OP-ED by Paul Wimsett and A.R. Bunch
The Project, or low buck car, is that vehicle in your driveway or garage that’s falling apart even as you try to get it running. It may need certain bits which are impossible to find, it may be lacking the right paperwork to go on the road. Or, maybe its lacking some bits which ARE possible to find, you just haven’t got round to them yet.
Maybe you have a project house, or a house full of projects really; it’s just something that consumes all your time and money. So it’s a good idea before you commit to buying the project car you work out how much it’s going to cost to restore—then add 25%.
So what kind of project do you want? Something vintage; something sporty; something a bit more obscure? There are so many choices, which is why you need to plan.
What type of car can become a project car?
Well any car, although a search online refers to Mustangs, Chevrolets, Buicks and old Fords. These may take a great deal of work but it seems that you’ll find the parts easier than more obscure car makes.
One special type of project, called a rat rod, imitates the hot rods of the 40s, 50s and 60s. The idea is to create your own style using previous designs often leaving it rustic, or just rusty. The goal is to have a car which runs for a bit cheaper than a vintage restored 1940s hot rod, (in truth not much cheaper).
Where to do your Project?
Whether you chose to restore your project immediately or not, you’re probably in need of some off-road storage. Have you got somewhere permanent? It’s no good just storing at a friend’s garage because sooner or later they will want the space back.
Here’s a crazy mistake made way too often—is the garage too small for the car? Yes, it does sound obvious, and yes many a homebrew wrencher has moved their project across town only to find it won’t fit! The more time you spend making arrangements for you project the less time you have to work on your project.
Transporting your Project
When it comes to picking up the car you’ll need a trailer and (if you’ve thought about this carefully you’ve probably already realized this) another car. Could you lease a car and a trailer? That’s possible, but again it eats into your budget.
The next part of it is time. You’ll need time to work on fixing the car true, but you’ll even need time to plan when things go wrong or circumstances change. You may need to say goodbye to your friends for a while. And how long really do want to spend fixing the car? After all, you might only be doing it to impress your circle of friends.
Speaking of which, have you told your spouse what you’re up to. How many hours will this project take per week? Is that the same number in your spouse’s brain? Don’t lose a partner over a car. Well maybe, but don’t lose it over not communicating about a car. There, that’s more like it.
What will you use the car for?
When you do finally fix the car will it work on normal gas or does it need premium? If the latter there’s another debit you need to account for. Lots of people make vehicles they can’t really afford to show off. Do you need special insurance, or special licence plates?
How safe will the car be on the road? Remember, it’s unlikely you will have all the proper paperwork about the car. Even if you do fix some problems will the car be as safe as a regular car? Check your local DMV’s website or talk to other restoration specialists to learn the local process for getting your car declared roadworthy.
It’s definitely a commitment and not for the faint-hearted. If you stick it out to the end you may have the car you always dreamed of for the price of sweat equity. But if you pick your project because it’s a good deal and you haven’t yet thought up how you’re going to use it, well, you could end up with a black hole that absorbs your money and time.