Project Car Encouragement and Advice from Goodguys Members
The Up Front column in the March Goodguys Gazette talked about “getting in the game” – potential ways for enthusiasts to get off the sidelines and get involved in old cars and hot rods. It presented some suggestions for putting the excuses aside and embarking on a project, or finding a roadworthy old car to enjoy cruising in.
The idea was to spark some conversation and see what types of advice Goodguys members might offer to someone looking to get involved in the hobby. In fact, we specifically asked for your input. Several of you took us up on the offer, writing to offer suggestions and encouragement. Others offered words of caution – reminding budding enthusiasts to consider their limitations before diving in too deep.
We thought it might be helpful to share some of this input with readers. We hope it will spark a little thought and enthusiasm for you. A common theme among the shared advice is the involvement of friends and family members – they can be crucial in supplying motivation, support, and accountability. Member Bill Wivel summed it up well:
“Getting people involved is fun,” he said. “But this is more than old cars, it’s more than a hobby. It’s a way of life. It’s about old friends, new friends, friends I haven’t even met yet. Cars are just a way of getting there. Thanks to Goodguys for the venue.”
’55 Times Two
Bob Bryant – Erie, CO – 1955 Chevy
Here’s what worked for me: First, get your wife on board. My wife loved the idea of getting rid of the Harley and getting a ’55 Chevy. We are on our second ’55 and really enjoy our Bel Air together!
Second, do your homework and focus on the car you really want. Create a bank account just for the hot rod and stay on budget. Our first ’55 was a running, driving, rust-free car we bought for $16,500 in 2011. It took over two years to find this car and stay in budget, but it did happen.
In the seven years we owned that first ’55, we had 18 friends help us! One friend helped me get the 383 stroker GM crate motor; my buddies Fred and Gene helped with the install. A friend at church loaned me his engine hoist. Even the grandkids helped clean parts! We went from spectators to participants at the 2011 Goodguys Colorado Nationals and have participated every year since. We have been to shows, cruises, road trips and have met so many wonderful people! You can’t pull into a gas station without someone coming over with a smile on their face to swap stories.
In 2018 we sold that first Chevy and bought our dream ’55 – a Regal Turquoise / India Ivory Bel Air hardtop with factory electric windows. We feel we’ve reached the top; I have no desire for any other car.
When starting on a project, be wary of poor-quality parts and bad shops. A friend took his Trans Am to a body shop and five months later there was still no progress. He went to pick it up and take it to another shop and they had taken the car apart and put all the fasteners in one bucket. He’s done with the hobby!
In short, don’t get in over your skillset and get the garage ready. The hunt is as much fun as finding the right car. Be patient, stay focused, and don’t get in a hurry!
Bill Wivell – Sahuarita, AZ – 1956 Chevy and 1967 Chevelle
You asked for answers, I’m happy to share one with you. My son-in-law Mike expressed interest in the hobby and I started taking him to shows. I let him drive my ’66 Chevelle to Scottsdale once. He was hooked.
The good news is my daughter wanted in, too. That helps when getting involved in a hobby requiring a lot of time and money. Mike runs a business and coaches my grandson’s football team, so time is hard to find. We talked about what kind of car they wanted and they settled on a wagon.
We went to swap meets, put the word out and located a ’67 Chevelle wagon. It was a roller (barely). It doesn’t take any money to start taking a car apart and cleaning things up. We started by rebuilding the suspension. A friend gave us a ’71 El Camino rearend. Another friend was upgrading brakes and sold us his front discs. We replaced the fuel and brake lines, gas tank, all in due time. Another friend sold us a 327c.i. V8 for a good price.
As time went on, we made sure the car would start, stop, run, and be safe. We rewired it and installed seat belts. Mike got wheels at a swap meet. A new dual exhaust system, new tires, and it ran under its own power.
The big day for us was the Goodguys Scottsdale Spring Nationals show in March 2019 – Mike’s first trip out of town driving his own ride. Since then, Mike has upgraded to a 700R4 transmission. We recently brought it back to my garage to start the “make it look pretty” phase. We removed the dash and Mike prepped and painted it along with the window moldings.
I’m very proud of Mike. His commitment to his family, career, and now his car building skills all fit into his life and he’s a full-fledged member of the hobby. It proves if you want to get off the sidelines, you can, and you don’t have to be rich.
Barry Flemming – Phoenix, AZ – 1935 Chevy
Just got the March issue and read Up Front. You said, “I’d love to hear your answers,” so here goes.
Lack of money. Start by planning your project! Make a definitive list of the vehicle type, engine, tranny, and other details. Planning is critical and should take some time. Develop a plan and stick to it! Too many people start a project and waste money by changing the plan.
Time. Come on! You’d be amazed at what you can accomplish in two hours, three days a week. When you get out of work, don’t just plop in front of the tube. Yes, kiss the wife, play and talk to the kids, then go work on your project. You’d be surprised what a sense of accomplishment it gives you. Spending time on your interests is critical to your mental health. You’ll be easier to live with!
Not the right time in my life. It never is! Yes, spend time with your family and commit the time you need to your job, but it’s OK to invest time to spend on yourself, too.
Talent. Come on! If you have an interest in a hobby, you can learn the steps and techniques. Start with what you feel comfortable with. With YouTube, these days you can learn almost anything. Go to a fellow rodder and help him (or her) work on their project.
You can find an excuse to delay anything; just start with something! It took me 20 years to build my ’35 Chevy. I’ve had it on the road four years now and have 65,000 miles on it – gotta drive ’em!
Proceed With Caution
Jack Hickman – Fairview Heights, IL
I’ve been ‘in the game’ for many years and have never regretted getting into building and enjoying our rods. I thought I should offer a counterpoint to “Getting in the Game.”
I’ve had several acquaintances who purchased nice vehicles, started stripping them down, and then abandoned them. I’m thinking of a nice, finished and running ’57 Chevy with custom paint and interior. The new owner wanted to ‘restore’ it, so he broke it down and sent the body and frame out for stripping. Then he left the pieces sitting beside his garage where they rusted away. Another acquaintance’s ’57 wagon suffered a similar fate after he tore it down for a suspension rebuild and quit working on it.
My first project was a ’57 Chevy two-door hardtop I rebuilt in my garage after pulling it out of a field. When I started it, I didn’t even own a crescent wrench. I financed it by buying derelict vehicles and parting them out or doing a little judicious horse trading. Regrettably, I had to sell that car years ago. I’ve owned a few more since and currently have an original 50K-mile ’57 and a full custom ’57 (both four doors), as well as a ’60 Bel Air four-door hardtop.
I can’t disagree with your suggestion that a buyer get a ‘done’ vehicle that they can tinker with over time. If a person has an interest in going slowly, observing their limitations, and taking a piecemeal approach, it can work out wonderfully. Just like a house-flipping project, though, it’s easy for a novice to underestimate what needs to be done, what they’re capable of, how long it might take, and what it might cost. That “nice” vehicle can have cancer in the frame, dangerous wiring or mechanicals, hidden body rot, and other surprises.
I’d have been happier had your article included a caveat to readers that whatever they expect a project to take, it will most likely be double or triple their estimate in time, money, and labor. Before someone gets ‘in the game,’ they really need to be aware of what they can expect. If someone doesn’t have the willingness to stick with their project and the surprises they’re bound to encounter, then they and the vehicle will be better off just giving it a ‘pass’ and moving on.