OLD CARS -The truth .Owners tales.How they really were.

bcathcartbcathcart Member Posts: 54
Anyone interested in telling how it really was 30
+ years ago.Young readers staring starry eyed at a
Jag E TYPE may be keen to know what they were
really like when in easy supply and less than 2000
dollars for a good one.Ex jag engineer has stories
to tell! Other makes available.


  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,482
    I owned a Jaguar XK140 that I bought for $750...pretty darn nice, too. I repainted it fly yellow with red wire wheels and drove it for years in Manhattan. It would never, ever start in winter. It would run until about November 27th and restart sometime in April. I think I got it started once by hooking up two 12 volt batteries, and engine heater and starter ether, but maybe that was just a dream I had. Biggest thrill was one day on the New York State Thruway, it broke a tie rod at something like 80 mph...I must have spun 5 times, or so it seemed...by some miraculously intervention, I did not hit, nor was I hit, by any vehicle in the four lanes of traffic. Sold the car to a Russian couple who spoke no English, except the wife would point to the rocker panels and say "Bondo! Bondo!"
  • ralph124cralph124c Member Posts: 36
    Yes I remember what cars were like in the 1960's-carburators generally had problems when the cold winter weather came on. I can remember my fathers Chevy Malibu-in January you got one or two chances to start the thing before the battery died. I also rember backfires.
    All of this is a thing of the past, with the advent of fuel injection.
    Still, I remember that cars were a whole lot less complicated, and they could be fixed easily. I have personally rebuilt carbs for around $10.00 in parts and a few hours time.The front engine/rear drive layout left lots of room in the engine compartment-I had an AMC Concord where I did'nt even have to get under the car to change the oil-everything was accessable from the top! (drain plug and filter)-all you had to do was slide the pan under (try that with a modern car).
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,482
    I think the trend today is to build cars that will run much more reliably and longer than the cars of old, but that are essentially disposable once they break a major component....like appliances are now...after ten years, you don't fix the old refrigerator...
  • ratchratch Member Posts: 21
    Another thing -- I'll always remember the day Big Daddy broke 200 MPH -- we were at Carlsbad Raceway -- I don't remember where he did it, but we were thrilled. Broke 7 seconds around that same time.

    Biggest disappointment was the big block Chevys -- all that hype and such a legacy in thier small blocks.

    Cast iron wonders -- 352 and 390 Fords -- intake manifold weighed almost as much as a bare 283 block!

    Loved that '56 -- put a Corvette 2 - 4 setup on it, switched out the Powergroan for a three speed, and commenced to clean house on everything on the road at that time.

    Early 60's you could get engines from Chevy dealers -- warranty replacements -- for $25.00! Then they put a stop to it.

    Remember the T-10 4 - speed? Blow third gear and cluster all the time! Then out came the Muncie -- we called it a rock crusher -- almost bullet proof, but slower to shift.

    Automatics wren't getting it -- except for the Torqueflites. We used Hydromatics with Cadillac plates. Still remember that hard 2 -3 upshift -- the whole thing had to change -- and it was never smooth!

    Leaking Holly carbs; pot metal Rochesters; Qudrajets (utterly outstanding carb once it was set up right), Carter AFBs (Pontiac loved 'em).

    Remember using the flowmeter to set up your 3 deuces? Old Strombergs? Rebabbetting rods?

    So much for nostalgia -- want to talk about reliability and maintenance?
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,482
    Thanks for that trip down memory lane...some of the cars you mentioned could still raise some hell on the street!

    Interestingly, the carburator is still king on the dragstrip, isn't it?
  • isellhondasisellhondas Member Posts: 20,341
    Those old enough to remember will quickly agree with me that cars are, indeed, better today.

    I'll always fondly emember my beautiful 1962 Impala Super Sport. It was a great car, however, the Powerglide had to be overhauled at around 60,000 miles. Coming up with 200.00 wasn't easy for an 18 year old at that time! Shortly thereafter, a valve job was required. The front end needed ball joints and control arm bushings.

    This was normal stuff back then. If a car managed to make it to 100,000 miles it was pretty tired. Today, 100K is a walk in the park.

    I had an Accord traded in last summer with 288K on it. Compression was still perfect, everything checked out fine. Outside of scheduled maintance, nothing had been done to the car!

    Later on, I had a 64 Impala SS with the mighty 409, 4 speed. At 80,000 miles it burned oil and needed an overhaul. Pretty common back then.

    That 409 couldn't handle, couldn't stop, and got 7 miles per gallon.

