive hand tools and some patience. It’s a big contrast vs. modern cars, which have numerous non-repairable electrical parts whose workings can’t be directly seen and which you usually just throw away if questionable and replace with a new part.carb pic

* Problems are easier to diagnose – because there are fewer potential things that might be wrong. The ancient car’s entire fuel delivery system, for example, consists of the carburetor and fuel pump. If there’s something not right with the fuel part of the equation for internal combustion to happen (the other two elements being spark and air) and you’ve checked out the carb and fuel pump, you know your problem lies elsewhere.

This simplifies things.

With a modern car, you have the fuel injection system and the computer that runs it and the multiple sensors and associated/extensive wiring (and connections) the computer depends on to run it, plus downstream parts such as oxygen sensors in the exhaust system, all of these parts being inter-related. More potential diagnostic issues to deal with.

This complicates things.

Plus, mechanical parts often give you warning they’re wearing out or need attention. Electrical parts often just stop working. Mechanical parts can often be gimped with bailing wire and screwdrivers. Enough to get you mobile and back home. With electrical stuff, you are more likely to be stuck until someone sends a truck.

Among the downsides:

* Ancient cars are… ancient.

The youngest of them are now over 30 years old. That is not just a long time for a car to survive. It is a long time for knowledge to survive. You may discover that repair shops lack an “old timer” who understands ancient technology like carburetors and knows how to adjust/repair one properly. It may be on you to learn how to adjust/repair the carburetor – and other old-timey systems (ignition points, for instance, which many ancient cars made before circa 1975 will have).workingon old car

*Parts may be hard to find. Or at least, find easily. Car parts places stock commonly needed parts; this includes basic things like oil and air filters. The latter, especially, can be hard to find for ancient cars because they are not like modern flat air filters. They are oval (some of you may recall) and if you have an oddball model, it may be a quest to find a new one.

If you do find the filter, buy two.

You may also discover that reference manuals – the ones used at parts places to find parts – only go back 25 years or so. If your car is 30 or more years old, you may have to get familiar with specialty suppliers (Year One, for example) that specialize in… ancient cars.

*Ancient cars will need more attention. More regular attention. Unlike modern cars – which can and usually do run perfectly for tens of thousands of miles without any adjustments at all – an ancient car will need maintenance/adjustments after just a few thousand miles. Oil and filter change intervals are shorter and ancient cars need annual or thereabouts tune-ups, something modern cars almost never need. Because modern cars are cleaner running and self-adjusting. The EFI system, for example, maintains the perfect air-fuel ratio, adjusted automatically. There is no choke to set. An ancient car will need to have its carburetor adjusted seasonally (spring and fall) its ignition timing checked … and so on.

None of the above is BigStuff, but it is stuff you’ll have to deal with more often. Modern cars have their own stuff, of course – and for some of us, the Ancient car’s stuff is preferable to deal with, probably because while there’s a lot of it (I will get into this in more depth in a follow-up article) it is in many ways less intimidating. Simpler, cheaper.

Which – for those of us who like ancient cars – is a big part of the fun of owning an ancient car!

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84 COMMENTS

  1. We’re just coming off a “Golden Age” of automobiles. Unlike “the good old days” we’ve had high power, good handling, good brakes, overdrive 4-6 speed transmissions, non-oil-burning engines, good fuel-mileage, good tires, low maintenance and high reliability (if chosen wisely). My many past years of GM products, out of necessity, turned into a major effort to keep them serviceable.

    Starting around 2013 the downward trend began in earnest – with turbos, direct injection, CVTs, small engines, auto start-stop, cylinder deactivation, and high cost. My take is that the last year of superior, modern automobile choices was 2012.

