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914Driver
914Driver MegaDork
9/13/21 7:44 a.m.

Cars of the late 40s through about 1958 always turned my head.  I had a 1954 Chevy once, 235 six and a Powerglide; it moved well enough but nothing  exciting.

Vacuum wipers and 6 volt can be swapped out.  Anywho, I'm seriously looking at a 1947 Chrysler New Yorker, straight 8 with Fluid Drive, kind of a semi-automatic.  My wife and I both prefer three pedals.  We are hoping it can do highway speeds without exhaustion.  Normal maintenance parts are available at NAPA but there are specialty stores for things like window gaskets etc.

So, aside from teaching my wife how to park it, what are the drawbacks of a big piece of heavy iron without power steering?

 

Floating Doc (Forum Supporter)
Floating Doc (Forum Supporter) PowerDork
9/13/21 8:29 a.m.

You may need to re-define the concept of "highway speed."

Power steering isn't that necessary. The cars function fine without it. There are ways of compensating, like having an enormous steering wheel for more torque when you turn the wheel. They steer fine on the road.
The difficult part is when you're needing to turn the wheel when the car is not moving. It's easy to compensate for that by easing the car forward or back an inch or two to overcome the friction on the tires. 
 

Mechanically, they are very simple. You need to make sure that you stay on top of things like the condition of the ignition system and brakes. 
 

It's been many years since I've owned a car with a points distributor, but I understand the quality of new ignition points is really terrible. Your brakes need to be up to the best condition you can maintain, since stopping it is going to require some planning. I'd consider trying to retrofit some front disk brakes to it.

This is a Harley Davidson disc brake on a pre-WWI Stanley Steamer.

You definitely don't want to be in a crash in something that age. They are very unsafe. At a minimum, you should at least install lap belts.

This is a crash test between the 1959 impala and the 2009 Malibu to show the dramatic difference between the two cars. 

 

volvoclearinghouse
volvoclearinghouse PowerDork
9/13/21 8:43 a.m.

I would definitely look at upgrading to points-less ignition and disc brakes.  I'm a die-hard supporter of most older technology, but I won't drive a car in any sort of regular service without these two upgrades. 

The biggest problem with driving anything older on the highway is, IMO, the noise.  Partly this can be cured by replacing perished seals and upgrading soundproofing.  A big straight 8 like that at least won't be laboring too badly at 65 mph or so. 

A spinner knob is illegal, but there's a reason lots of older cars had them:  They work.  I doubt there's a highway patrolman out there who would ticket you for having one in that old craft.  Just tell them it's a period-correct modification. 

Make sure the tires are new, properly sized, and properly inflated.  I have seen lots of older cars with under-sized tires, this makes the engines spin all that much faster, given the (usually) short gears these things had.  They also don't like too much inflation- 35 psi is plenty.  Too much and you can risk wheel damage- especially on wire wheels. 

The steering system is typically a Rube-Goldberg-esque contraption of cobbled-together joints and such.  Make sure it's all nice and tight and well greased, and holds an alignment.  With non-power steering, you won't be able to run much caster for high-speed stability (otherwise you won't be able to park the thing) so it's really got to be dialed in right, or it'll death-wobble at higher speeds. 

Finally, make sure to add 20% to every trip's duration.  This is because every time you stop, someone will want to bend your ear about the car.  Be prepared to be converted from an introvert to an extrovert. 

Mr_Asa
Mr_Asa PowerDork
9/13/21 8:53 a.m.

Oil changes are more important, from what I remember.  With the invention of the PCV valve engine oil started to stay cleaner for longer, and thus the inside of the engines did as well.  Before PCV valves, or hell even road draft tubes, the crap that stayed in the oil would shorten the life of the engine as well as the oil.

aircooled
aircooled MegaDork
9/13/21 9:11 a.m.

I am not sure I entirely agree on the points thing.  Yes, they will require more maintenance or attention  (as will the entire car), but I have never had any fail myself.  Electronic conversions are certainly more reliable, but do fail occasionally (some aftermarket ones have had a reputation for a time).  

Having a replacement ignition with points is an easily replaced, easy to carry $7 dollar item (yes, they are that expensive now), while having a spare electronic one is $100 plus and will be a bit harder to swap.

Not saying definitely stay with points, but if properly maintained (you should probably be checking a car like that lot anyway) I don't think they are as bad as they have a reputation for. It will also make your car they only car to survive an EMP burst, if that is important to you. surprise

Oh, and yes, the brakes (especially at highway speeds) on a car like that would likely be classified as "scary.

