It's a classic

As technological developments continue at a pace, will the classic car repair market suffer?

Published:  08 September, 2014

If I showed a Nokia 5110 to a teenager they would probably ask what it is. If I told them it was a mobile phone, they may laugh and will probably ask how many apps it has or whether it is 4G enabled. Technology moves at a frightening pace and older components are quickly forgotten. If you want that Nokia repaired you would need a specialist.

According to data from a recent report, there are around 3.5 million vehicles in the UK over 13 years old. While many of these will be late 90s or early 2000s, there are still a considerable number that could be deemed as classics.

I have a couple of examples myself, both from a roadside repair company. An old Ford Escort was cutting out a few minutes after starting. The guy who attended couldn't repair the car and his reason was he didn't have a diagnostic tool for the vehicle (this being before OBD). Therefore he made a couple of suggestions and left. Thankfully a competent garage a few days later detected a Lambda sensor fault. A couple of years later, another cutting out problem but this time on a Mk2 VW Golf. The guy who attended, I won't deny he was an older chap, instantly recognised the symptoms, cleared a blocked fuel line to the carb and fitted a filter.

Top Technician winner Mike Harding is aware of the complexities surrounding classics. His business specialises in working on these vehicles, with his father Malcolm taking charge in this area. The workshop has a unit dedicated to classic car servicing where they can be stored while parts are awaited.

Mike comments: "The skilled labour when these cars were originally out on the road is no longer available for the older vehicles and becoming less and less as technicians retire, so those of us in the industry have to learn about them too. They are a lot simpler in their design and their task is a simpler one but, we still have to figure out the faults and process of repair. Its interesting work and it's nice to have the variation in our workshop, plus it's nice for the guys in the other servicing areas, as they are often in there having a look at what we have in."

It could be that classic servicing becomes more and more the mainstay of the engineers rather than the technicians. There will be no wiring diagrams to follow and no technical information on hand to back up the tracing of faults. So could engineers begin to play a crucial part in the fixing of these cars? Older engines are just machines, no computer gadgetry to control injectors and alter fuel usage based on the speed, so when viewed from this perspective, engineering experts would be able to recognise certain issues and recommend fixes.

Therefore will the servicing of classic cars move into a very specialist sector? There are already garages who announce that they can work on classics but how do they define classics and how soon will it be before anything pre-1995 is considered as such?

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