A Year of Commuting in a 1964 Ford Falcon, Part Two

You should see him heel-toe!
More often than not, someone compliments my car when I get gas. Half the time people want to know all about it. Once, a lady ran up and “just wanted to shake [my] hand”. Another guy was reduced to a sort of stupor, just gawking, sighing and saying “wow…”. The situation’s similar on the freeway. I get stares, thumbs-up and cute girls flirting with me at freeway speeds.
Yesterday I covered the background and complications from my first year of commuting in my 1964 Ford Falcon, today I’ll get into two things: what it really takes in terms of time, logistics and money to commute in a 47 year old $5000 car (or any reasonably non-crappy old car) and why it’s totally worth it.

While I’m talking about a car built in an era when anything but a flat top constituted “long hair”, the logic herein applies to anything over roughly 10 years old: you’re at a place where almost anything can fail. Depending on your vehicle of choice it could be suspension, engine, transmission or electrical, but the point is you’re beyond the designed service life of the vehicle. Stuff breaks.
I must be clear: this car is a luxury in the truest sense of the word. It’s both costly and unnecessary. No, the roughly $6,000 I have into it isn’t that much, but the the overhead required to successfully own such a car is significant. The goal here is to paint the most realistic picture I can for what it means to go from spectator to participant.
First off, my job allows for the occasional “running late because my car broke”. I’m on salary with a flexible work schedule and a flexible boss. If yours is the environment where those kinds of complications could result in termination, you might want to think twice about driving something that can will fail to carry to you work someday. Similarly, I’m convinced I’ve got the Best Wife Ever. She loves the car and had no problem picking me up when it broke, or bringing me dinner when the tow dolly lost a tire.

tool boxes1964 Ford Falcon

Speaking of the dolly, the $120 deposit and $20 rental were nothing compared to the cost of having a tow vehicle in the fleet, at the ready. The Wrangler’s not the best hauler around, but not having it would’ve added layers of cost and complication to Operation Get the Falcon Home. Not insurmountable, but tricky when you’re trying not to miss any more work and the clock’s ticking before the city tows your busted car. Tow vehicle or not, if you don’t have a backup solution for when your oldie needs some R&R, you’re SOL. If a second or third car isn’t feasible, perhaps a motorcycle, bicycle or bus pass is.
Taking another step up the cost ladder, there’s no way I could recommend such a car to an apartment dweller. Until recently, we paid luxury loft prices to rent a house in a slightly shady neighborhood in LA because it had a two car garage and 6 (ish) car driveway. Said garage housed my tools, which are probably 80% our non-car assets. Establishing a huge collection of tools isn’t completely necessary to support any single car, but the “basic gearhead” package of the necessary hand tools, jack, jackstands, etc is usually between $500 and $1000 by the time you’re done. If you’re trying to do things comfortably or quickly (e.g. with air tools) be prepared to double or triple that.
While it’s possible to get that main tool set via inheritance or as a birthday/holiday/wedding gift, it’s important to be prepared to shell out for some $50 tool you need to get some job done by the end of the weekend. If that’s a budget-buster (or don’t have anyone from whom to borrow the tool or the money), then this is not the game for you. Of course, building up a tool collection is a worthwhile investment for the aspiring hoon. Despite a major ramp-up in wrenching activity in the last two years, my tool purchases have been relatively limited, because I’d already accumulated almost everything I needed. The point is, if you’re gonna being doing this for a while, you might as well be mentally prepared to spend the money to get the right tools to get the job done right.

Luckily, there are a few cost reductions to offset the overhead of backup transportation, workspace and tools. First off, most cars more than 15 years old are done depreciating. If you keep up with maintenance, you’ll likely sell it for roughly the purchase price. While maintenance is potentially cheaper, a new car is losing between $1,000 and $2,000 in value per year. In addition to depreciation, insurance and registration on my Falcon are literally a fraction of my ’06 WRX, to the tune of $1-2k yearly savings. It differs state-to-state, but in California pre-1975 vehicles are exempt from smog regulations, so that’s $60/year in smog checks gone, as well.
The overall experience driving my 47 year old commuter car is a great one. Older cars were designed expecting the windows to be left down, at least partially. Cruising at freeway speeds with the driver’s window down and vent window cracked gives lots of airflow without too much noise. There’s none of the horrible ohmygoditscomingapart buffeting that newer cars inflict upon you with a window down. Cruising with the windows down leaves me so much more connected to the world around, for better or worse. On my way home I smell (in this order) a landfill, a great Italian restaurant, a BBQ joint, In-N-Out, a second landfill, the scorched earth of the San Fernando Valley and the pleasant cooling air in the Crescenta Valley. As the sun sets and I get closer to the mild microclimate of hilly northeast Los Angeles, I know I’m almost home by the smell of the trees.
The moral of the story? Cheap cars can actually carry a lot of extra cost. If not extra, just different. Costs and complications can come up at random, which can be disastrous if your finances or time are already stretched thin. On the flipside, if you’ve got a backup solution and a healthy savings buffer, it’s not a bad way to roll.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

