Home » How I Knew It Was Time To Give Up On Some Of My Car Projects

How I Knew It Was Time To Give Up On Some Of My Car Projects

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I take a lot of pride in completing my projects. From Project Swiss Cheese to Project Postal to Project Redwood to Project Slow Devil to Project Krassler to The Holy Grail Grand Cherokee to my J10 and on and on, if I set out to do something, I do it. Call it stubbornness or whatever, but I don’t like losing. While this stubbornness has gone nowhere, it has taken me a year or so to realize that spending hundreds of hours wrenching on a project may not be the best thing for the people around me. And that means I need to make some tough choices.

What a weird spot I find myself in. Just a couple of years ago, it was me, a half an acre, a low rent, and all the time in the world to just buy whatever junker I want and wrench on it day and night. I basically lived in junkyards, I littered my yard with a fleet of mostly-Jeeps, and my house was filled with car parts. Most folks, upon entering my house, noted that it smelled of gear oil.

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It was the dream.

Eight years of that created a mentality in me: Buy whatever cheap cars you want, wrench on them, and have fun. This would be my life. This mentality continued during my first year or so here in Los Angeles. I bought a YJ, I bought an i3, I bought a Nissan Leaf, I bought a World War II Jeep, I bought a 1994 Jeep Grand Cherokee parts car, and I took ownership of a free 1958 Nash Metropolitan. I was in a new place physically, but I was still a staff writer in Michigan mentally.

But there are some realities that have reared their heads lately. I suppose they’ve been there for a while now, but I’m still only now coming to grips with them: On some level, the old life is over. Wrenching 24/7; going grocery shopping in my coveralls while covered in oil and still wearing my headlamp; daily junkyard visits; off-roading in my backyard; keeping tools and car parts in my driveway for months at a time; cooking using car parts; a giant axle bathing in a bathtub in an electrolysis experiment; dyeing my clothes in oil — those days are gone.

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I didn’t think it would happen. For the longest time, I said to myself: I’m never going to stop. I see everyone getting older, and they stop doing fun stuff — not me! But I don’t think I fully understood why as people age they stop hoarding 14 cars and trying to clean car parts in their dishwashers. It’s not because they’ve become boring, it’s because, oftentimes, new responsibilities and joys have popped up in their lives, requiring a bit of a reprioritization. And that’s where I find myself.

Back in 2020, I decided — along with Torch — that I wanted to start a new automotive publication. And in so doing, I committed to doing whatever it takes to get that company off the ground so that it can serve readers who, especially at the time, I felt were underserved. We’ve built something here, and as it continues to grow, so do my responsibilities. I’m not upset about that — I’m thrilled. But it means I can’t spend days on end wrenching on cars. Add to this the fact that I’m nearly 18 months into a relationship with the Holy Grail of girls — one who makes even the coveted five-speed Jeep Grand Cherokee seem unimportant — and it becomes clear: I need to adjust my mentality when it comes to cars.

And so I’m culling the heard, and focusing on making sure the few (probably five or so) vehicles I do keep are the very best.

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First on the chopping block is my 1979 Jeep Cherokee Golden Eagle, a vehicle that deserved a better owner than I, as I am the reason why it no longer runs. It ran when I bought it, then I removed a cylinder head to fix an exhaust stud, then rain got into the motor, and it started a shitstorm that has ultimately led to the vehicle not running properly for over six years.

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I’d love to fix this thing — at least get it running. But I look at my upcoming schedule — all the things I have to do as editor-in-chief, and all the time I’d like to spend with The Holy Grail of girls — and I’m just not seeing it. It’s a tough thing to come to grips with, but the old days are gone. I have to give up on the Golden Eagle; it is now listed on Facebook Marketplace.

I’m sure some of you have found yourselves in similar shoes; when was a time that you had to give up on a project, and what were the circumstances?

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AlterId
AlterId
2 months ago

…the Holy Grail of girls

I think I remember that you used her name once, but for the sake of her privacy she really should have a pseudonym. I suggest “The Holy Gail.”

Jakob K's Garage
Jakob K's Garage
2 months ago

You can’t just have five cars. That’s less than I have!
https://www.instagram.com/jakobksgarage/

Dodsworth
Dodsworth
2 months ago

As one gets older they either progress or they stagnate. You’re progressing. As long as you love what you do, you’re winning.

AlterId
AlterId
2 months ago
Reply to  Dodsworth

Some of us regress, thank you very much.

Dead Elvis, Inc.
Dead Elvis, Inc.
2 months ago

This might be the single most positive piece you’ve ever written. Love it.

