Check everything, replace worn parts, carry needed spares — and don’t forget about tires
Editor’s note: This is the second in a four-part series we’re publishing this month to help you get you ready to take a road trip in your collector vehicle. The series began last week with Bob Golfen reviewing tools and other items to pack along on such a trip.
My favorite thing to do with a classic car is not to race it, not to show it, not event to enter it in a vintage rally. My favorite way to use any classic car I own is to drive it, preferably across the country.
I have this long-time habit of driving my cars across the country, from my home on the East Coast to Monterey, California, for the annual Car Week in August. Many people think this is a crazy idea, but I have done this eight times and have only had one small issue, and that was one where a new part was faulty and not due to neglected maintenance.
There is a reason I have never had any issues with my cars on these trips, and they have been everything from Alfa Romeos and Aston Martins to Porsches and Triumphs. That reason is that I fully prepare the cars for the trip.
If you think that a cross-country drive like this sounds like fun, all you need to do is follow the steps below that I used on my last drive, which I did two years ago in a 1984 Porsche 944.
I bought car after it had been driven 34,000 miles, but then had been parked for about eight years. The car was in excellent shape, but having been idle, there were a number of things I did to insure that I had no issues along the way.
First, I made sure that all services were up to date, both in time and mileage. Since this car hadn’t been driven in quite a while, I chose to do a timing-belt service including the water pump. I also replaced every other drive belt even though they looked good. In addition, I replaced the engine mounts, thermostat, cooling hoses, spark plugs, distributor rotor and cap, and all four fuel injectors. Additionally, I replaced all fluids including engine oil and filter, brake and clutch fluid, transaxle oil, and coolant.
The other thing I paid close attention to were the tires. The tires on my car were original, and though they looked to be in excellent shape, they were more than 30 years old. Rubber ages and there is no idea much worse that driving a car a long distance, or really any distance, on old tires. This is not only dangerous but also asking for problems. I replaced all five tires with N-rated Porsche-recommended tires, and then had an alignment done.
Finally, before setting off on the trip, I ordered spares for the most likely parts that could fail. In the case of the 944 that was limited to a fuel-injection relay, a set of fuses, a spare oil filter and a small set of quality tools to deal with any small issue that might come up.
Oh, and one more, be sure you have the top-level of AAA roadside service and towing, just in case.
The car went the entire 3,100 miles, from Hartford, Connecticut, to Monterey, California, with not a single issue. On top of that, I took the trip with my best friend, Trent Abbott, and we will remember the fun we had on the trip forever.
So if you are thinking of driving to Monterey, or to Hilton Head or anywhere else in your vintage vehicle, take the time to properly prepare the car, and d0n’t forget to take a few spares along. Hopefully, you won’t need them, but as they say, better safe than sorry.
Do all that I guarantee you will have a terrific time, and scores of stories to share with your friends.
Editor’s note, part 2: Andy Reid is planning another cross-country trip in a collector car this year as he heads to Monterey. He’s been writing about the restoration of his recently acquired MGB GT. Here’s the link to the latest article in that series.