“I know what I need but I don’t know where to find it!”
Have you noticed that when talking to modern-iron addicts, and they find you are into old cars, they always seem to ask “Where do you find parts for these old cars?”
Actually, this is a question collector car buffs are frequently asking each other. In reality, it’s a real good question. Questions about wide whitewall tires are probably the most frequently asked by “outsiders.” Don’t we all wish all our parts were as easy to locate as tires? (Anybody know a local tire dealer to ask for advice?)
First of all, make inquiries within your own Regional club, particularly those members that have similar cars. Many times you will find your fellow Club members have had the same problem and may even have a spare part.
Another place you should look early in your search are local parts houses that have been in business for many years. For example, your local NAPA store. They are good for many standard parts such as plugs, points, condensers, distributor caps, etc. They also have computer and phone links to over a dozen stores and warehouses. Also, if you have the old part, a good parts clerk may be able to find you an interchangeable part.
All serious old car owners should have a parts book and shop manual for each of their cars. By checking these, you may find that the part you’re looking for may fit several later year models.
For example, you may find that 1948 parts will work on your 1937 and parts for a 1956 will fit on your 1949. Many parts houses, unless they specialize in older cars, will only have parts listed back to a certain year.
You will often find that although you can interchange a complete assembly between years, you cannot interchange inner components of that assembly. Carburetors are a good example of this as well as generators, starters, distributors, etc.
It helps a lot when you are looking if you know what you can look for. Most of you are familiar with some of the major national suppliers like Egge Machine Co., Kanter Auto Parts, Steele Rubber Parts, Pro Antique and many others. Check out your The Self-Starter national magazine for others as well as national members that may have the parts you are looking for.
Many of our hobby publications have advertisers from all over the country and ask for people trying to sell parts. Good examples are Hemmings Motor News, Old Cars Weekly, Skinned Knuckles, et al. Check these out, but be careful: the parts you order long distance may differ from the parts you actually get.
A little trick that I have been quite successful with is to also look through the “Parts Wanted” column. If you find someone who was looking for the same parts you are—call them. They may have had more than one response or found a supplier through their ad.
You can generally find some specialty vendor in these national publications. For example, our own local Club member, John Cullinan, has a supply of fan belts for older Cads and LaSalles.
While we are talking about local sources, there is always Svigel’s on South Santa Fe Drive in Sheridan. I never cease to be amazed at what they can find in their warehouse or yard. When it comes to Cadillac parts from the late ’40s thru the ’70s, the best selection is from Don Hunter at Arapahoe Auto Salvage, just west of Santa Fe Drive on Quincy Avenue in Englewood. He also has an interesting showroom collection of restored old cars.
It is really rare to find NOS (new old stock) parts for our older Cads and LaSalles. The parts you usually find are used and/or rebuilt. When you do happen to find NOS parts, they usually need to be restored or rebuilt due to old age, rust, dry rot or oxidation.
Over the years, I have found some local craftsmen that still have the equipment, know-how and love of old cars to work on certain components. An example: for generators, starters and distributors, Tom Clark at Clark’s Auto Electric, 2650 S. Broadway in Denver does a good job at reasonable prices. Of course, he does only bench work.
This also applies to Tom at Brake Service Wholesale at 80 Raritan St. in Denver when it comes to brake shoes, drums and clutches for the older cars. Many members of our Club have found that when it comes to radiators, heaters and air conditioning, Spike Radiator at 2331 W. Hampden Ave. in Englewood is hard to beat. There are several others too numerous to mention.
Another local member with more old Cadillac parts than you can imagine is Bud Hashberger. Over the years, he has bought out many “obsolete” Cadillac parts from local Cadillac dealers.
At the risk of repeating myself, be active in our regional and national club. Come to meetings and other events, talk to other members who will help you if you let your needs be known.
Swap meets are a great source, but you need to know what you are looking for. The vendors frequently have items that they don’t know what they are or what they fit. When this happens, you can get a real bargain. If they know what it is and what it fits, the price usually goes up.
I guess it boils down to the fact that most parts for old Caddies are easier to find than for most old cars. You can find (or rebuild) just about any part you need if you have a little patience, a little knowledge, and of course, a little hideaway cash your spouse doesn’t know about.
See you next month.