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Who is going to fix it?

isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonPosts: 17,356
edited March 2010 in General
I've owned quite a few old cars in my lifetime and I'm itching for another one.

There are things I can do mechanic wise but I know my limitations. I also lack the equipment.

So, on Ebay, awhile back, I spotted a very nice 1952 Chevy. Bone stock, the way I like them. Totally original and I thought about making a bid.

But, then I remembered. That Chevy had the 216 Cubic Inch engine with splash lubrication and babbitted bearings. These used to require adjustment and shimming from time to time. They also had a closed driveshaft that had internal seals that would go bad.

When I was a kid, I had a 1952 Chevy and there were lots of shops that had the knowledge and equipment to work on these. Today, those mechanics are long dead or retired and that knowledge went with them.

I remember finding a receipt in the glove box where the previous owner had taken it to the local Chevy dealer for a knock in the engine. They charged him 30.00 to drop the pan and adjust and shim up the rod bearings.

Who would know how to do that now?

Who knows how to fix "Huck" brakes? I know...the last year Chevy used those was 1950.

The old machine shops are gone too.

And I looked at a beautiful DeSoto at a swap meet a couple of years ago. If had Fluid Drive. Most people don't even know how those work...I do, but who could work on one now?

People come to these forums that are thinking about buying, say, a 1965 Tbird.

OK moremodern to be sure but who can fix the sequential turn signals or track down the vacuum leaks? Anyone remember how to replace the upper control arm shafts?

Just makes me hesitate taking a chance.


  • euphoniumeuphonium Great Northwest, West of the Cascades.Posts: 3,305
    "1952 Chevy. Bone stock"

    If it had PowerGlide, the engine was 235 c.i. with hydralic lifters = no adjust.

    If the engine was 216 the feeler gauges were 6 & 13 thousands. An after market pad was common to buy, soak it in a quart of oil and fit it on top of the rocker arms.

    But the best way to come home after hours was to race down the street, cut the engine and coast into the driveway. Father would continue to sleep, but Mother would hear the gravel creaking in the driveway. :(
  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonPosts: 17,356
    You're right. The Powerglides had the much better 235 engines with hydraulic lifters and insert full pressure bearings.

    I wasn't talking about adjusting the valves. I can do that.

    Dealing with babbett bearings is something else.. No modern shop has any idea.

    Heck, try to find a good carburator guy anymore!
  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 21,593
    My mechanic could fix it. But I can't guarantee it'll stay fixed, as he's sometimes been hit-or-miss. One of the biggest embarrassments was with my '79 NYer last year. I brought it in because the power steering was going bad. That, fortunately, was a cheap fix, as it was a hose and not the pump, but I had him do a bunch of brake work and he also messed around with it to try to get it to run better.

    When I picked it up from him, I asked him if he would trust it to go to Carlisle, PA, which is about 130 miles away. I figured I'd drive this one up for the Mopar show, instead of my '79 5th Ave. He said he would trust the car to go ANYWHERE. Well, it started on the first try, but died when I put it in gear. Second try, it fired up, but as soon as I got around the corner from his shop it cut out, and refused to re-start. I called him on my cell phone, and he came right out, and for the life of him couldn't get it to start. Then, out of the blue, I turned the key, and it fired right up!

    I think the problem is moisture in the distributor cap. I have found, if it's getting cranky, that if I take the cap and rotor off and rub all the metal parts and blow on them a bit, and put them back together, it'll usually fire up right after that.

    To his credit, I guess, he says he doesn't know much about Lean Burn, and a lot of that 70's crap with the excessive vacuum hoses and wiring and such seems to perplex a lot of mechanics. They seem to be okay with newer cars and older ones, but when it comes to maybe the mid-70's to mid-80's, by and large they tend to hate it.

    My '57 DeSoto is in his shop right now, slowly but surely bankrupting me. As for the carburetor, he sent it off to be rebuilt, to some shop in Baltimore I think.
  • MrShift@EdmundsMrShift@Edmunds Posts: 43,656
    Well we can just RE-LEARN it. It's not like rocket science. You can fix a 1952 Chevrolet with a tool kit you could carry in one hand. (not including the jack of course) :P

    The Art of Poured Bearings are still alive and well because of all the flathead Ford freaks out there.

    As for fluid drive, well, you get out a book and follow directions. This stuff isn't that complicated because it's all analog. You can see, touch and feel it. It's not like some electron acting funny inside some black box.

    Carburetors are also entirely logical, as long as you have the settings to set them up right after rebuild.
  • explorerx4explorerx4 Central CTPosts: 9,452
    you just need to find a '52 chevy with a tuned port 350 in it! :)
  • texasestexases Posts: 5,424
    Yeah, I've kinda built a little check list in my mind for the (always in the future) hobby car I buy-
    -12 volt
    -no wood
    -full-flow oiling system
    So that puts me mid 50s+, I guess, which is fine...

    I can handle most stuff on a car, given that.

