Hooniverse Asks- What’s the Most Awesome Part Substitution You’ve Ever Come Across?

Parts

One of the great joys of owning an older car – and even some not so old ones – is finding a solution for replacing a worn part that’s either clever, frugal, or better yet, both. For example, I found that the rubber weatherstripping on my old 240Z was withered with age, so much so that were it a person it wouldn’t be doing any stripping at all, weather or not. Back in the day, Datsun felt that gluing the rubber cushions to each door frame and the hatch surround was the way to go, and aftermarket replacement pieces replicating the original go for hundreds of dollars a pop, and still require glue to be held it in place. There had to be a better solution.

It turns out there was. I found it while trolling about in the many Z-car forums, and I think I came across my ultimate solution in just such a place on the Classic Z Car Club. What someone there had discovered was that the profile of the clamp-on rubber from an early Kia Sportage is a perfect match for the Z. Not only that but each of the Kia’s doors offered more than enough linear footage to do those on the Datsun coupe. It even works on the hatch! Instead of spending hundreds of dollars and days trying to glue the OEM-style stuff in I spent a few bucks at the U-Pull-It yard and an hour or so cleaning the jams and rubber malleting the Kia stuff in place. It works like a charm.

That’s just one example of a brilliant substitution for an expensive – or potentially no longer existent  – part that was a revelation to discover. There are many more of these as there are two things car people tend to be: resourceful and cheap. If you align with either of those attributes what other substitutions have you heard of, or have used yourself? What is the most awesome part substitution you’ve ever seen or heard? 

Image source: Chanda Ranga

77 Comments

  1. The OEM Bosch intercooler pump on a Syclone is a couple hundred bucks at the dealer (if they still have any) and will break if you look at it funny.
    A water pump designed for RV sinks is about $60, has better flow specs, and with some creative fabbing of a mounting bracket and wiring adapter, will probably be the last one you buy.

  2. Not AWESOME in the normal sense, but awesome to have found out.
    The door pins and bronze bushings on a Geo Metro are prone to wear. Honestly, I don't think anyone at GM or Suzuki ever thought folks'd still want to drive this car twenty years later. So at about 10-12 years of age, the driver's door starts to sag, won't open easily (which leads to the driver's door exterior handle breaking), won't close completely (high-pitch wind whistle at speed). Annoying.
    So. You could go to a junkyard and get another set of hinges, but might end up with exactly the same problem. Or you could machine a new set of pins AND bushing, which is a real pain in the ass. Or pay someone to machine them for you, which means you'll pay a hundred bucks for something that oughtta cost twenty.
    Then some smart guy on a Metro forum discovered that the door pins and bushings from a 91 Pathfinder fit like a glove, and cost $7.50 per door. Yeah, buddy!
    Now, if I could find me a a substitute for the driver's side exterior door handle. . . .

  3. Replacing the rag joint and steering shaft on a GM B body with a lower steering shaft from a Jeep Cherokee. I found this while following the Buford T Justice Caprice on Bang Shift to give credit where it is due. This is pure genius.
    Who finds this stuff and what is the thought process?
    http://bangshift.com/blog/driveway-tech-how-two-s

    1. In the days when auto parts stores had actual catalogs instead of looking things up on a computer, some of those had specifications, so you could look up measurements and find alternative parts that would fit. When the lift struts failed on my '76 Vega, I had the parts guy look at the specs for lift struts, and found I could use struts from an early 2000s J-Body (Cavalier/J2000). The stroke was slightly longer, but they fit.

  4. Fuel pump relays on a Volvo 240 were under-designed and weak from day one and are a recognized pain in the ass, to the point where Volvo geeks recommend always keeping a spare in the glove box. The main fuel pump pulls more amperage than the relay can really handle and the solder contacts come loose on its circuit board, causing failure. New ones are $25 to $30 a pop, not readily available at parts stores and don't seem to last any longer than the originals.
    After going through 2 or 3 relays and being stranded several times, I'd had enough. I took a 30 amp Hella fog lamp relay and wired it so it is triggered by the factory fuel pump relay, passing power to the fuel pump directly from the main power junction. 5 years later, I've not had a single problem. If the Hella relay craps out, replacements are available most anywhere for around $10. I keep spares of both relays in the trunk just in case.

