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11 vintage ads to inspire low-stress stay-at-home automotive activities

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Artwork courtesy of the Automotive History Preservation Society.

Even if you just glance at the news, your anxiety level probably elevates from the updates on the spread of COVID-19. Most states are currently under stay-at-home orders that keep us away from the workplace and our kids out of school. With that extra time in the house, you’ve likely already planned how to best take care of your family and yourself under the current conditions. And you may have played all the games you own, done all the puzzles, watched a ton of movies, and participated in other quality-time pursuits with your spouse and children.

If you’re seeking another endeavor, tinkering with your vintage project car, weekend cruiser, or show car can help pass the time, and you don’t have to leave your garage. However, since I can’t predict how sources for obtaining parts and supplies will be affected as the COVID-19 situation develops between now, as I write this, and when you read it, keep in mind that you may have to work with what you already have at home. If you’re anything like me, however, that shouldn’t be much of an issue. Weeks, months or, I’m embarrassed to admit, even years can pass between me buying parts and finally installing them on my cars.

Finding and organizing your past purchases and then using them to complete minor repairs and/or restoring small parts and assemblies to take your mind off of the issues of the day can be satisfying. Prefer something easier? You can prepare your car for when restrictions lift and cruising returns, and you may already have on-hand the maintenance and detailing items needed. Or you can just clean up the garage and/or work area for when you feel up to wrenching again. Easier still? Try simply washing your vintage car to lift your spirits.

If no one in your home has to self-quarantine, getting the family involved in whatever easy and safe automotive tasks you choose to tackle can provide teaching moments, reduce the effects of cabin fever, and get things done more quickly than when you work alone.

In the meantime, try to let go of some stress by recalling the simpler times depicted in the following selection of vintage car ads, and see if any of the suggestions that accompany them inspire you to work on your projects again. Just be sure to adhere to all the COVID-19 guidelines and restrictions including stay-at-home orders, and use your good judgement to keep yourself and others safe and healthy. You don’t want an injury that requires a doctor or emergency room visit, as you’ll likely be contributing to the overburdening of the healthcare system, while possibly risking exposure to the virus in the process. Keep the tasks simple. Big swaps like engines and transmissions are probably too ambitious to consider right now. Be sure to use any protective equipment each job requires.

Even if you decide not to move from the sofa after reading this, you can still devise a plan for what you’d like to achieve on your car in the future.


1964 Buick Special

If your driveway is a safe distance from your neighbors and the public, washing your vintage car can provide you with some welcomed exercise after being cooped up in the house. Look at how quickly these children are getting this 1964 Buick Special cleaned up (thanks in part to the photographer using a slow shutter speed to add motion blur when taking the photo). If everyone in your home is healthy, washing the car can become a family activity.


1965 Pontiac 2+2

Spouses make great car washing companions, too. Here’s a happy couple in the process of lathering and rinsing their eight-lug-wheel-equipped 1965 Pontiac 2+2 while having a little staged fun.


1979 Buick Regal

Buick seemed to think that scrubbing center caps of a new 1979 Regal with a toothbrush was a bit extreme. Today, some detailers may wonder why this owner wasn’t using a brush specifically designed for that job. You can easily pass the time by going beyond a simple wash and further detailing your car’s exterior, interior, and even the engine compartment if you are so inclined.


1978 Chevrolet Camaro Z28

Perusing all the small photos of the special parts that came in the 1978 Camaro Z28, and reading about their attributes in the ad copy, can aid in reminding you of areas that may need attention on your car without you having to crawl around or under it.


1969 Oldsmobile Cutlass S

If, instead, you’d prefer to get your hands a little dirty, you can examine the engine bay, chassis, body, and interior for worn items that are due for replacement or upgrading. Then, make a list of parts that you intend to purchase once things get back to normal. I know Dr. Oldsmobile is holding a piston-and-rod assembly to illustrate that he hand-selects them for W-Machines like the W-31 in this 1969 Oldsmobile Cutlass S, but I don’t recommend that you dig that deeply into your engine just to inspect it.


1966 Chevrolet Corvette

You don’t have to own a pristine 1966 427 Corvette, as shown in this Gulf motor oil ad, to know that changing the oil and filter at the recommended intervals is just good maintenance for your vintage car. Is yours due?


1965 Pontiac Bonneville

Pontiac used a 1965 Bonneville in this ad to illustrate how it tested rear axles. While you would never want to replicate that testing procedure, the lower photo can still remind you to consider when the differential gear oil in your car was last checked or changed, or when additional servicing of the rear axle was performed.


1979 Ford Mustang Indy Pace Car

This Motorcraft ad featuring a 1979 Mustang Indy Pace Car shows a litany of replacement parts. Springtime can be tune-up time. Spark plugs, wires, and other ignition components; air filter; fuel filter; and PCV valve, etc. are some of the parts you can replace if you already have them or can safely obtain them without going against any COVID-19-related orders. A tune-up now will get your vintage ride back on the road that much faster once the restrictions are lifted.


1956 Chevrolet Corvette

Is your garage as pristine as the example in this 1956 Corvette ad? I know it’s unfair to compare the cleanliness of what’s probably a prop background (What, no tool boxes?) to your real garage where real work gets done. But again, these ads are offered here for nostalgic entertainment and to provide you with a gentle nudge toward getting some things in order while being forced to stay at home.


1965 Rambler Classic

You can read a magazine or book to temporarily escape reality while relaxing in your favorite ride (with the engine off) even if it doesn’t have reclining bucket seats like this 1965 Rambler Classic. I’ve never thought of lounging out in one of my cars for that purpose, but it would be fun to do it while reading a vintage road test of it. Is the relationship between the seat, steering wheel, pedals, and shifter really as good or bad as reported? Is the instrument panel layout as improved as they said? Are the seats as comfortable as they were stated to be in the article? See if your observations align with the road tester’s findings.