Hooniverse Asks: What modern upgrades do you enjoy in your older cars or trucks?

Right now, my 1974 Mercedes-Benz 280 sedan is receiving a modern upgrade. No, it’s not under the hood. Nor is it going to affect the way the old Benz rides and drives. Instead, it’s going to upgrade my aural experience. I’m having a new stereo installed thanks to our friends at Clarion.
What I’m not doing, however, is touching the lovely (and still working) Becker head unit that came from the factory. We’re working around that system and utilizing a Clarion Marine audio brain to control a handful of speakers. I’ll go into more details in an upcoming story (and a video as well).
An upgrade like this seems relatively simple, but it can dramatically upgrade your daily experience with your older vehicle. What other upgrades have you done (or are you considering) on any older machines in your fleet?

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44 responses to “Hooniverse Asks: What modern upgrades do you enjoy in your older cars or trucks?”

  1. oldcarjunkie Avatar

    Disc brakes at least on the front. Converting from points to electronic ignition is another nice upgrade.

    1. outback_ute Avatar

      This hits home, last weekend I was driving a friend’s 1957 Hillman and had to do a quick stop when I came over a hill and was faced with near-stationary traffic banked up by road works. Luckily the cruising speed is a bit lower in that car. Disc brakes can be done using later model parts bolt-in.
      Had issues with the engine cutting out when stopping too, certainly kept me on my toes driving it.
      It’s main upgrade was having seat belts fitted, and it also had a new set of radial tyres to replace the who knows how old cross-plies it used to have. Other than that, standard.

    2. Jeff Glucker Avatar
      Jeff Glucker

      That was a great upgrade on my truck. Even though I didn’t convert to power brakes, having front discs made a massive difference.

    3. Batshitbox Avatar

      Disc?!? I was happy just upgrading to a dual circuit master cylinder in my Scout 80. Theoretically IH only made one stub axle for all the 2WD trucks from 61 – 80, so it was possible I could have put disc brakes in there, I guess.

      1. oldcarjunkie Avatar

        I could have done this to my 1961 Pontiac but converting to discs was only a little more than over hauling the drums.

  2. nanoop Avatar

    Upper midrange tire and brand wipers with 1″ extra length.

    1. Scoutdude Avatar

      IF you can fit that 1″ longer wiper on the car. Sometimes you can’t, like on our 2008 Escape. Meanwhile on my E150 I was able to fit 2″ longer.

  3. P161911 Avatar

    Radio was always the first thing. American factory radios sucked well into the 1980s. Also, it was hard to find a factory radio with even cassette in the 1970s. Recently I even upgraded the radio in my 2011 Silverado to one with Bluetooth. Although, I now need to call Pioneer, because the Bluetooth died after about 2 weeks. Hands free phone use is going to be required starting July 1 in Georgia.
    If cup holders are not present, add them. The best add on seems to be the type that shoves in between the passenger seat and the center console.

    1. Sjalabais Avatar

      I used to do the same until I became a father. Every second of relative silence since has been highly appreciated. Over the last 3 cars, I only bought 15$ radios from China that could read SD cards, USB, and had an AUX port. But, today, there are some really functional radios with old-fashioned looks available that I wouldn’t be ashamed to fit in a classic.

  4. Alff Avatar

    Disc brakes, power steering, a modern(ish) fuel injected engine and aftermarket air changed our 54 Ford from a Sunday driver to a commuter and reliable road tripper.

    1. outback_ute Avatar

      Overdrive gearbox as part of the package too I’m thinking

      1. Alff Avatar

        Yes. AOD, the perfect rod transmission.

        1. outback_ute Avatar

          They never came here, which is a shame.

          1. Alff Avatar

            I’ll send you one. Ship me a barra in return.

          2. outback_ute Avatar

            Never owned an auto, but you can get non turbo Barras from $300, or LPG versions with stronger rods from $400 – in Aussie dollars

  5. Dabidoh_Sambone Avatar

    Really bright red LED bulbs for my brake lights. I’ve had three different cars rear ended, two destroyed by inattentive people behind me. I buy the bulbs that strobe for the first second they’re on. In the TR6 it’s a great upgrade.

    1. Timothy Avatar

      “I buy the bulbs that strobe for the first second they’re on.”
      I didn’t even know this was a thing! I wouldn’t mind having this on my car for the exact reasons you’ve stated.

    2. P161911 Avatar

      Does this require additional wiring or is everything self contained within the bulb?

      1. Dabidoh_Sambone Avatar

        As I am now paranoid about getting rear ended, these mitigate some of the PTSD. All self contained. I had one bulb fail and this particular seller replaced it with no hassles.
        https://www.ebay.com/itm/2X-1157-LED-Red-Flash-Strobe-Blinking-Alert-Safety-Brake-Tail-Stop-Light-Bulbs/231591762086?hash=item35ebf1d8a6:g:p~AAAOSwBahVe2iG https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/8585b6e74697e1198bc956ce58caa8d60a3f85214cd57782122f66c59b02c107.jpg

        1. P161911 Avatar

          Back in October I rear ended someone. In March, I got rear ended. I will have to look into these.

    3. dukeisduke Avatar

      My ’13 Tacoma has LED taillights (from the factory), but I *still* got rear ended in February, by an 18-year-old in an ’05 Camry, who wasn’t paying attention. I had been at a dead stop for at least two seconds when I got creamed. SMH.

