The Road Warrior Didn’t Have OnStar

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It is probably a very good idea to learn how to adjust – and rebuild – a carburetor. To set point gap, even. Neither of which is a bad thing – because it will mean the restoration of control over your car.

And your finances.

You will no longer find yourself prostrate before electronics and beholden to a dealership. No “user agreement” – and no Big Brother, either. The car moves – or not – according to your wishes exclusively and can be maintained and serviced by you, exclusively. This will be important when dealerships disappear – or when your ability to pay a dealership disappears.

It may be even more important when the government decides to turn off the “connected” cars of modernity, or uses their connectedness to monitor/limit how you’re allowed to drive, Because Corona (or some other thing).

The Road Warrior didn’t have OnStar.         

But only if you buy an older car.

An antique car, actually.

This is more than merely a car eligible for those black-and-white “antique” tags available in most states; it is usually the case that any car 25 years old or older (on a rolling basis) is eligible for them. But 25 years ago was 1995 – and 1995 model year cars are fully modern. They didn’t have eight air bags, of course (though most did have at least two) but all of them have electronic fuel injection and computer-controlled engine management systems that require “diagnostic” computers – which most people don’t have – to service.

The GM models from that era also have OnStar, by the way.

You will want to focus your search on cars (and trucks) made before circa 1987, which was – more or less – the last year a new car was sold without some form of fuel injection, which also meant some form of computer control.

EFI means electronics and elaborate systems that are far less DIY-amendable than cars without fuel injection and computers.

To be truly clear – and free – you will want to look at cars made before 1980, which was around the time of the transition from purely mechanical systems to partially (then entirely) electronic ones. Some of these transition-era cars – circa 1981-1987-ish – will still have carburetors but they will be electronically controlled carburetors and these are actually even more of a pain, DIY-wise, than the early EFI systems – in part because they’re clumsy but also because by now finding service parts for them may be really tough.

And will soon become much tougher, as the system implodes and it’s no longer possible to head down to NAPA or AutoZone for the part you need to keep it running.

But you’ll have everything you need to keep it running – for decades – if you have a car (or a motorcycle) with a purely mechanical fuel-delivery system, especially if you buy – and store – a rebuild kit for when the need arises.

The rebuild kit will contain the small parts – such as needle and seat, float, accelerator pump and gaskets – necessary to take a carb from old and tired to functionally good-as-new, which is something you cannot do with throw-it-away (and replace it with new) EFI, when it stops working. And the rebuild kit will cost you less than $100 – in return for which your carburetor will be ready for another 10-15 years of reliable service. The carburetor itself – the physical casting – can usually be rebuilt several times and – assuming you start out with a good one – ought to last longer than you will, probably.

I have several vehicles – cars and motorcycles – with carburetors that date to the Nixon presidency. Tricky Dick is in the dirt. The carburetors installed when Tricky Dick was in the White House are still doing what they were doing when Nixon was saying aroo! And will likely be still doing it 40 years from now – by which time we may have recovered from the manufactured “Corona Crisis.”

Only simple tools – and a basic understanding of mechanical principles – are needed to keep a carbureted car operational. And not just the carburetor. The entire car – if it’s a pre-1980 car – is mostly a mechanical device, unconnected and uncontrollable except by you. The engine will never tun itself off. The steering wheel will never turn – unless you turn it. The brakes slow the car down when you decide it’s time to slow down.

There are no microphones – let alone facial recognition systems. No air bags, either. It is just a car – and just you.

There are few simple electronic things to deal with, such as the ignition system, headlights and so on. But these are simple things, easily and inexpensively maintained by you, at home.

Such a car may be very desirable to have in the months and years ahead, as the controlled demolition of the American economy proceeds and along with it, the ability of the average person to afford anything “modern” that requires specialization (tools and skills) or lots of money to keep it running.

Leaving aside the desirability of leaving Big Brother by the side of the road, at last – there is something very desirable about a return to vehicular independence. And to financial independence.

