This picture of a (presumably) abandoned MGB posted at the Cohort by Impalamino just begs the question if you’ve ever walked away from a project car? Well, in this crowd, I suppose the more obvious question would be if you ever didn’t. Mine was a Peugeot 403 that I saved from the wreckers, stashed in the only assigned parking space in our apartment in Santa Monica, and eventually hauled back to the wreckers. Youthful imagination does not often hold up to the reality of bringing a beater back from Death’s Door.
Have You Ever Abandoned A Project Car?
– Posted on October 29, 2012
I don’t remember ever abandoning one but I’ve sold several…often at a loss, occasionally a break-even.
One of my never-ending stream of ’57 Chevy projects – a 210 4-door sedan imported from North Carolina – was part of a two-pronged plan I had…to build a nice two-door 210 for nice weather (out of another project car I already owned), the other one would be an everyday driver…and hopefully one in I’d bring my at-the-time-yet-to-be-born children home with their mother from the hospital.
Well you know how plans go…the kids came before the 4-door was finished then it sat under some pines for too many years while kids/house/bills/life simply got in the way (the 2-door was under cover in the garage all this time of course!) and after 13 years I had to face the inevitable.
So I guess I did abandon it. Actually Sawzall’ed it is a better descriptor.
Parts of it are still kicking around here…and the 2-door sedan gave way to a ’57 Handyman in far better condition. And yes it’s still in the garage awaiting the day…
You know what they said in Flashdance…”you give up your dream, you die.”
I sold my Fiat 124 Sport Spider for $200 to a friend that needed its transmission after the left side lower control arm pulled through its mounting point on the front crossmember.
I don’t always differentiate between daily drivers and project cars… unfortunately, I’ve been through a few. I had to scrap my first Datsun 280ZX due to extensive damage and rust on one of the frame rails. The second ZX succumbed to a fire after a fuel line sprayed gas all over the intake manifold. I picked up an E30 325 with a bad 1st gear synchro for next to nothing and drove it until the clutch melted and decided it wasn’t worth fixing. I loved driving it but absolutely hated working on that car.
I bought a nice, safe Camry after that but I’m still driving my MG B to work every day.
My father talks about the late 70s BMW he inherited when my grandfather passed away in similar terms; He described it as a “love hate relationship”.
Unfortunately yes and just recently. The city where I store some of my vehicles changed their laws so that cars parked in the city had to be operational, have current license, and be parked on an “improved” surface.
So I had to pick and choose what was worth keeping. One that didn’t make the cut was a 1972 Riv. It had been in the family for a couple of decades. One of my younger brothers started out with it when he was in high school. It was then passed on to another brother who abused it some more and finally parked it when the exhaust was rotting away. He gave it to me and I stored it for years in a number of different locations. Unfortunately when we started inspecting it to see if it was worth keeping the rust monster had gotten out of hand. There were holes in the roof under the half vinyl top and coming from the inside out on her luscious hips. The brother who last drove it and I came to the unfortunate conclusion that it was too far gone and sent it to scrap. We did salvage a few pieces from it, one being that curved rear glass. My brother brought his windshield knife to cut the adhesive and we removed the trim. We went to stick the knife between the body and glass and found the pinch weld had all but disintegrated and all we had to do was lift it out. A few other pieces were saved and the rest was sent to China. It shouldn’t be too much longer til it returns to the US as the case for a Toaster, Microwave, or some other small electronic device.
That hurts — the ’72 is my favorite Riviera of them all. Rust is rust though…and you had to do what you had to do. What color combo was it? Buckets/console?
No buckets and console just the bench.
When it met it’s end it was wearing mint green from a repaint before it became part of the family. Originally it was a dark green with the dark green interior.
I had a ’68 Chevy Bel Air 4-dr that I had to let go. I bought it in ’99, my senior year of high school, intending to fix it up. It became my daily driver after my ’87 Caravan croaked at 217k. I had a lot of fun with that car, although girls were either too afraid or embarrassed to ride in it.
After getting hit and run in the parking lot at work and me going away to college, it sat in my parents’ driveway for a few years and rusted. Towards the end, stuff in the trunk would fall out through rust holes. The windshield cracked, the exhaust system fell off, the master cyl. was shot…the list goes on..
