5 things you should do before you start your next project


Few things capture an auto enthusiast’s imagination quite like a project. Repairing, modifying, or restoring a car can be mentally, emotionally, and financially rewarding. But it also can be an inescapable trap. It’s easy to lose momentum or, worse, interest, or watch mission creep bog you down. You can avoid a stalled or snowballing project with these five simple tips all but guaranteed to make your next project go smoothly.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://www.hagerty.com/articles-videos/articles/2019/02/12/5-tips-before-starting-next-project


Perfect! With each of your 5 points I asked myself ”but what about ____” before it was ultimately mentioned…finally hitting on each of my previous screw-ups. The only ones you missed involved making sure the shop frig was stocked, having the appropriate cigar and keeping the spending under the wife’s radar.


You all forgot,

(although budgeting came close)

rob your local bank for the monies for quality NOS parts :grinning:


I have 3 projects that are awaiting a new shop to be built on my property. I think it would also be wise to only tackle one project car at a time.


Great tips! At one point or another, I’ve failed to do all of them.

When in college, I owned a 70 Challenger R/T with a 340/4 speed. The body and interior were in pristine condition, but the engine smoked, and the clutch was slipping… so I figured I’d go through the engine and replace the clutch during summer break. Then, as I was warned by more experienced gearheads, I ran out of time and money.

In doing so, I had effectively made my mother’s garage useless, so I was under pressure to get rid of the Challenger, or get it running. Without dropping out of college, fixing it wasn’t in the cards, so I sold it… for $700 (1984 bucs). If I had just replaced the clutch that summer and waited until after college to work on the engine, I would have had a beautiful Challenger. I tend to keep my cars, so I could imagine I would have the car to this day.


Bag and mark Everything! Zip locks and sharpie pens to mark your parts, no matter how trivial you might think they are.
You will think you will remember where everything goes but after time passes, trust me, you will pick up a little bracket and say where the hell does this go?
So keep the parts taped together with masking tape for easy unwinding or razor blade removal.
Clean and at least primer the parts to prevent rust.
That way, you will have a thoroughly dried base . Too often being in hurry, painting the parts to soon will cause problems by not curing the prime coat.
All of these tips are from personal experience. Good luck!


I tried the bag and label but finding things is still difficult. To solve this I have an excel spreadsheet with:
box number, description, part number,number of pieces and condition as well as another tab for parts needed. Being fully searchable it works sweet when in reassembly and you need a part.


Pictures before taking apart also can be golden. Life tends to take you away from time to time, and sometimes you start something else while you are in there.
Also notes on the order parts are removed can save frustration.
If your project came as a truck load of parts, lots of research may be in order.


Not bad advice, except for tires. Do NOT buy them at the onset of your restoration.

We have seen too many cars come thru our shop with low mileage, decades old, unsafe tires. We’ve also seen too many of these “like new” tires delaminate on the road. On one Mustang the tire actually came apart and burst while sitting in our shop.

Get some old or cheap rollers to get around the shop but wait until you’re ready to hit the road before buying the tires you want for the car.


I agree to buy everything you know you’ll need ahead of time to allow you to shop around for the best value, but I would add that on a project complex enough to allow two weekends, don’t buy parts you aren’t sure you’ll need, because you’ll probably find something else you didn’t know you needed and have to order more parts anyway.
And in general, try to allow two weekends, one to disassemble and inspect, the next to assemble, which also allows you to get special tools and more information during the interim week.


@a_madge - Impressive organization if you are using a spreadsheet to keep parts in order! I envy your organization.

Now that I often write about projects I am doing, I take a few photos prior to the start and it has ended up saving me once. For the last decade of so I have only been working on one model (Corvairs) so there is a more than I would care to admit burned into my brain.


@jack.collins - This is great advice. I wish I could shout it from the rooftops. It will be included in the future at least. Thanks for sharing.


Unless the part is a rare item you are certain will be essential, something closer to Just In Time inventory management probably makes more sense - order the common items when needed. Shipping is fast these days anyway.

The spreadsheet is a great idea, but I used it for cost, keeping a build sheet with the total spent everything purchased before and during the project. I made sure it instantly adds the total at the bottom each time I considered a purchase.

Just seeing that number creep closer to the target cost of the project with the addition of every washer, spark plug and shipping charge for returned parts forced me to consider each spend along the way. It definitely kept things in control.


Can I suggest a few things I have learned the hard way. Bagging is good but take the time to clean everything before it is catalogued. Video’s are better than pictures but do both. Buy new parts in the order they will be required as you restore the body, chassis, suspension and brakes, electrical and then the interior ( how many of you Guy’s have seen an unfinished project car for sale that includes new interior or new chrome bumpers but the metal work is not even near done).
My biggest suggestion is consider buying a parts car or another restoration project gone bad to keep costs down. I recently bought someone else’s project for far least than the parts I needed to finish my Porsche 914. When I’m done I can sell off the extras and probably recoup most of my investment.


You mentioned increasing your time estimate by 50%, but I usually do that with the cost estimate, too. I’ve been doing this stuff for over 4 decades and, even if it’s a job I’ve done a half-dozen times before, I almost ALWAYS run into an unforeseen complication. Admittedly, though, about half the time it’s a case of “While I’m in here…”!


When I purchase a vehicle (used or new) I purchase a notebook and keep all receipts attached to the vehicle/project as I go. That way when I decide to sell the vehicle or trade it off, I can give the new owner a complete record of everything that I have done to it while in my “care”.


Hey Hagerty! Don’t tell ME this!! Tell all those goofballs with 20-year-disassembled cars that have lawn chairs nd garden hoses and coolers covering them and taking up half their garage space! Or those jokers who have 3 of one model of car, all of which are half disassembled and covered in tattered blue tarps! I get my stuff done, and now I’ve learned not to get involved in these large project cars.


I use a program called Rod Plan which is designed to keep track of all aspects of my restoration projects, parts inventory, cost, timelines etc. Available at xunperformance.com
Factory service manuals are always the best. The more photos taken during tear down the better. Working on something very complicated such as a automatic transmission valve body or a carburetor - turn off the phone and lock the shop door!



Jim R.


Nothing says stalled project like finally trying to fire it up after 10 years only to realize that it’s the same gas in the tank from when you started.