Home » What You Need To Know Before Buying Your First Vintage Car: Tales From A Service Advisor

What You Need To Know Before Buying Your First Vintage Car: Tales From A Service Advisor

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I’m lucky enough to work in a shop that sees a wide variety of cars and, among them, a wide selection of years. Considering my own garage features a 1976 Lancia Scorpion sitting next to a 2018 Alfa Romeo Giulia, I don’t generally find anything surprising about the repairs being so different for different eras of cars. For example: my Giulia needs a new oil level sensor because some Italian engineer with no knowledge of Italian car history thought that checking the oil via the infotainment system was a good idea. My Lancia has this wild technology called “a dipstick” that works quite well and could teach that Alfa engineer a thing or two.

As a shop, we are happy to accept vintage cars. We have vintage tools to work on them and we have a “vintage” technician who was installed back in the ‘80s and was working on cars before they were vintage. We even have a few owners who have watched their vehicle transition from modern to vintage under many years of our care and, frankly, it’s all a bit adorable in cases like that.

[Ed Note: Andrea Petersen is a new voice we’re featuring on the site. She’s a service advisor who brings a unique perspective on the automotive experience. – MH]

The cases that are sometimes less adorable are new owners of vintage cars. Any time you are new to something wildly different from what you’re used to, there will be a learning curve. So it is for vintage car ownership. Unfortunately, some folks seem to think “well, I’ve owned a car before and this is a car too so no big deal.”

Anothercar

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This would be like holding your smartphone in one hand and grandma’s old rotary dial telephone in the other and deciding they’re the same. Yes, you can make a phone call with both, but good luck typing out an article with your thumbs (something I’m doing right now) on a rotary phone. Yes, you can drive a vintage and modern car in largely the same way, but I don’t have to say a prayer to make my Alfa start like I do with my Lancia.

Part of the fun of a vintage car is it might shake a little, it might sound different, and I guarantee at the very least it smells different. All of these things are part of its undeniable charm. Usually less charming are the squeaks, rattles, and stains on the garage floor. We are more than happy to help with these issues, but sometimes, that’s just how old car life is. Modern cars are built with much tighter tolerances in the manufacturing process. They have fancy modern gaskets made with fancy modern polymers invented by smart people in lab coats. Old cars sometimes have seals that were once growing on a cork tree. Those gaskets get replaced with new gaskets that were also once part of a cork tree.

Morgan Engine

Sometimes when you go to fix one thing on a vintage car, the process of loosening and retightening other parts as part of the repair will cause entirely different parts to spring a leak. It becomes a game of problem-solving Whack-A-Mole, and while we can foresee the possibility of this happening, we often can’t foresee exactly which problems we’ll have to chase. The test drive after a successful oil leak repair can end in a parking lot a mile away after pulling over with a sudden coolant leak. Then the wait for parts and time on the schedule to do the cooling system repair can mean the car sits for two weeks and, when the technician tries to pull the car in for repair, the battery is dead. A quick battery test reveals the summer heat or winter cold has wiped out that six-year-old battery, adding a new item to the list.

At the end of the day, yes it may be leaking, but sometimes it’s best just to leave that can of worms closed. It’s sometimes odd to tell customers “your car is leaking, just let it.” At these moments, I try to remind myself of visits I’ve paid to places like The Petersen Museum (no relation, but it makes for a great photo op!) and all the aluminum cookie sheets I noticed carefully tucked under the otherwise pristine cars on display.

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Petersen

Some folks choose to open the worm can, and all I can really tell them is the car may have a long stay with us; be prepared for a hefty bill. This is when a car crosses the line from a couple fixes to a borderline mechanical restoration. If we’re really lucky this will start with an inspection, and we’ll get an overall idea of what all we might be up against, but this often isn’t the reality. “Just make it stop leaking” doesn’t account for the myriad of other things that have been holding together, settling, squashed and stretched for the last few decades.

