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A Dozen Delights

A Dozen Delights Published: 26th Jun 2019 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

A Dozen Delights
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Even if you want to keep your classic original and standard, there’s some simple tweaks that won’t compromise the issue and make your car better than new

Suitably ‘at-tyred!’

It’s amazing and shocking just how many enthusiasts attend to the last nut and bolt and yet enthuse over the fact that its still got original tyres! The majority of tyre experts now reckon a typical shelf life is eight years or so before they lose their effectiveness and perhaps become unsafe. Even if the shelf life is still valid there are a lot of vehicles out there running around on worn, tired and mis-matched rubberware – that’s still technically legal! We’re as guilty as the owner; our XJ-S has four different tyres… A nice 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 1950/60’s cars wear pretty skinny ones anyway. Classic types are much dearer but keep the handling character as it should be.

Keep on the right track

Still on the tyre thing, it’s an utter waste of money and not to mention tyres to simply slip on a new set without having the car’s geometry checked at the same time. It’s reckoned that 40 per cent of cars have dodgy wheel alignment of varying degrees and a re-track can rejuvenate the car’s handling and stability. However, 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, such as with two people on board, etc.

Heatwave alert

By far, the biggest worry with any classic out on a hot summer tour is boiling over. Most of the time it’s due to simply 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 but we’d go further and invest in an uprated radiator from the likes of Radtec, Aaron and NAR together with a new thermostat (they can clog up and work below par). 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 radi and fan set up from an ‘export’ model, bigger engine variant or the van derivative.

Just belt up with a nice new set

How many times have you seen a really nice car spoiled by some manky old static seat belts just left dangling? They’re uncomfortable to use as well as potentially unsafe. So why not invest in a new set, care of a specialist seat belt maker who can make up a pair that’s easy and comfortable to use plus a lot safer, too? Quickfit Safety Belt Services (quickfitsbs @ Quickfit Safety Belt Services) is the place to go for your classic. Static, inertia reel or even a racing three-point harness can all be rigged up along with special lengthened straps to accommodate baby seats and so on. Remember seat belts are an MoT failure point, while a new set does wonders for the cockpit’s looks and your security.

Go waterless

It’s not a cheap exercise but filling your engine’s cooling system with a special solution instead of water works wonders. We’re a big fan of Evans Waterless Coolant which, unlike plain water can’t pressurise and boil over. It’s pretty pricey – with the flushing agent an so on it can work out at £100 on a normal engine – but the payback is far greater. Plus being waterless it can’t corrode the internal waterways or fur up.

The light fantastic

Car light performance 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 halogen 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 from the battery.

Sitting pretty?

Want to make your classic feel like brand new? Simple – bring the driving position up to factory freshness. Worn steering wheels, sagged seats and draughty draught excluders all make a classic feel – well more like a banger if truth be told. Rebuilding the driving seat (which has usually sagged over the years) and recovering the steering wheel is a quite 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 (best to re-hang the doors if necessary) can appear to be expensive but they will quieten things down plus look much nicer every time the door is cracked open.

The learning curve will see you right

When it comes to making a classic handle better, most owners simply fit new dampers and hope for the best. It works to a degree but to make a car handle like new again, money, time and effort needs to be spent on forgotten areas such as new springs and compliance bushes – the latter which are usually only replaced if worn and an MoT failure – 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 so long ago. The harder you go the sharper the car will be but ride and refinement will suffer so speak to a good specialist as some recommend mixing and matching standard and harder bushes to best effect for road use. And make sure you fit the right dampers; aftermarket types are a one size fits all and not model specific – and your car will notice this.

In need of a nice brake

Even if you drive your classic carefully, as most do, we’ll wager that the original brakes give a bit of a fright every now and then after stepping out of your modern. Thoroughly overhauling the system can work wonders but you can also uprate the system with modern stoppers as there’s no shortage of sexy looking kits around for popular classics. If you prefer to keep your car close to standard spec then you can use old systems from a larger model; Ford Cortina brakes for Anglias, Granada brakes for Capris, Marina for Morris Minors, Victor or Cresta/Ventora bits for Vivas and Victors – as typical examples. Bear in mind that uprated pads /linings combat brake fade rather than give better stopping under normal use and require more pedal pressure – you really need bigger brakes to retain the status quo.

You gotta roll with it

Many owners hot up their engines for a bit more pep and it’s a wise idea for modern road use 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 provides this service (most tuning companies do though, such as Aldon Automotive, who recently celebrated 50 years in the businessed) because of the cost of the equipment which allows you to do the ton – standing still! Chiefly a ‘roller’ allows a good experienced 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 over the years, it can unleash a surprising number of hidden horses on older engines where production tolerances were quite lax. In fact, the gain can be so notable that it may make further tuning quite unnecessary and as the car remains ‘standard’ in tune there’s no insurance loadings or the sight of sporty air filters spoiling that original underbonnet look.

More power to your elbow

The advent of electric power steering is heaven sent for many classic owners as it allows them to keep and use their heavy old cars. There’s several specialists on the market such as Litesteer and EZ although the dedicated kits can be costly. However, there’s an DIY alternative available from Essex-based DCE Motorsport Electronics which can have you ably assisted for well under £1000. Even if your classic already has PAS as standard it still may be worth swapping it over as the beauty of a modern set up stems from it being adjustable so you can regulate the amount of assistance needed; perhaps at full strength in town and minimal at higher speeds.

Be a bright spark

Just because it’s getting on a bit, a classic doesn’t have to be lacking get up and go. Apart from making sure that the electrical 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.



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