    But...oh, could it blast off the line, and what a sweet sound.

    Not as sweet as my first car, a 1952 Chevy. NOTHING sounds like an old six cyl Chevy with a split manifold and a pair of short glasspacks!

    Wish I had those old Chevys back....
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,482
    We could arrange that, get out your checkbook...
  • isellhondasisellhondas Member Posts: 20,341
    I would probably take the old '52 back.

    This time I wouldn't lower it. I would split the manifold. Put on an 18" glasspack on one side and run a straight pipe on the other.

    Then I would find a long hill in a quiet residental neighborhood late at night. I would drop it into second gear going down the hill, let out the clutch, and rap that beautiful music.

    They I would hope the cops were more understanding then they were in my Southern California neighborhoods so many years ago...

    Do you remember that smooth mellow sound?
  • ratchratch Member Posts: 21
    One changeover I always wanted to do was a Chevy 302 in a 50 - 52 Chevy coupe. Never looked at it real close -- compartment seemed too narrow.

    I almost bought a Chevy split manifold six -- around a 50 or so -- really can't remember. Was in Oceanside California.

    Now, I'd like to build one more car -- a street car like we actually drove -- based on what we could afford. I can hear that Chevy backing down on the pipes or racking -- cherry bombs...

    In the main, reliability is way beyond what we ever had, but I think modern cars are more apt to leave you stranded without warning.

    Aside from high mileage failures like timing chains and such, 60's cars usually gave some warning before they quit. At least it seems like they did.

    Some hints: 60's small block Chevy pickup engines usually had forged steel crankshafts.

    If you can get the pistons, a 283 crank in an early 327 block made you a 302. Destroked 327.

    2 - 4 bbls ran good on Chevy smallblocks. 3 - 2 bbls didn't. 3 - 2 bbls ran good on 389 and 400 Pontiacs. I didn't have any experience with 2 - 4 bbls on these engines.

    348 and 409 Chevys ran good on any carburator combination. I liked 2 - 4s better than 3 deuces.

    Never was happy with the Chevy big block -- way too much torque and way too much reciprocating mass.

    Anyway, thanks for a chance to say something about the old cars. Can you still hear the vibrator on the old radio?

    '49 Merc, Buddy Holly, and Sharon -- at the light, 56 Ford rapping up alongside. Ha!
  • greencargreencar Member Posts: 11
    JESUS- the brakes on the 1955 and 57 Chev were crap-i dont even remember how many people complained about brakes--pedal loss-or-brake fade. they were great looking cars-but compared to the newer cars today
    -no comparison w/brakes-thank goodness. my first car was a hupmobile that i traded a neighbor for $20. pumped up the tires-fresh gas-oil- pushed it-kick start w/1st. gear and off to san diego.ahhh
    the 50s were a great time---
  • stacywisestacywise Member Posts: 1
    My first car was a 55 Chevy, 3rd was a 58 Chevy (snuk in a Austin Healy between the two) and I now have a 66 Impala sitting in the garage that I've owned for about 9 years. It is always a thrill to hit the brakes on those cars and try to guess which way it was going to dart.

    But, you know, the 66 is more fun to drive than our 99 Concorde but for different reasons. The Chevy is just fun and the Concorde is a pleasure. Wouldn't want to give up either one.
  • FREDERICKFREDERICK Member Posts: 228
    Modern cars are all neat and smooth with their drive by wire fuelinjection systems and more micor chips than my computer but I swear to you that a lot of the automoblile industry's soul has been lost in the plethoria of virtually identical cars on the road today.

    How many of you remember fender benders in your old cars that you could actually drive away from. Sure these cars didn't have all the air bags, ABS Eetc., etc. of old cars but then I never ended up in an accident that I couldn't drive away from in these cars.

    Talk about disposable autos! These earlier car were not and when something didn't work you knew exactly why and it didn't take a rocket scientist to fix it.
  • catfish3catfish3 Member Posts: 1
    Im getting ready to buy an old chevy with a 283 V8. Im young and dont know much about these engines. When I 1st looked at it I thought....I can work on this and save some cash. Or will an old car just mean more problems to fix yourself, instead of the mechanic??
  • C13C13 Member Posts: 390
    One of the things that scares me about old cars, especially for a young person is the lack of a collapsible steering column.

    I'm not big on every dumb "safety" device. A lot of them are pure junk. But when the combination of the collapsible steering column and 3-point belt came along was when a LOT of serious accidents became survivable.