From the era of the Model T through about 1980, cars were affordable, simple things that didn’t consume a third or more of a typical American’s take-home pay to buy and which the average American could mostly fix himself.

And which Americans controlled, themselves.

They were also fun things, free of the stifling homogeneity imposed by the Safety Cult. For example, have a look at the Subaru BRAT I profiled recently (here). It had rear-facing jumpseats installed in the bed. Much more fun than six air bags and a back-up camera.

Going back to that might not be a bad thing at all. It might end up being one of the few good things to come out of this “crisis.”

But better get on it. Unlike modern cars – which are constantly being made (well, they were being made). There are only so many 1980 and older cars still available. And the price of these – unlike the cost of modern cars – is going to rise as people start buying the ones still available up.

Get one, while you still can. And before it’s too late.

. . .

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  1. An old car is an excellent way to get stuck by the road. I get it – theyre cool – sound great etc but at the end of the day I just want to get home. I’ve bought a few. I never trusted any of them to get me home safely.
    Maybe if youre a billionaire you can swing getting one constantly serviced or an old/new a 160K 1967 mustang.

    • Hi Mark,

      It is not necessary to be billionaire to drive an old car “safely.” What you do need is a degree of attentiveness – and a little mechanical common sense. Modern cars are designed to be idiot-proof. Regular checks/adjustments are much less necessary But when they fail, you won’t get home. The old car does need to be checked/adjusted more often – but these checks/adjustments are mostly very simple, such that anyone who can perform an oil change is capable of performing them. You develop a relationship with your car this way. Become attuned to it. Know it. So when it needs a little something, you can deal with it yourself, probably. The modern car? Forget it. You have a sailphone that rolls. When it stops rolling, you aren’t going anywhere.

    • When you’d see cars broken down on the side of the road back in the day, it was almost always due to something very simple- like the solenoid (Remember when cars only had one?!) or the points- which could be remedied easily enough on the side of the road with a screwdriver and or a few small, cheap spare parts carried in the glove compartment. Trouble was, even though the cars were so simple, the average person often just didn’t have a clue.

      Today’s cars have eliminated those small electro-mechanical things that used to come out of adjustment or break once in a while….so on a day-to-day basis they seem more reliable- but when something on them does break…it can cost THOUSANDS to fix (Touch screen; ECM….), and if it breaks while on the road, ya won’t be fixing it for $15 and the turn of a screwdriver- and it’s pointless to carry spare parts now…as there are so many sensors and relays and modules, it’d cost thousands to carry the array of them, since you never know which one is going to be needed until it takes a dump.

      With old cars, assuming you start out with something that’s in good shape/has been reconditioned, just a little preventative ,maintenance will ensure they don’t break down…and that maintenance is simple and easily doable…and costs a fraction of what the equivalent would cost on a modern vehicle. (Many people back in the day avoided doing any maintenance, and would just drive a car until something went wrong…there would have been far fewer breakdowns had people been more diligent about maintenance. When I was a kid, the vast majority of adults I grew up around, never even changed their oil…. Today people say “Yeah, you’re lucky if an engine used to last 100K miles”- yeah…try noit changing the oil in a modern engine, and see how long it lasts! 😀 )

      • The very reason I’m building a mechanical only pickup. Never had anti-lock brakes cause me to wreck before they came along.

  2. A video posted Feb 22nd

    We won’t see Bevin Chu on here for a bit. I imagine he’d like to keep on living relatively free.

    China is calling the tunes now world wide. 1/5 humans is Han Chinese these days. Now that we’re all having a good taste of what he would call the “chinese economic miracle.” How do you like sheltering in your address of official record? Any problems??

