SoonerBJJ
SoonerBJJ
1/24/11 1:06 p.m.

As I reflect on the future of the collectible car market I have to wonder how the relative complexity and need for proprietary diagnostic tools will effect the collectibility of modern cars. Will the average enthusiast be able to maintain and restore these cars, or will they require costly service of specialty shops?

Twenty years from now who can service or restore that 2001 ZO6? Or worse, what'll it cost to freshen your 2011 ZR1?

One can get into a 1986 Ferrari 328 for a very reasonable sum. Anyone who has done their homework will know the costs that come with ownership. A service is going to cost you several grand but you don't have to look too far to find a capable shop and the costs are somewhat proportional to the value of the car. A quarter century from now, will we be able to say the same for the 430?

At the other end of the spectrum, in 2036 will average Joe shadetree mechanic be able to tear apart his '11 Mustang GT in the garage? The complexity of onboard computers and requirement for proprietary diagnostic tools already puts today's car beyond the reach of the vast majority of enthusiasts. What will those folks do when their car's technology is 2 decades obsolete and even the Ford dealerships won't have the right reader?

How will planned obsolescence effect the collectibility of modern cars? It seems rather depressing, or am I missing something?

mr2peak
mr2peak Reader
1/24/11 2:54 p.m.

We won't have gas anyway so stop worrying about it

novaderrik
novaderrik HalfDork
1/24/11 2:59 p.m.

a lot of people were asking the same questions back in the late 70's and early 80's when the first computer controlled cars started showing up, and people figured it out. back then, the ecm and all those pesky fuel injectors and sensors was going to be the end of the car hobby for shade tree mechanics.. by the late 80's, people had a pretty good grasp on how to not only work on them, but also how to burn chips at home to make them better- and this was back when home computers weren't commonplace and were really, really expensive.

these days, it take about a week after a new model comes out before someone out there has hacked into the ecm and figured out how to make them stronger/faster/better and post the programs on the internet for anyone with any sort of ambition to find, so in 20 years i don't see there really being any kind of a problem with the new cars of today getting worked on by pretty much anyone.

Otto Maddox
Otto Maddox HalfDork
1/24/11 3:22 p.m.

In reply to novaderrik:

Yeah, people were really wrong about fuel injection. It turned out to be a gift from the automotive gods.

That being said, the value of late 70's cars are still in the toilet. You can still pick up Mustangs, Ferraris, MGs, Porsches, Corvettes, Jaguars, etc. from that era for peanuts. The equivalent models from the 60's have been more popular all along. After 30 years, I don't think that is going to change.

Ian F
Ian F SuperDork
1/24/11 3:31 p.m.

In reply to Otto Maddox:

Relative to their 60's counterparts, I would generally agree -, but the values of cars fro mteh 70's and 80's are starting to attract collectors. Late 70's Trans Ams are the most visible, but others are starting to get noticed as well.

I also agree with the comments about the electronics. As much as they suck to work on now (especially when a running problem doesn't trigger a CEL), the DIY aftermarket will improve.

SoonerBJJ
SoonerBJJ New Reader
1/24/11 3:32 p.m.

novaderrik, your point is well taken as some in each generation will bemoan progress and innovation. But I believe at some point we reach a ceiling beyond which the technology is too specialized for your average hobbyist.

And I believe what you're describing falls more within the range of tuning than rebuilding and restoring. Anyone with a bit of computer aptitude can plug into their ECM and tune without ever turning a wrench. What happens when the computer doesn't respond to it's controls and their EFI or Cam Torque Activated drive components have to be broken down and rebuilt? (to borrow 1 example from the Mustang). Not even the iPhone has an app for that.

Earlier EFI, chips, etc are accessible for the hobbyist or shadetree with a laptop. I'm concerned that car technology is getting to the point where that is no longer true. I hope to be proven wrong.

jimbob_racing
jimbob_racing HalfDork
1/24/11 3:39 p.m.

Imagine needing an iDrive part for your BMW in 30 years. If they are NLA, you're going to be screwed since all the used ones are going to be in the same condition. If BMW still stocks them, it's going to cost a small fortune. In either case, cars will be scrapped for silly reasons related to electronics and not the typical rust/mechanical issues.

paanta
paanta Reader
1/24/11 3:40 p.m.

My E34 was a seriously advanced car for the time (it's probably got a dozen black boxes) but maintaining it really hasn't been too bad at all. Electronics are really pretty damn reliable on the whole.

