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Hagerty
Hagerty Employee

5 must-have mods for your vintage ride

Our beloved cars and trucks were perfect the day they left the assembly line. Well, sort of, if you consider how manufacturing has improved decade after decade. Yes, time marches on, and everything from engineering to materials science moves forward with it.
https://www.hagerty.com/media/hagerty-community/5-must-have-mods-for-your-vintage-ride/
192 REPLIES 192
ctaarman
Intermediate Driver

Electric power steering can be incorporated almost invisibly,enabling a more reasonable driving experience for many with less strength.

Also, be cautious when upgrading your charging circuit to an alternator, especially high output alternators. Many a fire has resulted from overheated bulkhead connectors and old wire harnesses not designed to handle higher currents.
Lightning1
Detailer

A modern alternator will only charge to what the battery needs. If the wiring harness or connectors are bad, they should be replaced with serviceable items no matter what the charging system is. Also many older electric systems lack protection in the form of circuit breakers, fuseable links or fuses. Then there is the all time favorite , previous owner that butchered the wiring to install a "kick ass" stereo using 28 gauge non standard wire and 3 rolls of electric tape leaving the next owner with a spaghetti mess that could start a fire.
TonyT
Instructor

If you have ever had the good fortune to have maintained a '60's vintage Chrysler product, you would understand ctaarman's concern regarding faulty bulkhead connectors. Walter P.'s electrical wizards decided that running all of the current through the ammeter via a bulkhead connector was a wonderful idea, and couldn't forsee the future damage such a concept would bring. Ask me how many of those we have repaired and modified to not self-ignite...
RichH
Intermediate Driver

70s Jags too.
The monster connector with 99% of the front wiring is located.....
BEHIND THE BATTERY! 
Maybe that's why the put the battery in a steel box?
I ended up running a new wire for my high-beam switch. 😞

 

Swamibob
Instructor

Right on TonyT! I'd forgotten about that. Good reminder.
BMD4800
Instructor

Not because of the Alternator. That’s corrosion and failing wire that has increased resistance, upgraded accessories, and the current draw that necessitated the charging upgrade.

Power steering…curious. I had to show my wife how to drive like one didn’t have power steering. Most people are used to turning the wheel without movement, so yeah, that gets hard. I used to wheel in Scout with manual steering. Even with 33x12.50s it was doable. I was tired after an long trail ride, but certainly not incapable of driving it.
It’s like folks who have never driven RWD, it is different, not impossible.
TexasYoung
New Driver

Best thing I put in my classic is a digital dash system, it makes the car feel super modern and really helps me with figuring out how the car is doing when it starts to act funny. It turns 50 soon and it’s got a nicer dash cluster than my modern daily driver lol
Arnold
New Driver

I read 'digital cash' first time through.
Also handy to have.
ModelT
Advanced Driver

I ran out of that stuff years ago.
ModelT
Advanced Driver

My 1955 Chevy wagon has a digital dash, modern wipers, cruise, AC/heat, etc. I hate the modern look but my son made the changes thinking I'd like it that way. If I liked it I'd bought another late model Impala like I drive shopping.
The best things about classic cars are their classic looks.
csnyder
New Driver

I like the modern electronic instruments that look like the originals but WORK. I like electronic ignition because it never lets me down, and always starts. I like modern wipers (multi-speed electric) because I like to be able to see if I pull out to pass in the rain. I put AC on the old '57 Fargo because there was no way I wanted to drive across Kansas to Oklahoma from Ontario in a toaster oven. None changed the LOOKS an iota.
RichH
Intermediate Driver

And, assuming your classic doesn't have ABS, DOT 5 SILICONE brake fluid (NOT 5.1) will keep the brake system working perfectly for years regardless of how much or little you drive it. You will need to completely flush out the old crap and it would be a good idea to replace all hoses and rubber parts at this time. Then forget them for the next 15 years/100,000 miles whichever comes first.

 

EDIT: Also works GREAT in hydraulic clutch systems.

RW68RSConv
Intermediate Driver

Proof for RichH comment: When I completely rebuilt my brake system from new in 2000, I went DOT 5. The pedal doesn't seem a firm as factory with DOT3, but the upside is I've only put 1,500 miles on the car since restoration and haven't touched the fluid once and it still stops exactly as it did in 2000. Not to mention paint safety.
RichH
Intermediate Driver

YES! I've been using DOT 5 for so long I completely forgot how the other stuff ate paint. All the cars I've used it in have power brakes and I've never noticed a difference in firmness. I also run Centric ceramic pads and their rotors (or Brembo) and have been VERY satisfied with their performance and long life.