There’s also the wild card of what all previous repairs were done over the years. The likelihood of finding anything from chicken wire to drywall screws holding a vintage car together in places is really pretty high if I’m being honest. We will also likely find plenty of spiders, possibly hornets nests and occasional dead rodents. One of our technicians pulled a massive dead black widow out of one last week. We don’t consider pests in your car to be an indictment of the cleanliness of your garage, they’re just a reality of dealing with cars in general.

Spiderinfest

Courtesy of one of our service techs: Spiders love to make nests in cars that sit parked for long periods of time. Just ask David.

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I’ve been on the other side of the counter for vintage car repairs a time or two myself. While I enjoy turning a wrench, I acknowledge that I have time limitations as well as skill level limits, and there just so happens to be a shop across the alley that accepts just about anything weird. Want to electric swap an old farm truck? No problem. Want to make your MG absurdly fast? They got this. So, when I had to admit I just didn’t have the weekend time to replace the massively leaking water pump on my Scorpion, I was welcomed with open arms. I loaded up the car with a stack of manuals, a new drive belt, and the water pump I had finally managed to source, and limped in knowing that I would be agonized every day by the knowledge that my little silver wedge of joy would be so close but so far away for a while. I tried to give them what I would dream of getting from my own customers; a bunch of patience and quick responses to any questions or needs.

All that being said, every shop operates differently. While the shop next door may have no problem with a weirdo goth girl showing up with a stack of poorly photocopied books missing pages that are partially in Italian and a part sourced from a site they’ve never heard of run by some guy on another continent, this probably wouldn’t fly with me. We prefer to source parts from our own trusted suppliers and I’m quite sure all of our technicians would probably stare at a German page in a manual like it was the Voynich Manuscript. Rule of thumb; if you have to start learning a foreign language to deal with your car, you probably need more than just a normal independent shop.

Trying to get someone with their first vintage car to understand how all of this works, especially if they’re not really a full-on car enthusiast in general, can be challenging. Yes, some cars make a decent investment, but most do not. If you buy a vintage car with the hope of fixing it up to sell, you will need to buy it for very, very cheap. Ideally it was free. Bonus points if you can do most of the work yourself and just use a shop for the tricky, annoying jobs or things you don’t have time for. If the difference between what you got it for and what a fair to good condition car is worth is less than five or six grand, you probably will not come out on top, despite what all your internet auction get-rich-quick fantasies make you believe. I would highly recommend reframing the investment idea as investing in your own enjoyment rather than anything purely financial. If you enjoy research, making friends in far flung places, and maybe learning how to say “my car is broken” in another language, as well as driving and possibly showing the car, then you are truly ready for vintage car ownership.

Mg Motor

The best advice I can give is: If you’re looking at a vintage car as an investment or a short term fashion item, get a more common vintage car in already good condition and drive it until you either get bored and move on to your next questionable idea or you fall in love and want to go to the next level. If you want to pour your heart and soul into it, do a whole bunch of studying, and learn the ins and outs of the car you want. Get a basic mechanical understanding of the car via a Haynes manual at least. Once you have the basic knowledge, buy the car.

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Above all, have patience. We may have to source parts from some small time guy in Wales or Florida, instead of the usual overnight wholesalers. We may have to order a wide selection of belts and try a bunch till one fits because they threw just about anything on at the factory and didn’t take notes. We may have to fix much more than anyone expected. We may have to douse it in several cans of insecticide. In the end, you will have your cool vintage car, but nobody ever said the process is easy.

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Photos: Author, CCA, Newspress

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Phil Layshio
Phil Layshio
3 months ago

Love the Lancia! Had to literally laugh out loud, I dropped my Midget off this morning for a full rebuild. I’ve put it off since last year, when I asked them to fix the oil leaks…

tacotruckdave
tacotruckdave
3 months ago

I just brought a new project home. A 1978 Fiat 124 Spider. One thing i do is check tires and named parts for value or problems. You can bet i was excited that the tires were chosen brand of Ferrari and Lamborghini racing. You can also bet i was disappointed when i found out that they sold out in 1979 and the tires were at best original to the 1978.

