Here are the latest Reader Qs, along with my answers:
I have a 2004 Saturn Ion which still runs well but the body and plastics are falling apart. I would like to buy and old, circa ’60’s early ’70s, car or pickup and have it repaired to running condition; not customized and detailed. It appears I’ll have less in that approach than buying a new car.
I’ve had a lot of suggestions on what I should upgrade – electronic ignition, e.g. I grew up tuning a car with a screwdriver and ignition files, so that doesn’t bother me. What would you suggest and recommend?
Most ’60s and many early-mid ’70s cars will still have contact points ignition systems; these are simple and very inexpensive but the downside is having to adjust the point gap pretty frequently (assuming a regular/daily driver).
A really good – simple and cheap – upgrade is to drop in a transistorized conversion (Pertronix, etc.) that retains the stock distributor and coil but replaces the point plate/points with a modern/transistorized module. It all but eliminates routine ignition adjustment (you will still want to check timing every six months or so) and makes the car much more everyday drivable.
I’ve made this modification to several of my own vehicles. Money well-spent.
Another modification that makes these older cars much more everyday drivable is to swap out the factory non-overdrive transmission for a more modern transmission that has an overdrive gear and (if it’s an automatic) a lock-up torque converter. Big improvement in gas mileage as well as reduction in wear and tear on the engine as a result of lower operating RPMs.
There is usually a bolt-in transmission available and it will not require a computer, usually.
I have such a transmission in my ’76 Trans-Am. I installed a 2004R automatic (four-speed, with overdrive and lock-up converter) in place of the original non-OD tranny. No cutting or adapters were needed. It bolted right in. The car cruises at about 2,200 RPM at 70… with a 3.90 ring and pinion. With the factory transmission, the engine would be screaming at about 3,300 at 65.
Despite being more than 40 years old, my TA feels and drives very much like a modern performance car.
Other worthwhile upgrades include: More modern brakes (especially if the car originally had drums at all four corners) and minor suspension tweaks such as replacing the factory rubber bushings with less squishy polyurethane.
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