As I begin this column it is November 28th, the biggest shopping day of the year. This writer will not be going out for the 6:00 a.m. sales. In fact, with a little luck, I may be able to work on the old cars.
Someone asked me at Automotive Aftermarket Industry Week for a recap of my project vehicles. Here is the situation today. The '63 Plymouth is completed (with the horn and heater currently non-operational).
The '72 Monte Carlo is being painted and is having a new vinyl top put on. All of its chrome and stainless need to be installed. A quick plug for Charles Shilling and the group over at Shilling Plating and Polishing in Santa Ana — the grille you did for me is gorgeous.
The Monte Carlo should be back together by New Year's.
The '77 Corvette is back from the body shop after five years. That's right. It took five years to fix the fiberglass.
The Corvette next goes to Luis in Garden Grove for upholstery. I'm thinking about refreshing the 350 Corvette engine to get about 300 horsepower. After driving the '63 Plymouth with 500 horsepower the Corvette's 185 horsepower seems weak. Even the '72 Monte Carlo has more guts than the '77 Corvette.
It always amazes me how old technology still works today. I can remember buying my first used engine from a junkyard. The guy told me to "make sure you put some Marvel Mystery Oil in the carburetor and crank it for a while before you fire it up."
Later, I learned that if your engine had seized during storage you filled the cylinders with Marvel Mystery Oil. Somewhere back 30+ years ago this formula for starting up an engine after a long sleep had been discovered.
Here is exactly how I fired up the '77 Corvette after five years. I turned the engine over by hand and added about one quarter bottle of Marvel Mystery directly into the carburetor. I let it sit for a day, then added another quarter of the bottle while I turned the engine over with the starter. I got some fresh 92 octane gasoline in the tank the next day, primed the carburetor with some gas and shazam! The mighty 350 came back to life. It isn't running perfectly but I can move it around.
Oops. I almost forgot to tell you what I did with the other half of the bottle of Marvel Mystery Oil. This went directly into the crankcase. Marvel Mystery Oil has a detergent dispersant package and a viscosity modifier that really seems to work well with the engine oils in some situations.
I can tell you that, frankly, I was amazed that the Corvette started at all after five years. Hence the name Marvel Mystery Oil. I am your loyal customer.
I am sorry, but I digressed. Back to the project vehicles.
The 1962 Plymouth Fury Golden Commando is at the beginning stage of its restoration: gathering up replacements for its missing and damaged parts.
Traditionally, I like to search at the Pomona Swap Meet, the Long Beach Swap Meet, and Memory Lane Collectible Salvage in the Valley. I have also purchased from junkyards all over the United States and Canada — especially for the '63 Plymouth.
In my search for parts I now have been using the power of the internet with eBay Motors.
eBay Motors is an automotive field of dreams for used and NOS parts. eBay Motors claims that they sell a part every minute and a car every 30 minutes. If you look at the size of their site, they probably sell something every second.
With auto parts for old cars there are some bargains to be had but it's like everything else: let the buyer beware. Some of the parts may be mis-represented or simply defective to begin with.
I have been pretty lucky so far. Only one misshipment with a '62 wiring loom and the seller promised to make it right.
I got a real good deal on Glo-Brite '62 Plymouth taillight lenses in the original box. I like the packaging from back in the mid-sixties. Glo-Brite Specialty Company, Chicago, Illinois, manufactured in the U.S.A. on the box and cartons.
A NOS switch came in a box that said Cepac Auto Parts, Wells Manufacturing Corp., Fon Du Lac, Wisconsin. Made in the U.S.A. Then there is the old box from Standard Parts, manufactured and guaranteed by Standard Motor, Long Island, New York.
Even Chrysler had an attractive box. It was red, black, and orange and read "Mopar, Chrysler engineered genuine Mopar accessories. Made in the U.S.A., printed in the U.S.A."
These old parts make me think of the days of a lot of small family-owned auto parts stores. More and more, I hate to go into Kragen Auto Parts, AutoZone, or Pep Boys. They have, in my eyes, lost the auto parts vision. Kragen is about the worst, selling about everything they think might move, automotive or not. I believe that someday bread, milk, beer, and cigarettes will be available at Kragen.
I am lucky to be down the street from Orange Engine in Anaheim. That's an auto parts store and not a circus of miscellaneous merchandise.
One thing I have noticed is how many old car parts are still available. Ignition, brakes, engine transmission can still be found without searching the web, swap meet, or anyplace else. There is, however, something special about a warm Sunday, cold beer, spicy burritos, and good friends at the Pomona Swap Meet.
There you have it. In the fleet of my old cars, one is 99% completed, one 72%, one 60%, and one is at 2%.
As I mentioned earlier, it is the biggest shopping day of the year. Here is my Holiday gift suggestion for just about anyone: a good old flashlight. I like the Mag-Lite, made 100% in the U.S.A. — specifically Ontario, California.
Cheap-ass flashlights that fail at the worst time are frustrating at best. A good quality flashlight really will be appreciated for years to come. Jewelry, clothing, and electronic stuff are all good things, but when the power goes out and you need a light, a good flashlight will show you the way. The two-million candlepower ones can be fun as well, but they are simply unreliable (made in China).
Maybe a little shopping might be a good thing today. After all, it is the beginning of the holiday season. The old cars can wait.
Wishing you the best for the holidays and a healthy, happy New Year.
Originally published in the December 2003 Automotive
Copyright 2003 by KAL Publications Inc.
Covering the California auto parts aftermarket since 1928.