    If you get an old car just be aware that if something intrudes into your front end, it doesn't have to penetrate very far to take your head off. The steering column will deliver the force quite efficiently.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,482
    Aside from the deathtrap aspect of old cars (hey, life is a risk, you gotta be careful!)the mechanical parts of many older cars is pretty simple. An old Chevy with a 283 is very basic technology and there isn't much that's tricky except maybe for 4-barrel carburetors and automatic transmissions, and even those can be mastered with a few books and some diligence. I think it would be a great pastime for you, and you'll learn to work with your hands, which can be very satisfying.
  • ratchratch Member Posts: 21
    What is the old Chevy with a 283? Some were simpler and better than others. Also, what part of the country is it from?

    Didn't collapsing columns happen in '67 or so -- when Nader made the big push for better occupant safety?

    Seat belts were already in there -- what -- about '63 or so? Then front discs became readily available in '68 or so. I guess most of the hard core safety stuff has been around for 30 years or so.

    Interesting note on safety. I drove a wrecker while I was in college in 1968. Alot of bad wrecks in those days were single car, drinking, plain stupid or passing on two lane roads.

    Odd that as cars improved, the designers messed up by going to rack and pinion steering on very light, but fast cars. I believe R&P steering in light cars at high speed cause quite a few interstate accidents.

    I've seen young people drive small cars 90 or better -- car probably exerts less than 100 pounds on the road, tires at at their upper limit (80 MPH), and the driver is fooling with the CD or something ---

    Older cars got your respect or they hurt you. Newer cars just don't give any warning.
  • ratchratch Member Posts: 21
    PS -- the 283 was awfully advanced for its time, but mostly in weight savings. It is an easy engine to work on and there must be a million of them still wasting away all over the country.

    Straightforward design -- no real tricks to it except for removing and installing the damper. Use a puller -- always.

    Depending on the year of the engine, you can look at the casting marks on the front of the heads -- double humps mean fuel injected with bigger ports and valves while a small diamond on top of a rectangle means power pack heads (which became the standard).

    Only thing I didn't like about the small block was that you had to loosen the oil pan to take off the front cover.

    If you get the car -- hope we hear how it is going. Good luck.
  • gozinggozing Member Posts: 4
    Never widely recognized as a classic, but a great car for lasting and surviving youthful drivers was the 1940 Ford V-8. My father was a traveling salesman and put almost 100,000 miles a year on a Ford during THE War, gas rationing notwithstanding. Once he let me drive it alone at age 15. Big mistake. Once out of sight of the homestead, in less time that its taken to get this far typing, I took that Ford to going on 100 MPH before I lost control, went up an embankment through a telephone pole 15 feet in the air and plowed a wide swath that took out over a 100 yards of fence and fence posts. Car ended up on the road, no tires, no wheels and sans bumbers...but otherwise AOK! Rewheeled and bumpered, it was back on the road until 1948. Traded in still running with over 500,000 miles on it. Had new sleeves only once. He did change the oil every week and greased all the "zerks" at the same time. Never said a word to me about the wreck except the initial out burst "thirty miles an hour like HELL! there are tire tracks back there for a mile zigzagging up to the telephone pole." Guess he just believed the evidence instead of me.
    I still love that car for saving me without seat belts, air bags, ABS or AC. Just three speed manual xmission, one tail light, one mirror, and a gasoline heater were standard and enough.
  • dranoeldranoel Member Posts: 79
    Regarding safety on older cars, think about this; in the 30's safety glass replace regular glass in the windows, hydraulic brakes replaced mechanical brakes, doors hinged in the rear were changed to a front hinge, bulb type headlights were replaced by sealed beams, the addition of vent windows offered "no draft ventilation"--tremendous progress, but today we look upon it as the dark ages. Turn signals were options until 1953, seats belts were not required until 1966, etc. Somehow we survived the earlier days of driving ( I have been driving since 1948).
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,482
    Yes, but the deaths per mile driven are way down in 1999...so either the cars are safer or the drivers are better...I know which one I'd pick!
  • dranoeldranoel Member Posts: 79
    You are absolutely right, modern cars are safer, and as you imply, I'm not sure about the drivers either.--------dranoel
  • carnut4carnut4 Member Posts: 574
    I was just thinking about a problem that plagued older cars-especially Ford V8's and Cadillac V8s. When was the last time you stalled because of...Vapor Lock? I remember stories of older relatives-one in particular. An uncle had driven up the mountains to Yosemite, CA in his 46 Mercury station wagon. The thing overheated on that very hot day and was close to "boiling over" when-it just quit and refused to start after repeated attempts-even after the radiator had cooled down. The problem was vapor lock-and for a motorist unfamiliar with this problem, it could be really frustrating. Any vapor lock stories out there?
  • sunlinersunliner Member Posts: 36
    Yeah, I remember that. My dad had a '50 Lincoln Coupe with a flathead V8, and a carburator that had a glass dome on it. (I remember the dome, I was about 12) He always carried a gallon jug of water in the backseat, because if it was at all hot out he'd have to sprinkle water on the dome to cool the carb down enough to stop the vaporlock.

