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Vintage Cars

Discussion in 'The Golden Era' started by crazylegsmurphy, May 6, 2006.

  1. crazylegsmurphy

    crazylegsmurphy One of the Regulars

    Messages:
    149
    Hello All,

    I have some questions for you. I am thinking of buying an old car from the 40's. Could anyone please give me some info on how practical they are in the "real" world?

    For example, how do they drive? How are they on gas? Any problems owning, or driving one of these cars? How expensive are they to maintain?

    Basically any info you have would be great. Thanks,

    Jeff
     
  2. BellyTank

    BellyTank I'll Lock Up

    Good morning!

    When buying a 'veteran car', you're surely looking for 'fun value' over sheer practicality- there are a few things to consider-

    They can be fairly economical if you drive them so. The old flathead six engines have low compression and a lot of torque, which is pulling power at low engine speed, so they don't need to rev high to get you around. You can putt around in high gear. The modern concept of engine power is horsepower(as opposed to torque), which is a function of engine speed- the higher the revs- the more horsepower(simply).
    The car's handling will be a little sloppier than what you might be used to- massive steering wheel- loose steering(comparitively) and body roll on turning, due to the greater weight and higher COG. Skinny, non-radial tyres too, which aren't great for cornering at speed. Older style tyres aren't so expensive to replace, although possibly harder to find(still available though) but you can also run a more modern tyre, with a more appropriate design, tread pattern and composition for the sake of safety, handling and driving enjoyment.

    Cars from the '40s were pretty simple, so there aren't too many things to go wrong- if you buy a model with a flat-head six engine in good condition, which sounds good, doesn't blow a lot of smoke, etc., it should run for years with simple and cheap maintenance. You WILL actually be able to find the oil filler and distributor and be able to doodle around with basic maintenance.
    There are probably also more than a few simple and cheap exterior upgrades to make the engine last and perform a little better and even more economically- oil filter, oil pump, electrics: distributor, coil, exhaust, carb overhaul, or a more modrn carb., etc.

    If you buy a Ford(Mercury, Lincoln), Chev(Pontiac, Buick, Olds), or MoPar(Dodge, Chrysler, Plymouth), NOS or used parts won't be a problem. The basic models of each Marque would be wiser choices.

    If you aren't a good judge of a car's mechanical condition, then take someone with you who is, when you're looking at a prospective buy. Make sure the front suspension, especially the king pins/ball joints are good and all the front suspension and steering parts are tight and will last a good while.
    Of course the engine's condition is vital- but those old engines are so simple- if you can get replacement parts, the labour charges won't be so bad, especially if you can find a person who knows and works on old engines.

    I have owned old cars and they can be fun- just don't go too exotic on make, model and engine size if you have a tight budget- a six would be a wiser choice than a Straight or V-8- less parts anyway.

    Costs like registration, insurance, etc., should be cheaper for a veteran car but I don't live in the US, so someone else can chime in on these issues.

    Have fun,
    B
    T
     
  3. crazylegsmurphy

    crazylegsmurphy One of the Regulars

    Messages:
    149
    Awesome!! Thanks!

    I am actually looking at a 1948 Pontiac Silver Streak. Flathead 6 cyl, 3 speed for about $4000.

    Do these cars have seatbelts? I am in Canada and we have pretty strict seatbelt laws here. (Not that I would ever want to drive without one) I suppose you could get some installed if they don't.

    My only concerns are that as cool as it would be to drive one, it would be almost useless in our Canadian environment where we have snow on the ground 8 months or so of the year.

    I have to find a replacement car (My 89 Cougar just died) to get around with, and it's a toss up between the Pontiac and a 1970's beater from a guy I know...
     
  4. BellyTank

    BellyTank I'll Lock Up

    [​IMG]

    Nice car!

    I would go for this car- if there is one at the price you mentioned.

    If only thinking about resale value- this car will most likely appreciate in value- a '70s beater will only cost you- on maintenance and re-sale.

