Today we’d like to pay our respects to that cruel mistress. That unfinished business. The thing living in your garage without paying rent. Your waking dream (and nightmare).
The project car.
Will you ever finish it? Does it matter? Is the real experience the journey and not the destination (which you can’t drive to without an engine block anyways)?
Let’s find out.
How A Project Car Is Born
You see a listing and can’t believe your eyes. THAT CHEAP?! And so much potential…
Even though you have no mechanical experience or skill you think “I could get that baby running in a summer” and “It’s the perfect way to learn all these skills my father wishes I had”.
That’s all it takes.
Your resolve is set. You’re getting that damn car and you’re not only going to make it run again, you’re gonna make it purrrrr.
So you pull out all your savings (turns out you’re not very good at saving) or ask your pops for a loan (“It’ll make you proud, Dad”) and buy your new baby from the estate auction or shady Craigslist deal or from a reputable source if you can.
Now The Real Work Begins
You’ve hauled it from wherever and made space in your two-car garage (your wife is very happy) or mowed a plot in your backyard (or front yard if you’re classy).
It almost feels like you’re done already. Just look at it sitting there in all its (potential) glory. You can’t wait to start.
Except you don’t know where to start.
TIME TO HIT UP YOUTUBE. That’s where boys become mechanics. OR maybe you create an account on a gearhead forum. If you’re smart, you might even get your hands on a copy of the car’s assembly manual and wiring diagrams.
You waste your lunch breaks and late-nights obsessing over your plans and getting drunk on newfound knowledge.
You make a plan and find a place to start.
OK, NOW The Real Work Begins, Right?
You’re actually wrenching on that beautiful hunk of metal now. You started with the engine, which might be a mistake, but you’re DOING IT!
Unpackaging parts and tools. Getting your hands covered in grease. Taking pictures probably.
You start talking to friends and family about the Stoichiometric Ratio and they wonder if you’ve been huffing Bondo. And you might as well be.
Time just slips away when you’re working on your project car and it’s HEAVEN. You’re like a zen monk just plugging away, you’ve got your tunes, maybe a beer or joint (or two or three).
This goes on for a few weeks, maybe even a couple months and then-
Your schedule changes. Or you need to pay for something else (like groceries). Or you go on vacation. Whatever.
Something throws off that initial momentum.
And then you’re only working on the project car every other weekend. And then a month goes by somehow.
And you see it almost every day. And you start to avoid making eye contact with it so you don’t see the rusted shame in its grill.
And then the summer is over, but whatever that was an unrealistic timeline anyways. Better to not set a deadline at all because this is supposed to be enjoyable, right? You don’t need Father Time breathing down your neck.
But now what?
Now You’re Living The Nightmare
Damn. You’ve turned into one of those car guys those Tire Stickers memes are about.
Best to just bury that shame and keep looking at memes.
And this is the darkest period of all. There’s a chance that if you’re reading this you’re in it right now yourself.
Well buck up, bud. There’s still hope for you (and your project car) yet.
How To Finish A Project Car
We’ll keep this simple, because any excuse not to do it is the easier option.
Step 1: Remember why you got the car in the first place. Recapture that motivation.
Step 2: Procure your vehicle’s assembly guide (and wiring diagram).
Step 3: Set a realistic schedule and budget. You’re not the naive newbie you once were, plan appropriately (and give yourself some slack in there).
Step 4: Stay organized. Don’t spend 3 hours looking for that missing bit.
Step 5: Rent or borrow tools if you can. Helps keep the budget down and pneumatic wrenches are the shit. If you can’t, at least buy tools as you progress, not all at the beginning.
Step 6: Wear safety glasses, ya dummy.
Step 7: Don’t be afraid to step back so you don’t burn yourself out. And it’s ok to pat yourself on the back every now and then. But after you do, return to Step 1 and-
Step 8: Repeat until finished.
Oh, and protip, stop telling people when it’s going to be finished and just finish it.
You’ve Actually Done It
We can’t believe it. No one can actually. But you actually finished it! And it doesn’t explode when you start the ignition!
Now drive the damn thing. Or show it at an event. Or sell it. Either way, be proud of yourself and your new (no-longer-project) car.
And try not to look at any new deals that may pop up on Craigslist.
But… that is a sweet deal. And so much potential…
You’ve already done it once, right? Bet you could do it even better this time...
Screw it, who needs to retire anyway?