Maintenance and gear

Five must-have mods for your classic car

by Kyle Smith
28 July 2021 3 min read
Five must-have mods for your classic car
Photo: Kyle Smith

Our beloved cars and trucks were perfect the day they left the assembly line. Well, sort of, if you consider how manufacturing has improved decade after decade.

Yes, time marches on, and everything from engineering to materials science moves forward with it. Originality is one thing, and preservation for many is a worthy pursuit, but practical upgrades can go a long way to making an older car more enjoyable. Tasteful tweaks to aid the reliability, durability, and fun factor of your vintage ride might well make you more likely to keep driving it often.

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We asked the Hagerty Community what modifications are just downright too handy to pass up. Here were your top five answers:

Electronic ignition

Adjusting and maintaining a set of ignition points is not a difficult task, but is downright tedious compared to the “set and forget” of most electronic ignition systems. The maintenance simplicity might be what most folks use to justify their purchase, but electronic ignitions also provide a more stable spark thanks to the modern sensors employed to trigger the system. Electronic ignition provides a more consistent and accurate spark across the engine rev range.

The best part? Often, an electronic ignition module can be hidden underneath a stock distributor cap. Better function, same looks, best of both worlds.

Upgraded brakes

Cruising speeds have gradually risen over the years, which means most vintage cars are under-braked for average road conditions. Remember – stopping the same vehicle travelling twice as fast takes three times the distance. Adding braking power helps, yes, but the real determination comes down to tyres. You can only stop as fast as your rubber will let you.

Assuming your tyres are healthy and fresh, it is not hard to wear out a set of ageing brakes. Modern disc conversions allow more stops before fading which helps in traffic. Drums can be – and are – a perfectly safe design, hence why they can still be found on some vehicles in production. However, if a disc conversion makes you feel safer and allows you to enjoy your car the way you want to, there’s no reason to cling to your drums.

Regardless, seriously consider upgrading to a dual-circuit master cylinder. This setup separates the front and rear braking circuits and retains braking power if a problem were to occur with one line or fitting.

Electronic fuel injection

Holley fuel injection
Photo: Holley Performance Parts

Carburettors had their day in the sun, and there is no doubt that they lend a degree of character and mechanical simplicity to any vehicle. At their best they are finely crafted machinery, but at worst they are little more than a point of frustration.

The efficiency and drivability gains are nothing to scoff at when ditching your old-school carb and bolting on a computerised fuel injection system. And, self-learning systems wipe out the need for advanced programming skills. Hide a four-barrel look-a-like under a nice air filter and enjoy cruising more with better throttle response, improved fuel economy, and sometimes even a bit more power.

Charging system

Alternator generator
Photo: Kyle Smith

Modern drivers demand more amperage than any vintage generator was built to produce. Between charging devices, running headlights and taillights all the time, and big-watt electric fans to keep engines safe, it becomes tough to keep a charge in a battery. Judicious use can keep a generator happy, but the conversion to an alternator is often easy and removes any worry from the driver’s mind.

Alternators are more efficient and thus can create more current at low rpm – like when cruising in city traffic with that big electric fan running. There are even rebuilder specialists who can take your generator and convert it to an alternator to keep a stealthy stock appearance.


Dynamat under carpet
Photo: Kyle Smith

Cars today spoil drivers and passengers by nearly completely isolating them from the outside world. Vintage audio and air conditioning systems were less robust, which means they can use all the help they can get to make the most of what they’ve got.

Adding insulation under carpets or behind door panels helps keep interior noise down and also help the heater or air conditioning keep the occupants comfortable. It’s tough to find a drawback to adding a dash of comfort.

Via Hagerty US

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  • Andy Gill says:

    Sorry, but the first “must haves” ought to be rear fog lights and hazard warning system !

  • Nick Evans says:

    I ‘m an auto electrian repairing or rewiring classic cars and motorcycles. After 50 years or so most need a new loom just so they don’t breakdown or worst catch fire !

  • Andy Yolland says:

    Hi Nick are you in Suffolk my A35 needs a rewire

  • Doug Rice says:

    Andy Gill,what the hell areyou talking about?Rear fog lights,hazard warning system.I assume your kidding.😂😂😂

  • Anthony Saunders says:

    If you reallty want electronic ignition, disc brakes, heater and even a leak free roof, just buy a modern car and forget the real enjoyment of an original classic/vintage car!!!

  • Ken says:

    My 41 willys truck has all power accessories, air conditioning, power disc brakes, overdrive, v8 fuel injected with jag irs and cruises at 75 mph with no effort!

  • Johan van Wyk says:

    Hi, I agree with the ignition and alternator for reliability. I would like to add fitting relays to the lights, keeping the standard 55/60W halogen bulbs. This makes night driving soooo much better, and gives you extra stopping distance.

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