Old Cars and the KISS Principle

J Sutherland
by J Sutherland
old cars and the kiss principle

The idea of an old car is both a complicated and uncomplicated concept for car guys.

The complicated part is the age and engineering behind the car.

The age and engineering behind the car is also the uncomplicated part of the car and the reason for this article.

Clearly an older vehicle typically wore out quicker than a new vehicle because 100,000 miles on the odometer put them in the senior citizens’ home in most cases. The older vehicles were pretty tired after 100k and would usually start to blow out a fair amount of oil past worn-out piston rings compromised by an overly generous amount of gasoline from its carb/choke components.

A 2013 car will go longer, faster and better than a 1953, 63, 73, or even ’83 car. They are engineered to deliver maximum performance via a complex marriage between high-tech electronics and the internal combustion engine.

Most car guys look under the hood of the new vehicles and immediately wave a white flag of surrender because they see their own mechanical Little Big Horn or Alamo if they attempt to mess with the engine. Scotty from Star Trek would even be scratching his head these days because a modern power-train is like a Facebook relationship status: complicated. In fact, it is very complicated.

This tidal wave of confusion does not exist when a car guy looks under the hood of the old guard vehicles. For example, the idea of a water pump replacement is pretty doable because it is right in plain sight and not hidden behind a timing belt cover. A little pull on the fan of an old engine will show whether the pump needs to be replaced in the near future.

The starter on an old vehicle is typically pretty accessible, along with the generator/alternator, spark plugs and mechanical fuel pump.

A valve cover gasket replacement is pretty much a walk-through on an old engine and even a blown head gasket is no real cause for anxiety for most car guys. However I can vividly recall my own head gasket replacement story on my first car when I was 16 and the only complication was some really bad advice.

A buddy of mine got me access to his father’s heated garage and my buddy’s dad told me to put gasket glue on the copper head gasket. The man was a plumber by trade so I would assume glue was the answer to most of his plumbing seal problems, but his advice cost me a lot of time and another head gasket.

I had an old Austin with only one head gasket left in town so I did not make the same mistake twice with the second gasket.

Most of us love the old car culture because these old warriors remind us of an uncomplicated phase of our own lives when we rode or drove in these kinds of vehicles. The jury might be out on whether our lives really were less complicated, but a quick look under the hood reveals that the engines were definitely not as complicated by comparison to current engines.

The KISS Principle is still alive and well in the unmodified engine compartments of many old rides.

It is another reason why car guys love the old stuff: they can still wrench on them without a computer degree.

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2 of 145 comments
  • Menar Fromarz Menar Fromarz on Nov 18, 2013

    Well just wait...if ya like wrenching stuff, you will likely look back at the rigs of today as very user friendly, unlike the sealed transport pods that will come with a lawyer hidden in the source codes that snitch on unauthorized tinkering...minority report indeed!

  • Ponchoman49 Ponchoman49 on Nov 21, 2013

    Things were for sure simpler back in the 60's - 80's. But on the other side of the coin cars today last much longer and go considerably longer without ever needing to go under hood than ever before. Shame that this new found longevity comes at such a price as today's vehicles are looking more and more alike than ever and the interiors of most everything on the road is as dull and plain as ever with little to no color and very cold hard ambiance.

  • Alan I blame COVID, the chip shortage, container shortage and the war in Ukraine. This aggression is evident in normal daily driving of late.
  • Alan $10 000 is a bit rich for a vehicle that most likely been flogged all its life, plus it's a VW. Lots of electrical gremlins live in them.
  • Alan Mitsubishi, Hino and Izuzu trucks are quite common in Australia. Another factor that needs to be taken into account are the cheap Chinese trucks and vans that are entering the market in Australia and becoming more popular as reliability improves, with huge warranties. Businesses want the cheapest logistics. Plumbers, concreters, builders buy many of these in their lightest versions, around 2.5 tonne payload. Hino/Toyota could use the cheaper competitor in Mitsubishi as a competitor against the Chinese. You don't see too many of the Japanese/Asian trucks in the rural areas.
  • 2ACL I think it's a good choice. The E89 didn't get respect due to its all-around focus when new, but it's aged well, and the N52/6HP combo is probably more fun and capable than it's given credit for.
  • Wjtinfwb I can hear the ticking from here...