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To Build or Not To Build

To Build or Not To Build


By Lance Lambert

There are three types of individuals in the old car hobby; a little crazy, a lot crazy and totally crazy. Their level of craziness may be determined by how they came to be driving their special interest car, be it a hot rod, original/stock or classic.

The first method is to find some old iron in need of restoration or altering, drag it home, convince your spouse and children that you have not lost your mind, and then proceed to take the next one to 20 years “fixing it up”. This has to be done while defending your decision to your family, friends and neighbors. Some will commend you for following your dream of bringing a derelict car back to new condition. Others will think that you are crazy. Both of these perspectives are correct.

One good thing about this choice is that you get the pleasure of creating beauty out of rust and rot. You will become a better craftsperson and be filled with pride when your project is completed, assuming it ever gets completed. For many hobbyists the “build” of an old car is the best part of the old car hobby. Hundreds of evenings and weekends in the garage will be filled with the pleasure of cleaning, grinding, sanding, screwing, fitting, sanding, pounding, cussing and sanding. Upon completion you will drive past your friend’s and neighbor’s homes while revving up your sputtering four banger, or belching V8, and yelling “I did it! I did it”. Your spouse may also be proud of you, unless your years of hiding in the garage has resulted in you being a participant in a weekly singles gathering. Some good advice is to not mention your love of working on old cars to any potential future partner.

The second method is to take the same rusting hulk to a restoration or custom shop and, over the next one to five years, give them enormous amounts of money to do the work that you have chosen not to do yourself. Your spouse may not agree that the money is being well spent and other people may think that you are crazy. Both of these perspectives are also correct.

The bonus of having a professional do the “build” is that they are just that, a professional. The other possibility is that they may not be, despite what the sign on the building says, a professional. Many cars have to be “re-restored” or “re-customized” as a result of a car owner choosing the wrong person to give the monthly bag of money to under the illusion that the builder is a professional. The car hobby is full of participants that have given 75K to 200K to shops and, in return, are given back cars that are worth 30K to 50K. Hey, if you have the money and time then go for it! If not then read the next paragraph.

The third method is to find a completed or original car in good condition, buy it and begin playing with your new toy immediately. This manner of acquiring a special interest car is considered by some to be the most sensible and quickest way to enjoy the pleasure of having the car that you lusted for in your youth but couldn’t afford. The down side is that you didn’t build it yourself and are denied the pleasure of enjoying a car that is truly your creation. The up side is that there is still enough money in your wallet to pay for the other necessary items in your family’s life. You may also have to endure the insult of being called a “checkbook mechanic”. The person making this comment may be the same person that, for the past 15 years, has had a rusting hulk sinking into the back yard as it waits to be “fixed up”.

There certainly are worse ways to spend your dollars and time, but what better way than on these four wheeled chariots of the gods. How crazy you want to be is up to you.