Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Catalogues and Car Parts

My latest project got me to thinking how spoiled we have gotten in recent years. We can open a catalogue from a variety of vendors and purchase almost anything we may need for our cars. Admittedly it's a bit harder for those who enjoy the early A body cars from Plymouth and Dodge than our E and B body brethren but you get the picture. There is so much available now then there was 10 years ago.

It's gotten easy to buy a kit, bolt it on and call it done. Don't get me wrong, I am happy to see all that is available and am not knocking anyone who goes this route, but for me the fun is in the rebuilding. The act of taking some thing that would be considered a used, spent component and making it fully functional again.

Even for something as simple as an aftermarket air cleaner. I searched through swap meets, ebay, Summit racing and many other vendors looking for the right one for me and my car. Nothing looked right. They all reminded me of the same parts I have seen on every car at any car show I have ever been to.

I got to thinking about some of the Rat Rods I've seen at my local cruise night and how the early 50's hot rodders fixed their cars. They scrounged through junk yards looking for different parts to make their cars look different or perform better. They did this out of necessity. In the beginning, they had very few speed shops to go to let alone any catalogues to buy from. They made what they needed.

As my project has progressed, I to have had to make many of the parts I needed to move things forward. I didn't buy trunk panel extensions or inner fender lips, I made them from scrap panels. I didn't install a front disk brake conversion kit, I rebuilt a used factory 4 piston caliper setup and installed it myself. When I upgraded to electronic ignition, I didn't buy the readily available kit, I used the spare parts I already had and found the used parts I needed to make it work.

And when it came to a new air cleaner, I did not buy one from a mass merchandiser, I made one from a swap meet part. Many pieces I have used were swap meet or junk yard finds that I had to clean up and re work before I could use them.

Granted, I am thankful for all the items I can get for my car from a catalogue company, without them the car would still be on jack stands, but by taking this frugal approach I have saved a lot of money building my car.

My point is that by taking your time with some used parts and ingenuity you can make your car a little more unique than the guy next to you at the car show and save some cash too. So don't be afraid to skip the catalogue and try something different, you may like it better in the long run.