I first got interested in old stuff back in the 70’s. A lot of the guys I rode with were into vintage motorcycles and so it didn’t take long before I had a couple of old bikes in my own cluttered garage. The first was a 1956 Norton Dominator that really had seen better days, but it was a cheap introduction to the vintage scene. Used and abused it needed everything from basic maintenance items to cosmetics such as a new seat pan and rust-free handlebars. I never did complete the restoration because I traded it up to a Dominator collector for a newer Norton Commando (the first of several). But what I did learn while I owned it were the arcane processes of the day involved in finding and acquiring parts for old motorcycles, whether OEM (Original Equipment Manufacture), NOS (New Old Stock), or after-market replacements.
The next step was to embark on a letter-writing campaign to a number of those businesses (most often in the UK) asking if they had the part you needed and at what price. This step usually took about a month before you got a response. And sometimes you’d go through 2 or 3 iterations before you finally tracked down what you needed. Then you’d send off a money order and wait for the package to arrive, hoping they hadn’t in the meantime sold the last one in stock and were waiting for a backorder (which happened more than once).
If all went well (which it hardly ever did) you could have what you needed in your hands in about 2 months. Which was when you realized you also needed a frippen to hold the widget in place and so the process started again.
And that was for a 20-year-old motorcycle – not ancient by any means.
Contrast that to today. I now have a 63-year-old outboard motor that needs a variety of parts – seals, coils, condensers, points, gaskets, impeller, etc. At 9 AM this morning I discovered the coils needed replacing. Enter Google. By noon I had the original and replacement part numbers and several sources of supply (including eBay, of course). A quick phone call to the local NAPA Parts store and the parts were on order, to be delivered by the end of the week. For a 63-year-old motor.
Ain’t technology grand?
I think I’ll put one of my spare computers in the shop – but that’s another project for another day.