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Hot Rods Advice for new guys, the guide to help you stay on track and not end up with a half finished project

Discussion in 'The Hokey Ass Message Board' started by Roothawg, Feb 12, 2021.

  1. Roothawg
    Joined: Mar 14, 2001
    Posts: 20,959


    After reading the not wasting money thread, I thought it might be good to impart some of the lessons we have learned to the younger crowd.

    I'm a relatively young guy compared to a lot of the old timers on here. I am 52 and have been building hot rods since I was 12. I still have my original hot rod. It has been through 3 renditions and will be undergoing one more before I die.

    Let's get started.

    • The most important thing I feel that I can pass on, is understanding your desire.

    • Ask yourself "what kind of era do I most enjoy?", if you really love muscle cars, then building a 1930's era speedster may not be your bag.

    • Research the era, read magazines covering that era and learn as much as you can. Become an expert on the car you are building.

    • Be true to your likes/dislikes. Don't buy parts or cars based on fads. Buy what you like, regardless if everyone else thinks it's cool.

    • Get a vision and stick with it. I keep folders on my desk at work that house my ideas. I start a word document and I list out what the finished product will look like. Everything from the color, interior, wheels, stance, bumpers or nerf bars, power plant, transmission and even what type of suspension. Your mood can alter your decisions. Don't watch American Grafitti or 2 Lane Blacktop and then try and use it for motivation for your Honda Civic. It will end badly.

    • Keep folders with your tech info. I make contact with people through the years that have similar interests or are vendors for specialized equipment. I keep that info in the folder that I mentioned above. That way, I don't have to bother them until I am ready to buy. Example: I had Bullet Cams in MS design me a cam for the 390 Caddy. I didn't have the $ to pull the trigger, but they gave me a reference number. I called back a couple of months later to buy that cam. Easy peasy. Trust me, you will be saying to yourself, "what did he say about that inner fender?" or "what was that guys name we met at the swap meet?" It happens, trust me.

    • Don't mix your eras. You can like multiple eras, but stay true to one only and don't mix them up. That rarely works in the end. ZZ Top Eliminator stripes on a 1930's style Gow job is just wrong. Build an 80's styled rod or a 30's styled rod, but try and keep the 2 world separate.

    • Compartmentalize your build. I try and focus on one area at a time. I start with the chassis and work my way up. I try to get a complete roller, before moving on. Sometimes that can be difficult, if you need reference points with the body on.

    • Be organized. I am OCD, literally. However, one of the byproducts of that is mass chaos. I have to force myself to box things and label them, because if it gets too messy in the shop, it becomes overwhelming and I tend to give up and walk out. I like to use the black and yellow boxes that they sell at the Home Depots and Lowes, type of stores. I buy the 27 gallon and label them. They are stackable, so that helps.

    • Learn to do things yourself. Take class at VoTech on Auto Body or welding, upholstery etc. You can tie up big money if you have to pay everyone.

    • Be methodical in your build. Know what you want and don't waiver. This goes along with knowing your true love. Be a master of your particular build.

    • Hang out with old guys. These guys know what's up. They were there and they lived it. Ask a lot of questions. Knowledge is power.

    • Join a forum that specializes in what you like to build. These forums tell you what is the correct part for your application, what good prices are and helps you to build a network of like minded friends. I can't tell you how many hambers have stayed at my house over the years. We have relayed parts, helped stranded folks and even spent vacations hanging out with other guys that I met, right here.

    • Find a local guy to help keep you motivated. A shop buddy helps keep you moving forward. It helps when you are searching for parts also.

    • Carry a notebook for color codes you like. I have one I use that has 20+ cars in it. If I see one I like, I write it down, go home and research it until I track down the actual name of the color, the years it came on and the color code.

    • Search youtube for folks that have a channel. I recently found Iron Trap Garage, because of the HAMB. I have enjoyed watching his channel. It keeps me motivated when it's 6 degrees outside.

    • Only build one project car at a time. I am guilty of this one. The problem is if you have $2500 in tax returns and you have 6 cars, then each car only gets $416. That doesn't go very far on any of them. Focus on one and get it done.

    • Take pictures as you disassemble things. Some things are not included in any parts manual. Trust me on this one, I use my phone religiously.

    • Be nice to people. You would be surprised at what people will do for you if you aren't a dick.

    I'm sure there are tons that I have missed, but maybe this might help someone just getting started. Feel free to add to the list.
    Last edited: Feb 12, 2021
  2. All good stuff.

    One thing that you told me a few years ago that really helped: try to do one thing every time you're out in the garage, even if it only takes 5 minutes, chipping away at it like that can make progress and keep me interested. Best advice, got my 40 Ford done doing it that way.
  3. The List is too long so I got lost reading it.

