Tuesday, April 23, 2013

At What Point Obsolete?

So, as you may imagine, the past week or so I've done a fair amount of perusing car and car part websites. One thing I noticed, being a car guy, is that there are still vehicles showing up on the drop-down lists that no longer exist: Saturn, Oldsmobile, Plymouth, etc. Now, dedicated car part sites (think JC Whitney) will list all makes and models going back to just about the very beginning (1901, actually). They list parts for Studebaker and Willys.

Mercury stopped existing in 2011, leaving only Ford and Lincoln under the auspices of the big blue oval. Saturn and Pontiac have been gone since 2009; Oldsmobile bowed out in 2004, leaving General Motors down to Chevy, Buick, Caddy, and GMC. Plymouth stopped existing in 2001, meaning that Mopar has been Chrysler and Dodge for a dozen years now. All other American brands - AMC, Packard, Studebaker, etc. are gone, the most recent departure being nearly 30 years ago when AMC was absorbed by Chrysler.

One of the problems I ran into with my 1982 Honda Magna was finding parts for it into the 21st century. There comes a point in a vehicle's lifespan when parts start getting harder to find - and consequently more expensive to obtain. A good friend owns a Ford F-150 with the Harley Davidson package with the supercharger - from 1999 - that he has had to fabricate exhaust parts for because they no longer exist only 12 years later (when he relayed the story).

At what point do vehicles go from "I'm still driving it" to "gee our old LaSalle ran great"?

That is all.


Dave H said...

I think it's an exponential decay. Vehicles go from "actively supported" to "dealer still has parts" to "third party parts still available" to "new old stock on eBay" to "Wilbert's Recycling might have one" to "sumdood has one sitting by his barn on County Road 8" to "Christies expects this auction to top $250,000."

How quickly a model moves from one level to the next depends on how popular it was in the first place. 20 million Pontiacs on the road means there'll be used parts for a long time.

bluesun said...

My Uncle the Mechanic still drives his Studebakers... as he says, "if it doesn't have it, it can't break" and, "you can keep driving it as long as you want to keep paying for it."

Stretch said...

Model specific problem. Dad can get parts for his '67 Mustang with just a phone call ... or have me mouse click for him. My old '68 Cutlass SS? Not so much but doable.
If I still had my '78 Pontiac Phoenix or '86 Grand Am I doubt I could find anything useful ... or would want to.

Angus McThag said...

The key to future parts support is finding a car with a strong following.

Mustangs, Corvettes, Chevelles, Camaros, Impalas... Lots made, huge and active following who both mod and restore.

Some cars you can get a lot of parts if they're the same body style, like Firebirds can use a lot of Camaro bits.

I'm pretty sure you can build a complete 66 Mustang without using a single part that saw Ford property, let alone was made by them.

Old NFO said...

Angus is dead on the money... And do look at 'comparable' parts... GM was notorious for the same parts fitting Camaro, Corvette, and Impalas!

wizardpc said...

So I was a Saturn Guy for a long, long time. I had a 92, a 95, and a 96 at one point. In 2004, I tried to get a bracket or somesuch for the 92, and couldn't find one anywhere.

I lived within 20 miles of the Saturn Plant and called them. I was told that they are required to stock parts for their cars for ten years, and after that they get recycled. I had to go to a junkyard and pull it off one that had been rear-ended.

So there's that.

Roger said...

For my Jaguar XK 120, (59 years old this Sunday past) I can get almost any part I can afford. It is driven frequently and vigorously. Of course, I do ALL the repair and maintenance on it myself.

Angus McThag said...

They are required to stock parts for ten years of expected attrition.

The door panels on the 94-96 Impala SS are a notorious example of the parts not lasting the whole ten years.

When the turned from gray to a purplish color the dealerships replaced just about every one under warranty. Then came the people turning Caprices into Impala clones. By 2000 there wasn't an Impala SS interior part to be had in GM's system, but you can still get mechanical parts!

Geodkyt said...

I happen to know you can build a WWII jeep, using nothing but parts made in teh last 10 years, including the frame.

Sailorcurt said...

Same problem with motorcycles, even moreso.

There is no "Auto Zone" for motorcycles and when the manufacturers stop making replacement parts, there aren't many generics to take up the slack.

You end up buying parts that weren't designed for your motorcycle and making them work as best you can.

But to answer your question, I buy only used vehicles and I tend to drive them until they reach a value level that, when something major breaks, it would cost more to fix it than it's worth. At that point, I usually dispose of it by donating to a charity, who auctions it off for a couple hundred bucks.

Get's rid of the klunker, no muss, no fuss, supports a worthy cause, and I can claim whatever they got for it as a charitable donation on my taxes. Win-Win-Win.