TinyScorpion
TinyScorpion
3 months ago
Reply to  tacotruckdave

If you were excited about the tires, you are in for a wild ride when you discover how shallow the 70s/80s Italian parts bin was!
-Andrea

dannyzabolotny
dannyzabolotny
3 months ago

As somebody that owns & operates a vintage BMW repair shop in Phoenix, I wholeheartedly agree with all of this. A lot of people have been buying older BMW’s because they’re cool now, but a lot of them aren’t prepared for the ownership experience. As far as vintage cars go, BMW’s are pretty decent in terms of parts availability— most things can still be obtained, it just might take a while. Fixing oil leaks is definitely something that you have to have realistic expectations for… unlike a modern BMW where you can fix whatever is leaking, on an older one, it’s likely to be several things that are leaking from years of neglect, so I often tell people that want a 100% leak-free vintage BMW that I’ll need to reseal the entire engine to achieve that, because otherwise it’s not really possible.

rootwyrm
rootwyrm
3 months ago
Reply to  dannyzabolotny

Yep. And at that point, you refuse to reseal the motor without a total rebuild. TOTAL. Inspection, bearings, rings, hot tanking, clips, EVERYTHING. Because the absolute last damn thing you want or need is the car coming in two weeks later full of forbidden glitter because it spun the worn out bearing you didn’t replace.

SquareTaillight2002
SquareTaillight2002
3 months ago

With a nod to Mr. Toretto, I live my life 100 miles at a time. People wonder why I spend so much time restoring, fixing, and upgrading vintage cars.

I’m always in search of that magic drive where all the parts are humming in harmony, warm sunshine gleams on the sculpted chrome, the waft of hot oil doesn’t overwhelm the mountain air, and the sparce traffic all move at the same brisk pace.

Cerberus
Cerberus
3 months ago

The other problem with vintage cars is that they’re easier to steal as long as they run and the thief can drive stick. “The Durango 95 purred away real horrorshow—a nice, warm, vibraty feeling all through my guttiwuts.”

Props for the Probe 16 image.

TinyScorpion
TinyScorpion
3 months ago
Reply to  Cerberus

I love A Clockwork Orange and got a good laugh out of the cookie sheet under the Probe 16 last time I was there.

CSRoad
CSRoad
3 months ago

As a person who had to often fix an obscure part he broke I welcomed the arrival of the Internet especially, email, Usenet and the www. Sometimes things were suddenly no longer as rare. Vacations were replaced by shipping fees. Something was lost along the way, but you were no longer alone, there were others out there with the disease.

TinyScorpion
TinyScorpion
3 months ago
Reply to  CSRoad

This is one of the things I love about the Fiat/Lancia community. For decades after Fiat left the US there were dudes in garages keeping eachothers cars going and creating this nifty little network. When Fiat came back the doors opened to the younger generation and the culture of the network mostly stayed the same, but just adopted in the new kids, myself included. If you need something, somebody somewhere will have it and help you. There will likely be some fun sauciness involved, but getting your part or advice will happen.

EXL500
EXL500
3 months ago

I knew I was old when you said you were typing with two thumbs.

Peck, peck, peck…

tacotruckdave
tacotruckdave
3 months ago
Reply to  EXL500

Some do typing hunt and peck my method seems more seek and destroy.

TinyScorpion
TinyScorpion
3 months ago
Reply to  EXL500

I remember sending texts as a teenager by tapping numbers multiple times on a Nokia. Never in a million years would I want to type out an article that way! In fairness, I didn’t write the *entire* thing on my phone, just roughly a third of it.