    • I agree, although I would dial that one back to about 2009 or 2010. As the result of my Subaru Legacy being such a piece of shit, I bought a 2005 Acura MDX for around $3800. It still has a huge gas guzzling V6, a regular (although chipped) key to get in, a 5 speed automatic transmission that still has a dipstick, a bunch of room, a vault like interior, and small B and C pillars that you can still see around. I feel like I’m driving the modern equivalent of the 1969-72 Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser. The car is simple to work on (compared to the newer cars), although the navigation/radio package is kind of dubious. I still have to disconnect the ONSTAR from the vehicle, but I suspect that I can do it without interfering with other vehicle operations.

  2. It is certainly a double edge sword. Both “modern” and “ancient” cars have their pluses and minuses. Modern cars are for the most part, quite reliable. Mechanical failure is not something you see much anymore. Usually that would be just from normal wear and tear now. Electrical components are very reliable these days, so realistically, I imagine there isn’t much trouble there either. But it is frustrating to many that you can’t fix cars yourself anymore. So much of it is computer and sensor controlled now. It is a blessing and a curse. I am curious as to the failure rate of the computer control boards on cars now, compared to say, 20 years ago. I bet that type of failure is way lower now (or close to non-existent).

  3. I have a ’72 Gran Torino that I drive fairly often. It is mostly stock, except for headers and heads from a 70 Mustang, and an Edelbrock carb and manifold. As Eric says about these cars, my Torino feels surprisingly modern, and handles very well. The 351C has plenty of power and I have no problem keeping up with the modern trafic flow. My only compaint; Gas mileage.

    • Hi Joe,

      Yup!

      And the mileage your Torino delivers would improve a lot with an OD four-speed automatic with a lock-up converter. My ’76 TA 455 is capable of averaging low 20s, exceptional mileage for what it is.

  4. eric just a few commetnts from a guy whos owned them all.on car n0 47 now.but the reason i m wrting this is back in the late 0 s and early 70 s the pollution control system consisted of an valve at the base of the carb .then in my 1970 cadillac coupe deville and i had two of them they were detuned so as to supposedly polkute less.i just got it and was on my way to florida from illinios for winter vacation.we got stuck in a traffic jam because of a fire on i75 sat there for at least 1hr with engine running and air on.when i got to pompano bch .it ran terrible had to have a tune up for $120.00 wasn t covered under warranty.when i got back to illinios it did the same thing.i worked for sears and we had a great mechanic in our auto shop he had me bring it in and he went to work retunning it .not to factory specs but to get performance.and it ran great with that 472 engine .he reset the timing/ dwell and adjusted the 4b carb.by changing the jets and lifting the float .so the engine was nt starving.and millage improved as if that was important at .23 cents a gallon.

  5. Some good ,some bad ,talk about fun ,try to put a set of points in an old Y-Block Ford jammed against the firewall(it was mostly done by feel,repeat every few thousand miles)plus that great sub teens gas mileage.Ah the shuddering and jerking when the clutch was released and not to mention the great front engine motor mount . Reminisce all you want ,its not quite “Fury Road ” yet . But the baling wire set can keep some of these old things going ,but if the infrastructure collapses what will anything burn ? gasp ,home brew alcohol ?
    Dont kid yourselves ,work to at least keep the status quo and bask in the glory of the old “skunkwagons ” and boy ,I mean these things literally stink,I followed a early sixties Falcon down the road and I couldnt believe how much pollution that thing put out (at least from an bouquot standpoint anyway ).So if they werent so dang expensive and hard to fix ,I would go with modern .

    • Hi Kevin,

      There is a “sweet spot” – a point in time at which cars were modern enough… but not too modern, in terms of complexity and cost. I would peg this sweet spot as being – roughly – late 1960s through the early ’90s.

      A ’60 or ’70s era American car is surprisingly modern in terms of basic design – and can be updated easily and inexpensively in a few key areas to be extremely everyday drivable and behave very much like a ’90s-era car.

      Anything older than mid-late ’60s-era is, I agree, more of a challenge and that gets more so the farther back in time you go.

      • Dear Eric,

        Long story short?

        Many of us wish car manufacturers were making ancient cars today right off the assembly line.

        I would love to buy any number of late 60s, early 70s cars, manufactured new in 2016, to the exact same specs they were back then.

