We've all seen those mega-cheap half-done project cars for sale on the internet, tempting us with the supposed glory that will come... if you just whack an engine back in the car, finish the paint job and fit some trim. The truth is, buying someone else's unfinished project car is a more difficult task than herding goats over a high-wire while teaching a monkey how to do a drum solo.
As Marty and MOOG found out this week when they bought their new project car (WATCH THE NEW EP HERE) the budget path to automotive radness is often not the bargain cakewalk many people make out it is...
Say hello to Burgundy Ron, a stinky Subaru project car I picked up many years ago to use as a daily. From previous experience with RS Libertys I knew this wasn't going to be a painless, simple job to take a hail-damaged old nugget Subaru and make it a comfy, practical daily... but I'm silly like that.
Eventually this project car did work out, but it was a long road involving a full respray, new front-mount intercooler, full fuel system replacement, complete transmission and rear-end replacement, new steering, new control arms and struts all 'round, new brakes all 'round, and a heap more. It was worth it in the end, but this was also meant to be my "daily driver".
Don't make your daily a project car, kids.
A lot of old cars are offered up as incomplete projects, and this is with very good reason. OLD CARS ARE HARD. Sure, they are far simpler than later model cars in some ways, but you're also dealing with obsolete parts, parts that have been dirty and grotty for decades and need intensive restoration or replacement, and many other reasons.
I bought this 1962 Pontiac Bonneville off my mate and it was probably the cheapest 1960s chrome bumpered car for sale in Australia at the time. The floors and chassis were solid, but there are some warning signs to look out for...
Sorting through boxes of random parts that you haven't pulled apart takes months - even old cars are made up of thousands of individual parts and a missing bracket here and there can cause huge delays to putting a project back on the road... let alone finding the half-stripped engine is missing so many parts it would be easier and cheaper to buy a new, complete engine and start over.
In the below pic there is a bit of a trap. If you don't know these cars you might not even notice the heater and fan cover is missing. Being in Australia this isn't a terribly easy part to find and buy. You can go full aftermarket, sure, but this is all stuff you should be aware of having to sort out before you throw thousands on an unfinished project.
So, before you slide into someone's DMs offering to swap their unfinished E30 project for some lizards, half a chocolate Moove and a semi-functional tamagochi, work out if that car that "just needs to be put back together" is really so simple, or if it is going to end up like an E30 BMW I once bought...