OLD CARS -The truth .Owners tales.How they really were.
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When I graduated with an engineering degree in 62 the selling price of an E-Type was equal to my annual salary. An engineering grad today with a starting salary of say $50K wanting to buy the equivalent, an XK8, is off the mark by 80%.
I think today's economics of automobile manufacturing which includes the requirement for large research and development staffs needed to find solutions to the emissions limits and fuel consumption requirements and smarter marketing are the major contributors to that 80% price differential. Do you think there is a 50% difference in manufacturing and distribution cost between the Lincoln LS and the Jaguar S type. I don't. I think Ford is just plain smart and understands the marketing business better today than 40 years ago.
I couln't afford an E-Type in '62 nor an XK8 today, so I guess I had better settle for finding a good MGB and that Mini Cooper and just to satisfy the lust, the Morgan +4 you hate. Oh yes, I forgot to mention that my wife (the HMC) loves her outrageously priced Navigator which she uses to tow her horse trailer - gag!
I enjoy your encyclopedic knowledge and the entertaining stories from Isell and carnut4 -thanks guys.
Yes, we are getting spoiled rotten by new cars. We are turning into decadent Romans, demanding every little pleasure.
Now we have cars with voice commands..it's getting really silly. Even 747 pilots seem to manage without that.
These old American collectibles should be driven and enjoyed. They aren't Bugattis or Duesenbergs, they were built to be used in everyday life by "ordinary" citizens.
I must say, though, an old, original looking street rod or completely stock bodied car from the 30's, 40's, or 50's with modern, upgraded mechanicals is certainly appealing. Just drive around on a rutted two-lane with old bias-ply, slightly worn tires with old, slow, manual steering and you'll see what I mean. Some old cars are worse than others that way, of course.
With all these upgrade kits out there [rack-and-pinion steering, brakes, suspension upgrades, rear ends, etc, etc] one almost has to consider some of these if he wants to drive his old car regularly in modern driving conditons, and be safe! Just think back to some of those panic stops in the old days, with those old brakes, and tires that blew out on you too!
I remember coming to a high speed stop at a freeway offramp once in my old '66 Dart. Just minutes later, I pulled into a parking lot, applied the brakes, and they went to the floor. The front brake hoses were weathered and cracked, and let go as they flexed, pulling up over the curb. Scary! Luckily, there was a Dodge dealer across the street, and I was on my way again in 2 hours, for 48 bucks. Sure could have been a lot worse!! Just think...
They burned oil like a furnace at 70,000 miles
You had pound on the starters to get contact
They rusted like banchees
Winter starting was a crap-shoot
The upholstery lasted about 3-4 years
The "automatic" chokes were anything but
The front end shimmy was a constant
The automatic trans. automatically died @ 85,000mi
Air conditioning was the whistling vent windows
The heater cores flooded the car only at 20 below
The good old days were formerly know as these trying times.
But, first, I think a few things should be considered. Back then, people didn't maintain their cars like they do today. I know this just from talking to older people and hearing about how they maintained their cars. Now my grandfather changed his oil every 2000 miles and never had a engine problems with a car, except a 1972 Impala that had to get a valve job around 70K miles. But he also knew a lot about cars. I have a friend who's father had a 1972 Dodge Dart, and I don't think they ever changed the oil...just added more whenever it got low.
Further, there were far fewer homes with garages back then than there are today, so more cars had to sit outside and face the elements.
And as much as we gripe about the condition of the roads today...well, in 1955 the Interstate highway system was still a dream (albeit a close one). Today it's easy to put 30K miles a year on a car. I know, I do it. But 40-50 years ago, 60-70K miles was a lot of miles on a car, and probably represented a good 6-8 years of driving on poor roads in all weather conditions.
I'm sure that if the factory could build a 1955 Chevy today, to 1955 standards, it would be a lot more reliable than it was in 1955. Better roads, better care, even the oils and fluids of today have been engineered to be better.
Likewise, I'm sure if I could take my 2000 Intrepid back to 1955, and it would be treated as any other car was back then, people would complain about what a piece of junk it was and how they'd never buy a Chrysler product again (you know, just how they complain now!)
just my thoughts...Andre
My oil filter sits at about a 45 degree angle tucked nice and tight under the huge hemi head, and partly blocked by the heater fan. Taking it apart is no big deal...just messy. But getting it back together, hoping that the gasket between the cap and the base of the filter housing doesn't slip, is another story. And every RWD Mopar I've ever had always dumps oil on the exhaust pipe when I change the filter, so it smells like I'm burning oil for a few minutes after I start it up.
