Car models without computer parts


Can anyone provide me with some car models that are easy to work on and that have no computer parts? I was thinking of the old VW Beetle…before the “puch buggy.” Better Ideas?


Many cars from the 70s and earlier have no onboard computer. Just about any gasoline powered car with a carburetor would be included. A type I VW is pretty easy/cheap to work on, at least until 1971.

My early 80s benz diesels were just about the last cars made without all that junk, which is what I like about them. I could start the car, disconnect the battery and alternator, and drive around indefinitely with no electrical power at all. They are not cheap to fix.

If you are looking for something to play with, an air cooled VW bug or a 60s domestic car/truck would be good.


VW diesel 1991 and before.


Computers weren’t added to all vehicles at the same time. And trucks were added later. The computer control vehicles got even more complicated with fuel-injection. So if you find a carburated vehicle even if it has a computer it will be less complicated then the fuel injected vehicles. But some of those early 80’s carb which were electronic (NOT computer) controled were a PAIN. So it’s NOT just the computer…that makes it more complicated to work on. Getting a Rochester Quadrajet is a lot easier to get running than many of the 80’s electronic carbs.


A quick Yahoo search turns up that OBD was a requirement starting in 1991, so anything after that is a non-starter for you. Before 1991 a lot of cars had computers, mostly those with electronic fuel injection and/or ABS brakes. Some carburated cars also had computers. Mostly not before about 1980, but there were a lot of kludgy emission controls in the 1970s.

A Chevy Nova II or Dodge Dart from 1972 or earlier would be fairly simple to work on. Old pickups from that era also were pretty basic and have lots of room under the hood. Straight 6 engines left lots of room.


My 83 malibu had a feedback carburetor. There was a computer in the car.


I forgot about those, I was thinking of pre-fuel injection euro cars with simple carbs.


1973 is really the last year for simple to work on american cars (earlier in California). After that, a typical american car required a dizzying number of emissions devices, many of which actually made the car run worse and most of which were prone to failure or required lots of adjustments. Some of the smaller displacement american cars and most of the foreign cars could get away without them for a few more years (as well as pickups, which skirted the regulations for a while), but after the early 80’s every car was either running electronic fuel injection or had a very complicated carbureted fuel system. Also, depending on where you live, most cars made in the waning days of carburetion may not have their emissions equipment anymore.

As the other posters have mentioned, computers are nothing to be afraid of. Part of the reason why they caught on is that they are incredibly reliable. I started out learning on fuel injection and I personally think its inherently no less difficult to work on than an old carburated car, but it does present a different set of challenges. Unlike carburetors, which only really require a basic understanding of physics to work on, you do need some background information about the particular FI system you’re working on. Also, they are more prone to intermittent problems, which can be frustrating to troubleshoot. Expensive electronic tools are handy, but not essential, especially in pre-1996 cars where you can get trouble codes with a paperclip.

To me what’s the most frustrating is how tight engine compartments are these days-- which doesn’t really have anything to do with the computer. My friends 79 El Dorodo has the first GM EFI system in it, which is essentially identical to what they used for the next two decades, but due to the roomy engine compartment that car is a breeze to work on.


Most domestic cars, 1980 and older, did not use computers although there were a few exceptions; 76 Cadillac El Dorado for example and a few strays along the way such as the valued collector car, fuelie Vettes, 50s era Pontiac FI cars, etc.

The domestic carbureted cars were plagued with government mandated garbage that could be problematic but the European and Japanese cars were also plagued with the same garbage. No one ever talks about the Japanese carb/emissions problems of the 70s and 80s; the Big Three did not have a monopoly on it for sure.

If you want absolute, near emission free, stuff to work on then you’re going to have to go back to the 60s and older to simply it a bit.
The VW Beetle is a good one and in spite of a few emissions add-ons, the 73/74 VW Beetle is actually a pretty good car and is simple to work on.
Nice ones are also bringing more money now than they did when they were new.


As the other posters have mentioned, computers are nothing to be afraid of…

Speaking for myself (not the OP), I’m not afraid of computers, I just find them a “less than elegant” way of engineering a vehicle. Basically, they are no fun to play with. Would you rather balance a set of weber carbs or drop in computer chip?


Here, in Georgia, emissions requirements ends when the vehicle reaches 26 years old. That means a car made in '81 or newer is considered vintage, and doesn’t need emissions testing anymore. Even tho some of these cars had electronically controlled carbs, these can easily be replaced with mechanical carbs. Most of the engine parts can be reverted back to mechanical without facing the smog police.

I, myself, like electronic ignition. The old points system required a lot of maintenance to keep tuned correctly, but electronic ignition is much more reliable.


50s era Pontiac FI cars, etc.

You want to tell me what computer could possibly FIT in a Pontiac back in the 50’s. Especially since IC’s weren’t invented until the mid 60’s.


I was not referring to computers only; fuel injection is included and that is what I assume the OP wants to avoid.
Some 57 Chevys used FI and so did a very limited number of 56 Pontiacs.

Fuel injection, forced induction, and even front wheel drive is nothing new; it’s been around since the early part of the century.


Thanks everybody! I really appreciate all of your input. I never thought about the cramped quarters of the engine compartment…good to keep in mind.

Let me toss this in. I am writing a screenplay with a survival-ish twist. If there was a calamity which interfered with all electronics, and our hero ( not a car person) found a car that he/she needed to keep running, what car would you “cast” that would make that most believable?


Any car without electronic ignition, which most cars got in the mid-70’s. Supposedly the Electromagnetic pulse from a nuclear bomb exploded in the atmosphere will destroy solid-state electronics, but cars with points will keep on ticking. The radio probably won’t work, though.

Incidentally, in the 80’s when a Soviet pilot defected with a state-of-the-art MiG fighter, the American engineers who combed over it were amazed to find incredibly primitive electronics-- turns out they intentionally did it that way so it would survive an EMP.


Back to my first response, a mechanical diesel engine will keep running indefinitely without any electrical power. However, you do need a starter and electric glow plugs to get it started.


I was not referring to computers only; fuel injection is included and that is what I assume the OP wants to avoid.
Some 57 Chevys used FI and so did a very limited number of 56 Pontiacs.

Sorry…I misunderstood…Yea…the older Mechanical Fuel Injector systems were a real pain to work on compared to carbs. And not as reliable. Before my brother-in-law went to work for Chyrco he spent 6 years in the Airforce as an airplane mechanic. This was back in the 50’s and all the prop jobs he worked on were fuel injection.


Any old Dodge or Plymouth car or truck with a slant 6 engine. Those things are practically indestructible and simple to work on. Even one with electronic ignition could be converted back to a points setup fairly easily.

If I were trying to survive the apocalypse and needed something simple to keep running, an old Dodge pickup with a slant 6 would be near the top of my list for desirable choices. I’d want a pickup to be able to haul supplies and better ground clearance.


If all electronics are damaged, forget a car with an alternator. The diodes will be no good.

The old generators will still work. That would put you back to the early 60’s.


True about the Soviet fighter. It used vacuum tubes rather than transistors. Solid state electronics, however, can be hardened (shielded) to resist an electromagnetic impulse from a nuclear blast. The US military and others are well aware of this need now.

A car with an alternator just might keep charging as the alternator diodes are encased in metal (aluminum) which may or may not be sufficient as a Faraday cage however the steel hood and fenders might do the job. Just go on with the show. Very early 60s. Cars. My 63 Chev had an alternator which was introduced by Chrysler in 62 if my memory serves.

Your car is a Faraday cage which makes it safe to travel in lightning.