    Bevin Chu
    Veteran commentator on Sino-US relations at LRC, Antiwar
    Good Government is not intrusive the people are hardly aware of it

    the next best is felt yet loved

    then comes that which is known and feared

    the worst government is hated

    Mr. B. Chu 5 days ago as per a google-Colombia english-search which is what I use these days

    # # # # # # # # ## # # # # #

    … Laozi, China’s greatest sage, who showed the world The Way

    1,146 Answers by Chu on Quora

    14 Questions


    __Bevin Chu__, Veteran commentator on Sino-US relations at LRC, Antiwar
    Answered Apr 18..

    What does the Declaration of Independence say about secession?

  3. I’m of the mind that a Chevy(or anything else)with a pointless distributor and a Q jet is as good as it gets. I’ve seen those distributors so well over 300,000 miles and only need to be replaced when the bearings were so worn out you could see it moving with the engine running. I can’t wait to get my 93 Turbo Diesel going again. You might need to adjust the injection pump every 150,000 miles for maximum performance but you didn’t absolutely have to. Keep good oil and filters and greased and it will outlast an old fart like me. Somebody will be driving it after I’m gone. That doesn’t hurt my feelings a bit.

      • I see them every day and more of them. GM never intended to make that good a vehicle sorta like John Deere never dreamed my 68 4020 would still be running fine.

        • Eight, cat got your tongue? (That’s a reasonable assumption ’round your place!).

          Didja turn Jew, at the same time your keyboard decided to charge you by the stroke?

          • Nunz, got sick over a year ago. Can’t seem to get back to normal. Went to the doc, then ENT, then neurologist, oncologist twice. Tried phlebotomy for 5 months, no dice. Even eating small amounts makes me feel worse. Gonna try a CPAP. Right now it’s a crap shoot.

            • Aww, man, Eight! Sorry to hear of your decrepitude 🙂 Sounds like ya’ve done enough living already to burn through several normal lifetimes, so maybe ya just need a little rest now, before the next round!

              Eight, doctor don’t work for people like us. “Normal” people just go, and the butcher tells ’em “Ah! You have a classic case of _____. Just take these and scumbaag tomorrow and tit’ll be alright”.

              You or I go )and this is just memories from when I was a kid- when I used to actually go), and it’s always like “Duhj…errr..uhh..maybe ____. Try this…we’ll see”.

              I’d try a good vet. Might have to dress up like this
              ’cause Uncle don’t like it when we actually stand a chance of getting REAL efficacious treatment……

              Ah well, I hope ya feel better, or as they say in Texas “Keep the bugs outta yer grill” (Or was that Foghorn Leghorn?)

    • To be specific, I had a road hazard warranty on the tires on my Jeep, and ran one flat and ruined it.

      So I take it into the tire shop, and first they said “you get four new tires!” and then they said “uh-oh, they don’t make those 15″ tires anymore.” 🙁

      So, they are going to do right and substitute four larger LT tires, but I have to buy a new spare (I had five brand new tires!), plus pay some labor, and pay for a new warranty to start over.

      Not sure what the hell is going to happen to our little car that I had converted from 17″ to 15″ to get better ride and traction… maybe I will just trade it in for a 4wd/awd SUV hopefully before tires wear out or fail. I do still have those damn 17″ wheels with some /50 tires on them.

      So whatcha gonna do with your old carbureted cars with 15″ wheels ?????

  4. IMHO get an old rusty beater pickup off of Craigslist. Fix up the mechanical & upholstery (trucks are easy and flexible compared to cars). Mount some ugly Mad Max bumpers and a steel rifle rack in it. I had one 10 years ago as a daily driver on the LA freeways. Amazing how the usual tailgaters and assorted texting drivers will give you a wide berth when they think you don’t care and don’t have insurance. The empty rife rack is just icing on the cake. Now that I think about it… gotta go. Craigslist list is calling.

