My first project car was my fourth car, a 1979 Chevrolet Caprice coupe. I was at the younger end of fifteen years old and I had this image in my head for how I wanted the car to look, act and feel. And I wanted everything all at once. I dreamed of it lowered from it’s stock stance, “snotty” loud, and fast. What I ended up with, after messing with a Quadrajet that liked to puke fuel through the barrels, after nuking the coils with a torch, and after riveting on a generic cowl-induction scoop raided from a Mercury Comet of all places, was this:
Not bad for a fifteen year old, right? Please…the car wound up being a tale of what not to do. It was low enough that it scraped the frame while hauling tail to the local gas station, the rear axle’s control arm bolts never got checked and the whole axle wound up falling out of the car, and the last time I heard anything about the Caprice, after it had been sold, the transmission experienced a rather violent end. But let’s be fair: I was young, inexperienced and made mistakes. I went in pretty blind and the fact that I got a $150 Chevy to run, drive and look rather solid should be considered at least passable, if not commendable.
Now, let’s talk about big projects. I’ve gone down that road, too. The car was the 1973 Chevrolet Chevelle I bought in 2007 off of my stepfather. I knew the car well…he had bought it right about the time I was building the Caprice. It was rowdy, it was low, and it had been that way for years. Added plus, the cowl scoop was on a fiberglass hood that was pinned down. The car was awesome…flawed, but awesome. But it was visually rough, so I decided that I was going to do paint and bodywork. I started by ripping the vinyl top off of a car that had spent it’s entire life in Western Washington, parked under fir trees. Care to guess how well that program went? I’ll spare you the long story: the body was so f**ked that I wound up selling a killer powertrain wrapped in a box of rot for a couple hundred bucks. One of my stupidest decisions ever. (You can see the carnage photos HERE.)
Now I’m looking at my next big build, my wife’s Mustang. No, my Imperial doesn’t count, that’s just a mental illness at play. The Mustang is due for a five-lug swap, a new engine, transmission, and the entire brake system from an SN-95 Mustang. That’s a shitload of work for one little Fox body. And I promise you, as I look at the two engines, two transmissions, and growing pile of suspension components in the shop, that it’s something to think about. I’ve managed to get my skills up to where I’m comfortable taking on such a task. I’m also smart enough to wait on the work until I’m ready to focus everything on the Mustang, which means the Imperial has to be street-worthy. I’ve seen people dig into cars and wind up disillusioned with the process. We aren’t talking frame-off stuff, we’re talking simple things like a basic transmission swap. If you are new to the hobby or you are thinking about diving off of the deep end with a big build, hit play below and give it some thought. Tony has plenty of experience with big projects and has some excellent advice to give here.