How to Keep Your Collector Car Alive

April 1, 2009 | By Ted Kade

AT AUTO RESTORER, we believe that vehicles are meant to be driven, not stored and trailered. Author and collector Josh Malks feels the same way about vintage cars and trucks, and he’s come up with a book designed to help people enjoy their collector vehicles the way they were meant to be enjoyed—by taking them out on the road whenever possible.

“…Americans spend many millions of dollars each year buying and restoring machinery whose intended purpose was transportation, then consign that machinery to suspended animation under a car cover,” Malks said in the introduction to his book, “How to Keep Your Collector Car Alive.”

“Ironically, this is done in the interests of preserving these artifacts of another era. In practice, it’s destroying them.

“Idle mechanical devices deteriorate. Seals dry up, brake fluid congeals, rust begins to form. Cars that are started and idled only occasionally suffer the additional damage of acid corrosion.

“Even more important than the effect on the car is the effect on the driver,” he goes on to say. “Every year in which you miss the fun of driving your prize is a year less in which you’ll be able to do it.”

But using a vintage car or truck on a regular basis calls for maintenance and repair, along with the consideration of updates that will enhance your safety and enjoyment levels when you place a vehicle that was engineered and built decades ago into a modern driving environment.

So Malks covers a range of topics including the use of modern fuels in older cars, filters and the methods for adding those that might not have been included on vintage vehicles, updating automotive lighting, tire choices, dealing with rust, reliable starting with 6- or 12-volt systems, brake systems and the different types of fluids available, safe methods for lifting your car when it comes time for maintenance and restoration projects, and tips and insight regarding the safe operation of your vintage vehicle when you take it out on the road.

As you well know from your own experience, seldom is there universal agreement regarding the best approaches and products to use when it comes to repairing or modifying a car or truck, and Malks has consulted with a number of experts in addition to calling upon his own skills and understanding for this book. Where he found differing opinions, he reported on others’ viewpoints as well as his own.

And does Malks practice what he preaches about keeping a collector car in top condition and using it regularly? Well, he has owned a 1936 Cord 810 Westchester sedan for some time now and the California resident said that “at least once a week” his car “goes out for exercise.”

“Admiring passersby often ask: ‘Aren’t you afraid to drive it?’” he reported. “Nope. As a matter of fact, I’d be afraid not to.” —Ted Kade

Motorbooks—400 First Ave. North, Suite 300, Minneapolis, MN 55401;; ($25.99)