A carburetor found through an Internet search. Click image to enlarge
By Glen Konoroski
If you are into old vehicles, restoration of old vehicles, or just love finding accessories for your vehicle, winter is generally the best time to hunt for parts. People are usually working on their vehicles and generally know what they have. In my case, I have a few vehicles at different stages of restoration, so I am constantly looking for parts and accessories.
The key to hunting for rare and unusual automotive parts is to be persistent and never stop asking anyone with auto parts for what you are looking for. This paid off for me when I was out picking up some motor parts for a friend. After paying for the parts I asked the fellow if he knew of anyone who might have a certain type of wheel I was looking for my 1969 Cal Look Beetle. To my surprise this person had not one but two sets of these wheels, ending my two-year search.
As most of us know, E-Bay, Kijiji and Craigslist have been invaluable when trying to find parts for restorations. However, what I have found is that by varying your search with different words you can, in many cases, be even more successful. In my case, I might use Bug, Beetle or even Volkswagen in front of the name of the part I am looking for. Chevy or Chevrolet is another good example of double names in the hunt for a part. It has on more than one occasion led me to a part I needed.
When buying on the Internet, make sure you thoroughly read the ad over if there are multiple items listed. Recently while hunting I came across an ad listing a number of parts. Wow, I thought there were a few parts I was looking for. So I quickly thought over what I needed and decided to offer the person $150 for those parts only. In all the excitement I had not read over the ad fully. When I re-read the ad I realized he wanted to sell everything and was not willing to part with a few items.
One thing I have been doing recently is keeping a list of the new prices of parts if they are available from a dealer. About a month ago, I came across a few parts that looked reasonably priced from a fellow I had done business with in the past. Just before ordering those parts I decided to check my notes (with prices) as to what I needed. As it turned out the fellow was charging more for the used parts than good quality reproductions. As these parts dealt with reliability and weren’t seen anyway, I went for the new parts with a warranty.
A camshaft found through an Internet search; photo courtesy of TheSamba.com. Click image to enlarge
In many cases, parts dealers can be a good resource for rare or unusual parts as well. If they don’t sell the product, a good parts dealer will in most cases point you in the right direction. Getting to know and being loyal to your parts person can help as well.
I have found that if the parts dealer is an enthusiast as well, they are more likely to help and throw in some good advice, which in some cases can save you money in the long haul. On the other hand don’t be discouraged if they say it doesn’t exist. In one case, a parts supplier told me the part wasn’t made any more and with a little searching I found that their competition did in fact carry the part I was looking for. Now if a dealer doesn’t have it shown in his catalogue, don’t hesitate to ask for what you are looking for. Sometimes small parts are just not worth putting in a catalog when it is a small low cost item.
As for rubber parts on older vehicles, I have found newer reproductions to be better. Rubber seals and bushings that sit for a long time can dry and crack even if they are still sealed in the package. In many cases newer rubber seals are made of better material which are more durable and last longer.
In the case of tires, I definitely go for new. Old tires are drier and just don’t hold up over the long haul if driven on. Now, if you just want a tire for a static display, old tires can be just great.
One last piece of advice I can give is to write down your contacts in a notebook. I have lost too many good contacts to my memory. It just takes a second to write it down and its well worth it. On the same subject I always bookmark web sites where I find parts as well. You can always edit out the sites later if they don’t have what you need.
Unless you are on a deadline or need the part right away, I find looking for parts for your vehicle half the fun. Over the years I have made many new friends in my search for parts as well as many good contacts.