Every car guy or girl, will at some point in their life, get themselves a project car. Now everyone will have a reason to get it. In my case, I have had several reasons. Initially they were flips to make some extra money on the side, to eventually buy the ‘final’ project car. So naive. But my ‘final’ project car is what I have – MY99 WRX in blue, gold wheels, sunroof, leather interior and hasn’t been wrecked, bent and modified too heavily. It’s March 2020, the pandemic has been called and everybody lost their minds. This is when I first test drove the car, before laying down AUD$7000, it was sweet! This thing pulled so hard in third down the highway, it gave me such a giggle. The short shift fitted was just crisp and clean. No weird noises, rumbles or rattles. Everything (bar the steering) felt great. Sounded exactly right with the 3 inch system fitted. Maybe a little too stiff for a daily with the Tein Coilovers but it was planted. So after paying the money and trailering it home and cracking the front bar in the first 5 mins of ownership, it was bliss. I was on a high. Drove it for about 200kms and then it happened. From being my fun ‘daily’ potential, it went all pear shaped. I heard a knock after a drive in the drivieway. A constant knock… no more like a “tock tock tock tock” almost. I felt sick. I shut the car off and rolled it into the garage. Popped the bonnet and went looking. The aftermarket crank pulley had cracked a bit off the keyway and the bolt had come loose which was causing the “tock tock” noise as the engine rotated. Thank fuck for that! So off came the covers and a look at the timing belt noted tiny aluminium particles everywhere. Crap. the belt was reasonable and no pulleys were worn out but the metal through everything lead to the realisation that new kit will be needed. The clutch wasn’t fantastic at the time so I figured I’d replace that while I’m at it and clean up the engine a bit, despite it was quite tidy. This led to the next step of any project car. Idle time and lots and lots of it. This car will now sit the entire pandemic.
That wasn’t the plan originally. Remove the engine, replace the clutch and timing belt kit, clean up the engine, engine bay and then get it back on the road. This clearly did not happen. I got the engine out, clutch was ok, but had a slight shudder on take off so made sense to replace and get the flywheel skimmed. Cleaning everything up, I noted the LH side was a bit dirty – headgasket? Not initially, but the more I looked and then pulled the intake manifold off – definitely. Crap. Ok ok, not the end of the world. This is just the typical life cycle of a project car. Pulled the heads off and took them to a machine shop. They are cracked – Motherfu(@#*&$! ugh.
Now what? It was still early pandemic so it was too unknown how the world will go? Will I lose my job or go broke? Who knows. I didn’t and I didn’t. Actually I was doing ok. But I’m conservative so I like to have money in the bank when shit hits the fan. Plus with the constant stay at home orders I was running out of sick leave and not getting paid for a month of wages was a big hit to the savings. So this kept the project car on hold even longer. Finding a secondhand set of heads that aren’t stuffed for a GC8 is impossible where I live. So maybe a new set of heads? Tomei make a sweet set for a bargain $7k plus shipping – ouch. Ok so I need a second opinion. Are these repairable? This will need to be found out. The cracking where the plugs are – usually are only superficial and not a big deal. Over torquing the plugs will usually do it.
So clearly I have many decisions to make. Do i spend BIG money on going all out with a EJ207 block end up spending 15-20k+ doing it? Or do I rebuild what I have to get the car back on the road so I can enjoy the car finally? I’m liking both ideas. By the time I fix up the original EJ block that has 300,000km on it, I’d be better off buying a brand new EJ207 from Subaru. I kind of like the idea of having a high mileage WRX with the ORIGINAL motor still in it. So that’s quite a feat for an EJ motor. Plus it will be somewhat nice to be able to say that it has the original motor in it. Plus saving about 10k is also quite attractive – that can go into repairing the leather interior and look at paint or a nice wrap, to protect the paint for the time being.
So what is the trap? You buy your project car, knowing it will be a long term thing but secretly hoping you can drive it in the meantime. Yep. Sounds great! Wrong! That rarely happens. We have seen the memes. How’s your project car going? When was the last time you touched it? Staring at it from the window isn’t the same thing. Looking for parts doesn’t count either. Actually doing something does make a difference. You know you need to clean the interior while the rest is waiting on your finances to catch up. So clean the interior. But nah, you need to clean your daily or play that game or do something else. OK but that car isn’t fixing or cleaning itself. The trap is once it’s on the jack stands, it stays there for a very long time. 3 months? 8 months? 3 years? There is always an easier quick flip to do or a new something to get or bills to pay or a holiday to take that will keep your project from moving forward. I know this. My lame excuse is the Pandemic. That shit was a game changer for everyone – especially project cars. We ended up watching others on youtube fix theirs while ours stayed dormant. Promising we will get to it. Just need that expensive part to justify doing anything else to it. The trap is that you will find excuses that will stop you from moving forward on the car. Make time specific for you to work on it and it will then keep moving.
I’ve used all the excuses under the sun. My current one is quite convenient. I’m moving and it’s sitting in the backyard at the other place so I can’t really do anything on it. I have no shed there. My parts for it will all go into storage until a new shed gets built. So that’s another 6 months or more of sitting. But i found another project car that I could flip……..