    Pontiacs are great- a littler more snazzy than the contemporary Chevs.

    Remember- in the '40s they had to deal with snow on the roads too.
    For the sake of safety, some more modern tires would be of great advantage and a little exra insurance, given your snow issue. Seatbelts? perhaps your veteran car laws don't require them but again, safety first given your slippery situation. You'll find some vintage (or vintage styled, aftermarket) lap-belts for sure, which won't take away from the 'look' too much.
    You could also upgrade the electrics to 12-volt(if not already done), along with more modern, halogen headlamps, the windshield wipers and motor and possibly get a modern heater unit/window demister- again safety and comfort.

    Did you know that a Swede invented the auto safety belt? He would not patent the design- due to his high public safety morals. Idiot!

    B
    T
     
  5. crazylegsmurphy

    crazylegsmurphy One of the Regulars

    Messages:
    149
    I think I would for sure put some new tires and a 3 point seat belt in. I know a lap belt would be a little less noticable, but I don't think that would be of comfort to me if my face was slamming into the steering wheel. :rolleyes:

    As I look around it appears that for this model anyway there was an option of automatic and standard. The one I am looking at is a standard, and I was wondering if these cars have some crazy way of driving them?

    In all the photos I have seen none of them seem to have stick shifts, but they have strange handle things on the dashboard.
     
  6. Maj.Nick Danger

    Maj.Nick Danger I'll Lock Up

    Messages:
    4,469
    Location:
    Behind the 8 ball,..
    Three on the tree.

    Is what we call the standard shift apparatus that was found in most full size cars. Simply a lever that is attached to the steering column to shift the three speed transmission, rather than a floor mounted shifter.
     
  7. BellyTank

    BellyTank I'll Lock Up

    Yep, column shift is fine- there's a bit more linkage to adjust(a floor mounted shift is almost directly connected to the transmission)- levers and rubber bushings and the like- for optimal shifting but it's not hard to get used to at all.
    It's actually quite comfortable to use and you probably won't need to shift as much anyway, with a torquey flathead six.

    As long as it's properly adjusted, no problem.

    B
    T
     
  8. Wild Root

    Wild Root Gone Home

    Messages:
    5,532
    Location:
    Monrovia California.
    It’s all about “Three on the Tree”! I love mine, I mean it, it’s fun as I’ll get out! I can drive my car with one hand if needed! I’ve been on dates and well, one hand is holding my date’s hand the other is steering and then shifting… it’s not recommended for a beginner to attempt but, it’s possible after a year or so of daily driving a column shift.

    I love my car, I cherish it, I love just looking in the drive way and seeing it there… all the things I’ve had to do to that car to keep it road worthy is a small price for the satisfaction I get out of driving a rolling piece of history. MoPar’s are easy to find parts for depending on where you live, but, parts can always be ordered. I’ll have my car checked out and if my mechanic tells me something is going to need replacement, I’ll order the part and it will come with in a week and, in the mean time, I still drive the car. I check the oil once a month and have it changed every 1000. miles… these older cars need a little more attention then the modern ones but, it’s simple and worth it! My Plymouth is just amazing on oil… it doesn’t leak oil or burn it, it’s amazing! I get generally about 16-18 miles a gallon but, I could increase that if I do a few adjustments to the carburetor or make sure the motor is tuned correctly.

    I recall once having to replace the timing belt on a 1988 Mazda… cost me $700.00!!! I’ve never spent that much on one thing in on my Plymouth The most I’ve spent on my car was getting the generator and starter rebuilt, also, new solenoid and voltage regulator and a new 6 volt battery that has a three year warranty for $530.00!!! All that work and parts for that… for one timing belt for an 80’s piece of @#$& it drained me!!! The beauty is that labor is cheaper on these older cars (Depending where you take it to) because the motor and all the components are bare and easy to access! I’ve got a good guy here in Monrovia who does good work and has some good recourses so, I’m lucky in a way.