        I would be happy to do without electric windows, electric door locks, air bags, traction control, etc.

        If they sold for the same relative prices that they sold for back then, I would not hesitate for one minute.

      • I’d gladly pay the $18,000 for a new ’93 Chevy one ton ext. cab 4WD diesel with all the whistles and bells. The only Chevy windows I ever had a problem with were a couple crank style 70’s Chevy’s. And fixing them lasted a year or so and then do it over. The only problem I’ve had with a Silverado was one window switch that was easy to replace and cheap to procure. That whole pickup had a grease zerk for everything that moved…..except the windows and doors and replacing door bushings was cheap cheap cheap if they ever needed them and easy to replace. My doors got to the point on one pickup that they felt like they needed some tightening even though it had fairly new bushings. I bought new door gaskets that made the doors so tight you had to push them shut and made the pickup really quiet once more. The replacement gaskets seemed to be a bit larger than the original.

        If I could buy a new pickup like that I could make a couple grand off each one and sell them as fast as they could be delivered. BTW, the 11.5″ ring gear rear-ends are virtually unbreakable.

        • Show me a new W123 non-turbo diesel for $30k and I would snatch it up in a heartbeat.

          Actually, you can buy a “new” Jeep CJ7 if you can build it yourself since repro bodies are being produced. Any motor you want, any transmission you want, any transfer case, any gearing, any axle, any suspension…just pick and choose then assemble. Ends up being around the same price as a new Wrangler.

      • I purchased my 1978 Impala in January 1978. I have talked to policemen who wish it was back. I have a nice nestegg from keeping it in repair by myself. I ran my maintenance business with it. A 2×4 fits across the interior. A 4×8 plywood fits in the trunk with a couple of feet sticking out. Six people fit just fine. I hope Donald Trump brings them back. Best car ever made in my view.

      • Ford starting in 2011 began selling “new” 1965 Mustang convertibles again. Well at least the steel body of them. You have to put it together yourself.

        http://www.torquenews.com/1070/ford-will-sell-1965-mustang-convertibles-again

        So its sort of “possible” to build a “new” old car. It’s the same body as the real 60’s model but with modern rustproofing, today’s steel and welding. So its got the good improvement of the last 40 years.

        The problem, the body still costs $15k. So you still have to come up with an engine, trans, paint, wiring, interior, convertible top, exterior trim, labor etc. I would guess it would be hard to spend less then 60k, more likely 100k if you got nothing.

        Maybe there would be a market for such retro new vehicles if normal everyday cars start costing 50-60k, which seems to be more likely the way things are going.

          • Maybe you can get “classic car” insurance on one you build. That still leaves people with 15 year old cars that are perfect out in the insurance void. You can’t get full coverage so if it gets much damage at all you pay to fix it or chunk it. To be honest, I don’t think it needs to be much over 10 years old to be outside of full coverage.

            I was denied comprehensive once so I went to the agency and said I had a lot into the vehicle, showed them receipts of new shocks, new pieces and parts of the steering, new driveshafts, new paint job, etc. So they looked at it and couldn’t believe it’s age. The women kept saying it looks brand new on the inside too. That wasn’t a fluke nor was the outside or the running gear. They “allowed” me to buy comprehensive on it but reneged 2-3 years later.

            • If you build something from a dynacorn body you’re looking at specialty insurance company. Even if you drive it everyday. It is highly unlikely a big consumer insurance company would know what to do with it. Some might have a department for such things but I would not count on it.

              • Interesting, whether a VIN is on these bodies and reported to a state, as all normally manufactured vehicles are. Since it’s just a “part” it shouldn’t have a VIN.

                • There are no VINs for these. There are two ways to deal with it.
                  1) You own a car that’s beyond normal repair and you move the vin and probably most of the parts over to the new body.
                  2) You follow your state’s kit car/home built rules and get a generated VIN.

                  • “2) You follow your state’s kit car/home built rules and get a generated VIN.”

