MILEPOSTS Garage - The Online Classic Car Magazine 1968-1969 Ford Thunderbird NOS Deluxe Wheel CoverThis 1968-1969 Ford Thunderbird NOS Deluxe Wheel Cover is highly sought after, since the metal vanes are often bent or broken on wheel covers that have seen service. The outer rim also usually has curb scrapes. This one was for sale on eBay.
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Vol. 3, No. 10
December 17, 2005

The Truth About NOS Parts
by Automotive Mileposts Staff

Image: MILEPOSTS Garage

Ah, the sheer joy of discovering NOS parts - a dream come true to old car enthusiasts. Sometimes. But the fact is, you don't always get what you expected. Let's take a look at how NOS parts come to be NOS parts. NOS stands for New Old Stock. These are parts originally built by the OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) for use at the assembly plant on new cars. Manufacturer's usually order more than they need, to allow for rejected parts that have a defect serious enough to prevent it from being used on the assembly line, and for service replacements in the field. These extra parts often wind up at a storage facility somewhere sitting on a shelf, waiting for an order from a dealer, repair garage, or from an individual, or in a dealer's parts department as a spare. And there they sit, often for many years. Eventually, old stock is cleaned out and sold, often to companies or individuals who buy the whole lot and then later sell piece by piece.

Automobile manufacturers provide service replacement parts for a certain period of time, and after that they get rid of them to make way for parts for more recent models. There are companies that are in business to buy this surplus inventory and then sell it directly to consumers. And there's big money to be made doing this. But just because a part is NOS doesn't mean it is going to be good, nor does it mean it will be any better than the part needing to be replaced.

For instance, some parts that weren't deemed fit for installation on a new car on the assembly line might be considered acceptable as a service replacement. Chrome trim with flaws could be rejected on the line, but put into stock as a replacement for damaged parts on cars that have been in service for several years.

And don't forget shelf wear, a phenomenon that causes damage to new parts boxed up for long periods of time. These parts have likely been moved around, inventoried, stacked, and handled over the years, all of which can cause minor damage. So a NOS part might not be as pristine as one would expect.

And the elements, such as time, also take their toll. Even though these parts aren't exposed to weather or use, they can still deteriorate sitting on a shelf. For instance, the foam material used in some steering wheel horn pads can degrade over time, even when not exposed to sunlight, heat, or cold. When this foam breaks down, it usually causes the vehicle horns to sound at the slightest touch, and often continue sounding after pressure is removed from the pad. In today's world, you risk road rage when driving with horns blaring, as you just never know what freak of nature is nearby harboring a bad attitude, in search of someone in which to direct their anger. At any rate, in this case the NOS part is likely no better than the one that's been in service, and if it does work properly, it will likely become a problem quickly once it's been put to use.

Parts can also get mixed up at the dealer level, which results in a defective part being put into a replacement part box, and returned to stock instead of removed from inventory. Such was the case with a NOS power antenna kit Automotive Mileposts had. It was for a 1967-1969 Ford Thunderbird, and it was the entire kit that a Ford Dealer would purchase to install a power antenna on a new Thunderbird that didn't come equipped with one from the factory. This was often done in order to sell a car, when the purchaser insisted it have a particular option or else they wouldn't buy it. The factory issued many such kits, which enabled dealers to install options easily and quickly in order to sell cars.

In the box was everything needed to install the power antenna option: power antenna motor, bracket, and mast assembly, up/down switch, wiring harness, and speed nuts to install switch, antenna lead cable, rubber grommets, bolts to install in fender, and instructions. Ours was a very nice kit, in pristine condition, still in original packaging and 100% complete. We installed the antenna, and it worked just great! The mast moved up and down as expected, and worked like brand new. However, the radio wasn't getting good reception, which it did with the old manual antenna. We replaced the lead cable with a known good one, and still had no reception. Finally, the motor and mast assembly was removed from the vehicle and checked. A wire was broken inside the mast, where the lead cable attaches to the assembly. This wire was likely pinched or broken when this antenna was manufactured, and somehow managed to get past all the inspections at the factory, only to be discovered by a dealer during pre-delivery or perhaps even on delivery to the new owner.

We can only speculate on this, but we're guessing a mechanic was assigned a warranty repair order, and pulled this kit from dealer stock to make the repair. Once completed, instead of returning the antenna to the manufacturer for credit as a defective part, or destroying the parts, whatever the policy may have been, this kit somehow managed to get put back into dealer stock, where it sat for years unused until the old parts were sold as a lot. That is how we wound up with it, and only then was it discovered the part was defective.

One of the best places to find rare NOS parts these days is on eBay. It's amazing what turns up for sale there. If you're patient, and vigilant about checking regularly, it's very likely that what you're searching for will turn up for sale on eBay at some point. Often the seller has little knowledge about the parts they're selling, and no way to check them to verify that they work properly. So, a buyer takes a chance on the part being good. Pictures can assist in verifying the appearance of an item, but when it comes to electrical parts, you take a chance on whether they will work or not.

In our experience, most sellers at eBay are honest and want to have happy buyers. Many eBay sellers make a living on eBay, and they depend on good feedback to further their business, so most will stand behind what they sell when there's a problem. However, it's important to remember that sellers don't HAVE to stand behind anything. Most items are sold "as is" so buyer beware when making a purchase.

You can often get the best deal on eBay, unless another bidder drives the price way up. Make sure you know what parts vendors will sell similar parts for, and abandon bidding if the price goes too high. It's nice to support honest vendors who will often be in a position to check the part to make sure it works, and they will often know which applications the part is designed for, whereas sellers on eBay usually do not. If you allow yourself to be caught up in the moment at the close of auction, you can often pay more than necessary for a part, and risk getting one that won't work.

eBay does tend to keep vendor prices in check, as some vendors with rare parts have them priced sky high, yet they know that similar items may turn up on eBay regularly. One vendor in particular has a few rare NOS parts for a certain popular model, and they are the only vendor with these parts in stock, and they know it. They have them priced up in the stratosphere, and enthusiasts on forums and lists have complained about the unreasonably high prices. These same parts also turn up from time to time on eBay, and usually sell for less than half the vendor's asking price. Enthusiasts have generally agreed to not support this vendor, as they feel they're being taken advantage of. That vendor will likely have those parts for a very long time, sitting on a shelf collecting dust. After all, a part is only worth what someone is willing to pay for it.

When searching for NOS parts, also check for NORS parts (New Old Replacement Stock). These parts were made by the OEM specifically as service replacements in the field, and are generally the same as NOS parts, and in some cases have updates or improvements that NOS parts do not.

NOS or NORS parts are wonderful to find, but make sure to keep in mind that just because they're new and haven't seen service, that doesn't necessarily mean they will look or perform like a new part, but quite often they do, and many delighted collectors will tell you that NOS is the only way to go.

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