OrigamiSensei
OrigamiSensei
3 months ago

Welcome, Andrea! Glad to have you share your perspective and looking forward to seeing more of your articles.

mr.choppers
mr.choppers
3 months ago

From my experience, mechanics typically either refuse to work on my car outright (bad) or say “yeah, yeah, no problem, we can fix anything” (bad).

tacotruckdave
tacotruckdave
3 months ago
Reply to  mr.choppers

I would replace 2nd bad with worse.

In The Mike Lane
In The Mike Lane
3 months ago
Reply to  mr.choppers

My experience as well. The Saab 93 was refused by multiple shops where I live, found one that could and the work was good, but man did it cost. You pay for expertise, but if you find a good one, it’s worth it.

Drive By Commenter
Drive By Commenter
3 months ago

Finding rubber bits can be a challenge. It may well involve an elegant bodge to replace a convoluted factory hose.

TomMetcalf
TomMetcalf
3 months ago

I have had several shops that didn’t want to look at a vintage car. Especially a modified one. That led me to learn to do jobs that I would have had done at a shop. Our safety inspections in Ontario are one thing that lots of shops don’t want to do. Fortunately, I found a place that will do them.

Mr. Asa
Mr. Asa
3 months ago

but I don’t have to say a prayer to make my Alfa start like I do with my Lancia.

I mean, don’t you?

Tried to do the independent mechanic for a bit for those folk that would come in to Pep Boys and get turned away because their car was too old. I never got the hang of telling people “ok, if we fix this, this may have an issue later” and I ended up taking a bath a couple times. Other than one clown, it was still rewarding to do. Got a couple old cars rolling down the road.

mtdrift
mtdrift
3 months ago

Great stuff, Andrea. You’re really nailing this writing thing.

MATTinMKE
MATTinMKE
3 months ago
Reply to  mtdrift

And she’s only using her thumbs!

TinyScorpion
TinyScorpion
3 months ago
Reply to  MATTinMKE

I become dangerous when allowed to use the other 8 fingers…

TinyScorpion
TinyScorpion
3 months ago
Reply to  mtdrift

This is what happens when I’m given more or less unlimited access to characters rather than just 280 at a time.

MP81
MP81
3 months ago

It’s more fun when you have something old with “new” technology, like my ’81 Z28 with the CCC – aka, the computer-controlled Quadrajet.

In theory, it’s actually quite brilliant, and if it works right, it’s basically a carb that uses an O2 sensor to adjust fuel input (primaries only – secondaries are still reliant on a spring and vacuum).

So of course it’s basically never worked right since I took ownership of the car in 2016. Actually, it did (though it’s always had this weird issue where RPM will suddenly spike from idle for no discernable reason), and then a year or so later (after I put on longtubes and true duals – but not right after – it was a couple months later) it just…stopped running right. Two carb rebuilds later (and I now have the “OTC Monitor 2000” to actually read the data from the car’s computer) and I’m not really in any better shape.

RamblerMan
RamblerMan
3 months ago

This article is really only relevant for foreign cars – and only the most finicky of them. I can fix my 65 Rambler with a ratchet set and a couple screwdrivers. Parts are cheap and easy to find, it’s reliable (ish), and it goes down the road better than any other car I’ve owned. All for $1,600. It would be nice to have FM Radio, though. And cruise control. Taller gears wouldn’t upset me, either.

tacotruckdave
tacotruckdave
3 months ago
Reply to  RamblerMan

Yeah but old foreign is classic old Rambler is just old. Not really nice cars but no risk no reward.