It's interesting to see how drain plugs have changed over the years, too. The one on my DeSoto is 1 1/8 inches...the one on my Intrepid is (I think) 1/2 inch. Also, as complicated as cars have become over the years, at least the manufacturers have made it easier to change the oil on most of them. Nowadays is seems like most of them are up front, real easy to get to.
They were a ROYAL PITA!!
Then you had to snake the whole slipperly thing between the huge hemi engine and the frame rail.
The bolt would just barely fit if you cocked it just right. finally you were done...
Oh, but then you started the car and checked for leaks! Of course it leaked and you had to start the whole filthy process all over again!
As a kid working in a gas station there were a couple of those old Dodges and De Sotos around.
We hated to see them come it! What a PITA!!!
Sure enough, I didn't have the whole thing lined up quite right. The big gasket between the cannister and the base had slipped, and the thing dumped some oil on the garage floor. The big gasket is a real pain, too, because it usually comes folded slightly and doesn't want to stay flush when you lay it on the base.
I'm just curious, when did the other manufacturers switch to the spin on filters? I know when DeSoto went to the corporate 350 and 361 for 1958, they used a spin-on filter. I guess after Chrysler ditched the Hemi after '58, they did, too.
What about Ford and Chevy, though? I just snagged a box with 10 of these oil filters from a local auto parts store, and they were made by AC-Delco. I guess this filter was pretty generic at one time.
The key was to loosten the bolt slightly, they turn the caninster until it dropped. Usually there was no real need to change the o ring every time. If you wanted to, you had to remove two small bolts and drop a plate. Around 1968, Wix made a conversion kit to convert these to a spin on. I installed one on my '62 Impala SS.
I think they first appeared on Fords in 1957. GM and Chrysler in the late fifties/early sixties.
But, to change, the Chryslers were, by far, the WORST! I suspect that many a dishonest shop simply wiped off the canister and charged for a new filter!
And, remember the oil bath air filters? They are another filthy mess to clean and refill!
I had a friend with a 1955 DeSoto Coronado. I think it had the oil bath, but I had no idea how it worked.
Come to think of it, I tried to get 1953 DeSoto Firedome for my first car. It was my grandfather's, and he was just letting it sit. Well, just before I turned 16, he got rid of it, saying that he didn't want me driving something that I would bring to him every time it broke. So I got my mom's 1980 Malibu instead...and brought it to him every time it broke!! I guess it would've had some kind of oil bath, too (the '53, not the Malibu ;-)
Since they had never visited the Harrah's old car exhibit, we decided to go.
There it was...a 1954 Dodge with the Hemi engine.
The one with the b***h of an oil filter to change!!
I really like the styling of 60's cars and some of the larger ones were quite comfortable and didn't drive too bad. But they were prone to rust, oil leaks, had lousy brakes, and very poor build quality. I subscribe to several car magazines, such as Hot Rod, Super Chevy, Chevy HP, and I still drool over the 55 Chevys, Super Stock Dodges, Hemi Cudas, 63-67 Vettes; I wish I could afford these vehicles, but alas only the $11.95 a year subscription costs are in my price range.
I currently own three vehicles: A '94 AWD Chevy Astro (mine), a '98 Chevy Tracker (wife's) and a '92 Pontiac Sunbird (daughter's).
Overall my current vehicles would put most of the old Detroit iron to shame in terms of driveability, economy and reliability. 2 of my vehicles have well 100,000 miles on them and really run well (knock on wood). To get 100,000 miles out of a 1960's vintage vehicle here in the rust belt where I live was not very common. I can recall seeing cars as young as 3 years old having holes in there fenders. Now with two sided galvanized bodies, it's worth putting money into an old car because it still looks good. And of course the modern electronic fuel injected motors are great on those below 0 mornings. Remember those old carburated motors that only started with maybe a shot of ether down the air cleaner intake and then chugged and coughed for the first 5 miles?
The nicest car I have ever personally owned was a 1963 Oldsmobile Dynamic 88 2 door coupe that I bought in 1982 in San Diego with 63,000 miles on the clock ( the quintissential "granpa car"). It had a high compression big block 394 cid V-8, a 3 speed "Hydromatic" auto trans, and ran like the dickens. It would do zero to sixty in 8 seconds if you left it drive and in 7 seven seconds if you shifted manually. It had a gorgeous two tone white over maroon paint job (that I used to lovingly wax for hours), gobs of chrome both inside and out, and it was just great for cruisin'. Had to sell it when I got married....
They didn't get better untilk '65 when the Turbo 400 came out.
The Dynamic was the base model. The Super 88 would have been even faster with the 4 bbl carb and hotter cam.
They didn't stop very well either.
Still, a nice car!