Don’t grow up too much on us, though. You should keep one ridiculous thing in the fleet.

Shop-Teacher
Shop-Teacher
2 months ago

Don’t stop wrenching completely, but definitely sell some shit and seek a balanced life.

Andy Individual
Andy Individual
2 months ago

If you love something let it go. Whatever the f*ck that means…

Quality not quantity is my motto.

Oldhusky
Oldhusky
2 months ago

Never forget your salad days, David. I’m pleased we were able to read about and so, vicariously share them. No public record exists of that period of my life, which I appreciate.

Dr Buford
Dr Buford
2 months ago

Turning 50 during the pandemic and my 79 year old Pop nearly meeting Jesus via a series of heart attacks and a fall/brain injury. I suddenly sharply understood the dichotomy of possibility vs. probability.

I gave away all of my motorcycle projects save the one that was my dad’s. I have sold or given away all of the cars but three, all of which run and just need a couple weekends of TLC each. And I just finished cleaning out/organizing my underground lair/batcave save the things that are currently in use or undergoing restoration.

It’s been painful but cathartic and I’ve promised my wife ‘no more projects’ which has lasted almost three full years. Soon (unfortunately) I’ll inherit my father’s three motorcycles: his 1939 Ariel which was *his* dad’s that he finished restoring about ten years ago, his 1975 R90s which we’ve ridden all over the eastern seaboard, just awaiting rebuilding of the original engine (it runs fine on the replacement), and an ‘06 ST1300ABS he managed to put 90,000 miles on between the ages of 65 and 75.

The Ariel and R90s will live alongside my three bikes in the recently cleared spot in my garage; the ST will go to my brother.

Still didn’t stop me from looking at a gorgeous, 66k mile 5 speed silver Z3 last week 🙂

Robert Runyon
Robert Runyon
2 months ago

I was poor, so necessity and lack of cash kept my car/truck/motorcycle thing going. By the time I could afford nice cars it was too late, I was a junker king and I dug it. I had a basic rule: Two must be road worthy at all times. My Ur Quattro was king and a pleasure to work on. You see, I was also an Audi fanatic, so, yeah, no free time. Sold the bikes. Then the cars. Finally, my dump truck was finished so that went too. Alas, only four cars, four electric bikes (don’t ask) and my Norton left now, and 3 awesome grandkids..

Last edited 2 months ago by Robert Runyon
10001010
10001010
2 months ago

Wow, DT is growing up.

Squirrelmaster
Squirrelmaster
2 months ago

I have given up on many project vehicles over the years, and the most consistent common denominator is simply that my affinity for the vehicle no longer eclipses the effort required to work on them. There are certainly ones I regret giving up on…until I recall the circumstances of why I gave up on them.

I picked up a new project vehicle back in March, and it was in much worse shape than expected and has required repairs for things that have become tedious to do. I was honestly beginning to fall out of love with it until I took it out on a shakedown run on some of my local off-road trails. I went in expecting to be wrenching in the dirt and after four hours of successfully wheeling trails the thing had no business being on, I came home with the reward that my time was well spent and renewed interest in doing the future work on my project’s mods list.

With all that said, 20 year old me would spend every waking moment wrenching on my projects. Severely middle-aged me spends most waking moments trying to figure out how to squeeze an hour or two of wrenching time into an otherwise packed work and family schedule. It’s not worse, just different, and forces a lot more prioritization of projects.

NosrednaNod
NosrednaNod
2 months ago

all the time I’d like to spend with The Holy Grail of girls

Finding a partner is … the real holy grail. Mine and I just watched the F1 race from Miami.

Jason pollock
Jason pollock
2 months ago

You want to sell this and keep a bad battery Nissan leaf? Are you feeling ok David, I’m starting to worry about you. Your selling your best car

NosrednaNod
NosrednaNod
2 months ago
Reply to  Jason pollock

I think it because he loves it more.

StillNotATony
StillNotATony
2 months ago
Reply to  NosrednaNod

Nah, he’s got plans for it. I seem to recall he’s gonna convert something of his to electric, and I would assume the Leaf is providing the drivetrain.

NosrednaNod
NosrednaNod
2 months ago
Reply to  StillNotATony

I think he loves the Jeep more… and he knows it needs to go to a better home…

Fix It Again Tony
Fix It Again Tony
2 months ago
Reply to  Jason pollock

It would be difficult to find anyone to buy that Leaf anyway.

