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Spinning My Tires   is one man's view of the world of cars. Random thoughts, ideas and comments pop up here, all of them related to owning, driving and restoring cars. I've been doing this car thing as long as I can remember, and have enjoyed a great many car-related experiences, some of which I hope to share with you here. And I always have an opinion one way or another. Enjoy.

E-mails are welcomed--if you have thoughts of your own to share, please send them.

Additional Spinning My Tires editorials can be found on the Archives page.


2/10/04

How do you eat an elephant?

Staying inspired on a project as large and time-consuming as a restoration can be frustratingósometimes it feels like nothing is getting done and the car will never be back on the road. Other times the costs of the undertaking get out of hand or other factors in your life reduce your ability to do the workówhether theyíre financial, physical or time-related. Sometimes certain projects seem too big to accomplish in the time you have, so they get put off to another day.

 So how are amateur restorations ever completed by people with real lives?

Like the old adage above, one bite at a time.

Restoring a car is one very large project that can easily be broken down into many little projects that can lend confidence and build a sense of accomplishment. This is why I espouse the technique of restoring most components as they come off the car. In this way, you are building a warehouse of ready-to-go components when the real fun begins: reassembly. At the same time, the car is never so far gone that bailing out of the project is technically and financially unfeasible. Most of all, however, you can see tangible evidence of progress each time a refinished part is completed. You can show your friends and family, to whose untrained eyes the car seems wretched and lost, that you actually are getting something done. You can enjoy the details that are inherent in any well-designed piece of machinery and wonder about the person who designed it. Sometimes you can see that his thinking was clear and elegant; other times, you wonder just what the heck they were smoking when the put the thing together. Every detail becomes another memory for you.

To keep my enthusiasm for the project high, I draw inspiration from a lot of sourcesómany of my readers inspire me with words of advice and encouragement. I like that aspect of placing my work on the Internet, because it creates a two-way exchange of information. Iíve probably gotten more E-mail about that Rusteco and GreaseMaster experiment than anything else Iíve done. Most folks are either asking for advice on whether I believe these products work (my answer: sort-of), or suggesting alternatives that are cheaper and more effective. Some of the products readers have recommended to me now reside on my shelf, replacing others that were not as effective. Just knowing that people are not only interested in what Iím doing, but that they care about my results, well, that really gets me out into the garage to do my best work.

Iím also inspired by people doing the same work I amóother restorers working on projects that they share on the Internet the same way I do. Iíve seen some really amazing work come out of amateur garages on these sites, and it always makes me believe that I can do it, too. I figure Iím probably as smart as most of these guys when it comes to cars, and I have the time to do it right. With everybody watching what Iím doing, I canít cut corners and be done with it, now can I? You'll catch me and remind me why I'm doing this in the first place. If that happened, I'd probably feel like I let you, my readers, down.

Working on this web site and the restoration log entries keeps me motivatedóI know people are out there watching and waiting to see more. When I find a new restoration web site (like those on my links page), I read it end-to-end and anxiously wait for the next installment. When I have not worked on the car or generated new content for the web, I feel badly because I know people might be waiting for it. Even readers whom I havenít met or heard from inspire me, because I know how it feels to acquire a taste for something and then be unable to get your fix.

To a lesser degree, finished cars inspire me. Yes, theyíre beautiful, theyíre running and theyíre complete. I have a standard to which I can compare my efforts and hopefully I can match the best. I look forward to driving my Century and all the projects that will follow it. But along this journey, Iíve discovered something I didnít realize:

For me, working on the car is the best inspiration there is.

The other night when I came home from a hard day at work and started scraping tar and undercoating off the Centuryís floorboards, I enjoyed the work. In fact, I was looking forward to it all day! Itís almost therapeutic to be out in the garage doing something, anything, that has to do with the project. I sometimes find myself getting depressed for no reasonóheck, we all doóbut Iíve started to notice that this typically happens when I havenít worked on the car for some time. A few hours out in the garage and Iím as good as new and feeling great. Even the worst job on the Buick is relaxing.

Cutting the floor out of the Buick is a good example. From Day One on this project, as soon as I saw the damage in the floorboards, it was a dark cloud hanging over the whole project. How would I ever fix it? Where would I find the parts to repair the rusty body mounts? How much would it cost to pay someone like my friends Doug and Nick Seybold to do it for me? At times, those fears overwhelmed the joy of restoring the transmission or painting suspension parts. Then I decided I would just do itóstart cutting and see what happens. And it turned out just fine. The cloud evaporated and I had a better hold than ever on the job at hand. Now Iím looking forward to making the repairs and moving on to the next stage. I have ideas for how to recreate both body mounts, and a plan for making things right. Sometimes the best inspiration is to just start working and let your hands do their job; they occasionally know more than you do when it comes to working on cars.

Iíve also learned that being flexible and not getting hung up on deadlines can be very helpful in keeping the hobby relaxing. If youíve been a regular reader of my log entries, you know that there are many, many times when Iíve said, ďThis weekend Iím going to pull the body,Ē or ďIíll send the frame out to be powder coated next week.Ē You also know that rarely do these larger projects happen in the timeframe I plan. To some, that could be frustrating, but to me, it is just the way the project wants to be completed. My friend Ron Stokey always says, ďThere are a million ways to skin a cat; the trick is finding the way the cat likes.Ē So when itís time to pull the body off the frame, weíll all know it.

This sort of relaxation is hard for some people to understand. My father always desperately wanted to enjoy the cars he owned. But to him, the joy was in the driving, not the fixing. He was certainly a competent mechanic who kept the cars running, idiosyncrasies be damned, but I donít really think he enjoyed turning a wrench like I do. I think what he really wanted was an old car that he could use as a modern car, just get in and go, no matter what the circumstances. There are undoubtedly some cars that will do that, but if you donít enjoy the tinkering at least as much as the driving, then the old car hobby could be very frustrating and/or very expensive for you.

Frustration is a real part of this hobby, Iím certainly convinced of it. But if you remember that a restoration is a journey with many wonderful sights to see along the way, then youíll probably find that it is more rewarding during the process. Keep your eye on the goal at the end of the project, but make a lot of little goals along the way so that you donít lose sight of the big one in all the commotion.

See you next month.


E-mail me at toolman8@sbcglobal.net

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Last modified on 02/06/2005

Thanks, Fidget!