When choosing a classic car to buy, drive, and work on, an important consideration to make is the availability of spare parts. Working on a car can be very frustrating when it is difficult or even impossible to find spare parts. Rare parts also tend to be expensive. Here are four car models with a very good parts situation. They have one thing in common: they were built in large numbers, and three of them had long production ranges with minor changes, whereas the fourth has been in production for more than fifty years, albeit in several versions.
The Volkswagen Type 1, as it is officially called, was in production from 1938 to 2003. More than 22 million were built, and it succeeded the Ford Model T as most successful car until eclipsed by its successor, the VW Golf (in, at the time, four distinct versions), in 2002. There are usually two possible destinies for affordable cars of the people: they either get used up until forgotten, or they become legendary. The Beetle is clearly in the latter category. As the generation of people that had one as first car is now reaching retirement age, the Beetle is more popular than ever. Prices have been rising consistently.
The Beetle is a great classic car to work on: it is very easy to disassemble, the engine can be dropped after removal of four bolts. Being air-cooled, there are no coolant lines to be dealt with. The large production numbers and continuing popularity mean that the parts situation is excellent. Everything is available, at decent prices. And for those lusting for more power than what was originally available, there are many performance options.
The original Mini can be considered Britain’s equivalent to the Beetle. It was built from 1959 to 2000, with a production total beyond 5 million. The technical design is much more modern than the Beetle’s, which was practically outdated even at the beginning of its production run. The transversally mounted water-cooled engine with front-wheel-drive remains the blueprint for all modern compact cars. Like the Beetle, the Mini has always had a loyal following, and prices have risen considerably – this includes the late production fuel-injected Cooper models.
The Mini has always been strongly associated with motorsports, due to its successes in racing and rally. This shows in today’s parts availability, too. Racing with Minis is still popular, especially in Britain. This has lead to an abundance of aftermarket performance parts, including sixteen-valve cylinder heads. All other parts are available, too – so if you fit in a Mini and don’t mind the steering wheel angle, this likeable car could be a good choice for you.
Are the previous options not to your liking, do you prefer something sportier? Here’s another Brit, the MG B. It was built from 1962 to 1980, as roadster and coupé. Almost 400,000 roadsters were built, along with 125,000 GT coupés, . A smaller number of GTs was built with a V8 engine. There was also a short production run with the Austin Healey’s six-cylinder engine, the MG C, but the heavy engine was not a success. There were some changes made to the MG B during its 18-year production run, the most important being the rubber bumpers introduced in 1974.
The MG B remains one of the most popular classic roadsters, and as a result is still well supported with parts, which are plentiful and affordable. This includes conversion kits from rubber to chrome bumpers. Since prices for the cars themselves remain reasonable, too, the MG B is a good choice as classic car, both in roadster and coupé guise.
For those lusting for more power, there’s always the first-generation Ford Mustang, built from 1964 to 1973 in four versions. Almost three million were built in the ten-year production run, with 1965 and 1966 each seeing insane sales of more than 500,000 cars. Most numerous is the 1964 1/2 to 1966 initial version, with almost 1.3 million built, with power options ranging from an inline six to several variations of the 289 cubic inch Windsor V8, and three body styles: coupé, fastback, and convertible. The option list was very long, making it possible to completely customize the car to one’s liking.
The Mustang continues to be popular, and is probably America’s most popular classic car. Anything is available for first-gen Mustangs, including complete new body shells. With performance modifications becoming ever more popular (resto-mods), you can also get complete independent suspension kits and many, many engine upgrades, including improved cylinder heads. If you want to tinker with your car, the Mustang offers endless possibilities. This means that you need to be careful when buying a car, as not every GT out there was born as such. But there is plenty of choice and prices are still reasonable, so if you are looking for an American classic, the Mustang is hard to beat.