 

I forgot that I have had DOT 5 in one car for 20+ years, thanks for reminding me. 🙂 

PRScott
Detailer

You're quite right, the pedal isn't as firm. Silicone fluid is slightly compressible but the enormous benefit is the damage it won't do to your hydraulics and paint. No more moisture in the calipers and wheel cylinders !
Padgett
Intermediate Driver

I use a DOT 3 synthetic brake fluid in all of my cars including those with ABS.
RichH
Intermediate Driver

It's not recommended for ABS due to supposed foaming during ABSing. But thanks for letting us know that. 

 

I'm sorry I did not notice you said DOT 3 and I can't delete the above comment so please ignore it.  

But while I'm here, I'm not at all sure DOT 3 synthetic is non-hydroscopic (does not attract water) which is what makes DOT 5 so great and does DOT 3 not eat paint? 

coop
Pit Crew

Seeing as I have an old vintage roadster of English heritage, what's ABS? lol
TonyT
Instructor

ABS is the polar opposite of Girling.
Iso_Grifo
Advanced Driver

An excellent list. I'd add modern tires of the correct profile and maybe a low visibility, compact air con system if your car is enclosed.
RichH
Intermediate Driver

ferrari on croisette.jpgI prefer tires with a modern profile/ride/handling. I had some wide 16 inch wheels specially made for my 75 Ferrari and run 50s. SOOO much better than the skinny 14 inch 70s it came with. I drive it. It's not a concourse restoration. These are 2 different worlds.

bttucker
New Driver

I know a Corvair fan belt when I see it...
dhomuth
Intermediate Driver

And dual master cylinder, interior floor. and ignition.
GRP_Photo
Advanced Driver

If Kyle writes the article, count on photos of his Corvair and/or model A Ford.
ModelT
Advanced Driver

I've had a few of those but forgot where they go on a Corvair.
bradleydad
Pit Crew

If I want to drive a modern car and enjoy being isolated from the world I drive my modern car, my "toaster". Why pretend? Whether it's my Model A, classic Mercedes or other car I drive, each has it's own personalty and is a unique driving experience. Working on an antique car is not "tedious" as you say. Mechanical brakes, manual steering and carburetors work just fine. Sadly, many people are missing the real joy of driving a classic car.
Jimbo321
New Driver

You right 100%. That's what it all about.
ModelAkid
Pit Crew

Exactly, spot on bradleydad.
OldFordMan
Detailer

It must be a "Kyle" thing of generational misunderstanding.

Kyle
Moderator

Not sure what Ii misunderstood. This article is formed from the Hagerty Community responses. I guess being a 30 year old with 10 vintage vehicles I maintain myself with a tool set that my father gave me for my birthday when I was 14 makes me someone who doesn't get it?
BMD4800
Instructor

Meh, does it matter? I mean I guess from your employment standpoint, but car guys are a funny lot. Some are cranky old dudes that hate whatever doesn’t fit their tastes. Others are happy someone else digs the scene. If you’re in to post war Soviet V8s, or 3-wheel what’s-it’s, who cares? The tent should be bigger.
Pushrod36
New Driver

I understand your thinking here, but I’ll politely disagree. I want even my vintage cars to be no excuses drivers. Many of those old systems just are not up to the challenges of traffic today. Even a Nissan Versa will out-brake the finest performance machine of the 60’s or earlier.
DRF
Intermediate Driver

having driven both, I think a 1966 Mercedes 250S brakes better when all is in good shape!
csnyder
New Driver

After driving the '49 VW and '28 Chevy with mechanical brakes I'd convert to Juice Brakes in a heartbeat, given the chance (and disc brakes if they didn't affect the looks too much). Oh - and a starter that works is a big bonus - with lights that actually light the road - meaning in most cases a 12 volt electrical system - and if changing anyway - an alternator. Working on them isn't tedious - EXCEPT when they dump you at the side of the road in the middle of no-where on a holiday weekend - out of cell range!!!!
Kyle
Moderator

I agree with you, hence why my garage is chock full of carbs, the Model A is still mechanical brakes, and I don't have a running tab at a restoration shop.

