parts availability - pre internet

Back in the old days (mid to late '70’s) I knew a fellow in Stephenville, Texas named Emil A Blanchard. ‘‘Doc’’ Blanchard was a Model T man- he had worked in the plants as a young man. He was born and raised around Fredericsburg, Texas by his German mother and his German accent was so thick you could cut it with a knife. Anyway he got a college education and became a professor, and after he retired he did Model T’s and was known far and wide. When I met Doc he was in his 90’s and still building T’s. He had a 1909 mother-in-law roadster, red, that was quite nice, I painted a '26 roadster for him in 1979 that was really nice. He had several other cars and several barns full of parts. He passed away at the age of 99, I believe. His niece and nephew inherited his cars, I believe. Anyway parts were a problem pre-internet. A decent pair of front fenders for a 26-27 T could cost you 600-900 bucks if you could locate them. A roadster spare tire bracket was rare as hen’s teeth, and the lid for a 26-27 coil box was the holy grail. lol Nowadays stuff we used to scour the countryside for is as close as your laptop. Building a T now is much easier than back then. And MUCH more expensive for most parts.

I did not realize that parts are more available now than in the past, but I am glad they are! There are people who rebuild carburetors, people who revbuild coils, and people who produce many other parts for T’s. Many parts crankshafts and camshafts are better than the originals. We are fortunate!

The people who drive,restore, or preserve Model T s have many good vendors and the internet is a few more bucks but if you need it you can get it… Model A s are also lucky in the same way.

All we are lucky ones.

On the other hand, I recall in the 1980’s in the San Francisco Bay Area having access to a number of old car wrecking yards I remember the Car Barn in Antioch, CA, Antique Tony’s Yard in Richmond, CA , Don’s Antique Auto in Niles, CA , and the Siino Brother’s Wrecking Yard in Pittsburg CA. Also there were many more Antique Car Swap Meets in Northern CA which collectively made parts and antique car collector interactions much more personal than internet messaging. The swap meets actually had early parts and a wide variety. There were local antique car publications like the Thompson Flyer given out at most of the swap meets of the day and the Scrounger Ads from Placerville that could be bought through a subscription and delivered to your door. Having access to internet photos of parts many miles, or states, away is not the same as spending a day trip to Mariposa and finding, out in the countryside, row and rows of vintage antique tin and parts waiting to be discovered. If you want a glimpse of the Siino Brother’s yard, which incidentally has been long gone since the last Siino brother passed away in the late 1980’s, get a copy of the movie Tucker, starring Jeff Bridges. the Siino’s Brother’s yard was used to represent an 1940’s wrecking yard from where Jeff Bridge’s character get’s his wreck which he used to built up his Tucker prototype. Given the lack of antique car wrecking yards, antique car swap meets, and local small time publications about all we are left with is E-Bay and the few key swap meets like Bakerfield, at least on the West Coast.

Nothing with the old stuff near my area. Going to have go out of state to find the nice old stuff.

Not living in the bay area, I never heard of any of those places. Here in Southern California, there was Classic Car Parts on Figueroa Street in Gardena. I used to work there in my teens and twenties, and they would pay me in Model T parts. There were a couple of rows of NOS T parts in the original bins to look at. The problem was Mike just let anyone roam through the bins, and much of the stuff wound up on the floor. I remember buying a perfect aluminum hogs head there with perfect lettered pedals for $35. His father in law, Johnny Edwards had a business up on Manchester called Henry’s and Lizzies. I was too young to have gone there, and all that stuff was moved to Gardena. They had dozens of racks of used T parts out in the back, in the wrecking yard all made of Model T frames. Those were the days!

The places I mentioned are for the most part long gone. Antique Tony’s daughters (heirs to the yard), I was told, weren’t interested in the old cars in the yard and so they were sold and all hauled off as scrapped. Mr. Siino’s son held a special sales of the cars in his father’s yard. I was there for that sale and was gathering up as many 1930’s era parts as I could before the scrappers came. I remember seeing a relatively complete “cut off” (into a pickup truck style) Packard 120 sedan being mercilessly run through with a fork lift to be stack on a truck to the scrappers. I still have some photos of the Siino Yard and Antique Tony’s but I wish I’d taken pictures of the yard owners. At the time I was interested in the cars and not recording the history of the yards. I’ll have to post a few when I’ve got time. It was incredible to see 1930’s and 1940’s cars stacked four to six cars high. Each car was like an individual time capsule.
I guess in the back of my head, at the time, I never imagined them passing away until they actually did. It was like, one week going in, talking to them and buying things from them, and then the next week the gates are locked and the news trickles out that they’re gone, and then weeks after that word get out the family’s are sell off what’s in the yard.
The farthest south I went on my old car part safaris was to Turner’s Yard in Fresno, CA. I don’t know if it’s still there or not since that was about 20 years ago. I came away with a 1918 Buick Modell EE engine/transmission assembly. The farthest north (California) I went the Iron Horse Wreckers in Lewiston.
Those were some of my Pre-internet experiences, of course now I rely on the few swap meets that currently exist but seem to be growing extinct, and switching my interests to more plentiful Model T parts, away from early Buicks. I’ve had some not so fortunate experiences in obtaining parts on the internet. Thank goodness for our reproduction parts suppliers and the local Model T Club Chapters.

Prior to the internet, I relied on expeditions to Bob’s outside Rockford. A few of us would drive out to Bob’s Antique and share our shopping lists as we drove. We would leave early, arrive before lunchtime taking advantage of the one hour time zone, and then search every building. The ride home was longer.

I also remember Doug Macintosh maintained a copy of my needs list and would occasionally be delighted to find an old part sitting on my porch delivered by UPS.

My first trip to Hershey ended with me planting my face on my driveway after I fell out of my truck. my legs gave out from the walking and my van smelled like an old sock when I got home. Luckily I had Golden Almond bars for my wife and she helped me stand up.

The internet changed everything and I found out there were more companies selling parts. Looking back on the adventures is still fun.

I think that the internet has made purchasing from vendors incredibly more convenient to order parts and track their delivery times. I guess I’m easily impressed but I like on-line tracking of shipments through FedEx, UPS, and the USPS. I’m not entire sure that the internet has made me that much more aware of vendors though. I do enjoy accessing catalogs easier and updates on pricing is up to the moment on-line. In the pre-internet days I relied on Hemmings Motor News, the Cars and Parts magazine, as well as the monthly publication of the car club I was in at the time to locate my mail order vendors. It did take time to request catalogs and to wait for parts to arrive. I suppose I could have telephoned vendors during the pre-internet days though to speed things up a little. But then Swap Meets were much more productive in those days for pre-war parts, I wasn’t relying entirely on mail order vendors as much as I did local parts sources. Also back then, when it came to hardware and electrical bits and pieces, it seemed like local store were better stocked and had more informed staff than today. Radio Shack carried more practical repair items and less toys, Hardware stores actually had knowledgeable counter people, and the local autoparts store often had in-store machinists. Many of the local machinists shops and speed shops have closed over the years. We’re left with O’Reilly’s and Autozone chain stores. We didn’t seem to need all the specialty vendors available on the internet now because local brick and mortar shops had many old car needs on hand.