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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Narinder Mehta
Narinder Mehta
2 months ago

Avid fan of your work since long ago “that other website” days.

As I read this piece, I remember feeling the same frustration when my other responsibilities started taking over my “young adulthood” time.

The toughest lesson so far was realizing that 24 hours is a hard and unchangeable limit to our days, and likewise, to our activities.

By balancing time after a few years of settling in, things works out eventually. You’ll find time for everything, just maybe not as much as you’d like.

Manwich Sandwich
Manwich Sandwich
2 months ago

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.”

Yup… as soon as I heard/read mention of you having a girlfriend, I knew that was gonna happen.

And the reason is simple… you can’t be in a relationship with someone unless you make time for them and the relationship. And THAT means something has to give… and that something is usually time spent on non-essential projects and hobbies.

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?”

For me, it’s not so much giving up on projects as it’s deciding to pay someone to do the work instead of trying to do it myself.

And the reason for that shift is because I’m older, have more money, but also more responsibilities.

I too have a girlfriend. But I’m also divorced and I’m part of a small minority of fathers who has his kids with him full time And up until last year, I was spending a lot of time helping my mom until she passed away.

And right now my projects involve “making my house nicer” and “turning my garage into a shop”

I still do basic maintenance on my car and the odd easy repair. But I’m not gonna get into major stuff.

And if you end up marrying this girl and if you have kids, your new project will be ‘parenting’. And that will be a multi-year project.

Oh yeah and if you get married (something which I don’t personally recommend for a variety of reasons), get the prenup… if only to protect your share and interest in the Autopian.

https://www.reddit.com/media?url=https%3A%2F%2Fi.redd.it%2Fnjq2c2sg1dg91.jpg

Myk El
Myk El
2 months ago

I suspect most people here have multiple interests, not just cars. As a wise man once sang.

♫ But there never seems to be enough time
To do the things you want to do
Once you find them ♫

That means you have to budget your attention. David now has the experience to know when to re-allocate resources. It may mean less crazy wrenching articles from him, but it’d given us this wonderful website.

Like Torch, I have an affection for old video games and I have more of those than I could hope to play. I couldn’t add a car project on top of that and my job. I don’t do much wrenching myself anymore because I enjoy driving, not wrenching. I will pay for the time back to do other things while someone else handles the wrench. I will also remind that there is no one right way to enjoy cars. Several wrong, but no single right way.

Cerberus
Cerberus
2 months ago

My ’90 Legacy wagon. It sat for about 13 years in the garage awaiting restoration, but the damn house kept stealing the money. Then when we were moving to a place with a 3-car garage and an air compressor, I found that rust had taken hold pretty well where it had been in pretty good shape when parked and vermin had taken residence inside going by the smell. With moving logistics requiring it to be towed to a storage facility before being towed to the new place and the time and money it would require to restore that was as unlikely to be any more available than it had been in the previous 13 years, I had to evaluate it objectively and give the car up. It did have over 270k on it (though it didn’t feel like half that) and those weren’t easy miles—the car had seen some shit—so at least it had a dramatic life.

Alan Christensen
Alan Christensen
2 months ago

A lot of people move to California with the intent of changing their life. Some people go there believing their life won’t significantly change, but it does.

R53 Lifer
R53 Lifer
2 months ago

Oh hey, welcome to middle age! The bathroom is down the hall on the left…

Bizness Comma Nunya
Bizness Comma Nunya
2 months ago
Reply to  R53 Lifer

Haha yeah this is the truth

Dead Elvis, Inc.
Dead Elvis, Inc.
2 months ago
Reply to  R53 Lifer

According to John Fogerty, there’s a bathroom on the right.

Fred Flintstone
Fred Flintstone
2 months ago

Is that the pitter-patter of coming tiny Tracy feet I hear?
Congrats David. It’s just life happening to you too.

Lockleaf
Lockleaf
2 months ago

I’ve never had the 15+ project collection. I top out around 5 max. So I can fully appreciate coming DOWN to that amount.

Unsolicited advice – As both your business and your relationship continue to grow, its important to remember that neither of those are the definition of who you are. They are the parts of you that are connected to other people. Always keep a little bit for the parts of you that are just yours. Like so many here, as I became a husband, a father, a homeowner, I had less time to play with cars. But for years, the garage has remained my sanctuary, my link to sanity when life gets toughest. Some weeks, I only get an hour to myself out there, and that is ok. I don’t get to go to the junkyard for fun just to wander around anymore. I have to plan those weekends around my family’s needs.