I always thought there would come a time when I would be financially stable enough to resurrect it, but I moved across the country and my dad said it had to go. Its hard to see a dream die, but I’ve got a new project now- two ’92 Saabs!
Like chas108 above, I also had a 1957 Chevy project never finished.
Early 1974, bored with school after the service and had a few bucks burning a hole in my pocket, plus the 1972 Nova I owned at the time never gave me an excuse to work on it, so…
I found a well-rusted-out 1957 Bel-Air two door sedan. The interior was all original and in great shape, as was all trim and glass. No engine, but a three-speed overdrive stick shift tranny. Engine was a 283. I (over) paid $155.
I bought body panels, but to no avail, so a friend and I found another two-door sedan, a 210, in great shape, but on a 6-cyl chassis. Paid $50.
Work began in earnest, but lagged by the end of 1975. In 1976, I had to remodel my parent’s kitchen, got engaged and the car just sat, by that time at a body shop where previously purchased body panels were replaced. The frames were swapped in my parent’s driveway – that was fun – kind of like watching the Egyptians building the pyramids – four guys on each side, carrying the body using four 2x4s, walking down the driveway from one frame to the other! I wish I had pictures of that project!
Got married the following year, priorities changed, available cash went elsewhere, our son came along, so I sold the whole kit and kaboodle in boxes for $400 in November, 1979.
I never abandoned it, but wish to this day I would have been able to complete it! The buyer did. Not a bad job, but I know I could have done better.
Youth + energy + time = frustration. Why? Money and other priorities!
Youth truly IS wasted on the young!
61 Thunderbird. I started underneath. I got the rear suspension and brakes shipshape, and painted the rear underside of the body. Then I got married. Other priorities with time and money. The engine needed a rebuild, the interior was OK at best, and the body was decent with just a bit of (exposed) rust. I gave up.
I had a client whose kid was in autobody shop class in high school, who was looking for a project. He was interested. Pull dents, replace a little rusted metal, and spray the car it’s original Colonial White (someone had painted it red).
The kid did a nice job and turned the car into a first class 20 footer (it had been a 50 footer before). I sold it for maybe $1200 (around 1995). It looked even better at night when the buyer (a dealer, even) looked it over and bought it. I lost some money. But I got an education. At least the car was in nicer shape than when I had bought it.
I’ve never abandoned one in the literal sense, but I’ve given up on a few. Most of these were back in my late teens/early twenties when I had more ambition than skill or money.
The first was an ’83 T-bird that was given to me. Rusty, needed a fender, grille, header panel, valve job and a host of other things. An ’83 Bird is a unlikely restoration candidate now, much less in ’99. I donated that one.
Second was an ’82 BMW 320i that was pretty clean w/ 90k miles but had rusted rockers and needed a bunch of little mechanical things. I drove it for a year and fixed a lot of things, but never got around to dealing with the cancer. Sold it to a friend when I moved to NYC and he promptly trashed it.
Last was a ’73 Mercedes 220d, a $400 purchase that made the drive from southern PA to NYC after 7 years of stasis. It, too needed body work, as well as a major refreshing of the fuel system. Alternate-side street parking and vehicle restoration don’t mix well, especially when the tired injectors and glow plugs regularly conspired to keep the car from moving under its own power. Donated that one too.
I still haven’t taken on any major restorations, but I’ve brought a few cars from “sad and tired” to “nice daily drivers,” including all three in my current fleet.
My first car was a Datsun 312 wagon (maybe a ’62 or so?) when I was 14. I got it free, motor ran but it had lost a rear wheel bearing and destroyed the end of the axle and brake backing plate on the passenger side. I really had no idea how to fix it, or friends or friendly adults with skills – nor money, so I passed it on a few weeks later. In the early ’80’s I acquired a similarly free 4-door Hornet with 304 V8, which just would not start. By then my skills were a lot better, but no combination of fuel/spark/compression or timing would get it going, and again I passed it on. I had never registered it, but the people who gave it to me must have submitted a DMV transfer of ownership with my name on it, since about 2 years later I got a notice for an unpaid parking ticket from San Francisco, 80 miles away. So someone got it running.
Dear god, I’ve sunk way too much into mine to abandon it. That said, it was in prett good shape when I got it. More of a tidy-up than a project. That said, it’s amazing how the garage is a stasis machine. It sits there for extended periods without anyhting happening! I’m about 8 months behind schedule at the moment, and I expect that to blow out to 12 months by the time I’m done….
