Sourcing Parts for Vintage Vehicles

With the world at our fingertips, you’d think finding parts for older vehicles would be a breeze. While it’s true you can often locate what you need online, you might find yourself faced with insane shipping and handling charges or lead times. So, what’s the best way to source parts for vintage vehicles, and which cars are easiest to shop for? Let’s find out.

Most Common Classic Cars

If you haven’t yet started on the journey of restoring or tinkering with a classic car, check out this list to see which ones are easiest to get your hands on. Being more common in the US, finding parts can be less of a headache.

  • Ford Mustang – 1960s and 1980s models specifically
  • Chevy Camaro – 1960s models
  • Pontiac Firebird – 1960s and 1980s models
  • Chevy Chevelle  
  • Oldsmobile Cutlass 
  • Pontiac GTO – 1970 and 1971 models
  • Chevy El Camino – 1970s models
  • Ford Model A
  • Chevy Nova
  • Mercury Cougar
  • Volkswagen Beetle

Got your eye on another make and model of vintage car? That’s ok. Through various channels, you can probably get information regarding the level of challenge you’ll soon be facing.

Best Airplanes to Restore

Are you more into vehicles that fly? Well, several vintage crafts are more commonly found these days, including:

  • Cessna 152
  • Piper Super Cub PA-18-150
  • Grumman Tiger AA5B
  • Mooney Executive M20F
  • Piper Dakota PA28-236
  • Beech Bonanza
  • Beech Baron 58
  • Socata TBM-700

Comparing the budget and time needed to restore a car vs an airplane is like comparing apples to oranges, but the methods for sourcing parts are largely the same.

Numbers That Count

When sourcing parts for older vehicles, whether a car, truck, or plane, certain numbers are vital to have. While someone may claim to be an expert selling parts online, YOU need to be the expert on your own vehicle. This means knowing the following numbers you’re looking for to ensure they’re the right fit.

How to Identify Parts You Need:

  • Part Numbers
  • Casting Numbers
  • Stampings
  • Date Codes

These numbers can all serve as identification that connects an elusive part to your vehicle’s specific make and model.

Where to Find Part Numbers

The best reference for finding any sort of ID number for parts is a factory parts manual for the vehicle in question. These can often be found online or at auctions. Something to keep in mind, however, is that part numbers may have changed over time, especially if a model was tweaked.

If you don’t have access to a manual with ID numbers, you can try searching online for photos of the part you need. Chances are you may find one that has numbers pictured, which you can use to help you on your search for sourcing vintage car or plane parts. If all else fails, bring the numbers you’ve found to forums and discuss with other enthusiasts what the likelihood is that a certain part will work for you.

Tips for Buying Parts Online

Whether or not you have any sort of ID numbers, be sure you never buy any parts sight unseen. Put more trust in online sellers who have photographed a part from every angle, or who are willing to send more photos upon request. 

That being said, what else should you look for when buying vintage car parts online?

Assemblies, Lots, or Bundles

Why settle for one part when you can get a bundle? For example, when looking for a replacement heater for your vintage car, go the extra mile to find one that has additional parts still attached. These assemblies offer the benefit of already having compatible parts, and they are often cheaper to buy together than separately from multiple sellers.

Listing Descriptions

There are common jargon and tactics used when used car or plane parts are listed online. Here’s what to look for in descriptions and photos:

  • As-Is: Parts haven’t been cleaned up or modified in any way and are likely as they were when first plucked out of a scrapped vehicle.
  • Cleaned without Refinishing: Part is clean and bare but otherwise untouched (not repainted, rust possibly still intact, etc…).
  • Cleaned and Refinished: Part is clean, and some repairs may have been made so it’s ready to install in your car or plane.

How to Sell Parts Yourself

Are you in the business of selling used car and plane parts yourself? How are you keeping track of your inventory coming and going? If you want to run a successful business, it’s important to have the right tools. Supply chain issues are more common these days, whether it’s for a brand-new vehicle or a vintage one.

Shipping and Logistics

Whatever you’re selling, you probably want a solution for managing your logistics. You can go low-tech and use a Google spreadsheet, or you can automate with third-party logistics. If you’re looking for more hi-tech solutions to managing your automatic or aeronautical inventory, Sequoia Group offers insight into how you can make your supply chain work for you (HERE.)

Team Up with Forums, Clubs, and Dealers

Buying or selling, online or in-person, forums, clubs, and dealers can make or break your hunt for used parts. Not only will you be able to get answers from other enthusiasts, but you’ll have access to items other members are selling or looking to trade.

Best Classic Car Forums

Best Plane Forums/Dealers

If you plan to fly your vintage aircraft, don’t ignore the Vintage and Experimental Aircraft Program that standardizes pilot certification through the FAA. You may be required to complete the program before being permitted to legally take flight.

Other Resources for the Auto Enthusiast

Don’t turn your nose up at your local mechanic, salvage yard, or auto auction. In-person hunts for knowledge and parts go a long way toward building your network. Don’t underestimate the power of having a trusted mechanic on your side, even if they don’t specialize in classic cars.

A seasoned expert, like one at Schulz Garage in Oregon, can end up being an excellent resource for understanding the basics of how a car works, and why you’re putting a classic car back together the way that you are.

You might also enjoy: Guide to Your Teen’s First Car