When is your project car actually a parts car headed for scrap?
If you've watched THE LATEST EPISODE of MCM (CLICK HERE), you'll know exactly where this post is going. If you haven't watched it, I heartily suggest you put aside 30minutes of your day and catch up on MOOG's latest Marketplace Mistake.
As car enthusiasts we tend to see a car, get all giddy about the 4000 ways we could potentially build it, see the vision come together in our mind, and then race into a rushed purchase without thinking through all the potential ramifications or work ahead of us. We let our heart rule our head, and this can sometimes work really well for us... and sometimes it can prove to be a huge financial mistake.
Realising your project car is really a parts car can be almost a traumatic experience. However, this is normally a process of uncovering the issues as you dig into the car, rather than them being easily visible from the outset.
Rust is the single biggest killer of cars, and it is not always easy to see. This is why you should always inspect potential projects thoroughly. And in the daylight. Or at all (hi MOOG).
This rust in my car looks terrifying, but it was actually easily repaired by a shop. The most difficult part of some rust repairs is forming compound curves (where the panel curves in multiple different ways), however I was lucky this rot didn't get into the structure of the car underneath because that would make the repair massively more difficult as you'd have to cut back huge parts of the car to fix it (otherwise known as "de-skinning" as you take the entire panel skin off).
Once you get past the rust, you may have to deal with body filler. Also known as "bog", "nikki" and "bondo", this sandable putty is fabrication in a tin for people lacking skills and care for whoever will own the car after them.
Thick trenches of body filler will hide rust and unrepaired damage. I had to deal with a huge amount of it on my project car and the tip I can give is use a butane torch to heat the filler until it cracks, then use a paint scraper to lever it off.
However, be prepared to discover there is serious structural or rot issues underneath the filler. And, once you've got rid of it, you're committed to a bare-metal restoration of the car's bodywork (neither quick, nor cheap).
Structural rust can be fixed, but requires a huge commitment of time and a willingness to tear your car apart. You need to measure it to make sure the weakened structure hasn't twisted or moved, and repair that if possible. This is really best done by a professional.
Fixing crash damage is another area which requires experienced hands, as the car won't drive well with bent chassis rails, misaligned suspension cradles, and poor wheel alignment. In reality, it's dangerous.
Mechanical neglect can also put a serious stop to your project. If the engine has been stored with missing parts then the reality is water and dirt can get inside and trigger the need for a full rebuild. If an engine is missing spark plugs it is a huge warning sign, as well as milky oils in the engine, brakes or steering system.
You can get an engine going that has been exposed to water, but generally it will be on a timeline to needing a rebuild as piston rings and valvetrain components won't be happy.
From there, you also have to look at the cost and involvement of repairing interior damage, how difficult it is to source repair parts for your car (making everything is highly time-consuming and expensive), if you have the spare time and funds to make the project happen, and whether you have the space to tackle a large project.
Sometimes you may need to put the project in storage until you can save more money, or find a space to work on it. Other times you may be better off parting out the valuable parts off the car and cutting your losses so you can move onto a project you'll be able to finish quickly and get to enjoying.
But let's not get too bummed out by all this talk of dead projects, and remember MR VTEC in its glory days...