So yeah, I respect giving up so much in pursuit of things that are now greater in your life. But don’t get to the point you believe you need to give it all up. Its ok keep the rust in your heart.

The World of Vee
The World of Vee
2 months ago

I see this as nothing but a complete net positive in your life. You’ll always look back fondly on some projects or regret not finishing some but as my life has grown I’ve never missed a project more than I’ve enjoyed the path my life has taken.

Farty McSprinkles
Farty McSprinkles
2 months ago

David, it sounds like you are on the path to happiness, but it does not mean the choices are always easy. I like cars, I love my family. We all have a limited amount of time and resources and have to choose where to allocate them. People and relationships have value that far surpass physical things. Even the holiest of grails will someday rot in the junkyard. The impact of our relationships can easily outlive us.

The Artist Formerly Known as the Uncouth Sloth
The Artist Formerly Known as the Uncouth Sloth
2 months ago

well shit, I thought we were going to be treated with the complete utter all-majestic rundown of every so-called ‘vehicle’ you currently possess, down to what 2 you’d be keeping that weren’t the Mustang, the i3 or the Wrapped Wrangler?

Automotiveflux
Automotiveflux
2 months ago

When my daughter was born a year ago I had no idea that my time for projects would be so limited. Father/Husband/Homeowner/Employee responsibilities take up 110% of my time and at the beginning I hated it.

After a few weeks of feeling miserable I realized that even when I had chances to run off and do my own personal stuff I still made the choice to spend that time with my family. I was prioritizing my daughter and wife over my car and garage.

Now I know that in the future things will change, she will get older and hopefully be able to spend time with me in working on stuff. And of course some projects have to be done and will require my time away from family (like home repairs). But the priority should always be my children and wife over my possessions, that is where the value in life is.

Took me a while to come to terms with that but I’m at peace now. I love my family.

Totally not a robot
Totally not a robot
2 months ago

With as many Holy Grail jeeps as you find, I’m not sure calling her the Holy Grail is as much a compliment as you think.

Chartreuse Bison
Chartreuse Bison
2 months ago

The holy grail jeeps are grails because they have a stick…

Adam Atwell
Adam Atwell
2 months ago

eyyy yo!

Chronometric
Chronometric
2 months ago

David waxing poetic. Dearest Elise, You are my Holy Grail. I drink in my lifeblood from your chalice.

Tim Connors
Tim Connors
2 months ago

Time is a thief. Time is a giver of gifts.

The days of wheelbarrow shrimp and showering in motor oil are gone.

The days of building a relationship, running a business, and honing in on a smaller number of projects are here.

Enjoy!

Jalop Gold
Jalop Gold
2 months ago
Reply to  Tim Connors

Whoa whoa whoa, wheelbarrow shrimp is a company endeavor. That gets to continue!

AJ
AJ
2 months ago
Reply to  Tim Connors

Hmm. Showering in motor oil just makes the spaghetti greasier.

Diana Slyter
Diana Slyter
2 months ago

Problem is, I put the $$$ I saved fixing and sometimes driving old cars into my investments. For awhile I had it under control, I bought a new econobox every 10 years so pretty much just regular maintenance and I could choose to ignore the older vehicles. Now it’s getting completely outa control- Got a minivan with 40K miles of powertrain warranty left and a TDI with 84K miles of TDI extended warranty left, and enough $$$ in the IRAs and 401Ks to buy a new Ferrari. So instead of wrenching and driving, I waste my weekdays working the stock market and surfing new sports cars on the web when the markets are slow… Lord God of Wrenching, what has happened to me?

Phuzz
Phuzz
2 months ago
Reply to  Diana Slyter

What you need is a Land Rover Defender. That’ll soon take care of your bank account being in the black 😉

Geoff Buchholz
Geoff Buchholz
2 months ago

Super happy for you, David. Good luck guiding the Golden Eagle to a loving new home.

Joel Sinclair
Joel Sinclair
2 months ago

I learned from my older brother who has around 15-20 project cars that he bought with the intention to flip and make money. He pays to store some of them and needless to say what he’s paid in storage fees far exceeds the value of the cars if and when he gets around to selling them.

I stick with one project at a time. Also, I prefer motorcycles which take up much less place.

Jim Stock
Jim Stock
2 months ago

As one ages, having to work on something loses luster, and wanting to work on something gets more important. I find that getting to do nothing and sitting in peace is both harder to find time and more important as I age. I now would rather pay someone else to work on my car if I have the money than lose the time to enjoy other things and travel.

sentinelTk
sentinelTk
2 months ago

Left a hot rod and motorcycle project behind when I decided to make a significant life change many years ago and never looked back. Mentality started as “I’ll bring them down once I have a garage with suitable workspace.” It then shifted to “I’ll start a new project once I have the time and space.” That became “I’ll just buy a hot rod I can daily once I have the money and space.”

