I’ve bought a fair few cars over the years. They’ve always been second hand and I’ve always tried to do as much of the fixing myself as I can.
My first vehicle was a Ford Thames 400E mini bus. This was so easy to work on. You didn’t even have to get out of the van to work on the engine, you just lifted up the lid between the driver and the front passenger. One day when the accelerator linkage failed I was able to keep going by operating the throttle on the carburettor by hand. At the same time the interior filled with grey smoke from the leaking exhaust manifold and the passengers in the back started to feel rather sleepy.
It had a column gear change (3 speed with sychro on second and third!) and had an interesting quirk in that when stationary, reverse and first coud be engaged simultaneously locking the gearbox solid. Progress could only be resumed by crawling under the van and jiggling the levers operating the gearbox. This tended to happen mostly at traffic lights. (There was one rather scary time in Athens!)
Major mechanical events included the top of a piston coming off (the rest of the piston kept on going up and down. There was no damage to the engine but there was a lot of smoke. All it needed was a new piston.
The other problem concerned the gearbox. First gear lost a tooth but drive continued, albeit with a bit or a clicking noise. After a few months an adjacent tooth broke off and it ceased to proceed (at least in first). Fortunately, I had an old dying Ford Consul and the innards of its gearbox were the same as the van’s. So I drove the Consul up to the council tip and the council guys there helped me push it over on its side so I could pull off the gearbox.
I must have had a lot more energy then because by one AM the next morning I had stripped the gearboxes, swapped the gears and put it all back together again!
Some nostalgia here for the “Golden Age of Motoring”. Was it in the 1930s when you would hardly ever meet another car on the open road, the age of Betjeman's Shell Guides? Or was it the 1950s and 60s when motoring was within the reach of most people and there were no speed limits on the open road (thanks Aston Martin for that!) Or is it forever in those blissful ten years of one’s (driving) youth?
Anyway, enough of this self-indulgent clap trap, this section includes some practical details of “improvements” to old cars which may be of practical help.
Whoops, here’s some more nostalgia concerning my first vehicle 1022PH. I’d quite like to have one of these again. It’s a nice convenient size (like a VW bus) and it would be so easy (in my brain anyway) to drop in (as they say) a 5 litre Ford V8 mid engine configuration (It’s been done). Almost certainly a project too far though!