    Just my 3.5 cents

    Live Learn & Die a Fool
  4. Moriarity
    Joined: Apr 11, 2001
    Posts: 20,347

    Staff Member

    Great thread, It is very important to know what the finished car is going to look like before you start...... I often tell people to get a model kit of the car they are going to build, and build the model as they would build the car. It really helps choose colors and wheels and things. Plus there is a double benefit. Building models is fun, and when you are done you a have a model of "your" car
    Last edited: Feb 13, 2021
    Tman, Thor1, LOU WELLS and 15 others like this.

  5. Roothawg
    Joined: Mar 14, 2001
    Posts: 20,959


    Just read 2 per day and call me in the morning.... :)
  6. brjnelson
    Joined: Oct 13, 2002
    Posts: 494


    Join a local car club, I did 25 years ago and have made many lifelong friends, that helped with the things I did not do ( paint and sewing ) keeping me on track. Many of the guys would give me, "the kid" at the time, parts and tools.
  7. Roothawg
    Joined: Mar 14, 2001
    Posts: 20,959


    @Plowboy told me that....I preach it. He said "Go out to the shop and do at least 3 things and when you run out of things to do, you're done." I think an old guy actually told him to do that.
    Last edited: Feb 12, 2021
    Thor1, Dick Stevens, AHotRod and 3 others like this.
  8. Jalopy Joker
    Joined: Sep 3, 2006
    Posts: 25,998

    Jalopy Joker

    one thing to add, do not just buy your ride project/driver only with your heart and desire and dreams - - buy with the reality that it will most likely take a lot more time and money than you ever thought in the beginning to build/update -
    Thor1, rockable, Lil32 and 5 others like this.
  9. Jack Rice
    Joined: Dec 2, 2020
    Posts: 76

    Jack Rice

    Good tips there Root, thanks.. I'm not a prolific builder but I can't stress enough to pick a style and don't stray. I always start with the wheels/tires and build from there. I've seen too many rods at shows that are very nicely done except with cheap directional wheels. That just ruins it for me. I'd never tell the owner because I respect that everybody's preferences are not mine. Just my 2 cents
    Thor1, guthriesmith, F-ONE and 2 others like this.
  10. Uribe
    Joined: Jan 27, 2019
    Posts: 51


    Dont blow a a car apart until you have the time, space and money to work on it. Especialy if its a running car. Or else the car will sit for a very long time amd you will end up losing parts and intrest
  11. bchctybob
    Joined: Sep 18, 2011
    Posts: 2,840


    Good information. That "do something, even if it seems small" tactic does work and it becomes a mantra as you get old!
  12. oldiron 440
    Joined: Dec 12, 2018
    Posts: 1,844

    oldiron 440

    I agree with most of what you've said but I dance between the early 60s, the 70s and a contemporary street strip car. With painted steel wheels and dog dish caps and a set of valve covers I can pull off the hopped up stocker look, the aluminum slots look more 70s while the race wheels are contemporary as is the performance of the car. I have kept the Fairlane stock appearing for a reason, veriety.
  13. Roothawg
    Joined: Mar 14, 2001
    Posts: 20,959


    So your era is 1964-1972. Nothing wrong with that. Changing wheels changes the look. Easy enough to put back.
  14. I have an almost done truck that needs some more time, I have two other projects that I am NOT working on, but collecting parts. Make a list of the parts you will need to finish the car. Stick to your plan, some small plans change due to parts not interchanging. Changing major parts or your format will take up a lot of time. I have seen many cars go to the wayside or get sold due to changes that took too much time to sort out.
    I make a list, cross out things, and when I am done with the list I make a new one.
    If you want an engine, make sure you get it with a transmission. Too many weird combos, (215 Oldsmobile engine bellhousing pattern is a one off) Early Hemis, the dreaded Turboglide, Flexplates that are balanced to the engine (400 chevy) It will save you a lot of time and money to get the correct trans with the engine.
    Thor1 and F-ONE like this.
  15. squirrel
    Joined: Sep 23, 2004
    Posts: 47,806


    Great list! You pointed out a lot of things that many guys, even experienced builders, overlook.

    One other thing, that comes from my engineering background, is to first define the requirements for the car. Examples:

    1. Be street driveable in all weather.

    2. Cruise on the highway at 70 mph for hundreds of miles a day.

    3. Run in the 10s in the 1/4 mile

    4. Have only parts that were around before 1966.

    5. Cheat on the parts availability thing, for things such as being able to pass tech inspection to run 10s at the strip.

    6. The budget is $15,000, not a penny over.

    7. The fit and finish should be correct for "most" cars from the era. It's not a trailer queen show car, so some orange peel, varying door and trunk gaps, and panel waviness is OK.