Now? That’s easy. I don’t have the time or need for a hot rod or a project because my family is my world and I don’t have hours to pour into something of that level. Those days are behind, and I’m not sad at all.

VanGuy
VanGuy
2 months ago

Growth!

Not having space/ability to do my own wrenching for the most part (at least for exterior projects), nor more than one vehicle for now, I’ve just done everything I can to make my daily driver “fun.”
Yes, it’s a 2012 Prius v. It’s also lifted, with a skid plate, LEDs, dashcams, a subwoofer, and an Android Auto head unit. And I’m not done yet.

Sid Bridge
Sid Bridge
2 months ago

Three times. All daily drivers – 1991 Corvette (L98 with 6-speed). Had to go because I was starting a family and wasn’t going to get rid of my 1968 Olds. 1965 Corvair Convertible – Why did I try to daily drive this? Why was I surprised I couldn’t keep up with the maintenance? Was I going to learn my lesson? 1976 Toyota Celica GT liftback – No. No, I did not learn my lesson. Why did I dump lots of cash into getting a salvage title, machining the cylinder head, repairing the bent front suspension, living with having to scrape the inside of my windshield when it frosted, charging up the car’s ancient A/C then getting surprised when I couldn’t keep it charged… I parted with all three of those cars with an equal amount of reluctance and relief.

Jonathan Green
Jonathan Green
2 months ago

914 that my dad bought new. Circa 2014 I removed the engine to repair the overheating issue – success. However, I found the famous “914 Hell Hole”, and then boldly cut out the rusted out sheet metal to weld in new patches. After that, I realized that I didn’t have the knowledge, space, tools, and flat out ability to fix it.

Sad day, but my dad summed it up: “When I bought the car in 1975, it proved that I was as good as the kids whose parents got them Speedsters in 1957. It’s served its purpose.”

Also my dad, when I contemplated getting a used Boxter: “I bought a middle-engined Porsche so you don’t have to. Learn from my mistakes…”

Balloondoggle
Balloondoggle
2 months ago

the Holy Grail of girls — one who makes even the coveted five-speed Jeep Grand Cherokee seem unimportant —”

I think you just scored some major boyfriend points there, for personal growth if not glowing words of admiration.

MikeInTheWoods
MikeInTheWoods
2 months ago

David, I fully understand. I’ve sold my 40th birthday present to myself when I realized a few years later that it would never be finished. I’m fully at peace with it since I can now spend time wrenching in that garage space on my son’s Miata along side of him. Someone in Maine got a deal of a lifetime on a 1969 Scout 800 that had been trailered from Montana with no body rust, sold for $2500.

Craig Simpson
Craig Simpson
2 months ago

Many others have said the nice things about your development as a human, so I’ll focus on the project car bit.

Project cars require a combination of three things:

  1. Time
  2. Talent
  3. Money

I have precious little time, near zero mechanical talent but compared to many a reasonable amount of money.

I already had one project car, a 1974 Superbeetle, when for long and complicated reasons I got offered a 1969 Beetle for free in 2015, which was to be restored as a gift for my daughter.

The road trip to get it with some mates holds great memories and getting it started after it had sat for 10 years was even better.

I got rid of the junk inside, got it cleaned, started sourcing some of the necessary parts, but it was always very deliberately on the back burner whilst I finished the work on my primary project.

But life took hold and there were multiple delays and setbacks in the primary project. So a brief excerpt of the timeline looks like this:
April 2015, acquire second project car.
Feb 2016, take primary project off the road to fix some issues and make it compliant (NSW, Aus).
Sep 2020, move house

That poor second project sat on the front lawn at my old place for 5 years without any love as the primary project remained off the road. Moving house and having to get it moved temporarily to a friends was the catalyst for me to admit that getting it restored and back on the road was never going to happen under my stewardship.

So after a lot of emotional torture and some truth telling about myself, I sold it on to someone who will hopefully restore it.

The happier postscript is that in October 2022 I finally got the Superbeetle back on the road, modified and compliant. I’ve told (kid?) myself that keeping one project car on the road for someone with the time, talent and money I have is something to be proud of and for me to continue with, so that when it comes time for me to hand that car on, it will probably be 70 years old and a testimony to my own efforts.

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