Project Car Dreams

Part 1: Finding Your Project

by Per Schroeder

For everyone that says that the hardest part about any project is the first step, I counter with this:  starting something is easy—it’s finishing the job that takes the most out of you.   Automotive restoration can be thought of as a metaphor for life.  There are lessons learned, problems solved—and layers of complexity that are often overlooked as we go from day to day, or task to task. 

Getting attracted to shiny flecks in a pile of dirt is common, but seeing everything through is something to be proud of, as it is as rare as the diamonds we seek.  I can think and dream all day, but I certainly can’t drive those thoughts onto a showfield.  Even working most nights and weekends, it can take a year or more to finish a restoration on a car. That’s a commitment that few are willing to make and fewer still follow through with.


There's a lot of work between the start of a project and showing it off at your local Cars and Coffee. Do you have what it takes?

Of course, life can hand us a lot of unusual twists and turns.  We gain and lose jobs, friends and family as we make our course through time.  Interests come and go as well as today’s hot new thing gets trotted out to the curb on some future rubbish day. 

I don’t think this is a secret that is hard to understand.  You need to commit to a project and get tasks completed along the way to reap rewards. To put a blunt point on it—you have to get shit done.  So once you commit to a project, make a solid effort to do so, even if it becomes difficult.  

Unfortunately, our society has evolved to the point where we are geared towards watching others do things, rather than do them ourselves.  We sit behind the computer, play with our smart phones and look at pictures of other’s actions, rather than making those pictures our selves.  Take that same down time and go outside to the garage and turn a wrench or two each day.


You can see my 5 year-old son's finger in the bottom left of this picture. Projects have to be fit in around life—and sometimes that means letting my son play in the garage while I finish up a car. 

Hobbies can be thought of as a luxury, and certainly playing with cars counts as such—but there is plenty that we can learn during the process that can help us with everyday life.  I’ve learned commitment to budgets, aesthetic details and adherence strict timelines in the mix, as well as just plain cool mechanical skills and tradesman’s know-how. 

Choosing a car to restore seems like the simplest part of the whole process.  Sure, if you only like a certain classic car, and you find one within your budget, it is easy to say that you should jump on the opportunity as it presents itself. 


Yes Honey, I'm keeping the kids safe in the garage—see the jackstand? 

I don’t think this is true.  Life is rarely predictable enough to allow simple decisions to be the best.   Done correctly, life is complex with jobs, family and kids that need to be taken into account.

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Thursday, November 06, 2014 1:08 PM
Man does this speak to my life. I bought my 240SX my freshman year in college thinking it would only need a few tweaks to become NY dream car. Instead it has sat for four years awaiting my time, money, and patience. I was all set to start resurrecting it again and then...my first car turned back up and I had to bring it home. Now THAT car is getting attention while the S13 languishes a bit longer.
Thursday, November 06, 2014 3:36 PM
The phrase "my last 911 project" implies that there were other 911 projects. That means I'm jealous, multiple times over..
Per Schroeder
Per Schroederlink
Friday, November 07, 2014 5:12 AM
Thanks! These 911 were both barn finds---so the buy-in was still reasonable--and this was before the longhood cars exploded in value. Like many, I'm priced out of that market now, unless I find a pile of rust with a VIN tag.
Friday, November 07, 2014 7:42 PM
I keep a terrible list of projects I want to have/complete. There's a journal filled with the ideas, engines, fitments, color schemes. I just need a job and a garage now...
Monday, November 10, 2014 7:42 AM
Great article and I will be watching for the next installment. I have had many MGs in my life but no garage and family mean that I probably will not have another anytime soon. My internal debate is between a pre-'85 Range Rover and a Series 3 XJ6. I am that "British car guy"
Thursday, November 20, 2014 6:45 AM
Thank you for sharing your perspective on experiencing a project car - very entertaining! I love reading these kinds of articles and am very excited for the next installment.
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