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Carl Heideman
Carl Heideman
5/26/22 12:04 p.m.

[Editor's note: This article originally appeared in the October 2012 issue of Grassroots Motorsports.]

You grew up on a steady diet of front-drive Hondas, 5.0 Mustangs and force-fed Subarus, but you suddenly find yourself attracted to machines from another era—a time defined by chrome bumpers, bias-ply tires, ignition systems featuring moving parts, and mythical devices known as carburetors. 

Your attraction …

Read the rest of the story

VegasNick
VegasNick Reader
7/26/22 12:25 p.m.

Whoaaa! I can't believe you guys dissed points! JUust have to learn care and feeding of them! :) 

Great article. 

wspohn
wspohn SuperDork
7/26/22 1:01 p.m.

I have fixed a vintage car that had the points close down, using a matchbook cover found on the side of the road and a screwdriver (I always carry a small tool kit - and when  remember, spare ignition bits too).  If I had been in one of my modern cars, the only tool that would have done me any good is a cell phone to call a tow truck.  And we were out in the boonies outside of Alturas California at the time so the truck wouldn't have come soon!

 

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
7/26/22 1:07 p.m.

In reply to wspohn :

If you'd been in a car with a modern ignition system, you wouldn't have had a points failure :)

triumph7
triumph7 HalfDork
7/26/22 2:00 p.m.
Keith Tanner said:

In reply to wspohn :

If you'd been in a car with a modern ignition system, you wouldn't have had a points failure :)

But after an EMF hit the car with the points will still be running.

frenchyd
frenchyd GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
7/26/22 2:05 p.m.

In reply to Keith Tanner :You are probably right.  Some electronic wiz bang failed and it's deep inside something you can't even see.  
   So go ahead and call the tow truck. To be hauled to someplace that doesn't have the part in stock but can get shipped overnight for only $45 extra.  Except that really won't be the problem.  Just the parts replacers best guess. 
  Just relax, you'll be there a while while he keeps denting your card with his guesses. 

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
7/26/22 2:13 p.m.

In reply to frenchyd :

No, the modern car doesn't break down because it doesn't have short term consumables in a critical system. There are no points, so the points cannot fail.

What's better, frequent breakdowns with easy fixes or far less frequent breakdowns with more difficult fixes? And a car that can actually TELL you what is wrong? When the #1 coil went bad (overheated due to a poorly placed heatshield) on my rally car right when I was finishing a stage, I didn't have to guess which of the 8 coils it was because the car told me. So I replaced that one coil and the car was fixed for the next stage. 

SPG123
SPG123 HalfDork
7/26/22 4:58 p.m.

Well then, And only because I live this every day...

If you add up the real money that you spend on stuff to fix/maintain your old cars every month it will probably be equal or greater to the payment on a genuinely nice newer car. And if you are like me I now have enough clunky old vehicles to "need" a truck and trailer. Said truck and trailer have to be capable enough of long distance hauls without killing teenage sons. So no skimping there.  Oh and the stuff required for that. winch, tools, straps, insurance, thousands of dollars for constant feeding of said teenage sons... And a gas card to feed the new large rig. And a place to put it.

Your home will no longer be full of old car parts and parts cars required to maintain said fleet of constantly deteriorating old vehicles. You may even use a room for its intended purpose.  

You may have time to do things like starting Microsoft II, getting an education with Doctorate or even becoming acquainted with your family instead of fixing old stuff, finding parts and hundreds of different chemicals and paints... for old stuff, looking at old stuff for old stuff, traveling many states away to get stuff for stuff to fill your house or traveling to dispose of stuff that you no longer need until you buy another and need it again. 

But like me, you will probably see some old hulk somewhere and it will make you smile. And you will "see" it finished in your mind. And none of the above will matter.

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
7/26/22 5:48 p.m.

I'd like to point out that I have many old cars, but they all have Pertronix Ignitors or equivalents :) Except the blue Cadillac, I should sort that out...

kb58
kb58 SuperDork
7/26/22 6:31 p.m.

My first car was a 1969 Chevy Impala, and I remember coasting to the side of the road, already thinking "I bet it's those points again." That time, the spring-loaded portion of it had become detached from its base, so no easy side-of-the-road fix. It was replaced by a "transistorized" (a very dated term now) points replacement thingy, and no more problems. So while we all moan and groan about how great the old days were, yeah, I have to side with Keith, that for what's basically a consumable, replacing points with electronics was a big win all around. Those of you planning or hoping for EOTWAWKI will have far bigger problems than the ignition not cutting out.

frenchyd
frenchyd GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
7/26/22 7:27 p.m.
Keith Tanner said:

In reply to frenchyd :

No, the modern car doesn't break down because it doesn't have short term consumables in a critical system. There are no points, so the points cannot fail.