The maximum upload file size: 64 MB. You can upload: image, audio, video. Links to YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and other services inserted in the comment text will be automatically embedded. Drop files here

67 responses to “A Year of Commuting in a 1964 Ford Falcon, Part Two”

  1. facelvega Avatar

    Very good story and realistic portrayal of what we commit to when we use an old daily driver, many thanks!
    One side comment, though: internetautoguide's 5-year cost of ownership for a 2010 E350 sedan: $59,932. Depreciation alone is $27,383. A 2010 Accord runs $28,026, with $9106 in depreciation and another $2933 in financing costs. The biggest luxury expense of using an old car instead of a brand new one is the time, not the money.

  2. Feds_II Avatar

    Two potential ways to decrease your budget (Learned the hard way behind the wheels of an '84 B2000 and an '85 RX-7):
    1. CAA. At least that's what we call it in Canada. I don't know what you'd call it in the US, probably something like USAA. Anyway, for $120/year, these guys come with a big roll back and tow you up to 250 kms. They also let you in the car if you lock your keys in it, or bring you gas if you stretch it on your wonky fuel gauge. Totally worth it for even 1 call per year. If you have a second car for emergency parts-getting, a tow vehicle becomes redundant.
    2. Yard sales. In the majority of cases, that giant tool collection you have amassed will end up in a yard sale/estate sale/on craigslist. If your are patient, you can buy a very good set of tools for literally pennies-to-dimes on the dollar. Older stuff was generally made better too.
    These two posts are at the very top of my hooni-favorites. Excellent articles on the realities of being passionate about cars (or having a car you are passionate about).

    1. chrystlubitshi Avatar

      in the US, it's called triple-a (AAA) and they don't tow us *that* far for free (don't remember what the limit is).. but yeah.. if you know you're going to be stranded at some point in time… it's worth it.

      1. FuzzyPlushroom Avatar

        We have AAA Plus and it's been worth every goddamn penny. Hell, we made our money back when Violet, pissed off that I was ignoring her requests for winter hibernation, slipped her timing belt in Lowell and had to be brought 45 miles home. They'll tow up to 100 miles free, a few times a year. All it cost me was a $5 tip – the only bill I had in my wallet, but the guy drove an International flatbed from Billerica to Jaffrey and didn't cock anything up, so it was the least I could do. I didn't even have the keys, but I showed him my license and that the registration matched my surname and I was good to go.

  3. Joe Btfsplk Avatar
    Joe Btfsplk

    When you buy tools, buy good tools, they will last you a lifetime…. cheap "single use" tools are no bargain. Also, many auto parts chains have a loaner tool program for those infrequent jobs. A final point….don't lend any tools to anyone that you would not die for and vice versa.

    1. dukeisduke Avatar

      Absolutely. I have lots of tools, and practically all of them are Craftsman. I've only had a couple of their tools break over the years (I've been building my collection for 33 years), and when they did, I just took them back and got a free replacement. What I need now is a rollaway, and something like a Klein bag to carry tools when I need to help someone out (and no, a Walmart bag, even a doubled one, doesn't cut it).

      1. FuzzyPlushroom Avatar

        That reminds me, I have a 14mm socket with a busted sidewall that I need to bring by next time I'm in town. Damn camshafts…

    2. Thrashy Avatar

      I've used a couple of parts-store loaner sets of spring compressors, and I'm not sure that I'd do so again. The kind of compressors most stores loan out use a single V-threaded rod, and while they're fine for occasional use by a home mechanic, when they've been loaned out on a weekly basis for years the threads start to get dangerously worn. The last thing in the world I'd want to happen during a strut job is for the compressors to slip over a worn-out thread, give way, and send a big metal projectile shooting around my garage with a thousand-odd pounds of force behind it.

