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Need shop recommendation in Chicago area

Matt Harwood

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I recently sold a 1951 Lincoln Cosmopolitan to a guy in Chicago. The car ran and drove great when it was here, but the temperature gauge was broken. New owner has now decided that the car surely runs on the ragged edge of overheating (never mind that the gauge stays pegged on HOT all the time, even when the engine is off and has been sitting for a month). The day it arrived, he drove it through Chicago traffic at rush hour in 90-degree weather and the car started to stutter but never stopped running. He parked it and the next day he said it wouldn't start at all and he called to say it was badly broken. Then he said everything was fine it was running great, but the cops kept pulling him over. Now he's saying that it runs OK but not as well as he would like and would like us to fix it. I suspect I'm dealing with someone who barely knows which end of the key to insert, so diagnostics are problematic since we don't seem to speak the same language.


Since I'm someone who stands behind the cars I sell, I agreed to fix it and told him I would send a truck for it and we'd bring it back to my shop. He doesn't want that, he wants someone local.


So I need someone in the Chicago area familiar with flathead Fords (this Lincoln has the 337 flathead) to diagnose and see what's going on and if anything is broken, fix it. I'm footing the bill, whatever it is. I suspect that it needs new gauge sending units and an electric fuel pump to combat vapor lock since the owner will apparently be torturing it with Chicago rush hour traffic in 90-degree weather.


Are there any shops familiar with cars like this that you can recommend in the area? Thanks!







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Can you please tell us what the "stupid" is when you figure it out?

Regarding a shop, there is a little hole in the wall shop called John's Place in Elkhart, IN. It's about 1.5 - 2 hours away. He's a grumpy old SOB that grew up in that era. Knows most of the mechanics of the cars back then. He may be able to help & then you don't have to haul it back to Ohio.

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  • 2 weeks later...

So the car is back and I can find nothing seriously wrong with it, although there was a large puddle of what appeared to be red anti-freeze under it on the trailer. It seems that they drained out the 50/50 mix that we put in it and filled it with straight anti-freeze, possibly because he was freaking out over the engine overheating (it wasn't, but the faulty gauge said it was hot so he panicked). I'm guessing the same idiot mechanic who told him his Studebaker had to have catalytic converters (and charged him $8000 to install them) also told him to put straight anti-freeze in it to cure the problem. It won't, it will run hotter. Anti-freeze is not nearly as good as water at transferring heat in the radiator. This would explain why it would act up on hot days and in rush hour traffic. The other stuff is probably explained by a guy not knowing anything about cars or chokes or anything else.


Nevertheless, it started right up and idled nicely coming off the trailer. I took it on a test drive and seemed fine. Ran it up to about 60 MPH and there was a bit of a stumble when I stepped into it at high speeds, so we'll look into that. I suspect the mechanical fuel pump is a little weak and it isn't delivering at high speeds or in hot weather. As long as it's here, I'm going to add an electric pump and replace the temperature gauge sending units. I suppose I should drain and flush the cooling system. Again.


So I'll spend a large-ish pile of money, plus $1600 worth of shipping, to fix non-issues that would be simple and cheap to fix locally if he would just find an honest mechanic. He insists his "guy" is "the best" but anyone recommending 100% anti-freeze and installing catalytic converters on pre-1975 cars is a moron, not "the best."


This is what people do to old cars. Think about it next time you're buying a car standing in some fool's driveway.

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