  5. A mechanic friend of mine told me a chevette heater core would ba an exact fit in my old 740 volvo. Instead of buying the oem part new you could head to a pick n pull and get a used oneand it would outlast the new o.e.m part. As I live in the rustiest of belts I never did find a chevette and since I only planned on keeping the car for another month I never bothered to investigate or even change that core so I dont know if he was right or not. Said mechanic specialized in volvos so Iam inclined to believe this swap to be possible.

    1. Not just the core, but the entire heater box and blower motor were gm supplied. (AC Delco as I recall) We used to get new motors from the local Chevy dealership for about 1/3 the cost of the Volvo OEM part.

    2. I'd like to hope this is true, because although I never had the heater core fail in my old 740, I do know that those cars are built around the heater core and blower motor, almost as much as the 240.

  6. I've become pretty darn good at this. Both my street "project' car and my race car are Frankensteined with lots of bits from other cars. I'll give one example:
    My LTD originally came with 2 fuel pumps – one low pressure in tank, and one high pressure on the frame rail. The high pressure pump goes right where the second muffler would on a dual system (hey, yesterday's question!). I wanted to convert my car to dual exhaust but there was no easy solution for the fuel pump situation. Thankfully, lots of Fox body cars DID have dual exhaust, so I was able to scavenge the hard fuel lines, brackets, and fuel filter bracket from a Lincoln Mark VII and install them on my car in place of the stock plumbing. I then discovered that the high pressure in tank fuel pump from a 3rd gen Camaro fit almost perfectly into the stock LTD fuel pump hanger. So I was able to accomplish this with all factory parts.

  7. The rare import Daihatsu Rocky comes standard with a 50 amp alternator that is a small case ND unit. Retrofitting other alts into this vehicle require grinding or custom brackets. The easily available mid eighties Camry has a small cased Nippon Denso alternator just like the Daihatsu. except it is rated at 60-65 amps. Bolt-on replacement for a hard to find vehicle.

  8. My latest wasn’t really a substitution, since the OEM part number and markings are identical.
    When I bought my GTO, the driver door courtesy light was missing its lens. I toyed with the idea of buying a replacement, but asking prices on ebay were within 10% of a new one, and it just wasn’t a critical enough part to justify $30 for a tiny piece of plastic. It wasn’t until I took a shot in the dark and looked for the same light, but from a Catera that I decided it would be worth replacing. I bought a pair of the lights (they are interchangeable left to right) for less than what anyone was asking for a single GTO light. I didn’t even know for certain that they would fit my car, but they looked the same in the photos. When I received the lights, the housing was molded from black plastic instead of gray, but the mfr part numbers were the same as the one I pulled from my car.
    So, if any of my fellow GTO owners ever loses or breaks one of their courtesy lights, I recommend looking for Catera lights, instead. Conversely, if anyone has any Catera courtesy lights they need to sell, they would be wise to list them as GTO door lights.

    1. On the same note, the exterior door handle on the Catera is the same as the GTO, except the Catera handle is metal, where the GTO one is crappy plastic…

  9. Volvo 760 "mark 2" blower motor. If you look it up in any catalogs they claim that the correct replacement part is a Siemens blower motor that's not cheap. The original blower motor however is an AC Delco unit that can be found in such luxurious vehicles as Chevrolet Cavalier or Oldsmobile Alero. Autozone has those for $40. I believe the 740 one is also an AC Delco unit from a B-body.
    I'm inclined to believe the Chevette heater core swap too. Volvo had insanely high OEM requirements for things like rubber parts but they didn't hesitate to buy stuff from GM, Chrysler (Canadian built 240 ignition system) or Renault if they needed to.

