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Getting Started With Classic Cars Part 2 – What You’ll Need

11 April 2023

So, you’ve read part one of our guide and have decided to set out on your journey into classic cars? Great, but are you worried about the care involved in keeping a historic vehicle in fine fettle? Don’t worry our guide Getting Started with Classic Cars Part 2 can help!

Last time we discussed what you need to consider when choosing a classic car. In this guide, we will look in more depth at some of the facilities, tools, and skills you’ll need before we take the next step and go classic car hunting!

Getting Started with Classic Cars Part 2: Facilities

By way of preface to all the following advice, you should consider a lot of what we’re saying here as the best-case scenario. Remember, these machines were everyday transport once and lived on side streets and driveways up and down the nation in all weathers. Yes, most dissolved as a result, but caring for a classic today doesn’t have to mean wrapping it in cotton wool.

Naturally, the best environment for an old car is a heated and humidity-controlled space – though plenty don’t enjoy such luxury.

Covers can help, with many available protecting the convertible top’s reach only, however, you get what you pay for. Cheap universal covers often don’t ‘breathe’, effectively trapping moisture against the metal, speeding up rather than avoiding corrosion.

Even if you struggle to highlight one end of a spanner from the other, it’s always worth having a spot available to tinker. Old cars by their nature are often mechanically simplistic and you may well discover a new love for basic maintenance and servicing – especially once you see how much money rolling up your sleeves can save. Just make sure you consult plenty of literature (online forums, YouTube videos or Haynes service manuals) or better still, have someone on hand – at least in the early days – to teach you a few tricks.

Getting Started with Classic Cars Part 2: Tools

The extent of your toolbox really depends on how much you’re able to tackle yourself. Be under no illusion however, your old car will require a lot more attention than the modern cars you’re probably used to. The good news is that the work is far more rudimentary, which generally means that even if you’re relying on a sympathetic local garage, labour costs should be considerably lower – the technician isn’t having to unbolt a thousand sensors from every component he needs to replace.

The flip side of this is that some techs – especially younger ones who aren’t used to working on aged fixings – might faff about dealing with corroded nuts and bolts. That’s why, if you’re not tackling these jobs yourself, it’s essential to find a garage that understands classics. There’s a bit of dying art in coaxing weather-worn steel to part company and finding a mechanic with this old-school knowledge shouldn’t be underestimated.

Regardless of your existing knowledge or intent, the basic toolkit for the home mechanic should consist of a good quality socket and spanner set. Don’t be tempted by those cheap sets that boast 1000 pieces on the cover – 900 of these will be screwdriver bits made of cheese. Cheap tools really aren’t worth it, trust us, we’ve been there. That doesn’t mean you have to re- mortgage the house to afford half of the Snap On catalogue – there’s a middle ground. For example, Halfords Advanced tools are really quite good and affordable.

Other essential kit should include a set of quality screwdrivers, multi-meter, catch tank for fluid changes, feeler gauges a strong jack (ideally rated at 2-ton) and equally sturdy axles stands. Never work on a car suspended just by just a jack – it can drop, which unfortunately leads to many deaths every year. We always support the car correctly with axle stands and a backup of either a jack used on the correct (and not corroded) jacking point, or a spare wheel shoved under a sill – or both. You can never be too safe.

Getting Started with Classics Part 2 - Facilities, Tools and Skills | Image shows young mechanic with Healey car

Getting Started with Classic Cars Part 2: Skills

This is the toughest area of classic car ownership that can’t be learned overnight. The skills needed to get the best from your classic can only be gained by experiencing it for yourself – there are no shortcuts. The best advice we can give is to be a sponge. Open your mind, ears and eyes and learn from those who have been living with classic cars for decades. You’ll often find that these individuals are happy to impart vital advice.

The classic car community is one of the most willing and sharing out there. We all love to talk about old cars and a big part of the ownership experience is chatting to other owners at shows and events – many of whom will likely know a lot more than you. Go in with a know-it-all approach and you won’t get far. Equally, it’s best to avoid anyone who comes across in the same manner – they’re likely talking out of their posterior. On the flipside, if you’re polite and ask plenty of questions, you’ll likely get a huge amount of useful information back – probably too much to be honest!

The single best resource for gaining skills, knowledge and contacts is to join a club and we have a whole host of partner car clubs that can not only help you with the tips and tricks you need, but might also offer you cheaper insurance as you’ll benefit from the advantages of one of our Peter James Insurance club schemes!

In terms of skills that might aid you in your ownership odyssey, the ability to stick steel together is certainly a bonus. Welding is a term familiar to every classic car owner and will often illicit a wince of pain. If you know how to do it, and have access to the tools and facilities, then you really can maintain an old car indefinitely. The same goes for bodywork prep and painting as well as an understanding of mechanical components and servicing though none of these should be considered essential. You can own an old car with zero experience or knowledge, but we guarantee that a few years into your ownership journey, you’ll have gained plenty of both to share.

Stay tuned!

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