By on October 28, 2019

There is definitely a sense of pride piloting a machine — be it car, pickup, or an off-road rig — that you built up with your own tools and your own two hands. We’re not talking about Factory Five levels of build-it-yourselfness, however, but rather the satisfaction of putting in the wrench time to either restore or modify something to your own liking.

YouTube is rife with channels of gearheads doing just this, so when the DIY Gang Family completely rebuilt this barn burner of a Hellcat, it got your author thinking: what’s the most-ambitious project you’ve ever attempted?

Having a garage helps, of course, as does access to a yaffle of tools and a phalanx of family to help move the project from Rescue 911 to Concours Quality. This (re)build took nine months but produced a better-than-stock Hellcat, at least from a power measures perspective. Leaving aside the obvious metallurgy questions about stiffness and strength after being exposed to high heat for a long period, this Hellcat from Hell looks great once again.

What’s the most ambitious project into which you’ve decided to jump? A rust repair that was a lot worse than it seemed at first glance? Some sort of oddball engine swap that sent all the car’s systems into an electronic snit? Attempting a clutch replacement on a 1992 Ford Escort and getting halfway through the job only to find you don’t have the tools to complete it so you need to roll it soundlessly down a hill to your buddy’s garage to finish the job there?

(In case you’re wondering, this author has experienced all three, including that strangely-specific last example).

Sound off below, gearheads.

[Images: D.I.Y Gang/YouTube]

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32 Comments on “QOTD: Built Not Bought?...”

  • avatar

    I spent this past summer doing a modest restoration of my ’68 Beetle. The primary goal was to repaint it, and to do that properly I ended up removing the majority of the interior (so I could repaint that too), all of the glass, the doors/fenders/hood/engine lid, all of the trim, etc. Anything removed that was made of rubber had to be replaced due to age, and I had some bodywork to do on it as well. All of this was done in my small single-car detached garage. I’ve never done anything like this before, but the simplicity of the Beetle certainly made some aspects of the job easier.

    Ended up being about 300 hours worth of work over 4 months or so (not including all of the research and skills learning done beforehand), but now I have a pretty “new” looking Bug that turns heads…and I did it all myself. It’s not perfect…but it’s a damn sight better than it was!

  • avatar

    My first ground up resto was on a 1971 Plum Crazy Challenger RT Power Sunroof Car. 1of27 made. Saved it from the bone yard. Needed quarters but otherwise was a solid roller. Took 3 years as resto progressed as funds became available. Did everything but weld the quarters. Even the paint was done in my 2 car garage.

  • avatar

    Back in ~2000 I bought a 1986 Monte Carlos SS – rust-free Tennessee car. The performance with the stock 180hp 305 was lackluster, so I began reading up Chevy small blocks, bought the tools including a cherry picker. With the help of a co-worker who wasn’t a mechanic, I took out the old engine and put in a new 355 with modified Vortec heads and a ZZ4 roller cam. I built the engine myself – well starting with a short block – and one of the happiest moments of my life is when the new engine fired up on the first turn of the key. And it ran!

    I ended up doing a cheaper engine swap that same year – replacing a rod knocking 305 in a ’81 Malibu wagon with another 305 that I had bought for $200.

    I farmed out the transmission swap for the MCSS, but did the interior work: all new seats, upper door panels, stereo, etc myself.

    And then I began to lose interest – plus everything was waay more expensive than I thought it would be: the cost of a new rear end, plus a new hood, and the right tires for drag racing. I managed to amass some debt that took over a year to pay off! Monte Carlo was sold and a bevy of slower cars took its replacement. I thought I had shaken off the modifying car bug until I bought a 2014 Mustang.

  • avatar
    R Henry

    Did this project with my son over 3 years:

    He drove it to high school for two years. He is away at college now, so the cars is under cover in my garage, waiting for him….

    For those if you with children, consider a project like this. I am so very happy we were able to share the time together…!

  • avatar
    Art Vandelay

    Kid’s wrecked Leaf. Needed new P/S front apron and the outer supports and all of the sheetmetal other than the D/S fender, AC components, Windshield, and the D/S airbag and seatbelt pretensioners reset. Got a sweet welder out of the deal which I am now using to mod an IBM XT case to take my modern ATX motherboard and components to match the glory that is my XT model F keyboard. Flame on, but I’ll give up my clutch pedal before I give up those glorious buckling springs.

    • 0 avatar
      Art Vandelay

      Oh yeah, it is getting “murdered out” too which I am generall not a fan of but the car is like 4 different colors now and I’m not spending to paint what is likely a worthless car now so mad max it is.