Yeah Ive given up on a few a 2door Morris 8 someone bought it and finished it off after I ran out of skills a 7 door 57 VW transporter that was too far gone to carry on with, those two stick out but there were many driving beaters that could have been saved if Id had somewhere to work on them but were driven until nearly dead then scrapped in favour of another heap in marginally better condition.
Sad to say my first car, a lovely (but rusty and beaten to death) 1966 Ford Galaxie 500 convertible (390 2v, Cruise-o-matic) was beyond my limited 17-year-old capabilities of restoration. Got the ol’ girl runnin and driving but not enough dough for the suspension, brakes, rust repair, everything else…sold it to some restorers in Newark for a grand back in ’95. I wonder what happened to her…
I’ve still got my (father’s) Morris Minor. Not in very good shape, but waiting for better times.
Yes – a 1941 Chevrolet Special Deluxe 4-door sedan. My parents bought it for me for $250 when I was in 7th grade. In high school, I completely disassembled it, sandblasted everything, and straightened the front end in body shop class. I also had all of the mechanical parts to get it back on the road: 283 small-block, Turbo 400 trans, Firebird 10-bolt rear end, Cadillac Tilt-tele steering column, Corvair front crossmember/suspension, Buick Riviera front seats, and an under-dash A/C system.
The epoxy-primered car shell and frame sat covered for 8 years alongside my parents’ home while I was in college and started my career, and I finally realized that I would never finish it. Most of the parts sold at auto swap meets, but I couldn’t even give the body away, and reluctantly cut it up into pieces with a cutting torch, delivering it to the local scrapyard along with the 1940s title (which I should have kept, in hindsight).
Now, If I can get a coat of wax on my car more than once a year I’m doing really well (but I do all of my own maintenance & repairs)!
Yes, my late great TR4 project, bought during my first year of univesity. It was cheap, and had been rusted, crashed, leaded, rusted again and crashed again. I had no money, so spent way too much time on it saving parts that shouldn’t have been saved. 19 years later it still wasn’t on the road, and I had spent enough money to have bought a nice TR4. I gave up and sold it cheap, and bought the VW.
Here’s a shot of the TR4 and VW together. I still want another TR4..
Mine was a ’79 Fiat Spider 2000. It was a great little car and I used it for over a year as a daily driver even though it was trashed. On my way down a mountain road the clutch literally disintegrated. and I am using the word “literally” correctly. I was not able to find but a few pieces strewn on the side of the road. Of course, no cell service in the mountains, but I finally was able to have it towed home. I got it off the truck and opened the driver’s door…it fell off!
I donated it to the Polly Klaas Foundation and took the write-off for a goodly amount since it was the final year that the deduction was not tied to the auction price.
We went down the next day and bought my wife an Audi Cabriolet. It is pretty boring, but my wife loves it. I do have it chipped so it is pretty quick at least. I am saving up for a 2000 Boxster S.
Gave up on one, and kick myself daily for it. An all original 1971 VW Squareback, in orange. For those that don’t know these cars, they were the first VWs to have fuel injection. I heard through the grapevine about this car that a kid at school’s dad had sitting in his backyard, an old VW station wagon, and I knew immediately what it was and had to have it! I talked to the kid, and through him I made a deal for $250. Went to their place with my buddy in his ’93 (2.3L, 5 speed) Ranger, handed over my pizza shop earnings, and hooked the car to the rear bumper of said compact truck. We hauled her down the back roads, he driving the truck, and me modulating the brakes in the Square, about 10 miles back to my place, and by the time we got the car to my driveway, the brakes were cooked. They were locked up, and we couldn’t even push the car into my parents’ garage, so we got a tire, put it between the bumpers, and pushed it in that way, as she screeched and squealed in protest. I was proud of her, she was in great shape cosmetically, needed very little, but mechanically, she was a nightmare.
First of all, every rubber hose was shot. The wiring for the fuel injection system was just as bad. The fuel pump was dead, which was my first project, but when that was replaced and the key was turned on, fuel spilled out of every possible location. The worst part was the wiring though. There was so much of it, and I had very little real world experience with automotive wiring at the age of 18. Unplugging things and plugging them back in while doing an engine swap was one thing, starting from scratch to rewire an entire engine management system was another entirely. So, as many have said above, my lack of experience was too much to overcome, and my lack of money made it even harder. I had to sell her and move on. My next car was a 1984 Dodge Colt with a 4 speed manual. It was fun, but I miss my Square every day.