      1. Alff Avatar

        I have a cheapo set of Harbor Freight (the brand more three-fingered mechanics prefer) spring compressors. I use the loaner set and throw an extra one or two of my own on for good measure.

      2. BlackIce_GTS Avatar

        I think if you could find a way to control that release, a spring-launcher would make a cool alternative to one of those propane powered potato cannons.

  4. LTDScott Avatar

    Very nice article on the realities of daily driving an older car, AKA the reason I won't do it 🙂 I am very happy to have a car I know I can start and drive in comfort without reservation, but still have my "toy" at home. In my case, my insurance company won't let me daily drive my other car anyway.
    $60/year for smog? At most it should be $50 every two years, and that's if you have to go to Test Only.

  5. buzzboy7 Avatar

    I love to DD my 62 comet as well. These old fords are bulletproof(except in my hands) and easy to work on. The "it must be fixed tomorrow" issues can be a bit frustrating. I have almost been stranded 280 miles from home at school with my car on the fritz. I just remember to keep my basic tools in the car at all times and know how to fix any small mechanical or electrical problem on the go.

    1. Tim Odell Avatar
      Tim Odell

      Based on my sample size of two, '60s Fords seem to be quite good at soldiering on while slightly broken.
      There were a number of things that needed love on my '67 wagon, but it always managed to complete whatever task was facing it that day and get home.
      (…then piss some kind of fluid all over my driveway; note the superfund site oil spot in the picture).

      1. buzzboy7 Avatar

        I must say, that is the one plus to a gravel/sand driveway. It sucks to lay on the ground under the car but if there is any "spillage" or "leakage" you see it to know it's there and then walk away.

        1. FuzzyPlushroom Avatar

          It's not even that bad on asphalt – concrete can be a bitch, though; the recycling center where I used to work had a poured-concrete floor and I came close to landing flat on my arse a few times after one of us had spilled some used oil and not thrown down enough Oil-Dri.
          I use an old Stop sign (not stolen, replaced by the town after some inbred hick spray-painted 'gays' on its lower half) as a creeper when I have to work on the gravel portion of my driveway. Part of it's paved, though, so if I can get the car there I do.

      2. ptschett Avatar

        Looking just slightly newer, my '73 Cougar wasn't perfectly reliable, but parts were dirt cheap and easy to get, it was easy to work on (though spark plug changes were kind of a pain), and usually you could nurse it home somehow and/or make a parts run after class and fix it there in the school parking lot.
        The things that sidelined it the longest were preventable. When the ignition switch started to go I could have changed it, but instead I started it by jumping across the solenoid with an 8" long 5/16" carriage-head bolt for a month, and me and my Dad didn't tear into the dash and replace the thing till it completely let go. Or I could have been a little more careful with my wrench after a water pump change and wouldn't have lost a week waiting for the radiator shop to patch the hole. The only time I remember the car really needing to be towed was when the engine finally let go, a year after I'd passed it on to my sister and a month before she was planning to become car-less at college.
        That said, I still wouldn't put in a lot of miles in a very old & high miles car without having a system like yours with flexible schedules, adequate tools, familial support and something else to drive when the old car is parked.

  6. Feds_II Avatar

    Here's my fastback on a CAA truck after I sold it:
    <img src="http://a2.sphotos.ak.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ak-snc4/33686_471898701293_645691293_7232110_775691_n.jpg&quot; width=500>
    It had 5 year expired plates on it, held on with zip ties. Driver told me he's not supposed to tow un-insured cars, for insurance reasons. Then he hitched it up and delivered it to the buyer for me.

  7. P161911 Avatar

    Don't forget pawn shops as a good source of tools. The better ones will haggle on the price too. I've gotten about half my outdoor power tools from the local pawn shop. Pro grade stuff for Home Depot crap prices.
    I was lucky and inherited a pretty good tool collection from my grandfathers. There are very few tools that I even need anymore. Granted I could always find something, but it usually falls more into want than need.

  8. MusclesMarinara Avatar

    Great story! The part about feeling connected to the world with the windows down is so true, there's just no substitute.