    It stemmed from the fuel pump being mounted on the engine and designed to pull the fuel up the fuel line, I think. It seems like he installed a fuel pump by the gas tank to push the gas, and solved most of the problem.

    We also had the problem with a 1978 Toyota Land Cruiser -- stalled once as I was pulling out onto a 4-lane highway and made me just about crap. That's another story.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,482
    I think fuel injection solved most vapor lock problems, but not always...early mercedes injection had the fuel lines routed around the top of the engine and the fuel would start to vaporize in the lines once you shut the engine down on a hot day and tried to re-start.

    But on modern cars, it's just about unheard of, probably due to better engineering and very high fuel line pressures.

    Aside from the water trick, some people used to put clothespins on the fuel lines to carry off the heat (dubious, but who knows?) and some tried to block the heat by wrapping the lines in aluminum foil.

    I think the old flatheads were the worst...with those feeble 6 volt starter motors you could barely turn the thing over on a good day.
  • sunlinersunliner Member Posts: 36
    Oh yeah, I remember the way that thing sounded as the starter turned it over.


    Our old 1961 Ford tractor sounded the same way.

    That old Lincoln had the Oil/Air bubbler type of oil filter, too. Weird. Had more room in the back seat than most cars have in the whole car, though.
  • isellhondasisellhondas Member Posts: 20,341
    I tried to help my buddy start his 1951 Ford Woody after a day at the beach. We poured gas down the carb. I was under the hood and he was inside trying to start it.

    All of a sudden, a crankcase explosion occured!

    The oil cap whizzed past my ear! If it had connected with my noggin, I wouldn't be tying these words right now!

    The oil cap was finally located after it went across the street and broke a window in a telephone booth.

    The dipstick was never found!

    After that, the old Ford started and we drove it home. The next week, we replaced the oil pan gasket!

    Ever see that happen, Mr. S.?
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,482
    Oh, sure...you get raw gas in the crankcase, because it's leaked past the worn piston rings...then the fuel in the oil starts to vaporize, again leaking past the rings on the way up to the combustion chamber, and KABOOM!

    Funny as that...I heard of a guy who decided to clean out his distributor cap with starting ether (a good solvent)...he slammed the cap back on, hit the starter, and BAM...a hundred little pieces of distributor cap!

    I saw a piston come up through the hood of a car at the dragstrip one time...that was dramatic.

    All kinds of nifty things can happen to a car that's malfunctioning...i've seen a driveshaft bust loose from it's u-joint and drive itself up through the floor (Mercedes 280SL)...I've seen clutches explode (hence we have scattershields on high-powered cars), differential houses crack in half, rear axle shafts break on wind-up. Just remembered on an old MG, the oil feed line to the oil pressure guage breaking and spitting all over my date....last date, I might add, with that lady.
  • isellhondasisellhondas Member Posts: 20,341
    Another time when I was working in a gas station, we had a crankcase explosion on an old Oldsmobile.

    I remember it had black rubber instead of cork valve cover gaskets. They blew out from under the covers and looked like snakes.

    Somehow, the pan gasket survived. What we didn't know however was the fact the explosion raised up the valley cover thus breaking the seal.

    When we started the thing, we had oil EVERYWHERE!