As for the king of unfinished projects, here’s one casualty. I bought this ’85 Cavalier convertible from a friend without a title for about $100 or so. The original owner evidently left it at my friend’s friend’s house 🙂 after choosing not to pay for the complete upholstery job. The seats were redone in a very nice cloth material that mimicked the original style pleats.
I hated the color combo but the car was in great shape other than the screwed-up 2.0 engine. I bought a couple running parts cars but never got around to swapping engines. Another friend of mine bought it from me & put a timing chain in it but could not get it to run. He asked if I wanted the car back & I said sure (since I don’t think he paid me for it yet anyway!)
So it sat several years with its other doomed field-mates until I finally hauled it off to the scrapyard. It made me sick to be the one to kill it but really…there were over 100 other vehicles in that field “that I’d get to someday”.
#2: this one was an ’85 Sunbird Turbo Convertible. I picked this up at the Birmingham Impound auction for $50 with the intent to get it running. It was loaded with options but was an automatic & while the engine ran, one of the rods had exited the block & it spewed oil everywhere.
I even wasted time getting a title in my name for it….But I lost my job, moved out of state & there it sat with close to 100 other vehicles. It was destroyed the same day as the previous car.
#3 — This was another $100 auction special & originally a very cool car: a black ’86 Buick Regal Limited with T-tops, maroon bucket seat console interior, sport steering wheel, Olds 307, etc.
I actually got this one running but someone had taken everything off the front of the engine for some reason (possibly a water-pump replacement?). Both quarters had bondo in them from previous impacts but the car was rust-free otherwise. This one and pretty much every other one I post in this thread “died” because of the reason in my previous post.
My apologies to you Mr. Bennett.
Ouch, G-bodies, not as common as they used to be, not extinct, but I remember when they were like stray cats, one in every alley and almost free. I’ve only really abandoned one car with no hope, though I don’t know if it went to the scrapyard, it was a rusty-as-hell 78 K5 Blazer, it always ran, and seldom stopped, I had it for about 4 years….I hope that it lives on as some sort of Mad Max style swap buggy somewhere.
I have always considered the G bodies as the last of the old, pre-1973 GM, or the last gasp of the Colonnades, as they appeared to be of the same architecture.
I liked them, fixed-glass and all.
I did not know you had a soft spot for the G-bodies! My favorite G-body is probably the Regal Limited coupe although I’m okay with all of them except the Pontiac 2+2, Aerocoupe, & non-police spec Malibus.
I couldn’t bring myself to haul my last G-body car off or paint the “X” of death on the window when the crusher came so hopefully this ’83 will still be there when I return. Its interior was nearly perfect but the 3.8 had spun a bearing. The car looks rough but is completely rust-free.
It seems these cars did not tolerate rust well in the northern states but the southern cars lasted forever: they didn’t have the leakage issues which destroyed the collonnades & ’71-’76 full-sized lines. Super-clean G-bodies bit the dust regularly down there….and to a lesser extent here in NC.
Paul & some others will probably squeal with delight on the next few casualties but the two in this post really bug me. I only have a picture of one but the other car is identically colored but much “cleaner”. Both were ’85 Camaros with the LG4 305-4bbl & 700R4 transmissions. I bought the nicer one out of a guy’s yard after his kid blew the engine in it. He said it threw a rod or something but I didn’t have a tow truck at the time….
I put some wheels on it, added a battery & gas & got it cranked: it definitely had something “big” loose in the bottom end of the engine but it only started making bangings & clankings over 700-800rpms. So genious here actually drove the sucker home which was about 15 miles.. it was a slow go as the engine sounded like it was literally going to explode but I probably got it up to 30-40mph at times (putting it in neutral downhill!).
The other car had something wrong with the engine but I never even got to tinker with hit — I had full intentions of fixing these things up — what an idiot — all that wasted time just so the car crusher could destroy them & 88 other of my parts-cars & “projects”. I actually made a killing since scrap was high at the time…but it still bugs me that no good came out of them.
