I have been reminded this week about the fragility of NOS (New Old Stock) Stanpart (the spares division of the Standard Triumph company) parts. A couple of things focused my mind on a growing miss-trust on using/selling by definition on average 40 year old so called new parts. Last Saturday I amongst other things had to change (again!) one of the lower front ball joints on the wifes 2.5. I had always kept a stock of NOS Stanpart joints ready for our own cars and had been working my way through them at an accelerating rate. I had come to accept over the past five or six years that because of their age the clear plastic gaiters would have deteriorated and needing changing for a modern rubber alternative, and that any grease would have long ago dried out and needed cleaning out and re-packing. If that's not bad enough there's a sneaking suspicion that they are not lasting as long in service as I seem to remember them doing in the past as my pile of standby spares has all but disappeared at an alarming rate over the past couple of years. So as I stood looking at my shelf of sorry looking (but 'new') Stanpart joints with bare track control arm in my grubby mit I took the decision to go repro (reproduction) and try one of the latest incarnations of a pattern part with a notorious history. Great, job done in half the time it normally takes because I didn't have to go searching for gaiters, and spend precious time refurbing 'new' parts.
The other incident involved a gearbox brought in by well known CT member for the attachment of one of our up-rated J type overdrives (Transit clutch/annulus, 28% ,etc). The gearbox was one of the fabled 'Police Spec' saloon units which is basically a Stag type beefed up layshaft/cluster with a saloon input, nice! This also was a NOS Stanpart box still displaying thick black wax on the protruding mainshaft, and input shaft, and still bearing the remains of its Stanpart labels. It was apparent that it had been standing upright in storage for some time allowing dirt and debris to collect on the back of the case and more importantly inside the rear main bearing. Obviously the owner was worried about this and instructed a strip down and check, and at the least a new main bearing. He needn't have worried as further dirt ingress into the gearbox was negligible, but however other things found during the course of the strip had made the exercise very worthwhile. Firstly there was some light rusting to a couple of the speed gears, and the layshaft gears that would have quickly made a mess of the otherwise lovely new gearset if it had been used without checking. The other worrying thing found was that the assembly grease used originally was far to thick (a black lithium type I think) to have broken down rapidly enough to allow oil to lubricate those special layshaft needle bearings, and mainshaft tip bearing. We use petroleum jelly these days to hold bearings in position in assembly because it quickly breaks down when warm gearbox oil circulates through it. All in all it was the right choice to have made to strip and check as I suspect it wouldn't have lasted more than a few hundred miles in service otherwise.
So I think the moral of these stories (and the many others I could relate) is please bear in mind that as attractive as that Stanpart packaging might be on that e-Bay find, are you still expecting that 30, 40, or 50 year old component to be in a usable condition? Rubber, leather, plastic, degrades in a few years, steel rusts (sometimes in places you can't see). Take for instance the instruments on your dash board, someone from a company that specialises in there refurbishment once told me that the shelf life of the lubricant in a speedo, or tacho is no more than a couple of years, so at 30 plus years what chance do you stand? Or would you risk a 40 year old 'new' brake master cylinder? I have seen enough rubber deteriorate in half that time to know I wouldn't.