    Ah, the good old days...
  • dranoeldranoel Member Posts: 79
    How about this remedy for cleaning the inside of an engine before the days of oil filters----drain out old oil, put in 2 gal. of kerosene, drive around slowly for 20 min.,drain kerosene, refill crancase to required level with motor oil, drive around for 20 min, drain oil & refill again with oil--results-a clean engine---I did this with a 1930's era Packard. I seem to recall a mechanic telling me to do this once per year--all I know is that it worked--however I wouldn't want to try this procedure with newer cars.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,482
    Oh, yeah, I'm sure modern engine bearings would just love to run around in kerosene...eeeek!
  • carnut4carnut4 Member Posts: 574
    Somehow I'm reminded of a guy who found out how his car "really was." A fellow we knew bought a late 50's MGA at a good price, but with a lousy paint job. This was in 1965. A few months after he bought it, he was broadsided by someone who ran a stopsign. The impact caused the other side of the car to crack-in all of the many places it had been poorly bondoed-and then painted. Several spots on the door and rear fender were exposed down to bare metal, after numerous pieces of body putty fell to the ground on impact. Needless to say, the car was totalled.
  • ralph124cralph124c Member Posts: 36
    How about carb icing? I had a Rover 2000TC (twin SU carbs) that would actually ice up in cold damp, foggy weather. One day in Dec.. (airtemp around freezing) I started her up and went inside for a cup of joe. When I came out, the car wad idling roughly and making black smoke. I opened the hood and checked the air filter-ther in the intakes was abig chunk of ice!
    Haven't seen this on any other car.
  • reBMWreBMW Member Posts: 26
    i've always said rover owners were iconclasts. poor BMW Ag.
  • reBMWreBMW Member Posts: 26
    typnig is nto my frotay dotay.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,482
    oh, you just gave me an idea for a new topic...the tupes of cars famous people have died in....is that too grim perhaps?
  • isellhondasisellhondas Member Posts: 20,341
    Died while trying to light a cigar it is rumored.

    What kind of car?
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,482
    Chevy Corvair station wagon...a true genius...too bad....

    lessee...Princess Grace died in a Rover

    And we won't go into Di and James Dean, we all know those....

    Oh, was it Mamie Van Dooren or Diana Dors that got decapitated in a Chrysler Imperial?...(I TOLD you this would be a grim topic....).

    Oh, here's a hard one...the car that killed famous dancer Isadore Duncan when her long scarf got caught in the rear wheel hub.
  • frank37frank37 Member Posts: 1
    thats dumb
  • badgerpaulbadgerpaul Member Posts: 219
    Jayne Mansfield lost her head over a Buick Electra 225.
  • reBMWreBMW Member Posts: 26
    was isadore done by a jag?
  • bjohnsonbjohnson Member Posts: 2
    Wasn't Isadora killed in a Bugatti? Hmm...I have vague memories of a photograph, but the details are fuzzy. I do remember the low profile and a spare wheel mounted on the side with chrome spokes.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,482
    Jayne Mansfield, right! good man, I knew I had that wrong somehow...she was married to Mickey....Mickey...Har...something, like a wrestler or boxer....yeah, poor gal, gruesome thing...

    No, Isadore Duncan was killed in an Amilcar, but Bugatti is often cited, and from what i can tell from various sources, is incorrect....Amilcar was a very sporty French car...well, they may both sports and unsporty models. Hell of a good guess, though.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,482
    Okay, the car General Patton was seriously, and eventually, fatally, injured in?

    And the car that killed over 80 people at Lemans in 1955?

    BONUS QUESTION--and the car that probably caused the above accident?
  • badgerpaulbadgerpaul Member Posts: 219
    Patton was done in by a Cadillac, a 1941 I think.
  • isellhondasisellhondas Member Posts: 20,341
    The Cadillac didn't kill him, it was the sudden stop! :)
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,482
    close...it was a Packard...apparently it stopped short after either hitting or avoiding a truck, and Patton's neck was violently traumatized...yes, probably a 1941 or 42 Packard, they didn't really date them during the war.
  • sunlinersunliner Member Posts: 36
    The LeMans killer? It was a diesel something-or-other, wasn't it? I remember reading a story about the French driver who wanted to do all 24-hrs by himself and flipped into the stands. Am I on the right track?
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,482
    Don't know about the driver angle, but the car was a Mercedes 300SLR...and presumably the car that cut it off and caused it to swerve was an Austin Healey.

    One of the interesting sidenotes to that story was that from that day forward, Mercedes pulled out of racing. Some say to honor the dead, but more likely because they had won everything ten times over and had nothing left to prove...it was a good opportunity for a graceful exit.
  • reBMWreBMW Member Posts: 26
    i have heard that there will be mercedes in the 24 hours of Le Mans this year. doesnt that count as mercedes racing or are the cars privateered so they dont officially count as factory racing? mighty fine line there if you ask me.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,482
    I'm not sure but I think these are privateers...good question...maybe someone knows offhand...I was under the impresion that MB was just supplying engine power.

    Hmmm...maybe they're upset after Mazda won it.

    I'd love to take a ride in one of the M-B pre WW II grand prix cars...supposedly, you could mash the gas pedal at 150 mph in 4th gear and spin rubber.
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