No cars. In my motorcycle days I once had the intention of building an army-spec BSA B40 from parts. Got a good frame, with nice forks and comical hub from an A65. Also had a bunch of other parts from some other unit singles. But there came a point where I realised that the money required to buy the bike in parts would get a much better deal if I bought a complete bike. So sold it to a friend who was stockpiling good BSA parts, against a nuclear winter I think.
Also had an MZ250 basket case for a bit – really don’t know what was going through my mind.
Bye – bye my little funmobiles — these were worn out 2.8 cars but they sure were fun to blast around in. I actually planned on fixing the blue thing since I had all the extra parts on-hand. It had tons of options & was originally light blue. Mr. Primer was tweaked a little in the front frame-wise so it was just a “funmobile”. I was living up here in NC & only had one week to prepare 90 vehicles for the crusher — I had no time to strip parts off of these — it really pissed me off but it was my own doing.
Some idiot brought this 40K mile ’68 Catalina to the scrapyard my father used to own. The only body damage on the car was inflicted by the yard with the loader. It was still way too nice to recycle so I bought it & towed it to the field. It was complete but had some sort of engine issue. It sat in the field a few years & this is what happened to it. I managed to pull the LF fender since it was “as-new” & the taillight bezels but that’s it.
Worse than that was the ’72 Chevy cargo van behind it. I only paid $50 for it but it was a long wheelbase cargo van with 250/3-speed on the column. The van had its original faded green paint & zero body damage, just some surface rust. Best of all it had no windows whatsoever & was going to be my “shaggin wagon”. I could kick myself for letting it go.
The white van in the LR corner was a newer model LWB cargo job, also without windows. It was beat-up but still ran/drove — it had a fuel-injected 305 & turbo 400. What a waste.
Since I’m already bummed-out here are two potential additions. These cars may already be stolen and/or hauled off — I have not gotten a chance to get back down there to retrieve these…
Yes, the red car is a GTO and the Golden Olive GrandVille did run & drive 🙁
I’m praying for you on the GTO.
Any word on the X-11? Maybe I’ll toss that one in for good measure.
Save divine pleas for the Skybird, ’73 GS455, & ’73 Regal 455 (rusty white top next to the GS. Ford products are not mine).
I may end up driving down there this weekend if I can get the truck running well enough.
Junqueboi, does this look like your ’73 goat:
Nope, not mine 🙂 It’s funny though — that Junkyard Life guy could pass for my long lost brother or something — from Alabama…likes the same type crap as I do.
What-might-still-be-my-GTO is/was Florentine red with white bench seat interior. Interesting story behind that deal but that’s for another time.
One more for now & I’m done. These two were spared the crusher but they may be gone as I have had no contact with the field owner in at least six months —
The Verdant Green GP is my all-time favorite vehicle ever — it was the first vehicle I ever purchased with my own money ($100) — I was seventeenish & was just blown away. It didn’t look quite this bad but still, it was a non-running $100 clunker back in 1990 or so. The color combo owned me (green/white/white) & this one literally has between 25 and 30 options.
The Ascot Silver car next to it is(was?) a ’73 Grand Am 4-door sedan that was a fine running 80K machine until a body shop bought it for it’s LR door — which went on a customer’s worthless ’76-’77 non-Enforcer LeMans sedan. The body shop employee pulled the rest of the car home, flipped the car on its side, dumping it’s 400/400 drivetrain out on the ground for his round-track POS race car…
the car sustained a small dent on the corner of its roof right at the B-pillar (COLONNADES RULE) but had no other damage.
So it along with a lot of other non-mentioned vehicles sit 600 miles away, awaiting their eminent demise — hopefully I can get down there & grab a few before they are completely unrestorable. Heck, they may not even exist anymore. Okay, I’m done, thanks for letting me vent.
I agree that Colonnades rule (as long as they are either Pontiacs or made in 1973)
Zackman, sorry if I offend or anger you.
Jeez, JB, this is a sad tale. Hope your finances have stabilized a bit and you’re able to fish out a few more survivors.
Oh yeah, a 66 Pontiac Parisienne, I bought it , and thought I would use it as a daily driver for years. It was almost perfect except for body filled quarters, a tired 283, and a slipping powerglide.
