Plan for Success

A loud groan from the car trailer’s suspension broke the silence as we winched the old Ford truck aboard. The old pickup was once Ralph’s dream, as thoughts of driving his family around the neighborhood or in the local Fourth of July parade fueled his passion. But, like so many other unfinished projects I’ve bought over the years, Ralph’s dream failed to become reality when a lack of resources and knowledge stalled the project. As years passed, his patience and persistence for the project diminished and soon the old truck merely reminded him of the space it took up in the garage.

I’ve always believed that for every car in attendance at the local car show there are at least a dozen more sitting in garages, sheds, and fields. Truth be told, many car projects suffer the same fate as Ralph’s, although with a little planning and honest personal assessment prior to purchasing a new project, many more dreams could become reality.

The scenario always plays out similarly. It starts with the proverbial “great deal.” You know, the $500 Chevelle that’s only a little rusty, or Grandpa’s Buick behind the barn that’s only missing a few parts. Before laying down your hard earned cash for that “great deal,” take a moment to consider what needs to be done and whether you have the skills, time, and resources to get the job done. The time and cost to complete a car can escalate quickly. Rare parts, replacement panels, and unforeseen problems can all take the steam out of your progress if you’re not prepared.

Ask questions before you buy! Not only from the seller, but from other car enthusiasts as well. There are many cars that have unique problems or simply have parts that are unavailable. Knowing what to expect and how to deal with it before you purchase will help keep your project on track.

Once the decision is made to buy, planning the progress of the build is key to ensuring a successful completion. Keep your expenses within budget and your progress expectations conservative, while leaving ample time to spend with friends and family. When all is said and done, you’ll want them to enjoy your new ride as much as you do.

A friend and fellow enthusiast once told me, “Nothing happens in the garage after nine o’clock that can’t wait until tomorrow.” His message was clear as it related to cars and life alike: it’s not so important how quickly you get to the end, but rather that you enjoyed the journey.

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17 Responses to “Plan for Success”

  1. Richs

    Here’s a “tip” I’d like to share to every and any car enthusiast – if you love old cars/trucks/hot rods etc. get one that you can drive on any day that you choose, enjoy it! If your desire is to be a mechanic/auto body enthusiast – then by all means buy that piece of rust and work on it for the next 20 years. Life is too short for all the “I’m going to’s – my plan is to..” My brother bought the car of his dreams – 68 Camaro – sat in his garage for over 20 years – he had more invested in clips – quarter panels – torches – compressor – welders – etc – he died of cancer as the car sits on jack stands and is completely tore apart… just saying….

  2. Alex Scott

    As a car mechanic, I also have the same opinion as you. Think twice to make a decision again.

  3. Patrick

    I found the truck of my dreams a couple of years ago, 83 jeep Honcho stepside J-10. 1 of 1263 built. In the time I have owned I have rebuilt the engine (out in the driveway) and … well not much else. I figure when I’m 126 I’ll have her ready to show!

  4. John courtright

    I know a lot of “want to work” on my car folks who need a place to work on their cars. I know there are some places out there, but my concept would be a monthly fee to store & Work on your car. How many people would take advantage of this idea & how much would it be worth to you to not have to move projects around & have the resources to work on a car.

    • Brian

      I agree. I live in a house with no usable garage and a HOA. I know first hand the frustration of finding a garage. Need room water 220. Sounds easy. The people that rent industrial space here in Southern California don’t rent to hobbyists. Needed a business license. Next no automotive. If they had auto shops. No paint no old cars. One in Palm Springs told me I couldn’t keep them in the space.

  5. Marlon Fannin

    I just inherited a 1951 Ford F1 that belonged to my Father-in-law. I’ve tried to get him to work on it together for 14 years.( It sat next to a 65 Mustang GT convertible.) I just recently got it home & starting to determine what needs to be done to get her running again. The body is in decent shape and someone has replaced the original drivetrain with a SBC. This will be my first attempt. So… looking for any help I can get!!

  6. Tim

    I always wanted to restore a 54 – 56 Ford F100. The problem was I realised I did not have the place, money or time to complete such a project. I was lucky I realized this before I sent the 500.00 bucks on that deal of the century! This is a great reminder I made the right decision.

