I’ve been thinking about what the topic should be for this month’s article, and I’ve kicked around several ideas for stories I could tell about the different builds I’ve done. I could write down any one of my many experiences as a car builder, throw in some humor or, maybe a little drama, and you might read it once, and think, “well, that was a neat story,” and that would be the end of it. Nothing wrong with that.
However, I thought it might be more interesting to start a series of articles that span a time period of multiple weeks or months and cover the different problems with, and methods for building a vehicle. The idea would be to canvass the build process with generalized information applicable to any restoration, and add some detailed articles on specific parts of a build, concluding with the issues involved in finishing up and getting the vehicle on the road or track.
The best place to begin with any project is to make a plan. Before the first turn of the wrench or the first spark from the grinder, you should establish a solid plan by asking yourself some crucial questions. Start by figuring out the answers to the following questions:
1) What do you want from your vehicle?
Do you want a street car that you can race or a race car that goes out on the street? Do you want a factory correct restoration, a rock crawler, etc? The time to decide is before you start!
2) What vehicle will you purchase?
Be very sure you have answered question #1 before deciding on a vehicle. For instance, if you have a 1969 GMC Pickup in your shop and you really want a road racer, you probably don’t have the right vehicle. It may be better to sell the truck and buy a Mustang, Camaro, Corvette, or any number of imports.
Conversely, if you have a ’69 Charger that you are driving to work everyday, and you want a factory correct restoration, you may need to rethink your commute because I see you being late a lot!! Also, keep your level of skill in mind. Don’t save money buying a rust bucket because it’s cheap if you don’t know how to weld or do body work. Take the time to find the right car, truck, motorcycle or wagon that truly fits your plan.
SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT: Chevy, VW and Ford probably have the most parts available from the aftermarket. A Helica or Tucker are going to take a lot of looking. If you choose an obscure project vehicle, you are going to spend great amounts of time looking for obscure parts, not to mention the money it will take to purchase or refurbish those obscure parts. If you have the time and the money – go for it! If not, you should probably rethink.
3) If you’ve already got the vehicle, have you assessed its condition to determine the level of restoration needed?
4) What is your budget?
How much can you spend – TOTAL? WRITE IT DOWN! This isn’t Congress, so don’t plan to spend what you don’t have!
5) How much time do you have to invest; weekly, monthly, yearly?
Estimate the time you think your build will take … then TRIPLE it!
6) Do you have the space to garage your project, or are you renting, or even borrowing?
If you are renting space, be sure to subtract the cost from your total budget amount. If you are borrowing space, be sure to discuss with the owner how long you will need the space. Be Honest! There is nothing worse than being half done and in bare metal when you get kicked out into the rain!
7) Have you had a rendering of your project created?
If you are going with a factory correct restoration you could skip this step, but I like to have a rendering as it is a visual of my ultimate goal. It also allows you to play with
colors, wheels, modifications and so many other options. If you are not artistically inclined (like me), there are many artists available to do the rendering for you.
This is probably a good stopping place for now, since I’ve given you so much homework to do. Obviously, this is the least enjoyable step in the build process, but this is the best way to foresee and prevent costly mistakes, which may save you enough that you’ll be able to afford the leather rather than the vinyl interior! Now, go to work!