Cars are meant to be used, even old ones. I think the biggest disappointment is when effort is spent on a project of love and it fails to work out like it should. Many people become discouraged and abandon great projects because of:
1) Bad advice: Bad advice can come from all sides at all points in the build. It starts with someone not familiar with old cars advising the purchaser as to the viability of resurrection of the specific vehicle. Moreover, well-meaning individuals can suggest suppliers and refurbishers that are simply not up to the task of dealing with the foibles of old cars. It is important to get expert opinion from competent specialists at all points of the build, from beginning to end. This applies to the “farming out” of services as well. (See more about service headaches in reasons 2,3,4, and 5).
2) Bad workmanship: This problem can be the result of miscommunication, or it can be a matter of having the wrong people performing the work. It is important that everyone having a hand in the process understands the goal to be achieved, as well as the competence to achieve it.
3) Unscrupulous service providers (mechanics, vendors, etc): This makes me sad. There will always be individuals that will take your money, parts, and sometimes your car through legal and illegal means. Often the only way to know who is honest is to have experience in the old car industry. (With regards to money, I feel it is important to read and understand reason 6 before judging someone adversely).
4) Lack of knowledge: Rule #1: Before starting any project DO THE RESEARCH! I cannot stress this enough. It is important to know what is possible, and what is not possible. Technically, anything IS possible, but enthusiasm is often dampened by reasons 5 and 6.
5) Inability to track down parts and specialized services: Knowing what items and services are readily available can dictate which car model and condition to start out with. Additionally, just because you can buy new old stock (N.O.S.) parts doesn’t mean you would want to use them. Stuff can go bad when it sits around too long. In the worst cases, parts can be made if nothing is available, but reason 6 can be a serious factor when remanufacturing parts. Sometimes a run of parts can be made if enough clients need it, allowing the cost to be shared with other enthusiasts. Belonging to a specific make club can help tremendously.
6) Lack of funds: This is what it all boils down to: Know your budget. Many restored or finished cars can be purchased for less than what it cost to build them. Often one can be money ahead by buying a finished car and altering it to suit. I will say that in my 27 years of doing this type of thing, one finds surprises after tearing into a project about 75% of the time. There is no way to know this ahead of time. If your only choice is to rebuild or restore, my advise cost-wise is to plan for the worst case scenario and be pleasantly surprised when it turns out to be better than expected.
7) Builders remorse: Truly a tragic scenario: A person finishes their car, and isn’t happy with it. Either it doesn’t do what is desired, or the car has some bugs that don’t get ironed out. Maybe the car wasn’t built right due to mismatched parts. Or, perhaps the person lacks the patience that old cars require. More common is the lack of understanding that car building takes time and money, and lots of both. Perfection is hard to find, and there are few old car designs that can be upgraded to perform like modern vehicles. It is important to understand that. It takes a special kind of patience to get the most enjoyment out of old cars. Do you have that patience?
These are the guiding principles behind the work I do.
1) If I don’t know something about a car, I usually know someone who does. I ask informed questions and I get informed answers before a car gets purchased or bolt gets turned. Nothing gets done blindly.
2) I will always make choices based on what is right for the car. One very important example is the selection of vendors for specific jobs. Often the vendors I use are not the cheapest, but they do the best work. I will try to offer choices based on cost, but I will not sacrifice quality. I build a car on the premise that once it is assembled and sorted (I do the sorting personally in many cases) it can be used daily. If you use my service from the initial consultation to the final assembly and sorting process and follow my care and feeding advice you can expect a car that will be ready for use at anytime, anywhere. That is the whole point, isn’t it?
3) I spend a great deal of time doing research for any project I am involved with. I have access to many archives for obtaining critical data, as well as a network of specialists that I can count on for “unwritten” fixes and improvements that sacrifice nothing but gain reliability, power, drivability, efficiency, or in many cases, all of the above. I wholeheartedly approve of modifications that improve a vehicle that cannot be detected by the casual observer, yet I am very concerned with making sure that the modifications are reversible.
4) I pride myself in being able to track down just about anything I need to complete a job. I have travelled half way around the world to find the right parts. I have the opportunity to travel several times a year and I always keep a list of what I need. However, 99% of the time it is not necessary to go to such extremes.
5) Understand that when you trust your project to me, I represent you. I handle the headaches, the vendors, the quality issues, everything that happens with the vehicle. I have the patience to deal with the artisans, yet I know when someone is trying to play me. With every passing year, the craft of old vehicle repair becomes more specialized. I would like to think it is getting easier, but with the onslaught of regulation and longtime experts retiring and dying out, it most certainly is not. My hunt for the best talent is never ending.