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The end of an era?

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  • The end of an era?

    In another thread Patrick was detailing the latest maintenance of his Sportster. I too have been finding a few things that need replacing. The latest being the rear half shaft gaiters that have perished. It is because our cars are old. Overall, vehicles are designed for a lifetime of 12 years or 120,000 miles.

    I don’t think we are having any more problems than anybody with 17 year old BMW or Ford.

    I grabbed this from Wikipedia:
    Factors related to longevity of vehicle

    Sikorsky and others,[who?] have developed lists that itemize steps that a car owner can take, or identified operating and maintenance rules, to ensure maximal longevity.

    1. Regular oil changes
    2. Monitor the key fluids
    3. Maintain the transmission
    4. Change the spark plugs as needed
    5. Replace the timing belt as recommended (if applicable)
    6. Replace air filter as required
    7. Know and use your maintenance manual
    8. No sudden starts and stops
    9. Plentiful low cost replacement parts being available

    In a public economics sense, Kasmer[who?] argues that retrofitting autos with a newer transmission would extend the lifespan while at the same time increase fuel efficiency, reduce carbon emissions, and prevent the sudden influx of discarded vehicles into the waste bin as cars are junked to be replaced by a modern vehicle. However, with replacement parts for modern cars becoming ever more high tech, expensive and proprietary and therefore difficult to obtain (due to OEM copyright), many critical components are no longer available at low cost from third party aftermarket suppliers. Due to this fact, most modern cars can no longer be maintained once repair cost of the car exceed resale value. This trend has led to the modern cars being labeled as the first ever "disposable" cars.[citation needed]

    My hybrid‘s idea of maintenance of any kind is to call a main dealer. I don’t believe it could ever become a donor vehicle. It is just too complex.

    Gordon Murray says in an interview with Harry’s Garage that the latest V12 they have developed is the best yet (he would wouldn’t he) but goes on to say that it will be the best ever because development of internal combustion engines has become uneconomic.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NT8PMXCMrsM (about 37 minutes in)

    I think we could be the last generation to be able to hand build cars.

    I know it's worth saving the planet but this dinosaur feels a little sad at the passing of this era.

  • #2
    Re: The end of an era?

    Interesting topic.

    I agree that the complexity of modern internal combustion engines and planned obsolescence of electronic parts will curtail their longevity. However, I think future kit builders will be as adept with motors, battery operated systems and computers as with spanners. Isn't one of our members already working on an electric conversion?


    • #3
      Re: The end of an era?

      It's interesting to me as well. When I moved to new Zealand, I actually brought 2 TVRs with me, having sold the Marlin before I moved. The amount of hassle and red tape to get a new windscreen imported for my 'wedge' was unbelievable. When I look now at parts now, I wonder how much hassle it would be to get Ford Euro parts today (They hardly ever had Cologne engines here, the Oz Falcon used a US derived straight 6 or V8). The story for all those Triumph bits for my Marlin is oddly not quite as bad, as they made and sold several Triumph models locally. But they are still expensive and hard to find. What's more they often don't run quite right on unleaded. E10 will be another hurdle.

      When I look under the bonnet of my 'clone' Toyota, it's all sensors and wires, engine is beautiful, but it's variable valve timing, switchable inlet runners, auto this, auto that, and all run by computer(s). Reusable ?? Not easily. Change in even the manifolds would probably give an error.... The days of happily fiddling with carbs and dizzies is long gone. Yes we did achieve much better efficiency, but more built in obsolescence and less portability. Yes, I guess you could convert it to a 'home' setup, but that's a lot of money and tuning and requires some serious IT knowledge....


      • #4
        Re: The end of an era?

        Once you drill down a modern car to it's simplest form it's no different to an older car. Suspension, brakes, wheels, bearings, steering etc. The drive will change, certainly the last generations of petrol/diesel are rather complex especilly when combined with hybrid systems.

        So we are probably starting to see the end of fuel burning stuff, but it won't be the end of the DIY car builder, I'm certain of that!

        For full electric, there people like https://zero-ev.co.uk/ and https://www.electricclassiccars.co.uk/ already stocking parts needed doing conversions, or over in the US, https://evwest.com/catalog/ is big one. The US tuner companies are embracing electric as as well off the shelf stuff being built by GM and others. It's all quite expensive still but that will change.

        I help look after a number of old cars in the family. There's some 90's BMW that need an old laptop and some software from BMW to run diagnostics, works fine but not a nice as the ODB2 stuff.

        The newer ones including my daily (an E93 2011 330d) I diagnose with an ODB2 module that connects to my phone which runs some software called https://www.mycarly.com/ that I can get fault codes, do service resets and repogramme modules. Its pretty easy to use.

        The most complex thing I've done was turn on the USB input as the car came only with bluetooth, I had to use a laptop and a coms cable to programme in a specific build code on 2 or 3 modules that tell the computers in the car the cable had been retrofitted, then the option appeared on the idrive and I can select USB input. Not the simplest procedure but it's doable with a guide.

        The same iPhone Carly app I've used with a BMW i3 - a fully electric car running all the same can bus systems as the combustion cars. Aside from the charge system, motor controller and motor the rest of the car is just like a normal car, could make for an interesting donor vehicle in future (the later gen ones have bigger batteries and decent range of up to 189 miles).

        Once the market is flooded with Tesla model 3 motors / controllers it'll be a fun donor platform, there's some very interesting stuff already out there now, entry price is still pretty high though - mostly for the batteries.

        It's worth a visit to https://fullycharged.live/ to see whats out there I've been last 2/3 years.

        The nice thing about a self built car is you can adapt and overcome issues, if you can't get a certain donor part from one vehicle you'll likely find something from somewhere else to use that’s close enough to work with a bit of modification. Nobody is going to complain about originality!

        I'm more worried about getting Marlin specific parts if I need them, but even with that I'd look at trying to build parts myself if I can't source something (like my wing stays which are now completely custom)
        Last edited by Patrick; 05-10-22, 05:07 PM. Reason: All the typos (probably)


        • #5
          Re: The end of an era?

          Patrick is right to say where there’s a will there’s a way. I am particularly heartened by videos such as this one by the somewhat chirpy Mat Armstrong. He has rebuilt a written off 2019 Aston Martin Vantage and other high tech cars. His ingenuity is impressive. See:

          I believe he does admit that it wasn’t financially viable. He makes his money from dopes like me who get drawn into watching the advertising that comes with his YouTube product. But financial viability is not a feature with our cars either.

          Also he did have to replace the airbags, get the seatbelts refurbished and a few other things before the engine/car management system was happy. That would be impossible to do if using it as a donor.

          When fitting my Zetec engine I had originally thought that I could use an ECU from a Ford Focus but it seems it was so integrated with the security systems that nobody thought it would be possible. So I used an Omex ECU and yes I do connect my laptop to it and tweak the odd parameter. So it is always possible but it is getting harder and more expensive.

          So it is possible: Geeks like Patrick, Mat and me will always find a way.

          PS: I do enjoy watching videos showing how some modern cars are built.
          PPS: If anybody has a V12 they don’t want I’m ready for the challange.