                    Thanks – I was unaware of some “rules”.

    • I know purchase price and maintenance price seems expensive, but when comparing it to the $20k plus car that will lose virtually all it’s value in years, where as classics appreciate over time in general, there’s no reason in my opinion not to have a “modern classic” car.

      And besides, nothing sounds quite like a flathead these days. Something about the gurgling anemic V8 that can warm anyone’s soul, fuel economy and emissions be damned.

      • Hi AJ,

        If I ever get out of the hole I’m in, I want to buy a mid-late ’70s El Camino and use it for my daily driver (when I am not test driving new cars). I’d like one with a stock (not modified) 305 or 350, which I’d tune for optimum mileage and good performance and to which I’d bolt a modern four-speed overdrive automatic.

        With a properly dialed in Quadrajet four barrel carb, this combo would be a blast to drive, very economical to drive – and free of all the Uncle-mandated and too-complex/too-expensive crap that comes standard with every new car…

        • A buddy of mine did restomod on a C10 pickup and spent $12k and turned it into a decent “10 footer” and put a fuel injected 305 in it. That’s the only part of the truck he regretted because everything aftermarket was geared towards a 350, according to him.

          Can’t fault you on anything else though, and small block Chevy’s really are a perfect “freedom motor”.

          Re: complex crap, my brother in law’s Prius wouldn’t start the other day because it “sensed” low voltage in the 12 volt battery, and the computer decided to not allow the car to attempt to start. Sad to need a jump from a carbed Honda when your car has batteries strong enough to drive the entire car…

  6. One point you missed about “ancient” cars (not criticizing, just pointing out), is that if you have basic knowledge on how they work, you can MAKE parts for them or cross fit non-OEM parts to work. i.e. “Box” air filters can be swapped for a piece of sponge so long it flows similarly enough as to not disturb the jetting, alternator/generators can be rewound with household copper wire, gaskets can be punched out of cardboard boxes soaked in semi hardening sealer, water pumps and brake master cylinders can be machined out and rebuilt, even piston rings can be fabricated relatively easily with tools any local machine shop should have.

    While it is obvious there are convenience advantages new technology brings (I do hate it when my float bowl sticks or adjusting points), I believe many new cars have so much “disposable” technology that people have become so dumbed down that the mechanical essence and beauty of the machine has been largely and the car culture has been transformed into a plug and play accessorizing hobby, rather than one of ingenuity and innovation. One time use headgaskets, TTY bolts, crush washers for oil drain plugs, non rebuildable clutch assemblies, single piece valve covers/pcv valves, I can’t think of any reason these parts should exist except for planned obsolescence.

    There are common sense glory days of yesteryear long gone that the modern car has long since destroyed.

      • Not to get your hopes up, but I am the only classic car loving libertarian minded millennial I know, and the only one I know that still has a carburetor on their daily driver. Maybe it’s a bit pessimistic of me to think it (admittedly a problem with my generation), but I have little hope for common sense to return to the motoring world.

        Will stay the course though!

  7. I really like older Benzes, eighties vintage.
    I own 4 different ones, but I own a shop which is a huge advantage.
    The W126 model is a fine car and performs well if properly maintained.

  8. Eric,

    You did not mention one “crucial ” advantage of an ancient car. They should continue to run after an EMP attack. That’s the only reason I actually consider buying and maintaining one. Many newer cars might continue to run. But we won’t know for sure till after it happens.

    Now an EMP attack would cause other HUGE problems, too.

    Still, vehicular mobility would be a very good thing to have. 🙂

        • Thanks, Brian!

          I used to… but not in years. Too little free time. I work pretty much seven days a week. When not working on the rants/web site/radio, I have the place (including all our beasts) to care for. The car – and bikes – mostly just sit….

        • I’ve always loved the style of the 1500 Spitfire, but I swear those front bumper overrides are hideous. They look like a cheap bra a equally cheap whore would prance around in. 🙂
          But still better then what MG did to the B’s!