The trans of course was the funky PND21R Hydramatic. I agree completely that the Turbo 400 was vastly superior.
But it was the looks of the car that I most fondly recall. If I could find another (and I had the funds, time, tools, equipment, patience, skill, storage space, etc.) I'd "restify" it with a modern drivetrain, brakes, sound system, Vintage Air system, but still try to keep it stock looking.
Guess I'm too much of a purist.
For example, my roommate has a '98 Tracker. He got the thing stuck in the snow last winter, and I tried to help push him out. As he was backing up, I grabbed ahold of his front fender at the wheel well, and actually felt the fender buckle in my hands! I've lost track of how many times he's had it in the shop, although a couple times was to undo some sloppy work that Firestone did. The Tracker is also a good candidate for the game of "name that fluid." It already has rust on it, and I can go on and on.
I have a 2000 Intrepid with 24,000 miles on it, that already has more bumper damage on it than any other car I've ever owned (including a '68 Dart with well over 300K miles) Nothing else has broken on the car yet, but I've noticed that when I close the door with the windows partially cracked (like in hot weather) the car's structure shakes like your typical 60's 4 door hardtop.
I remember back in college, I drove a 1969 Dart GT, a friend of mine had a then-new 1989 Plymouth Horizon. Well, one day, the idiot decided to try and race me. Before I knew it, my little slant 6 was doing around 90, and he was in the dust. He caught me at the next light, complaining that I was going too fast. Then a week later, he told me that his car wasn't running right, and it turns out it never ran right again after that little drag race. Now I know a Horizon was a cheap car, and hardly the best representation of a modern car, let alone an '80's car, but hey, a Dodge Dart was a cheap car in the 60's and 70's.
When I went to college from '88-'93, the average car in the students' parking lot was around 8-12 year old...it seemed like most of the kids were getting mommy and daddy's old hand-me-downs...lots of Impalas, Malibus, LTD's, Fairmonts, Volares, Darts, etc. Most of the newer cars were bargain-basement cheapies like Escorts, Hyundais, etc. I was on the campus yesterday, and noticed the average car seemed to be around 3-4 years old. Either Mommy and Daddy's stocks have paid off and they're buying new cars for the kids (which is the case, oftentimes), but also maybe Mommy and Daddy's Dynasty, Celebrity, Taurus, etc didn't hold up as well as the old LeMans, St. Regis, or LTD.
Now they have made a lot of advancements in cars, I will agree. My Dodge Intrepid has a 2.7 with 200 horsepower, which will do 0-60 about as fast as, well, my '57 DeSoto with a 341 and 270 (gross) horsepower.
The main advantages I see in newer cars come mainly because the automakers didn't know how to do certain things back then. Like everything, building cars is a learning process. Or the buying public just didn't want it at the time. Ford put seatbelts in the '56 Ford as standard equipment. Chevrolet went on a peformance kick that year with its new 283 V-8. Chevy trounced Ford that year, partly because a lot of people thought that the Ford must be an unsafe car if it needed seatbelts. I don't think the average buyer of a 1965 Bonneville gave a damn if it had disk brakes or not. If the customer doesn't care, why should Pontiac?
Similarly, while the automakers learn how to make things better, they also learn how to make things cheaper, so we have bumpers that fall apart in a parking lot bump and then fail to protect in a real crash because another car over-rode it.
It seems like newer cars require less maintenance (except for my roommate's Tracker) than older cars, but when they do go belly-up, it's time to get another one, where an older car will just nickel and dime you till you're sick of it.
Sorry if I've rambled on too long!
Automobile manufacturers are in business to make money. They have to show a profit for their stockholders. They only make a quality product if it makes economic sense to do so. Most engineering done focuses on how to lower production costs, not on how to make a better product. The consumer and/or government regulations sometimes force an evolution in the end product. Detroit learned well from the success of the imports in the 70's and 80's. They were forced to improve their products or go out of business. The consumer really controls what is ultimately sold in the market place by what they buy.
I have some first hand knowledge of this subject. Consider this- if an automotive engineer can lower production costs of one single part of a car by $5 and the manufacturer produces 200,000 annually, then he's just saved the company a cool million bucks and his job security is elevated. Quality is available at a higher price, if the consumer is willing to pay for it. A lot of the "improvements" seen in automobile engines for example have been in use for decades in industrial machinery that has to stand up to continuous use for months or years with little or no maintenance.
Sabre a couple times and parallel parked it with no problem. Now it won't fit in the spots...it overhangs at both ends.
When I went to the University of Maryland from '88-'93, the spaces in the freshman lot were so small I could barely get my 1980 Malibu in the spaces...It was actually easier to back in than to pull in. Then they re-striped the parking lot one year. You could see where the old lines used to be, and the new spaces were about 6 inches narrower.
