It can be daunting taking on the maintenance or restoration of a classic Ford. These tips will make your life a lot easier — here’s how to keep your classic Ford alive.
Regularly driving an older Ford, whether it be a daily-driver or a weekend treat, is increasingly fraught with potential compromises as the years march onward. On paper, it sounds like a simple and logical idea; after all, these were once mainstream and everyday vehicles, used for commuting and shopping and holidays and so forth by countless thousands – so what’s changed?
In essence, the game’s moved on. As these cars have largely dropped off the radar, so the parts supply has comparatively dried up too, along with the expertise to repair things in the traditional way. With a modern car, when a part breaks or wears out you can simply go to any main dealer or parts garage and get a new bit to get it fixed and back on the road. But what happens with older cars when that mainstream support network no longer stocks the parts? You don’t want to stop driving your car just because the brakes have worn out, but if you can’t find the pads anywhere then you’ll have little choice. And what if your carbs need tuning or your choke cable’s stuck, and you take it to your local garage and they look at you in panicked confusion because their expertise begins and ends with plugging in a diagnostics machine?
Fear not, all is not lost. It’s perfectly achievable to keep an older Ford on the road with minimal stress, thanks to a comprehensive network of specialists who are here to help keep your sepia-tinted retro dreams alive. You just need to know where to look.
It can easily be argued that the engines of retro road cars were far, far simpler than those of today. You don’t have to worry about overly complicated engine management systems that’ll put the car into limp mode if a lightbulb blows, or the myriad sensors and failsafes hard-wired into modern motors. And just because the world’s moved on, it’s still easy enough to source service items and replacement parts for these engines to keep
Ferdinand Bilstein is a great starting point if you’re looking for standard replacements. Perhaps better known for OE-quality replacements for more modern models, a quick search on partsfinder. bilsteingroup.com throws up a surprising number of new parts for older Fords too.
Of course, if you’re looking to improve, or have already tuned your classic Ford and want to keep it that way, then Burton Power is your friend. When it comes to Fords of this era, their comprehensive catalogue of upgrades caters for all needs – whether you’re aiming to keep your engine completely stock and just keep it ticking along as it should, or you fancy upgrading to fast road specs or even a full race build. Let’s say, for example, that your car has a CVH engine (as found in the Mk3/4 Escort and Orion, and Mk2/3 Fiesta): all of the replacement parts you may need as well as service items are available.
If an engine rebuild is on the cards, whether you’re refreshing your stock unit or futureproofing for power increases, there are plenty of specialists out there who can assist you with all manner of rebuilding options. Likewise, if your carbs need refurbishing, there are rebuild kits readily available from specialists such as Webcon, and experts such as Northampton Motorsport are well-equipped to carry out the job for you.
It’s no secret that old Fords like to rust! They all have their particular favoured areas where they like to crumble – Mk3 Escorts like to go in the battery tray, sills, door bottoms and boot corners; Sierras rot in the chassis legs, transmission tunnel and footwells, Mk2 Fiestas rust out their fuel tanks, inner wings and pillars… but essentially you shouldn’t be surprised to find rust anywhere on a old-school Ford.
This is by no means a problem though – it may take time and money to rectify, but it shouldn’t be hard. Replacement panels are readily available from companies like Magnum Classic Ford Panels, and Ex-Pressed Steel Panels, and there’s a wealth of expertise out there when it comes to body restoration too. Andy’s Auto Body is a great place to start. With over 30 years’ experience in restoring and repairing old Fords (even back when they weren’t so old), there are few places with quite so much knowledge about the correct ways to put these cars together as Ford would have done.
The health of your gearbox will depend on a number of factors, not least how sympathetically it’s been treated over the last thirty-something years, but a tired transmission is something that can easily be sorted. For cars running a Type 9 gearbox (that’s Capris and Sierras), talk to specialists such as BGH Geartech, they know all there is to know about rebuilding and strengthening these five-speed units. And if you’re looking to upgrade the power and want a racier ’box to suit, 3J Driveline have a range of uprated helical or straight-cut gearsets, while Rally Design stock a range of Blackline helical torque-biasing diffs for most Ford axles too.
For those with FWD fast Fords, CTS have built up a reputation for building strong and reliable IB5 gearboxes for the CVH-engined Fords such as RS Turbos and alike. And if you need replacement driveshafts, companies like Berrisford and Satchell Engineering can make custom items that will be stronger than stock and surprisingly affordable.
Wheels and tyres
Alloy wheel refurbishment is big business these days, and you tend to get what you pay for. There are companies who’ll come to your house and offer a cheap and quick refinish, which is fine if you’re on a tight budget, although if you’re keen to do things properly then a company like Lepsons is often preferable, with their six-stage refurbishing process.
Sourcing tyres can take a bit of consideration. You’ll almost certainly be able to find new tyres in the correct original sizes from any high street tyre fitter, although if you’re a stickler for originality it’s sometimes possible to find original-spec rubber. Longstone Tyres are the experts when it comes to encyclopaedic knowledge of period-correct tyre designs and dimensions – if anyone can track down a newly-manufactured and classic-spec Michelin TRX for your Granada or Pirelli Cinturato for your Capri, it’s these guys.
It’s only natural for interiors to degrade over time; seats trimmed in natural fibres and stuffed with foam will naturally wear and break down, but you don’t need to panic about trying to find replacement OE Recaros for your XR or RS – or indeed obscure original seats for your L or GL – as Aldridge Trimming can restore your seats. Bases can be rebuilt, foam replaced, and even original-spec fabric sourced and cut to suit. Headlinings and doorcards can also be refreshed, parcel shelves reshaped, and even the dreaded and oh-so-common cracked dash needn’t be cause for concern.
What’s far harder to deal with is the endless fiddly little trim clips and detail trim parts that just love to snap and break… although thankfully the situation’s a lot better than it once was. Companies such as East Kent Trim can supply a mind-boggling array of minutiae, and replace any of those perished and cracked window rubbers, door seals, and bumper inserts, too.
For the complete guide on how to keep your classic Ford alive, check out the March 2020 issue
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