Well lets see,a new crated 283 and a hand rebuilt Poweglide. Then there was the new quarters.Full paint job. The list went on, and on. I did, however get a lot of years daily driving out of it. I also put a lot of cash into it.
One day I noticed the rear bumber sort of drooped? Too many Southern Ontario winters.Turns out the frame was rotten.
I sold it to guy that wanted parts. I’d like to think it went to rest in a field somewhere. Me thinks it met the crusher though.
I had a ’66 Sport Deluxe Parisienne, which was a project that never even got started. It had rust but it was solid. Nice dark turquise/white vinyl roof/white interior. 275 horse 327 with a powerglide. It needed lot’s of work but it would have been worth it. I had it less than a month and a guy offered me over twice what I’d paid. He eventually finished the project and I got an opportunity to kick myself every now and then when I’d see it out and around. I hope it’s still out there somewhere, there’s a fair bit of interest in our unique Canadian ponchos these days.
Somwhere in my neighborhood theres a 63 Strato Chief 2dr pillar, zero options except for the 283. I’ve been told its numbers matching. I do know, that the dude that did the frame off resto, took ten years doing it. If I get a closer look at it, I will send a photo.
I still miss Pontiac. In many ways they represent for Canadians what Chevrolet meant to Americans, at least if you’re a certain age.
Well, there was the 1940 Ford standard coupe that I bought with a seized engine. Pulled it and replaced it with a ’49 Ford flathead from the neighbor kid’s beater coupe. Got the early water pumps (flathead water pumps doubled as front engine mounts) and had the motor sitting in the car ready to wire. Another neighbor stopped by, looked at it, and made me an offer; I thought about all the work it still needed and sold him the car. He got it running with that flathead, painted it red with poof-cans, and I saw it around the neighborhood quite a few times.
I can’t really think of anything I just walked away from, but there were a couple of wrecking-yard rescues that I sold after little more than just getting them running and driving.
Oh wait. There was the 1951 Studebaker Starlight coupe that I bought as a hulk – it had a chopped top and the guy never did figure out what to do with the rear windows. It sat in Pop’s yard for a couple of years, and I never came up with a solution for the rear windows either.
1988 Red SAAB 900 Turbo (see avatar). Odometer stopped at 215k, drove it for 3 more years. Engine finally went and although I really wanted to put a new one in, living in Michigan had taken its toll on the unibody. Open both doors? couldn’t get them closed easily. Sold the caracas, wept. I doubt I’ll ever own another car I like as much.
Way too stubborn to completely give up.
I labored on and on for way too long on way too many worthless wrecks when all I had to work on was a dirt driveway or a punky wooden floor with a leaky roof overhead. My ever receding dream was simply to have a concrete surface to work on, a surface that would “push back” when I tried to jack up those worthless wrecks to working height. Somehow, despite the odds, they all got finished.
My dream came true in 2004. I built a 28 foot long drive-through garage with concrete floor and 10’x10′ doors at either end. What a beauty. It was accompanied with a nice well-equipped shop built as an ell off one end of the garage, together with alcoves built into the sides for accessing tools, supplies and that long suffering jack. It was really nice.
I was 64 in 2004.
Funny how ambition wanes with age.
It sure is a pretty place to look at though.
Never abandoned a project car, but a daily driver that was turning into an unintended project: my 1984 GMC passenger van with the 6.2L diesel. My dad originally bought it in 1988. He had been looking for a used diesel Suburban when he came across the van for sale. He finally found his diesel Suburban in 1998 and gave me the van. The Suburban was a 1988 model, but was in great shape for its age partly because it had spent all winters down in Florida.
The van needed tires so I bought some new Michelins for it. I replaced all the doors with good ones found at the wreckers because mine were rotted out at the bottom. I even transferred all the power lock and window motors into them. Also needed an idler arm, and some repairs to the battery box down on the frame (diesel vans have 2 batteries) and a patch welded on the rocker it was attached to. The steering box blew a seal and I replaced that with one from the scrapyard. Then I discovered the entire floor was rotted out from behind the front seats all the way back, so I removed the interior, welded in a new floor, and put it all back together.
The drivetrain was still excellent, but other things started breaking faster than I could address them. Corroded lighbulb sockets, wiper motor that would cut out intermittently, radiator leaking, combination turn signal and wiper control stalk broke off, idler arm went again (cheap Crappy Tire parts!), along with a tie rod end, all 4 tires needed replacement again, etc. It was also starting to look pretty shabby. I never finished repainting all the doors, so it was a patchwork of colours, and any bodywork I had done all started to break-out with surface rust again after one winter.