          • Hey man, I’ve always had a thing for cheap whores!

            Yeah, they are ugly, but pretty far down the list of things I want to change. I’ve seen some conversions to the old style, chrome overrides, so I may look into that.

            After I make it go faster!

          • My 77 El Camino has those crash absorbing bumpers. When I rebuild it I’ll cut the mounts and move them back in. Makes all the difference in the world and still looks stock. If I could find a Laguna front end I’d go that route and just moved the rear bumper in…..which doesn’t stick out as much as the front.

            Another thought I’ve had is to use the IFS from an early 90’s 1/2 T 4WD pickup. Don’t know how far I’d have to raise the whole thing though. Maybe very little using the torsion bar suspension. It would make the sorry county dirt road a lot easier when it’s just mud. Not that the P trac on it doesn’t work fine, it would just let the whole thing get up on top and not have to sling so much mud.

              • eric, it has the tow package so everything including springs are larger, even brakes, wheels, driveshaft, u-joints,radiator, etc. I stuck some coil-over shocks on the rear to keep the ride height low and still have the advantage of hauling heavy loads. A friend used to tow a 5th wheel RV with his. If the old lady, who drove it almost exclusively, and would never wash it, had just washed the underside or if I’d noticed where the bottom panel rolls around and is spot welded to the rest of the body, the place where somebody had squeezed out some holes for exhaust hangars, it would still be good as new. It won’t take much work to fix the floor I hope. She also let the rear sheet metal behind the rear wheels rust out, something that is virtually unseen on a west tx. vehicle of any sort. She drove it through the really rainy 80’s. She still treats her cars that way. I don’t always have time to keep them clean and back then I had 3 pickups to deal with……that stayed clean even if I was out there at midnight washing the mud out from underneath. I wouldn’t wash the entire thing but just getting all that glop off really saves one. Mine generally had cowshit mixed in, a real metal eater.

                If you want one in decent shape you wouldn’t mind putting some money into, just this and that’s, I can probably find you one. In 1976 we always went to the local bar, the Buckboard, and I saw a ’70 model with half ton Chevy 4WD under it. It was tall but got through any mud according to the owner. That would have been a great factory option.

                I see the newer ones more often that are still in good shape and they’re pretty good tow and haulers in their own right.

    • Nicest NashRambler I ever saw and an awesome color too. Does it have the big six. Really nice body seriously. Verrrry smooth.

        • The seats are grandmother sofas with springs in them, they`re terrible compared to modern cars 😀 I`ve done thousand kilometer trips in this car, and the seats are actually my biggest complain (and that the 2 liter precombustion diesel without turbo makes it the second slowest vehicle on planet earth, right after horse buggies – but that`s the price you have to pay for them to last so long I guess: in their museum in Stuttgard Mercedes has a diesel w123 with 4.7 million kilometers on it, racked up as a taxi in Greece). It is one of the best built cars ever, really the pinnacle of quality, even for Mercedes, and this one has never been driven in winter, so it`s 100% rust free. Plus mine is a plain Jane without any extras, so there`s not much to break. And back then, like today, you had to pay extra for everything in a Mercedes. It doesn`t even have a right rear view mirror 😀

          • A friend had one that looked just like that back in the 70’s and it ran on propane. I guess it was originally a gasoline engine.

          • Huh. I remember them being awesome. Of course, that actually was in the ’80s! They reminded me of Volvo seats (which were also spring seats).

            The rust was the downfall of that car here. I see very, very few of them anymore.

            Oh, and right side mirrors are overrated. ????

  9. Someone needs to get the knowledge the old-timers have on how to adjust and/or rebuild a carb onto Youtube, so that it’ll be available for reference.

    • I agree, Chip. I plan to do that kind of thing… when I have money for a decent camera (Go Pro)… but I’m living a Tight life right now…

      • go pro has a wide angle lens and it’s user interface well…. sucks. After a year the clock battery in mine is dead which means the time resets every time I pull out the main battery. This is after it having a charged main battery in it 95% of the time or more.

