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Old July 22nd, 2013, 09:04 AM   #1
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Default How to Survive the Project From Hell?

So one day you walk out to the garage to see your latest project covered in dust and the boxes your wife moved out of the basement. You walk back in the house and ask your wife what she was thinking and she responds they've been there since last Christmas.

Uh oh... You're in project car hell!

Chances are, if you've taken on a big project you've ended up here. You might be thinking about parting it out for pennies on the dollar. You have hopes that someone would want to trade a finished project for your pile of parts. You've already mastered the avoidance trick. You've got tons of excuses to tell your friends, and they are all old and stale.

So how do you get out?

1. Find your happy place. Some of my favorite car memories are the day a project pays off. The day I drove my Wagoneer around the block after rebuilding the engine. A trip to Paragon after swapping in 60s. And my latest, driving across the lake bed in Johnson Valley after completing tearing down the TJ and rebuilding it. You need one. Working on your rig in 90* summer heat sucks, and so does walking out there when it's 0* and snowing. Everybody has their own pay-off, whether it's hitting 2-tracks up north with family and friends or making that 200' dune jump for the record.

2. Make a long term plan & stick to it. Chances are you got here because you changed your plans at some point in your build.

Sure, nothing ever goes strictly to plan; but you need to have a idea of what you want it to do. Everybody wants their rig to everything well, but there's compromises. Ever lived off a futon for more than a weekend? Do you want to do that again?

I have had many friends fall into Project Car Hell because one week they plan to make a super light crawler, then they go to a mud bog and decide that's what they want, then they hit an offroad race and that's the new plan. Then they drive to Dairy Queen in their wife's minivan and miss their jeep, so it has to be street legal.

So figure out what the mix is, and what compromises you plan to make. If you are going to do it in steps, figure that out, too. Except for a small group that do it as a hobby, buying and sell parts likely won't make you money, it'll just burn up the funds you've been setting aside.

3. Work on it. Here's how you stop the excuses. Start small, pick a time once a week that you can dedicate 3-4 hours to working on it and do it. Guard the timeslot like you would poker night, golf league, whatever. If you have a family, you may need to trade a different social night for it.

But here's the deal.. you need to actually work on it. Don't be lazy and sit on the couch after you've explained to your wife how important it is. Don't turn it into the beer drinking league. Turn off the computer and stop the random browsing. Turn off the shop TV. Move the boxes from the rig onto all the chair and stools in the shop so you can't sit down.

I can't tell you when to plan the time. 10 years ago, I could block off an entire Saturday or Sunday. Now with kids it's a week night. Figure it out. If you don't work on it, it won't get done. Unless of course you've got a money tree and you can drop it off a shop.. but then you wouldn't be in Project Car Hell.

4. Baby steps. Part of Project Car Hell is what we call at work "analysis paralysis". You don't know where to start, so you stand there, grinder in hand, trying to figure out what needs cutting.

Since you know what the long term plan is, you need to figure out what the best way to start. My friends and I have figured out that building suspension is best done at full bump. We generally work from the bottom up. Other guys build them a different way. But the thing to do is break the project down into pieces that you can see progress on. Don't think of it as "build jeep"; do it in pieces: build front suspension, install motor, build exhaust, etc.

This helps you from becoming overwhelmed.

5. Don't compare yourself with others. Some guys can buy a pile of junk and have it rebuilt and on the trail in a week. Who cares? Likely they've got a different skill set, different life priorites, whatever. Just focus on your project.

6. Invite friends.. but don't be a leech. Once you've got your standard time slot for working on it, you can speed the progress by getting friends to help out. It becomes easier to get them over once they know they can plan a certain evening when they have free time to come help. And if they know you'll be around to return the favor, then they may actually come and help.

With the big project broken into smaller projects, you'll be able to hand off jobs to them that they can complete, and everything moves forward. Also recognize when you need them and when you don't. If you've got a job that you need to get done on your own before you get started on the next part, tell them. That way they aren't standing around all night, drinking beer, watching TV, and getting you off track.