Ryan Flowers
Ryan Flowers
3 months ago
Reply to  tacotruckdave

Rambler parts are a cheap and available only if you’re talking certain engine and drivetrain parts. Interior parts are almost nonexistent unless you want to pay out the nose. Bumpers, trim, front and rear glass etc. have all but disappeared. AMC V8 parts are eye watering when it come to anything other than stock 360 and 304 parts and even then you’ll pay more. Sure, the OHV I-6 stuff, especially 232-258 stuff is easy to come by but you still need to know what you’re looking at.
As far as classic vs. old is concerned, that’s a matter of opinion. I can appreciate all old cars especially daily drivers, but I definitely have preferences. My four door 67 American is a great little car (32k original miles) as is my 65 Mustang (high school car, owned it since 1990). Other great cars were 58 Austin Healey Sprite (bugeye) that was a blast to drive even as ratty as it was, a 1987 Shelby Daytona, and numerous other makes and models. Point is, there’s something to appreciate about any old car, foreign or not.

Otter
Otter
3 months ago

Thanks for repping the Lancia! I maintain that Friday’s Showdown Citroen SM was the wrong choice.

TinyScorpion
TinyScorpion
3 months ago
Reply to  Otter

I of course voted for the Lancia as well. Honestly, Scorpion ownership isn’t too bad when you’re already used to being a part of the Fiat community. There’s a huge amount of overlap between the Fiat, Lancia, and Alfa guys and we pretty much all know or know of eachother.

SlowCarFast
SlowCarFast
3 months ago
Reply to  Otter

I was on the Lancia side, but the lack of wheels and windshield did give me some hesitation.

AssMatt
AssMatt
3 months ago

Last April I bought an ’83 Mondial (hi Adrian) in need of a clutch replacement and fresh tires. Yesterday I drove it properly for the first time (parts took forever to source/ship) and it was heavenly. The bliss was short-lived, as the belt was chirping by the time I parked it; thus the other lesson (about any vehicle, any vintage) is “enjoy it while you can in between garage visits,” whether it be for a year or a season or just one perfect drive!

Mick Molte
Mick Molte
3 months ago

One other fun thing to consider is overall production run. If you find yourself into oddballs that were made in limited quantities for just a year or three, that takes one approach to ownership and maintenance. But if you find yourself into something made in large quantities forever and ever, that lends itself to a different approach.

Like I’m an old Volvo guy. They built 240s from 75 to 93. In one way, there’s not a huge amount that’s the same from a 75 to a 93. But there’s also a ridiculous amount of stuff that will bolt from one to the other. There’s some stuff that might’ve ONLY come from factory in any one given year, but have at it if you want your 75 to have the powered, heated mirrors off a 93. Want to have disk brakes on your 544 like you should? All the Amazon stuff bolts straight up. And whether it’s a ‘58 or a ‘98 the oil filter is the same, and the good ones are in stock everywhere. Though if you need a clutch master cylinder for one with the low-production-numbers PRV lump you’ll need to be patient. Those have been gone from junkyards for 30 years now.

So anyway, what you really need to develop here—either as an owner, enthusiast community, service writer or mechanic—is an institutional memory of how these things were originally put together, whether they built 500 of them or 5,000,000 of them.

Sklooner
Sklooner
3 months ago
Reply to  Mick Molte

The dreaded 93 850 and 90 740 come to mind of single year oddballs

mrcanoehead
mrcanoehead
3 months ago
Reply to  Mick Molte

Did the PRV actually come with a manual option? That would be a Holy Grail! I’ve only ever seen automatics.

Mick Molte
Mick Molte
3 months ago
Reply to  mrcanoehead

Indeed they did! For a couple of years in the late 70s you could get the PRV with the stick in any of the three body styles…AND you even could spec them in the base trim! That hydraulic clutch setup is still prized because it can handle more power than the cable you got on all the other 240s.

A. Barth
A. Barth
3 months ago
Reply to  Mick Molte

“oddballs that were made in limited quantities for just a year or three, that takes one approach to ownership and maintenance”

This person speaks the truth.

I have an old motorcycle that is essentially a one-year model, in that a lot of important bits from that year fit ONLY that year. The rear master cylinder wasn’t used anywhere else (maybe on one other model? not sure) so everything OEM is NLA and there is no aftermarket support because there isn’t really a market for it. I searched eBay literally for years to find the parts to replace my corroded MC and found nothing, then in 3-4 weeks I stumbled upon a good used MC and a[n] NOS piston and seal. Go figure.

