The poor man's project

Some say he can fix a Mustang using just a banana..
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Spanner Monkey
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The poor man's project

Postby Spanner Monkey » Fri Feb 26, 2016 9:13 pm

The poor man’s project.
Reading on Badhand’s project thread that he’s had to put ‘Hell Yeah II’ on hold I thought I’d share a few ‘top tips’ for those budget minded projects which always seem to be the ones that I’m involved with.

If you are thinking of building a project, whether it’s a ground up build or just a few mods to an existing car I’d suggest going the following route:
1. Plan. Plan what you want. Get an idea what car and what style you want to end up with. Make a shortlist of vehicles/years and browse the internet whenever you can to find what you need. Eventually a car will turn up that is within budget or is too good to miss.
2. Plan. How far are you going to go? Will it be a totally new chassis? What suspension would you ideally want? What engine/running gear? Again make a list of possibles and browse the web. Very often full tube or box chassis’ come up for sale when someone else’s budget has got too much. The same with engines – obviously Ford V8, but have a few options in mind – big block/small block/modular, but do some research and find out what the comparative costs of spares and making power are. Again with transmissions, manual or auto? It may be more economical to go auto and fit a manual shift kit which will give you an (almost) clutchless manual. Kits are now available to fit ‘flappy paddle’ gear changers to most modern autos but as they are relatively new there are seldom deals to be had.
3. Plan. Do you have the room/skill/machinery to be able to do the project? Any rental cost of garage/workshop space could push the project over budget, and labour costs will spiral if someone is doing the project for you. If you can weld or can learn how to weld it will be cheaper in the long run to buy a decent welder than to pay for someone else’s labour, and the same goes for paint spraying equipment, small lathe, pillar drill etc. If you are a wannabe mechanic then your own project is the best education you can get.
4. Wait. Wait for car/components to come up at the right price. If you haven’t got the car yet but the set of wheels you want come up at the right price then buy them. If you shop wisely you will not lose money on anything even if the project does not take off.

It’s very difficult to accurately budget for a budget build, but have a monthly figure in mind of what you are prepared to spend. Some months you will not spend anything, some months there will be unmissable deals that force you into spending more. Top tips for what to buy:
Look for the best base vehicle you can afford. A little bit of rust repair is inevitable on an older car, but don’t buy something with the bottom 4” missing as your budget will disappear just on getting the base vehicle to a stage where you can start modifying it. By then you will be disillusioned with it, and someone else will get the benefit of your hard work/money.

If you are going to change the engine/transmission/axle/suspension, those parts are irrelevant when you’re looking for a vehicle. Look for the cheaper option – 6-pot or 4-pot Mustangs tend to be cheaper than 8’s, and if you can get a 6-pot ‘Stang with drum brakes and 4-lug wheels cheap then go for it. There will always be a market for the parts you take off which will augment your measly budget!
As touched on above, if you’re looking to replace the chassis you will eventually find a chassis for sale that can be easily modified to suit your wheelbase/body style. If not, chassis material is relatively cheap, it’s the design/bending/cutting and welding that costs the money.
Rollcage? Just getting a ‘cage bent up can cost thousands, but scour ebay, gumtree, craigslist for second-hand roll-cages. Within reason it doesn’t matter what they are from as you will only be using the bends and hoops. I recently bought two second-hand cages – one from a Nissan Primera and one from a Talbot Sunbeam and the main hoops were identical. I know from years mucking around with Fords that the VW Golf ‘cages fit the Mk III Escort with absolute minimum alteration. Expect to pay up to 100GBP for a ‘cage. Buy two or three and you will be able to make what you want for your car.

Rear axle will need to be strong if you’re putting out V8 power. Everyone knows the 8.8 and 9” axles are the way to go, but don’t discount the GM 10 and 12 bolt, or the Dana axles. 9” axles command a bit of a premium because of their legendary power transmitting capabilities, but the GM 12-bolt is just as grunty, and the replacement/upgrade parts cost no more. The Jaguar XJ independent rear is also a good, strong axle and will support a Mustang easily and take V8 power. The great thing about using an IRS is the adjustability for toe and camber which will make it corner like it’s on rails…

Suspension is probably where the temptation to spend the most comes in, but a reliable and efficient suspension can be had/made for comparatively small money.

Then there is interior – Gauges, seats, steering wheel. Are you going to carpet it or panel it? 2 seat or 4-seat? Adjustable pedals or standard pedal box?

Bodywork. The paint alone will cost you a grand or more, then you have to apply it. If you are building a competition car or track day weapon I’d suggest going with a straight (non-metallic) colour as it will be easier to touch in when the inevitable ‘off’ happens.
Or wrap it? Vinyl wraps are around 2 grand. It could be the answer, particularly if you’re planning lots of graphics.

I know I haven’t touched on everything but this should give an idea of what you’re up against. Time is the enemy with any budget build as it can take months to find the car/parts you need, and then months between buying parts as you’ve spent too much one month. Have a clear image of your car in your head and remember that every penny you spend, and every hour you spend is one penny and one hour closer to driving it!

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Re: The poor man's project

Postby badhand » Sat Feb 27, 2016 9:29 am

Thanks Monkey. That came at a time when I needed it. As you said, my project has just stalled completely, and it is going to be a bit of a stuggle to get back to where I want.

But good tips.

I'm going to keep planning. Starting work on a 3D model to inspire me!

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Re: The poor man's project

Postby cati » Sat Feb 27, 2016 12:06 pm

Oh Man...... chin up brother.... it will come!

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Re: The poor man's project

Postby Spanner Monkey » Sat Feb 27, 2016 8:58 pm

badhand wrote:Thanks Monkey. That came at a time when I needed it. As you said, my project has just stalled completely, and it is going to be a bit of a stuggle to get back to where I want.

But good tips.

I'm going to keep planning. Starting work on a 3D model to inspire me!


Buy something for it, even if it's just a steering wheel.
I know it's a terrible cliche but every little helps.


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