    1. My friend spend some years driving a late model 850 wagon. He concluded that "Volvo is less than the sum of its parts", referring to the fact that parts sourced here and there don't always add up. I think his remark was a bit too harsh as the car was more than adequate, but I admit it must be frustrating if knowing the exact model, year, engine and trim level are not enough when buing spare parts. You still can have (mutually incompatible) brakes from 2 or maybe 3 manufacturers.

  10. Replacement for a 944 front valence that has been abused, bondo'd and ratty is $300 on a good day. On the other hand, brick edge at Lowes was $7. The stainless hardware cost more than that.
    Before the aftermarket came up with a '05 to '09 Boss fog light delete for $100, I discovered $10 6" speaker grilles fit perfect.
    Also- Volvo keys = MG keys.

  11. Scarebird brake kits for old cars. I changed the crazy, unavailable, 4-piston each brake caliper set up on my 1965 Marlin to a GM caiper with Ford Ranger rotors, and still was able to use the 14" original wheels.
    Now, this isn't the cheaper, easier method, but it's a great way to upgrade pretty much any old car to disc brakes.

  12. Oil filter for an Infiniti J30 fits the Honda ST1100.
    Also, the front wheel of a GOOF2 (600F2), fits said ST1100, for better tire choice.
    Sure, I had to shim the front disc, but it wasn't anywhere near as difficult as I expected.

  13. This comes second-hand, so I can't stand by the accuracy of it, but years ago I had a friend who was into older Harleys. He owned a '47 Knucklehead and found out something interesting while restoring it. A Harley shop would charge something like $3 for a spark plug and over $200 for a magneto (this was back around 1980). He found out, however, that the local Ford tractor store/shop (yes, we had a Ford tractor store locally) sold the exact same spark plug for $1, and the exact same magneto for $30. When I said "exact", I mean just that, right down to the same part numbers. Apparently, Harley used Ford Tractor parts in their bikes back then.

    1. Harleys always did seem agricultural to me.
      Not that I have much room to talk. One of the last parts I bought for my KLR650 was a carburetor slide/vacuum diaphragm assembly. Kawasaki wanted $140-ish for the part. It turns out that an old model of Sportster also used Keihin CVK40 carbs, and I was able to get the exact same part (except for its coming wrapped in H-D packaging) for $40-ish.

  14. Did you know that the tail light lens on a Laverda RGA1000 motorcycle is exactly the same as the tail light on a Cagiva Alazzurra motorcycle? Have you ever heard of either of those?
    Did you know that before the internet I had to spend almost a year looking at every motorcycle tail light in the city of San Francisco before the slightly less unheard of Alazzurra literally backed right up to where I was standing?

      1. Spend a year wandering around 'Frisco looking at every motorcycle there is…
        The Googles, they make things easier…

      2. Reading and filing every magazine article you could get your hands on, memorizing microfiches, constantly rummaging through parts bins just see what the contents looked like, and staring at [in my case, motorcycles] for hours on end.
        That's why I had a very secure position behind the parts counter. Not that I got paid a living wage, mind you, but I could choose to work at whatever bike dealer in town I liked.

    1. I remember the Cagiva Alazzura but not the Laverda. Back on topic BMW folklore is that early 80s R100s use the same electronic ignition box as a VW Dasher.

  15. Somebody in my neighborhood has an RV with headlights that are definitely off a 97-05 Buick Century, but since it came like that from the factory, I'm not sure it qualifies as awesome.

    1. On roadtrips, one of the games my son and I play is to determine the source of the lights on RVs.
      Buick lights- that's new. We'll have to look for that one.

      1. The weirdest I've seen has been Olds Alero headlights, if only because they had to do some convoluted styling to fit them on a flat front.

        1. It could be the same model! I'll be durned if I could tell Alero headlights from Century headlights in isolation. I just said Century because that was my first thought – and Google supported it. Next time I drive past I'll be looking at those lights more closely.

          1. Going by the picture, it's actually a different one I saw, the front of the one you posted is much more cleanly styled. The one I saw had to do a lot of character lines because the headlights were not upright, making it look silly.
            The difference between Century headlights and Alero headlights is that the Century lights are a bit more upright.

