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Practical Cars

Where are the reviews on older cars??


1 - easy to work on

2 - parts easily available and not too expensive

3 - reliable

4 - affordable

Examples: early 60’s Ford or Chevy, 1975 Chevy Impala, etc.

I’m tired of working on cars which are so difficult to do the simplest things like changing a water pump. Some of these vehicles require removing the timing belt! How about having to remove tires to put belts on! Geez!

The easiest cars to work on are rear wheel drive, straight 6 or 4 cylinder engined units. Picup trucks have more underhood room. The fewer accessories the better.

A colleague of mine in 1966 bought a straight 6 Pontiac full size unit with only automatic and power steering. A colony of raccoons could have nested under the hood; this car was very easy to work on and emission controls were minimal at this time. You will have to go to Nevada or some other dry state to find one of those, since they rusted easily.

Yea... but! 

Finding parts for those cars can be difficult and or expensive.  You get one about the early 70's and you end up with really screwy pollution control stuff that never has worked well.

The easiest and cheapest vehicles to work on and maintain are 4-banger 2WD small pickups, especially older Toyotas.

The longitudinal I-4 engines are far easier to change just about any part than a V6 or a transversely mounted FWD engine w/transaxle.

I-4 engines only have one exhaust system and cat converter. And on a truck they run really accessibly under the cab and bed. I changed everything from the cat back on my Toyota pickup one day in 20 minutes…yup, I timed myself.

2WDs pickups will have none of those doggined expensive hard to change CV jointed half-shafts.

2WD pickups will typically have actual shocks rather than struts. Far cheaper and easier to change.

Pickups will have full frames. Body rot can be patched and won’t cause the thing to sag in the middle or collapse if hit by a Yugo.

Toyota 4-bangers will have timing chains…not belts.

The water pump, should you ever have to replace it, is a bolt on unit external to the engine. Changing one is way easier than on a FWD vehicle.

The Toyota 22R or 22RE engnines are forever.

And you can buy parts for them absolutely anywhere.

The post from The Same Mountainbike was right on the money. I agree 100% with the Toyota pickup.

If you want a sedan or wagon, find a Volvo 240 that is clean and rust-free (i.e. from the southwestern US) 1988 to 1993 are the preferable years. They do have timing belts rather than chains, but changing the belt every 60k miles is not too bad.

Quality parts are available on the Internet for very reasonable prices.

The only place you will need special tools is the transmission, and if that fails, you don’t fix it. You get another from the junk yard.

Afterthought - If you (or more likely, your wife) wants a newer car, the 6 cyl BMWs are very intelligently designed. It helps to have small hands, but even though it looks very tight under the hood, but if you study it for a minute, you realize that you can get to almost anything in about 5 minutes by taking off just a few other things that cover it up. The worst thing I have found was the starter on a 328. I had to pull off the intake manifold to change it.

I prefer the pre-1999s, before they started loading them up with electronic goodies, although the electronics on the 3- and 5-series are quite reliable.

I feel for you pal, I myself, love the older vehicles. They are much easier to work on and they were built to last. The problem I am finding now is that the auto manufactures are doing away with parts for the older vehicles, which is making it harder and harder to work on these older vehicles ourselves. So if we can’t get the parts to replace the ones that go out, we would then be forced to start buying the newer, more cheaply built vehicles that were made to last maybe ten years then thrown away. Even the junkyards and recycling yards aren’t keeping vehicles more than 10 years old. Also now-a-days, you need a have a computer to read the computer in your vehicle just to find out you might have a bad plug.

Agree; small 4 cylinder pickups like Ford Ranger, Toyota, Nissan, Mazda are very easy to work on. Avoid any small GM pickup, like the S-10. They’re not very reliable.

I would avoid most pre-1967 or so cars – they are deadly in a collision. I’m assuming this is for a daily driver and not a show car. Other problems with old cars: body rot, primitive suspensions, poor mileage, poor emissions, and how many mechanics can rebuild a carburetor today? Can you even get a rebuild kit for less popular models? Same question for older automatic transmissions. Be sure to investigate these things before plunking down money on an old car. There’s no point in having an easy-to-work-on car if you can’t get parts for it or a major system is on the blink and the local mechanics just stare blankly at it.

Unless you happen to be a total whiz with carburetors and point-based distributors, older does not necessarily represent easier to maintain and fix. For my money, I think OBD-1 cars (basically most pre-1996 fuel injected cars) represent the best balance of performance and reliability, but are still easy to fix.

The era of cars you mentioned were easier to work, and a good thing they were since they required maintenance so much more frequently than modern cars. I heartily disagree with da1daddy. Those cars were NOT built to last. It was rather unusual to get more than 100,000 miles out of the original drivetrain. I won’t even discuss the body rust, massively greater pollution, much poorer performance (engine, braking), and safety features.

They don’t build 'em like they used to, and that’s a beautiful thing.