The kicker here though, is not everyone has the time, finances, or capability to upkeep a vintage car that is 100% original. As you said, the real joy is driving classic cars. Why put down someone who wants to make it easier to enjoy their classic?
BMD4800
Instructor

You hit it, twice.
1) why are we discouraging others? We can disagree, but we should still support one another.
2) it is THEIR classic. Theirs. It does not (yet) belong to the central committee. If someone wants to make their ‘vette into a wagon, so be it.
BMD4800
Instructor

I did a dual circuit update, but haven’t done discs yet. The finned drums are killer.

Big Buick brakes are 12x2.5 and 12x2, which is pretty comparable to the dinky disc/drum set up they put on A-bodies. The Buick brakes and dynaflow make mountain drives, challenging, but if one knows what to expect, they aren’t deadly.

But pertronix, a little bigger alternator for the big 2-speed cooling fan, and proper carb tuning and brake adjustments, it’s a very enjoyable vehicle.
TonyT
Instructor

Not to mention passing the torch of knowledge on to someone else so that the next generation will learn about basic automotive principles. Understanding what ignition points do is as important as knowing where to put the ignition key. Modern upgrades are nice, but the soul of a car is in some of those "antiquated" subsystems. I love the sound of an M22 in first gear! No LS can match the sizzle of a '69 Z/28 solid-lifter cam on a warm summer nigh with the windows down. Folks, these old cars and those of us who enjoy them won't be around forever. Upgrade them as you see fit, but most of all, enjoy the time you have to do so.
vrooomie
Pit Crew

One of the very best conversions I did on my 1963 jaguar E Type was to install an EDIS ignition system: not only does it get rid of the troublesome points, it greatly increased the cars driveability, startability, mileage, and overall it literally was the best thing I ever did to it!
RichH
Intermediate Driver

Get yourself one a them high-torque, low amperage, lightweight starter motors too.

Chuck1
New Driver

A VERY good list. I started with a '64 MGB, got a little carried away though. Custom frame, suspension, complete rewire, 4-wheel disc brakes/upgraded M/C, insulation on floor, pretty much every thing better now (plus 5 times the original power). Still looks somewhat original (hood scoop/wheels different). Everything on this list included except the FI (Holley 750 HP DP). I ended up with a pretty sporty, fun car.
TonyT
Instructor

How and what did you cut to make a "custom frame" fit a unibody car? Just wondering...
Chuck1
New Driver

Hi, Replaced the front clip with a modified CAChassisworks front clip (A-arms, coilovers billet spindles, welded to the tub back to the central cross member, from the cross member a round tube cradle holding the 4-link tied into the rollbar & rocker boxes, it's VERY stiff

Disillusioned
New Driver

When I went to school, twice the speed equated to four times the distance. A quick check on the internet would indicate that the rule still applies.
ModelT
Advanced Driver

When I went to school my Tablet had lines on paper with a spring holding the pages together.
RichH
Intermediate Driver

Wouldn't that be assuming the same braking power?
Roadmaster
New Driver

Fuel injection? Are you kidding me? Keeping things stock on my '51 Roadmaster is part of the fun. I'll see you on the road with Armstrong power steering, 6 volts and vacuum windshield wipers.
csnyder
New Driver

Now you make me make a difficult choice - do I stay behind you so you don't hit me when the brakes fade, (or you can't see me when the wipers slow to a stop as you power up the hill blind while overdriving the candles mounted in the front fenders -) or ahead of you so I don't have to smell the stink of that carbureted Fireball nailhead V8??

Keeping the car original is good if you are not driving it at today's speeds in today's traffic but when $50 will give you electronic ignition, and an electric wiper motor sets you back less than the rebuild kit for the vac system, and switching to 12 volts with an alternator makes it start better, gives you good lights, and all kinds of other advantages - for a DRIVER - not a concours restoration, upgrades make SO MUCH sense.
Roadmaster
New Driver

You really have no idea of what you are talking about. Let's see, where to begin? First of all, it's not a Nailhead V8. It's a straight 8. The V8 did not come out until 1953 to celebrate Buick's 50th anniversary. 

 

If you are behind me, the best wipers known to mankind won't help me see you. Oh, I know, let's install one of those rear window wipers. Yeah, that's the trick.

 

I rarely use my headlights because I prefer not to drive at night. The headlights are just fine. I just prefer not to drive at night unless I must.

 

I don't tailgate and so the type of brakes I have is a moot point. I don't tailgate not so much that I am afraid of the brakes fading (they are in excellent condition), I just prefer for my windshield not to pick up a rock.

 

One last thing, the stink you smell is not from my carburetor, it's your upper lip.