Parts Rant

Why is parts supply so infuriating?

If there is one element of restoring, servicing or upgrading a classic car that frustrates above all others it is parts! It doesn’t matter how carefully you check or measure, you can be assured that when you open the big brown box, you are in for disappointment.

Often it is simply because ‘no old car is a virgin’ and at some point over the last 40 years an owner or mechanic has made a modification, so that they can use parts that were freely available. Other times it is because you are working on a TVR, Jensen or other small volume vehicle where their standard ‘Bill of Materials’ was a fluid concept.

Surely it fits out of the box?

Basic quality comes into play almost everyday for us. Some classic car parts have been copied so many times that they are just a representation of those designed in 1962. You spend hours fettling, filing or just outright modifying them so they fit up to the rest of the car.

Jobs that look and sound straightforward can end up becoming so infuriating that you start searching for that gallon of unleaded, you swear was lying by the lawn mower last week and a match! 

Got everything you need?

Most infuriating of all, however, is when you open the box and find that only half the component you ordered is inside. A perfect example of this is a new master cylinder. Why are they always missing the adjustable plunger? Has no one ever given a thought to the fact that you might need all of it?

Another area that the motor trade seems to struggle with is the volume of components in a box. Why do spark plugs arrive in boxes of 10? Yes there is the odd manufacturer that has a 5 cylinder or V10 engine in their repertoire, but surely an imperial dozen would be more useful. 

It would mean you could service two E-Types from a box, 3 Minis or a Rover V8 with 4 left over for a Triumph Spitfire. Instead you end up with two plugs sat in a box somewhere in your parts store never to see light again!

Is part supply part of the vehicle’s DNA?

Having run an ‘all marques’ service business for the last 10 years we have found that parts supply for your classic car does conform to certain national stereotypes:

If you own a Swedish steed such as a Volvo or SAAB the parts are expensive, but on the positive side they fit, are very well engineered and they come with all the fixings. However if your desire is for something more Germanic and your parts come from Mercedes, Porsche or BMW then you will not only need to part with a small fortune for your shock absorbers, but, when you open the box you will find that the bushes are missing and you have to order those as well!

In the same way as you never get a Big Mac without fries and a Coke, the Americans, at least, have have the common courtesy to ask you if you want brake pads with your new set of callipers, but in the same way as your drive thru meal gets lost when you park in the ‘we haven’t got your food ready bay, tracking your parts down with the courier drives you round the twist!

Buying bits for your French-fancy is an ordeal because ninety percent of the time they are just not available. The Italian’s can get you anything for an Alfa Romeo 105, but God help you if your need is something more exotic!

It is, however, us Brits that take the biscuit most often. It is parts for English cars that most often disappoint. If your box contains bits for an MG, Triumph or Jaguar, they are regularly already broken!