      1. Dabidoh_Sambone Avatar

        Trust me, the strobing of these bulbs is additional insurance. Maybe it would’ve helped? Can’t hurt. Though for owners of modern vehicles with bespoke LED lights this swap is not an option.

  6. mdharrell Avatar

    I don’t enjoy any of the changes. I sullenly* regret every modification arising from the unavailability of factory-correct parts.
    *Sometimes not so sullenly.

    1. mdharrell Avatar

      That is, unless it’s for racing. In that case I’m okay with welding in a cage and such.

      1. 0A5599 Avatar

        Is the cage for keeping victims in, or undesirable elements out?

        1. mdharrell Avatar

          A cage can serve more than one purpose.

        2. dukeisduke Avatar

          In that case, keeping undesirable elements in.

  7. George Goshgarian Avatar
    George Goshgarian

    Air conditioning.

  8. 1slowvw Avatar

    Fuel injection!
    Don’t get me wrong I like carbs and they have their place but the obd2 port in my 91 Jetta was a great addition.

  9. GTXcellent Avatar

    The only “modern” change that I’ve made to the GTX – and will ever make – are electronic ignition and radial tires (and I’m seriously, seriously contemplating going back to an F14 bias ply).
    For me personally, that’s the charm of this old horse – that it DOESN’T have modern conveniences like power steering or power brakes or air conditioning or FM radio. I want it to be an old car.

  10. 0A5599 Avatar

    Spotify from phone via cassette adapter.

    1. Fred Avatar

      Yea I had to use that in my Audi. Worked well enough and the money for a new head unit was needed for maintanence.

  11. Borkwagen Avatar

    When I had my V4 Saab 96, part of why I enjoyed it so much is that it didn’t require any updates to be made livable. It already had front disk brakes, three-point belts, and a cooling system that held up to city driving (at least until the fan bearing snapped). That being said, for less involving modern cars like my current 9-3 hatchback, an aux input is a must.

    1. mdharrell Avatar

      The two-year gradual transition (’67-68) from the two-stroke to the V4 engine makes some matters a bit fuzzy, but I think all of the V4 cars came from the factory with front discs, even the ’67s. My ’67 two-stroke cars had front drums and I want to say that it was still possible (optional? standard?) to get front drums on the ’68 two-strokes as well.

  12. neight428 Avatar

    My Trans Am has part throttle stumbles, full throttle bog, cold start difficulty and an exhaust smell that makes your eyes water; and all of that represents an improvement from where I started. Given that I am not among the few people left on earth that can still curve a distributor and tune a Q-jet to match, I’m likely going with an aftermarket TBI unit that works in concert with a distributor.

  13. Zentropy Avatar

    I won’t restore another car without installing fuel injection. Carbs are simple to install and tune, but regardless how well I get it adjusted, I still smell like unburned fuel when I arrive at my destination. I can (and will) enjoy driving an older car more often with this upgrade. Along with that, disc brakes are a must, at least up front. I DESPISE replacing brake shoes, and the reassurance when stopping is a big plus.
    I could care less about the stereo. So long as I can hear something through the speakers, I’m good. I’ve never cared much about audio in my car, even as a teen. When I’m driving, I’m listening to the car and (maybe) sports radio or NPR.

  14. Batshitbox Avatar

    I always found a new girlfriend increased the enjoyment of just about everything, but especially the old cars and motorcycles. Sooner or later, though, they always start wanting frivolous things like heat and a sound system.

    1. je zalanka Avatar
      je zalanka

      not to forget the pax window that rolls UP

  15. SlowJoeCrow Avatar

    My 1978 BMW motorcycle has electronic ignition in place of the breaker points and a solid state voltage regulator in place of the original mechanical piece to make it run better and reduce headaches since setting the points gap on these is challenging. I also have an aftermarket seat, partly for comfort and partly because Corbin was half the price of a factory replacement when the seat pan rusted out. Now that I think of it I also have period correct upgraded rear shocks (Koni repros) and stiffer fork springs.
    When I get another project car, logical upgrades are a decent stereo, electronic ignition if it has points, and if necessary seatbelts and upgraded brakes plus good tires. Basically things that make a car safer or less aggro to work on first, make it faster or prettier later.

  16. Lokki Avatar

    My old Alfa already had fuel injection, a double master cylinder and discs all around in 1971, but it’s benefited from halogen headlights powered through a relay kit, led brake lights, and an electronic ignition set up. I keep pondering a new audio system, but haven’t found the right solution yet.

  17. MattC Avatar

    Honestly any newer radio with a front aux. outlet. Bluetooth is a nice bonus but not necessary.

  18. je zalanka Avatar
    je zalanka

    I looked for a bit more snap in my mark 8 without screwing up the engine and trans software. put a truetrac diff and 3.73 gears in the IRS and a 28 tooth speedo gear. rebuilt the air suspension to the point of better reliability than the HVAC system. of course I ditched the JBL sound system and unusable phone unit. and true dual exhaust. renewed the entire front suspension. only a 20 year old car but a happy cruiser.

    1. je zalanka Avatar
      je zalanka

      best performance mod? the regeared diff. best comfort mod? sound system. going to have to stomp on the HVAC system again. maybe next fall.