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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MikeT-MA
MikeT-MA
2 months ago

The attempted act of selling a vehicle on FB Marketplace will provide at least a week’s worth of gripping and alarming editorial in itself. Popcorn ready.

Stef Schrader
Stef Schrader
2 months ago

…you didn’t happen to pick up a manual New Beetle along the way, did you? Juuuuuuuuust askingggggg.

I’ve always wrenched out of necessity (I can’t afford a shop and/or I don’t trust many shops to be honest to any woman who walks through the door, sadly), and I don’t have much space to work with (central Austin lacks parking space and I have no desire to move further out), so I feel like I’ve kept the fleet fairly focused accordingly. I get annoyed when people send me car ads because I’m just not looking and it’s a waste of time unless it’s like, “Free Amphicar, Take Now.” (I will MAKE space for that.)

Still, I gotta admit that I was really, really tempted by the prospect of a nicer car after the last Lemons Rally. I just can’t afford it yet. That’s been the worst recurring theme: I just can’t afford nicer things. I have broken cars at home that I still care about, and I’m bound and determined to stick the Lancer on the Nürburgring before I move on from it. It’s still too good.

Last edited 2 months ago by Stef Schrader
Autojunkie
Autojunkie
2 months ago

We’re all Vince Vaughn on the table right now as we read this, David.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6KALJy9fw2Q

Back in 1998, I sold a car to buy an engagement ring for my dream girl. She gave me herself and two perfect kids. The least I could do was try to spend a little less time fucking with cars. Cars are still half of my life. The other half belongs to them.

Congratulations on finding your “holy grail” partner, kid.

Abe Froman
Abe Froman
2 months ago

This happens, but it doesn’t mean it’s gone forever. I stopped driving junkers when I got engaged (in fact, sold my junker to buy an engagement ring ($500 down w/ 0% for 6 months and put $1500 down on a new car w/4.9% at 60 months).

Years later we are still happily married with two mouthy pre-teens. But we bought a house with a 3 car garage. And now I have the ability to have ONE AND ONLY ONE project at a time that must fit in the third bay.

So the lifestyle is gone forever, but remnants can come back in your life and still provide that gratification. Also- companionship with a human is far more rewarding.

Pat Douglas Barron
Pat Douglas Barron
2 months ago

While enduring a bout of temporary insanity during the Covid pandemic I went and sold almost all of my beloved project vehicles – at dirt-cheap prices. When the covid haze finally lifted I was left with deep regret…

Sean
Sean
2 months ago

David, David, David. I have enjoyed reading your work for years. I always searched through the articles to find yours. Easter became a landmark so that I could see what ridiculous lunacy you were trying to pull off. Now though…not so much.

I’m very happy that you are becoming a real human with a real life, but it does not make for good reading. You have disappeared for months at a time and then reappeared on a project that gets abandoned and never mentioned again. I don’t care if you live in an Aztek for views. I don’t care who your corporate sponsors are. I don’t want to buy a membership. I will stop viewing this site as quickly as I stopped viewing the old site because it is becoming irrelevant to my life. Write more stories about fixing things. Write more stories about the kittens that were born in your Jeep. Write about Torch. Write about your girlfriend. Just stop being a boring shill or you will lose your audience quietly and steadily. Please listen to what I’m telling you. I don’t want you to fail but I can’t keep reading this garbage for much longer.

Jeff Jordan
Jeff Jordan
2 months ago

Well, although this is a sad story, there are worse tales when you grow older and illness (or aging) limits your ability to do the kind of work you enjoyed in the past. My solution was to buy a 20-year old Town Car and load up on Ibuprofen.

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