Dear Car Talk:
I own a 1955 Ford Fairlane Victoria hardtop (two-door). The car is almost entirely original and runs very well, except for the blast of furnace heat I get from the engine when sitting in the driver's seat. (It's great in the cold weather, though.) I enjoy driving this vehicle, and get many compliments for it. But I bought it in its present condition, and I'm not a mechanic. I haven't worked on cars for 40 years. Perhaps owning this car is just an expression of my love of vintage cars, or trying to recapture my youth.
My question: Given my lack of mechanical skills and limited resources to repair this vehicle, is keeping this car, if only for sentimental reasons, a good idea? Or, put another way, are there other old guys who can't change a tire but who own these types of cars and still love just the sight of them in their garage, hoping they never break down? Thank you.
Vince, love is everything. If that car makes you happy when you see it and when you drive it, it's a great idea to keep it. In fact, I insist!
But you'll need two things: (1) a backup car -- like a 2008 Hyundai Elantra -- so that when your '55 Ford breaks down, your life will still go on until you get it fixed. And (2) an old mechanic -- someone who still knows how to adjust valves and clean carburetors. When you go into a prospective shop, ask the oldest mechanic in there to smile. If he still has more than four teeth, he's not the guy for you, Vince.
Actually, the best way to find someone like that is to find your local old-car club. There are plenty of wackos -- I mean people -- like you who have an unnatural affection for these inanimate objects. They probably get together on a regular basis to admire each other's cars ... and compare the deals on reverse mortgages.
You need to find those guys near you and sign up. You may find that some of the owners are pretty good mechanics themselves, and are willing to work on your car. Or they'll certainly know mechanics in the area who do work on vintage cars.
Since you can't do the work yourself, having a good mechanic is essential. At the very least, you want to make sure the car is safe -- and that the furnace blast from the firewall isn't actually fire.
And when you find a good mechanic, it's best to formally adopt him. Bring him home for dinner and introduce him to your wife first, then you can add him to the will. Good luck, Vince.