It is a wonder that most of the antique automobiles still in existence today can be restored to their previous glory and new running condition, given that most of the replacement parts have not been produced in decades. This means that restorers need to be creative and meticulous in their restoration efforts. Never throw anything away. Always try and rebuild what you have.
nThe saving of old parts, however, can become downright scientific, as many components have special properties and finishes. Garage mechanics need to be well-versed in making concoctions for zinc chromates, nitrides, and other corrosion prevention coatings, and skilled in metal repair and lead forming, and even making parts like electrical connectors. And all of this must be brewed up in the garage to duplicate the finished look of original parts. If one actually travels down this restoration road, after some experiences, it seems that almost anything can be saved or reproduced.
There are a few pieces that, unfortunately, are out of the realm of common restorers. Parts like curved glass, special rubber products, and molded plastic components are a few that come to mind that probably take a real factory to produce.
Take a simple, but essential, ignition distributor cap and rotor. This is a wearing part that is essential to any internal combustion engine with spark plugs (found in virtually all antique automobiles) that needs to be replaced via a schedule of miles driven or time. As a distributor rotor spins around inside its cap, the electrical charges created from the electrical system degrade both the cap and rotor. Either the plastic becomes brittle and cracks or things like condensation, carbon build up, oxidation, and ionization cause electrical tracking. This leads to misfiring or no firing at all. Again, such a simple part that can cause hours of frustration when not maintained.
Back to the restoration of an antique cap, for instance. This is actually almost impossible once a cap and rotor have gone beyond simple repair, because these products were originally produced with thermoset plastics (back in the day known as Bakelite). Thermoset plastics are very resistant to heat, electricity, and vibration. But they are also very hard to repair. Additionally, the metal terminal parts of a cap or rotor used to conduct electricity are actually
molded into the cap in production. So, duplicating this part is usually not an option.
Fortunately, there are a few companies that specialize in producing such hard-to-find antique components as glass, ignition components, and rubber. For instance, Cooker Tire still reproduces many original tires and Peninsula Glass produces original glass shapes. Taro Manufacturing Company, Inc. is the last full-line manufacturer of Distributor caps and rotors in the United States. One more thing. Here is a list of some of the automobile manufacturers that have gone by the wayside: American Motors, Auburn, Buick, Cadillac, Chrysler, Checker, Cord, DeSoto, Dodge, Edsel, Frazer Nash, Hudson, Imperial, Lincoln, Mercury, Oldsmobile, Packard, Pontiac, Stutz, Studebaker, Turner, Tucker, Willys, Willys-Overland, Willys-Jeep, Yankee, and Woodill. To keep the supply of these hard to produce parts for many of these cars in the United States, insist on Made in USA.