Q. I have a 1969 Chevrolet
Impala with a 327-cubic-inch V-8. During winter, I garage it and start
it once a month and let it run briefly. Friends say not to start it and
then turn it off fairly quickly. Instead, they say to drive the car for
a few miles on a decent day. Would I damage the engine by just starting
it and letting it run for a minute or so? I recently rebuilt it and
want to keep it in good shape. Also, I own a 2006 Toyota, which has a
maintenance schedule that says I need not change transmission fluid for
the life of the car unless I drive under severe conditions, which I
don’t. Is the factory fluid that good? – M.M., Chicago
A. Don’t start the engine and then shut it off fairly quickly because that lets gasoline enter engine oil and dilute it. And contaminated engine oil can cause problems. Rather, veteran auto repair facility Caira Automotive in Chicago’s suburban Elmwood Park says it’s best to drive the car at least once monthly on a decent winter day until it reaches operating temperature. That allows crucial auto parts to warm up and no such oil dilution to occur. It also helps prevent gaskets from drying up and causing leaks. In the Chicago area, many owners of older collector cars generally store their autos from late October to April, when the weather becomes nicer. As for the Toyota, the maintenance schedule is giving correct advice. Have it checked at 100,000 miles, though.
Q. I’m no tree-hugger or “greenie,” but would like to make my contribution to improving the environment. As a motorist, what should I do? – E.N., New York City
A. The Car Care Council recommends keeping your present vehicle in decent shape and limiting the number of new cars you buy over the course of a lifetime. It also recommends reducing fuel consumption and emissions by using gas-saving tips, such as keeping tires properly inflated, replacing air filters and engine oil and making sure the gasoline cap is on tight. It also suggests “repowering” your car with a remanufactured/rebuilt engine with a good warranty that can give your vehicle new life “for about the cost of an average down payment on a new car.” Drawbacks to the advice: You’ll miss new safety and other features of new vehicles. And you’ll encounter increasing costs to keep the car reliable and safe, such as maintenance of’suspension, brakes and other components.
Q. What the heck is a “resto rod?” – G.P., Philadelphia
A. It’s a generally classy looking car from the 1930s to the late 1940s that looks stock or virtually stock--with a modern engine, transmission, brakes and other key components that let it run safely in modern traffic. The car also may have a modern interior and a few new exterior items such as modern wheels.
Q. I’m planning on a
long driving trip this summer and want to make sure the car never
overheats. I had a car that did that in college and it drove me crazy,
especially when I got caught in rush-hour traffic. – A.J.,
District of Columbia
A. Symptoms of engine cooling system wear include overheating, a sweet smell, leaks and a frequent need to add cooling fluid. Factors that affect replacement of cooling system parts include driving habits, operating conditions, vehicle type, coolant type and frequency of regular maintenance, such as coolant changes. Have the coolant checked each spring. Note that it contains additives that protect against cooling system corrosion.
Q. I bought a silver Avanti II with a black interior from Nate Altman, who headed the Avanti II operation in South Bend, Indiana, in the early 1980s. He told me you once owned the car I purchased and that it was the only Avanti II from the car’s factory with a five-speed manual transmission. The car was a jewel! I kept it well maintained and drove it to both coasts. It had 50,000 miles on it when I bought it, and I drove it 129,000 miles in four years before selling it for $15,000. Did you own this car? – D.L., Speedway, Indiana
A. I owned a late 1960s silver Avanti II with a black interior. I bought it used at the Avanti II factory from Nate Altman, who saved the Avanti after Studebaker dropped the wild-looking futuristic car when it went out of business in South Bend in 1963. Altman, who had been a successful Studebaker dealer in South Bend, then bought everything related to the Avanti from Studebaker and started the new “Avanti II” operation. But there are a few problems with your inquiry. For one thing, Nate died in 1976 from pneumonia after a vacation trip to Europe. For another, after thoroughly researching the car for an Esquire magazine article about it around 1970, I knew of no Avanti II from the 1960s with a five-speed manual transmission. Rather, the largely hand-built 1960s Avanti IIs had a Corvette V-8 and a four-speed manual transmission, although you could get it with an automatic. I’m not surprised at your car’s high mileage because the Avanti II was quite rugged with a no-rust fiberglass body and practically ran forever with minimal care. It’s still popular and continued to be built for years in updated form after Altman’s death.