A vintage car is exposed to the vagaries of time. The purchase of spare parts, whether they are commonly replaced parts or parts needed for restoration, is part of the life of its lucky owner. Sometimes these purchases turn into a nightmare. Faced with overpriced or simply unobtainable spare parts, the collector must establish a strategy, ideally even before buying the car. Here are three useful recommendations for the good management of your future spare parts purchases.
Establish a solid network of spare part suppliers
The classic car parts market is fragmented and specialised. There are a limited number of suppliers per make and model in each country. It is also necessary in some cases to buy parts abroad, in the country where the car was produced for example. This is also a way to get better prices.
It is therefore advisable to identify the main suppliers of spare parts for a model you wish to buy. It is important to know who these local and international suppliers are, based on their speciality and the type of stock they have. You will rarely find all the parts for a single model with one supplier. In addition, some specialise in the reproduction of spare parts, others in their restoration. In each case, the level of quality varies. This inventory ensures that you are not caught off guard when a breakdown occurs.
Make the necessary upgrades
Now that you have identified the main suppliers of spare parts for your car, you realise that some parts may be hard to find. Glass, headlights, bumpers, original tyres, electrical components…some are even impossible to find. There are reproductions that can help, but you will also have to consider some inevitable “upgrades”.
Thus, some tyre profiles are difficult to find, especially at reasonable prices. The Michelin TRX, for example, which was particularly innovative when it was launched in 1975, to the point of equipping a considerable number of sports cars in the 70s and 80s (Alpine A310, Ferrari Testarossa, BMW 5-6 series, etc.), is a very expensive tyre today. A change of wheel to the current standards make it easier to maintain the tyres of your old car.
Similarly, certain types of rubber, brake plates and fuses are simply no longer available, particularly for regulatory reasons. For example, asbestos brake linings are now prohibited. You have to accept that your classic car will not be fully original.
Trust in enthusiasts' clubs and spare parts markets
Finding a rare part is difficult, especially if you do not have identified a solid network of suppliers. It is therefore useful to consult clubs and associations of enthusiasts. This can be the beginning of a great adventure, because the passion for mechanics is easily shared, even across borders… The clubs form a precious link in the life of old cars. They guide enthusiasts and identify reliable experts. They know the right addresses, and will often be able to guide you.
Similarly, spare parts markets are held regularly. In a generally friendly atmosphere, they bring together enthusiasts who sometimes have the rare pearl in their boxes. These markets are found all over Europe, when the sanitary conditions allow it.
Finally, various web players are developing spare part marketplaces allowing everyone to propose spare parts. These are open to professionals and, sometimes, to amateurs who have a batch of parts. You will find spare parts on general online sales sites (such as ebay), certain sites specialising in the sale of old cars (such as bringatrailer in the United States, lesanciennes in France, erclassics in the Netherlands, oldtimer-markt in Germany) and other niche players, such as bakelit.eu, which brings together the offer of several suppliers.
It is hard to imagine the complexity of finding certain spare parts before you have bought a classic car. Some searches can take several weeks and lead collectors to prospect in sometimes distant countries. However, it is possible to anticipate difficulties by establishing a strategy before the purchase of a vintage car. In consultation with the clubs in your region, and possibly with your mechanic, it is useful to draw up a list of reliable suppliers and to consider the upgrades to be made (tyres, electricity, etc.) to make your life easier.