        It’s probably the wrong sort of camera for a carb how-to.

          • From what I have heard, the camera does not need to be real high resolution for YouTube. But you should spend a few extra dollars and get a lapel mike because the built in mikes aren’t great and don’t always pick up well.

          • I don’t have any recommendations for how to videos. Probably could get some clues from amazon reviews. The go-pro is an ‘action cam’ so it’s good for well having a camera running on a bicycle, motorcycle, car, etc. The UI is straight out of the mid 1980s where you have two buttons to work through various menus. It’s like an old VCR. If you want one camera to do both, then yes the go-pro can do the how to’s, just have to deal with the wide angle.

            On second thought there might be some non-wide angle ones that get used for things like Jay Leno’s show. My guess those are more money if they exist.

          • Eric,

            If you have a friend (or a way to hold the camera in place) the mobius camera (http://www.mobius-actioncam.com/) is decent. Depending on what you chose to get, you can get a camera for ~$100 or less. In a well lighted environment, I think the pictures are good.

            Here is a sample video (http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x2g1fqf_clover-can-not-wait-its-turn_auto).

            A sample at dusk: (http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x2dtds2_driver-not-sure-where-to-turn_auto)

            You will need to practice where to hold the camera to get the view you want since the camera does not have a way to see what you are recording. You will need a computer to view the image files.

            I use my camera primarily while driving, but I think it could be used to create videos for youtube. The sound is decent. I would think it would be fine in the garage.

            I am not sure about the field of view, but it has two settings (Narrow and Wide) . I think narrow would give you an image with little if any distortion.

    • Old-timers, god bless em all. In my twenties I was just on the mainland coming back from Galveston and saw a big cloud of smoke and it was my truck. It had a new engine, a custom made Cummins and there was an oil line broken off, too much torque on the fitting and it finally cracked and broke off. So I’m off on the side of 45, cab jacked up, tools out and the wife standing there thankfully not pointing out the obvious problem. I didn’t know the different ports on a Cummins but an old trucker pulled over. He looked it over and said the line was simply an oil return line I didn’t have to have till I could get to a shop. No hope for the piece broken off in the block where the line came off so I was wondering what to do. This guy steps over to a mesquite tree, cuts off about 3″ of a limb and whittles it down to where the end just barely fits in the hole and has it trimmed where it got larger up the limb. He took a hammer and drove it in and said ‘You should be ready to go”. I reached in and fired it up……no leak, none at all. Gee thanks and he just says glad to help. I went to a shop in Houston where finally they got to me. A young guy in fatigues in there and he looks at it and gets an ease-out and doesn’t tap it in but drives hell out of it, into that heavy fitting that was probably grown in there. He grabs a big-ass adjustable wrench he puts on it. He starts to turn and I holler at him to stop. No way that plug was coming out, esp the way he jammed it with that ease-out. Ping, goes the ease-out and he looks down at the rest of it in his hand and the other end broken off smooth. Shit, I said, that won’t ever come out. He says he’ll drill it. I had my doubts and there turned out to be not a twist in the shop that would even shine that piece of ease-out much less drill it. There was another return port with a plug in it and one of the old hands told him to take it out and put the line into that port. When it was finally said and done, another guy comes over and brazes that broken port shut. All this took hours since the guy they put on it was so incompetent.

      We got out and it was nearly midnight. My wife said. You can always tell by what happens when it’s your birthday. No shitsky. I nearly got killed on my next birthday. For years I wouldn’t do much of anything on my birthday. We got to Austin that night just in time for the hardy party crowd to be in high gear. We fell right in.

      A couple months ago I was working on a road project and had to drive down a really bad road several times a day. I got to the interstate going back, hit the brakes and lost air pressure like crazy. An easy find, an easy fix. I whittled down a big plug of mesquite and drove it into the air line that should have been attached to the brake chamber. That wasn’t the first time I’d used that trick on lots of things but I still said a “thank you” to that guy, wherever he may be. I didn’t even cuss that much when I mashed the web of my hand that held the hose and fitting.