What's better, frequent breakdowns with easy fixes or far less frequent breakdowns with more difficult fixes? And a car that can actually TELL you what is wrong? When the #1 coil went bad (overheated due to a poorly placed heatshield) on my rally car right when I was finishing a stage, I didn't have to guess which of the 8 coils it was because the car told me. So I replaced that one coil and the car was fixed for the next stage. 

Oh gee,  all those Honda, Toyota, Nissan GM Ford etc dealers are just changing  everybody's oil?  The parts department only stocks oil filters and floor mats?   Those trucks that look a lot like tow trucks are bringing in those vehicles because the owners are too busy to drive them in?

 Sorry,  just having a little fun. 
        I know new cars are more reliable and in a lot of ways better  than old stuff.  But some people like old.  Old cars, old wood sailboats, old steam trains. Etc.   Old does not make things bad ( I sure hope not because Yesterday I got closer to the 3/4 century mark).   A lot of us think that manual transmissions are part of the experience  we don't need ( or want) electronic ignition.  
   We have pride in our skills, knowledge, talents.  Our vintage cars attract attention no modern car can. As much As I've pointed out Tesla's to my wife and she still fails to note them.   She and most people notice the different.  

buzzboy
buzzboy SuperDork
7/26/22 7:34 p.m.

My vintage car skips all that ignition stuff. No variable timing, no distributor, no plugs, no electricity at all.

Tom1200
Tom1200 UltraDork
7/26/22 8:45 p.m.

We replaced the points distributor in the Datsun 1200 with an electronic distributor from a 210 (same engine series) in 1985. The same unit is in the car today. I have a spare in my track box but in all my years involved with Datsun A-Series engines i've never seen one fail.

 

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
7/26/22 9:31 p.m.

In reply to frenchyd :

A manual transmission affects the driving experience. The thrill of unreliability and increased maintenance does not :) You can still have the whole experience of driving a vintage car with electronic ignition, and if you don't tell anyone they never need to know. 

When I put the Pertronix into the Land Rover, I kept the points just in case I needed them for a trail fix. Well, I did. A Land Rover owner who did NOT have a Pertronix had a points problem in the middle of the Utah desert, so I donated the replacement parts to him.

kb58
kb58 SuperDork
7/26/22 10:03 p.m.
frenchyd said:
 But some people like old.  Old cars, old wood sailboats, old steam trains. Etc.   Old does not make things bad..

Years ago I saw a high-res aerial photo taken of California's Interstate 5 in the late 1960's. This view from above shows maybe one mile of freeway about 20 miles north of San Diego, and in it, I counted 22 cars. Yes: 22. In a mile. Midday. So our rose-colored visions of what it was like driving those old cars are skewed by not having heavy traffic to deal with. I used to love driving stick shift cars, but that's been beaten out of me with all the traffic now, and it always seems like every single traffic light is always red!

Tom1200
Tom1200 UberDork
7/26/22 10:12 p.m.

There's a guy near.me who daily drive a 52 Bel Air. It appears.to.be all stock and doesn't sound like the motors been hot rodded.

Wasn't there a Ford engineer who daily drove a model T?

 

03Panther
03Panther UberDork
7/27/22 12:06 a.m.

Points, and other old car stuff, are not the worthless demons as some portray. They are also not as , uh , special? As others proclaim. I've had both ways, and like both ways, for different reasons. In 99 I was travelin' with a 73 ironhead chopper still on points. Since I rode it VERY hard, I could tell when the points plate moved a bit and the points closed up a bit too much. Pull over, no matchbook, no problem. I set the gap by the look of the spark at points! Certain color blue, and there was the right gap for power!

Would NOT want to depend on that as a commuter. But I also knew that bike intimately !!! One of the joys of owning one like that. 

03Panther
03Panther UberDork
7/27/22 12:20 a.m.

In reply to kb58 :

In 90 or so the Monitor-Merrimack bridge was being built in VA. Silly name, since the Monitor fought the Confederate iron clad ship the Virginia, but the winners write the history books, so... but I digress. 
Read a newspaper article at the time about the existing bridge tunnel on I64. Built in the 50's, as a two lane. Not too many years later they had to plan and add a second 2 lane next to it , for two in each direction. The estimate at that time was it would be good for 200,000 cars... PER DAY!!! They assumed that would be good till the turn of the century in 2000. By 1989, that bridge tunnel on 64 was moving 400,000 cars per day. I've been stuck in that back up for 2-3 hours, coming home from work, at rush hour. Never stopped moving 100 %, but rarely got far into 2 nd gear. Did it in old stuff. But I was tough back then. Would not recommend it to the average citizen, and couldn't do it today,in old stuff. Course I moved since then, and wouldn't do it in ANYTHING now. 

