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Improvements Published: 26th Apr 2019 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

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Even if you demand originality, it makes sense to dial in some useful upgrades into your rebuild which won’t spoil the character of your classic

It doesn’t matter whether you have rebuilt a Ford or a Ferrari, they are still old cars – meaning there’s little that can’t usefully be improved upon.

Even if you don’t intend fast on the road or go on the track and prefer originality in the slow lane instead, there’s still a fair few mods worth incorporating that will not dilute the character of your classic.

Like it or not, even if you’re stickler to authenticity, the fact that you have replaced numerous parts you have, even by accident, deviated from standard specification. Depending on how much you intend to use your rebuilt classic determines the extent on how far you want to go.

Leaving out any performance modifications, virtually every classic will prove more reliable and perform better with sensible upgrades such as electronic ignition, superior cooling (radiator and electric fan), hardened valve seats (for safe unleaded fuel use) and better brakes (modern linings, disc brake conversion, servo etc).

All of the above are fully accepted within many owners’ clubs because they enhance the vehicle while still in standard trim. Where it could become complicated are tweaks which are irreversible because as classics get older and rarer, the desire for their originality by many may cause problems down the line. If any alterations can be reversed, then there’s little to worry over.

An extra cog or two doesn’t go amiss these days. Five-speed gearboxes (or four/five-speed automatics) are becoming increasingly wanted so long as it is combined with a proper fitting kit (try Hi Gear ENgineering).

However, some classics, like MGAs, may demand extensive chassis mods in order to fit the bigger transmissions, so think about what you are about to undertake. That said, many MGAs have been converted and it transforms the drive (so long as there’s enough power to pull the higher gear – unlike standard Morris Minors), as does electronic power steering on most oldies (try EZ, Litesteer etc) and not only is this fitment reversible but the installations are hard to detect.

One of the major differences between a classic and a modern is their stopping power and if you take the view that you can’t have brakes which are too good, then it’s wise to uprate them – your owners’ club or marque specialist will have advice on the best mods depending upon your needs and budget – ditto suspension upgrades; for many just better springs and dampers suffice.

Modifications don’t always concern more speed and power. It’s also about civilised conveniences such as superior seating, better lighting (be honest, most oldies can be pretty miserable in these respects), hotter cabin heating and a wealth of welcome winter weather aids such as higher power starters, heated screens, two-speed wipers, electric windows and such like.

With all this added electricity hungry hardware, a dynamo can’t cope so fit a higher-powered battery plus swap to an alternator or a dynamo-looking Dynalite and Dynamator, the latter which twins alternator technology with the classic style and appearance of a Dynamo, yet providing up to 80 per cent more power . It’s likely that the wiring loom has been bodged over the decades, so for safety and reliability’s sake, we’d contemplate replacing the entire shebang as new looms aren’t expensive.

Top tweaks

Keeping your cool

Oldies don’t have to overheat. Ensure the cooling system is top notch and invest in a higher performance radiator along with an electric cooling fan. Evans Waterless Coolant is also an invaluable aid as the liquid cannot boil like normal water

Become a bright spark…

We don’t know of any classic that hasn’t benefited from a good electronic ignition system that does away with the c.b. points and fits inside the distributor cap so looks standard. Better still couple it with higher power ignition leads and a sports coil

Gearing up to a great car

Five-speeds feel almost mandatory as they make the going less hectic, ditto autos with extra ratios. However, you need decent power to pull that extra gear, best speak to a specialist first. But don’t dismiss overdrive if it was fitted when new

Five top tips

Have it checked

While you are rightly proud of the project, are you sure it’s roadworthy? Even though cars over 40 years of age don’t noew require one, At the very least have a normal MoT carried out to check you haven’t missed anything (easily done) or better still employ a marque specialist to also run the rule all over your handiwork beforehand

Second opinion

Swallow your pride and your pride and joy evaluated by a friend or club member to see if there’s any details that you’ve missed or simply not bothered with; tired window seals, missing badges yellowing or broken switch gear, shabby seat belts, that sort of thing

Just like new

Treat your good as new oldie as if it was brand new, and that means considerate driving, applying a sensible running in process to bed down all the new parts before carrying out a general ‘first’ service including a thorough nut and bolt tightening ritual

The right cover?

Have you thought about insurance and revaluing your project? Ensure that you’ve keep all the bills and receipts for the shed full of parts purchased plus any professional work carried out because the paper trail is essential evidence to present to your insurer about the car’s new worth as don’t want to under value the vehicle. A digital photo log is also invaluable to verify the standard of restoration carried out

Have some fun

Sounds daft but it isn’t … After all the hard work and expense you’ve put in to get the classic up and running, don’t keep it in garage – get out there and enjoy the fruits of your labour!

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