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Factory Fresh Feel

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

Factory Fresh Feel
Factory Fresh Feel
Factory Fresh Feel
Factory Fresh Feel
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Your project may certainly turn heads but does the car drive as good as it looks? Maybe not unless you spend some time and effort here

If you’ve gone through your project with a fine tooth comb, it should drive pretty much like it did when it left the factory all those years ago. Sadly though, in our experience, this is not the case with many restorations because the emphasis was on how it looks rather than how it performs.

We’re not talking about engine performance, which we’ve dealt with elsewhere, but how it feels in general on the road. While you can rebuild the majority of major components t’s finer details, such as worn wheel bearings, shot suspension bushes, sloppy steering and dilapidated dampers that determine how a classic finally performs. If you don’t believe us, try to get behind the wheel of an identical model and note the differences.… Also, with the advent of MoT exemptions this is a vital safety issue.

For that reason alone nothing less than a complete overhaul of the braking system has to be acceptable. Don’t simply slot in new pads and linings and bleed the brakes, but also replace every seal and cylinder and ditch any remotely suspect metal or flexible brake line. Flush out the system and replenish with new brake fluid of the correct DOT performance rating.

Slightly worn and rusty discs or drums can be made serviceable again by a machine shop (if you can find one) but you can only skim them so far and, to be honest, most replacements are pretty cheap enough to obtain at autojumbles or even at high street motorists’ shops if you have a popular car to replace as a matter of course. Don’t forget the servo and at least replace its filter.

Chances are that the chassis void bushes (including those often overlooked damper eye bushes) will be well past it, along with many other ones, by now and if you really want to savour that ‘as new’ taut feeling drive again, they should be replaced either with standard rubber items or modern ‘polybushes’ the latter which are firmer thus giving a tauter feel and go some way to compensate for the inevitable ‘relaxing’ of the bodyshell over time and use. Also they last longer in service but such gains are often to detriment of refinement and comfort if you go too hard – the choice is yours.

A restoration presents an ideal opportunity to uprate certain components, like dampers and springs as upgrades will usually cost the same as standard parts – sometimes cheaper. Many younger enthusiasts find that an oldie will feel too ‘soft’ to drive after years behind the wheel of a modern. If you don’t go mad, you’ll have a better handling classic without affecting the ride quality unduly.

Steering boxes and racks can be re-shimmed or fully overhauled, and this will make a world of difference to the way an oldie steers. Cheap replaceables, such as track control ends and suspension strut top mountings, gaiters, and so on, all make a valuable contribution, too.

One last piece of advice – don’t throw away all your good work by still running on tyres that the car came with! They go off with age and a new set of uniform rubber, carefully balanced, is one of the best replacements you can carry out to any classic along with having the geometry fully checked. By that we mean not simply wheel alignment but also the often overlooked caster and camber angles and set up by marque specialists who may have their own little tweaks to gild the lily.

Make yours drive like new

Don’t do it in isolation

Always renew components such as dampers, suspension springs – and certainly brake parts in axle sets. Better still preferably the whole car with the same makes as aftermarket types can differ in their quality and performance

You needn’t be tyred out

Simply all new tyres will make a huge difference on how the car handles and rides. There’s no bad tyres these days although some classics perform best on period tyres. However, they are generally a lot costlier to obtain than ordinary types

In the right direction

Because all moderns enjoy power steering, most oldies feel heavy as a result. Electric power steering is the solution as it’s easy to fit, looks unobtrusive and can regulate the assistance. Can be pricey but you can buy universal DIY kits from under a grand

Five top tips

Keep it as new

When selecting replacement parts if possible, opt for OE spares or known aftermarket names as you know they are going to fit and last the course unlike an increasing number of spurious bits coming on to the classic market

Use old gold?

Be ultra careful if you are fitting second-hand parts, not simply because of their condition but also whether they are the right specification for that year and model as car makers tend to make many changes without due notification. But if good then go for it

Take a test drive

Be honest, if you haven’t driven or owned your project classic in its prime before, you won’t have a clue on how good your project will be. So try to drive a few to set a reliable datum that you can work from

Better than new

Even if you’re not really interested in performance tuning, a moderate uprate – such as better brakes and dampers – will make your classic better equipped for today’s roads. Your marque specialist or owners’ club is bound to advise on the best improvements to make

The looks have it

Why not have the running looking factory fresh, too? The cheapest method, after a thorough de-rusting, is simple painting, either by enamel or Hammerite. However, the best and by far the most professional looking finish is achieved by expert powder coating although you have to send the parts away and it can be a costly exercise – you may think it worthwhile however


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