Also of note: Driving such a car in the rain or snow would likely be considered semi-terrify to most modern car drivers (drag your brakes through deep puddles.... trust me here!).  It will also rust wildly faster than a modern car.

NOHOME
NOHOME MegaDork
9/13/21 9:30 a.m.

By comparison to new cars, old cars are exhausting to drive. Brakes, steering, girth, and only vestiges of HVAC to counter climate conditions.  You tend to arrive at your destination hot, wet and smelly.

 You find yourself concentrating more to avoid idiots. You will not be inclined to tailgate, but you will become frustrated with all the drivers who interpret your safe-space-between cars as an invite to dive in to the spot.

The other issue is the amount of maintenance they require, it gets exhausting to stay on top of the little stuff. Chances are that whatever car you buy the previous owner will have gotten fed-up with doing the maintenance a couple of years before selling and you will have to play catch-up.

Fuel mileage tends to be lousy in todays world of $$$ fuel

Lighting sucks on all old cars until you get some proper relays installed.

Vacuum wipers are useless and a lot of the aftermarket solutions are not any better. Rainex rocks.

The positive is that you get a lot of attention when out cruising. They also tend to be conversation starters. 

APEowner
APEowner SuperDork
9/13/21 9:30 a.m.

There are two separate but related issues with driving an older car.

One is that they're old so stuff is going to break and wear out just from being old.

The other is that despite our tendency to idealize the past modern cars are just plain better than older ones.  They're safer, more powerful, handle better, are more reliable and they produce noticeably fewer emissions (ie, they smell better).

Old cars smell.  They smell better if they're in good shape but the exhaust is more noticeable and the lack of evaporative recovery systems means you'll sometimes smell gas and the lack of a PCV  system means that you'll sometimes smell oil  The road draft tube will also leave oil spots on the ground.

The speed limit in Upstate NY is relatively low so highway speeds are less of an issue than they would be out in the western part of the country but I don't think that car is going to be particularly happy running up the Northway at 70.   I suspect that 60 is going to be at the upper end of where it's happy.  I could be wrong about that.  I've never driven one of those and that's around the time that cars were getting more comfortable with higher speeds.

The manual steering is a concern.  Yes you can learn to creep the car ahead whenever you're turning the wheel (A habit that I have from having owned a lot of cars with manual steering) but it's still likely to require significant effort.

Carburetors require a technique to start cold, particularly if the car has a manual choke.   Being in a good state of tune helps but you're still going to have learn what this particular car wants.

It won't stop as well as a modern car.

It won't corner as well as a modern car.

Crashing will hurt more than it would in a modern car.

All of those issues can me overcome by updating the car but you'll loose some of the charm in the process. 

Personally, I love older cars and I'm happy to just putter around in them letting them do what they do well and avoiding trying to do the things that they do badly.  Since you're in Upstate NY, I'm assuming that this won't be your only vehicle.  I think you should get it and just enjoy it as it is.  Only by spending time with it will you be able to tell what parts of it you like and what parts of it you find annoying.  Then you can either modify it to solve the issues or sell it and get something better suited to your desires.

 

Mr_Asa
Mr_Asa PowerDork
9/13/21 9:38 a.m.
NOHOME said:

Fuel mileage tends to be lousy in todays world of $$$ fuel 

Another thought, be prepared to fill up only with ethanol free gas.  There are one or two folks out there making and selling carb kits that will stand up to today's E10 base fuel, but a lot of the niche carbs don't get that.  I rebuilt the Carter YFA on my Mustang 3 times over the course of one year because I couldn't figure out what was killing it, fuel pump died as well.  Finally drained the tank and went with ethanol free and then she's been a happy camper.

wspohn
wspohn SuperDork
9/13/21 10:42 a.m.

Depends on how old.

I drove Jags from the 1960s for awhile as my daily drivers (Mk 2 and Mk 9) and they were great. 4wheel disc brakes, decent handling and steering.

American cars from the 50s and 60s....not so much.

volvoclearinghouse
volvoclearinghouse PowerDork
9/13/21 10:46 a.m.

In reply to aircooled :

One thing to think about with points- on an eight cylinder car like this one, the points are doing twice as many open-close cycles per revolution as on a 4 cylinder.  You are correct- I have daily driven a points car with a 4 cylinder and generally didn't have any problems with it.  Even there, though, the car was really happy if I reset the dwell about every 3 months or so.  Which also necessitated setting the timing, as you know.  And the base idle.  On an eight cylinder engine, those points get saturated pretty quickly.  Not that a straight-eight Chrysler is going to be revving to 6000 RPM, but even at lower speeds, having the dwell set juuuuust right will be critical. 