  9. engineerd Avatar

    I just bought a 2001 Jeep Cherokee two weeks ago. Maggie the Mustang will be going up for sale next week. Why did I do this? Many reasons, not the least of which is that my wife's lease car is already over miles with 6 months left and we need something that can carry us, the dog and our stuff. So, the Mustang went and in its place is a 10 year old Jeep.
    I decided on the Jeep because the powertrain is legendary for its reliability. I took it to a shop a week ago to have all the fluids changed out so I have a good starting point. They also did an inspection on it and told me that everything was good. With the purchase and the shop visit, I'm in it for $6000. It's paid for so insurance is PL/PD. Once the Mustang sells I'll have one less car payment.
    My next chore with it will be to do some corrosion control. For a Michigan car, it's actually pretty rust-free. There are a few spots that need to be addressed, but nothing serious.
    I figure there are going to be times where the Jeep strands me. I am a fairly competent wrench, and for anything that I can't tackle I have a good shop on speed dial. There will be costs, but they are different costs, not necessarily increased costs.
    Besides, buying new tools is awesome.

    1. FuzzyPlushroom Avatar

      I love XJs – they're just Volvo 7/9-series wagons with an altered aspect ratio, four-wheel-drive, and (usually) two more cylinders!

    2. SSurfer321 Avatar

      I've often contemplated braking something while wrenching just to warrant a new tool purchase. Then the Mrs. steps in and tells me to just buy the tool because it's better to have it and not need it than opposite.

    3. Alff Avatar

      Although mine never stranded me over 7 years, there are some systems that are likely to fail. Power windows. A/C (if that fails, it's likely a leaky evaporator behind the dash – difficult to diagnose, harder to get to. Also, if you ever replace the rear shocks be sure to soak the upper mounting points with PB Blaster or similar well ahead of removal and take the bolts out gingerly. Very easy to strip the soft threads in the chassis.

  10. Deartháir Avatar

    You're really making me miss the Rambler. I've been meaning to do up an article about the rebuild and daily-driver duties of that car, and this might be the kick in the ass I need to do it.
    My counter-point; I pulled the engine, rebuilt it, and reinstalled it with only an engine hoist (for re-install; we used a tree to pull it out), engine stand, and a 120-piece set of Craftsman tools. We borrowed a few tools to install the piston rings and put the pistons back in, as well as a cylinder scorer, but most of the rest of the work was done with whatever we had around. I had to buy a U-joint socket, and a wobble-bit, and a much longer socket extension, and a long-handled bolt-grabber tool for when I dropped things, but other than that, we were able to keep that car running with just the tools that fit in the trunk of the car. It can be done. Granted, Tim's set will absolutely save you time and hassle, but as an example, I can damn near replace the whole engine on my Corrado with only a 9mm, 11mm and 13mm socket.

    1. Tim Odell Avatar
      Tim Odell

      Yeah, the encyclopedic tool set has more to do with a variety of cars and a desire to get things done more quickly.
      Basic wrenches are nice, but ratcheting box-open-ends are nicer. Sure, you can bust that 17mm bolt loose with a 3/8" drive and some effort (or a pipe), but a nice 1/2 impact socket + gun or breaker bar just makes things go more quickly.
      The Missus has given me blanket authorization to buy whatever tool I need to get a job done, nearly regardless of price. Basically treating the spending as an investment against future spending.

      1. dculberson Avatar

        "Sure, you can bust that 17mm bolt loose with a 3/8" drive and some effort (or a pipe), but a nice 1/2 impact socket + gun or breaker bar just makes things go more quickly. "
        Quoted For Truth. One of my favorite tools is my monster 1/2" twin-piston impact wrench. Even the crank bolts and axle bolts (150 to 181 foot pounds tightening torque) give me no problems on removal.
        I'm at the same point with my wife, too. Especially after she saw how much her mom spends to keep her new car going. $200 for a transmission fluid change at the dealer! Yikes!

  11. mr. mzs zsm msz esq Avatar
    mr. mzs zsm msz esq

    Two of the reasons I moved were the neighbors, a husband and wife. It was worth it. They did not like my doing anything to the car on my drive way, so they complained. Then I worked on my front lawn, they complained. Then I worked in my back yard, they complained, but a village board member had and RV and snowmobiles in disrepair he kept in his own backyard. But they still did everything they could to make life not fun for me. So it was worth it. I now have a bigger garage with a driveway easily three cars wide, no HOA, and actually interesting neighbors with neat cars of their own.
    One thing to add before getting into this old car thing, especially for someone like me that really has no idea what he is doing before he starts anything, is time. Everything will take longer than you expect, much longer. Because I tend to break things that were fine before I started just unfortunately somehow connected to what I am replacing and I have to wait for it to come in the mail before I can fix it again next weekend.