    When it all comes down to it, it’s something you can do if you put the work into it and trust me, it is rewarding! Police look the other way when they see an old car! You can’t speed in these old things (If you remain stock) and they’re just viewed as Sunday driver cars so, there’s no threat to any one by these cars. If you live in CA, you’ll never have to worry about having it smog checked or passed. It’s exempt from all modern safty laws, you’re not required to install safety belts or turn signals (all things you can ad if desired, just not required) so, I just drive mine around as is. People see an old car and will give you the right of way most of the time. You’ll also be stopped at gas stations by folks who recall having a car like that in High School or, their father used to drive a car just like that! You’ll get so many people looking at your car it’s just so fun! And if you wear 40’s vintage styles with it, oh brother, expect people to just admire and stare! It’s a good kind of attention!

    =WR=
     
  9. Tony in Tarzana

    Tony in Tarzana My Mail is Forwarded Here

    Messages:
    3,276
    Location:
    Baldwin Park California USA
    My trouble is, I'd be afraid to drive a car I really cared about on the streets of Los Angeles, never mind the freeways.

    But who knows, maybe if I get a place with a garage, I may yet find my dream '38 Plymouth Philip Marlowe edition coupe. ;)
     
  10. Matt Deckard

    Matt Deckard Man of Action

    Not mine, but I shure wish it was.

    [​IMG]
     
  11. Wild Root

    Wild Root Gone Home

    Messages:
    5,532
    Location:
    Monrovia California.
    Well, there's a lot of guys driving old cars around LA but mostly 50's customs. Driving it around down town isn't that bad if you're a cautious and aggressive driver. I've taken my old bomb to LA and well, it does fine. Any way you look at it, driving any car is at risk and it's going to suck if something happens to any car. The older ones are a little tougher and can be easier to fix body wise where as modern cars one has to replace the whole piece of damaged body.

    My car isn't mint by no means... it needs some body work and paint but, I leave it like it is for now because it's my daily and I feel more comfortable driving it with a few dents here and there but, she still turns heads!

    It all depends on where you live and if you have a drive way or a garage or what have you… I’d never park a vintage car on the street overnight! Even in my own home town! Things happen to cars on the street… no matter what car it is. I have a nice long drive way that I park my car so, it’s far away from the street.

    =WR=

    PS. Matt, that's one of my favorite years for Cadillac! The good ol'1941 models are fantastic!
     
  12. Tony in Tarzana

    Tony in Tarzana My Mail is Forwarded Here

    Messages:
    3,276
    Location:
    Baldwin Park California USA
    There was a black '40 LaSalle sedan for sale in my neighborhood several months ago, I think he wanted about $10,000 for it. A bit rough around the edges, but a great 50-foot car. I was somewhat tempted. ;)
     
  13. Vladimir Berkov

    Vladimir Berkov One Too Many

    Messages:
    1,291
    Location:
    Austin, TX
    You know 'Root, I used to think driving a vintage car regularly was a choice only for the a.) Rich or b.) Insane. But after riding around in yours, and in a friend's '57 Cadillac driving a regular car is just such a downer!

    Vintage cars are just such a cool experience they are worth it.

    As soon as I have a place with a garage, I really plan on buying a vintage car for myself.
     
  14. Wild Root

    Wild Root Gone Home

    Messages:
    5,532
    Location:
    Monrovia California.
    Well Vladimir, that's good to hear! You know, some thought I was insane when I decided to drive my Plymouth daily... well, now they're shocked to how little I invest in the upkeep and if you know how to do most of the work your self... you're way ahead of the game! You'll spend time working on the car but, you'll save money hand over fist doing the work your self!

    Vladimir, when you reach that point when you're ready for a vintage car, let me know, I'll be very happy to help you look for a good car that will fit your style!

    =WR=
     
  15. Vladimir Berkov

    Vladimir Berkov One Too Many

    Messages:
    1,291
    Location:
    Austin, TX
    Will do!

