Taking Care of a 56 Year Old Car

A lot of miles for something to go wrong.

Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton

One of the most common questions people ask me is this: “What tools and spare parts are you taking with you since you will be mostly on back roads and in small towns?” There are two elements in the question and they ought to be handled separately. The first element is the inherent though not directly stated assumption within the question…”When (Never if…) you break down or have a mechanical problem…?” Why is it assumed that I even will have a breakdown? I mean it is a simple car, well maintained and I won’t be pressing it particularly hard so it seems like a bit of a jinx to even ask the question doesn’t it?

Well, I am usually optimistic about equipment failures, but even I know the odds are that something will go wrong, and as Murphy says, at the worst possible time. That probably means in a torrential rainstorm in one of the few places I will be in major traffic. So, I will set up a betting pool on where and what the failure will be. If you wish to play, send me an email with your bet amount and if we get enough I will give half the pot to the winner and the other half to Roundup River Ranch. I’m serious, this isn’t a joke!

Now, back to the rest of the question; tools and spares. I won’t be taking any spare parts with me other than a set of points in case my Pertronix ignition fails so that I can continue on my way. The reason I won’t be taking any spares is simple…it is never the part you have with you that fails. All one does when taking spares is to carry extra weight and I don’t need any extra weight. The corollary to the spares law is that taking spares implies a lack of faith and the car knows this. “Aha,” the fates cry, “this faithless traveler deserves to feel our contempt, and we shall smite him!” Besides a breakdown occurs within any part you do NOT have with you. My feeling is, why tempt the fates? I have complete confidence in my little old car, yes I do!


Nonetheless, I have made lots of simple roadside repairs and have thus developed some coping skills with things that can and do go wrong. If something is loose, I would need something with which to tighten it. Or, loosen it if too tight. For this I will have:

  • Socket wrench with Metric and imperial sockets
  • Metric and imperial open end wrenches
  • Screwdrivers Flat blade and Phillips
  • Hex keys in metric and imperial
  • Vice grips
  • Crescent wrench

Then, of course, I may also need to attach something to something else and for this I will have:

  • Baling wire
  • Duct tape
  • Zip ties

Sooner or later, something Lucas could rear its ugly head and I would need to repair or bypass the place where the smoke escaped, after finding that spot of course. For that I will need:

  • Voltage tester
  • Test lead
  • Wire stripper, cutter, crimper
  • Ring and spade electrical connectors
  • Regular and Needle nose pliers
  • 18 gauge wire in a couple of colors

The other requirement for forward motion besides the electrical is, of course, gasoline. So I will have with me a gas can, funnel and siphon. Along with the things that produce combustion is the ability to actually roll so I will have an air pump with pressure gauge which is part of my cordless drill and charger set so I may as well bring drill bits along in case I need a hole. Oh, and if something seems amiss, a great diagnostic tool is the temperature scanner to see if something is too hot or too cold.

After all the repairs of course, there is the cleanup and restoration of the mechanic. This may require:

  • Rags/shop towels
  • Nitrile gloves
  • Waterless hand cleaner
  • First Aid Kit

And, if all the skeptics out there are actually right, I shall bring the rescue element – a Tow Strap!

Finally, as my wife reminded me, I will have the two most important tools any traveler must carry – A cell phone and a credit card!

About Me

Hi, I’m Ross and I’m a tripoholic. I love driving especially in my old cars and then writing about the adventure that always follows. I’m old enough to know better but that doesn’t stop me. If you like stories of the road, every word true no matter how far fetched it may seem, then grab a beer or a cup of coffee and join me!

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February 2021

4 thoughts on “Taking Care of a 56 Year Old Car

  1. Shoot Ross, by the time you were done listing the things you were bringing, I think the only thing left in my garage/shop is a welder! But I guess since the Lotus is largely fiberglass that may qualify as overkill.😳 Steve


  2. Ross,

    Sounds like you have the tool side covered. I would make just one suggestion, as an ex-long distance driver of odd stuff. I’m sure you have a list of favorite suppliers for your parts. Put an emphasis on suppliers from the west coast. I once needed a part at 5:00 PM in Laredo, Texas, but only 3:00 pacific time. The only way to get it shipped the same day was to order from a California warehouse instead of my known place in Dallas. Had the part before noon (Next Day Air). List as many suppliers as you could need on the west side. Good luck when you are in that time zone. Safe travels.


    On Sun, Feb 14, 2021 at 8:46 AM Cross Country Elan wrote:

    > xcountryelan posted: ” A lot of miles for something to go wrong. Good > company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton One of the > most common questions people ask me is this: “What tools and spare parts > are you taking with you since you will be mostly” >


    1. Thanks Mark,
      I do have a west coast supplier, Dave Bean Engineering, but that is not all. I also have the luxury of no specific deadline to be anywhere so if I need to wait a day or so for a part it will be OK. As I have said before though, I trust my little Elan to make the trip intact!!


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