Sunday, June 5, 2016

Classic Car Updates Modifications That will Give you A Safer and More Enjoyable Ride Out Of Your Classic Car

Classic Car Updates
Modifications That will Give you A Safer and
More Enjoyable Ride Out Of Your Classic Car

-Alan Arnell

In years past many people wanted their classic car to be totally stock.  Some classic car guys still want that, however today’s car hobbyist is not so true blue.  The trend today is to modify your car with modern parts.  I believe this trend is taking hold because of the increased traffic and higher highway speeds.  From personal experience, I can tell you that it takes some getting use to drum brakes and a single bore master cylinder.  Many time when I first got my 1957 Chevy 150 non Bel Air 2-door sedan and I hit the brakes on a hard stop for a moment I thought I had no brakes.  Today, car brakes even in low end models are a world beyond in braking performance.  I have to admit it, that I for one am spoiled with today’s late model cars.  

Pure stock 1956 Chevy Corvette

If you want to drive your classic car I believe you will eventually will want the comforts of a late model car.  AM radio, no air conditioning and sealed beamed headlights to name just a few items will need to be upgraded for a pleasant drive in today urban environment.  Let’s face it, it is more fun to drive your classic rather than let it set in you garage, because it is so unwielding and a pain to drive.  That’s my guiding motto anyway.  

For other like minded classic car owners who are not overly concerned with maintaining strict adherence to factory originality, there are a variety of thing that can be done to make your classic a safer and more enjoyable car to drive.  

With all I have written about in mind, here are some suggestions for making a  60 year old car more user friendly for cruising around to car shows and other classic car events.

This Car Is Stock Looking On the Outside but Sports All Modern Components Underneath the Sheetmetal

Killer Tunes:  My parents were a part of the “Greatest Generation” and never bought a car with a radio until new cars would not come without them.  Ann and Arnold  just had no interest in listening to music while driving.  They bought a RV to tour the country late in their lives.  For their extended trip to explore the USA, I bought them a dozen age appropriate cassette tapes.   Years later, after they had passed away and I was cleaning out their home, I found all 12 of the tapes still unopened..  

Classic cars in the 70’s, not alone the 50’s, came equipped with terrible radios compared to anything we listen to in traffic today.  In ‘57 the radio was equipped with tubes and generally have long since died, unless extensive restoration had been made to them.  Even restored, listening to a vintage radio can be a beat down.  Listen to an AM radio station through a small single speaker in the dashboard is not what we are use to today.  Now we don’t use tapes or CD’s for our tunes. Most of us have their favorite tunes on an iPhone.  

A Modern Radio and Bluetooth Unite Constructed to look Like a 1957 Stock Radio.  

Regardless of what kind of car you have, you will definitely find and enjoy a modern stereo that fits in your stock dash opening.  There are even companies that make a modern units that fits and looks like a stock unit.

Gas Shocks and Sway Bar:  Adding modern, high quality gas shock absorbers will really help to improve your classic car’s ride quality and handling characteristics.  To stop body roll a sway bar or bars may be the best handling add on you can do for your car.  

To learn about and read about my sway bars installation on my ‘57 Chevy go to LINK

Halogen Headlamps:  Putting halogen headlamps on your classic is a very simple operation.  Once the new lamps are in place you will be amazed at the improved results.  

Many classic cars have very yellow looking lights that do not do a good job of lighting up that dark road.  Halogens produce a whiter light that goes farther up the road that may give that much need reaction time.  

A Tricked Out 1957 Chevy Sporting Very Bright Halogen Head Lamps 

Finding halogens for your classic car is easy.  Headlamps size have been standardized from the time they switched to electric.  

Electronic Ignition:  Cars have used an electrical distributor for maybe a hundred years. However, classic were produced with a points and condenser to meter the spark to the combustion chambers.  The old points and condenser system is very much inferior to an electronic system.  The old style is not as precise and requires regular maintenance, Furthermore, their performance will get worse over time.  When I had my 1969 Chevelle, I had to change the points every six thousand miles or the car would hardly run.  

