Gearheads are a breed that is unreasonably driven to do what we do. We build cars to pay homage to what we covet, create something different than what we’ve seen, show it off, thump our chest, and move on to the next project. It’s not a choice; more accurately it’s a sickness, and I’m not the first to say that. Building cars is an emotional high – an adrenalin rush that has peaks and valleys, euphoria and disappointment, failure and inevitable success … sometimes not. To my point in this rant, I want to talk about the pathology and the ridiculous psychological life cycle of any given project car and builder’s journey. It’s a journey with an arc of enthusiasm with several levels of rush, and a pendulum swing of emotion ranging from euphoria to terror. To illustrate my own experience, I’ve deconstructed the life cycle of a project build, outlining the stages of what I personally go through during the course of a restoration or rehab of a new four-wheeled mistress.
Inspiration – When imagination overrides reality and visions of an incredible resurrected vehicle pollute every waking moment.
Justification – (lies I tell myself) “I can do this without the credit card!” “I won’t set any unrealistic goals.” “I’ll take my time and really enjoy the zen of this build.” “It won’t really take me away from home that much.” I’m a pathological liar at this stage. I’ll say anything to myself.
Acquisition – The thrill of the chase, searching forums, car shows, swap meets, and bird dogging rumors … truly the stuff of which Jerry Heasley’s legends are born. At this point I conveniently forget any budget I’ve ever set, or at least fudge the numbers to fit my plan.
Build Plan – Tons more optimistic research where the used parts markets abound with screaming deals, inexpensive donor cars, and stacks of parts I’ve got squirreled away that will be perfect for the new ride. Oh, and we gotta have a rendering!
Teardown/inventory – (reality starts to set in) Wow! There’s a lot of rust repair and bodywork; this should have been a parts car. What the hell have I done.
Restoration – Several sub categories. Mostly rust repair and bodywork. Holy crap, this should have been “parts car.” What the hell have I done (at least the glass is OK).
-Mechanical, (screwed, I need all new)
-Electrical, (screwed, I need all new)
-Interior, (screwed, I need all new)
-Fine tuning, (Connect the dots. Dangit, forgot the driveshaft; connect the e-brake. (The glass is crap; I need all new)
-Lift off!, (Many high fives when it lights for the first time! When it engages in gear and moves on its own … priceless!)
Driving – (I’ll connect the e-brake later.) Unbelievable euphoria, followed by extreme paranoia; hyperfocus on every noise and vibration. Enjoying the righteous high-fives on the highway. “Nice car, Dude. My uncle had one just like that.”
Disillusion – Six months pass and reality sets in. Wondering where the rush went. Acknowledging the long list of stuff still unfinished. (Gotta connect that e-brake cable.)
I am square in the middle of this curve with the ZedSled, my 1978 Z28. After hundreds of hours of bodywork it’s finally under paint and ready for reassembly. The reality of bringing it to life for shakedowns and driving the crap out of it is exciting and close! It’s scary, intimidating, and redeeming on a deep psychological level. (Translated. I’m finally done spending money on it … yeah, right). ZedSled will be bitchin, fun to drive, and it will be an ego-stroke to show it off, talk about it, bond with other F-body nut-jobs that are equally obsessed with their cars, lose traction at every opportunity, and get many adrenalin rushes via the loud-pedal and steering wheel input. However, the puzzling truth is that even though I’m ramping up to the fun part of this build, I already see the final curtain – the light at the end of the tunnel – and it’s a sad place to think about. The thoughts of “what’s next?” Are creeping into my mind. What else have I always wanted to build? What else lights me up?
So here’s the question I’m really trying to ask myself: What the hell is wrong with me? Why do I put myself through this over and over again? I sweat, get filthy, say bad words, make up more really bad words, and despite my best efforts, I always seem to wear a hole in the left knee of my jeans by the second week of a new project. What’s to love about that? And when will I ever be satisfied with a car? As cliché as it sounds, the reward truly is in the journey. Redemption is in the accomplishment, the exercise in integrity, skill, and decision making, and it’s the information we gather that makes us (hopefully) smarter, and more importantly, it’s all about the friends we make along the way. Blah, blah, blah.
So screw it. Outa my way. I’m gonna finish this stupid Camaro ’cause I wanna drive! Point me to a car show with an autocross. Maybe there’s a swap meet with a car corral that holds my new destiny.
Hello, my name is Kevin and I’m a caraholic.