A look back at car longevity

A friend recently posted a picture of his early '50s car odometer turning over 100,000 miles. Not really a big deal in this day and age right? Au contraire mon ami.

It may not be a big deal for any car built in the past 20 years or so but for a car built through the '60s or '70s it is quite a feat.

I contend that there is not a car built in the past 20 years that won't last indefinitely given a minimum amount of maintenance. Change the oil and filter every 5,000 miles or so and you're golden. Tune ups? Most cars are scheduled for tune ups every 100,000 miles (and a tune up means replacing the spark plugs). It wasn't always that easy.

Cars used to call for a tune up every 12,000 miles. Many shops recommended both a "winter" and a "summer" tune up. These usually included not just changing the plugs, ignition points and condenser but the thermostat and coolant. Twice a year.

Lubrication and oil changes were almost a monthly chore. And it wasn't done by some know-nothing kid. The average car had about a zillion grease (Zerk) fittings. There were lubrication guides so that you knew where to look and how often each spot should be greased. There were fittings on rear suspension springs, generators, water pumps, u-joints, front suspension, steering - all over. Then there were oiling cups on the distributor. You had to check the oil level in the manual transmission and differential. An oil and lube job might take an hour to perform correctly.

Then there were the motor jobs. Valve jobs were common, maybe every 30,000 miles or so. Rings and bearings might be needed before the 100,000 mile mark. And by 100,000 miles the cylinder bores were worn enough to require a rebore.

No one gets all excited now when the odometer rolls over 100,000 miles, and rightfully so. But be thankful and treat your car to the proper maintenance and it will last for a very long time.


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