    1. dukeisduke Avatar

      Some friends of ours are moving to Austin (he's being transferred), and they're selling their house. My wife really liked it (it's got four bedrooms, which we need), but I pointed out that it's on a smaller lot with a tiny backyard, and a front entry garage *and* an HOA. All big negatives. So, we're not buyin' that house. An HOA is basically nosy PITA neighbors on steroids.

    2. west_coaster Avatar

      I remember reading a great quote years ago (might have been in Hot Rod magazine):
      "Why is there never enough time to do a job right, but always enough time to do it over?"

  12. OA5599 Avatar

    One thing to point out, (to the noobs, not the majority of the commenters here) is that with a car more than 30 or so years old, repair/maintenance parts might not be listed on the auto parts stores' computers. Many of the younger counter monkeys at the chain stores don't know how to use the paper catalogs.
    Find a store with an old guy behind the counter, or one that gives you free reign to browse the stockroom and the parts books to find exactly what you need.

    1. BЯдΖǐL-ЯЄРΘЯΤЄЯ Avatar

      You better have your own set of parts books and with the numbers in hands the interwebs do miracles. My car is 37 years old, but parts are still easy overhere.
      Some friends of mine have old tractors and asked me to find parts for it and I discovered that it's relativly easy to find all kind of parts for tractors made after WW2.

    2. parkwood60 Avatar

      That was the case 10 years ago, when the original parts databases were all computerized. i remember everything stopped at 1967, most likely because the project was started in 1997? Now just about everybody goes back to WWII. But we also have the internet now, so you can walk into the store with the part number already and know whether or not they stock it.
      If you aren't savvy enough to do that you have no business in an old car.

      1. Tim Odell Avatar
        Tim Odell

        I've never lived in an era where I could just walk into a parts store and be like "I need an axle seal for a Ford 9".
        That must've been nice. Now, you need to have enough tech savvy to look it up (or find a cross reference) on RockAuto and double-check your forum of choice. Nowadays, the internet makes it super easy to find suppliers for just about anything. There are no new problems.

      2. OA5599 Avatar

        No. I've had to do this as recently as 2010, for a part for a 60's-70's car. I had the vendor's part number, it was a line carried by the store, and it was in their paper catalog, but they had no store part number to cross reference in the computer, so there was no way to special order it from the vendor.
        A couple years before that, the computer couldn't find the right clutch for me. We had to measure and count splines, then find the matching description in the catalog.
        In 2008, I had to wander the stockroom to find what I needed on a 1983 vehicle because the computer was useless.
        If you have a vehicle with relatively limited production–either something that made a few hundred units or something in production for only a month or two, you're almost always on your own.

      3. TurboRefrigerator Avatar

        Although the electronic information is fairly reliable, it is not always the case. The information on the electronic databases is only as reliable as the chimpanzee who banged the information in the first place.
        I have found that with some parts, the chimpanzees seem to have been more interested in displaying their rutting technique to possible female chimpanzees in the area office where the information was entered, than paying attention to what they were doing.

  13. Smells_Homeless Avatar

    One more thing that's important to consider if you're thinking about relying on an old car that hasn't been mentioned yet is parts availability. That's probably not much of a problem in the case of this Falcon or if you're going for a late 60s GM or something, but you may have to be prepared to wait for parts. In some cases, not just time for parts to arrive, but time for you to search out the last guy in the US who has the right tapered reamer to rebuild the steering box in your A100. (Note: I have no real knowledge of A100 steering boxes, that was simply a potentially-flawed example.)

    1. Tim Odell Avatar
      Tim Odell

      Both the Falcon and the '81 633csi UB are slightly oddball in parts availability. Despite being nearly the same car as a Mustang, the Falcon has a number of (unnecessarily) different parts: rear leaf springs, entire steering setup, most of the interior, etc. The BMW was tricky b/c it was on the early 5-series chassis (e12 from ~75-81), but then in a transition year to the 80s style chassis and engine bits.
      In either case, the key was to get in with a good, knowledgeable online community and know the right questions to ask.

  14. Alff Avatar

    It sounds a bit extravagant, but I found life with a somewhat aged and uncommon daily driver got a lot easier when I invested in a parts car. Repairs that would normally wait a week or two for (expensive) replacement parts to arrive via UPS can now be completed over an evening or weekend.