    8. "The Look" is far more important than comfort.

    Of course the requirements for YOUR build will be different from this example, my build of Plan II. But whatever they are, figure that out FIRST, and stick to them.
    wfo guy, cktasto, Boneyard51 and 20 others like this.
  16. 210superair
    Joined: Jun 23, 2020
    Posts: 564

    from Michigan

    Man, you guys start working with a plan? You're ahead of me...
  17. Marty Strode
    Joined: Apr 28, 2011
    Posts: 5,530

    Marty Strode

    Thanks for the list, where were you 37 years ago, when I started on my 50 Olds, still unfinished !
  18. bill gruendeman
    Joined: Jun 18, 2019
    Posts: 467

    bill gruendeman

    Great advice even for older guys, thanks. I Would add one more, be realistic with your time (if you are working 50 to 60 hours a week and have 5 young kids, don’t do a full ground up build maybe some small work on a running car.
  19. earlyv8ford
    Joined: Mar 30, 2006
    Posts: 10


    I think that is a great list for anyone young or old, new or experienced. Especially not having more than one project at a time. Too many of us are guilty of starting too many projects instead of focusing on one at a time.
  20. New! Don't blow it all apart.
    Thor1, Mimilan, dana barlow and 4 others like this.
  21. Roothawg
    Joined: Mar 14, 2001
    Posts: 20,959


    A white board is a good investment. I make a list on Friday night for the upcoming weekend. I am a list maker. I like seeing things get crossed off.
    cktasto, INVISIBLEKID, Tman and 4 others like this.
  22. ken bogren
    Joined: Jul 6, 2010
    Posts: 829

    ken bogren

    I'm about as disorganized one can get, and I have the attention span of a cranky two year old, which doesn't help, so threads like this really do help.

    Boneyard51, Thor1, Ziggster and 4 others like this.
  23. I make the list after I do things, just so I can cross them off and feel a sense of accomplishment.
    Thor1, joel, Just Gary and 6 others like this.
  24. Roothawg
    Joined: Mar 14, 2001
    Posts: 20,959


    I do that too......ha ha
    Thor1, dana barlow and F-ONE like this.
  25. Marty Strode
    Joined: Apr 28, 2011
    Posts: 5,530

    Marty Strode

    I have a 4 X 8 chalkboard, don't think it will handle all of the projects. IMG_3661.JPG
    Thor1, Ziggster, Lil32 and 1 other person like this.
  26. belair
    Joined: Jul 10, 2006
    Posts: 8,635


    You need three things to build a car. Time, money, and enthusiasm.(some might add talent and taste, but we know better). Be sure to ration all three wisely, because when you run out of any of the three, it's game over.
    INVISIBLEKID, Thor1, Dan Hay and 4 others like this.
  27. abe lugo
    Joined: Nov 8, 2002
    Posts: 2,384

    abe lugo

    Great post.
    I’m now in the camp of making the car run first. Make it mobile.
    Then change or fix what needs fixing.

    I see all too often people chopping a car and then losing interest. And selling a pile.
    Keeping a car driving let’s you enjoy it while you work on it.
    I did with with my 64 wagon and it worked great. The main down time I had was leaving it at the paint shop for month.

    I did the body work and drove it bare metal with no windows, windshield to the paint shop.

    I took care of the seats while it was in paint.

    I would also say save up for a running or a more complete car. Buying missing a parts is a nickel and dime way to pay more.
    Last edited: Feb 12, 2021
    cktasto, Thor1, TCATTC and 1 other person like this.
  28. chevyfordman
    Joined: Oct 4, 2008
    Posts: 966


    That was super advice. I always hated the to do lists but that's why I never finished a car either.
    Thor1 and Roothawg like this.
  29. Roothawg
    Joined: Mar 14, 2001
    Posts: 20,959


    Honestly, chalk would be better. The white boards always seem to have ghosted words on them.
    Thor1 likes this.
  30. GraeffSS
    Joined: May 9, 2016
    Posts: 81


    I wish i had a mindset like this 10 years ago, but i was too young back then anyways...

    My father and I started building our truck from the ground up 10y ago, and the only parts that haven't changed since the beginning are the frame and wheels...
    We lost interest multiple times, changed things based on what parts we had at hand, first we would leave in in patina and now we'll paint it...

    Nowadays we have things figured out way better, and I'm working on making it a roller.

    Great advice here

    Sent from my ASUS_X00DDA using The H.A.M.B. mobile app
    Thor1 and Roothawg like this.

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