Journal: Would You Own an Orphan Car?

Would You Own an Orphan Car?

Michael Banovsky By Michael Banovsky
April 6, 2015
33 comments

My taste in cars tends to border on the obscure, with a number of orphan marques on my list of vehicles I want to own…someday.

Orphan marques, you ask? It’s simple: they’re brands that no longer exist, meaning owners of Tatras, Panhards, Duesenbergs, Saturns, and other car companies are on their own when it comes to repairs, spare parts, historic documentation, and other nice-to-haves as a vintage car owner. They’re not essentials, of course—there are plenty of pre-war cars around running and driving…they’re just not often 100% original.

I owned somewhat of an orphan with my 1985 Citroën 2CV Charleston, as the automaker had long since pulled out of the country. The local Canadian Citroën club was my one and only resource, and they were exceptional, helping to source tires, provide technical help, and organize fun outings. I hate to think of those who don’t have such a great resource or help nearby.

Have you owned a vehicle originally made by a now defunct automaker? What lengths did you have to go to in order to keep it in working order? Did a local club help out? I find these sorts of stories fascinating…

Image Sources: silodrome.com, oldcarmanualproject.com, conceptcarz.com, wired.com, conceptcarz.com, spa-sofia-liege.com, allpar.com, crosleyautoclub.com, shorey.netara-news.fr

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S.K.SteveLittlefieldSteven DibdinAndrew Caffasstoffel Recent comment authors
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Steven Dibdin

I seem be death to certain Marques. Shortly after I purchased my first Rover they went belly up. Seven years ago I started an affair with, you’ve guessed it, a SAAB. Between my wife and I we drive two SAABS and a Rover. I’m thinking of taking bribes from rival manufacturers to purchase cars.

Punkgoose
Punkgoose

There are a number of orphan cars I’d love to own. I am trying to make my next car purchase be an interesting orphan car.

stoffel
stoffel

I own an Ockelbo, and I think it might qualify as an orphan car. Though my Swedish car is based on a 1953 Austin Healey, it had a Volvo heart and drive train. No manuals, no books… I had to research the history of Ockelbo and contemporary race cars to find solutions to the many challenges while bringing it to life again. A lot of people thought it was impossible: Indeed it was a very challenging restoration, but it was worth every minute. I hope you agree… 🙂

Rodrigo Almeida
Rodrigo Almeida

I drive a 1974 Puma GTS. The brazilian company automaker bankrupted in 1992. The mechanics is quite easy to maintain. The tiny details like top fabrics and badges are not so much.

Rodrigo Almeida
Rodrigo Almeida

78′ I meant…

Luc Bonachera
Luc Bonachera

I’ve owned two Saabs, a 900i and a 900 Turbo. No problem whatsoever, parts are easy to come thanks to a few of well-known websites.

Baskingshark
Baskingshark

I also have a Saab, a 9000 Aero. The Aero-specific parts can sometimes be hard to find. When another Aero showed up in a wrecking yard recently, it was stripped to a bare shell in the first weekend!

Derelict
Derelict

To the point about Lenos garage, that is on a whole other level there. Sure, if you go back to the pre war stuff, unless it is a big car company, like Bugatti, Merc, etc… parts will be hard to come by. BUT, to those people interested in brass era cars or small shed built car company cars, they knew that parts were hard to come by getting into it. I can guarantee that the question of whether or not to own an orphan car never, ever crossed his mind. When I said that there really arent any orphan cars,… Read more »

S.K.
S.K.

How is a Suzuki an orphan car?

Dan Glover
Dan Glover

Patrick makes a good point. I own a 1974 MGB. It may be technically ‘orphaned’, but, to continue the metaphor, it has been very fortunate in its adoption. Not only are parts much more easily accessed now then they would have been back when they were still being produced (thanks to Moss Motors, Victoria British, Clark & Clark, etc. and of course, thanks to the internet), but there are many improvements available for MGBs which, if added, make the cars safer, more reliable, better performing, etc., than they ever were off the production line. The same is true for Minis,… Read more »

Dan Glover
Dan Glover

Sorry, Jarod makes a similar point above as well…hadn’t read his comment. However, I would disagree with the take that there are no orphans at all. There are some cars where a person has to fabricate or manufacture one’s own parts to keep cars going (see Jay Leno’s garage). Also, even if some parts are technically out there somewhere, I would say that if the only place one can get parts or service is on another continent, or even on the other side of one’s own continent, that qualifies as orphaned. Imagine if your parents left you 40 years ago… Read more »

Derelict
Derelict

I really do not consider MG to be an orphaned car. Just about any piece is available for it. It has such a strong aftermarket presence. I had zero issues getting anything for my 58, 72, or 79 MGs. I do not have an issue with orphans necessarily but parts supply is something that I do keep in mind. I love Isuzus but parts are drying up here in the States for them so I am not too sure I am willing to have to order some things from Australia. I do not think that there are truly any orphans.… Read more »

Stephan P
Stephan P

I would consider all three of the brands I own Alfa, Lancia and Fiat as orphans. None of cars have any factory support and there has not been a meaningful U.S. presence in many years. Even though Fiat and Alfa are back the new dealers have no interest in their history. In the case of Lancia I consider the brand dead as their products now are just badge engineered.
I’m thankful to faithful aftermarket companies that allow me to keep my cars on the road.

Vincenzo Prencipe
Vincenzo Prencipe

One year ago I bought my very first car which is a 1985 Autobianchi a112. Until now the car has proven itself very reliable, even though i use it every day. When I need specific parts they are usually sourced from a Abarth specialist in the area. Of course the parts aren’t always very cheap, but given the experience while driving it, especially as a 18-year old, it is totally worth it!