    I have a reenactor friend who is a mechanic in the Army, and he was telling me how the cars from the late 30s are not at all the maintenance nightmare I imagined and how I could easily afford the upkeep.

    The other benefit of having a vintage car is that you can actually learn how the thing works and how to repair it. I have no clue what half the stuff on my Camry does, the computer basically controls everything.
     
  16. Wild Root

    Wild Root Gone Home

    Messages:
    5,532
    Location:
    Monrovia California.
    Most re-enactors I know are “Shade Tree” mechanics, they all have a basic understanding of mechanics because they’re always playing with their jeeps, tanks, motorbikes, or halftracks! I’ve learned so much from them about vintage cars and little tricks to getting them started that have been around for 70 years! I’ve learned so much since I’ve owned my car… learning more and more each step of the way but, it’s very comprehensive compared to the spaghetti bowl of confusion in cars of today.

    Here is an example:

    1936 Plymouth flat head 6.

    [​IMG]

    Now, that I can understand!

    =WR=
     
  17. jeep44

    jeep44 One of the Regulars

    Messages:
    229
    Location:
    Detroit,Mi
    That looks like the engine bay of my '41 Dodge WC-4. I love those old Chrysler flathead sixes-They basically made the same engine for 30 years,and used it in everything from tractors to cars and trucks. Parts are cheap and plentiful-I have two extra engines sitting out in my pole barn that I picked up for $25 each at an auction.
    I'm bringing the '41 back from the dead at the moment,and when it is done,it is going to be my pickup truck for getting things from Home Depot and such. These old vehicles can be very reliable with a certain level of maintainance(I have a '44 jeep and a '42 Dodge WC-51 also). The main problematical areas I have encountered with them have been wiring and fuel systems. I replaced the old,cracked and frayed original wiring on all my vehicles with new, original-type wiring harnesses (not really too difficult,and good for peace of mind when driving),and I had all the fuel tanks cleaned out and sealed with gas tank sealer-even a little rust can cause a lot of irritation. You will also want to make sure your brake system is good,also. I went through mine and replaced all the lines,hoses, wheel cylinders,and master cylinder on all of mine-the brakes of the '40s are barely adequate at best for highways today,and you want the best possible stopping-I've had some scary moments when I have forgotten what I am driving,and had to stand on the brakes when I was following too closely behind someone who stopped suddenly.
     
  18. Wild Root

    Wild Root Gone Home

    Messages:
    5,532
    Location:
    Monrovia California.
    Yep, Chrysler used that flat head 6 in everything up till the mid 50's! Mine looks a lot like the one in that 1936 Ply I posted, just runs like a champ and from what I understand is that it was one of the most reliable motors ever made! Such a basic design, there's not much to go wrong. In earlier models of that motor, the horses were less, in the late 40's it was about 95 horses and before the war it was about 85.

    Yes, one should have the brakes done completely! It's very important to get those old drum brakes done right. They work great if maintained and will continue to work for a long time. Just have to remember not to follow people to closely... it's not good to do even in modern cars! Its bad manners!;)

    All in all, if you find a good deal on a car you like, I'd make sure it drives first! Have a good look at it, have the owner take you out for a test drive and you can see how well it operates. See how well it starts, find out if the motor smokes, if you want a daily, you want this car to sound good, run good, and smell good!

    Best of luck!

    =WR=
     
  19. Maj.Nick Danger

    Maj.Nick Danger I'll Lock Up

    Messages:
    4,469
    Location:
    Behind the 8 ball,..
    That motor is pretty much bullet proof!

    And child's play to work on! Looks like you could rebuild the whole thing top to bottom without even taking it out of the car. :)
     
  20. BellyTank

    BellyTank I'll Lock Up

    Speaking of Plymouths and V-8s...

    I very nearly bought a '55 Plymouth, back in NZ- it had the 241" V-8, which I think, only lasted about a year in production. Apparently that engine is known as 'The Dinosaur' in MoPar circles...:rolleyes:

    B
    T
     

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