    1. Tim Odell Avatar
      Tim Odell

      I'm hosed if I ever move somewhere semi-rural with like 1 acre lots and lax land use restrictions.

  15. Tim Odell Avatar
    Tim Odell

    Thanks, that was the goal.
    Provided you've got the resources, flexibility and proper outlook to go for it, then a classic (or near classic or whatever) is totally worth doing. Hopefully there's someone out there who reads this and comes to the conclusion that they can stop pining for that semi-beater classic and just goes out and buys it. The flipside being I don't want some 19 year old dorm-living college kid to think a 30 year old Saab makes sense as a daily driver if he needs to show up at work on time to keep a job that pays the bills.

    1. mdharrell Avatar

      Really? When I was a dorm-living college kid my daily driver was an utterly dependable thirty-year-old car. Looking back, however, I have to admit that something even older would have been even better.

      1. Smells_Homeless Avatar

        Mine was too, but I don't think too many 66 Pontiacs would drag their way through college with a rod knocking the way mine did.

      2. Thrashy Avatar

        I did okay through the last two years of school with my twenty-year-old Honda, but ten years and general Honda-ness do count in its favor versus a hypothetical Saab 900 (see tonyola's response to yesterday's Hooniverse Asks). After a particularly rough winter, though, I feel it's about time to retire it from daily-driver duty.
        It may say something about my priorities that the top of the list for potential replacements reads Miata, S2000, Sky Redline.

        1. jeremy![™] Avatar

          miata mita miata!

    2. Jeremy Wilson Avatar
      Jeremy Wilson

      When I was 17 I drove a horde of beaters – ’69 Nova, ’72 Chevelle, ’78 Malibu, ’77 Impala – and they were all pretty reliable.
      Although I wonder if the last 20 years have been that kind to them…

  16. cyclopticgaze Avatar

    This article is full of truth. I'm (slowly) restoring a 40 year old car by myself while also building a career. I've driven that car maybe 10 miles since I bought it 5 years ago, and not for lack of work, time, or money. And when I make that hoopty fully drivable on some mythical future date . . . well, it'll still be an old car. Gobs of fun and head-turning coolness, all waiting to break down.
    Bless my daily driver for being a 2005 model. Fun and nostalgia feel great, but they ain't worth much on the side of the road.

  17. packratmatt Avatar

    I'm trying a similar idea to this with a 2cv. Only problem is, here in the rust belt, you can't drive anything old in the winter time without the salt and brine eating it up.

    1. nitroracer Avatar

      I must agree, the potential for rust really sucks the fun out of having an old car for a daily driver.
      I would love to daily drive my 68' Fairlane (another 60s ford in the mix), but in Pennsylvania its just not a smart idea for about half of the year. It has survived this long without rusting out that I couldn't bear to watch it crumble in just a few years.
      I think something from the 60s or 70s with an inline six (Ford, Chevy, or Dodge), a modern over drive trans, and possibly a simple megasquirt conversion would be an awesome and economical daily driver.

  18. JayP Avatar

    All I can add is thank God for cellphones.

    1. moominsean Avatar

      yeah i remember running out of fuel in my 68 mercedes in 1988 out in the middle of nowhere in michigan, walking a mile to the nearest farm house with a phone and calling my grandmother to bring me a couple gallons of gas from 20 miles away!

  19. longrooffan Avatar

    I just have to say that little Hoon in the first image looks like he is on top of the world. Justifyably so. What a Hoontastic life the kid is going to have. Way to go Tim. And oh, does your wife have an older, single sister? She sounds like the best mate a guy could have. Buy any tool you want. Gotta love that.

    1. Tim Odell Avatar
      Tim Odell

      I've told you her preferred Mom car is a Lamborghini Espada, right?
      6 Italian carbs…I think she's trying to kill me.

  20. Mad_Hungarian Avatar

    I'm enjoying this series because I've got the competition! ('64 Corvair). I don't commute every day in mine — although I could with relatively low risk, as my round trip commute is not quite six miles. If she starts and backs out of the garage, chances are she will make it to work and back. I do, however, keep it insured under a conventional policy, as opposed to a collector policy with use restrictions, for the specific reason of being able to choose to drive it anytime I want to for any purpose without risking my coverage by "cheating."
    In your first paragraph you really nailed what is fun about driving a distinctive old car. Total strangers will strike up friendly conversations, and you're always getting honks, waves and thumbs-ups. Anything that brings people out of their shells like that has got to be good. Whereas if I were driving around in some new Lexus and expecting people to notice me or admire my car, I would just be presumed to be a d-bag and ignored.

