Here is the latest reader Question, along with my reply:
Chuck asks: I just read your article about older cars and loved it. I have a “vision” of buying 1980s vintage Civics and rebuilding them from the ground up . . . and have a fleet of 50+mpg cars for not a ton of money or expensive batteries. Also, had a ’74 Alfa Romeo spyder and it was wonderful . . . added electronic ignition (CDI from moto days) and it came with mechanical fuel injection . . . ran like a champ with little work until I used Slick50 and killed the mechanical injectors and eventually sold it for junk when I didn’t have time to fix it. What are some good old sports cars with electronic and fuel injection you would suggest?
My reply: Almost any older car that originally came with a carburetor can easily (and fairly inexpensively) be retrofitted with a stand-alone throttle body (TBI) fuel injection system. Many of these aftermarket TBI units are capable of self-adjusting to the particular engine they’re installed on; meaning, you don’t have to dial them in, adjusting mixture and so on.
Personally, I’d stick with the carburetor – because it is simpler and much less expensive. Assuming the carburetor isn’t physically damaged, a rebuild kit usually costs less than $75 and – properly installed – will return the unit to as-new condition. Many carburetors can be tuned to perform as well as EFI, in terms of cold start performance, throttle response and so on.
In my opinion – and your mileage may vary – the most meaningful old car upgrades are: Replacing points with transistorized ignition and replacing an older car’s non-overdrive transmission with a later-model transmission that does have overdrive.
The ignition upgrade is easy – and cheap. Pertronix is one company (there are several) that makes “drop in” points replacement kits that let you use the stock/factory distributor body. Once installed, you have a much more reliable and far less maintenance-needy ignition system.
The OD transmission swap is also usually very easy – and makes the car drive so much like a modern car it’s almost unreal. Much improved mileage – and less wear and tear. Engine RPMs on the highway will usually be reduced by 800-1,000 RPM.
It’s an immediately noticeable and significant difference!
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Got a question about cars – or anything else? Click on the “ask Eric” link and send ’em in!
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