    • I had a well-beaten K20 Chevy. You could pull into a slot in a strip mall where the rich women go for various upscale places but there’d always be the radio repair shop or some similar I needed to go to. I’d pull up beside a new top of the line Bimmer or such and have some other luxury car on the other. When I’d exit the place, both those spaces would be empty. It never failed to make me laugh. Go ahead, run into that tank, smash that drill pipe bumper, give it hell. Watch out for that heavy pipe or piece of channel sticking out the back. The worst thing that ever happened to it was when the ball and chain tried to pull over the heavy pipe pump protectors at a convenience store. I detested those places with really short pump hoses but never had a problem turning around to fill the other tank. Anything that didn’t blink or move or make noise was subject to the wife running over it.

  5. I am fully on board with the idea of driving a simpler car without all the electronic government-tracking and economy geegaws.

    Unfortunately that’s a LOT harder to do than Eric makes it sound. Driving a pre-1980 car? That’s FORTY-plus years old. (To put that in perspective, it’s like driving a 1917 Model T instead of a V-8 Chevy BelAir in 1957). In the North, it’s pretty much impossible, as cars begin to rot out in as few as ten years and even the “long-lived” ones tend to be toast after 12-15 years in the salt.

    In the South, decent old cars can be pretty hard to find, too. Yes, there are more “older” cars on the road because they don’t use road salt, but many of those cars have the paint and the interior destroyed by the sun, and often a lot of dents and other damage. Poor people, particularly poor blacks, tend to drive older cars into the ground with minimum maintenance. I saw an old black guy driving a 1980 Ramcharger down in Georgia a couple of years ago… it had dents all over it and he had brush-painted it lime green with a can of Rust-oleum and it rolled down the road practically sideways on bad springs and bad ball joints. I’ve seen better cars in junkyards. When old Southern cars come up for sale they’re usually beat to hell and have 200,000 to 300,000 miles on them.

    If you DO manage to find the rare, half-decent, pre-1980 car that’s still serviceable, it is often going to be priced for somebody who wants a “classic” for restoration, not a daily driver.

    I have been very successful at driving older “fixer-uppers” for cheap most of my life… but it’s getting harder to do, and when the economy collapses and everybody is broke there is going to be a LOT of competition for people trying to do things simply and cheaply.

    • I don’t think it’s quite that dire. There’s a much bigger difference between a 1917 Model T and a 1957 Bel Air than there is between a 1970s car and those sold today. A 40-year-old car today will have no trouble keeping up with modern traffic or driving on freeways. You’d have had a lot more trouble doing that in ’57 with a Model T.

      Even in the rust belt the tinworm can be kept at bay with regular applications of oil or other antirust products underneath like Waxoyl or Fluid Film. My 1972 daily-driver has rust around the edges but is solid underneath. (See the latest issue of “Hemmings Classic Car” which has an article about a guy who drives an MG GT through Vermont winters! If you can keep one of those things from crumbling back into the earth it should be doable with just about anything.)

      The problem of course is finding a solid one these days at an affordable price. Cars that in the past you’d be hard-pressed to give away (I’m looking at you, Pacer) today go for thousands. Probably easiest to find deals on less popular, low-end 4-door models.

      • Probably the vehicle that best fits the description, Jason, is the old “KdF-wagen”, i.e., the Volkswagen “Kafer”, or “Beetle”, which, like the StG 44 (or “Sturmgewher”), is another legacy of Der Fuhrer himself. Sound examples can be had for not too much money, along with a wealth of parts, OEM and aftermarket. The only downside is that the top end on a Beetle isn’t there, i.e., even with a Porsche 5-speed transaxle and some creative “oomph”! or (“Raus”!) built into the engine, at least you’ll cruise at 75 mph…MAYBE. My 2020 Fusion, like my previous 2014 Focus, both not extraordinary vehicles, easily, on the trip on US 50 to see my “little goil” (before she recently embarked on her Mormon mission) in “Yew-Tah, made the stretch between Ely, NV and Delta, UT, in less than 1 hour, 40 minutes. The only places I slowed to less than 105 mph are the State line (where highway patrol from either state do go hand out at the border cafe) and one little pass in the mountains about 35 miles inside Utah itself. Other than that, it’s haul ass! And the engine (both 2.0 litre fours, save that the Fusion’s is turbocharged) was nary a-complaining, and was only turning 4800 rpms or so. If anything, I’d say if either car could have articulated, they would have THANKED me for letting them RUN a while!