When I took the Maryland driver's test in 1986, I had to parallel park in a spot that was 25x6 feet, which really doesn't teach you anything. My grandmother's LeSabre is just over 18 feet, so I'm guessing the parallel spots here are 18 feet exactly. It's quite sad, really, because 18 feet isn't really that big for a vehicle...most full-size pickup trucks are at least that, and they're the hottest thing on the market.
One advantage to an older car, though, is even though a lot of 'em are bigger, they're usually easier to judge. I can parallel park my grandmother's 218" LeSabre easier than I can my 203" Intrepid.
I think the biggest cars got,excluding limousines and the like, was around 233" or so, and that was the biggest Caddys and Lincolns of the 70's. But your typical full size pickup with a standard cab and 8" bed is around 225", and extended and crew cabs are considerably longer.
It's time to start making the parking spaces bigger, not smaller!!
One of my friends restored a nice '68 Chevelle convertible- I had forgotten about those pull out vent knobs (directed all the hot air an exhaust to your legs!!!), the skinny steering wheels, the chromey radio controls, and heavens no a/c, power windows, power doorlocks, etc. !!!
One day, my roommate was in the car with me, and in the parking lot, he saw a guy doing the same trick with a late 80's Caprice.
Then, one day, his 1998 Tracker wouldn't start, and he wanted to know where he should stick the screwdriver!! I didn't tell him ;-)
In contrast, Grandma's '85 LeSabre had to have them replaced at around 145,000 miles. In addition to Grandmom and Granddad's driving, my uncle has used this car multiple times, and it's logged a lot of abuse with me, so it's not all old-lady driving!
I had to have them replaced on my '68 Dart at around 265,000 miles, but I bought the car with 253K on it, so I don't know how long they really lasted. And it needs a new lower one again (at 338,000 miles), but I'll replace them all at once.
I wonder when I'll start having suspension problems with my Intrepid...35,000 miles and so far so good, but if its suspension craps out at 83K miles (about 2 years) like my friend's Grand Marquis does, that's not going to reinforce any kind of new-car quality image on me ;-) At least mine is under warranty till 100,000 miles though, so it'll probably wait till 101K to crap out
We used to replace them with aftermarket parts made by Moog. They were MUCH heavier duty and usually would last the life of the car.
Of course, we didn't see 200,000 mile cars back then.
The slant six coupled to the torqueflight was, beyond a doubt, the most reliable drivetrain available in those days.
Tiny was supremely easy to park.We had a 71 Gremlin with manual steering that was nearly impossible to parallel park, but the Mercury was one palm easy,you could see all four fenders.
Currently I can make comparison between modern and 60's product. I have a 99 Cavalier and a 63 Plymouth Valiant.I love the cars from the 60's. The Signet came with only radio heater and probably white walls;it has no power steering or brakes, no auto.nothing. It's like driving a truck with that 3 speed manual on the column.The Cavalier has ABS air bags 4 speed auto, traction control power steering air front disc power brakes. I think this would be called the "stripped" model because it doesn't have power windows,cruise,sun roof and "convenience and cosmetic"upgrades like fog lamps,styled steel wheels etc.It DOES have overhead valves,though,and bears a vague resemblance to the 75 Monza 2 plus 2.I bought it because it still offers features that I understand and I can actually SEE where everything goes under the hood.It's the newest 1975 car I could find.
In previous posts there was some question about the affordability of cars today...Case in point:the Cavalier is built both in Lordstown Ohio and Mexico using tooling that has long since been amortized ;given that the payscale in Mexico is far lower than the labor costs of the Lordstown plant....why is the base vehicle 13,000????? And why does GM lose 1000 or so on everyone it sells?
As far as that goes;after growing up with a $3600.00 66 Mercury,a $2600.00 AMC Gremlin and a $4995.00 Amc Ambassador Brougham,the price I paid for my new Cavalier [$11,808,new]is the LIMIT to what I will ever pay for a car.I don't think CONTENT or INCREASED VALUE explain the high cost of new vehicles.I suppose I could do 3 to 500 a month payments, but as much as I love cars, I have better things to do with my money. At these current prices they stop being cars and beome something else.I think I'll be looking backwards [as I usually do] for my next purchase[like a 62 Chevy II 4 cyl....did I say new "'75"]?
Hupmobile, Cord, LaSalle, Studebaker, Chandler, Chrysler Airflow Auburn and Jordan's. (Chandler & Jordan were both built there) Always loved cars and enjoyed looking at whatever was parked on the streets and in driveways during the walk. Hope these ramblings don't bore everyone.