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Buying a car to work on

I would like to buy a car to work on that is cheap, easy to work on and with many parts easily available. I was thinking about a vw bug but I thought there might be something better…early 90’s Toyota? any suggestions?

I have heard that old 60s 2WD pickups are what meets your criteria.

Is this a hobby car or an only car that has to get you to work?

1992 or earlier VW non-turbo diesel. It will have minimal electronics if that is not your kettle of fish. Diesels are a little different but not at all more difficult. There is plenty of help on the web and parts are easily available. I get much of what I need at a local car parts store as some parts for older VWs are made in China (very inexpensive too) including master cylinder, wheel cylinders, drive shaft so far. You can look down your nose at an older Prius in the fuel mileage department and the new ones too if you drive it right.

Cheap may take some searching, sorry.

Problem with a DIYer and a diesel is pump timing,they have never done it and don’t have the tools.

What is the status of your work area?

A 1976 Chevy pickup with a V-8. Work on something that you might enjoy working on.

Working on old junk is not fun…If you think you would enjoy working on old cars, get a job in a salvage yard and get paid while you are having “fun”…

I can’t think of anything that would be better than an early 1970s VW Beetle.

its more of a hobby car, it would be nice to drive around

yeah, the 70s bug sounds good. I think I might go with one of these

The trouble with working on a VW is you are confronted with too many VW specfic problems and lose touch with general auto mechanics.

I have seen fine FORD Master Mechanics struggle to put in a clutch cable or even correctly diagnois the clutch cable system on a VW, and that is just one system otherwise good mechanics fall apart on.

At lest with the Beetle, you have a lot of resources. There is the book How to Keep Your Volkswagen Alive: A Manual of Step-by-Step Procedures for the Compleat Idiot, and there are organizations you can join. Then there is the obligatory “old VW” shop in almost every major metropolitan area in the USA. The coolest thing is that you can get relatively new parts from Mexico.

I Have Worked On VW Beetles And FWD And RWD And Front, Rear, And Mid-Engine, Water-Cooled And Air-Cooled Cars Since The Late 60s And Early 70s.

I know Beetles inside and out. Beetles don’t interfere with my working on other makes and designs and they don’t interfere with my working on VWs. I work on outboards, Sea-Doos and motorcycles, tractors, etcetera, too.

Besides, George doesn’t specify learning “general auto mechanics” as a requisite. He wants a cheap, easy to work car with parts availability and a hobby car that’s nice to drive around.


Bug sounds good, if it’s a hobby car, and if you like Bugs. Once you get past the early 70s the fun-to-work-on factor drops way off, what with fuel injection, computers, etc.

Mustang or Camaro?

IMHO, A Toyota of that vintage worth tinkering with as a hobby car would be a MR2. Not sure how easy they are to work on, but at least it would be a fun car to drive.

Then you know there are things that a VW mechanic sees that a Domestic mechanic would never even guess could be the problem. One of my favorites is people diagnosing transmission or clutch problems when all that happened was the axel nut wasn’t tightened (but still has its pin in it) and the axel cut the splines out of the drum,car won’t move,people bought transmissions all the time over this. There are dozens of VW specific problems that the domestic mechanic doesn’t see and when they try to fix it things just get worse.

How about the bracket that holds the shift rod up,these break open and the rod falls to the bottom of the tunnel,you can’t see what wrong,just that moving the shifter does not shift the trans.

Or not having enough bend in the “boden”(body) tube and the clutch chatters,domestic mechanics put clutches in over these things.

People often suggest small pickups. Crown Victorias and Grand Marquis are also easy to work on. All of these have relatively lots of room in the engine compartment.

I Was On Vacation Once Waiting For An Oil Change And Diagnosed A Worn Fuel Pump Push Rod From Over-Hearing A Conversation Between A VW Dealer Technician And His Service Manager.

This was on a fairly new 70s Type 2 and I happened to know some of the push rods were manufactured too soft. Listening to the symptoms and what they had tried, I spoke up. It took them a while, but eventually got around to finding that I was correct.

Starter bushings in the transmission housing are another one. What about the generator belt tension adjusting system?

Pump timing you can do at home with the correct tools. Otherwise have a pro do it like wheel alignments for example. Who can fix every car problem at home? Not me.