DIY

Think You’re Ready to Build the Car of Your Dreams? First, Consider This.

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Building a project car can be a lot of fun—if you think ahead and plan things out. Like any other undertaking, it helps to be organized and have a strategy before diving into a project build head-first.

Trust me, I know. I’ve made a lot of project car-related blunders over the years. For instance, as a teenager, I took on projects that were over my head and left the unfinished vehicles languishing in my parents’ driveway. And more recently, I decided to disassemble a vehicle in my carport—right in front of the primary entrance to my house.

Yeah, I’ve done some stupid stuff. That’s why I’m here to help you plan ahead for your project build, so you don’t make the same mistakes.

A Few Things to Think About Before Starting a Project Car…

Think you’re ready to build your dream car? Before you start working on (or even purchase) a project vehicle, consider the following:

1. What’s the long-term goal of the vehicle?

Deciding on an end goal for your project (i.e., show car, weekend warrior, etc.) will help you make smart moves during the build. For example, if you’re planning on your project eventually morphing into a daily driver, you may want to forgo that supercharged big-block engine that gets five miles per gallon.

2. How long do I have to work on it?

Are you working two jobs while trying to raise a family? Then a project car might not be in the cards. Fixer-upper vehicles, especially older ones, require a lot of time. They’re downright needy. So, make sure you can leave your evenings and weekends open for wrenching.

3. What’s my budget?

Project cars can get expensive—fast. Make a budget (a realistic one) before starting a build. Plan on the worst-case scenario because, hey, it’s a project car, right? And that means you won’t truly know what’s wrong with the vehicle until you start digging into it.

Remember–you’re going to need a garage of your own if you’re taking on a true project car.

4. Do I have enough space to work on a project car?

Trying to build a project car in an apartment complex parking lot isn’t going to work. And it may get you evicted. So don’t go there.

You’re going to need a garage of your own if you’re taking on a true project car. Not a garage that’s packed to the brim with a bunch of other junk (like old paint cans and garden hoses), but one that’s devoted exclusively to wrenching on cars.

5. Is my skillset strong enough for this particular job?

Just because you’ve changed oil doesn’t mean you’re ready to build a project car. Be honest with yourself and recognize your skillset. Of course, everyone has to learn sometime—and maybe this is your time. Just be prepared to put in a lot more time and effort if you’re not car-savvy.

6. Do I have the necessary tools and equipment?

You’re going to need more than an adjustable wrench and a couple of screwdrivers if you’re building a project car. To get the job done right—without having to run to the store every ten minutes—you’re going to need a large collection of tools and equipment.

Exactly what you need depends on the project and how much of a MacGyver you are. If you’re crafty and have more time than money, you may be able to avoid buying some of the more specialized tools.

Once That’s out of The Way—Have Fun!

Have you finished the not-so-fun part of the build—planning—and decided you’re ready to start your project car? Good! Then you’re ready to get dirty turning wrenches. Building a project car can be a great outlet. In fact, the experience can be downright meditative once you get into it. So enjoy yourself!

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Author

Mia Bevacqua

Chief Mechanic at CarParts.com

Mia Bevacqua is an automotive expert with over 15 years of industry experience. She holds ASE Master, L1, L2, and L3 Advanced Level Specialist certification, as well as a bachelor's degree in Advanced Automotive Systems.

Throughout her career, Mia has applied her skills toward automotive failure analysis inspections, consulting, diagnostic software development, and of course, freelance writing. Today, she writes for companies around the world, with many well-known clients showcasing her work.

Mia has a passion for math, science, and technology that motivates her to stay on top of the latest industry trends, such as electric vehicles and autonomous systems. At the same time, she has a weakness for fixer-upper oddballs, such as her 1987 Chevy Cavalier Z-24 and 1998 Chevy Astro Van AWD.

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