          1. Super-useless powers, then. Got it.
            Thinking too much about those sorts of Buicks makes me doze off pretty quickly.

    2. I have a 1999 Fleetwood Bounder diesel 40' RV, and the headlamps/turn indicators are off a 1992-1998, or whatever it is, Ford Econoline.
      Unfortunately, even though they've oxidized and sunburned to put out effectively no light, they're inexpensive to replace.
      I _think_ they may be replaceable with 2004 Exploder headlights. No lens fluting, cut reflectors.

  16. Front lip from a 3rd gen. Renault Espace is almost a direct fit on Audi 200 20V bumper. Same bumpers were fitted to other C3 Audis but only on US models.
    http://forum.group44.de/viewtopic.php?f=6&t=4
    BTW, the oil cooler in many turbo Audis incl. 200 20V and urQuattro is no longer available, but a VW Type 1/2 oil cooler is identical if you take the bolted mounts from the original cooler.

  17. A common bolt-on big brake swap for non-tii BMW 2002s uses 1977 320i vented rotors, 80-83 320i hubs, Volvo 240 calipers, and an E12 5-series master cylinder. 320i rear drums are larger and also bolt on.

    1. Where as on an E30 you can use VW Corrado G60 front discs and Mazda RX-7 four piston calipers. You need to get/make a fairly simple adapter for the calipers and enlarge to disc center hole though.

  18. So while all you geniuses (no, really, I mean that) are rattling off known, obscure fits. Maybe one of you can help me out.
    It seems Chrysler issued a TSB for the AC on my '02 Grand Caravan that involved changing at least the compressor, condensor & discharge hose. My hose seems to have sprung a leak, and I've discovered that the TSB work has NOT been done on my van. Every part store in town lists only the new hose, and the dealerships say that CryCo doesn't make the original hose at all anymore. Are there any epoxies that will take the pressure of the AC system or are there any other bits and pieces from somewhere else that are a known fit?
    As my contribution, the '99 era Dakota & (Grand) Caravan tail lights are the same unit. Maybe not so awesome, or even a huge revelation, but handy to know when wandering the pull-a-part.

    1. Chryslers from 1990-2008ish used a lot of interchangeable parts. I know the 1996-2000 minivans can take the urethane bumpstops from the late-90's Heep Cherokees, which is a nice upgrade from the rubber ones that fall apart after 30k miles.
      As for the AC hose, get the part number and have your friendly helpful guy at NAPA cross-reference it. Though, knowing the platform for the 2001-2008 minivans is 95% the same as the 1996-2000's, look under that year range for a similar replacement part.

      1. Tried that – got one for a '00 4 cyl. It fit, except that the fittings are directional, and they would have shot the hose off in all the wrong directions… 🙁

        1. Hm, I know the I4 Voyagers (the base model) had a couple of differences compared to the V6's. The AC system might be one of them, since it was technically an 'option,' not standard equipment on them. Did that hose have the same part number?

          1. No, nothing similar in the part numbers. It just looked similar to the picture of the old hose my wife texted me because I forgot to take it with me. Close but no cigar.
            Any chance some epoxy might hold it, or are there repair kits that acutally work?

          2. AC stop leak and similar is just really good at clogging up the condenser/evap core or doing bad things to the compressor. It's better just to replace the hose and all of the o-rings, put in a new filter/dryer and slap it back together to get evacuated and refilled.

      2. Also, don't hold back, tell us how you really feeld about those late-90's Heep Cherokees…
        🙂

          1. Simgund Frued. Viennese pioneer of psychiatry. Particularly studied the adult psychoses of people who felt a yearning and loss that hteir mothers had not taught them to spell. Or type. Or something like that.
            You've probably heard him mentioned in the well-known phrase "Fruedian silp".

          2. I should have added a /snark tag. It's spelled “Freud” not “Frued”. Just me being pedantic.—– Reply message —–From: “IntenseDebate Notifications” <notifications@intensedebatemail.com>To: “craigsu” <csummerville@windstream.net>Subject: monkey_tennis replied to your comment on Hooniverse Asks- What’s the Most Awesome Part Substitution You’ve Ever Come Across?