I bought my pickup truck in the fall of 2000. I had two parking spots at my apartment, and my Chrysler was away in storage, so I kept the van to commute to work that winter to save my pickup from being subjected to the road salt. Come spring, the van had to go because I needed the spot for my Chrysler. I parked it in a friend’s field, used it to store other car parts in, advertised it for sale as parts for awhile with no takers, pulled some parts off for my dad’s Suburban, and eventually gave the title to my friend to take it away for scrap.
In addition to my van, I have also welded new floors into my brother’s 92 Roadmaster and my friend’s 88 Jeep GW. From the fates of those 3 vehicles, I’ve concluded: if a vehicle needs to have a significant portion of the floor replaced due to rust, you’re only buying another 2 years of life for it. In all 3 cases, so many other things were about to fail that the owners gave up and scrapped the vehicle in about 2 years.
This ’62 Corvair, which I owned back around 1983. Looks good, doesn’t it? Bad rookie mistake; I had no idea that a car that looked this clean topside could be NOTHING BUT RUST all over underneath — well, except where it was just nothing. And the big black stain under the bumper is evidence that this poor beast was its own little rolling Exxon Valdez. It actually did run and drive quite nicely if you poured oil into it faster than it was coming out. It was probably not beyond restoration but it was beyond restoration on my budget at the time, so I sold it to a guy on the other side of the neighborhood for something less than $200. It sat derelict on his street a few weeks before disappearing.
My mail-truck-turned-Jeep CJ/DJ was one. The mail-livery body rusted out, and then I found a fiberglass CJ tub was a perfect fit…for $1299. I got it 98 percent completed; and then the Borg-Warner automatic transmission went out.
It kicked around in some storage units, and then a friend-of-a-friend’s barn for some years…and then I gave it up. Sold it to a better-funded fellow Jeep addict for $300. It was that or let the barn owner just junk it…
More recently…my cherry rust-free 2003 Dodge full-size van went away…it was a project on the dream board; going to make a camper out of it. Wouldn’t have taken much; not to mod out, since I’d be starting with a “customized” type family van.
But rust isn’t the only thing that can kill a vehicle. I had a leaking head gasket; the miles and miles of emissions-related fuel and vapor tubing had damage and were setting off CHECK ENGINE alarms. Fixing it at home, out of the question. Four figures in the shop.
Then, after this winter’s storage…the transmission started sending signals that death was imminent. That, and a very-worn steering gear…and 14 miles on a $3.99 gallon of gas…and it needed new tires; dry-rot on the six-year-old ones that I bought it on.
Add it up, and it comes to NO SALE. Well…I put 30,000 miles on it for a full cost to me (not including gasoline) of $2500…that after sale. So…I let it go to someone who was all excited about no rust and a nice interior.
Let him learn what I’ve learned.
1973 Superbeetle in 2001. Should have waited to find one less hit by the tinworm, but I got it more or less together. My attempt at an outboard oil filter went sideways when I didn’t notice I had no good connection between the pump drive shaft and the engine. It “almost” worked, but I guess I should have actually measured the distances and pressed the shaft further in. (As memory serves, the gear was pressed on the shaft, but just loose enough so I could have gotten it right.)
The engine didn’t seize (not sure why), but I did a teardown and saw signs of extreme hoonage. The stamped numbers on the main bearings were echoed in the case in reverse. Not sure how many RPM it took, but I assume a lot.
I went to buy engine parts from Gene Berg, only to discover that some lowlife got my checking account. By the time that was straightened out, the dot-com boom turned into the dot-bomb crunch and I needed a job far more than a project. The next job went south when the customer went under, so I did the “fix up the house and sell it” and moved from San Jose to Klamath County. The SuperBug (less engine) went to the local VW shop as a donor and I ended up as a “retiree” at 51. Barring the construction, and the myriad other non-automotive projects one can find in the country.
My 1966 Bonneville convertible (which I’d owned since 1975 when it had 39,000 miles on it) was sold for $900 to someone who was collecting them way up in Detroit Lakes, Minnesota – he planned to restore them someday, and mine sure needed it. Also sold with the car were the remnants of a parts car 4-door: both front fenders, hood, complete grille assembly, dashboard including wood veneer, cut-out area between taillights with intact trunk lock where mine had been punched out years earlier.