Older distributors can also be worn out.  Any slop in the distributor shaft can lead to a tail-chasing effort in trying to get the dwell nailed down. 

In my experience with Perktronics, I've only had one failure- and it was a 15-year-old unit (in a Corvair).  Even then, it wasn't a "strand you on the side of the road" failure, it was a "better limp this thing home" sort of deal. 

volvoclearinghouse
volvoclearinghouse PowerDork
9/13/21 10:51 a.m.
wspohn said:

Depends on how old.

I drove Jags from the 1960s for awhile as my daily drivers (Mk 2 and Mk 9) and they were great. 4wheel disc brakes, decent handling and steering.

American cars from the 50s and 60s....not so much.

We took our 1966 3.8S for a drive last Friday, cruising along some country roads.  At one point where I had to merge onto a busy main road, Mrs. VCH looked at me and quipped, "Is this thing going to go 55?"  I responded by matting the accelerator and ripping through the gears, calling out, in 3rd, "There's 80." before dropping into 4th and flipping on the overdrive, the big six settling into a 2500 RPM putter. 

Appleseed
Appleseed MegaDork
9/13/21 11:07 a.m.

Parts. Can you get parts. Chrysler products arent as popular as Ford and Chevys, especially before the muscle car era. Hows the trans? I really wanted a 62 Le Sabre. The DynaFlow trans is a weird, unique transmission.  No one works on them or knows how to. The ones that do charge a lot for it. 

Old cars are awesome.  Once you realize they are not new cars, have risks for rewards, if you can handle that, you'll do fine.

Floating Doc (Forum Supporter)
Floating Doc (Forum Supporter) PowerDork
9/13/21 11:28 a.m.
volvoclearinghouse said:
wspohn said:

Depends on how old.

I drove Jags from the 1960s for awhile as my daily drivers (Mk 2 and Mk 9) and they were great. 4wheel disc brakes, decent handling and steering.

American cars from the 50s and 60s....not so much.

We took our 1966 3.8S for a drive last Friday, cruising along some country roads.  At one point where I had to merge onto a busy main road, Mrs. VCH looked at me and quipped, "Is this thing going to go 55?"  I responded by matting the accelerator and ripping through the gears, calling out, in 3rd, "There's 80." before dropping into 4th and flipping on the overdrive, the big six settling into a 2500 RPM putter. 

Here's a second thumbs up for that!

914Driver
914Driver MegaDork
9/13/21 1:55 p.m.

Thanks folks, all good points.  I spoke this weekend with my friend who has almost custody of the 911sc in my garage.  I told him he could leave it here over the winter, but in the spring I may have a project and she needs a new home.  If the legal owner wants too much money for it, I'm out, but if it's within my budget I may buy it.  

If not, why not a Jag with a SBC? Comfy, more dependable ....

wspohn
wspohn SuperDork
9/14/21 9:46 a.m.
914Driver said:

Thanks folks, all good points.  I spoke this weekend with my friend who has almost custody of the 911sc in my garage.  I told him he could leave it here over the winter, but in the spring I may have a project and she needs a new home.  If the legal owner wants too much money for it, I'm out, but if it's within my budget I may buy it.  

If not, why not a Jag with a SBC? Comfy, more dependable ....

 

That is the body style of my Mk 9 Jag (which once managed to hit terminal velocity of 110 mph, which isn't bad considering that they have the aerodynamics of a barn door.

The Jag engine was very reliable (as long as you reset the valves after break in on a new grind after some mileage was put on). In fact they would make a darn good truck engine.

And to volvoclearinghouse - If I were to buy a Jag again I'd probably get a Mk 2 if I could find a derusted one.  If they are good enough for Inspector Morse.....

 

AngryCorvair (Forum Supporter)
AngryCorvair (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
9/14/21 10:08 a.m.

In reply to 914Driver :

You will get berkeleyed up in any crash over 25 mph. So don't crash. That wouldn't stop me from driving it.

convert to 12v electrical with an internally-regulated alternator and put the headlights on a relay.

not sure where the master cylinder is, probably under floor. Def convert to dual-circuit. Due to the low MC location you'll need to run residual pressure valves (10psi for drums, 2psi for discs) to keep some brake fluid at the wheel ends.