    2. I'm guessing you are trying not to have the TSB work done?
      Just because the part doesn't exist on a shelf doesn't mean you are SOL. A decent hose shop should be able to make one for you, using your old hose as a model. Even if the fittings are discontinued, they can re-use the old ones or junkyard replacements–it is likely the rubber part that is leaking.

      1. I'm trying to avoid the TSB because I'm assuming it will be pricey, though I haven't gotten a quote. I did think about getting a quote on recreating the hose from the existing one, just hadn't gotten that far down the road yet.
        Yesterday, my son & I scoured Pick-A-Part and Pull-A-Part looking for a van with the old hose. Didn't find any, but we did find one with the new style hose. Pulled the new hose & put the old one in there – fits like a glove. Seems ChryCo decided to add about 5" of steel tubing in a tight u-bend right above the condenser end connection for no obviously apparent reason. So, I now have the new style hose ready for installation. I could have had this installed last weekend, but since the parts quite obviously didn't match, I just assumed that it wouldn't fit. Sigh…
        As a side note, there weren't many Caravans in the junk yards. They seem to be like cockroaches – they're everywhere and they just won't die.

  19. Has anyone given any thoughts to creating an automotive parts-interchangeability database? I'm guessing the big hurdle is having enough info to initially populate it to make it useful before it goes live..
    Hmm.. Research methinks

    1. The Hollander Interchange books do this. I have the very old one, for pre-war American cars. This has limited usefulness for me, since I don't own a pre-war American car. If there is a European equivalent, for say 1940's-1960's cars, I would be VERY interested.

  20. A grizzled old mechanic I once knew told me a story about his first car, a 1924 Model T he bought for a couple of bucks. He managed to get it going and following work he had to drive it from Missouri to Oklahoma by way of Kansas. Out of the middle of Nowhere, Kansas the engine developed a rod knock, so he pulled over, crawled underneath, pulled the oil pan and saw what he could do about the knock.
    Once he identified which bearing had failed he looked around and finding nothing else to shim the crank and the rod he ended up cutting off a piece of his belt and that became the bearing. It was supposed to be a temporary fix but it ended up working so well when he sold the car 3 years later the leather bearing was still in place.

  21. Nissan Skyline GT-R, 1989. Loads of Maxima and Sentra parts. Pathfinder transfer case clutches and bits. 300ZX and 240SX suspension/brakes for the most part. The actual "Skyline part" is generally on the order of 500% more expensive than the cross-referenced part.

  22. Not the most awesome, but recent in my memory: The dashboard clock from 1979-1985 Peugeot 505s can be replaced by the one from 1998-2002 Isuzu Troopers.
    Another one that I think is actually kind of awesome: Dual-piston front brake calipers from 1998-2002 F-bodies will fit GM fullsize FWD cars of the same era. The piston swept area remains the same, so front-rear brake bias is unchanged. Pedal feel is considerably improved, though.

  23. Everything to turn this:
    <img src="http://static.ddmcdn.com/gif/1965-1966-ford-mustang-5.jpg"&gt;
    Into this:
    <img src="http://www.thesmokingtire.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/1965-shelby-gt350r-620×411.jpg&quot; width=400>
    Fits this:
    <img src="http://hooniverse.info/wp-content/gallery/1964-ford-falcon-intro/falcon-exterior-1-medium.jpg&quot; width=400>
    So far it's got the front suspension mods and brake from a Shelby. The plan is to get all the way there. Anyone have a HiPo 289 lying around?

    1. And you can slap it onto an Econoline, too! Used to be an awful lot of Mustangs in the wrecking yards.

    2. Along those lines- almost everything that bolts onto a Boss 302 and Boss LS can fit any about year S197.
      Except I don't have a 302… but I can be comforted that I have a real Mexican Tremec and not that Chinese MT-82 junk.