Col Hathi
Col Hathi
2 months ago
Reply to  Jason pollock

He’s turning over an old leaf, in a manner of speaking

Ham On Five
Ham On Five
2 months ago

This (growing up) is why I read this site! (so I don’t have to have my own actual backlog of rusting projects anymore)

I’m a car person without a car.
(metaphorically)

Sklooner
Sklooner
2 months ago

I look at myself in my early 20s somehow managed to work full time, attend university part time (emphasis on part) rebuild wrecked cars, brew beer, party like I had two livers and now it’s like “I have to change the oil? maybe I will trade it in’ I have a TR6 and a Fiat Mulitpla in parts stored in a couple of places that I have to bring home once I get rid of the 850r and a few other things

It'll buff out
It'll buff out
2 months ago
Reply to  Sklooner

party like I had two livers.

Classic.

James Carson
James Carson
2 months ago

Decades after having rebuilt motorcycles, engines and transmissions in kitchens, recrooms and spare bedrooms while maintaining my small collection of projects and dailies I can commiserate with your changing priorities. I survived the downsizing eventually trimming my collection down to one toy and one daily at a time. The motorcycles went permanently after I finally determined (through repeated unplanned dismounts) that I was incompatible with high center of gravity transportation.

Davey
Davey
2 months ago

I like cars as much as anyone else on this site but they are painfully expensive these days, truly a privilege to be able to ‘afford’ one at all.
Priorities change as we age but my biggest priority in a car was always reliability, I don’t care how fun the car is to drive or look at if I’m constantly fixing it and not actually driving it.

Idiotking
Idiotking
2 months ago

A 1973 VW campervan I convinced my parents I could fix while in high school. Dad was a mensch, had his mechanic rebuild the top half of the engine. I tore everything inside down to the metal, cleaned and repainted it all. I spent a couple of weeks with a hammer and dolly knocking the dents from a front-end collision out, skimmed some bonds over it, and painted it with VW touch-up orange. She ran great for that entire summer, and I slept in the hammock under the popup roof (my room did not have air conditioning).
Driving a friend home from band practice one early fall evening an older lady pulled out in front of us; I had nowhere to go. Her rear bumper rode up my front bumper, pushing the sheet metal in the van toward my friend’s legs with only about 6″ to spare. We were both OK, but very shaken up. She got a ride with her parents the rest of the way, and I actually drove the van home. Parked it and decided I wanted something with some more front-end protection (this was years before airbags were standard).
I miss sleeping in that van, though. It would kill my back now…

Lizardman in a human suit
Lizardman in a human suit
2 months ago

Welcome to adulthood. It may seem like it will suck to let go of your freewheeling bachelor days, but it’s worth it. I’ll give you my 2 cents. Keep the Bimmer. Reliable daily driver. Keep the J10. Mostly reliable hauler. Keep ONE project/toy. I say the YJ. Then you can dedicate your limited free time to working on one project. And since the YJ runs and drives, it is a huge step in the right direction. As for the rest, let them go. You have jeeps strung across the country, and cannot do justice to any of them. They are rotting. Find them new homes, let them be happy and roam back trails and be Jeeps. It will hurt. I know. I had to find a new home for my beloved horse, because I couldn’t spend the time with him that he needed. But now, he is happy, with a little girl that loves him. Yes, I just compared a living breathing animal to jeeps, but I know that those jeeps are as special to you as a horse was to me.

Last edited 2 months ago by Lizardman in a human suit
Dumb Shadetree
Dumb Shadetree
2 months ago

It will hurt, but it may be freeing. In the lead-up to moving in with my now-wife I let go of a lot of projects. Not all of them were vehicles. It was me reprioritizing my life and acknowledging that some of these projects were not something I was ever going to actually spend time on. I thought it would hurt, but it felt like a huge weight taken off my shoulders. I didn’t know how much I was drowning under the mental load of all those projects that were taking up space – the motorcycles, the robot arms, the electronics, the half working small engines. Selling or giving them away was the fresh start I needed.

Col Lingus
Col Lingus
2 months ago

+1 for re-homing your horse.

Rob Schneider
Rob Schneider
2 months ago

Old David, we’ll miss you. But I think there’s a caterpillar-to-butterfly metaphor here, and I’m very much looking forward to the next phase of your glorious life. Thank you for sharing it with us!

MATTinMKE
MATTinMKE
2 months ago
Reply to  Rob Schneider

This is the correct take.

Joselotas
Joselotas
2 months ago

I have a 68 chevy stepside longbed. My FIL andI did a massive amount of bodywork and got it running and driving.

