The lure of the cheap “exotic” car can be irresistible for some gearheads. Just open up eBay Motors sometime and type “project” into the search bar. Instantly, dozens of cars, old and new, are there to haunt your bargain-hunting dreams. In a quick glance, I spotted a Viper, a Z32 300ZX, and even a Local Motors Rally Fighter that can all be picked up for a fraction of the cost of a clean one.
The problem with any project, of course, is the time and money required to complete is typically underestimated, often by some unforeseen order of magnitude. Many of these “projects” will likely be listed on eBay in twenty years as “barn finds”, in basically the same state — save for entropy — as today.
Take today’s feature car, the 1987 Porsche 924S.
The 1941 Plymouth Special Deluxe sedan Junkyard Find that I bought from the Brain-Melting Colorado Junkyard last fall now has the body off the frame and is awaiting a Lexus SC400 suspension subframe swap. After much debate about what engine/transmission combo to use in this Hell Project (the plan is to build it to Pikes Peak International Hill Climb specs, while retaining a grimy-looking rat-roddish character), I decided to go with the GM Vortec 4200 aka LL8 L6 engine, with turbocharging added, and that meant that I’d need to find a manual transmission that can withstand at least 400 ft-lbs of torque. Since the Vortec 4200 never came with a manual transmission, and the pseudo-bolt-on Aisin-based 5-speed out of the Solstice and Colorado can’t take the sort of power I’m hoping to get (thus forcing me to go the machine-shop bellhousing-adapter/custome-flywheel route), I was looking for a Borg-Warner T-56 out of a fourth-gen GM F-body, or maybe a Tremec TKO out of a fourth-gen Mustang. Then, an ad for a ZF S6-40 6-speed showed up on Denver Craigslist, with a very reasonable asking price. (Read More…)
I visit Sears Point aka Sonoma Raceway a couple times a year as part of my gig as Chief Justice of the 24 Hours of LeMons Supreme Court. That means I do a lot of roaming around the facility, in search of vantage points to shoot photos of the action. Last weekend, while covering the fourth annual Sears Pointless race, I stumbled on a parking area outside a line of race shops just on the other side of the wall near Turn 10. Inside these shops were all manner of high-buck machines, but the get-to-it-someday stuff sitting outside was pretty interesting. (Read More…)
After Joey and I sat down and tallied up all of the costs of our proposed Monte Carlo G-Body project; crate motor, upgraded cooling system, differential, engine accessories, transmission not to mention bodywork, interior refurbishing, brakes, suspension and all the other fun expensive stuff, we decided to abandon the project. Instead, Joey’s getting a Grand National.
Introduction • Part 1 • Part 2 • Part 3 • Part 4 • Part 5 • Part 6 • Part 7 • Part 8 • Part 9 • Part 10
Once the Impala had been modified sufficiently to function as a 1992-grade daily driver, the long-term project of converting it into an art car that drew upon the Holy Trinity of American Car Archetypes (drive-by-shooting ghetto hooptie, official vehicle, redneck street racer) took on less urgency; I planned to “finish the work of art,” whatever that meant, but along the way I’d created an excellent road car. And when you have an excellent road car, you have no choice but to hit the road. (Read More…)
In the last episode of the Impala Hell Project story, Saddam’s invasion of Kuwait in the summer of 1990 made me choose a small-block engine instead of the big-block I’d originally planned as a worn-out 283 replacement. I was still running the factory single exhaust and two-speed Powerglide transmission at that point, so some more upgrades were in order. (Read More…)
The thing about my ’66 Dodge A100 van project that makes it a challenge is that I’m going for an early 1970s customization job, not the far easier late 1970s routine. My van won’t have Aztecs On Mars airbrush murals or a wood-burning stove (not that there’s anything wrong with those things), but it does have a telephone-handset-style 23-channel CB radio, (faux) Cragar S/S wheels, and now it has a Watergate-burglary-era cheap aftermarket tachometer. (Read More…)
When I bought my Impala, I knew that its 300,000-mile 283 engine wasn’t long for the world, what with the near-nonexistent oil pressure, clouds of oil smoke under acceleration and deceleration, and fixin’-to-toss-a-rod sound effects. Still, due to thin-wallet limitations, I was determined to squeeze one last year of property-value-lowering 283 driving before obtaining a junkyard replacement engine. This plan went well until I decided to seek chemical assistance for the oil-burning problem. (Read More…)
In Part 2 of this series, I began the process of modifying my newly-obtained ’65 Impala sedan to suit my concept of a true art car. Once I’d sprayed the chrome flat black, replaced the skinny back tires with fat Radial TAs on universal slot mags, pried off most of the emblems, and torn out the mung-saturated carpeting, the big Chevy was ready to start its first high-concept performance/installation art piece: lowering property values in the heart of the world’s first and most intensely micromanaged Master-Planned Community: Irvine, California. (Read More…)
In Part 1 of this series, I described the purchase of a 1965 Chevrolet Impala in early 1990, for use as the raw material in a complex performance/installation art piece. Within a single day of taking ownership of the car, I began the process of modifying it to suit my artistic vision. (Read More…)
As I explained in the introduction to this series last week, I’m finally tackling the story of the most significant car I’ve ever owned. This ’65 Impala went through ten years, 100,000 miles, and many conceptual shifts during its time with me, but it all started out as my attempt to make an art car that wasn’t A) lame and B) contemptuous of the idea of the car itself. (Read More…)
I put in four years and thousands of posts at Jalopnik, writing about most of my formative cars… but never once did I write the story of the car that served me longest, gave me the most miles, endured the most engine swaps, and generally laid claim to a bigger piece of my heart than all the rest of my motley lifetime fleet combined: a 1965 Chevrolet Impala sedan, built at the long-defunct South Gate Assembly Plant in Los Angeles, equipped with a 283/Powerglide drivetrain, and painted Artesian Turquoise. Today, at last, the story begins. (Read More…)
Nobody rescued the low-mile ’66 Coronet from its date with The Crusher (though as far as I know it’s still alive), but now we’ve got a new Put Up Or Shut Up Challenge! (Read More…)
I’ve already got a custom-van project and a basket-case Toyota 20R-powered Sprite project, but what I really want is a genuine, red-flag-waving Warsaw Pact machine to cruise around Denver. I don’t mean any Lada, either— it’s got to be a genuine, designed-and-built-in-the-USSR car, not a Fiat clone! Fortunately, I have a car-freak friend in the Czech Republic who can get such a machine into a shipping container in Bremerhaven for a reasonable price, so all that would remain for me would be to negotiate the Kafkaesque maze of registering the thing in Colorado. How hard could it be? (Read More…)