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Unhinged: Why Being A Fan Of Non-Mainstream Builds Is An Exercise In Self-Torment

Unhinged: Why Being A Fan Of Non-Mainstream Builds Is An Exercise In Self-Torment

Ever since I first signed up to CarJunkieTV so many years ago, I have been the guy who has had projects that have sat way out in left field, and I’ve been fine with that. Out of all of the cars I’ve owned since 2007, three could potentially be considered mainstream: the rot-box 1973 Chevelle I bought from my stepdad for a song, the 2005 Mustang GT I had while I was in school and a 1979 Camaro that my ex-wife purchased because…well, honestly, I don’t freaking know, but it was one of the worst vehicles that I’ve had the displeasure of owning. Everything else has been a little bit…well, off: front-drive GM performance cars, unloved Mopars fill out the rest, and anything preceding 2007 just helps reinforce my reputation for liking the unlikeable.

Most of what draws me to cars like this is historical…there was one in my past somewhere that I really liked. I have a thing for Chrysler B-body cars from the Seventies because I saw a mid-70s Dodge coupe (I don’t know what, specifically, it was) that took the punishment of a lifetime and kept going like it just had a minor door ding.  I like Ford Mavericks and Mercury Comets because I learned how to drive like a stuntman behind the wheel of a 1973 Comet GT. I like Impalas and Caprices because I’ve owned two, a 1977 Impala Coupe and a 1979 Caprice coupe. My fascination with 1974-1977 Camaros stems from childhood, and it doesn’t hurt that one was my first car. I will always see cars like these as alternatives to what would be considered a mainstream choice because quite often, they are: a Maverick can do just about anything an early Mustang can do. A Chrysler Cordoba is genuinely an option for someone who wants a Mopar muscle car but can’t afford a 1971 Dodge Charger.

But, as I’ve learned rather recently, there are penalties that must be paid in order to enjoy the non-mainstream. I’ve recently been parts-hunting for a car that I have been looking at as a possible project car, and to put it mildly, I’m sick over how cheap and accessible the parts are compared to damn near everything I’ve ever worked on or owned. How cheap? For the money I’ve sank into my three biggest projects (a 1987 Dodge Diplomat, 1981 Dodge Mirada and the Raven Imperial), I could have fully restored the potential project, built up a stout powertrain, and had money left over to race for a good half-year. In one sitting, with all-new parts from catalogs. That doesn’t even take into consideration how much money could be saved by hunting swap meets, Craigslist, Pull-A-Parts or whatever.


Maybe I should have built this POS…naaaaah.

If you are hunting for a project, do your homework long before you make an emotional purchase. Sure, that AMX is pretty sweet and will make for a badass ride when it’s done, but figure out how much parts will cost you before you decide to jump in with both feet. For the couple of grand you are spending on the ragged-out car, you could acquire a third-gen Camaro and spend up to a third of the cash on parts. Why do you think Fox Mustangs are so popular? Because parts are everywhere, prices aren’t completely stupid, and with just a few grand you can build up a respectable street machine or, for a few grand more, a legit monster.

I’m well aware that I sound pretty hypocritical writing this, but the truth is that sooner or later anyone who is thinking about jumping into this hobby needs to look at the reality of the situation. I’m not saying don’t build what you want, far from it…just be smart about it and know your limits before you find yourself with a non-running car project that is boldly going nowhere fast.

Besides, how could you say no to a car like this?

fox mustang 1

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7 thoughts on “Unhinged: Why Being A Fan Of Non-Mainstream Builds Is An Exercise In Self-Torment

  1. Chevy Hatin' Mad Geordie

    Come on guys!

    I’m trying to chill out before playing a gig this afternoon and you have to include a picture of the best Fox Body Mustang I have ever seen. Now I’m all hot and bothered and can’t think of any other song but Mustang Sally – which is a bit of a problem as I only play original material!

    Nice one – but thanks anyway..

  2. John T

    yep, true stuff…and even if you CAN afford the extra you’ll need to spend on parts, finding the bastards can be a drama…just yesterday I had to do a 200 k round trip to pick up (2) starter motors I couldnt find anywhere else…interesting story…the guy had a bunch of cars, his old drag racing coupe in the shed, and a container set up with shelves full of good stuff from when he used to own a wrecking yard. We bench tested a few starters, found 2 that matched part number wise and tested OK, and he says `you want the shiny looking one or the rusty looking one?
    so of course I take the shiny one… as I’m backing out his drive he gets this look in his eyes and says ` take the rusty one too – in case you have problems…give me the one you don’t use next cruise we both end up on…’ Sooo… bolting the shiny one on, as I’m tightening the bolt one lug just snaps off – it had been welded ( poorly) years before…so I screw on the rusty one, works like a charm…

  3. Mark

    Another couple of really big features that have made Fox Mustangs so popular is their light weight and the fact that they came with an outstanding rear suspension (and front, too, for that matter). There are seven-second Fox cars out there still running basically stock rear suspension setups, with aftermarket control arms on stock mounting points. With minitubs (a very simple process) you can get a pretty big tire under it. They’re really about as good a racecar platform as there has ever been.

  4. James

    Nothing wrong with one off oddball builds if that what makes you happy. That is, if they are well done. With the recent emphasis on phony patina, rust, and butchery good workmanship seems secondary. Another issue to think about is pouring money into a 1971 Cordoba and what will you have when it is done. A 1971 Cordoba worth about $500 even with a B-1 and a turbo. Ahhh…but that soft Corinthian leather.

  5. BeaverMartin

    I just want to state for the record that in my book an AMX is mainstream. I’ve travelled from Tennessee to Kenosha to get a fender for my Matador coupe. I also love odd balls. It is eye opening to get a mainstream vehicle every now and again. I’m working on a 72 Blazer right now and I just get parts from auto zone. Try doing that with my other cars (76′ Mini, 74′ Matador, 82′ Rampage)

  6. BeaverMartin

    Also, don’t keep track of cost. It will just make you hate yourself in the morning.

  7. Roger

    I have a serious thing for non-Mustang Foxes and currently have three, a ’78 Fairmont, an ’84 LTD, and an uber-rare ’85 Marquis LTS. So, yea… I get it 🙂 .

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