When I got into building and collecting old cars many years ago now, a senior collector advised us newcomers to buy as many parts as we could for the cars that we felt would be part of our permanent collection. He had an impressive collection of Packards, and bought parts to service them for years to come.
This was in the 70s, and you could go into most any parts store and they would have a clutch disk for a 47 Nash 600 Super on the shelf, or a copper head gasket for a 46 Packard small eight hanging up in the back, and, of course, all of the tune-up parts, so there didnt seem to be an urgent need to stockpile parts, but I began to, anyway. Going to the parts store was fun. There were no computers and you knew the parts guys by name, and there was always one older guy that didnt have to look at the parts bookshe just knew the parts!
I remember going into the parts store one day and asking for a front wheel cylinder kit for a 46 Packard Custom Super 8, and before anyone could look it up, Chris says, Its a one-inch bore; it crosses over to a 57 Chevy rear. Theres one on the Dorman shelf. N-O-W, Packardhas been removed from the list of makes in the parts stores computer, along with Hudson, most Studebaker and other orphan cars. Fortunately, Chevy, Ford and Chrysler cars have suppliers like the ones that advertise in Southern Wheels Magazine, with online catalogs to supply most every part, but if you are working on an orphan car, good luck!
Following the advice of my friend from years ago, I buy spark plugs, fuel filters, etc., in quantity and have them when I need them. My supply of 10mm spark plugs, as used in most 30s and 40s Packards was down to the last four boxes. I use an AC Delco M8, 10mm 1/4depth, with a 5/8hex head. I called one of my suppliers that I hadnt bought from in five years or more, and asked if he had the AC M8s in stock. He told me he didnt, but could get some, and added, You know these are marine plugs, right? I said No, they are M8 automotive, non-resistor plugs. He came back with, The new ones are marine, resistor plugs. I asked him when they had changed. He suggested that I call AC Delco at 800-223-3526, which I did, and they told me they had no history on the plug, but it was now a marine plug and thats all they knew.
I contacted an acquaintance who had put the M8 marine plugs in his Packard and he said the car ran well before he put them in, and terrible afterward. Resistor plugs are for electronic ignition cars and non-resistor plugs are for cars with ignition points The end game is to get 20,000 volts at the plugs.
The M8s are history, so I wont buy any more of them, but have crossed them over to an Autolite 3136 non-resistor plug, which is readily available at Then & Now Auto Parts*, Max Merritt*, Jegs.com, and summitracing.com (the racers know the importance of non-resistor spark plugs!).
The following is my opinion, based on my years of research, and trial and error:
CHANGES IN REAR END LUBE:
In old car manuals from the 60s back, the suggested rear end and standard transmission lube is 90-weight Hypoid* gear oil, except posi-traction. It is not sold now anywhere except for use in motorcycles, and I was advised not to use it in automobiles. I couldnt find ANY! The new substitute is 80-90 hypoid gear oil, and after talking with many people who are using it, there have been no problems. One thing to be aware of, if you have your car repaired at a shop, ask what they are using. They might use a 75-90 silicone, which, from my research should not be used in old carstransmissions and rear ends. I am using 80-90 Hypoid gear oil now.
CHANGES IN OIL:
Oil is an ever-evolving lubricant. The zinc has been cut back in most, but not all oils. I use Valvoline VR-1 Racing Oil. It is rated off-road and still has a significant amount of zinc. I was told this when I spoke with a rep at Valvoline, and the non-detergent 30-weight still has about the same zinc as it always had. I use the VR-1 in all my cars that have had the engines completely cleaned (oven-baked) and rebuilt, and Valvoline 30-weight, non-detergent for all pre-60s cars that have not been rebuilt, and I have good oil pressure and have never had bearing failure.
When I first buy a car (and then every few years), I remove the oil pan, clean it out and clean the oil pump screen and replace the pan gasket. A caution on tightening the pan bolts is, dont over-tighten them. Most pan bolts are 1/4bolts and a general torque for a steel oil pan with 1/4grade 5 bolts is 10 ft/lbs. (Never use an air wrench on an oil pan! It will bend the pan, creating a wavy bolt surface.)
CHANGES IN ANTIFREEZE:
There are many types of antifreeze on the market, and the safest thing is to consult your owners manual, but if you dont have a manual, you can look it up online or call the dealer. In my old cars with cast iron blocks and cast or aluminum heads, I use Peak ethylene glycol antifreeze (green). It states on the container, for all engines. When I add water, I used only distilled water.
CHANGES IN BRAKE FLUID:
This is another fluid that changed overnight. I literally went into the parts store one day and bought DOT 3, and the next day it had been replaced with DOT 3 Hi-Temp Synthetic. They also have a DOT 4 synthetic. This should not be confused with silicone (DOT 5) brake fluid, which is not compatible with non-silicone brake fluids! There is also LMA (low moisture activity) brake fluid, as used on most vintage English cars. I can tell you from experience that if you add conventional DOT 3 to a system that has LMA, the DOT 3 will swell the rubber in the pistons of the calipers and lock up the brakes! Many brake fluids are not compatible.