  7. william

    LOL…I’m guilty! I bought a 1982 Mercury Cougar II (fox chassis, favors Ford Fairmont) for $100 when I lived in Houston TX in 2010. I’ve dragged it around the country a little over the years with the promise that I’ll get back to it someday (street rodding it). Now I’ve finally gotten her home, as I finished building my house and 30 x 40 workshop last year. Got the wood stove in the garage and ready to hit it hard this winter….but yes, very easy to push it aside and a few months turns into years!!

  8. TONYA

    Tell me about it! This is in my blood and after restoring 3 of my baby’s, I’m at my wit’s end with my new 35 Buick. It’s not unusual for me to check 3 times a day to looking for something.

  9. Dennis Cooney

    Hello! I have been messing around with my own daily drivers for over four decades now (mostly out of necessity), but now that I’m retired I am considering restoring an old pickup truck. This is one of those “bucket list” dreams I’ve had for years, and now (finally) with an empty nest, my wife and I have time to do those things we’ve been dreaming about. I’m not kidding myself about the scope of a project like this. I realize the amount of time, money, and elbow grease that a classic vehicle restoration requires, but I’m game!
    My question is this: I have looked at many vehicles online, and auctioned at Barrett-Jackson and Mecum, and I can’t figure out for the life of me why certain vehicles (same make/model) go for such a different amount!? It was always my belief that a ground up/frame off restoration to ORIGINAL specs would be more valuable than a customization. My example for instance is a vehicle that I’m looking at is a 1959 Chevy Apache 32. One at auction was a complete original restoration (nice job) and it went for $11,000., while the other was a complete restoration (nice job), but it was not all original. Parts of it were chromed that weren’t in production, paint was not an original color offered, and it had a crate engine in it. That truck went for $55,000.! While I admit that it was a nice truck, I did not understand the huge increase in value. I wish someone could enlighten me here. I really am not sure now whether I want to restore to all original, or customize. It’s not all about the value necessarily, I’m not even sure that I will be able to part with it after I’ve put so much heart and soul into it.
    Thanks for hearing me out!

    • TONYA

      It all depends on preference really. Do you want all original mint condition or customized street rod? That crate engine may have cost $25,000 compared to a $3,000. Stock engine. I personally don’t like the dark green color on my 69 Cadillac and plan to repaint it black. My own choice.

  10. stephen

    Have a question for you about Windlace installation.I have a ” 65 ford and the windlace is in terrible condition,it seems to run underneath the headliner which is in excellent condition.Is there any way to get the old windlace out and the new one in without destroying a perfectly good headliner ? Would a heat gun possibly work ?

    • Customer Service

      Let me start by saying, I would never use a “Heat Gun” on any interior materials. They simply produce too much heat, and it is too easy to destroy items like carpets and headliners. Most professional upholstery shops use steamers to apply heat without risking damage. Another choice is the use of hand-held hair dryers as the temperatures created are much lower than heat guns.

      To properly replace the wind lace, the headliner should be taken down over the doors. It is simply tucked up behind a grip strip over the door opening. Although I can not make any guarantee you won’t damage it, as the vinyl is 50-years old.

      A small piece of wire can be used to hook the headliner and pull it down from beneath the grip strip. If you have any concerns, it may be best to consult a professional automotive upholsterer before proceeding.

      Wrench Safe, Mark

  11. Rodney Beauchamp

    Yes, I totally agree, the excitement of turning a junker into reality soon turns sour when things go wrong. The saying, it’s hard to turn a sows ear into a silk purse could not be more true, when I see some projects disappear on trailers at swap meets.

    A friend of mine was a prolific restorer and his motto ” just do one thing everyday, no matter how small. If you do, at the end of the week, you have achieved 7 things toward your goal. If you do more, even better. Waiting till you have time, a rainy day or whatever you dream will not get a project finished, planning, preparation and doing are what will achieve results. Sure enjoy the journey, but I to have invested lots of time and money and money and money into projects that eventually were sold.

    He also would refurbish a part to best of his ability and put it on the vehicle, regardless. Then if he found a much better one at a swapmeet, he would refurbish that too and sell off the other one. Waiting until you find ALL the parts or pristine parts is not going to happen, make do with what you have and then continuously improve as you find things. Sure it means doing some things twice, but the bolts come out easier the second time.
    My latest project, a 63 Buick Riviera was bought as a turn key and drive, yet as a fifty year old car, still requires work and money to make it a trusted and reliable driver.