    I actually would be much more comfortable being responsible for maintaining a '65 whatever than a 2010...
  • fintailfintail Posts: 32,917
    edited March 2010
    All of that is good reason I like my fintail. It is an old car, it looks vintage, but underneath it is closer to a modern car, even if the tech is somewhat funny now. I've never had a problem finding a place to get it fixed as well.
  • MrShift@EdmundsMrShift@Edmunds Posts: 43,656
    The bottom line for me would be:

    12 volt electrics

    1971 or earlier

    no column shifting manual transmission

    power steering

    electric windshield wipers

    Norhing made by Ford prior to 1963

    alternator charging system

    radial tires


    The rest I can live with---roll up windows, drum brakes, etc.
  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 21,593
    alternator charging system

    How hard would it be to convert something with a generator, like my '57 DeSoto, to an alternator? Would it be worth the hassle I wonder?
  • texasestexases Posts: 5,424
    Just wondering - why the problem with generators? I've only delt with one (on the '65 Mustang I had as a kid), but I don't remember much in the way of problems.
  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 21,593
    Actually I've never had a problem with the DeSoto's generator either. The main advantage I've heard with alternators is that they'll charge the battery even at idle (well, as long as the idle is fast enough...I've had a few that will discharge at a stoplight unless you throw it in neutral).

    So I guess with a generator, the biggest drawback is you might be more likely to have a dead battery and need a jumpstart? Also, alternators are smaller and lighter than generators, or at least the ones I've seen have been. So maybe the alternator saps a bit less hp from the engine than a generator?

    I don't have any intentions of having my DeSoto's generator swapped, though. I'm kinda butchering it up enough as it is, going to disc brakes up front, an E-body rear, and a dual master cylinder. I think the dual master cylinder is a Corvette part...I hope the DeSoto doesn't reject it like a bad organ transplant!
  • fintailfintail Posts: 32,917
    edited March 2010
    I've heard it's easy to do a conversion. My fintail also has a generator, and an old mechanic once suggested I swap it for an alternator...said one from a Ford Fairmont or something would bolt right on without issue. I didn't take him up on the offer. I now have an odd combination of a generator, but (aftermarket of course) electronic ignition. It seems to work just fine.
  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonPosts: 17,356
    Generators work just fine and I would leave an old car as is.

    Just like 6 volt to 12 volt conversions. Yeah, 12 volts are better but I never had any trouble with a 6 volt system.
  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonPosts: 17,356
    The trouble is most shops don't want to take on an old car and risk the chance of tying up a bay while they wait to find some impossible part. Anyd they don't want to be bothered to read a book and figure out how to fix something they know they will never see another one of.

    I didn't know the flatheads used babbitt bearings. I suppose a person could pull the engien out of an old Chevy and send it off somewhere but, again, I don't have a shop or the equipment to do that.

    Somehow, I seem to remember a 216 could be converted to insert bearings?
  • MrShift@EdmundsMrShift@Edmunds Posts: 43,656
    Ford flathead V-8s had poured bearings until the LB block of 1936---and I think even after that some lower HP versions kept the poured bearings.

    But you're right, unless a shop specializes in old cars, they don't want to tie up the space. I know a few shops that have dark corners reserved for older cars, so that they can be stowed while parts are dug up.

    GENERATORS vs. ALTERNATORS -- the reason you'd want to make this conversion is if you want to run more modern accessories, like a nice aftermarket sound system, or if you have one of the luxury cars built prior to 1960 or so that have lots of hi-draw electrical gadgets on them, or if you live in a cold climate and make a lot of short trips in your old classic.

    But on say a '65 Mustang without AC, and with roll up windows, etc., a generator is just fine.

    As you say, at slow idle you are actually discharging the battery
  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonPosts: 17,356
    edited March 2010
    OK, an easy trivia question....

    When did alternators first appear? Which cars had them.

    Now a harder one...

    What was the first year you could find an alternator on a Chevrolet?
  • MrShift@EdmundsMrShift@Edmunds Posts: 43,656
    That was the first Valiant wasn't it? 1960 or so?

    Can you get an alternator on a Chevrolet? :P
  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 21,593
    In domestic applications at least, I believe the alternator first showed up on the 1960 Valiant, and then was adopted across the board at Mopar for 1961. I always thought it a bit odd that the alternator would show up on the cheapest car first. Maybe it was viewed as a cost-cutting move at the time, and they weren't sure how well they'd be received?

    For Chevrolet, I have no idea. 1962? Maybe later? Chevy had a bad habit of being the last to get an upgrade. For example, most Mopars had spin-on oil filters starting in 1958, and I know Pontiac had them in 1959. But some Chevies were still using those drop in filters inside the big canister until 1967 or 1968.
  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 21,593
    Can you get an alternator on a Chevrolet?

    dunno about that, but the idiot light on my '76 LeMans still says "GEN" :P And to make matters worse, the HUD on my 2000 Park Ave spells a certain word "GAGES"
  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonPosts: 17,356
    A couple of years ago, a guy I know bought his dream car.

    A 1967 Lincoln Sedan.

    It wasn't in that bad condition but it had been sitting for a few years. It started up and ran but it needed a lot of work. The buyer was well aware of that and he was prepared to spend whatever it took to make it a nice car. He had wanted one of these for years.

    As I recall, the A/C didn't work, it needed front end work and (of course) it had vacuum problems and a few other problems.

    The body was straight as can be, the chrome was nice and the leather interior looked great.

    No local shop woul touch it! He even offered to pay in advance if they were worried.

    Nope, they told him they had no interest in taking it on. When he called the Lincoln Dealer they basically laughed at him.

    Finally he found a small shop that was willing to take it on. They were flakes!

    The Lincoln was taken apart, the shop went out of business and now, he has a "basket case" that NOBODY will even talk to him about!

    I think he pays 150.00 a month just to store it while it's condition declines.
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