Just Plain Rodding Advice

Here's the no B.S. advice if you are going to start a restoration project. It may sound like I'm trying to discourage you but it's not. This advice is more to open your eyes to what is involved in successfully completing a project.

There are a number of factors to consider whether or not you will be able to finish the project and whether it will turn into the dreamcar that you envision or a nightmare. Unfortunately, most of the time it turns into an unfinished nightmare.

Here's a list of things my nephew learned from starting a 48 Mercury pickup project:

  • Never, I repeat Never buy something with out seeing it even if its a good deal!
  • Drive the beast before you take it apart
  • You need to love the thing because restoration blues are hard to overcome, if you don't like the car, truck, boat, etc normally you can't overcome them.

I agree 100% with what he says. I know that I get discouraged with my car and how it appears that nothing is happening to it. It still looks like a piece of junk at the time of this writing. All the work has been underneath and doesn't really show. But I find that when I walk in the garage and look at the lines of the car - well, I just love it. The unfinished chopped roof is a work of art, they got all the lines right. The rear end and where I see it going is great, the front end will be fantastic. I just have to walk in the garage and see the beauty awaiting to unfold in the car and it makes all the work well worth it. That's what you need before you start on a project like that.

Here's some basic questions that you must ask yourself:

  • Are you going to do the work or is someone else?
  • Do you really enjoy working on cars? Is it fun/relaxing?
  • Do you have the money to pay someone else to work on your car?
  • How much of the work can you do?
  • In what time frame do you want the car on the road?
  • Will it be a daily driver, street/strip, streetrod or showcar?
  • What do you want to do with the car?
  • How often do you want to drive it?
  • Is it okay to have the car sit not running for weeks/months/years?
  • Do you have the skills to do the work?
  • Do you have the tools?

I knew when I bought the car that it had been for sale for 2 years without anyone interested. It also wasn't listed anymore, wasn't going any place, so I had the time to really research and think about it. I looked at other vehicles and alternatives for over a month before I decided that it was the one for me. I looked at more complete cars, what I would have to do to them and the work required.

Before that, I had researched a 48 Prefect/Thames for 6 weeks, looked at it every week and finally decided that no matter how much I liked the idea, the execution of it was bad. I would be better off starting from scratch. I had made a list of over 60 items that needed to be done to the vehicle and investigated each one.

You are about to invest a large amount of time and money into the project. You have the time to research it and the work involved to rebuild/restore it. Look at the amount of work and time that I've spent on my car realizing that I'm not restoring it. I have the option of using any part that I want to and it still takes a long time. I was missing one unusual part (front lower shock mount) and it took 2 months of digging to find one. Expect that your project is going to take years to find all the proper missing/broken/replacement parts. The major parts will be no problem, its the minor parts that seem insignificant now.

Here's some questions to ask: What happens if the water pump goes? What happens if the distributer cap or rotor needs changing? How about mufflers, brake pads, rubber brake hoses, universal joints, shocks, bearings, and the rest of the non glamourous items? These are the parts that can cause your car to sit for months.

I had a 1967 Triumph TR4A in 1982 and the muffler went on it. Guess what? I couldn't find another muffler - It was a special dual intake/outlet muffler for a 4 cylinder that no one carried. I ended up patching it with muffler tape and cement almost every week for 5 months until I came across a 70s JC Whitney catalog which had a listing for it. I phoned up JC Whitney gave them the number and they tracked it down as an old stock part sitting in some warehouse in California. The cost was $200 by the time it got to Canada which was incredibly expensive for 1982 and it took another month!

Do you have someplace to work on the car? Indoors? Heated? With room to work on more than one side of the car at a time? Will you have access to it for the years it takes to work on the car? I built the 1972 TR6 in my apartment's garage, the neighbors (3) who shared the garage hated me and it caused lots of grief. I built the 1967 TR4A in friends garages - what a pain! It was a running car so I could use the garages for a maximum of a weekend. I even painted it in a friends garage. He was about to kill me after it was in there for a week! You want to test a friendship - borrow someone's tools and garage!

I worked on my 1972 Corvette in friends garages, apartment's garages, at work and parking lots. I almost lost my job because I was working on my car on company property. I had to leave it apart in parking lots - not a nice secure feeling especially after the wheels were stolen.

I worked on my 1955 Chev when I lived at home with my parents. It was an attached garage and every little noise (and you make lots of noise working on a car!) was heard through the house not to mention the smell of paint, bondo and fiberglass. In hindsight, I'm amazed that my parents never kicked me out for the racket and stink that I made! That is the reason why I'll never own a house that has an attached garage.

Expect that you will get discouraged. Things will pop up that you never expected, take much longer than expected, cost much more than expected. A while back, I got overwhelmed and discouraged looking at the car and the amount of work to be done. I sat down and made a list of work that needed to be done. It was over 60 items long! Some would take months to be completed and some would take a few hours. Some I didn't even know if it was possible to do. Don't look at all the work that needs to be done or try to do everything at once, it'll kill you. Just take a little bit at a time. You can move mountains taking one shovel full at a time.

I prioritized what I wanted to do and started working on the list. The list has allowed me to have multiple miniprojects on the go while still keeping focus on the overall priorities and goals. This has allowed me to work on other parts of the car as I'm waiting for parts, tools or friends. Sometimes, I say "the hell with the priorities" and just do something for fun on the car, that I wanted to do like put on 69 Cadillac hubcaps.

Basically, now that I've finished preaching, spend at least a month thinking about whether you have the resources and dedication to tackle a project like this. When I looked at buying my car last year, I made a list of pros and cons of owning it and another list of everything that needs to be done to the vehicle. It was a very long list of work to be done. But I went in with my eyes wide open knowing exactly how much work it required and the time frame I wanted to spend doing it.

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Copyright Jan 16, 2011 Eugene Blanchard