    • The late 70s is when the options for things like front disc brakes became standard. If they have been kept up they are perfectly driveable in modern traffic. It’s the cars that didn’t have all the modern standard equipment that are a hassle and that’s only because so many other people on the road are inattentive and do things expecting your ancient car is able to stop like a new one. Of course modifications to add what the original owner didn’t get or weren’t available until later model years can resolve these issues for cars going back to about 1960.

    • I’m with you, X. How many pre-90’s cars do ya see on the road anymore, east of the Rockies? How many do ya see, period? 60’s and 70’s are a rarity; and unless your grandpa has one to give ya or sell ya cheap, they’re expensive for what they are; are rusty; have major issues, etc.

      99.9% of the good ol’ sedans were cannibalized for parts, and most of the less potent coupes were made into muscle clones…and just about everything that doesn’t fit into either of those categories was crushed. That, and the fact that many people didn’t change their erl or do any other maintenance back when those cars were common, made them rare even 25 years ago.

      I’ve been keeping my eyes out for many years for something- preferably something from the 60’s with a straight 6….but I’m flexible. Slim pickings. A few I considered over the years and passed on, were bought by others whom I knew in opne way or another….and those uinspectacular cars that went for $6-$8K always turned out to have major issues- like hidden rust, or totally wrecked electrical systems, or so many mechanical problems that they essentially needed a complete rebuild of all components to make them viable- but which would make one have so much into them, it just wouldn’t be worth it (And even more so if one were concerned with cosmetics/value). Virtually everyone I know who bought such cars ended up selling them for a loss within a few months- and usually after having done a good deal of work, and even painting them.

      It ain’t easy…and as the time flies by, it’s getting harder and harder. I’m to the point where I’d only consider something from out West- CA AZ NM…..but between shipping and the high prices western rust-free vehicles bring, it’s just not practical.

      We are so screwed!

        • 8, they all look good until ya get ’em…..then ya find that what ya thought was a great deal, was really scrap. I know a guy who’s been going to auctions for decades- only because he admits he’s a gambler. He loses about 95% of the time. He thinks he’s getting a good deal when he gets something cheap…but the way it works, if there’s anything halfway somewhat possibly decent…it’ll go for three times what it’s worth.

          Round here, ya look on Craigslist, ya see people not even bothering to take their “finds” off of the trailer….they figured out it’s not a keeper between paying the money and loading it; get home and figure they’ll try and get their money back before it’s even unloaded……

          • Nunz, when you see a nice looking vehicle, it’s only a matter of driving it and looking it over for an hour. I saw a decent 95K10. The interior was crap but that could have been fixed. I drove it and within a mile the transmission began screwing up and then got to the point where it was a max of 15 mph and it took me quite a while to make the square of 4 miles to get it back. The owner was with me and said his uncle has fixed the transmission, he’d have to look at it again. Of course he knew I didn’t care what he did after I got back to my pickup that ran fine.

            Buying one without driving it and looking it over will never be my style. I’ve seen some really nice looking pickups and the seller would say it’s cheap, it had no engine or no transmission or both.

  6. The great sci-fi author William Gibson wrote about a retro tribe who called themselves the LoTeks.

    We can join the LoTeks with vintage vehicles, whether carbureted or MS3’d with fuel injection (my personal preference).

    When it comes to the juice that goes through the carburetor or EFI, the market for crude oil has gone haywire.

    Yesterday, the May contract for West Texas Intermediate crude oil (1,000 barrels, deliverable at Cushing, Oklahoma) fell to a price of minus $37.93 a barrel. That is, the seller pays YOU to take it off his hands.