Everything is getting more complex, but also more modular, which I think balances things out on the whole. Plus, computers and wires have replaced a lot of more troublesome stuff and in some cases reduced the number of moving parts. Drive by wire is spooky, but it does simplify things a whole bunch. And electronics have made it possible to do away with a lot of the kludgey mechanical systems you had on something like an old Audi or VW. Those things were ALWAYS springing impossible-to-trace vacuum leaks.

I agree that the limiting factor is the diagnostic tools. On a few cars (VWs, BMWs, etc) there are relatively cheap (under $300) ways to get full access to the computers and I expect that sort of aftermarket support to increase as hackers get more skilled. Worst case, these days you can install an aftermarket ECU and be on your way with entirely open source hardware.

I think it's going to be OK.

RexSeven
RexSeven Dork
1/24/11 4:10 p.m.

Something else to remember is that younger enthusiasts are already computer-savvy and are growing up with all of these infotainment systems. Modern electronic hardware is far more reliable than 80's stuff, so I think if any issues crop up it will be mostly software-related. The OEM diagnostic tools may be expensive, but it wouldn't be too hard to make a custom dongle and create some emulation software for a laptop to trick the infotainment system into "speaking" to it.

However, that depends on how forthcoming the OEMs are in providing info like the source code to DIYers. I doubt M$ will give out info on the Ford SYNC system even 30 years into the future, for example, so it may take some time for shade-tree programmers to crack the code. VW is already adding a 128-bit encryption key to the GTI's ECU to prevent ECU tuners from tampering with it. It can be bypassed physically, but a VW tech would be able to see the changes and void the warranty.

oldtin
oldtin Dork
1/24/11 4:22 p.m.

It leaves a cottage industry of folks who have the skills to repair or replace the electronic components that go bad. ECUs on bmw e28s go bad after so many electrons pass through or winters, vibration, etc. There's folks out there who can rebuild them - or like jhaas - just resolder them yourself and save a few hundred. Could make a lot of bargains for 25-35 year old cars that look good but don't run.

RexSeven
RexSeven Dork
1/24/11 4:33 p.m.

In reply to oldtin:

Yeah, that. Solder joints and relays tend to go bad in the FC RX-7s, for example, but if you are familiar with soldering, it's easy to fix those issues yourself.

ArthurDent
ArthurDent Reader
1/24/11 4:34 p.m.

The low volume, niche stuff might be tough but for something like a Mustang or Miata the aftermarket will find a way.

Teh E36 M3
Teh E36 M3 HalfDork
1/24/11 4:40 p.m.

This is a good topic. I actually base car purchases much on this- how repairable is it? EFI is less an issue than it once was, and with the advent and popularity of Megasquirt, most engine control issues can be overcome diy. The problems arise when you start getting parts that are proprietary, and I really really don't like them. For this reason, I worry about dual clutch transmissions, SMG's, DSG's, electronically controlled diffs, microchip keys (i.e. can't start the car with a metal blank), gps data to ecus etc. I actively look for vehicles old and new that don't have these things, but they are getting few. I'm not sure how they will affect collectibility, but I don't think much.

Keith
Keith SuperDork
1/24/11 5:30 p.m.

All you guys bemoaning how hard it's going to be to fix new cars - I invite you to visit my 1966 Cadillac. It has a lot of doodads that are seen on modern cars, such as automatic climate control and automatic lights. But it's all done in hardware. The vacuum lines are terrifying, and this is from a company that requires you to disassemble and lubricate the clock every couple of years. I never have figured out how to get the heater working. I'd much rather deal with an electronic setup myself. And I have an adapter to plug my laptop into my 2002 BMW's wiring harness and read the network traffic so I can debug what's going on.

What if sensors are NLA? That's nothing new. Try getting a fuel tank for your rusty 323 GTX, for example. Junked cars are your only option, and of course they're all the same age and rusty. A problem like this is just as likely to send a car to the junkyard as some weird sensor problem. If the car is collectible enough, companies like Year One will pick up the torch and continue to produce various NLA parts. If it's not, well, no worries.

WilberM3
WilberM3 HalfDork
1/24/11 5:45 p.m.
Teh E36 M3 wrote: This is a good topic. I actually base car purchases much on this- how repairable is it? EFI is less an issue than it once was, and with the advent and popularity of Megasquirt, most engine control issues can be overcome diy.

here in MA the problem is that the state requires a computer to plug into your obd2 ecu and report back that its all ok just to get a sticker for anything 96+. its actually become a bit of a shopping filter i use for cars like miatas where a 95 is more valuable to me than a 96/97 because its painless to MS and use on the street. perhaps there are or could be ways to trick the state computer, but i think i'll just find another state first

benzbaron
benzbaron HalfDork
1/24/11 5:53 p.m.

