Building a Project Car: Plan, Toil and Make it Run

Does the idea of building a project car excite you? But not sure if you can pull this off? You are not alone. Building a project car is no easy feat. And most of the time, the results are going to be different from what you anticipate initially.

Photo by Mike from Pexels

But that’s okay. It’s not about how perfect your car looks. What matters is how well it drives, how fast it can go and make people wonder about the insane horsepower that you manage to put on the block. Also, learning along the way is more rewarding than results.

Building a project car takes time, hard work and some bruises on your knuckles. However, the experience is worth the pain, time and money. And here’s how you can make the most of it.

Knowing where you are at with your skills

Merely knowing how to turn a wrench is not enough. If you can change the engine oil, filters, fluids and a flat tyre on your own, you can take up a project car and chances are you will complete the build.

Man with a plan

Ask any car enthusiast and they will tell you how many project cars they have had that lived and died inside the garage. They either chose the wrong car to work on or didn’t have a plan to start with.

Before buying a project car from around the block, set out a budget and timeline. More often than not, the overall cost can spiral out of control as you go. Therefore, make sure you choose a model that you have driven or worked on before and it’s OEM and aftermarket auto parts are readily available.

Buying a car

The objective of buying a project car is to turn a daily into a powerhouse that you can take to drag strips, car meets and occasional drifting to blow off some steam. The last thing you want to worry about is the underbelly rust and chassis damage. So, look around and underneath to make sure there’s no body-rust.

You are most likely to swap the motor and rebuild the transmission. So, no need to bother about what’s under the hood. It’s going for a toss anyway.

Buy a car with a strong body and minimal rust. Paint chip-offs and small dings can be fixed. And nobody would care if you didn’t. You can buy an import, such as a Civic, or a Chevy to start with.

Stay clear of big-tickets

Rolling in a Porsche or any of those German sedans can cost you a lot in maintenance. These cars are notorious for burning a hole in the pocket and buying their parts can be a hassle too. However, if you must buy a luxury sedan as your project car, look for dirt cheap options – cars that are up for auctions, accidental or written off. If you can get hold of any of these cars, you can save the initial cost, but the money pit gets bigger as you start to work on them.

So, if you’re not someone with deep pockets, consider buying a Honda, Toyota, Chevy, Ford or a Hyundai instead.

Discard what’s not necessary

Aesthetics don’t matter when your car is pulling at 150 miles an hour. Keep in mind that your project car can’t be your daily, as it will then require an air conditioning system, stereo, leather seat covers, etc. Imagine putting all these bells and whistles in your car, and the engine blows up in a week—a sheer waste of money.

This is why you should build on your car slowly and gradually as you gain enough confidence driving it around. If it works initially, it’s worth working on.

While you are still in the process and your car starts to move, take it for the dyno testing after every major part installation to see if the power and fuel figures add up. This will keep the engine from running lean or rich and will last longer.

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