    Today the May contract expired. So sellers blitzed the June contract, driving it as low as $6.50 a barrel at mid-afternoon. It has doubled to $13.00 a barrel as I type.

    In automotive terms, the crude oil market has just thrown a connecting rod.

    Stay saaaaaaaaaaafe out there, comrades.

    Strange days have found us
    Strange days have tracked us down
    They’re going to destroy
    Our casual joys
    We shall go on playing
    Or find a new town

    — The Doors, 1967

    • Enjoy the cheap erl prices while we can….because what with them cutting production to a trickle, and the wholesale devaluing of the dollar by printing instant TRILLIONS overnight, when the lockdowns are over and demand returns….we’ll be paying $8 a gallon in the near future.

      Much as I hate the idear of owning stocks, I’m really tempted to buy some big erl/gas stocks now while they’re in the terlit.

      • Hey Nunz, isn’t it amazing that nearly everyone is concentrating on who is going to receive all the trillions in handouts while not considering for a nanosecond where that money is coming from. I don’t see a good end to this.

        • Heh, yeah, Jason- It just shows the ignorance and sheepishness of those around us, who are in the process of “getting the government they deserve”.

          They don’t know; they don’t care. You mention it to them, and you’re the bad guy because “you’re against free money”. Then when the effects manifest themselves, they will have lomng forgotten what WE said, and turn back to the thieves who caused the problem to “save them”; maybe a few will say “Why didn’t someone see this coming? Why was it allowed?”,

          And what really jills me is that those of us who were responsible, and who lived below our means, and eschewed debt, and saved, will be punished by the devaluing of our savings, while the indebted will likely benefit greatly, as much of the debt they entered into will likely be forgiven….POOGF! It’s gone.

          But I wll never play their game (And I know you won’t either)…..this is a time that tries men- and now, more than ever, we can’t let them cause us to adopt their ways and ruin our own character and principle. Let me be poor, I don’t care. But I will always be free and never play their illicit game. Things like this separate the men from the boys like a crowbar does in Greece!

      • Nunz, here’s a guy who is probably correct.

        The current situation on the oil market with too much supply and collapsing demand is similar to what happened in the middle of the 1980s when a glut led to oil prices staying low for 17 years, John Browne, who was chief executive at BP between 1995 and 2007, told the BBC on Tuesday.

        “The prices will be very low and I think they will remain low and very volatile for some considerable time,” Browne told the BBC, as carried by Reuters.

        “There is still a lot of oil being produced that is going into storage and not being used,” BP’s ex top executive said.

        • Could be right, 8, but don’t forget: This time, we’ve a unique situation- e.g. the lockdown- and it can’t last for too long- and while the long-term consequences of the “stimulus” and all will no doubt be disasterous, I think for the short-term, when the lockdown ends, and thus demand for gas comes roaring back overnight…..prices will explode. Buy low…when it explodes, sell high.

          Now I’m even more confident, ’cause I know if what the “experts” are saying is the opposite of what I’m saying, it’s a very good sign. You know the demand is going to come back…no question about it- but the supply will be greatly diminished….. The eggspurts tend to over-complicate things….but the simple supply/demand scenario is really what it’s all about.

          • Nunz, Rig Zone has had articles warning there was no place left to put petroleum or fuel. You can’t change the output of refineries to any great degree. It reminds me of the early 70’s when it was claimed we had no oil but everything that would hold fuel was full, only that was a scam. This is a real thing.

            • You could be right 8- you’re one to know. But that’s why it’s cheap now….I don’t think it’ll stay that way long, ’cause it wouldn’t pay to produce it if that were the case. I can’t do it though….I don’t want to be “invested” in any of those companies….even just for a few bucks.

              Maybe a big national gas retailer though….. Just till it goes back up. Gotta run it past my friend who used to own a small terminal. (He ended up tearing the tanks down and scrapping them a while back.