All of this seems so simple.. but how many folks live in Project Car Hell and can't get out of it? So, what's your advice? How did you break out of the Project from Hell?
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Old July 22nd, 2013, 09:12 AM   #2
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Good read! My last project got parted out after being a project car from hell.
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Old July 22nd, 2013, 09:15 AM   #3
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You should talk to GLFWDA and get this posted as an article.
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Old July 22nd, 2013, 09:37 AM   #4
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John,
Did you delete the "Hey Jim" lead in? Sounds like you were writing this to me.
The good part is I think I turned the corner last week and have been working on my POS daily.

Oh and, your lakebed experience was better than mine.
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Old July 22nd, 2013, 09:42 AM   #5
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Dear skooterbuilt....read this.
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Old July 22nd, 2013, 09:52 AM   #6
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Jim, I know we've talked about this a few times.. at least 2x on trips from Johnson Valley back home. I figured I would share the conversation with others.

I know my first trip into Project Car Hell was with my Wagoneer. I floundered around as I couldn't figure out what I wanted. When I bought it, I just wanted a weekend warrior mobile to use to get up north for camping with friends. 4 sets of tires into it and a bunch of mods I had never planned, and it's sitting as a relic to project indecision in my barn. I still don't know what I want to do with it.

Then figure in an engine swap on my TJ that took a year and was thrown away shortly after and followed by a total rebuild that took another year, and I feel I'm not just the spokesman, but also a client.

I've dug myself out of the hole a few times following these guidelines. But they sure were expensive to figure out.
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Old July 22nd, 2013, 09:53 AM   #7
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good read. it made me think about my current built
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Old July 22nd, 2013, 10:52 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JohnnyJ View Post
Jim, I know we've talked about this a few times.. at least 2x on trips from Johnson Valley back home. I figured I would share the conversation with others.

I know my first trip into Project Car Hell was with my Wagoneer. I floundered around as I couldn't figure out what I wanted. When I bought it, I just wanted a weekend warrior mobile to use to get up north for camping with friends. 4 sets of tires into it and a bunch of mods I had never planned, and it's sitting as a relic to project indecision in my barn. I still don't know what I want to do with it.

Then figure in an engine swap on my TJ that took a year and was thrown away shortly after and followed by a total rebuild that took another year, and I feel I'm not just the spokesman, but also a client.

I've dug myself out of the hole a few times following these guidelines. But they sure were expensive to figure out.
Yup, we've talked about it more than a few hours. The last 2 years have been the hardest for me. Mostly because I've foundered between going more hardcore (buggy) versus milder (wife's preference) and not knowing what to do. My wife says if I want a buggy to do it but then I look at most of my friends and what they wheel and also that I like winter wheeling and I end up wanting a full body rig. I also think the last couple trips out west have filled my bucket list. The other thing that happened is while at KOH watching your "locked front & rear on 35's" was that I came to realize that it doesn't take a super extreme rig to wheel some great stuff. (of course it was all in the spotter )

This past week when it came down to buying a lesser vehicle and almost selling my jeep really made me decide what I want. It's amazing the enthusiasm I've had over the past week and how much I am looking forward to the next generation of my POS.

Your thoughts are spot on.

BTW, I'll be in the garage tonight.
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Old July 22nd, 2013, 11:22 AM   #9
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I get overwhelmed easily with a big project. The one thing that helps me out is a marker board on the garage wall. I write down 10 small projects on one side and the parts I need to complete them on the other side. I dont erase it and start over until all 10 projects are done which keeps me from doing the "fun" projects and leave the shit for the end. I also completely clean and organize the barn after each project i check off. It is motivating to me to check off things as done. I try to break things into small easy to complete in an evening projects. For example I got a Howell tbi kit for my jeep and marker board read.

