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Who is going to fix it?

isellhondasisellhondas Member Posts: 20,342
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 Member Posts: 3,425
    "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 Member Posts: 20,342
    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 Member Posts: 25,554
    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.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    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 Member Posts: 18,927
    you just need to find a '52 chevy with a tuned port 350 in it! :)
    2023 Ford Explorer ST, 91 Mustang GT vert
  • texasestexases Member Posts: 10,546
    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 Member Posts: 56,758
    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.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    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 Member Posts: 25,554
    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 Member Posts: 10,546
    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 Member Posts: 25,554
    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 Member Posts: 56,758
    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 Member Posts: 20,342
    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 Member Posts: 20,342
    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?
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    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 Member Posts: 20,342
    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?
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    That was the first Valiant wasn't it? 1960 or so?

    Can you get an alternator on a Chevrolet? :P
  • andre1969andre1969 Member Posts: 25,554
    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 Member Posts: 25,554
    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 Member Posts: 20,342
    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.
  • isellhondasisellhondas Member Posts: 20,342
    edited March 2010
    Very good. 1960 Valiant it was!

    That 1960 Valiant competed against the Corvair and the Falcons and it was SO much better of a car! Slant six and that tough little Torqueflight.

    Andre you are right too and this was a tricky one.

    The Impalas with Airconditioning came with alternators if they had the 327 or 409 engines. I'm almost sure the 283's still had generators.

    A one year only design that are near impossible to find now along with the voltage regulators. In 1963, they all had alternators with the regulators built in.

    I don't think Ford went to alternators until 1965.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    Such stories in the collectible car world are all too common. To run a restoration shop, or even an "old car repair shop" you have to be a *very* astute business person. Aside from parts supply problems and storage issues, you need a pretty impressive reference library as well as the tools and machines that can speak to old cars.

    Also you are battling rust, poor aftermarket quality control and cheapskate owners.

    F'rinstance---I know a guy who just bought a 59 Cadillac 4-door sedan. Brakes are shot, completely gone all around, including the master cylinder. Now you know that by the time the shop is done repairing this problem, at $135 an hour + parts, the bill is going to be about 25% the value of the car---and it will still LOOK exactly the same as when he brought it in -- tired old paint, rust spots, balding tires, ripped upholstery. So you know there's potential for bad feelings, from the get-go.
  • isellhondasisellhondas Member Posts: 20,342
    This is why a person is ALWAYS better off buying a car that is already "done".

    In another forum I told about a friend who has a restoration shop about halfway through a frame off total restoration on his 1953 Mercury Convertable. It will be a two year project.

    It's a pay as you go thing (as it should be). Every month he get's a bill for anywhere between 1500.00 and 5000.00! he told me what the chrome alone cost and I couldn't believe it!

    When it's done, I doubt if he would be able to sell it for anything close to what he will have in it. he knows this but he doesn't care.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    Well at least when he's done he'll have a car worth considerable money, maybe $50K. The person with the '59 Caddy 4-door will never see a fraction of his restoration costs returning back to him, should he be so foolish as to restore it.
  • andre1969andre1969 Member Posts: 25,554
    I'm sure I'm going to be buried in my '57 DeSoto by the time it comes back from the mechanic. I'm not THAT worried about it, as I have no intention of ever selling the car, but I'm sure I would've been better off if I just sold mine and went and found one that was already done.

    Just out of curiosity, what would a really nice #2 '57 DeSoto Firedome hardtop coupe go for these days, anyway?
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    edited March 2010
    I'd guess low $20Ks if it were really a sharp car--#2 being local show quality. If it were a "clean driver" with shiny paint, tidy engine but you know, a little wear and tear, maybe $15K is the active range for good-lookers.
  • andre1969andre1969 Member Posts: 25,554
    edited March 2010
    Oh yeah, I'm pretty buried then. I am having some body work done, and he's going to do enough stuff underneath that the thing will probably be more rust-resistant than most modern cars. But it's still going to have 53 year old paint. It does shine up fairly well, so it looks great at a distance, but get close and it'll be showing its age.

    One thing that really ran my price up though was that I let him talk me into getting the seats and door panels re-done. Just the door panels are something like $1200 for the pair. And I would LOVE to know where he found a place that could replicate a 1957 DeSoto Firedome door panel. That's not really an everyday piece, y'know!

    And having the thing converted to disc brakes up front and a more modern drum setup in the back ran some big bucks. Would've been cheaper to just have the brakes re-built to their original spec. Although those OEM brakes usually needed to be adjusted pretty often, so this is probably a change for the better. And a dual master cylinder will be nice. I've driven this car with no brakes before. It ain't fun.
  • otto8otto8 Member Posts: 116
    The name Alternator is/was the Chrysler Corps. trade name for a Generator.

    GM had a better idea with the internal regulator on its line of Delcotron
  • lemkolemko Member Posts: 15,261
    This is why you join a club so you can network with others to locate specialists who are willing and able to work on your old car.
  • lemkolemko Member Posts: 15,261
    I'll never get back any money I'd put into my 1989 Cadillac Brougham, but I don't care. If anything happens to the car, I have them take care of it and don't worry about the cost. I could probably get another nice 1989 Cadillac Brougham like that 17K mile one that showed up on Craigslist, but it won't be MY car.

    Can't wait to see that DeSoto! Look at it this way, at least there will be another nice one on the road after you're done. Would you like to see your DeSoto in the hands of some knucklehead who promises to restore it and instead lets it rot, or worse yet, tries to "donk" it?
  • lemkolemko Member Posts: 15,261
    It must really be hard to find a place that replicates Firedome door panels, hence the price. You can practically build an entire 1957 Chevy out of aftermarket parts.