              • Nunz, it’ll stay cheap until this country runs again. I predict it will never run as before so it will take quite a while to return to a decent price.

                My neighbor is a pumper. He’s about to lose his job even though a couple months ago he was told the company was in good shape, there would be no lay-offs. Obviously a small (and I don’t think it even takes a big company)company can’t foresee the US being turned into a totalitarian fascist state overnight. Probably the military will use even more but that won’t help much since they use as much as the rest of the nation.

                I’m gonna try to grow all the veggies I can this year(waiting on seeds) and try to talk some cotton farmers into planting some big gardens since cotton didn’t sell for more than 50 cents this year.

                I hope they’re filling the govt. stores (which would reduce our tax costs)while it’s cheap. Last I looked it was down over $2 from yesterday, about $16/bbl. Futures are shit because they don’t see the economy(ha)coming back till the 3rd quarter. I haven’t checked today but they were selling under -$35/bbl. yesterday at close.

                Our economy runs off petroleum, like it or not, and I’d like to see $50 oil ASAP. It would get the Backken frackers back to work and $40 would get every other company back which would be a boos for every part of the economy.

                I’d damned sure invest right now if I had some money. Prices haven’t been this low for 35 years and if they remain this way, the country will be nothing but a complete, totalitarian state and it will be Soylent Green for real.

    • Russia was making less than $1 on exported oil and Saudi Arabia was down on production but OPEC and Russia agreed to cut production by 9.7M bbls./day which should eventually help. No doubt Kinder Morgan is still making a killing selling US oil in Europe.

    • It’s easy to fall for the new gadgetry until you figure out the manufacturer owns all the software that runs the vehicle. One more example of property you pay for but never really own.

      • Actually I got rid of it about 20 years ago when I got a tank of water from a station that soon after went belly up. It was going to cost way more than it was worth to fix and at the time I didn’t have the skills or tools to do the repairs myself.

  7. i race against people on my 80’s dirt bike two stroke while most are on modern 4 strokes and they say you need to work on my two stroke more to keep it racing. I laugh at these people because a, it’s a two stroke and sounds killer and rips an b, i can fix it easily which is half the fun of owning bikes like these. Race and maintain keeping the thing sweet so you’re ready to go on a weekend. You canny beat it

  8. Eric,

    My first car was a 1966 Chevy, and compared to today’s vehicles, was DIRT SIMPLE! If you had a dwell/tach, timing light, and a good set of hand tools you could pretty much do all the maintenance on it. Doing anything requiring a lift, say to replace the exhaust system, you’d have to outsource to a shop; anything else though, you could do yourself.Oh, and BTW, replacing the exhaust system was cheap, because all there was only a muffler and pipe. It cost me $100 to have that done back in the mid ’80s; now, with a multiple cats, resonators, etc., you could be flirting with four figures…

    • Amen, Mark!

      Even my Trans-Am (1976) is a comparatively simple old beast; air-fuel-spark… easy enough that a Caveman can do it, as the saying goes!

    • I didn’t have a dwell meter or a timing light but could get it perfect just adjusting and driving. It takes a bit more effort but you can nail it closer on an engine with a little timing slack than using a light.

  9. I’m glad that you mentioned those 80’s electronically-controlled carburetors, Eric~ A lot of old-car advocates seem to be ignorant of or gloss-over that- but it’s an essential issue when dealing with cars which came so equipped. I recoil in horror just remembering those things! Even the Jap cars were a nightmare in that regard; pretty much everything from anywhere was plumbed with endless vacuum lines, an air pump, solenoids, etc.

    And then there was the very bottom of the barrel: Chrysler Lean-Burn…. (Why does the bottom of the barrel always seem to come from Chrysler?)