By converting your distributor to an electronic system you can improve an engine’s cold start performance, increase power output, decrease fuel consumption and reduce tailpipe emissions.  The upgrade will eliminate the need to regularly adjust dwell, timing, the points and condenser.

Electronic Ignition Distributor Kit For a 1955 Chevy

You may go two ways to upgrade to an electronic ignition.  The original distributor may be used and retrofitted with a simple kit.  I change over my boat and all I had to do was replace the points with the new unit and run a power wire.  Doing the retro was easy and fast. Another way to go would buy a complete distributor with an electric ignition system.   
Disk Brakes:  Back in the day, except for some sports cars like the Corvette, cars were equipped with four-wheel drum brakes.

The drum brake system has been around since the earliest days of car manufacturing.  The system was a tried and true inexpensive system.  Alway trying to improve, later cars automakers first introduced a front disk and rear drum brake system in the ‘70s.  Today cars generally come with four-wheel discs.  

Stop on a Dime Disc Brake Conversion Kit for a 1956 Chevy

Discs brakes will give any car better stopping power.  This improved stopping power adds to the margin of safety making a safer car.  Many manufacturers produce aftermarket disc brakes that are a direct fit for you classic.  

This upgrade is more labor intensive, more costly and has a higher level of difficulty than the previous upgrades.  But, if you study, buy matching-quality parts, take your time and are not afraid to try or ask questions you should be able to complete the upgrade.

For more information about disc brake conversion on a ‘57 chevy see LINK

Air Conditioning:  If you lived in Texas you would know how hot and unpleasant the inside of a classic car can be in August.  My ‘57 has wing vent windows that will blow air on you that will make my classic at least barrable on the road.  However, the wind beating on you over a long trip can be noisy and tiring.  But then, when I stopped at a stop light I thought I would melt into butter and ooze down to the floor boards without my A/C system.  It was no fun showing up to a summer car show feeling and looking like a soggy noodle.  No deodorant will win over 120 degree heat. Who wants to stink!

A Sure Fit A/C Kit for a Classic Chevy

For my Tri-Five, I bought a Classic Air kit.  The install is time consuming, yet besides the changing of the system not a difficult process.  The system I have is a conventional system with a compressor that is run off a pulley system.  My Perfect Fit Classic Air unit also comes with not only air conditioning,  but also has heat on the floor, and dehumidified defroster

To find out about my A/C retrofit on my ‘57 go to  LINK

Modern Engine and Transmission:  Lets face facts, the classic engine compared to a modern engine fails in comparison.  Older engines run dirtier, often smell bad, give relatively poor fuel economy, require regular maintenance such a point and plugs, are much heavier relative to their power output and require more frequent overhauls.  In the ‘50 having to do a valve job every fifty thousand miles was the norm.  I can remember watching my dad do a valve job on his 1954 Dodge under the cottonwood tree in our back yard.

While some car folks consider all of the above to be apart of the charm of a classic car, others choose to get more pleasure out of their classic car if not more power from a modern engine and transmission.  My ‘57 Chevy has a 4-speed Borg Warner and a 3.42 rear gear. When my 2009 Chevy Truck traveled at 70 MPH the engine registered 1800 RPMs. My ‘57 Chevy on the other hand turns 3200 RPM’s at the same speed.  That discrepancy in RPMs is disconcerting to say the most to say the least.  

For The Lucky Few That Want Horsepower Out the Ying Yang

An engine upgrade is by far the most ambitious and costly project listed in this blog post.  

The possibilities when considering an engine and transmission update are limited only by your imagination, ability and bank account.  You could go to the extreme with a 572 CI big block or a more sedate swap.  

Regardless of how complicated or simple you choose to go, the successful completion of the installation of a modern engine and transmission will make your classic car more reliable, environmental friendly and enjoyable to drive.

Never stop driving and never stop thinking about your old classic.  I know I never will with mine.  

Me Drag Racing at Lone Star Dragway in Denton, Texas in my 1957 Chevy 150

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My winning Peal Out at the 2011 Lone Star Classic Convention in Dallas

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