I had finally come to the realization that after owning the car for 17 years, I was never going to be in the position of undertaking a body-off-the-frame restoration of a 222-inch-long vehicle. Five years earlier I’d rented a garage and a propane heater during the winter (I lived in Minneapolis then) and replaced the convertible top, disassembling the frame and having it sandblasted, painting and reassembling according to the GM shop manual that the public library offered in those days. But I had no prospects of owning a home then. much less one with a garage.
My one regret is that my wife never got to ride in it – didn’t meet her until the summer after I sold the car. The 389 engine and THM transmission had been rebuilt in the early 1980s and were great to the end, but the frame would have started to rust soon if it hadn’t already.
If anyone cares – the car had factory a/c, power bench seat with leather inserts, vacuum power door locks, power windows. If fixed up, it would look like this (same color and wheel covers): http://reviewscar.com/photos/image.cfm?photo=974
I’ve only really had one project car, my 88 Thunderbird. It’s not even a real project car but more of something I tinker with. It never needed rust repair and the only cosmetic thing that had to be fixed was replacing the leather on the front seats. The California sun does awful things to leather. I’ve upgraded the drive train but the car was always drivable. I think that’s the key to project car success: buy a car in good shape that runs and drives and then tinker with it to suit your needs. If you buy a non-running rust bucket you’re going to lose interest in it as the car sits and eats money instead of being something you can drive and enjoy.
Good advice, I always tell the new people at the IH forum I am active on to get and keep the rig running and driving then do upgrades/repairs bit by bit w/o taking it off the road for long stretches of time. If it is all torn apart to rebuild everything the likelihood of it getting back on the road is next to nil particularly for a first timer.
+1 to both of you guys.
My dad told me the same thing way back when his own big old Chrysler went from daily driver to project car status. He watched as my uncle and his sons had many cars that went from project or weekend toy to basket case and ultimately sold for pennies on the dollar. Unfortunately dad didn’t follow his own advice, and his car hasn’t moved under its own power in years.
I said I wouldn’t let that happen to me. When I wanted to overhaul an engine or trans in one of my Chryslers, I bought a spare one to overhaul and swapped them out when the replacement was ready. That way the car wouldn’t sit if I got behind schedule.
In the 12 years since I bought my first big old Chrysler, this summer was the first time it was off the road for the entire season, and it scares me every time I think about it. Last fall I embarked on a major body restoration. I started with the front end. Everything from the firewall forward, including the front subframe, was removed. I was hoping to have it all back together in June and be able to at least drive it to a couple local car shows. Of course I got behind, and it actually became driveable in mid-September. Too late to bother getting it insured for this year.
I’ve only dumped two “projects”.
The 73 Midget I had made me a laughing stock out of all my friends. I’m 6’3″ and was 275lbs at the time I had it. My future Ex called it my Barbie car. It was in rough shape and had to dump it for lack of storage. The guy I sold it to put a grand into it, sprayed it in his garage and sold it for six times what I sold it for.
The 73 Chevelle that I had since I first got my license and probably dumped close to 20K into building went bye-bye not long after getting married. For a grand as a roller. The guys that bought it sure were happy. They drove to the Chicago ‘burbs from Lebanon, OH to pick it up.
Lesson learned.. Buy them done.
I had, in some capacity over the course of almost ten years, an ’89 Cavalier that refused to die. The transmission was eating itself inside out and the body was rusting to pieces, not to mention the plethora of dents and dings. It was in the family for 18 years and I was the one that put it to rest with a set of spanners and a hacksaw. The engine still sits in my carport and most of the little odds and ends are in my garage. Much of it will live on in other cars, but it was like losing a family member. I’m just glad I was the one that pulled the plug.
I didn’t walk. I ran. The villainous money pit was a 1992 GMC Typhoon that just refused to run like it should, no matter how much money I threw at it. Of the nine months I owned it, I probably drove it for nine days or so. The end was nigh when the intercooler blew itself to pieces and flooded the just-rebuilt engine with coolant. That was it for me.
oooh… what a rare bird. I did not know they offered these in that Seafoam green.