    Pretty much, any car of that era which is still functional, or expected to be so, has either had all of that extraneous plumbing yanked out, and it’s Rube Goldberg-esque carb replaced by a real aftermarket carb…or needs to have that done, ’cause the ridiculous over-complicated carbs of that era didn’t even work right when they were new- nevermind when they’re 40 years old.

    (((I had just been on the phone with an acquaintance who is caught-up in the Corona deception, and who was watching CNN 🙁 -so just by osmosis, I now feel compelled to blame Trump for those horrible 80’s carbs! :D) Everything wrong in the world is his fault, you know!)))

    • The Mopar Lean-Burn has gotten an undeserved bad rap. It’s actually quite clever, IF you know the secrets to maintaining it. Trouble with Chrysler was, in the late 70s, they were an outfit in serious disarray. Their engineers tried to communicate with dealers as to how to maintain the beasts, but marketing didn’t ALLOW it. Anytime you let bean-counters,pitchmen, and POLTICIANS get involved in engineering decisions, it’s a formula for disaster,

      • I dunno, Doug- even the dealers couldn’t get those Lean-Burn clusterfricked cars to ever run right. Even when it “worked”, the accelerator was just a suggestion…..the car would process your request, and comply “at some point”- often after stumbling or stalling.

  10. The problem with today’s cars, well, those manufactured up to the time of GDI systems is not the EFI, but the connected CAN bus electronic systems throughout the car.

    It can be argued that cars do not need stability control, ABS or airbag systems, but they do need climate control systems to control the various valves and actuators in the HVAC system. Therein lies the problems. Many cars have HVAC systems controlled by an HMI and a module of some kind. When the touchscreens die, along iwth their complicated radio controls, the challenge would be to keep those systems functioning. It would be nice to have a generic open architecture to control things like that.

  11. Open source EFI:
    http ://

    Sure, not as simple as mechanical, but also not intended for shade tree mechanics either. Wouldn’t be a big stretch for someone to simplify the design for DYI types who just want to keep a vehicle running after the factory replacements and junkyard finds are all gone.

    Since it’s very likely that Wuhan flu is the trigger that leads to the fourth turning, maybe it’s time to rethink manufacturing. Oh not just bringing the 1900s factory back to Detroit, but maybe bringing the 21st century “factory” back to your town. Custom builders are all over the place, catering to high end old guys who want a dresser bike or fancy slam job for their old cars. Some of them are very proficient at metalworking and fabrication. Wouldn’t be too hard for them to ramp up, especially with 3D printing and “desktop” CNC mills. Heck, many of them are already machining crankshafts, cams and other engine parts. When they get together with the boutique printed circuit shop down the road they could fab a lot more.

    • Thanks for bringing the MS3 into the picture ReadyK! The plug and play options are brilliant, but the ability to make just about ANYTHING with a crank trigger run on it with a bit of education is comforting. (MSExtra forums can help take care of that!) I have my daily 2.3 Lima powered Ranger running on it for over 50,000 miles with not one failure due to the ecu or electronics, a 1993 F150 with a KenneBell and OEM style Flex Fuel burning corn or dino fuel flawlessly between fill-ups, and a 2000 Hayabusa in home built chassis (this one is a challenge but coming around nicely!)
      I liked tinkering with and building carbs back in the day, but realize that there is much more efi junk in the yards than the carb stuff that is becoming extinct. All about supply for me, and an MS box to make it fun/run.

    • As far as not being for the shade tree mech, maybe and maybe not. The tuning app is not at all hard to use, fabrication skills are minimal, and the benefits impressive. I have a couple. A carb is just a mechanical computer, very good at solving problems in a fixed range of conditions. The open source EFI is both simpler and more effective, and includes ignition control with full control of advance curves under any conditions.

      On the other hand, for day in day out economy and reliability it is simply impossible to top a mechanical diesel.

      • Happy to deal with home-brew EFI any day after my carb experiences with a mid-1980s Camaro…what a nightmare…even a bolt-on, throttle-body EFI would have been a godsend.


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