In the future I see the ECM and computers in cars getting more like a laptop which you can download software to "upgrade." Basically the idrive system in your BMW will be redundant technology and you will be able to buy a "blank" computer box. From there you will install it and connect it via WiFi to the tuning software. The computer downloads the computer software to run the BMW various systems. If there is a will there will be a way and the fact computers become more compact and cheaper is very encouraging. I wouldn't worry about it until it happens.

I know that the automatic climate control used in some mercedes is a real POS like Keiths caddy, luckily a company makes an electronic controlled replacement unit. I actually hear mercedes "borrowed" the design from a 60s chrysler so it is likely similar to the caddy.

btp76
btp76 Reader
1/24/11 6:07 p.m.

I drove a friend's 2010 Mustang two days ago. The radio and nav screen is a massive unit that can read his I phone via bluetooth. I doubt that system will work well after sitting in a field for 10 or 15 years.

Keith
Keith SuperDork
1/24/11 6:19 p.m.

Heck, after 10-15 years in a field almost nothing on an MG will work

Raze
Raze Dork
1/24/11 7:08 p.m.
Keith wrote: All you guys bemoaning how hard it's going to be to fix new cars - I invite you to visit my 1966 Cadillac. It has a lot of doodads that are seen on modern cars, such as automatic climate control and automatic lights. But it's all done in hardware. The vacuum lines are terrifying, and this is from a company that requires you to disassemble and lubricate the clock every couple of years. I never have figured out how to get the heater working. I'd much rather deal with an electronic setup myself. And I have an adapter to plug my laptop into my 2002 BMW's wiring harness and read the network traffic so I can debug what's going on.

Fast forward to my 1998 Cadillac, all those doodoads are electric, and running on printed circuit boards, had a light in the dash burn the board, no repairing that w/o a whole new gauge cluster, sure sensors and OBD-II reported just about any circuit fault in the whole car, unless the sensor itself was bad, and then you had to fix that first. Really just alot of wiring, just get used to wiring harnesses and then any car is cake...

Nashco
Nashco SuperDork
1/24/11 7:31 p.m.
SoonerBJJ wrote: novaderrik, your point is well taken as some in each generation will bemoan progress and innovation. But I believe at some point we reach a ceiling beyond which the technology is too specialized for your average hobbyist.

I don't believe that, not for a second. 30 years ago fuel injection (now hacked) was replacing worlds of vacuum hoses and very complex carburetors. Now, most people (especially younger ones) HATE to see vacuum lines. Then it was electronic transmissions (now hacked). Then it was CAN messages (now hacked). The list goes on and on.

Younger people aren't scared of technology, they embrace it. I'm fairly young, still in my 20s, and I bemoan having to rebuilding a mechanical distributor or carburetor because it's impossible to find parts for and even when I do I can't get the right tools to test it out, etc. I've grown up with a computer handy, however, so I'm fully familiar with the electronic side. Also, just because I know electronics doesn't mean I can't figure out mechanical stuff....just better at mechanical stuff I deal with. Lots of people these days know VTEC, yo, but not venturi.

How many people would think you could hack some electric car stuff to make a hybrid? Not many, I promise. However, I've done it. Technology isn't reaching a ceiling, you're just getting older. Young kids will continue to thrive on whatever is the latest thing as that's what they grow up with. They might have a hard time dialing in the secondaries or balancing a set of dual carbs, and finding a distributor advance tester might be like finding the holy grail, however!

Bryce

white_fly
white_fly New Reader
1/24/11 8:52 p.m.

I think the R35 GT-R is one of the more complex cars on the market at the moment and while people were initially apprehensive about how difficult it would be to tune or just repair, solutions have been found. For any car that is valuable, solutions will be manufactured for common problems and fabricated for uncommon ones. For cars that aren't so valuable, engine swaps and electric conversions will take over.

One of the most exciting things to me is that CAD, rapid manufacturing and short-run manufacturing technology are all getting much more attainable to the average aftermarket company and will surely eventually get into the hands of DIYers. The future is bright, menh!

rogerbvonceg
rogerbvonceg Reader
1/25/11 11:53 a.m.

Meqasquirt it.

unevolved
unevolved HalfDork
1/25/11 11:59 a.m.
white_fly wrote: One of the most exciting things to me is that CAD, rapid manufacturing and short-run manufacturing technology are all getting much more attainable to the average aftermarket company and will surely eventually get into the hands of DIYers. The future is bright, menh!

Exactly. Worst case scenario, the average gearhead gets much smarter.

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