Replacing parts on an antique or vintage car can not only be difficult, but sometimes it can be downright impossible. For cars that have been out of production for decades, often, parts on them have been out of production for that long as well. New technologies come along, stronger metals and materials are created, and what once served as sufficient and cutting edge is now obsolete.
So how do you go about finding parts for these classics when the time comes to repair, upgrade, or replace? Here are a few of our best tips for finding rare parts, as well as suggestions for what to do when these parts are no longer available, even in resale:
- First, check your local listings for a classic car parts store in your area. They are rare, but some do still exist, and they are often the quickest (though not usually the cheapest) way to replace items, or at least get help tracking something down. Here in Indianapolis, we have Martin’s Classic Cars. Check them out on Facebook.
- Watch your online forums (if you’re not in one, search for some that are specific to the type of car you are working), as well as local swap meet and classic car shows and events. If nothing else, making contacts with people who are also interested in the car you are repairing may help point you in the right direction of some spare parts.
- Junk yards and classic car body shops and mechanics are the next place to check. They may not have what you need in stock, but you never know until you look!
- If you’re in any car clubs, reach out to the other members and see if they can offer assistance with finding the part you need.
- Don’t forget about online dealers and part manufacturers! It may end up costing you an arm and a leg for shipping, but if you’re in it for an authentic part and not a replica, it’s worth it. Check Mopar Parts for listings.
- The best place to look may be at collector car auctions. While you may not be able to travel in person to every auction across the country, check out their policies or availability of over-the-phone or online bidding.
- Search for similar parts. While not an option most will choose, surf the market to find if there are any other cars that use a part similar enough to the one you need, that with some modifications, could function well as a replacement. This is not a tip for the faint of heart, as most will likely be intimidated by using parts that are not factory specific, but if it looks the same, smells the same, functions the same, and basically is the same….you might as well give it a shot!
One final option you may have, if you have access to a friend, machine shop, or business that operates a 3D printer, is to follow the Jay Leno production model and have your own parts replicated and produced for use on your classic. With the help of a 3D printer, Leno was able to recreate and replace the feedwater stamer on his 1907 White Steamer, a part that had been out of production and use for nearly a century. If you are unfamiliar with 3D printers, they function as multi-angle scanners, getting a read on any type of smaller item, and recreating a digital model with the 3D image. The printer can then produce a plastic model of the original item, which can be used for molding and recreating nearly anything..in this case, a 1907 aluminum feedwater steamer.
You will need to factor in the cost of rental or use of someone’s printer, find a place where you can have a mold cast for your item, and then find a location who will help you recreate the metal product, but if you are desiring an original piece, there may be no better way to customize pieces and fit what the car was originally designed to have.
Having trouble finding a part? Classic Auto can help point you in the right direction with our connections to local body shops, info on car clubs, and more. We can also help you adjust your insurance policies for stated value during a non-driving or restoration process on a car. Give us a call today at 888-901-1338 for more information, or to get a free, instant quote from one of our expert vintage car insurance representatives!