Latest Reader Question (Nov. 6, 2017)

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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!

. . .

Got a question about cars – or anything else? Click on the “ask Eric” link and send ’em in!

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  1. I’d recommend an older Datsun Z car, 70-78. The inline six in very tough. The fuel injection never gave me a problem, although you can stick with 70-74 if you want a carb (well, dual carbs). Simple to work on. And if you can find a wrecked/rusted 79-83, the engine and transmission plops right in; I put an ’83 engine + 5 speed transmission into a ’78 – best combo I ever drove for the older Zs.

    Beware, though, they are VERY prone to rust. The body may look passable but there were several frame/unibody spots that will cost many-o-$$$ to repair. If you buy one, don’t drive it on salted roads, even though it’s balanced quite well enough to handle snow with proper tires.

    Now you have me wanting one – I saw one in a used car lot on the way to work….


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