Restoring old cars - A premium affair

By Shahwar Hussain | on September 1, 2015

If you plan to restore an old car, Shahwar warns that you better be prepared to pay a premium – even if its old parts at a junkyard that you’re shopping for. A few months ago, I visited a friend who restores old cars. He has an impressive lineup of cars that include Mustangs, a rare Pontiac, Beetles, a Plymouth, a Dodge, Buicks, Triumphs, big Austins, a Morris, and a few others. He was in the process of shifting his garage to another location, and, as it always happens, the dismantling of the old setup reveled a whole lot of old – but rare – spares and body parts for an assortment of vehicles. Most of these old parts were in deplorable condition, and needed extensive work. There were old self-starters, dynamos, distributors, carburetors, wiper motors, indicator arms, and what have you. I knew I would need something from this heap of junk at some point of time, and the need came sooner than I thought. I had done up a 1952 Ford V8 a while back, but the self and the dynamo were the sore points. They had 6-volt electricals, and didn’t always take the load needed to start the engine. The charging was a big problem too. So I dug into this heap of junk, and got hold of a self-starter and a dynamo in a relatively decent condition – and the bargain made me smile. But the smile was wiped off my face pronto when I took them to the electrician to convert them to 12-volts. He asked for `40,000 to rewind the armature and the field coil. That’s the amount that I spent to do the bodywork of the V8! And this is not an isolated case. People who can’t afford to import important spares for the old cars have to deal with these sharks. Of course, everyone haggles over these absurd rates but some meaner sharks simply don’t budge on their prices. They can sniff a desperate restorer a mile away. I guess some junk is more precious than others! A used distributor for a Ford Model A was quoted at `1.5 lakhs, SU carbs for a MG for `80,000, a column shift for a Dodge for `25,000 – and that’s only for the lever. Sometimes I think that importing parts is a better option. If I buy the stuff from a particular car club, I can be assured that the parts will be genuine and in working condition. There are sites that also sell remanufactured parts – sure they’re expensive, but they’re new! If you search long and hard, the net does throw up a lot of sites that sells old car parts – and these can always be filtered down. But most of the time, a restorer would like to see and feel a particular part before shelling out the cash unless it’s a really rare and important part. And that’s the reason why most of us still search for parts through our contacts in the good old car bazar. Indians are known to fix and remake anything – well almost anything. And that’s what’s kept thousands of old cars running beautifully. The junkyard guys and the old parts dealers are smart, and these enterprising guys have greatly raised the bar when it comes to resourcefulness and business acumen. If you want to keep your old beauty running, you better be ready pay a price – often, for a piece of junk that you will have to recondition. In the world of automobiles, old car junk is the new diamond in the rough. And you pay a premium for it!

Tags: Expert Auto Opinion

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