1980 Car Repair Prices

Hi - I’m in the midst of writing a novel and need to get a ball-park idea what prices would be in New York City in late 1980 or '81 to have a water-pump replaced in a 1973 Pinto station wagon. I also need the same kind of cost/estimate to have ALL FOUR wheels and tires replaced for the same car circa 1980-'81 as in the wheels were stolen off the car and it’s been found up on blocks. Any thoughts from anyone? I’m looking for New York City prices - probably what a garage would charge - not dealership prices - though ANY info is appreciated.

David - Write or Wrong

I’d guess thet the Department of Labor or a .gov financial site like DRED would have stats on this.
You may have to do a tiny bit of arithmatic, like taking a current estimate and adjusting it back for the inflation over the years, but that’s minor.

Find a mechanic that’s been in business awhile; he could probably give you a ballpark figure. I doubt anyone would challenge your figure. (except of course for that ONE guy who had a 73 Pinto with a bad water pump in 1980) :wink:

Inflation has about doubled prices overall since 1980, so find a current costs and divide by 2. Close enough.

Juat a comment about research:
You’ve been very upfront and honest about what you’re doing, and we certainly don;t mind helping out, but for many issues such as this one there are countless research organizations, government data sites, and other such that are goldmines of data. We the taxpayers spend countless billions annually for this data to be collected and analyzed. Might’s well make the most of it.

Pinto were plentiful, and stealing wheels from a Pinto did happen I guess, but lots of other cars were hit first. The tires and wheels would be too cheap to gain much from stealing a set. Tires for a Pinto were about as cheap as they get, 13" wheels and narrow. Most of the come on ads for cheap tires were for Pinto sized tires. You could buy a set of 4 decent tires for about $90 or less. Wheels would be about $5 to 10 each from a salvage yard.

A water pump was about $25 and 2 to 3 hours of labor at about $30 so about $100 to 130.

A water pump in a Pinto would have been a $100 job, part and labor…The four 13" tires and steel wheels, $150-$200…Tire thieves don’t “put it up on blocks”…They will leave it flat on the ground, using two jacks to speed up the process…

Reminds me of a fellow I knew in the early 1980’s in Colorado who had the bad luck of getting both doors stolen off of his Pinto one night (which, of course, also drained the battery). The end result for him was green junkyard doors with green interior panels being installed on a brown Pinto with a brown interior.

Back in 1980 at the dealers in this part of OK the labor rates were about 22-24 dollars per hour with independents running about 20 or so per hour. I think it would be safe to say that NYC would have been around 30 or more per hour.
At the time a good used wheel assembly w/tire would run around 30-50 each, all depending.

While rummaging through my attic a year or so ago I ran across an old receipt from late 1970 where I had the dealer replace the clutch in my Plymouth Roadrunner. At the time I had a major knee operation, was in a cast and on crutches, so I had to farm that one out. The dealer rate then was 7 dollars per flat rate hour with a 3 hour charge for a total of 21 dollars in labor. Parts and all was under 60 bucks. How things have changed.

I wouldn’t say that every wheel thief leaves the car on the ground. Some years back someone lifted all 4 wheels off of a Corvette that belonged to a captain at the AFB here.
The ironic part was that whoever committed this crime did it on base only a few blocks from security HQs.
The captain walked out one morning about daybreak and his 'Vette was sitting on concrete blocks.
Apparently security was a bit lax because security vehicles had to have been passing that car multiple times during the night and it was parked right beside the street… :slight_smile:

Why would someone steal the wheels off a Pinto unless they were custom wheels, called "mags’ back in those days. Mag wheels would run $50 to 100 each as compared to a steel wheel which would run $5-10 from a junk yard. Tires would run $25 to 40 each, mounting was usually free with new tires, $2 ea with used tires. Used tires ran about $5-8 each and balancing about $3 each.

As for blocks or not, it would depend on whether the thieves used their own jack or broke into the trunk and used the owners jack. If they used their own, they would probably have to use blocks to get their own jack back. There are a lot variables though on this one.