      • Hi Eight,

        I suppose I officially qualify now as one (an old timer) myself. I know how to adjust points and set a carburetor float. I know what a floor mounted dimmer switch is, too! 🙂

        • eric, when I went to the company I just got laid off from, everybody called me the old man. We’d all go for beer and they’d all buy some light crap with horrible taste and high prices while I’d have to hit several places to find some real beer. Some would be asking why I didn’t drink the same thing they did and somebody would say “He’s old school, drinks old man beer”. A couple times they ended up drinking my old school beer and got smashed. Shit man, that stuff is strong. Yep, it’s “old school” and you have to be an old fart to drink it.

          You might not think driving a big rig it’s such a hassle to use a stalk mounted dimmer but I hate the damned things. You have one hand(left) on the wheel and the other either on the shifter or the arm rest. Every time you have to use the dimmer you have to change hands and it’s a PITA. We had the dimmer go out on a truck and I just spliced in a floor mount switch for a few dollars and a few minutes of labor. That floor mount dimmer will last as long as ten of those shitty stalk mounted things. Driving a truck, you don’t have a damn thing to do with your left foot unless you’re pulling away from a stop or coming to a complete stop, something I avoid like the plague.

        • Eric,

          Floor mounted dimmer is cool.

          I remember having fun as a kid pretending to launch missiles or lasers with the tap of my foot. 🙂

          On a more serious note, unless the floor is rotted through, a floor mounted dimmer makes sense.

          Eightsouthman,

          I would ride all around town on my bicycle when I was young. Fun and practical.

  10. I recently bought an ancient car. 1978 Triumph Spitfire. Really just a street legal go-cart. As Jason mentioned, it came from GB with a miserable carb and other pollution control nightmares. Happily, those are but a distant memory.

    I like the process of diagnosing and fixing. It’s usually pretty simple, really. Also, it’s way more relaxed, as I’m not relying on the thing to get to work the next day. It’s also a great teaching tool for my son.

    The parts are easy, as there were so many of these things produced. In addition, there is a pretty good sized club in my area – plenty of old guys with a lot of knowledge.

    Ancient cars are the best!

    • Back in the early 80s Mother Earth News had some interesting plans. (I used to subscribe before I realized what tree-huggers they were)
      One was for a build it yourself car that would get 65mpg at 65mph, and up to 100mpg if driven ‘carefully.’ Basis was the rolling spine frame, including overdrive tranny, from a Spitfire. Power was from a 3-cyl. Kubota diesel lawn tractor engine. The clutch plate and pressure plate mated w/o any adapter. Then of course you had to fab your own fiberglass body. But hey, fun is fun, right?

        • I would really like to own a mid-late ’70s El Camino with a 305 or 350.

          I’d replace the three-speed automatic (no OD) these came with from the factory with a four-speed overdrive (700 or 2004R).

          Maybe headers for the V8, but stock/mild cam. Jet/tune, that’s it.

          It’d be fun, easy on gas and very useful.

          My Trans-Am is amazingly “modern” feeling (except for the brakes, which are marginal) with similar mods. Even with 3.90 gears and a performance cam in the 455.

          • And what is ‘greener’ than repurposing an ancient vehicle? There is way more to it than gas mileage. Manufacturing energy, transportation, etc. The greenies should do some research on the manufacturing process for their precious batteries. It’s ugly. Gonna take many years of good gas mileage and zero emissions to counterbalance that mess.

            Your T/A and my Spitfire are the ecological wonders, not the fucking Prius.

            Hey! We’re environmentalists, not just car nerds!

            • No, it doesn’t matter to any of these Virtue-signalling smug EV/Hybrid driving morons whether their car had to consume fuel or despoil someone else’s land to build and ship their shiny new vehicle, not at all. Only that it doesn’t emit fumes in their precious garage. I swear, their definition of superiority to us Diesel users is that they can have their car on in a confined space and not suffocate. That’s their standard of “environmental friendliness” and the basis for their superior, smug, attitude.

