Top 10 In­ter­change­able parts

Some cars are lit­er­ally greater than the sum of their parts. We look at some ex­am­ples of parts-shar­ing, from the ones which could save you money to the ones which may just sur­prise you!

Classics Monthly - - Interchangeable parts - WORDS JACK GROVER

One of the thorny is­sues of keep­ing an old car on the road is the sup­ply of parts. While some man­u­fac­tur­ers are bet­ter than oth­ers, at some point the parts desk at your lo­cal dealer will strug­gle to pro­vide parts for a car that’s 30, 20 or even 10 years old. And that’s as­sum­ing the man­u­fac­turer is even around any more! Mo­tor fac­tors and spe­cial­ist sup­pli­ers can con­tinue to sup­ply parts from care­fully-hoarded stocks or by go­ing di­rect to the parts man­u­fac­turer rather than the car maker, but even this re­source can some­times run dry. And what if your clas­sic never had much in the way of main dealer sup­port, or ex­isted only in small num­bers?

There is also the prob­lem of cost; the joys of de­pre­ci­a­tion mean that you can buy a clas­sic car that was a se­ri­ously ex­pen­sive and ex­clu­sive bit of kit when it was new for the price of a ba­sic mod­ern hatch­back, but parts costs don’t de­pre­ci­ate along with the value of the car – keep­ing an ex­otic car go­ing with­out a ready sup­ply of parts can be crip­pling.

For­tu­nately it’s pos­si­ble to source parts from all sorts of places thanks to the na­ture of the mo­tor in­dus­try. Few, if any man­u­fac­tur­ers, make all the parts of all their cars; they spe­cialise in de­sign­ing and mak­ing cars en masse but it’s not worth their time to de­sign and build sys­tems such as the brake, elec­tri­cal, ig­ni­tion and fuel sys­tems.

Trans­mis­sions are an­other spe­cial­ist field which many car mak­ers pre­fer to buy in from a ded­i­cated sup­plier. When choos­ing things such as brake pads, head­lamps and bear­ings, and even quite sig­nif­i­cant parts such as road springs, a man­u­fac­turer will of­ten ar­rive at a spec­i­fi­ca­tion and then choose a part al­ready avail­able from an in­dus­trial sup­plier. Each man­u­fac­turer will give these parts their own part num­ber and they’ll be sold in their own branded boxes and at their own price struc­ture, but if you know the code that the com­pany which ac­tu­ally made the com­po­nent then you can source iden­ti­cal parts from any source. Aside from the orig­i­nal equip­ment sup­pli­ers, many car man­u­fac­tur­ers will make use of their own ‘parts bin’ to save de­vel­op­ment and de­sign costs.

Large or­gan­i­sa­tions such as Gen­eral Mo­tors, Volk­swa­gen and Bri­tish Ley­land reused large quan­ti­ties of mi­nor (and of­ten not-so-mi­nor) parts from the bot­tom to the top of their car ranges. Other cars de­vel­oped via joint ven­tures or plat­form shar­ing can also find them­selves fit­ted with parts from sur­pris­ing ori­gins.

And this is with­out delv­ing into the myr­iad of low-vol­ume sports car mak­ers which are such as key part of the Bri­tish mo­tor­ing scene – the likes of TVR and Lo­tus lacked the re­sources to de­sign an en­tire car from scratch but ex­celled at tak­ing of­ten-hum­drum com­po­nents from else­where and us­ing them to daz­zling ef­fect. So this fea­ture is a brief look at some of these most sur­pris­ing (and, in some cases, most cost-ef­fec­tive) cases of cross-pol­li­na­tion.

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