  21. Lotte Avatar

    Thanks for giving me a better picture of owning an old car, everyone. As for me, I probably won't be able to do it, as much as I'd like to. No tools, no practical wrenching experience (how far would a Haynes bring someone with no experience?), apartment-dwelling (don't even have room to change tires, though I guess I could go to the far side of a Wal-Mart lot with the emergency roadside kit, but for the beige Accord my mother drives? Well…) and owing on a student loan. I'm eyeing the '70s downsized Caprices as a possible simple, utilitarian, parts-abundant classic, but in reality it's not that practical: "It's not you Caprice, it's me…"
    But all the same I can't wait for tomorrow's article; don't spare the details!

    1. Lotte Avatar

      Probably the one thing going for me is that the city's transit isn't half bad, so a car could truly be a side project. The only thing left, really, is a series of totally irresponsible "What could possibly go wrong?!" thoughts and the right car to come by.
      Oh, and thanks for the heads-up regarding the FSM!

    2. Tim Odell Avatar
      Tim Odell

      Yours is a tricky situation. I will point out that the wisest move for someone in your shoes is to keep things newer and more reliable, but I owned a string of funky cars through college and managed to gain some valuable learning experience from them. Part of that learning was the dubious benefit of having a funky car at a time when you're barely driving it and don't have the tools, space or skill to deal with things properly.
      But then again, everyone's gotta start somewhere. A decent ~$100-200 Sears tool kit, a $25 jack and stands will take you very, very far. They can also be broken down to fit in an apartment closet.
      Whatever your car of choice, there's an internet community around it that'll help if you're willing to learn. All the common problems are known, the good places to get the hard to find parts are known, and the trick to getting that one ______ out is known.
      Like MrHowser (shouldn't that be Dr Howser?) said, The Good Manual: factory service or some other high-end 3rd party is worth the $30-100. Though, if you've got something pretty basic, the Haynes/Chilton variety is probably sufficient. Probably.

    3. west_coaster Avatar

      Actually, you can find lots of older factory manuals on eBay, since many dealerships and repair places have gone to digital references. (And mass dealer closings a couple of years ago flooded the market too.)
      A set of factory manuals (often 4-5 books) used to go for around $200 through specialty vendors. Now you can find them for $50 or less. And for popular models, some enterprising folks have scanned entire manuals to CD. Those sell for $10 or so.

  22. parkwood60 Avatar

    Admittedly, I didn't read the whole article.
    That being said I lived for years in L.A. with nothing but an apartment with no garage, on the second floor no less, and nothing but old junk cars and a couple of crappy motorcycles. So I don't know what your issue is with a well sorted, well maintained 64 Falcon. I commuted for at least a year with nothing other than a 1960 Chevy Parkwood wagon to get me back and forth to work. Basically, I have no idea what you are talking about.
    Ever heard of AAA? I rarely needed them, but when I popped a rubber brake line trying to stop with a single circuit master cylinder and 4 wheel drums at the corner of Olympic & Bundy (and hit some idiot in a delivery van who pulled in front of me as I rolled through the intersection at 15mph) they towed me home for free. I drove it from L.A. to the Bay Area for Billet Proof twice, once without an odometer or an accurate fuel gauge. BTW-I was able to get a replacement brake line and get the car back to work the next day.
    I carried floor jackets up and down a flight of stair until I started buying them for 450 a pop at Harbor Freight and bike locking them in my driveway in Venice. I still lost 2 of them over the years, but going up and down the stair with a 50+lbs jack is a literal pain.
    I did 1 motor and 2 transmission swaps in the sloped driveway behind my place in Venice.
    And lest you think this was back in the 60s when things were different this was over the course of the last 15 years. A properly maintained old car is a perfectly adequate daily driver. But you will need to upgrade the cooling system, with at least an electric fan. And either replace the single circuit master cylinder, or put braided stainless lines instead of rubber, or both.

