One of the main issues faced by classic car owners is locating the right auto parts. These days, most automobile part stores don’t have items for classic cars. These establishments typically only have auto parts for newer and more popular automobiles. And even if you went to the manufacturer that made your classic car, it’s still a challenge to get the part you want – original classic car parts aren’t in production anymore. So, what do you do as a classic car owner? In this article, you’ll discover precisely that and more.

When You Can’t Find Parts for Your Car

Getting replacement parts for modern cars is a cinch. You visit your local auto parts shop and pick what’s required off the shelf. However, it’s not the same for classic cars since they were built decades ago. Finding classic car auto parts online is a massive challenge that’s pretty tough to overcome.

Nevertheless, you can increase the likelihood of finding the part desired by doing any of the following.

  • Join a local classic car club to potentially find hands-on help or other car owners that may have the part you want. Other members of the club may also know where to buy classic car restoration parts online. Some may even have the same type of car you own.
  • Attend car shows and auctions to potentially find parts or even identical classic cars that are on sale.
  • Learn about the best online sources for vintage parts.
  • Consider modern-day equivalents to the classic car part you want if the originals are nowhere to be found.
  • Attend swap meets in your locality to find enthusiasts that may have the auto part you need. You may find all sorts of parts and accessories for older cars at these events.
  • Check out a local salvage yard for auto parts. However, you’ll need the patience necessary to go through tons of cars to find the perfect part.
  • Use the Internet. There are many great online classic car restoration parts dealers and warehouses, such as Anderson Restorations (a-resto-parts.com), a suspension and steering parts supplier. “We only handle products that meet or exceed OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) specifications and offer a 30-day return policy, says Anderson Restorations”. If you research hard enough, you’ll find many reasonably priced OEM and aftermarket suppliers for your classic.
  • Consider using an auto part locator to find classic car restoration parts. These organizations usually have a vast network of car part recyclers and manufacturers, making it more likely you’ll find the desired part.

The Difference Between OE and OEM Parts

OE (original equipment) parts are identical components to the ones first used to create the vehicle in a factory. That’s what you get whenever parts are bought at a dealership. However, most car parts aren’t produced by the manufacturer anymore. Instead, auto manufacturers source parts from external providers, and OEM refers to these vendors that make parts for auto manufacturers. But is the quality the same for OE and OEM?

Quality: OE vs. OEM

Classic car owners care a lot about quality – when a car needs repair, people want to install the best possible part. For many enthusiasts, it’s all about buying OE parts from the dealer. But there’s little difference in quality when it comes to OE and OEM. The only real difference is that many classic car parts are branded with the manufacturer’s logo.

So you can find good quality OEM parts and for less money. If you know who supplies the parts to the manufacturer of your car, you may contact the business directly. Then read the part number of the equipment and order it from the OEM supplier.

Worth pointing out is that while there’s barely any difference between OE and OEM parts, you should seek trusted high-volume OEM suppliers. Try not to buy OEM (and OE) parts from individuals on eBay you can’t trust or as open box items since those can be returned goods. There are many counterfeit parts in circulation, even with factory boxes and stamped logos, so beware.

Aftermarket Parts

You can’t discuss OE and OEM without touching on aftermarket parts. If there’s no dealer network or a way to buy OE and OEM parts for your classic, your only option besides decent-quality used parts is Aftermarket parts. That refers to parts produced by any other manufacturer (not OEM or OE).

While aftermarket part manufacturers like using terms like “OE spec” or “OE quality,” there’s no compliance mechanism. That means there’s no regulation or way of enforcing the meaning behind those terms, so you should do your research. For example, you can visit classic car enthusiast forums to inquire about the given supplier and learn about past customers’ experiences.

Furthermore, some aftermarket manufacturers have OE contracts, so these vendors must meet rigid quality-control standards. Yet, you can never be sure that a part is a direct fit unless the classic car restoration parts dealer has a rigorous merchandising program.

Otherwise, you may have to deal with quality-control issues, such as the following.

  • Sub-par axle and CV assemblies
  • Giubos or flex discs that crack
  • Heater control valves that start leaking after a year
  • Horrible fuel senders and radiator switches
  • Headlight replacements with an internal adjustment mechanism that breaks
  • Condensers that fail after a few miles of use
  • And much more.

NOS Parts

NOS stands for ‘new old stock’ and refers to never-installed, old, and unused OE or OEM parts. NOS parts can be the highest quality parts you can find for certain things like shocks, body panels, cylinder heads, and engine blocks. But for others (e.g., suspension parts), getting something that’s been sitting on a shelf for many years isn’t recommended since the part hasn’t been exercised.

The Struggle is Real

At some point, automobile companies typically stop supporting cars, so finding classic car restoration parts is such a challenge. Even though car enthusiasts prefer genuine dealer parts, the chances of getting what you want are super slim. That leaves classic car owners with the options of OEM, aftermarket, and NOS parts. If you can’t find a quality replacement part for your classic, consider repairing or fixing and preserving the current parts. Some shops or restorers have the skills needed for such an approach.