  24. My FSJs were humorously filled with parts substitutions.
    Carburetor? Motorcraft (Ford) 2150.
    Transmission? TorqueCommand (aka TorqueFlite…Mopar) 727.
    Power steering pump and box? Saginaw (GM).
    But the best was the roof console on my '91.
    This fine piece (below) comes from…
    <img src="http://cdn2.bigcommerce.com/server2400/juihmzy/products/2678/images/1302/overheadconsolegw__13252.1354638983.1280.1280.JPG&quot; width=600>
    …this…
    <img src="http://www.curbsideclassic.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/3-12-12-012.jpg&quot; width=600>

  25. 1979 firebird had a 6.6L V-8 with burned valves. 104cc chamber volume and 7.7-1 compression ratio. I found a 1968 olds 350 v-8 in a olds Vistacruiser which was being picked clean except for the cylinder heads. Mine now..62cc chambers. no rust. wow. 10.7-1 compression now. wow! car is still butt ugly, maybe a Camaro front clip is next??

  26. now that I think it thru, I see a lot of poor and I mean poor engineering came out of GM, Chrysler and Ford. It killed AMC. yeah the cars generally drove off the lot and all that but, the annual model update is such a damn scam. this years cars has twenty year old engineering in it…..Edelbrock was marketing electronic fuel injection in the 1960s but we waited until the mid 80s to get it in production cars? What? I don't mind don't fix it if it isn't broken but why does my dodge p/u weigh 5600lbs empty? Granted they sold me $32K worth of powertrain and running gear but they threw the coachwork in for free. Why does my new Jetta have and I beam rear axle? How come half the parts on my new car fit exact a 12 year old version of it and an Audi?
    I guess Henry Ford summed up annual model updates well in his statement "Give the customer any color he wants so long as its Black"

  27. Back in the day when people modified Saturns (yea, that actually happened), you could buy a $175 intake from one of the Saturn tuner parts companies, or you could buy a $40 intake for a '95-'99 Mitsu Eclipse and a $7 3"-to-2.5" rubber plumbing adapter to mate it to the throttle body.

  28. I am neither technically savvy enough…nor am I of such means, or desires, to learn/be bothered by, setting up an online photo album so y'all can see my actual pics…but…
    I have found that beer cans, split and hammered flat, make for good "filler panels" in the firewall, in place of the (waaaay too big and non- operational) A/C and heater on my 70 lemans sport 400 4- speed… The tech guy at my local drag strip shrugged his shoulders and said " it,s metal and it covers the holes" He then, walked over to the car behind me… Still not 100% convinced he had "Safety First" as a concern in his, well liquored, role as tech inspector 🙂
    A wonderful "Green" result of the "repurposed" beer cans is that you can use the empty cartons to replace the decayed package tray under the rear window… And it is cheap and easy to replace the beer cartons every few months as opposed to the multiple thousands of dollars to repair the (really poorly engineered and executed) window frame and quarter panels…
    My Pontiac has many many many later model Cadillac Cetera parts… This includes dual electric 1100 Cfm Bosch electric fans (bought four for forty bucks) and relay bank to replace the CRAZY 40 amp direct hot wires running through the firewall…
    Around my neck of the woods… Tractor Supply Co sell hardware by weight. Therefore, anodized grade eight bolts and washers used to replace the body-to-frame mounts cost less than $10 rather than the $126 the supplier of my polyurethane bushings wanted. And my front to trunk battery relocation cost me less than sixty bucks… Including 1 gauge wire and battery box with tie downs… For a Ford tractor 🙂
    My Pontiac is ugly but folks really like it. At local shows and handouts, I get much more attention than the really awesome "show quality" lemans that lives near me and attends much of the same… I wanna build upon the "rat rod" phenom and bring it into the muscle car era… "Muscley Rats… Or Ratty Muscles…" Something like that 🙂
    I figure iffin I pay little attention to "bodywork" and focus on power train and performance… I will be a happy camper that doesn't really care if I get a "door ding" in the Wal-Mart parking lot. My car was sprayed in "chalkboard paint" and can be repaired with some Bondo and a $4.99 can of spray paint… 🙂
    Don't you agree?

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