    1. Tim Odell Avatar
      Tim Odell

      Probably should've read the whole thing.
      I agree with you that the car's easy and cheap to fix. I agree that the fixes are usually pretty easy to do. The basic point of the article is that a well-maintained classic is a great daily driver…you just need to put up with doing the maintenance and dealing with the occasional spontaneous failure like my clutch linkage or your brake line.
      The cooling system is fine (only broke above halfway up the gauge once while climbing the grapevine in stop and go traffic). The wagon needed electric fans, though. I swapped in 4-piston front discs and a dual-bore master already.

  23. Joe Dunlap Avatar
    Joe Dunlap

    As one of the resident old daily drivers (me, not the car) I guess I could throw in my observations on this one. Early in the article, mention was made that the car itself reaches an end to its service life. True, in some respects, but not entirely. What does are the individual parts it's made up of. Some items, like brakes, light bulbs, fluids, rubber hoses and belts, have relatively short service lives, and need scheduled replacement. These are the ones we are all well aware of. But there are others that have a designed service life we need to be aware of, especially in cars these old. Tim's car is a case in point. Bearings, of any kind, will fail eventually. In his case it was the support for the cluch z-bar ball stud, but failure of the stud (a bearing itself) on this generation of car was not uncommon.

    1. Tim Odell Avatar
      Tim Odell

      Yeah, the point on the "car's service life" was that the individual components are/were designed to last all or some of the car's service life, typically not longer than 10 years (unless we're talking about a heavy-duty truck).
      When your car's beyond (or at several multiples of) that typical ownership lifespan, the different usages of the car, various replacement intervals and deferred maintenance or modifications by previous owners combine to ensure basically anything's fair game for wearing out/breaking.
      …especially if it's new-to-you, as my Falcon was. Once you've had it for a while and replaced a few things yourself, confidence builds.

  24. Joe Dunlap Avatar
    Joe Dunlap

    Then there are the suspension ball joints, a-arm bushings, wheel bearings, tie-rod ends, idler arm joint and its bushing, bearings in the steering gear box, etc. Every one of them a critical part that could leave you stranded or worse. Basically, anything that moves, rotates, and/or supports some kind of load should be looked at with a very jaundiced eye if you want to make an old car a daily driver. The list is huge, and I didnt even talk about engine parts like water pumps, alternators, fuel pumps, etc. As an example, every wonder how they keep old aircraft in the air with relatively few failures? Every part, every panel, every FASTENER has a specified service life and must be changed out, or the aircraft cannot be certified for flight. Think about it. If aircraft shed parts in flight the way you see cars litter the highways with broken parts, the results would be catastrophic, to say the least. All we have to do is somehow manage to maneuver to the side of the road. You dont get that option at 15K feet.

  25. Joe Dunlap Avatar
    Joe Dunlap

    The good news is, on a vehicle this old you can do just what has been discribed by several people already. Tear it down in your driveway with a few hand tools and inspect and/or replace it. Its not difficult, you just have to give it careful thought before you dive into this kind of project. The great thing is, as has been said, you get to meet a lot of like minded hoons, and develop a lot of new skills. Best of luck to all of you, and thanks Tim for a great series. Looking forward to reading the next installment.
    Joe Dunlap

  26. salguod Avatar

    The more I read this, the closer I get to trying it. I've got the tools, I've got a decent tow vehicle and this would be car #3 as I'd hand off my Mazda3 to my teenage daughter (a though that makes me a little nervous). The hitch is if I want to spend my free time wrenching on my daily driver or not.
    Maybe I'll start scanning Craigslist and see what comes up …

    1. Tim Odell Avatar
      Tim Odell

      My recommendation is to find something that runs and drives decently well. There's nothing more frustrating than a dead car that you can't seem to bring to life or find the time to bring to life. Even if it's not as fast, nimble or pretty as you like, you can still take it for a drive.
      Following that, the other thing to consider is that if it doesn't work out, you can typically sell any cheap classic/semi-project for roughly what you bought it for. Basically nothing to lose.

  27. aye512 Avatar

    For a 5-year old thread, this is of interest to me. I have a 65 Falcon Futura I picked up for $400 when I was shopping for an engine to replace the one in my $300 65 Comet & I could go on and on and hours and $$$ later… All I was looking around for was how to refresh the steering column with auto trans shift and look where I’ve been sidetracked for the last hour…

    1. mad_science Avatar

      Falconparts.com has the parts to rebuild both the box and column itself.
      Also: glad you stumbled in here. Still daily-driving the Falcon in 2016!