- mount fuel pump and filter
-fuel lines
-vaccuum lines
-throttle cable
Ect.....
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Old July 22nd, 2013, 11:23 AM   #10
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Great read.

My problem is #5.....don't compare yourself to others.

My stuff is not half as nice as a lot of people's.....i just don't have the money.......and it gets me bummed. My salvation is wheeling. Once i am on the trail and wheeling it doesn't matter that my rig comes up short on paper.....i am out there having fun with what i have and it's bought and paid for.
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Old July 22nd, 2013, 11:46 AM   #11
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When you figure out how to factor in kids on top of all that let me know
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Old July 22nd, 2013, 11:51 AM   #12
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Well said. I found that if your significant other is not on board, your going to have a rough time making time. My wife would be overjoyed if I sold every tool and toy and sat on the couch every night instead. She doesn't understand the feeling you get making something that works (hopefully)!

I find my time is much shorter and is usually between 9 and 10 on week nights. Forcing yourself out to the garage to just tinker with something is the hardest obstacle to overcome for me. Tired and worn out from a 10 to 12 hour day, coming home, help with the kids, get everyone to bed....your ready for it yourself!

What helps me stay motivated is buying parts. Getting the nuts and bolts, the rod end, or the hoses helps me feel motivated to put them on. Doesn't have to be big ticket stuff, anything necessary for the project. Oh yeah, I've found that setting aside cash to use in the future doesn't work, my doors I sold so I could buy new gears and lockers turned into a couch and chair. If you can, buy the parts asap!

Jim, I'm on year 6 of my build, dont feel bad. My drive this summer has been to have mine done, tested, and ready for Gitchee Gumee this September.
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Old July 22nd, 2013, 01:02 PM   #13
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Knowing what you want is 1/2 the battle, sticking to the original game plan is the other 1/2.

With a kid, weekdays 9-11pm is really the only time I can work now, the rest is a 10+hr workday and family time. I just accept the fact that projects take longer now........if that's possible It takes setting goals for things I want to attend to get me motivated enough to go work when it's 90 deg and humid or 0 and freezing. There's no shame in buying things where it makes sense......especially if they save time. Took me 3 yrs to build my jeep, I could do it again in a couple months. At the time I was dedicating 8-12hrs a day on my days off and with what I learned and what I would purchase vs build the next time around, I'd be done wayyyyy quicker.

Time is the most valuable thing to me so I plan accordingly. For example, I have to level the stance of the chevette this week. Tonight I'll be staging the car and getting tools around and ready. Tomorrow night I'll be measuring and put the car on stands. Wed/Thur it gets crazy around my house so I don't think anything will get done. Friday/weekend shot with plans already. Next week monday night I should be dropping rear and pulling springs............amazing how much longer it takes to get things accomplished, but I know what I'm after and keep hacking away at it piece by piece. I try not to go more than 3 weeks without progress, that keeps me engaged. Those are my "tricks"
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Old July 22nd, 2013, 01:40 PM   #14
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Quote:
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When you figure out how to factor in kids on top of all that let me know
I have two daughters ages 5 & 9 that have nearly 0% interest in jeeps. Luckily, I married a very patient wife. The fact that I bust hump on the night I have set aside makes it easier to beg more time when I'm in a pinch. I also make sure that after I get the extra time, I spend extra time on what matters to her after my big deadline.

That all falls under White Rhino's rule of "happy wife, happy life."
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Old July 22nd, 2013, 01:43 PM   #15
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Quote:
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I have two daughters ages 5 & 9 that have nearly 0% interest in jeeps. Luckily, I married a very patient wife. The fact that I bust hump on the night I have set aside makes it easier to beg more time when I'm in a pinch. I also make sure that after I get the extra time, I spend extra time on what matters to her after my big deadline.

That all falls under White Rhino's rule of "happy wife, happy life."
that's the key

i've got a 5 week old son and a 18mo old daughter. i've already come to terms with no free time for the next 3-5 years
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Old July 22nd, 2013, 01:48 PM   #16
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You only live once, so if you're going to get married it's best to be smart about it. You can never make the bitchy ones happy.

