Running old cars today: how I use fuel injector cleaner and American parts to keep old workhorses going strong

Today I wanted to talk about my main hobby, passion, and as my wife would say, obsession: vintage cars. I’ve been collecting cars since I got my first real job, and I still have the first Thunderbird I ever owned.

Black Thunderbird car

So, why do I run multiple vintage cars?


First off, they’re so satisfying to drive. They used real motors back then, none of this eco-boost nonsense. Until you’ve heard the roar of a ‘50s Chevy V12, you haven’t truly driven. And since gas is so cheap right now, I don’t really have anything to worry about cost-wise.


Second, these old workhorses have a personality that you just don’t find nowadays with these indistinguishable hatchbacks and boxy SUVs. Sure, they’re not as practical for a road trip, but those designers actually designed. They didn’t just slap some plating on the sides of the frame.


Besides the looks and power, the one thing that keeps me coming back to my ‘50s and ‘60s cars is the fact that they’re pretty much indestructible.They’re also the easiest things in the world to maintain. I can’t tell you how many of those new little sedans my wife buys have gone kaput because of a crappy part, or because the computer failed.


There’s no computer on my cars, it goes without saying. When something goes wrong, it’s a physical part that’s easy to find and replace or repair. If you need tips for maintaining your car, just like how I do with mine, read on.

car interior

It keeps my cars on the road for decades longer than anything that’s built today and it gives me the chance to get to be a better mechanic, and to appreciate better how much thought went into these machines when they first went down the assembly line.


So, to keep mine on the road, I’ve taken a few steps. First things first, the upholstery had to go. Much as I love the rest of the parts on these cars, no cloth is going to stand up well over half a century! I’m really pleased with what I’ve done to the fleet. I found a restoration guy in Cincinnati who does a great job using upholstery that’s dead-on to what the original was. I’ll put up some pictures soon.


I also clean the hell out of the fuel injectors on any old cars I acquire. And I use an additive to keep it from coming back. Back in the day, nobody really thought about fuel injectors. They just burned through gas like nobody’s business, and it was dirt cheap. I can’t remember a single time my parents complained about gas prices before the ‘70s. And I’ve found that most old motors are actually fine in a mechanical sense, but they lose all their power since the injectors are all gummed.


Honestly, I know as well as the next person that injector cleaner looks like snake oil on the shelves at the auto shop, but it’s made a bigger difference in the overall performance of my fleet than any single mechanical improvement I’ve made. I think it’s safe to say that slow accumulation of crud is the most powerful car killer, and this is the stuff to clear it all out.


Anyhow, my experience is that blasting out the injectors gives a lot of those escaped horsepowers back the the engine, and it does get you some better mileage, although I would never exactly call a Thunderbird a gas sipper.


And, of course, you can’t be a vintage car driver without spending an arm and a leg on a beautiful new coat of paint. It’s a painstaking process to find the exact right color being made these days, but there’s no better feeling than getting it right. I spend months on each paint job, but when I’m done, I can rest easy knowing I’m going to wax and polish these beauties so I never have to do it again.


You get to problem-solve like a puzzle, and you can do it all yourself without having to have somebody look at a control panel, or call their tech support.


Anyway, that’s a little bit more about why I restore and drive old cars, and about my general process. Each car takes its own special care, but I have to say that each one is worth every penny I’ve put into them for sheer joy.
If you guys have any restoration projects to share, I’d be very excited to see them in the forum. Thanks.


By the way, don’t forget to check out my good buddy’s website for more car maintenance and repair secrets, and the best diesel injector cleaner.