Colby James
Colby James

I love my 1962 Studebaker Daytona, simple and easy to work on, and haven’t had any trouble finding parts.

Sid
Sid

I own a ’68 Firebird. That qualifies doesn’t it? It’s an easy orphan to own.

Mike Mazoway
Mike Mazoway

I learned to drive in a 1966 SAAB 95 2 stroke. I had a bunch of other stuff but went back to SAAB from 1982 thru 2011. Overall I have owned 11 SAABs. I just could not buy one more when the company was on such shaky ground. I do have another orphan though, an MG-B that is waiting for the good weather to arrive.

tim foster
tim foster

I’ve been moderately obsessed with Crosley automobiles for nearly 20 years. For a couple of years in the late nineties a 1949 Crosley was my only car- my daily driver. I drove it to school, to work, and even on a[url=”http://www.sacfreepress.com/crosley/crosley1.html”] 700 mile road trip[/url]. Lucky for me, [url=”http://servicemotors.net”]parts[/url] were pretty available, [url=”http://crosleyautoclub.com”]club support[/url] is super-solid, and the car itself is about as easy to work on as you can get. And let me tell you, it is really nice to be able to work on an engine that can be lifted out of the car by hand. These days… Read more »

Michael Schlenger
Michael Schlenger

I am the happy owner of a 1933 Licorne L760, a large sedan from a once renowned French marque which produced quality cars until 1950. The vehicle is complete and authentic in every respect: it still has got its original paint, the interior is well preserved and tidy, the body structure is intact, the engine is running, brakes and 12V electrics are working. The only piece that is missing is the knob of a window handle… This venerable car is a true time capsule which I will not “restore” but simply keep in its present “oily rag condition”. Exactly 2,000… Read more »

SteveLittlefield
SteveLittlefield

Mike: How would you source a head gasket for your Licorne?

Robert Ryan
Robert Ryan

I drive a properly orphaned 1960 Hillman Minx Series IIIA convertible. It is tremendous fun to watch people figure out what it is.

SteveLittlefield
SteveLittlefield

I owned a 1959 Hillman Minx in 1969. It had a 4 speed on the column. In 1971 a friend & I took a 2000 mile trip with his ’59 Minx. It used a quart of oil every 200 miles and gave me carbon monoxide poisoning, due to the hole in its floor. But the car made it all the way home. I haven’t seen a Minx in decades. I would love to see one again.

Patrick Frawley
Patrick Frawley

Depends on just how “orphaned” one might be. Can products from shuttered divisions get serviced and repaired at still-extant dealers? Mercurys and Plymouths were essentially trim packages on corporate platforms. Not so sure about Saturn S-cars, though. Past that, the big concerns are age and complexity – in the sense that older is better. Would I go for an MGB or a Spitfire or an Alfa Spider? Sure. The cars are simple and straightforward and fairly easy to maintain and repair, and the current support situation is probably even better than when BL or Alfa Romeo were going concerns in… Read more »

Rene Borggreve
Rene Borggreve

I haven’t time or space for a classic car. February 2014 a bought a 2007 Saab 9-3 convertible, which isn’t a classic…yet. I has only driven 62.000 km’s and only needs maintenance, not repair. We use it as a second car in the family, besides a modern BMW 3-series Touring. In winter we use the Saab as little as possible and it sleeps in our garage. I am convinced that parts will be available when necessary, by specialized garages or Saab clubs. An uncle of mine has a Rover PB5 from 1971 has no problems to find parts at all.

Paul Reimann
Paul Reimann

What is the car in the bottom left hand picture?

Josh V
Josh V

1950 Saab 92

Anders Bilidt
Anders Bilidt

I still miss my old ’73 Sunbeam Imp Sport immensly!!
Not to mention my old ’69 Triumph 2.5PI mk. I saloon.
Both so called orphans, and great classics.
But having ticked thise two boxes, I still dream of a Panhard 24CT not to mention a two-stroke bullnose Saab.

Michael Schlenger
Michael Schlenger

Hello Anders,
If you are in to the Panhard 24 CT you might like the attached picture I took at the 2014 autojumble in Lipsheim, France.
This eccentric car is really difficult to obtain even in France, but it is worth every effort.

Kind regards
Michael

Paul Hughes
Paul Hughes

I own three Swedish orphans. ’03 Saab 9-5 Aero wagon, ’97 Saab 9000 Aero (5 sp manual), and a low mileage Classic ’94 Saab 900 Turbo convertible (5 sp manual, last of the pre-GM 900s). Granted, these are “recently” orphaned, and the parts business is still relatively healthy. So far, I’ve had no issues finding parts, even for the 900, and I have a great Saab mechanic here in LA. Luckily they are all rust free and haven’t needed any rare junkyard sourced parts. I hope to keep them all for a very long time!

Darcman
Darcman

Panhard still exist, even if they don’t make civil car anymore.
http://www.panhard-defense.fr

Jared East
Jared East

I have a late model Pontiac GTO that I love very much.

William J Sisti
William J Sisti

My car is only about 20\% orphaned. I drive a 1973 Innoecenti Mini 1001. Most of the car is the same as its British cousins, but some of the electricals and body panels are unique. The key to success has been minimani forum and eBay.it for some of the more hand to find unique parts.

Michael Schlenger
Michael Schlenger

Hello William,
Nice to meet another “Innocentista” here. You are right, the Minis built by Innocenti in Italy feature many unique details, among others the front grille, the steering wheel, the instruments etc. In particular the Mk. 1 models made in Italy have become quite rare. Nevertheless, Innocenti Mini owners benefit from excellent spare parts availability, as regards the mechanical side. Mine is a 1967 Innocenti Mini Traveller Mk.1, one of only approx. 2,000 built.
All the best
Michael