I’m not a very good mechanic, and getting her ready to go is outside of my skillset. Never going to be show quality and needs work, is a deathtrap. I used to always preface anyone going for a ride, if we crash, I hope we die, cause otherwise we are maimed.

Ran when parked, and has been a good girl. Moved me more than once. But what the truck needs is outside of my scope.

Will always miss the smell of unburt gasoline in the cab and knowing how to drive 3 on the tree.

I know we don’t want this to be a used car site, but if one showed up to my house in an Autopian t shirt, I would sign it over. Western VA.

Dr Buford
Dr Buford
2 months ago
Reply to  Joselotas

It’s taking everything I have to not take you up on that :)…

Joselotas
Joselotas
2 months ago
Reply to  Dr Buford

Bring a trailer

Fuzzyweis
Fuzzyweis
2 months ago

A couple of times I realized I was in over my head and sadly lost some really sweet little trucks, mainly due to rust. Had a rusty Isuzu P’up diesel, literally frame pieces were falling of it as I drove it, tried swapping the engine to a ’80 Luv which was not too compatible, it ran for a bit but the radiator wasn’t built for it, ended up selling it off.

Had a mid 80s BRAT, didn’t run the best, had waaaay too much rust(rear axle not connected to car, fuel tank leaking around the seam), tried bondoing and bolting it back into shape but it wouldn’t pass inspection, waited way too long to just scrap it.

Since then I’ve actually had a garage(don’t any more but got a good sized back yard!), and have gotten way more tools, but life hasn’t let me get a project car, and at this point not sure I want something so horribly far gone. Still have my 98 Harley to leak oil on command, but that’s more of a feature.

I feel like it’s kind of more fun to take your vehicle and drive it somewhere, there is the zen of maintenance, but constantly repairing major issues can get a little tiresome.

Scott Ross
Scott Ross
2 months ago

I think you’re growing up. Some people even elderly people don’t know when to call it quits. (what ever happened to Ron Dauzet in Michigan?) I remember driving around Troy and seeing that Golden Eagle, that’s how I knew it was your place.

Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
2 months ago

> keeping tools and car parts in my driveway for months at a time; cooking using car parts; a giant axle bathing in a bathtub in an electrolysis experiment; dyeing my clothes in oil

I love the gradual descent from quirky to serial-killer levels of batshit maladaptive insanity.

Last edited 2 months ago by Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
Mechjaz
Mechjaz
2 months ago

I think the real low point/peak is shower spaghetti. Still hoping for a shirt to commemorate this.

Sympathetically: I baked a steel rod at 400deg in my toaster oven last night to cure the high-temp enamel on it, and a couple weeks before did the same for a trash-can aluminum furnace and associated hardware.

Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
2 months ago
Reply to  Mechjaz

Bruh

Paul E
Paul E
2 months ago
Reply to  Mechjaz

Last week I had a car headight that I repaired with JB Weld take an hour and a half-long ride in the clothes dryer (on the shoe rack insert, so not so much ‘riding’) to speed cure the delicately placed mounting tabs back onto the headlight assembly. Worked slick, btw.

Last edited 2 months ago by Paul E
Mercedes Streeter
Mercedes Streeter
2 months ago

And David wasn’t kidding either. When I helped him wrench on the old Chevy Tracker he had me fetch an alternator from under a tree. Under a tree!!! Of course it was rusty and no longer worked. lol

Totally not a robot
Totally not a robot
2 months ago

I imagine all of his yard parts were appropriately sorted. Did he have an engine accessories tree, a bodywork tree, maybe a suspension tree too?

Rollin Hand
Rollin Hand
2 months ago

OK, David calling his beloved the Holy Grail of Girls sounds like this is getting serious. Like, buying a house serious. And houses have garages…

David, you devil.

Weddings/Birthdays/Whale Breachings
Weddings/Birthdays/Whale Breachings
2 months ago
Reply to  Rollin Hand

Nothing against you, but don’t be creepy. lol

Rollin Hand
Rollin Hand
2 months ago

All I am saying is his path might lead to covered personal wrenching space if he plays his cards right. Nothing creepy about that.

Weddings/Birthdays/Whale Breachings
Weddings/Birthdays/Whale Breachings
2 months ago
Reply to  Rollin Hand

I was just messing around. All good.

Vetatur Fumare
Vetatur Fumare
2 months ago
Reply to  Rollin Hand

I sure as H hope that the people who operate this site are able to own at least reasonably sized houses with ample garages. They deserve that.

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