One of the greatest joys in owning an old(er) classic car is working on it yourself. One of the greatest pains in the rear in owning an old(er) classic car is working on it yourself. Being a mathematician, I thought it best to summarize, in a formula, the level of angst one might encounter when working on a classic car in the United States:
PITA Score = Age of Car * (1 / Production Volume) * Distance from Detroit
Of course, there can be several adjustments to this equation…perhaps you need to factor in “Your Own Stubbornness of Insisting on Self-Repair”, “Lack of Garage Space and Proper Tools” and of course “Expendable Income” variables. All of these explicitly apply to the very-close-to-my-heart Range Rover Classic. Over the years, I personally have owned quite a few of these. That disease has spread to other family members as well, my in-laws (times 2) recently fell ill to the classic car epidemic that apparently has an epicenter located directly at my home address.
Most parts shopping is done online now in the specialty car market. Facebook, forums, parts guys that you have their personal cell phone number to…you can eventually find what you are looking for. But the reason the PITA score works is because parts get harder to find as the model year ages. Parts cars become scarce and you enter into the world of “Unobtanium”. You know it when you’re there because you either A.) never get a reply on your forum post for the needed part or B.) your parts guy “LOL’s” you in a text saying “good luck, and if you find one buy one for me”. That’s never what you want to hear.
My brother/sister-in-law recently had the pleasure of traveling to this dark place soon after taking the RRC Challenge. A rear window regulator failed on their 1995 Range Rover Classic long-wheel base. Quick history lesson on the RRC, they imported them into the U.S. from 1987 – 1995, and 1995 was the last year made anywhere. To add to the scarcity, the ’95 MY was a one-year run of what’s called the “soft dash”…they changed the entire interior that year so those parts are quite difficult to find. And even more so, there is a mid-year split in VIN numbers for certain parts like the aforementioned window regulator. Does it make me want one less? Heck no, quite the opposite actually…that’s when you know there is no vaccine to help you.
The following is the mostly unedited story about such an encounter with the unobtanium world…written through the eyes and pen of my brilliantly talented 13-year old niece, Lucy.
Range Rover Classics are an incredibly cool car to own and drive, but given their age, they can try even the most patient of owners. My dad was recently putting something in the backseat of his car and he shut the door a little too hard. The window pane was knocked off its track; we could hear the motor running but the window wouldn’t move up or down. So despite our cool car, we soon found ourselves driving around town with a plastic trash bag over our window for the next month. [this is where I would usually insert a great picture of a RRC with a trash-bag over the window but alas there is no evidence]
After a little internet research, we took it to a local shop for help. After taking the door apart, it was obvious the window regulator had snapped in half. Fortunately, the auto shop was invested in the repair and spent a great deal time on the phone seeking replacement parts. Days turned into weeks as multiple parts were tried without success. At the same time, my dad and Uncle Stephen [that’s me 🙂 ] worked tirelessly speaking to many Range Rover specialists searching for guidance on where to find the much needed part. There was great confusion over the part number because it turns out that we have a split year model and nobody has seen a window regulator like ours. As a last ditch effort and almost jokingly, my dad asked if I could use the 3D printer at school to make a new part for our car. I felt like I was up for the challenge, I knew who to ask for help, and I felt we could deliver on his request.
I asked my school Librarian and director of the “Maker Space”, Mr. Will Glass, if we could work together. He was eager to help and was excited about the project! My Dad glued the two halves of the piece together so we could take the necessary measurements to create a new part. Mr. Glass ordered the plastic filament which also happens to be the same material that LEGO uses. Together, we used a computer program called TinkerCAD to virtually construct the blueprint. I used a caliper to measure the various aspects of the part while Mr. Glass combined 3D shapes on the computer to create a scale model. Our model was produced and surprisingly took just 7 minutes to print!
My dad went directly to the car shop to see if it would work. We were all really eager to throw away the trash bag once and for all! The mechanic took the door off and popped our new piece right into the track. He said it fit perfectly! Within minutes, our window was not only working but it was moving up and down smoother that it had before. We produced additional copies just in case the other windows snapped, which is always a possibility in a car this old. I am so happy I had this opportunity to have a cool project like this to work on.
So there you have it…the making of impossibly hard to find parts and a classic car lover is born (maybe). The disease is as hereditary as it is communicable…my kids will one day inherit the Classic and appreciate it as I do, even if they currently see it as “the old car that kinda smells funny”. Thanks to Lucy for reminding us that when we think we’ve hit the darkest of places in classic car repair, someone somewhere has a solution. Look for Window Regulator Track Sliders soon in our Daily Gear Store.