    • 0 avatar

      Those old IBMs DID have nice keyboards.

      • 0 avatar

        They did till the xx30 series.

        I’m on a mission to keep at least one of these running until the end of time:

        I think I have seven between the 300 and 301. Battery life is m’eh and not terribly powerful and but tolerable under Linux, very high build quality and advanced for the 2009 period. Great for travel and surfing from the couch/bed. Oh and pretty much cheap and unloved as well.

        • 0 avatar
          Art Vandelay

          You aren’t wrong, but I’m talking desktop keyboards. If we are talking IBM laptops, the 701 deservs mention. The feel was nothing special as I recall but how it folded out as the screen was raised into a larger keyboard was awesome.

  • avatar

    Currently grinding my way through my first “race car,” a crusty Neon being built for circle track racing. Could have bought a prepped but already track-scarred turn-key car for $1500-ish. Instead I’m doing it the hard way, finding worn/in-need of repair items wherever I look on this $500 rust bucket. We’ll be into it $2500 all in with farming out the roll cage if we stay on track.

  • avatar
    Thomas Kreutzer

    The biggest project I tackled was a Honda CBX with a hole knocked in the case from a thrown rod. I dumped thousands into it and ended up selling it for junk. I could have bought a decent, low mileage one for the money I spent.

    The biggest project I’ve ever finished was this summer when I rebuilt a 50cc Tomos Nitro scooter – basically a re-branded Chinese GY6. It was in pretty rough shape though and I got a little more into it than it’s worth. The good thing is these things can be fixed on the micro-scale so the max the scoot it worth is about $700. Counting the $150 purchase price, I got into it for a little less than $800. Of course, now that it’s done I have no idea what I’m going to do with it…

  • avatar
    Thomas Kreutzer

    The biggest project I’ve ever tackled was a Honda CBX with a hole knocked in the case from a thrown rod. I dumped thousands into it and ended up selling it for junk. I could have bought a decent, low mileage one for the money I spent. What a disaster.

    The biggest project I’ve actually finished was this summer when I rebuilt a 50cc Tomos Nitro scooter – basically a re-branded Chinese GY6. It was in pretty rough shape though and I got a little more into it than it’s worth. The good thing is these things can be fixed on the micro-scale so the max the scoot it worth is about $700. Counting the $150 purchase price, I got into it for a little less than $800. Of course, now that it’s done I have no idea what I’m going to do with it…

  • avatar

    Full nut and bolt resto on my 67 Camaro convert including paint, engine, and trans. It was like a full time job, which being retired was perfect for me. Not sure if I have enough gas in my tank to do another one…but I consider it all the time.

  • avatar

    Most ambitious failure: buying a nonoperational TR7 when I had no money to fix it.

    Most ambitious success: completely repairing and replacing the convertible top & mechanism on a girlfriend’s LeBaron.

    I’ve also done some flathead rebuilds that are still running well.

  • avatar

    Strawman hypothesis (“fire” away):
    – Average house fire ~1200F (“1 hour” safes are tested to 1700F; “2 hour” safes to 1850F)
    – Aluminum melts ~1221F
    – Steel melts ~2500F (varies, but this figure is irrelevant anyway)
    – Steel is cherry red to orange (i.e., forging temperature) at ~1472F to ~1742F
    – Heat treatment is performed at much lower temperatures ex. 410F to 630F

    The barn fire may not have been all that ‘hot,’ and may have been ‘over’ relatively quickly, especially in the vicinity of the vehicle. Remember too that the vehicle was at ground level (we hope).

    But there was also fuel in the vehicle presumably. The vehicle itself can burn at over 1500F.

    Note that the rear (alloy) wheels melted. Note that the front wheels are largely intact. There seems to be generally more heat distortion from the C pillar back.

    From my view of the video, the front clip and floorpan from the burned vehicle were salvaged, while the rest of the ‘new’ body came from a different donor vehicle (see ~3:55 in the video). The front clip and floorpan may have been exposed to relatively less heat.

    [Note too that if you burned the paint off of a door panel and sprayed water on it from a fire hose, you would quickly get surface rust and it would look terrible, but the steel would be fundamentally sound.]

    BUT – all bets are off with the heat-treatment thing.

    • 0 avatar

      According to the World Steel Association, 54.6% of Body and Closure Metallic Content in 2007 was “mild steel”. Mild steel would essentially not be affected by any “heat treat” considerations. But by 2015, mild steel had dropped to only 29% in favor of more advanced steels.

      It depends on exactly what type is used where, but yes, it is likely that the structure of that vehicle has some residual heat effects.