Anyway, the bike sat patiently in storage until I could find the parts. I was this || close to adapting a rear master from another bike – something the owner community had come up with – when the parts came along. 🙂

TinyScorpion
TinyScorpion
3 months ago
Reply to  Mick Molte

The limited-production oddball lives in my garage. It’s very rare for something with a smaller production run to come into the shop. Right now we have an early-mid 80s Meecedes in that need a LOT of work and trying to find the bits for it will likely be challenging since Mercedes pretty quickly realized the engine was crap and maybe, just maaaybe they shouldn’t leave the timing chain all loosey goosey

Sklooner
Sklooner
3 months ago

I think you can also use ‘modified car’ in this article as well, people don’t understand that all the bolt ons and modifications can really cause issues when things don’t work. Oh you have a smaller pulley on the crank and it doesn’t turn the A/C compressor enough ? just a bigger pulley for that and a new tensioner from a different car and a belt from another one and guess what ? none of these changes are documented so you do a bunch of research and guesswork and then try to add it to the bill

TinyScorpion
TinyScorpion
3 months ago
Reply to  Sklooner

Undocumented modifications are a special sort of hell. I’ve seen a couple cars come in under new ownership and they have nooo idea they basically bought a track car.

Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
3 months ago

‘Modern cars are built with much tighter tolerances in the manufacturing process. They have fancy modern gaskets made with fancy modern polymers invented by smart people in lab coats. Old cars sometimes have seals that were once growing on a cork tree. Those gaskets get replaced with new gaskets that were also once part of a cork tree.’

But they don’t HAVE to. Replacing old cork and paper gaskets with fancy modern polymer gaskets does not detract from the “good” vintage experience, it only helps eliminate the “bad” vintage experiences – things like engine fires, chewed up axles and constant tuneups.

Its not just cork and paper gaskets either. Old British cars (and probably others) were designed with “windvane” crank seals designed to pull the oil back into the engine because seal tech was not mature enough. Replacing those windvanes with modern seals will eliminate a lot of leaks also without detracting from the vintage experience. Same with hydraulic seals – replacing vintage rubber with modern only helps the experience.

Another cheap and easy upgrade: Replace the points with electronic ignition modules – they fit right under the distributor cap. Looks 100% stock unless you open the cap and you won’t, there’s no need to anymore. Need to go back for a concourse show? No problem, its easy to swap back with a screwdriver.

TheHairyNug
TheHairyNug
3 months ago
Reply to  Cheap Bastard

I think that the authors’ point was that sometimes they have to be. Occasionally, modern materials and techniques assume a level of tolerance that simply wasn’t achievable. So, cork it is (sometimes)

Dave_Hudson
Dave_Hudson
3 months ago
Reply to  Cheap Bastard

I like points. Never had a single issue ever with them.

Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
3 months ago
Reply to  Dave_Hudson

YMMV.

Dave Bell
Dave Bell
3 months ago
Reply to  Cheap Bastard

I did this on my 1980 351 Ford engine back in the early 1990s. I’ve not pulled the plate since. I still swap the cap & rotor every few years, but that’s it. And that’s easy. Highly recommended.

A. Barth
A. Barth
3 months ago
Reply to  Cheap Bastard

“Replacing old cork and paper gaskets with fancy modern polymer gaskets does not detract from the “good” vintage experience”

Unless the owner is striving for a 100% correct restoration, in which case those replacements will become an issue.

tacotruckdave
tacotruckdave
3 months ago
Reply to  A. Barth

Yes but probably not what a first time masochist oops enthusiast is shooting for. And if they are it is a restoration not a repair. BTW other good tips is buying the best you can afford not the cheapest. Buying a parts car is cheaper than buying parts. Determine drive or display two different kinds of shops. See if there is an active club membership for your car. That can eliminate the cost of trying many different things and what to expect.

Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
3 months ago
Reply to  tacotruckdave

To a point. A lot of the time I’ve found price =/= quality. You can spend a lot for a name brand made on the same assembly line as El Cheapo stuff, buying “Porsche” when “VW” is the exact same thing at 1/3 the cost.

Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
3 months ago
Reply to  A. Barth

‘Unless the owner is striving for a 100% correct restoration, in which case those replacements will become an issue.’

Why that would that be an issue? If the owners want the bad as well as the good that’s on them. The option will still exist if the owner changes their mind. Perhaps after the gaskets fail and spray gasoline all over the engine. That’s what did it for me. Speaking as someone who used to DD a vintage British sports car 100% originality is grossly overrated. Especially when it comes to safety.

Happy Walters
Happy Walters
3 months ago
Reply to  A. Barth

I agree completely, but I don’t think those owners are looking for advice on TheAutopian. Good luck to them, but I don’t think those cars ever get driven.

mber
mber
3 months ago

Or, just hit up Mecum on a Thursday. Lots of oddball old rides in high-quality driver condition that won’t break the bank. If there’s no one else in the room who wants it, you might get it for half of what it’s worth.

mrbrown89
mrbrown89
3 months ago

Agree with the vintage point of view, fixing something on any “modern” car, most of the time its connecting an OBD2 scanner, get the error code and change parts, easy as that.

With my almost 50 years old Beetle, since everything its pretty much original (Really low miles car), every time I take it for service, there is a lot of things that I wasn’t expecting. From a simple oil change that I wanted to do, now to replace old rubber, replacing the oil sensor, fixing the heater box, etc etc the bill is always high 🙁

tacotruckdave
tacotruckdave
3 months ago
Reply to  mrbrown89

Switch shops the Beetle if you like them is the ideal cheap old car. If you are getting high bills try another shop.

Mark Tucker
Mark Tucker
3 months ago

Bonus points for the Voynich Manuscript reference, and for the photo of the oft-overlooked six-cylinder MGC.

UnseenCat
UnseenCat
3 months ago

There was a time when all cars marked their territory. Oil spots under the car were just… normal. Someone who only discovered cars and wrenching in the 21st century might be a bit puzzled by that.

With respect to vintage cars, I like to hand out the sage advice from classic Land Rover and Jaguar owners and mechanics about those inevitable oil spots wherever you park it… “If it’s leaking, everything is fine. If it stops leaking, something’s not right!”

Tacofan
Tacofan
3 months ago
Reply to  UnseenCat

If it stopped leaking, you’re low on oil and you should add at least a quart or two.

RadBarchetta
RadBarchetta
3 months ago
Reply to  Tacofan

If it stops leaking, it’s too late. There’s no oil left.

SteamTroller45
SteamTroller45
3 months ago
Reply to  RadBarchetta

If there ain’t oil under ’em, there ain’t oil in ’em

TinyScorpion
TinyScorpion
3 months ago
Reply to  UnseenCat

We also try to share this advice from time to time. Sometimes old cars just leak a bit and that’s ok. As long as it’s not a sudden torrent of fluid and you keep it topped up, you’ll be alright.

TomMetcalf
TomMetcalf
3 months ago
Reply to  UnseenCat

My old CJ5 always seeps out a little oil from the transfer case and from the knuckles because they have felt seals for those. That fact blew a friend’s mind.
I also have a 1952 John Deere tractor and I ignored a small leak at the back, assuming a PTO leak. Turned out to be just a loose bolt. I felt kinda like a dummy there.

rootwyrm
rootwyrm
3 months ago
Reply to  TomMetcalf

That’s not right on those. The felt should be wet, NOT seeping on a Dana 18. If it’s seeping, it’s not only a bad seal, but there’s a problem inside as well (probably overfilled.) Novak makes a Dana 18 gasket kit, $55. Do ’em all. If you want to make it bulletproof, get the rebuild kit with it at $280.

tacotruckdave
tacotruckdave
3 months ago
Reply to  UnseenCat

Oil leaks are just under carriage rust proofing. Just dont let it run out of the rustproofing materials

Ike
Ike
3 months ago

“I don’t have to say a prayer to make my Alfa start like I do with my Lancia.”
Just wait a few years.