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i've got a 5 week old son and a 18mo old daughter. i've already come to terms with no free time for the next 3-5 years
Either you snuck in an edit, or I missed this the first time.

All I can say is work with your wife to try and find the time if getting out of PCH is what you want to do. I did a bunch of stuff through the early years of both of my kids. It slowed down some, but I swapped in dana 60s and went to Paragon when my first was born, and swapped the engine on my jeep when the 2nd was 8 months old.

The key is to make time and use it wisely.
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Old July 22nd, 2013, 06:29 PM   #17
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I've found having a partner keeps the drive going. Johnny and I have been doing a Jeep night at each others homes for 5 or 6 years, nearly every week. Usually starts with dinner with the host family, then out to the garage for a few hours of planned work. Whiterhino has been to a few, along with a spattering of other folks. Homework assignments are also a good idea, I brought a header home for repair this week and completed it for reinstall tomorrow. If it weren't completed, I would expect a barrage of shit until I finished it, but that too is part of the fun

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Old July 22nd, 2013, 07:15 PM   #18
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I think a work partner is a great idea but I've found that if I want to get my stuff done, I can't rely on anyone but myself.
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Old July 22nd, 2013, 07:48 PM   #19
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good post JJ. im on the same exact schedule.
But I get more done by myself. If friends come over I will just want to hang out and drink sodas.
I have " nick night" for the last year its been Wednesday nights. I come home from work and I head right to the barn. I work until 8pm. head into the house. kiss my boys goodnight, grab a handful of food and then head right back out and work til 10 or 11pm.

you have to really want that time and your rig done to make it work. I cant say how tired I am some days working on my feet and ladders all day. But I know if I don't I will have to wait a week before working on it again.

plan ahead. if I know im only going to be working on my rig wed. night ill try and hit the parts stores Monday or Tuesday on the way home so I don't waste any time Wednesday. also with ordering parts. I try and make sure I have what I need ordered and at the house ready so I don't get caught with nothing to do.

so right now I have 3 nights to fix my rig before rocks and valleys on the 10th. any other time will be late night Friday or Saturdays after the kids and wife go to bed.

so in order to make this deadline I have to be real with myself, my abilities and my wallet on what I can and cannot get done in this time frame.
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Old July 22nd, 2013, 08:33 PM   #20
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Having a realistic Budget comes to mind. Although it is hard to justify just how much cash dumping into a pile once you realistically start adding up the total cost. Once you have that number plan on what you need to get it rolling and upgrade as you go.

Patience will grant you better results. You can either build it a bit at a time or you can build it right from the start. I had a buddy talk about linking his rig. But, when a set of leafs came along that would give him the flex he wanted he dropped the cash he was saving up on the leafs with little results. Sure the thing flexes better but he is still talking about linking it and started over saving cash.

Having a time frame and budget assessed strictly for it working in stages will lead to better results.

Don't lie to yourself working outside your skill set. It is good to learn but messing up an expensive part because you were not honest with yourself is simply foolish. Giving the excuse "it's just a trail rig" will fly in some cases but generally leads to breakage and fixing it right later at a higher overall cost.

Having a budget set aside and focusing on strict parts one at a time while looking and planing the thing as a whole will lead to a better built rig. Compromising on the axles because you dumped all your cash into the high horsepower engine for example will lead the the rig being a pile as a whole.


My mindset at this point is uncompromising and doing it right no matter the cost or how long it takes. I have had enough rigs in the past where I have settled just to get it finished and play. I have a time frame that allows me to work on one part while saving up for another or in the shop. I am still 42 months and 12k shy of completion on my pile that I will have around 22k overall with very little progress on the build to show for it. Good chance it will take longer and cost more then that once "finished". But, it is something I have wanted to do for years only to settle and settle. I will just keep chipping away at it and will end up with something that I can be proud of without compromise.
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