Merced County Times Newspaper
The Power of Positive Press

If you own a classic car, cherish it, don’t park it forever

We see old cars and trucks in many different conditions these days. Some still look just like they did on the showroom floor while others are little more than scrap in a junkyard.

One’s eyes are naturally drawn to a pristine, like-new car with a gleaming paint job, unmolested engine compartment and neat-as-a-pin interior. Some of these cars have uncommonly low mileage and they clearly have been garaged all their lives and pampered maintenance-wise.

The trouble with one of these genuine survivors is that you may be reluctant to drive it very much, for fear of running up the mileage or getting in an accident.

Then we have vintage vehicles which also have seen tender loving care, but they get driven regularly. There may be some dust and dirt on these cars, perhaps a minor tear or fraying of the upholstery or some rock chips in the paint.

I also notice cars and trucks that have suffered benign neglect. These cars have faded paint jobs with primer spots, mismatched tires, incomplete upholstery and grimy engine compartments. You wonder if they will remain in that state or be restored at some point in time. Or, worse, will they be allowed to deteriorate even more?

While I enjoy looking at pictures of cars in wrecking yards, fundamentally that’s a sad experience. Often windows are broken on these junkers and the seat springs show. The headliner is falling down and holes show up in the rusted floorboards, along with leaves and other debris where the seats should be. The misery is further compounded when you notice the engine and maybe the wheels are missing.

The chances of junkyard cars being rescued by some benevolent restorer are a little remote. More than likely parts and pieces will be removed from a car until there’s little of anything left. I get a little bummed out when I read some “parts car” such as a four-door sedan gave up most of its parts to make a second vehicle whole. From what I’ve seen, there are a number of old cars and trucks in dismantling centers that are still intact and salvageable and could be brought to life again. Whether that happens or not is unknown.

My thinking has changed in recent times. Now I welcome seeing old cars with primer spots showing through the paint, maybe a little rust and unfinished interiors. Their owners want to enjoy the cars now, not years from now when they may get the time or financial resources to complete the job.

One of my friends has a 1958 four-door sedan which he says is 85 percent original. The metallic paint has a muted shine but the chrome is as bright as it has ever been. It has a new battery and a few other replacement mechanical parts but has mostly stayed original for 63 years. It is a true survivor and a guaranteed attention-getter.

What’s encouraging here is that this sedan gets regularly driven and enjoyed. It’s somewhat pampered but still has some freedom to get up and go. That’s the point with old cars — they should be savored, maybe in limited fashion, and not tucked away somewhere under a blanket with boxes piled on top of it.

For those owning a collector car or contemplating buying one, there’s at least one requirement to my way of thinking. Old cars need to be garaged, where they are protected all the time from the elements, and they need to be run regularly. Leaving cars untouched for years in some dark and dank garage or shed does them a great disservice since that means brake and fuel lines, carburetors, tires and other essentials will need replacing before they ever hit the road again.

It’s fun to check out old cars and trucks from all ends of the spectrum but the ultimate prize is seeing them out on the road, bringing smiles to the occupants and all those around them.

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