RadBarchetta
RadBarchetta
3 months ago
Reply to  Ike

I chuckled at this as well. Dad had a Stelvio for a while. “Had” being the operative word because prayers would have been helpful when it came to reliable running.

Seth Simon
Seth Simon
3 months ago
Reply to  RadBarchetta

If your Dad’s Stelvio troubles are accurate, I can tell you it’s an outlier. I’ve been an Alfa Service advisor for roughly four years and I’ve never seen any serious warranty issues with any Alfas while at my job, and I’ve dealt with many with waaay over 100k miles. Alfas are sensitive to proper maintenance though, and if anything is skipped, they don’t run well.

Tacofan
Tacofan
3 months ago
Reply to  Ike

She just forgot the word “yet” in that sentence.

andyindividual
andyindividual
3 months ago
Reply to  Tacofan

I don’t get it. I can’t just put fresh duck tape over the old?

RecoveringGTV6MaratonaOwner
RecoveringGTV6MaratonaOwner
3 months ago
Reply to  andyindividual

Andrea, a splendid masterfully written article that I wish I had read 30 years ago before embarking on my Italian car foibles. On that note, I am rather glad that I read your remark about not worrying about the Alfa while in bed, rather than creating a Pollack on my kitchen table with spewed morning coffee. Much to the chagrin of my father who tried to prevent me from acting on my amorous desires, I once had a long passionate romance that ended in heartbreak and a lighter wallet at the hands of an Arese-born Italian Princiapa. By the time she had stripped me of my dignity, patience, and resources; I was convinced that she would break if I even glanced at her. And yet…I still hear her siren call, all these many years later.
I couldn’t help but notice the similarities in the exterior of the lovely LanCHia Scorpion and the GTV6, especially the door handles that I became afraid to risk breaking by using for their intended purpose. The Scorpion also resembles the VW Scirocco. Did they share a designer? Regardless, kudos to your writing and choice of cars. I look forward to your future articles.

RecoveringGTV6MaratonaOwner
RecoveringGTV6MaratonaOwner
3 months ago

I meant Principessa, not

RecoveringGTV6MaratonaOwner
RecoveringGTV6MaratonaOwner
3 months ago

Princiapa

TinyScorpion
TinyScorpion
3 months ago

I get that a lot, as well as “is that a DeLorean?” The Scirocco is a Giugiaro design while the Scorpion was Paolo Martin at Pininfarina. Also, the door handles are generally OK and available as they were used on a variety of Italian cars from the period. One of the beauties of Fiat era Lancias are how you can swap much more available parts on from old Fiats. In fact this was a common technique for getting them to survive through the lack of parts in the 90s. And I prefer to not think of myself as an “owner” so much as a “caretaker.” One does not own a Lancia, you are merely it’s human.

TinyScorpion
TinyScorpion
3 months ago
Reply to  Ike

I absolutely threw that line in to tempt fate. In fact I think I can hear my Alfa and Lancia both plotting against me as I write this…

Seth Simon
Seth Simon
3 months ago
Reply to  Ike

As a service advisor for an Alfa Romeo dealer in the LA area for four-ish years who saw many cars with way over 100k miles, I can say your perception and expectations are very inaccurate. Modern Alfas are pretty solid. If reliability is everything for you, buy a Toyota or a Honda, and hey, even some of them have their issues. (I was also a Lexus service advisor several years about a decade ago).

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