Appleseed
Appleseed MegaDork
7/27/22 2:01 a.m.

That article describes my motorcycle. 100%. Except the leaking oil. It's a Honda, and they aren't allowed to do that.

yupididit
yupididit GRM+ Memberand PowerDork
7/27/22 3:41 a.m.

In reply to 03Panther :

They're adding more lanes to the hrbt right now. I believe they want it to be 4 lane per side. That includes the tunnel

ddavidv
ddavidv UltimaDork
7/27/22 7:26 a.m.

In the last two days I've watched two videos about older vehicles that had electronic ignition parts that failed during normal use. One was a HEI distributor and the other an HEI module. 

My own experience with the HEI distributor in the '93 Lightning was a timing advance issue that NOBODY was able to diagnose until I did a last ditch parts swap with a friend.

Now add in the dubious quality of aftermarket electronic components we have today or aged-out old stuff (like Duraspark computers) and there are more potential problems out there than you might think.

Points are easy. I don't understand the reluctance of people to retain them. The only car I've ever had to fiddle with points on was my Austin Mini, but the distributor was right up in the front and the easiest to adjust of any car I've owned. 

I've had a Pertronix conversion, and it worked fine. But I really didn't see any advantage to it. It always worried me that, if it took a dump on a trip, I probably couldn't get the replacement parts at any local parts store.

JoeTR6
JoeTR6 Dork
7/27/22 7:48 a.m.

In reply to ddavidv :

The quality of available points and rotors has also deteriorated, at least for British cars.  My solution was to carry a good used set of points and new rotor as spares to backup a Pertronix conversion which can suffer an immediate death.

frenchyd
frenchyd GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
7/27/22 10:35 a.m.
Keith Tanner said:

In reply to frenchyd :

A manual transmission affects the driving experience. The thrill of unreliability and increased maintenance does not :) You can still have the whole experience of driving a vintage car with electronic ignition, and if you don't tell anyone they never need to know. 

When I put the Pertronix into the Land Rover, I kept the points just in case I needed them for a trail fix. Well, I did. A Land Rover owner who did NOT have a Pertronix had a points problem in the middle of the Utah desert, so I donated the replacement parts to him.

In my experience  a clutch even properly used ( not abused ) will not last as long as an  automatic. 
  With regard to pertronix  ignition, I have replaced those when they fail. Admittedly not as often as you have to adjust points.  But some have failed.  
      The SU fuel pump has points and I would never replace those.  Part of the start up process is turn on the ignition and wait until the fuel pump fills the float bowls before attempting to start. 
      That actually tells you something.    If it's recently been running. And pumps for more than normal. You open the hood and see what is causing it.  Loose fuel line, float bowl?  Etc.  That communication helps connect you to the car.  

But transportation Module s don't communicate with you. No clattering valves to remind you to adjust them.  No noisy water pump to tell you it's time to rebuild it.  I'm lacking that connection.  
  My trouble free Chevy pickup ran 371,000 miles / 20 years and quietly rusted away. I sent it off to the junkyard  without a tear because of that lack of connection. 
    So yes I'll adjust points and tolerate foibles.   Because we communicate. 

Carl Heideman
Carl Heideman
7/27/22 11:03 a.m.

In reply to ddavidv and JoeTR6 :

I wrote that story about 10 years ago and you and others have brought up some good points about points.  At Eclectic Motorworks, for the past five years or so, we've stayed with points more often than not because we've seen too many quality issues with electronic conversions failing completely or having erratic issues. However, lately, we're seeing some real quality problems with brand new points--some lasting just a few miles, some a few hundred, etc.. Like Joe, we often leave good used points in a car and just make sure they're adjusted well and aren't badly worn/pitted.

So in my experience, there is a pendulum that swings for "what works best" that is often more about parts quality and the supply chain than it is about the inherent advantage of a particular technology.

intrepid
intrepid Reader
7/27/22 11:46 a.m.

For racing at least, it seems that condensers are as big a problem as points. 

The biggest issue for me with old cars, and I say this as a lover of old brits, is the increasing scarcity of parts and the related quality issues. This has nothing to do with quality of British engineering. It is simply that the cars are old and things wear out with use. Ten years ago, it was relatively easy to find inexpensive replacement parts of decent quality. Things have changed now.

To be fair, the same thing seems to be happening with other cars (Japanese) from the 70s-80s and even the 90s.

-chris r.

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