So, here is what works for me: DOT 3 Super Tech (available at Walmart), works in all of my DOT 3 cars; LMA in my 67 Jaguar Mk 2, Super Tech DOT 4 synthetic in my 92 Jaguar Sovereign. I dont use silicone. It has been published that all brake fluids are synthetic chemicals and are not petroleum based, so now that syntheticis showing up on most all brake fluid bottles including Super Tech, it is more for marketing purposes or may have been mandated by DOT (Department of Transportation), and previous brake fluid bottles like my older Super Tech were actually synthetic but it just wasnt printed on the bottle as it is now.
I have found most brake systems only use a pint or two, so I stopped buying brake fluid in quarts and now buy it in pints, because the unused fluid in the quart container will go bad even with a tight lid on in a years time. So, in this application, using smaller containers is actually cheaper than using part of a larger one and putting the container back on the shelf to go bad.
AUTOMATIC TRANSMISSION FLUID (ATF)
Most all automatics after WWII used Dexron. Back then it had whale oil in it, which is no longer legal. Dexron was used in my GM cars as well as my Jaguar Mk 2. As years passed, it has been said that new Dexron IV, V, VI, etc. is no longer like the old Dexron, and type F is now more like the old Dexron. I spoke with a Jaguar service center and was told that they use Type F in their old Jags with Borg-Warner automatics. However, I was told from another shop that either modern Dexron or Type F is okay to use. The main difference, according to the majority of those I asked, is that the new Dexron is more slipperythan the Type F, and the Type F is less likely to result in transmission slippage. If an automatic transmission is changed from one to the other ATF, the transmission and the torque converter must be changed to that ATF. If you change from Dexron to Type F, it is advisable to do two torque converter and transmission fluid changes to get all of the old ATF out of the system. With that said, I still use Dexron in all of my postwar automobiles. I have found an old Dexron substitute which is close to the original, Super Tech #41411862, available in pints or quarts in a blue bottle at Walmart (get it while you can!).
MINERAL OIL in modern usage, is used in many European cars for their hydraulic systems. Our 92 Jaguar uses it for its power steering and leveling systems. It is green in color, Castrol Part #27LM9886. It does not mix with red power steering fluid. If red is used in these Euro systems, the front end seals will leak and wear rapidly. To change oils, the entire system must be purged and refilled with the correct green. Its not sold at most local parts stores, but can be purchased online or at a Jaguar, Rolls or Bentley service center.
We all know the ill effects of ethanol gas! I drive 25 miles to get non-ethanol and bring it back in 5-gallon containers, to put in the cars that are being restored or are not driven regularly. I have seen the destruction of carburetors when the tops were removed, showing where the ethanol gas had cleaned and eaten up the float bowl, gaskets and everything else in its way. I almost lost a $2500 Stromberg EE-23 to the dreaded ethanol! What works for me is to use medium grade non-ethanol with stabilizer from Bill Hirsch*. This lasts me for 6 months (in Georgias climate) without going bad. After 6 months, I run the old gas out and refill the tank. I only keep about 2-3 gallons in the cars that are rarely driven. I havent had any more fuel system problems using this schedule.
CHANGES IN FUEL FILTERS:
Fuel filters can be another source of problems in your fuel system. I use the old 50s style AC glass bowls. Be aware that the metal in the original ones were made of cast iron, while the new ones appear to be made of aluminum, so care must be used in tightening down the gas lines (dont over-tighten the new ones!!). The real issue here is the replacement glass bowl paper filters rubber gasket. The new ones are too small for the old filter housings. When a part is re-cast from an original, the new part will be slightly smaller than the original, unless the mold is enlarged to compensate for shrinkage. The new AC paper filters fit the new and old AC glass bowl filter bodies, but the rubber gaskets, while perfect for the new glass bowls, are too small for the original glass bowl and castfilter bodies. I bought 24 of these filters 5 or 6 years ago, and put one in my 1951 Packard with an OEM glass bowl filter, started the car and gas sprayed out all over the newly-painted engine compartment. There are a few correct-sized rubber gaskets that show up occasionally on eBay or you can trace the outside diameter of the glass bowl on fuel-approved gasket paper and cut a new, tight-fitting gasket. I have seen the position of these glass bowls with the bowl up or down. If you position the bowl up, its easy to see whether the gasket is sealing. If down, use a mechanics mirror to check the rubber gasket before starting the car.
There are a few things like the examples above, that can be bought in advance at not too high a price, that will make driving old cars easier, safer and fun. As always, Keep em driving!