      [If you don’t download the 314-page “Advanced High-Strength Steels Application Guidelines Version 6.0” document available at that link, can you really call yourself an automotive enthusiast? You’re probably running pump gas, too, aren’t you? :-) ]

      Please do not call and antagonize the World Steel Association with harassing questions about aluminium, magnesium, carbon fiber or other structural composites – they do not find this amusing at all. (But they could probably come back with some witty rejoinders regarding the fire performance of those materials.)

  • avatar

    Turned daily driver 2003 BMW 330i sedan into Spec E46 race car

  • avatar

    I’d say it was probably my first Scout II. It started life as a 2wd 6cyl and my brother managed to split the 3sp some how. So I picked up a rolled V8 4×4 and swapped the bodies in the yard/driveway. The thing is that the 6cyl and V8 frames are different and the 6cyl frame was starting to crack at the mounts as they do on the 6cyl. In the end it was actually fairly quick and easy, if you don’t count the cleaning and painting of the frame, engine, axles ect.

  • avatar

    My current ongoing project: turning a $900 rattlecan-black naturally aspirated MkIV Supra into a $15,000, blue 600hp single-turbo Supra, with a DIY wire harness…….all done with no garage.

    5 years and counting, but it’s getting there…

  • avatar

    Shell Valley Cobra replica. The body came with the doors, hood and trunk on. Dad and I built the motor. 435hp small block. I did not do the custom headers and I hired out the 4 speed synchro replacements and having the drive shaft shortened, but most everything else but some of the paint I did with dad.

    I have another block for it in the garage and hope to get that built while dad can still help. That one will be 500hp/525# torque. Ish.

  • avatar
    cimarron typeR

    I had a brief affair with supercharged BMWs in mid 2000s. Being a cheap skate it’s always easier to buy someone else’s 75% finished project . My E36 coupe had an ESS SC, but no suspension or brake mods, perfectly fine stock interior, nice aftermarket wheels. I upgraded the pulley and software and added my own home fab diverter valve system, used cat back (Remus?), redid the suspension and bracing, ferodo pads/brembo blanks . I had fun w / autocross, but it was meant to be a track day car and I just never had enough weekends off as the closest track (Heartland Park) had it’s open days on weekdays only at the time.
    The E36 was sold to young man who probably turned it into a drift car.The used Zhp I bought I left completely stock and had planned to keep it that way until a used AA s/c setup came up for sale on e46fanatics. I paid a local Subie/broken EVO shop to install it. So that one was bought. I daily drove both of these cars while I owned them , with winter tire setups.I was worried about the SC in freezing temps but I was cautious to warm them up properly. Never had a hiccough in either, powertrain related at least

    I’ve been staying out of the game for the past 7 years but I really have a 911 urge that I can’t seem to get out of my system . I’d like to join PCA to meet other like minded car guys, novice track days etc. My college roomate died suddenly a month ago and I feel a bit of urgency now. My wife’s always been supportive of my car habit.Although she was a bit peeved when I used engagement ring money to buy a clean Mustang LX in 2002.

    There are so many good platforms nowadays for mild to wild buildups and now with the internet there’s more support from forums for the DIY with time and money.

  • avatar

    I built A car from scratch a few years ago. I built the chassis, rear suspension, and steering system. Then I built a full scale plaster model, and molded a fiberglass body off it. Works really well. It’s a big 2 seat roadster, sort of like the V16 Cadillac roadsters from the late 30s.

    Years ago I put a Ford V6, 2.8 liter, in a Citroen SM, replacing the Maserati engine. I had to make the Ford engine run backwards, and alter the brake system and all the accessory drive systems, including the high pressure pump that ran the suspension, brake and steering systems.

    Now I’m working on another car from scratch, a big coupe.

  • avatar

    I was home the summer of my freshman college year and Dad asks me “Say, I picked up a 283 with a four barrel, mind putting in the GMC?” Hell yes. The ‘53 Jimmy was a ton and a half long frame used for hay bales and cranberry totes. It’s straight 6 292 was a gutless gas hog and it was a cinch dropping the V-8 in after moving a few items out of the way. With dual glass packs on short pipes it was a hoot to drive. And with a 2 speed rear axle it’d blast down the highway. I’ve found summer and fall memories hauling hay and cranberries to the sweet sound rowing up through the 4 speed.

  • avatar
    Todd Priest

    This video series was pretty misleading if you missed the middle of it where he got the donor car. This car is not the same car as the burned out car. The whole body is different. The only thing he saved from the burned out car was the floor boards and engine. He still did a ton of work but the car isn’t the one pictured that is burned out.

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