    How's the chrome on the car? That and the paint will probably be the really big ticket items if you want a show winner at Hershey. I wouldn't even blink at $10K for a top-flight paint job.
  • isellhondasisellhondas Member Posts: 20,342
    My friend with the 53 Merc said it was close to 3000.00 just to rechrome the grill!
  • isellhondasisellhondas Member Posts: 20,342

    I thaked to my buddy with the '53 Merc last night.

    Total chrome bill for everything should be 4500.00.

    Two years left on the restoration.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    I've seen chrome bills as high as $12,000, so he got off light.
  • andre1969andre1969 Member Posts: 25,554
    How's the chrome on the car? That and the paint will probably be the really big ticket items if you want a show winner at Hershey. I wouldn't even blink at $10K for a top-flight paint job.

    The chrome's actually pretty good for the most part. However, there is a dent in the rear bumper where the previous owner said a pole jumped out in her path as she was backing up! :P

    Oh, and one of the taillight surrounds is cracked on the bottom.
  • fintailfintail Member Posts: 56,758
    I know a guy who restored a MB W112 300SE coupe...he blew 5 grand on the interior wood alone, and that was 15 years ago.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    I met a guy last year who spent $75,000 on an MG TC! And that's a tiny car.

    If you want to do it right, and you want the best, these are the numbers (or more). And the more complex the car, the worse it gets.

    If you wanted a show winning Pebble Beach Bugatti, it could run 1/2 mil, no problem. Or higher if you needed to crush the competition.
  • fezofezo Member Posts: 10,384
    The chrome's actually pretty good for the most part. However, there is a dent in the rear bumper where the previous owner said a pole jumped out in her path as she was backing up!

    Pontiacs of that era must be prone to that. That old Tempest that I learned to drive on had a dent like that. Couldn't have anything to do with me being at the wheel and catching this thud from behind. My girlfriend back then found it highly amusing. I didn't which might explain why that one fell apart....
    2015 Mazda 6 Grand Touring, 2014 Mazda 3 Sport Hatchback, 1999 Mazda Miata 2004 Toyota Camry LE, 1999.
  • fintailfintail Member Posts: 56,758
    But for that Pebble Beach Bugatti, you can get your money back. Sinking 75K into an MG or 50K into a non-sporting MB is a different story.

    That being said, if I came into a real fortune, I'd have the fintail done up properly...probably have to sink 30K into it, but I'd be so rich I wouldn't care :shades:
  • texasestexases Member Posts: 10,546
    "but I'd be so rich I wouldn't care "

    Isn't that the fuel behind all the nuttiness at auctions? $$ don't really matter at those levels. When watch auctions attract tens of thousands of dollars for what is just a watch (however nice), you know no logic applies...
  • fintailfintail Member Posts: 56,758
    Watch those B-J auctions from back in the bubble years to see that, indeed. Those with more money than they know what to do with.
  • isellhondasisellhondas Member Posts: 20,342
    Well, you can get your money back but probably not!
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    Like the guy who paid $110,000 for a restored Austin Healey 3000 last week? It's a superb resto, better than new and all that, but still -----you put that car for sale on the Internet and you'd be lucky to pull $85K seems to me.
  • isellhondasisellhondas Member Posts: 20,342
    I have a good customer who has two 3000 Healys that have been restored.

    These cars have been restored, these aren't 100 point cars nor are they Trailer Queens. They are both drop dead georgous and only a real professional judge could nitpick them. They will jump in one of them and think nothing of driving to San Diego from Seattle and back.

    If they get a tiny rock chip it isn't the end of the world.
  • andre1969andre1969 Member Posts: 25,554
    If they get a tiny rock chip it isn't the end of the world.

    That's the main reason I'm a bit reluctant to get my DeSoto repainted. Right now, if it got a chip here or a scratch there, I'm not going to have a fit over it. But once I got it repainted, I'm afraid it would worry me to death.

    I wonder though...once I get the car back from the mechanic, since the seats will be re-done, should I get some of those clear plastic covers for them like what old people put on their furniture? :P
  • martianmartian Member Posts: 220
    JC dropped their old car parts lines years ago..I remember looking at thier catalogs, and wondering how many carburators for a 1936 Ford they sold...or brake drums for a '55 Peugeot!
    I wonder if their business decision reflects the fact that there just isn't any interest in these old heaps anymore? Meaning that the guys who liked these cars are in nursing homes (or graveyards).
  • lemkolemko Member Posts: 15,261
    Heck, I recall seeing replacement grilles for 1940s Pontiacs, Chevrolets, Fords, and Buicks in the J C Whitney catalog back in the 1970s.
  • texasestexases Member Posts: 10,546
    You used to pretty much be able to build a Model A (at least the sheet metal) from parts in some of the older JCW catalogs, IIRC.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    That's the problem---you can STILL build a Model A from catalogs, and the parts are way better than JC's stuff. A lot of JC parts were pretty cheesy (speaking from experience). I remember once ordering a headlight rim for my 49 Chevy coupe and it felt like it had been made from an Italian TV dinner tray.
  • isellhondasisellhondas Member Posts: 20,342
    Wow...THREE YEARS since this thread died as they usually do given enough time.

    Still looking for the right old car at the right price.

    A guy I know has to sell his beautiful 1955 Nomad. It's been "updated" with a 350 engine and a Turbo 400. It's Gypsy Red (orange) and white. Other than a set of Crager Mags and raised white letter tires, it's bone stock.

    He will sell it to me for 40,000. Any opinions?
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