Would be an interesting cruiser, but I wouldn't daily without a lot of other modernization, maybe even body swap it onto a stretched mid-90s Caprice frame.

914Driver
914Driver MegaDork
9/14/21 1:44 p.m.

As luck would have it, I have two of those pressure valves from the BatVan. 

I'm afraid that I'm easing away from massive projects (old age, creepers are so low, no room?)  but something that needs modernizing or putzing is right there.  Because po the SBC in there, I assume it's been converted to 12V.  I did it once to a 6V Dodge, used resistors so the gages read correctly with 12V input. 

I can see driving a Mk 9 for three hours to our son's house easier than driving the 914.

AngryCorvair (Forum Supporter)
AngryCorvair (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
9/14/21 10:21 p.m.

In reply to 914Driver :

My comments were all for the Chrysler. That Jaaaaaag is lovely, and certainly drives better, stock for stock, than the Chrysler.

buenavides1
buenavides1 New Reader
9/14/21 10:57 p.m.

In reply to Floating Doc (Forum Supporter) :

This car is well-maintained. I like the classic interior of it. It's been a while since I saw this set-up. 

ShawnG
ShawnG UltimaDork
9/14/21 11:05 p.m.

Ok, I'd say not that car for highway speeds.

That engine still uses splash lubrication and babbitt bearings, keep it under 55 and it will probably be fine, push it hard and you will probably pound out a rod bearing. The crank bearings -may- be insert type by then but the rods won't be.

Stick with the points, they won't leave you stranded anywhere if you have a matchbook with you. Leave the condenser alone if it's working ok, if it needs to be replaced, buy a Mallory condenser, the type doesn't really matter and if it doesn't fit inside the distributor, wire it up to the negative terminal on the coil and put it there. Quality control on condensers has really dropped and the offshore ones fail without warning.

We've just removed ANOTHER dead Pertronix distributor that was only installed a year ago. One of our suppliers has even stopped carrying them because they keep having problems.

Lots of people love them and install them with no issues. We've put in five and removed or replaced four of them. 

Now, if it's a 12v system, I keep the points and use them to fire a Ford TFI module. Best solution ever.

If it's 6V make sure you have really heavy battery cables. People replace them with 12V rated cables and have starting problems. 6V is half the volts and twice the amps.

Brakes will be just fine if you service them properly. You'll have more brakes than you have traction in the tires to stop you.

Best place you can go for help would be the AACA forums.

volvoclearinghouse
volvoclearinghouse PowerDork
9/15/21 6:56 a.m.

In reply to ShawnG :

"Now, if it's a 12v system, I keep the points and use them to fire a Ford TFI module. Best solution ever."

Dang, that's pretty slick.

https://www.jalopyjournal.com/forum/threads/tfi-using-points-how-to.374699/

 

APEowner
APEowner SuperDork
9/15/21 8:54 a.m.

The most important trick for happily living with an old car is to buy one that you love.  By most objective measures old cars are pretty crappy.  You want one that you're going to step back from and gaze at admiringly while you're on the side of the road trying to figure out what broke this time.

jharry3
jharry3 Dork
9/15/21 10:19 a.m.

Modern radial tires are a must; I hope to never have to use bias ply again.  

Also go with the disk brakes and electronic ignition replacement of points. Its not that points are bad, per se, its just that they need to be maintained.  They either wear out from use or corrode from sitting up. 

 Manual steering lightens up considerably when you start moving.  It was the only way to steer buses and trucks before power steering.  You just learned the technique like anything else.  

For a big car  like pictured drop in a LS as well and cruise with confidence.   

volvoclearinghouse
volvoclearinghouse PowerDork
9/15/21 10:25 a.m.
APEowner said:

The most important trick for happily living with an old car is to buy one that you love.  By most objective measures old cars are pretty crappy.  You want one that you're going to step back from and gaze at admiringly while you're on the side of the road trying to figure out what broke this time.

The flip side of this is that any successful trip over 10 miles away feels like a real accomplishment.  

Tim Suddard
Tim Suddard Publisher
9/16/21 8:47 a.m.

I have upgraded a lot of fifties and sixties cars. Front disc brakes are a big plus, as are anti-roll bars, insulation under carpet and in body cavities and I put a Pertronx in everything old car and carry a spare. Air conditioning is also another neccessity living here in Florida.

As for what problems will you have... one of the biggest is wind noise. Until you drive an old car, you forget how much improvement has been made in this area.

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