How to Take Care of a Pre-War Car

Posted on by Mike Tourville

Owning, driving, and showing a classic pre-war automobile is a passion, and like all passions, you want to make sure all the time, money, and effort you spend results in a pristine car that run smoothly, not a rusted hulk fit only to sit in a barn.

Among car aficionados, “pre-war” can have different definitions. To some car collectors, pre-war means before WWI, which means cars built before 1914. Even using pre-war to mean before WWII, the cutoff dates can vary since war broke out in different years depending on the country.

In general, though, “pre-war” refers to an automobile that was made no later than 1939, and includes “veteran” cars built before 1904, “Edwardian” cars built between 1904 and 1918, “vintage” cars built from 1919 to 1930, and most cars built throughout the 1930s.

For collectors, some of the most beautiful and sought-after pre-war cars include those made by Rolls-Royce, Bugatti, Mercedes-Benz, Citroën, Alfa Romeo, and Bentley.

Cars from this era were the finest of their time—elegant, sturdy, reliable, and hand-crafted. They are quite different from modern cars, and require special care both because of those differences and because of their age. Here’s how to take care of your pre-war car.

Check Them Frequently

You may be used to checking the oil every 5,000 miles in a modern car, but pre-war cars demand much more frequent checks—every 500 miles at the most, preferably every time you drive it. Check all fluids frequently, including oil, coolant, and brake fluid.

Consider Your Coolant

Coolant is especially important in older cars, both when driving, because some older cars have a tendency to overheat, and in storage, when coolant should prevent the engine from freezing in cold temperatures. For more information, see Is Evans Waterless Coolant Right for My Classic Car?

Keep Them Clean

Dust, salt, and other impurities can corrode paint finish and eventually metal. Keep your pre-war car pristine by washing it thoroughly after every use, including all nooks and crannies and the undercarriage.

Protect Surfaces Inside and Out

Use wax and chrome polish to keep the outside of your car shiny and protected, and prevent the interior from fading and drying out by keeping the car out of the sun and using the appropriate creams and treatments for the interior type.

Store Safely

When it’s time to put your baby to bed for the season, store it in a space that is free from humidity or moisture to prevent corrosion, keep it covered with a breathable cover, leave the windows cracked to allow air to circulate and prevent a musty smell from building up inside, and start it up at least once a month to make sure it’s running smoothly.