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Makeover Guide For Your Classic

Mod The Marque Published: 18th May 2011 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Makeover Guide For Your Classic
Makeover Guide For Your Classic
Makeover Guide For Your Classic
Makeover Guide For Your Classic
Makeover Guide For Your Classic
Makeover Guide For Your Classic
Makeover Guide For Your Classic
Makeover Guide For Your Classic
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Still got some cash left over from the credit crunch and want to improve your standard classic? Then consider these ten top mods!

Just belt up… And fit a nice new set

Even the most classic die-hard can’t deny that modern seat belts are much better than the old ones. How many times have you seen a really nice car spoiled by some manky old static belts just left dangling? They’re uncomfortable to use as well. So why not invest ina new set, care of a specialist seat belt maker who can make up a set that’s easy and comfortable to use plus a lot safer, too? Remember seat belts are an MOT failure point, while a new seat does wonders for the cockpit’s looks and your security. Static, inertia reel or even a racing three-point harness can all be rigged up along with special lengthened straps to accommodate baby seats.

Your classic need not feel so tyred out!

It’s amazing how many enthusiasts rebuild their pride and joy to the last nut and bolt and yet enthuse over the fact that its still got the original tyres! And yet speak to most tyre experts and they reckon their typical shelf life is seven years or so before they lose their effectiveness. Now we’re not saying that you have to throw away perfectly good tyres but there are a lot of vehicles out there running around on worn, tired and mis-matched rubber-ware – that’s still technically legal! A new uniform set of the same make, profile and pattern will transform any car’s handling and braking. In real terms, tyres are cheaper now than ever and £100 or so should do it as most 1950/60s cars wear pretty skinny ones anyway.

When the going gets hot!

The biggest worry with any classic out on a hot summer jaunt is boiling over. Most of the time it’s due to straightforward ageing and lack of maintenance although some engines are prone to overheating. A thorough servicing of the cooling system is an essential first step on any car but we’d go further and invest in an uprated radiator from the likes of Radtec (we’re running one in our project Zephyr 6 and, along with a new hotter thermostat, it works a treat). An electric cooling fan is another wise fitment and it’s an accepted mod in an increasing number of club circles. Failing this you can fit standard production parts such as the radiator and fan set up from an ‘export’ model or the van derivative.

On the right track

Still on the tyre thing, it’s a complete waste of money (and not to mention tyres) to slip on a new set without having the car’s geometry checked. Most cars have dodgy wheel alignment of sorts and a re-track can rejuvenate the handling and stability. But it’s not simply about tracking… caster and camber angles should be checked and on most oldies there’s some useful adjustment available for fine tuning. Take the Lotus Esprit for instance; specialists reckon that most are badly set-up – sometimes from new – as it’s complex and expensive to do. But the rewards can be staggering. But, don’t rely upon your local fast-fit to cater for classics, use a specialist or classic tyre shop as certain cars need to be checked in special ways.

Seeing the light

Car light power is quoted in ‘candle power’ and candle is the right word to describe the dimwit lights most classics endure! Uprating the headlamps is a bright idea in more ways than one. Fully converted headlamp units are best but simply replacing the bulbs with higher wattage types (up to 80 per cent more powerful than standard halogens types are available) works well enough too. This can pose a problem with some oldies as the drain on the electrical system can be significant, but certain brands have special bulbs that are more sympathetic to old electrical systems and take less power. But anything is better – and safer – than the original set up on most cars!

In the driving seat

Want to make your classic feel like brand new? Simple – bring the driving position up to factory fresh. Worn steering wheels, sagged seats and draughty draught excluders all make a classic feel – well more like a banger really. Rebuilding the driving seat (which has usually sagged over the years) and recovering the steering wheel is a cheap (say £100 or so) and effective way of making the cockpit appear like new again plus go a long way to adding driver enjoyment. And there’s nothing worse than rattles, squeaks and draughts, so take the time and effort to kill as many as possible. New door seals (re-hang the doors if necessary) can appear to be expensive but they will quieten things down plus look nicer every time the door is opened.

The learning curve is easy

When it comes to making a classic handle, most folk simply slap on new dampers and hope for the best. But to make a car handle like new again, money, time and effort needs to be spent on forgotten areas such as springs and compliance bushes – the latter which are usually only replaced if worn and an MOT failure. And yet a full set of standard or harder bushes (sometimes known as polybushes) will tighten up a chassis nicely and return that taut feeling that was lost years ago. Remember, the harder you go the sharper the car will be but ride and refinement will suffer. Speak to a good specialist as some recommend mixing and matching standard and harder bushes to best effect for road use.

Bright sparks improve that get up and go

A classic doesn’t have to be a bad starter. Apart from making sure that the electric system is in tip top shape, you can go a stage further and fit uprated starter motors and dynamos to many classics, giving them the power afforded by moderns. It’s a wise cost effective move, especially if you need to replace these units anyway. Do fit electronic ignition as a matter of course; apart from giving fatter, more reliable sparking, it does away with the contact breaker points (which are going to become harder to source as the years roll on) and ‘freezes’ the ignition timing to optimum settings. In conjunction with uprated ignition leads, there’s no worry of breaking down anymore. Don’t worry over aesthetics as some new wave electronic ignition kits fit under the standard distributor cap while many car clubs accept this mod wholeheartedly anyway.

You gotta roll with it

A lot of owners want to hot up their classic’s engine for a bit more pep. It’s a great idea for modern motoring but before you shell out on fancy cylinder heads, cams and carbs, spend less than £100 on a rolling road tune up. Not every garage does this (most tuning companies do though) because of the cost of the equipment, but it allows you to do the ton – standing still! More importantly it allows a mechanic to
monitor and fine tune the mixture, timing, etc to suit that particular engine. As we’ve found out on a variety of project cars, it can unleash a lot of hidden horses on older engines where production tolerances were quite lax, perhaps making further uprating unnecessary. And as the car remains ‘standard’ there’s no insurance loadings or originality concerns.

Perhaps it’s time to take a nice brake

Even if you drive your classic carefully, we’ll wager that the original brakes give a bit of fright every now and then. Really, almost every oldie needs better brakes for modern roads. Thoroughly overhauling the system (you do replace the fluid periodically – don’t you?) can work wonders but you can also uprate the system with modern stoppers and there’s no shortage of sexy looking kits around for popular classics. If you want to retain the car close standard then you can use old parts from a larger model; Ford Cortina brakes for Anglias, Marina for Morris Minors, Vauxhall Victor or Cresta/Ventora bits for Vivas – that sort of thing. By all means use uprated pads or linings but remember they combat brake fade rather than give better stopping under normal use. A good modified drum set up can be surprisingly effective… so long as you don’t cane them often!

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