A New Initiative from Moss Motors
Admit it. At least once, you have walked out of the supermarket and almost gotten into the wrong car.
No harm. No foul. The car you approached probably looked very much like your daily driver. Today’s modern cars are designed in wind tunnels for maximum aerodynamic efficiency. With all the manufacturers working against the same challenges, and with access to the same technology, the results are all going to look pretty similar: smooth lines, low slung suspension, lights fitted flush into the body, rounded corners and mirrors. Every one of these scientifically designed advancements improves the car’s airflow profile. And…each one robs the car of its individuality.
Understandably, many older people complain that all modern cars look alike. And they are right.
The cars of that era were built from the technologies of their day. The distinctiveness of those cars went beyond their appearance. Unlike today, a box of tools, a quart of oil and a spare tire were always in the trunk. The ability to use those tools or install that spare tire was part of the skill set of virtually every driver. Roadside repairs were common. Many drivers claimed they could adjust a set of ignition points using the cover from a book of matches. Ignition timing was done by ear, as was adjusting the carburetor. Spark plugs were routinely removed, cleaned, reset and reinstalled.
Valves were routinely adjusted as part of a tune-up. Tune-ups were a twice-a-year part of the car’s maintenance.
Today, those cars are called classics. They’re head turners. They take riding in a car from being transportation to being an experience. With good reason, the owners of these cars are proud of them: They’re beautiful, and they’re fun.
We can’t bring one of these classic cars into the 21st century without bringing some of the skills needed to care for them along too. We also need to understand the perspectives, and expectations, that were originally part of owning these cars.
Example: When these cars were new, gas stations had gas pumps as they do today. They also had a display of quarts of motor oil near every pump. Like gasoline, oil was a consumable. These cars leaked and/or burned oil. Along with the motor oil, there would be a special jug for putting water in your radiator. Cooling systems lost water. There was also a smaller type of jug designed to put water in batteries, which lost water too.
Everybody knew how to push-start a car and pop the clutch at the right time to bring the engine to life. That skill was not just a novelty. Everybody needed it from time to time. People kept a set of booster cables in the trunk. The glove box would have a package of extra fuses. It was like life before smart phones. We didn’t know what we were missing—but in a way we knew more.
Moss supplies parts to the owners of classic British cars around the world. Many owners send us letters and photos. Among these owners are grandparents. We are often told of the fun everyone has when the grandchildren come to visit and are taken for a ride in grandpa’s car. Grandpa also has a modern, computer-designed sedan, but when the kids refer to grandpa’s car, they are talking about the roadster. The sound and feel of the engine, sunglasses, tousled hair and maybe an ice cream cone are the stuff memories are made of. Sedans can’t do that. Sports cars were born to do that.
These classic cars aren’t just a great time for the kids. The owners love to get together and share the simple joy of motoring. Road trips, barbeques, photos, cars-n-coffee, swap meets, tech sessions, car shows and much more. These classic British car owners are not just car owners, they are car lovers. They spread over multiple generations, they cross ethnic and economic lines and they are people enjoying the simple delights of motoring and the association of people who share their passion.
The Fine Print
Does all this fun and motoring come with a price? Yes and no. It has always had a price. Cars need maintenance and repairs. And yet the cost is not something new.
A modern car has no single coil, no distributor, no distributor cap, no rotor, no points, no condenser. Modern spark plugs last over 100,000 miles. Hydraulic valve lifters adjust themselves. About the only maintenance modern cars seem to need are oil changes. (The car tells you when it needs one.) Adjusting to the jump-in-the-car-and-go mentality is easy. Modern cars make that possible.
Cars of antiquity came with antiquated technology. The jump-in-the-car-and-go way of thinking does not dovetail with vintage technology. That’s not a bad thing. The owners of these cars will readily tell you of the joys of servicing these cars. When you do the maintenance yourself and then start the motor, the joy is a tingle that runs all the way to your toes. When you go for a test drive after effecting a repair, the pride is all over your face. A modern sedan simply can’t do that. When you blend the fun of motoring with the pride of owning and maintaining a classic sports car, you have the very best the world of automobiles can offer.
In the coming months, Moss will present a series of how-to articles designed specifically for the new generation of classic car owners. Our goal is to help you understand and care for your car. So, if you have bought, found or inherited one of these classic British sports cars, we will share the skills needed to keep your car (and you) happy and on the road.