              • Warp, shit man, amen. Like Yeti said, no way will they ever research and look at the pics of the country and the fouled waterways and dumps with really fucked up people living there, fucked up from all the pollution. Just as long as they can say to their artsy-fartsy friends at the school and the club(s) how their Prius gets fantastic mileage regardless they traded in a perfectly good automobile that got excellent mileage but wasn’t on the “green list”.

                I have friends like that and they think they somehow don’t have the “carbon footprint” of all those other people out there and can’t say enough shit about diesels. They don’t realize what the price of living would increase to without diesels.

                Funny that none of these guys ever rode a bike like I did for decades. No way would they have pedaled everywhere they went. I notice no truckers carry a bike on their truck anymore. it used to be a common sight. I don’t recall anything in the DOT book that forbids a pedal powered addition on the back.

    • Hi Yeti,

      I feel the same way about my ’76 Pontiac (and the many other ancient cars I have owned). It’s analogous in a way to an old corded wall phone vs. a modern sail fawn. Sure, the sail fawn can take video and store pictures and does almost everything except give you a back rub, but it’s also a pain in the ass to make (and continue) a phone call. The call gets “dropped” or you “lose service” or there is some other problem. This never happened with corded wall phones. Always worked, always loud and clear.

      The corded wall phone was uncomplicated, inexpensive – and it effing worked.

      Unlike sail fawns!

    • I’m replacing intake gaskets (massive vacuum leak going on) today on a 1980 porsche 911 sc, 3.0L N/A motor with the CIS fuel injection setup. Gonna find out if it can be done w/o dropping the motor…

  11. Actually the late 1970s/early 1980s was a transition period. Some cars of that period did indeed have computers, working with an O2 sensor and an electronic carburetor. (The worst of both worlds!) On at least some of these systems the engine computer also controlled ignition timing. Electronic ignition (no points) was pretty much universal on American cars by 1975.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AMC_computerized_engine_control

    • Hi Jason,

      Yes, there were a few prior to 1980 … the Cadillac Seville was one…. but EFI/computer management wasn’t mass produced/common until the early-mid ’80s, I’m pretty certain.

      You’re right about points. GM went to HEI circa 1974, IIRC.

      • Yes, fuel injection wasn’t common on domestic U.S. products until well into the 1980s, and many of those were throttle-body units rather than port injection. (Computer-controlled feedback carbs came in right around 1980.)

        There were a couple of abortive attempts at using EFI in the late 1950s. AMC planned to use EFI in the 1957 Rebel but it was pulled at the last minute due to reliability concerns. Chrysler did sell a handful of 1958 models with EFI but nearly all were later retrofitted with carbs.

        http://www.allpar.com/cars/desoto/electrojector.html

        Detroit didn’t go there again for decades. (Of course there was the early Chevrolet fuel injection system but that was mechanical, not electronic.)

        I think the first domestic cars with standard electronic ignition were Chrysler products for 1973. Within a couple of years all the U.S. manufacturers went that way.

      • Yes, the 76 Seville was powered by a fuel-injected 350 V8 engine. For 79 that same engine was dropped into the restyled, “downsized” GM E bodies (Eldorado, Riviera, Toronado). For 81, and for that year alone, came the V8-6-4’s. We referred to it jokingly as the “7-5-3”, as there were lots of problems, and the engine was dropped for 82. My dad was a GM franchisee back then, so I remember that era well. 🙂

        • My dad had a 78 model. It was arguably GMs best styled car of the era. Possibly ever. I don’t believe it had a feedback O2 sensor. For emission control it had an EGR, a catalytic converter, and a hell of a lot of vacuum lines.

          The only problem with that car was that the engine was anemic and it didn’t have a 4 speed automatic. To get the gas mileage that the MARKET was demanding at the time, it had 2.56 gears as I remember it. It made the car positively sluggish around town.

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