posted on September 6, 2016

Building a project car is something of a holy endeavor for car enthusiasts. It can require massive investments of time, energy, and money, but turning the key of a car you built yourself is an infinitely more rewarding experience than driving anything off the showroom floor.

That being said, it is a risky endeavor. Budgets have a way of increasing suddenly, usually right around the point a car has been disassembled and past the “point of no return.” But with a little forethought, and by avoiding a few major pitfalls, you can keep your project on track.

Plan and research your project

Determine your end goal before starting your project and research each step thoroughly. Thanks to enthusiast web forums there is a wealth of information available at your fingertips. You will likely find someone who has done a similar project and documented the entire process. Doing this research beforehand will help you avoid unexpected surprises and make sure you don’t get in over your head.

Photo credit: Joey Klimchuk

Never finance anything, ever

Always pay up front for everything related to your project car. The last thing you want to do is get stuck making payments on a car you can’t drive. Be especially wary of any private financing arrangements. In my decade or so of browsing classified forums for project car parts, something I see with alarming frequency is a personal financing deal turned sour because one of the parties involved had an unexpected change in financial circumstances.

Have a dedicated project space

It’s certainly not impossible to complete major work on a vehicle in a driveway or on the street, but it does make it a lot more difficult. In addition, some HOAs, counties, and even certain states have laws against storing a disassembled vehicle where others can see it. Having a dedicated space for the car ensures not only happy neighbors, but makes it much easier to keep all your uninstalled parts organized.

Photo credit: Joey Klimchuk

Don’t forget to budget for tools

The cost of tools can add up at an alarming rate, so make sure you research everything required for your project and include it in your budget. A set of mechanics tools (crescent wrenches and ¼”, ⅜”, and ½” ratchets and sockets), a jack, set of jack stands, set of pliers, a couple of vise-grips, a few clamps, and ½” and ⅜” torque wrenches is a good basic collection. If your car requires any specialty tools, check eBay and other online parts suppliers to avoid steep dealership markups.

Take your time

Rome wasn’t built in a day; your project won’t be either. It’s entirely too easy to get stressed about your project when things start to go wrong. Don’t hesitate to walk away from it and return later with a fresh mind; it’s amazing how often that part will just slide right in when it seemed nearly impossible the other day.

Joey is a freelance writer who loves everything about interesting cars and the people who drive them. He can most often be found lying under an old car or playing with his golden retriever, Molly.