Make Your Project Car a Success with these 10 Essential Tips

Projects cars - the ultimate car enthusiast's hobby! Buy a 'bit if a junker', and picture it cleaner and sharper than when it rolled off of the production line all those years ago.

As anyone who has completed a project car (let alone just started one!) will tell you, plans always go off course. Hidden gotchas can put you behind, and bring up the cost. So we have put together 10 pieces of advice from people who have been there, done that, and ripped the T-shirt.

We've also put together a free downloadable and printable Project Planner, that helps you go through every area of your new wheels and plan what needs doing. Read the tips below first, or feel free to skip to the free download! 

1. Before you buy - look for rust

Rust is a money-sinker, especially if it's on the chasis. Have a good look underneath the vehicle before agreeing anything - and if there's any sign of rust there, it could signal the foundations aren't going to last very long at all. They could be too weak, and you'll essentially be building a car from scratch - with all the cost that would entail!

2. Buy good tools (almost always)

Your tools will be by your side throughout the journey, and you need to depend on them. If you're worrying they might snap under the pressure, or they're eroding already, they're just not going to get the job done, and you'll pay twice.

Invest in the best quality you can afford in your project's budget, with one exception. If there's a tool you're only going to need once, maybe it isn't worth spending too much on that particular one!

3. Tag and bag everything

I can't stress this enough - keep everything, from tiny nuts and bolts, to large engine parts, tagged and bagged. You need to know what it is, where it came from, and where it's going to at a quick glance - try colour co-ordinating tags to easily spot which area of the car a part belongs to.

4. Don't compare your project to others

Your project is your project - and starting work on a car like this is a huge achievement in itself. If you don't have the biggest budget, don't start second-guessing your choice of model just because someone else you know has a more expensive one in their garage.

Buying a car is a personal enough choice and expensive, but finding one to pour your heart and soul in to is a reflection of you, period. Don't let any insecurities or ego get in the way of achieving what you're wanting to achieve.

5. Have another car for 'normal life'

This tip may appear obvious - but I've heard of many people making the mistake of assuming their project will be over and done with very soon, and it will be on the road in a few weeks. Why keep that boring normal car around? Well, the main reason is that you'll need it! 

The project will take longer than you're expecting, I can almost guarantee it. If you're going to need a car for actual normal life in the very near future, don't catch yourself relying on the project to get you to work.

6. Don't buy cheap parts

There's an old saying "buy cheap, buy twice" and it applies perfectly to car parts. Go for the best quality parts you can afford, every time. OEM parts are made by the original part manufacturer, but don't have the car maker's logo presented on them. They're often much cheaper than the parts with emblems on, so usually offer the best balance between quality and price point.

7. Research every little thing - no guessing

The differences in the build process between manufacturers can be huge - but that isn't all. Every range, model, and sub-model can have different parts for the same function of the car. As automotive lighting specialists, we know that the shape of the headlights can be very different between model releases and special versions, so don't just assume your part will fit - research, research and research more.

8. It will take longer than you think

Plan for 1 year, it will take 2. The simple fact is that whilst your new project is an exciting phoenix waiting to arise from the ashes - it probably has a few battle scars from its former years that you can't immediately spot. You also might need a part that takes a long time to find - there's just no way to predict it. But this is all part of the fun - and makes that day when you can take her out on the road all the sweeter!

9. It will cost more than you think

Try and budget slightly more than your expecting to pay for the renovation, unintended costs are unavoidable. Maybe you'll drop and break a part and need to rebuy it, maybe only one bloke on eBay has the part and wants a fortune for it. You need a contingency pot of cash, and if you never spend it - all the better!

10. You don't need the perfect one first time

Your first project doesn't mean your only project. You might find yourself wishing you'd found a beat up 911 instead of your Morris Minor, but the Porsche will have its time. Don't put off the joy of a project car just because you have a fixed idea of what you want - you might waste too much time that you could be enjoying with the Morris.

Planning a Project Car Renovation

Download our free Project Car Planner

  • Plan your car renovation section by section, system by system
  • Assess the current condition of parts
  • Record what work is required and what parts are needed
  • Simplify your project's plan and have a central document to rely on
  • Helpful tips and tricks along the way! 

Download for free and either print or use as a guide on-screen.

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